Q&A With Dirtybird Label's Claude VonStroke, Playing Electric Pickle with Dixon on Friday

Categories: Nightlife, Q&A
For any electronic dance music lover in the know,  DJ/producer Claude VonStroke and his esteemed Dirtybird and Mothership labels have become synonymous with some of the most forward-thinking and fun-loving sounds coming out of the American EDM scene in the new millennium. A Detroit native with roots in drum 'n' bass, VonStroke (born Barclay Crenshaw) relocated to the house music boomtown of San Francisco in the early '00s, where he teamed up with fellow visionary Justin Martin to launch Dirtybird.

They have since cranked out nonstop banging releases, including contributions by the likes of Sascha Braemer, Tim Green, Riva Starr and Catz 'n Dogz, all boasting a signature sound that blends the most jacking and floor-smashing aspects of tech-house, electro and bass music.

In 2007 VonStroke would follow up the success of Dirtybird with the launch of a second imprint, Mothership, which besides striking gold as another successful independent label specializing in cutting-edge underground EDM, also serves as a charitable effort. Mothership donates a big percentage of its proceeds to music education for underprivileged youth in Detroit.
Apart from his A&R and original production accolades, VonStroke has also cemented his reputation as a world-class DJ, having played to audiences across the globe, including regular appearances at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and Winter Music Conference in Miami each year. You can catch the eminent Mr. VonStroke at the Electric Pickle this Friday, where he'll be throwing down with another very special guest, esteemed German deep house specialist Dixon.

Easily one of the most candid and down-to-earth EDM artists out there, we relished an opportunity to catch up with VonStroke in anticipation of his Miami performance on Friday. Read the full Q&A after the jump.

Claude VonStroke with Dixon. 10 p.m. Friday, August 13. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com

How did a Detroit dude end up in San Francisco and how has the move there shaped your sound and that of your labels?

I followed a girl who actually never even made it out here. Once I got here I never left. I would say this city showed me how to have fun instead of just making music for guys in hooded sweatshirts. I was way into super dark drum 'n' bass and eventually I realized how to use that knowledge and make some music that people could have fun with.

How did you first hook up with Justin Martin and what can you tell us about your creative relationship?

I met Justin through his older brother Christian who i had done some video project with. Justin was bartending and I would go in and hang out at the bar and shoot the shit. He had just started making house music and I was making my house and techno DVD project. So Justin ended up doing a lot of music on the DVD and we became friends with common goals. I started out managing Justin when he signed his first music which also became motivation for me to try and make my own house tunes and release them

Your official bio says you're "grateful to be doing music for a living". A lot of artists out there seem to take their fortune for granted. To what do you attribute your professional success and what can you tell us about your journey from proverbial nobody to internationally renowned star?

I started with big dreams, big balls, tons of ambition and a strong dose of not giving a shit about what everyone else was doing. It was really my girlfriend (now wife) that made the dreams possible. She paid all my expenses for a year and told me to really go for it. Not just kind of do it, but really really go for it 200%. I took it to heart and here we are today.

You color significantly outside the lines when it comes to your own production work, and it seems like you draw as much from hip hop and bass music as you do from four-on-the-floor house and techno. Where do you get your inspiration and who are your long-standing musical influences?

I like it this way. For example last month I released a dark techy remix on Planet E and a fun hip hop style remix on Boys Noize. I don't know if anyone else is making broad strokes like this but that is what I'm all about. Going from one thing to another, just searching out good music whether it be house, hip hop, drum 'n' bass, reggae, funk, whatever. I like to be able to play with Matthew Dear AND Diplo. My influences pretty much show through in my stuff. It's James Brown, drum 'n' bass, Detroit techno, '80s hip hop, '70s funk, etc.

As a producer who is decidedly pushing the boundaries of genre and hybridizing musical styles, do you think this approach is the key to the future?

I don't think about the key to the future so much -- all I think about is what I want to hear on the dancefloor. And this is what really sends me down the rabbit hole into all these different sounds and ideas.

How do you normally approach your production work and what is your typical process in the studio?

I start slow and finish slow. I will go through something 200 times just to get the groove correct and the EQs down. I start with the idea most times but every once and a while I just get a super hot beat going and I'll go off of that.

Not many people know about the charitable efforts behind your Mothership label, but to us it's a bit deal. What can you tell us about it?

We support Youthville in Detroit. It's just a really cool program for Detroit area kids who might not have tons of dough. The coolest part of it is that they teach actual skills like how to make tracks on modern software and how to be a video editor -- stuff you can't even learn at regular school. They only charge the kids something like $25 a year and they rely on sponsors like us to keep it going.

Having toured extensively around the world, which are some of your top party destinations and why?

Lots of places are great. Leeds, Dublin, Montpelier, Paris, London, Glasgow, Chicago, Detroit -- and of course San Francisco rules. The why of it is mainly cause these are places where I felt in sync with the people. They got what I was trying to do and gave me back their love and energy. I didn't have to fight them to play my sound.

What have been some of the highlights of 2010 so far and what do you have going on for the rest of the year?

The Detroit festival was definitely the best gig this year and I probably played better there than anywhere else. For the rest of the year, I have gigs all over the place plus I am doing some new beats. My "Percolator" remix should be out in a couple weeks on Cajual as well.

What can Miami expect during your upcoming performance with Dixon at the Electric Pickle?

Ah, Dixon -- cool. I've been seeing him a lot on the road recently. Great guy. I dunno what to expect until I show up and see what's going on with the crowd. I'm sure it will be fun as hell though!

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