"It will all be digital. The days of coming up just as a DJ with no productions are far behind us"
Get to the Future has been fortunate enough to score an interview with one of todays global pioneers of dance music, or more specifically, of the most innovative house, tech-funk and techno in the world - Claude VonStroke. Below we talk music, partying, digital and the future.
The filthiest of Dirtybirds has blessed the world with his army of dirt ridden heavyweights (including The Martin Brothers, Tim Green, J. Phlip, Voodeux, Catz 'n Dogz and Italoboyz- to name a few) and has recently taunted us with disgracefully teasing tracks such as the lush, intelligent jungle inspired 'Aundy' as well as 'The Greasy Beat' and the latest 'Bird Brain EP', which should have people rushing for the Portal of Beats or the nearest record shop. Here the man himself has fired over words of wisdom via electronic-mail, straight from the Dirtybird HQ in San Francisco:
You’re a little bit popular in the UK – how does the dance scene – and the crowds - here compare to San Francisco? Do you have a favorite country and city when it comes to playing out live (besides San Fran!)?
I really love playing in the UK. I have a couple favorite cities around the globe like Paris and Berlin but the UK is the most consistent overall for me, especially places like Leeds and Manchester.
How is the American music market at present compared to the last couple of years - does electronic dance music fare better today despite ongoing filesharing?
Well our label is selling better here but I think that is due to hard work over the years more than anything else and maybe people realizing we are actually from the US. The overall music market is pretty dismal everywhere for CD sales. Digital is booming but it's not actually replacing the same amount of revenue from physical sales so I see most companies shrinking a bit.
How do you envisage the future of dance music, both in terms of music sales and live activity - do you think the focus of electronic music labels is going to be increasingly on live performance?
Yes for sure. I see the producers completely taking over from the DJs. DJs will say this can never happen but once this old guard of 30-40 year olds is done then it will all be digital, all producers dominating the industry. The days of coming up just as a DJ with no productions are far behind us. Hopefully this will lead to some cool experimentation with the live performance aspect of things and not just pre-programmed sets in Traktor and Ableton.
Having rocked Creamfields 2009, how have you found the festival circuit over recent times and what have been your highlights?
Festivals in the UK have been a bit hit and miss due to the recent noise restrictions. It really sucks when I get up on the decks and the whole crowd is shouting at me to turn it up and there is no more room to turn it up. Even so, the UK crowds are definitely some of the best. I had a really incredible gig in Sydney, Australia last week at a festival called Parklife. Festivals can be amazing. It just depends. Even a bad festival is fun 'cause you are playing your music to 1000s of people! How can I complain?
You’ve often stated that you’ve come from and were inspired by drum and bass. This is evident in a lot of your tracks, do you still listen to drum and bass today? If so, which artists do you like?
I don't follow it but I’ll still throw on an old record or an old album by some of my favorite producers like Krust or Ed Rush & Optical, etc. It's something I’ll probably dabble in a bit in the future, bring back the older sound again.
Are you producing, or planning to produce other genres such as drum and bass? Can you provide any information about your Grizzl alias and work in hip-hop?
The Grizzl will be more of a surprise. I don’t want to say too much about it right now, as I haven't really begun production on much of it yet. To answer the other question, yes I'm definitely going out of genre next year and trying out some new things! Yes, maybe some DnB as well!
As a pioneer, what music production software and hardware do you use - that you wouldn’t mind revealing? (Is this true that you “only use Reason”??)
It used to be true that I only used Reason. My first album was 95% Reason. Now I find myself using Ableton a lot here and there. I also have some hardware now like a Moog and some pedals and weird effects. But I still think it can be done in Reason and it shouldn't even be surprising to anyone. The functions available in Reason would have cost $500,000 + in like 1995 if you had to buy the equivalent in gear. Like Theo Parrish once said to me, "You can use sticks and bricks to make music."
You have an innate ability to create various styles, from the beautifully deep and musical to outright heavy rollers and even combining the soulful with the humorous. Your vocal edits and ‘drum-in-cheek’ sonics are your signature – did you set out deliberately to produce music that didn’t take itself too seriously all the time, or was it a natural progression? Please comment.
The whole point of dance music and DJing is to have parties. Parties are supposed to be fun. So why not have fun music at your party? It is such a simple equation that people forget. Party people want to smile and dance and try to have sex with other people. It is all based on having fun so at least some of the music should be fun. Having all these serious people mulling around criticizing the music is depressing. These are the same, lame people who refused to dance and just sat in the corner and clowned on everyone in high school. I'd rather not be in that group.
“Vocal Chords’ and ‘Big ‘n’ Round’ give a teasing taster of ‘Birdbrain’, especially in contrast to 'Aundy'. What can people generally expect from the new album, particularly in comparison to ‘Beware of the Bird’?
It is a little bit more cohesive. The tracks all make sense together like an album should. The first album was all singles thrown together. These tracks were made to be an album. It gets dirty and nasty and deep and soothing...all across the board.
What have been your key influences, musically and experientially, during the course of making ‘Birdbrain’?
Trying to figure out how to still make dirty, sexual funk while I am married with two kids. It can be hard, no pun intended, but as primal humans we never really lose that urge to get greasy on the dance floor. I just have to tap into that primal shit and it all works out great.
You have been around the globe with your DJ sets, has this had a strong affect on your new album?
Absolutely, when you can go to a lot of different places you can see what works for people all around the world. Every place is different and I would say that some of the tracks are made for different territories. Like some tracks from the album will work in Berlin and some in San Francisco. But they all work together as well. At some point though, this can be a detriment to the music. At some point I had to stop catering to people and just go ahead and finish the music I wanted to make - keeping my voice if you will.
With regards to Mothership, how would you describe the state of the more underground and purest techno scene both in the US and Europe?
I never really know how to answer this. There are pockets of people everywhere who are more underground and that will never change. Mothership is more underground than Dirtybird, but I still consider both labels very underground regardless of the fact that Dirtybird has a few big crossover hits. It is always surprising to me when someone is a big fan of Mothership but not Dirtybird or vice versa because I love both sounds.
Can we expect any long players from any other Dirtybird’s and Mothership dwellers sometime soon? What's J.Phlip got up her sleeves?
Of course there is the new 5 Year Birthday project on Dirtybird coming early next year and then there is also the new Catz 'n Dogz album on Mothership coming in the Spring. J. Phlip is rolling out some new tracks and remixes right now. I think it will be a while before she does a full artist album but she is progressing nicely.
Can you divulge any new/forthcoming signings, releases or projects from either Dirtybird or Mothership?
Yeah, the next Mothership record by Maetrik is unbelievable. The lead track is called "Show Me". Also one of the best club records in a long time is coming on Dirtybird this Winter by Sascha Braemer. It is probably my favorite all-around EP of the year, or at least the one I play the most.
Have you any plans to take the Dirtybird/Mothership night international......or at least to the UK? Please do…
We already have done it. We had a Dirtybird in London last year and we are taking over Room 1 at Fabric for my album release this December. We also have a label night once a year at Watergate in Berlin and there will be more coming in other cities TBA.
What’s currently on your iPod’s ‘Most Played’ playlist?
I listened to the new Jay Z album a few times recently, also Kid Cudi - but nothing is really blowing me away in commercial music right now. I like to go jogging to mixes by our fellow label artists a lot. I also listened to all 3 "Special Herbs" beats only discs by MF Doom the other day.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Yeah, check out the album on October 19th. The album is a dying art form and I might not make another one....
Educational....The words speak for themselves - if they weren't quite tantalizing enough, you should click through to Dirtybird and sample 'Bird Brain' right now. For those who are keen and eager to catch Dirtybird live, this is when and where you can:
Claude VonStroke’s “Bird Brain” World Tour
Nov 6 - Paris @ Rex Club
Nov 7 - Manchester @ Warehouse Project
Nov 13 - San Francisco @Mezzanine
Nov 20 - Berlin @ Watergate
Nov 21 - Germany TBA
Nov 27 - Los Angeles @ Compression
Dec 4 - Amsterdam @ Melkweg
Dec 5 - London @ Fabric
Dec 18 - Toronto @ Mod
Dec 19 - Chicago @ Smart Bar
Jan 23 - Munich @ Harry Klein
Jan 24 - Barcelona @ The Loft
Jan 29 - Dublin @ Button Factory
Jan 30 - Leeds @ Back to Basics
Brasil & Japan - dates TBA
Bird Brain - Release date: CD/digital October 19th. 2009
A HUGE thank you to Claude VonStroke for taking the time to talk to us!