Downunder with Dj Dan Slater

By Celso Dulay

Dan Slater blazed onto the global DJ scene in 2012 when he won Sydney’s Mardi Gras Spin-Off Competition, a coveted award in the highly competitive world of electronic dance music. Dan is a dancer, model, DJ, and producer. He’s traveled the world – playing in Sydney, Paris and London. During the summer, he hits the states for NYC Pride, San Diego Pride and then San Francisco to play the infamous EndUp in the city’s SOMA district. Dan confesses that he still gets nervous when he’s performing. Amazing when you consider that Sydney’s Mardi Gras is one of the world’s largest gay events; second only to San Francisco’s Pride Parade. My recent chat with Dan for this interview proved that even with international fame and dashing model good looks, you can still be a sweetheart. I now have a new fave DJ and might even score a home cooked meal with him. We’ll see.

The 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras DJ Spin-Off was clearly a defining moment for you, catapulting your career to where it is today. What was the competition like?   They have the Mardi Gras Spin off competition every year. They choo se one or two winners to play the Mardi Gras Party. It was really daunting because it was one of the first times I had ever played in a club. We had to compete in a heat. I was really nervous but I had all my friends there to support me. I didn’t find out until a couple days later that I had actually won. But then I got to play at Mardi Gras Party. It was like baptism by fire.

Beauty, brains, and talent, seems like a charmed life. Were there any major challenges you’ve had to face to get to where you are now? At first I was all about trying to get constant gigs. Because I was a dancer people didn’t really take me seriously as a Dj at first. But then I started getting booked more and more. I guess it’s just hard work and perseverance. Not settling for second best. Always trying to do the next best thing and putting yourself out there.

How did you decide that you wanted to DJ at all? I’ve had a love for electronic music for ages. I think the first “Cassingle” I ever had was 2Unlimited by Workaholic. I used to make all these mixed tapes. Then in about 2011, I started to learn how to DJ but I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I thought okay I am just going to do this and see if I even enjoy it and if I am good at it. Then I started getting gigs before I even sort of…

DAN-HEADEROh wow, it was meant to be?! Yes. It took off really really quickly but I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s like a performance still. Every gig is like a performance and I like that aspect of it.

In prep for this interview, I’ve been immersing myself in Dan Slater music. I love the Britney Spears Tik Tik Boom and Sunday Sessions on Soundcloud. I have to say, you’ve definitely set a tone for my summer and my workouts are way better.   It’s nice to have a diverse range of jobs that I can do. Like I love my job at Hugo’s (His residency in Australia) because it’s really chilled out and you can play a more relaxed and funky kind of sound. Where as Pride events or big clubs, big rooms, you’ve got to have a really uplifting chunky and energetic sound. So it’s nice to have that difference.

How would you describe your sound? It’s definitely uplifting and energetic. A lot of my tracks have a real European and South American flavor to them with a mixture of vocals and instrumental tracks as well. It’s nice to mix it all up.

Any “must haves” in the booth while you spin? Any rituals? Like I gotta have brown M&M’s? (laughs) No I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to that sort of stuff. The majority of the time when they ask if I want a drink I say, “No, can I just have some sparkling water please?”

You DJ and produce? Yes, I started producing this year.

So, what’s the biggest challenge with producing? At the end of last year I said that 2014 was the year of productions. So January 3rd I started in the studio. It has been a big move. I am constantly learning things. I guess the biggest challenge is coming up with new and fresh ideas for each track and making it suitable for the artist and the song. Cause you’ve got to sorta stay true, you can’t just go off on a completely different tangent. If you’re putting together a remix for say a Britney Spears or Cher you want it to still sound like them. It’s hard also getting feedback from artists or management. Some of them might come to you and say, “Oh we love it,” and then sometimes their feedback is, “Oh not so much.”

Was the motivation to take on producing a natural progression or something that you had wanted to get to eventually? It’s definitely something that I wanted to get to. It was just a matter of sort of waiting and building up my profile as a DJ and then building a profile as a producer.  Next step is original tracks. I’ve got about three weeks when I come back to Sydney, from the states and Europe, I really want to get in some good studio time.

Any venues or hot spots that you want to get to next? Really want to get to South America and to Mexico Is there a style of music you like that would surprise everyone? Umm, to be totally honest with you, I like road trips with my family and we’ve got like Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons playing. All the 70’s. Even still when I go and visit my mum she’s always got music blaring and we’re always bobbing along together. Music has a way, I think, of making people feel happy. It’s a universal language.

Do you have any hidden talents lurking in the shadows? Is there any chance we’ll hear you sing or do some acting in the future? My days of singing are done.

Just in the shower? (laughs) Maybe in the car.

Do you miss dancing professionally? I started dancing when I was about five years old. Then I started working professionally when I was about sixteen. I don’t really miss it anymore. Doing musical theater especially is so hard because you work six days a week, eight shows a week and by the end its taxing. It’s taxing on your body and just being away from home is hard too. Being on tour is great but you’re doing the same thing again and again. It was a great time but I was ready for something new.

You’ve danced with Dannii Minogue and Kylie Minogue. So pick one, Dannii or Kylie? Who’s your favorite? I actually preferred working with Dannii more. I spent a lot more time with her and got to know her on a personal level. It was a lot of fun.

You’ve been playing a lot of gay pride events this tour. What’s the difference between spinning at a Pride event versus paying a club? Club gigs are often a lot more intimate. Pride events are on a huge scale. Sometimes it’s more enjoyable playing a club gig because I get so nervous still. Even this year, before playing Mardi Gras, my friends were asking if I was okay because I could hardly talk and wasn’t eating. On the day of the show I get really nervous still.

If you weren’t a DJ what else would you want to do? I’m still modeling. I actually graduated from University last year. I have a Bachelor of Business in Marketing. I think if I wasn’t DJ’ing I’d be working in a marketing role somewhere in entertainment or television.

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San Francisco is considered by many to be the gay mecca. Does it hold a special place for you?
I’m just excited to come to San Francisco for the first time. I am just such a tourist when I go away. I’m only in the cities for a few days so I’ve got to make the most of it. Is Alcatraz still open? (laughs)

That’s so cute. Yes, it is. I’ve just seen it in so many different movies. I’ve gotta get out there and check it out.

Speaking of special places you’re going to be spinning at one of San Francisco’s most legendary clubs, the EndUp. Are you excited? Oh, I’ve heard about that club.

It’s famous and infamous. It sounds fantastic. I am definitely excited to get out there.

Say our readers wanted to go to Australia. Where should they go and what should they do to have the perfect Aussie trip? Do the Bondi to Bronte walk. Which is a nice coastal walk from one beach to the next. And it’s always nice to go out to the Blue Mountains. It’s a nice contrast between the city and the country there. Then there’s Hugo’s and the Beresford and Arc. (Google it.)

Have you ever played the game, Association? No, first time.

I say a word or phrase and you say the first thing that pops into your mind. But for this interview, I’ll say a word or phrase and you say the first song or music that comes to mind.

Party all night long. Never Let the Party Stop by Indra Friends.

Friends. I’ll be There for You by Bon Jovi

Beach. I’m completely blank. I’m in winter mode. Oh, Fade by Solu Music

Sex. Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt-N-Pepa

San Francisco. I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett.

Very nice! <laughs> I understand you like to cook. Yes. I cook and eat. I’m an eater.

If you were going to have me over for dinner what would you make for me? Roasted chicken with feta, parsley and roasted tomatoes on top. Broccolini with sweet potato mash.

What time should I be there? 8 O’clock

Dan Slater headlines San Diego Pride on July 20th and performs at TRADE at the EndUp on Friday, July 25th | LISTEN TO HIM HERE

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Celso Dulay is the creator, host and executive producer of Glitter Bomb TV, an online media company that produces GNews!, which some have called a gay version of The Daily Show or Talk Soup, where you can get “all your gay in just one day.” The show can be viewed on YouTube and it’s syndicated on the Left magazine website as of July 2014.  During six years spent as the founder and executive producer for Bunny Production, Dulay has been an on-screen host and producer covering events such as San Francisco Gay Pride and Bike to Work Day. He’s produced numerous commercial videos for clients like Panasonic, SanDisk, RollerSoccer and Tom’s of Maine. He produced and starred in a video series dubbed SanDisk TV that documented members of the “SanDisk Extreme Team,” a group of talented international photojournalists.

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