Indy's EDM elder statesman, DJ Lockstar (given name Fred Lockett), performed at the 1st annual WheelHouse Festival, a two-day electronic dance music event held outdoors at Opti Park with after-parties indoors at The Vogue in Broad Ripple on Friday, September 13th and Saturday, September 14th, 2013. DJ Lockstar delivered nearly fifty minutes of truly memorable progressive house/electro music with his set during Saturday night's WheelHouse Festival After-Party at the Vogue. Just when you thought the evening could not get any more intense, DJ Lockstar cranked it up from a ten to an eleven on a ten scale...making sure all in attendance were feeling a sensation of their bodies being pummeled musically and their innards rearranged. Simply remarkable. A near capacity throng of sweaty, crazy, dancing fans squished so tightly together on the dance floor and moved as one. Had to have been one of Indy's all-time best parties.
I had the honor and privilege of interviewing DJ Lockstar a day after his performance at WheelHouse Festival.
William Kelly Milionis: Your set last night at the Vogue for the 1st annual WheelHouse Festival after-party was off-the-hook; it was quite remarkable. How do you feel?
DJ Lockstar: I knew how important that party was for WheelHouse in general, so I probably spent about a month putting that set together. I felt, going on right before DJ Bad Boy Bill that was important. Just being the local guy and getting the crowd that involved before DJ Bad Boy Bill, I thought that was very important too.
Kelly: Your set did not let up at all and was indeed a great segue into DJ Bad Boy Bill's performance.
Fred: And that was the point...to not let up. Again, my whole point was to take control of that room and hopefully I did.
Kelly: An event of this magnitude, you had your set prepared in advance?
Fred: When I say prepared, I had a crate of records that I knew I wanted to play. That all changes depending on the room. There are some things that I didn't play. It ended up being more of a progressive house/electro crowd, as opposed to an old school Chicago house music crowd. One of the songs that I played was the old Jaydee song from the '90s, 'Plastic Dreams' and a lot of the younger people didn't get it. So, that's why I didn't go in that direction. I went into it because I wanted to see how they would react and didn't get a major reaction; I moved back to the more current dance music.
Kelly: So you throw out little musical testers?
Fred: Exactly. The set could have progressed dramatically different depending upon the response that I got from playing that type of record; a twenty year old house track.
Kelly: What was your biggest response of the night?
Fred: Trying to think, record wise? A lot of the music I play is progressive house and electro, which I specialize in. A lot of those songs right now, especially during the season with all of the festivals going on, are what I would consider anthems. So, I stuck to the big room anthem-type tunes for that party because a lot of what Indy doesn't get is, when you see coverage from Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival, we don't have that chance here. A lot of nightclubs I play in I wouldn't play some of the songs I played because the room is not appropriate. The size of the crowd is not appropriate. But it was last night. There is a time and a place and a feeling when you play those songs and last night was the perfect night to let that all out. People know them. As the city grows up, and events like this come, I'm just trying to provide that product here locally for what people see happening all over the world.
Kelly: Were you able to view the first day performances of WheelHouse Festival? Any thoughts?
Fred: I did the majority of the daytime on the first day. I did a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff getting ready for Bad Boy Bills massive 25,000 dollars worth of Pioneer equipment on stage, so I didn't get a lot of the second day actually. I thought the first day was good. Obviously, bringing a legend to town like Paul Oakenfold is kind of unreal. It's like, oh my god, there's Paul Oakenfold right there and I just plugged in his CD player for him. But I thought the crowd was good. This being the first one [1st annual WheelHouse Festival] I think there will definitely be a second one. I heard nothing but positive feedback for the most part on everything. Unfortunately, the Vogue made a minor mistake by booking another concert earlier in the evening at their venue. There was a line wrapped around the building to get in. I just turned my phone off for awhile until it was under control and then I showed my face again. Give us a minute, we are almost there. I think, for what they attempted to pull off, a lot of hard work went into it.
Kelly: It was so involved and I understand many different groups came together.
Fred: Yea. Equipment-wise, I helped because I have a lot of high-end equipment that not every DJ has. I'm like the local technical expert, which is why they had me hop on stage before Paul [Oakenfold] played. They said, "check this out, make sure everything is good to go". It was fun being behind the scenes for a lot of that too.
Kelly: Now, how long have you been a professional DJ?
Fred: That's a tricky question. I've been DJing for probably twenty years. I gave it up in the late '90s to focus on corporate America. I've played on records [vinyl], and part of it is, I don't want to carry all these records around anymore. Then, of course, technology changes. Sitting around in 2007 and 2008, I just switched jobs, got my evenings and weekends back, wasn't traveling much, so I went to see DJ Indiana Jones [Ron Miner]. I said I'm gonna get back into DJing. And, Ron said, "ha ha ha, sure you are." I'm like, just watch, watch, watch. I reassembled the music collection and December 19th, 2008 there was a small club down in the Broad Ripple area. I made up a flyer and said hey I'm DJing here on Friday night. Ron has another Friday night about two blocks away. That one Friday night there was a line down the block to get into my party. So, about 2:00am Ron walks in and he's like, "yo, you weren't joking were you" [laughing]. And I said, I'm back! He didn't have anyone at his event because they all came to my event.
Kelly: And, now you work together?
Fred: Yea, exactly. We know all the same people. It's kind of like the power of two. We've known each other for a long time and just work well together. We draw from the same fanbase.
Kelly: Do you prefer Rane or Pioneer?
Fred: I have a really good relationship with Rane, but I love the high-end Pioneer stuff. The 900's, the Nexus line, the CDJ-2000's. It really depends on what set I'm playing. If I am doing an all electronic set, I prefer to use all Pioneer gear similar to what you saw last night used on stage at the Vogue WheelHouse after-party by Bad Boy Bill. If I'm playing more of an open format set with some hip hop, some dance, some reggae, some dubstep, I prefer the openness of the Rane and Serato gear because it's just the closest thing you can get to two turntables and an old school mixer. So, it just feels better when I'm playing an open format to use the Serato platform.
Kelly: When you are supplying your gear to events like WheelHouse Festival, are you sponsored by those companies?
Fred: No, I don't have any sponsorships with either one of those. I do have friends at Rane. If I need something I can just pick up the phone and call. And, I have a really good relationship with Sam Ash here locally, so if I need something locally they have my back.
Kelly: Were you raised in a musical household?
Fred: Yea, my mom was the only female and she had five brothers, so I just remember being a little kid and just looking at huge record collections everywhere.
Kelly: Was your mother the youngest child?
Fred: No, she was the second to the youngest child and I'm the oldest grandchild. Coming from a family who loved music, it's just one of those things that I've always been around. That's really what got me into it.
Kelly: Did you raid anybody's music stash?
Fred: Oh yea, I've got some stuff that I haven't returned [laughing] [more laughing]. It's like, you can keep asking, but I have my entire record collection in storage. It's one of those things that it's a pain to hold onto but I don't know that I will ever give it up. You know what I mean? I'll pay to store it somewhere before I give it away.
Kelly: Do you play a musical instrument?
Fred: For a short time I was in band in middle school and high school and I played clarinet, bass clarinet. But, as far as instruments go, that's about it.
Kelly: Do you sing?
Fred: Don't sing, definitely not a singer [laughing].
Kelly: Now, you are one of the top DJ's in the area, probably the Midwest; have you performed outside of the region, in Las Vegas or other EDM hotspots?
Fred: I have not gone to Vegas. I think I'll be going to New York soon. It's one of those things for me, I don't know maybe it's a pride thing, once I infiltrate those circles I'll be a part of it. What I was going to say earlier, when I decided to get back into it, this was 2008, in five years or so I have gone from not DJing to where I am at now.
Kelly: That's considered top of the game locally.
Fred: Yea. So the next step, since I am here now, is regional and national. If you Google me, you can find me, see all the mixes I put out. I'm growing it organically at the same time I don't have the time or the resources to go knock on everybody's door in Chicago or New York, but I think that time will come. Maybe even exposure like this I'll get a call. So it's just the way I chose to grow the business.
Kelly: Well, you deserve it.
Fred: Thank you, I appreciate that. I travel. I see what other DJ's are doing and it's like I can probably do that better and that's not in a disrespectful way. I know there's a network; there's a network here and eventually I'll tap into it; I'll find it.
Kelly: Have you DJ'd in Chicago?
Fred: I have not DJ'd in Chicago yet. I'd be there in twenty minutes if someone asked.
Kelly: Would you consider performing in Ibitha?
Fred: I'd love to. I would totally do a one-off. There's a few clubs I work with down in Louisville, Kentucky, it's only a few times a year, but I'm all about the one-offs. I have a ton of corporate business that I do which takes me on the road sometimes. I don't really advertise those events because they are private obviously.
Kelly: But, they are sustaining your career while you are trying to expand your business.
Fred: Oh yea, exactly, exactly, exactly. The way it has grown, I think the pace is just about right. So, naturally, me getting out of Indy is going to happen.
Kelly: Without touring, could you give me a sense of what your balance is between being in Indy and outside of Indy?
Fred: I'm probably here in Indy around 70 percent of the time and I would like to change that. I would like to be gone more than I am here basically.
Kelly: Are you aware of current tours? Is there a particular tour or act that you would like to open for?
Fred: I am. There's so many tours right now, I don't have a specific one. There's probably a list of twenty guys I would love to open up for; Bad Boy Bill included [laughing].
Kelly: Technically, you did open for Bad Boy Bill...
Fred: Yea, I did [laughing]! I opened for Benny Benassi in 2012 and that was a really big moment for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, actually it was Benny Benassi and Krewella. I would have to write out that list because it would be a fun list to work on. Progressive house and electro are really fueling some of these big festivals. Acts like Maxwell, Hardwell, Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, all those guys are filling huge stadiums. I think there is a huge market for events just like we had last night too. When you are not paying, let's say, 250,000 dollars for Tiesto, maybe you could pay three-, four- or five-thousand dollars to have me come in and make the crowd more excited than he probably would [laughing]. Because my playlist is going to be a little bit more open than him playing all of his stuff. I probably went through, in that hour last night, thirty to forty tracks and I don't think I repeated any artist on any one of them.
Kelly: You used quite a bit of vocals in your set last night.
Fred: I think vocals are important in dance music, it's a feel good music. I can get up and play a whole hour of gangsta rap too if you want me to. When you get everybody together like we had last night...everybody feels good and all the songs make you feel good. It's about the highs and the lows, the peaks and the valleys, the breaks and everything else that just give that musical high to everybody.
Kelly: There are DJ's who are successful without using vocals.
Fred: For me it's all about the vocals and it's not all about the vocals for everybody. There are still House and Tech House events that I have been to and you could go for hours without hearing a single vocal [laughing]. It depends on the music. It's still about the breaks and the peaks and the valleys and the bass lines and the highs and the lows and everything else.
Kelly: It's about making your clientele happy.
Kelly: Who were your influences?
Fred: These are going to probably sound like stereotypical answers but Michael Jackson and Prince. I'm probably a bigger Prince fan than a Michael Jackson fan. There was always that debate, who is the best Prince or Michael Jackson. They're both great! Lenny Kravitz and Moby. Moby is when I first started to listen to electronic music; groups like Prodigy and Massive Attack. Believe it or not, Bjork. I've seen her live, front row at Red Rocks [Red Rocks Amphitheatre just outside of Denver, Colorado] in 2003; an experience of a lifetime. Diana Ross, I just recently saw her live in Carmel [Indiana] at the Palladium [The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel, Indiana]. Legends on that list that I just named only come around once in a lifetime. When you look at somebody like Bjork, her vocals are phenomenal and she pushes the envelope of electronic music as far as you can ever push it.
Kelly: Would you be interested in remixing one of Bjork's tracks officially?
Fred: Oh yes, I would! I would love to do it! I would say that's probably my short list and I think I have seen all of them live so that's awesome too. A guy like Prince, I'm not a guitar player but I appreciate good guitar playing and seeing him playing the guitar is phenomenal. I have seen him do some stuff in concert things in concert where it's just like...seriously.
Kelly: You had an incredibly powerful set last night. Everyone looked like they were definitely having fun...did you?
Fred: I didn't want to stop. I do a lot of big events in Indy, for Indy 500, for New Years Eve, you name it. There are DJ's, in a moment like that, who crumble under the pressure. When I step up to bat, it's up to me to change the temperature in that room. I don't know if you noticed, but once I took over the party was here [motioning with his hand around his shoulder] then it went to there [motioning with his hand above his head]. I think the event was good. I think it can grow. I know the after-parties really got some high marks. You learn from every event you do and how to make it better.
Kelly: Fred, thank you for this interview. And, I wish you much continued success.
Fred: Thank you, I am on a roll right now.