Sometimes, an idea is almost too good.
"I originally was looking to bring in a DJ to do one of our Party in the Parks [which are held yearly in Opti Park]," says Matt Schwegman, Vogue talent buyer/promoter and Wheel House Festival co-owner. "As I started reaching out to different international DJ acts, I realized that due to the amount of extra lights, video walls and production that these acts need, we could build this into something much bigger."
Schwegman got in touch with long-time promoter and DJ Slater Hogan of Keepin' It Deep with the idea for a full-fledged multi-day EDM festival in Opti Park. It's a fest that makes sense: the Indy EDM community is flourishing and diverse.
"There are quite a few different scenes going on here," Schwegman says. "Mainly, because there are a some promoters in town that care a lot about what is happening. The guys at IndyMojo have built an amazing fan base and their fans are crazy loyal. The guys at Keepin' It Deep [Hogan and John Larner] have been throwing parties in town for years and people trust that they will have a good time at their events. Then, throw in A-Squared, Crush Entertainment and a few others, and you've got yourself a pretty vibrant, diverse scene."
Wheel House will have only one stage, with a variety of interactive activities and vendor sites for attendees. Opti Park is a small space, mostly used for sporting events - in fact, that use gave Wheel House its name.
"Myself, Slater Hogan and Steve Ross, owner of the Vogue, had been brainstorming for a few days," Schwegman said of the fest's name. "After a few of the cliche EDM-type names ("Electric Enchanted EDM Garden?"), we thought about the actual park that we are hosting the event in. Opti Park's main attraction is a small Little League baseball diamond. Wheel house is a term that refers to the hitter's sweet spot."
Schwegman and team knocked it out of the park with the Wheel House lineup. It's one of the most impressive festival lineups in recent memory, albeit one geared to a certain scene. Locals will take the same stage as legends, which will conclude with an after party each night at The Vogue featuring more stunning acts. Although Schwegman jokingly refers to Wheel House as "his baby," A-Squared Industries, IndyMojo, Keepin' It Deep, Crush Entertainment, Rad Summer, Oranje, Switch District and Bleeding Edge have all been involved in one way or another in putting this fest together. "It has been a total team effort amongst a lot of different people here in Indy," Schwegman says."
Before Wheel House, we dialed up legendary producer Paul Oakenfold. As the founder of Perfecto Records and resident DJ at many of London's most famous dance clubs, Oakenfold could easily rest on his musical laurels. But he's consistently cranked out interesting new albums and mixes; scored plenty of films and games; stayed intimately involved with his imprint; and introduced successful new residencies.
In the last year and a half, Oakenfold has ramped up his touring schedule, perhaps in anticipation of the release of Popkiller, his third studio artist album, which will boast collabs with Azealia Banks, Eve, Miguel, Cee Lo Green and more. Important to mention those are big names in mainstream hip-hop and R&B - a trend in Oakenfold's contemporary work, and consistent with the mainstream EDM explosion of the last five years.
Oakenfold will close Friday night of the festival.
NUVO: Tell me about your upcoming full-length, Popkiller.
Paul Oakenfold: Yeah! Popkiller is my new artist album that I'm working on in between running all over the world doing shows. It's really coming together well. It's song-based, very much. It's much the same as my last two artist albums; what has changed, now, is that electronic music has become a lot more mainstream. I think this album will be perceived to be more mainstream, but it's very much the same as the last two. Collaborations and strong songs.
NUVO: Has there been anything frustrating about the mainstreaming of EDM that you've witnessed? Any misunderstandings of the music that you make?
Oakenfold: No, I think it's a very exciting time at the moment, in America, for electronic music. In Europe, in England, it's very much like your older brother has been there, seen it, done it and now it's your turn. You're this young boy in America, and it's exciting. It's the first time it's really happened. That's what I love about it - that you see the energy and passion in people's faces. Last night, there were over 1500 people on a Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio, really going crazy to electronic music. It's really wonderful to see.
NUVO: I love the magical little Lego video for "Who Do You Love" [directed and created by 13-year-old Scottish boy Morgan Spence]. I don't think I was quite as cool as Spence as a 13-year-old, with that kind of understanding of club and festival culture.
Oakenfold: In Europe, we have this attitude, right or wrong, that we've been there, seen that, done it. That attitude is different in America. There's so much going on and so many people want to come in, play, DJ and enjoy it.
The video came about purely because we were putting out various tracks of music. The kid got in touch with us, or his parents did, and said, "Look, we love a track you did called 'Ready, Steady, Go.' Could we used that song for a project?" Because they were obviously looking to get permission. I said, "Yeah, of course you can; but can you send me the project, because I'm really curious!" They send [details], and I'm like, "Wow, this is great."
So I said, "Why don't we try something, and see if it works?" I'll send you a new song we're doing and you do the video for it. And if the video is good enough, we can use it. And if not, no worries. And they got really excited; the family comes from a tiny little town in Northern Scotland. No one expected to see that video. We were all blown away. So we went up in Scotland, invited them for dinner, sat down and spoke about it. It was a great moment - he did a wonderful, wonderful job.
NUVO: Over the last year and a half, you've reinvested a lot of energy into touring again as a DJ. Why the schedule change?
Oakenfold: Realistically, all roads were leading to it. I went against the grain and I was doing less DJing and focusing more on writing music for film and games.... About over four years ago, I really decided to focus on residencies. So I went to Vegas and ... there was not much going on there. I did a residency; I was there every Saturday. And we got together a fantastic team, and had a club with 5,000 people. We were really building the foundation of electronic music. We had a place where not just the locals would go; Vegas, like New York, is a destination with a lot of traffic flowing through. You knew that you could maintain a lot of people every week because of the flow through. I really believed that could work.
I got to the point that - after being in the same place for two or three years - I had to start traveling more abroad. That's what I'm doing now, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm setting up the record. You're out there, you're playing, you're road-testing your music, getting the chance to talk to people and setting up the tour for the next record.
NUVO: What can you identify that's more frustrating now about making music than it was in, say, 1986?
Oakenfold: There's the huge frustration of the Internet. You spend enormous amounts of time making a piece of music; it goes out there and is disposable, because of the amount of music out there. The turnaround is really quick. Your record is taken, it's already on the Internet. People download it for free. And then, it's copied. The trend in electronic music is that if you have a record that's a hit, straight away, that sound, your idea, is copied. There's a thousand versions of it. And then, we're all on to the next thing.
It's difficult to make a record, or an album, like we used to. You'd go to the store and buy it, look at the credits, play it from beginning to end. It's no longer a moment. It's very difficult to get the moment. We as a society are always looking for what's next, what's next, what's next - we've got that, let's move on. It's difficult. You just saw it with the Lady Gaga record, that was leaked four weeks before it was meant to get out. Then they had to rush it, get it out there, and before you knew it, it was everywhere. And now we're on to something else.
Indy native Topher Jones will perform at Friday's Vogue after party. We hit up the Hoosier DJ/producer to find out what's new on his playlist - and what will never leave. (Side note: Bold move to pick your own tracks and remixes, Toph.)
What are five new EDM tracks you're currently obsessed with?
* One Republic vs. Alesso, "If I Lose Myself"
* Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven" (Sultan and Ned Shepard Remix)
* Topher Jones ft. Katie Sky, "Talk About It"
* Ivan Gough, Stevie Mink, Steve Bleass, "BOOM!"
* Topher Jones, "Get Down"
What are five old EDM tracks you never get tired of?
* Armin Van Buuren, "Communication"
* Topher Jones and Amada ft. IdoVsTheWorld, "Hello Chicago" (Topher's Festival Mix)
* The Killers, "Mr Brightside" (Thin White Duke Remix)
* Nu Nrg, "Dreamland"
* Jan Johnston, "Flesh" (Tiesto Remix)
A brief chat with Shy Guys Says, Indy's masked man and a Saturday performer at Wheel House.
NUVO: What's unique to EDM festivals?
Shy Guy Says: EDM festivals tend to have some of the most eccentric crowds. You really see some crazy outfits. People let it all hang out at EDM shows, and it just makes everything more fun for everyone.
NUVO: How are you prepping for Wheelhouse? What act are you most looking forward to?
Shy Guy Says: A lot of practice and digging for new tracks, haha! I try to keep my sets fresh and with so many acts playing Saturday I want to be sure to bring something unique.
I'm really excited about the entire line up, but I can't wait to see The Crystal Method and Figure. Figure's hometown is close to mine and he's been doing it for as long as I can remember so I'm always rooting for him, and The Crystal Method are legendary to me.
NUVO: How is Indy's EDM scene different/better/worse than other major cities?
Shy Guy Says: Indy will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first place to really accept me and give me an outlet. There's a lot of positivity in the Indy scene, and a lot of people working hard to put us on the map. It's really exciting to be a part of it, and I can't wait to see where we are in the future.