Claude VonStroke talks Dirtybird, Diplo, and Playing Shows Sans Bass

Courtesy of Sumi Management
Courtesy of Sumi Management

By Chris Burrell

Amidst a crazy tour schedule, I was able to get some time on the phone with one of my DJ / producer idols: Dirtybird label boss, Barclay Crenshaw, better known as Claude VonStroke.

CB: Mr. Crenshaw, I’m a huge fan, spin your stuff all the time on air, and I know you’re busy – thanks for you taking the time out to do this call.

CVS: Thank you, no problem.

CB: So you’re on tour now, but you have the night off tonight, is that correct?

CVS: I do, yes, kind of (chuckles).

CB: So you have the night off doing phone interviews and stuff like that, are you on a tour bus in the middle of nowhere?

CVS: No, I’m at home.

CB: Oh okay, and where is home for you these days? LA or San Francisco?

CVS: I’m in LA right now.

CB: OK cool, well how’s the tour been so far?

CVS: It’s been really great.

CB: I follow you on Twitter, and I’ve seen that perhaps you and J Phlip are doing T 25 to stay active on the tour bus?

CVS: (laughs) I am, she’s not!

CB: She’s a sick DJ, how’s she been received as the opening act?

CVS: Great, I think she’s done really well on this tour. Trying to get her on the Europe tour.

CB: I read somewhere that you don’t have a tour manager per se.

CVS: No we don’t, we don’t have a tour manager. I haven’t had one for 10 years.

CB: Have you had any interesting situations on this tour so far?

CVS: Yeah, there was like no bass for like 30 minutes in Denver.

CB: Oh shit! How does the Dirtybird sound go without the bass?

CVS: I had to just get on the mic and start yelling into my headphone. I turned my headphone into a mic and started asking what was going on. No one understood what I was talking about at first. They’re like, “Bass, bass, great!?”

CB: Well there will be no problems with bass tomorrow night at U Street. And the place you’re playing in Philly – Union Transfer – has really great sound as well.

CVS: Oh cool.

CB: Got to say big up to you for your third album, such an accomplishment.

CVS: Thank you.

CB: How a long a period of time was Urban Animal recorded over?

CVS: About six to eight months I’d say – January to Summer time.

CB: Did you do like the Hawaii route like Justin Martin did for recording it?

CVS: No my parents don’t live in Hawaii (laughs), but they have like an awesome retreat. And I have kids, so I can’t just take off go wherever like Justin.

CB: I heard that it was your anniversary recently, congrats to that as well.

CVS: Yes, thank you.

CB: Your wife Aundy is obviously a big part of the initial Dirtybird story, would you mind recounting that?

CVS: It’s very complicated. She was a marketing executive at a toy company, and I was like a video guy and an editor. She got this gig for people where they could shoot the prototypes of the toys before they came out. I would get a bunch of money to shoot these little segments and then make copies of it on VHS and then they could show it at malls for like test groups and stuff. I did three of them, saved up a whole bunch of money, and then we did the business plan for the label together and she said if I put all the money towards the label, she would pay the bills for a year, but if it didn’t work, I had to go get a job forever.

CB: What was the thing that was like ok, this is working?

CVS: I made the goal, there was a financial goal. We weren’t gonna make it, but it was the third record that sold all the copies. The first two were ok, and then the third one really sold a lot.

CB: Deep Throat?

CVS: Yeah.

CB: On the note of big hits – Jack – WTF – that track blew up, I saw videos of that track getting dropped in clubs, and people were going nuts. I heard that was a B-side as well?

CVS: Yes, it was. It’s always the B-sides that stuff happens with. Who’s Afraid of Detroit? was also a B-side.

CB: So Atlantic approached you to put it on a comp or something?

CVS: No they licensed it from us straight out – they’re in charge of it now. We get approval over everything but they’re in charge of it. We get our name on it still and it gets our approval, but they’re running it.

CB: Still on the topic of hits, you were one of the DJ’s I knew that was supporting ‘Harlem Shake’ – you got that from Diplo – talk about that a little bit.

CVS: I don’t even know how you know that I was on Harlem Shake first.

CB: I scour the webs.

CVS: I’ve known Diplo since I did Shake it to the Ground and he did a Whistler remix. The story of that is that I made a folder of tracks for my label manager and I said (snaps fingers), “Dude we should get on this, because this is like the next thing. And it was all what you would now call ‘trap’ stuff. But it wasn’t even a genre yet, it just sounded like all this futuristic hyphy stuff. There were like 10 songs that I got from all weirdo places that all had this element of that sound. I was like this gonna be the shit, it’s gonna take over dubstep (laughs), and I totally should have listened to myself!

CB: What’s next?

CVS: That’s the only time I’ve picked a subgenre that was gonna go big. But I listened to this stuff and I was like man this gonna happen. Gaslamp Killer was playing a lot of it, EPROM, and some of those people didn’t even stay on that path, but there was like C Bat by Hudson Mohawke, Regis Chilbin by EPROM, Harlem Shake – they were all created in the 6 months.

CB: So how does Dirtybird position themselves in the US given labels like Mad Decent and other stuff that’s really blown up?

CVS: Were just playing the middle, we’re not super ketamine underground and we’re not over the top blazers. We’re fun ,but with a little bit of taste.

CB: (laughs) Super tasteful in my opinion. Somebody who’s surprised me with a slightly different style than your label’s, although tasteful, is Justin Jay. How’d you get in touch with him, and was Static the first track you heard from him?

CVS: It’s all about getting a track from someone that I really like. That wasn’t the first track I heard from him, but was the first one I signed. I just thought it was the bomb. But I think Justin Jay made that as a joke track.

CB: That’s interesting, his deep style just kind of surprised me coming from someone who’s not even 21. I read he’s in a frat and all the bro’s there crave like Disclosure when he DJ’s there.

CVS: He said he made Static for the frat bros.

CB: Got it. Any other interesting from bringing the young guy around?

CVS: It’s a pain in the ass to try and get him in the clubs. He’s good though. He even came out to Ibiza, everyone came out, it was a fun summer.

CB: I read about that, congrats on your residency! What was the villa like you guys were in?

CVS: It was great. It was me, Justin Martin, Catz n Dogz, Ardalan was there a lot, J Philip was there a lot and, some people were in and out just like a day or two like Eats Everything.

CB: That’s what’s up! Well thanks for your time man – have a great rest of the tour!

CVS: No problem, thank you!

Catch Claude VonStroke and J Phlip spinning some booty shaking bass music at Union Transfer this Friday, November 15!!!!