Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin on Dirtybird Records' Ten "Booty-Shaking" Years
The Dirtybirds: Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin.
Photos by Tim Jones (left) and Dirtybird Records (right)
A full decade after Dirtybird's very first record, it's easy to forget how drab and somber electronic dance music culture was during the 2000s.
Cold, soulless minimal techno served by po-faced DJs was still the order of the day for a scene that took itself way too seriously and had seemingly forgotten that dance music is supposed to be, well, fun.
But since 2005, San Francisco DJ-producers and Dirtybird masterminds Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin have been here to inject some much-needed levity and party mojo into the scene with their own fun-loving, self-styled brand of electronic sleaze.
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"At the start, it was just something different to get away from what we were hearing in the clubs," VonStroke says about launching the label. "We weren't satisfied with the sounds, so we did our own sound."
Martin adds: "We set out to make fun stuff that drew from all of our musical influences and blurred the lines between genres."
That uninhibited, unorthodox blending of hip-hop, ghetto-funk and bass with four-to-the-floor house and techno is what set Dirtybird apart from the rest of the scene. And ultimately, it helped bring back the sex appeal and charisma that had been missing from so much 2000s-era dance music.
"Bass bin-rattling, booty-shaking, creative fun." That's how Martin describes the label's aesthetic. "I would say it's hard to find a Dirtybird track in the catalog that doesn't sound and feel amazing loud. There may be one or two, but it's rare."
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For VonStroke, Dirtybird's style is all about the dance floor. "Elements of funk, jungle, and hip-hop always find their way into our stuff," he says. "But I don't care who made it or where it came from. I just want the hot tracks that get me excited to play them out."
And now, after ten years, Dirtybird remains one of the most beloved labels on the international scene, thanks not only to its signature aesthetic and formidable catalog, but also its extended family of artists, including esteemed DJ-producers like J.Phlip, Worthy, Shiba San, and Kill Frenzy.
"Over the years, Dirtybird has grown so much, I almost feel like we are a real record label now," jokes VonStroke. "No one would ever believe how ragtag this operation was for many, many years. I've never strayed too far away from the DIY ethos, simply because I am really passionate about it, so I will always do it better than someone who is collecting a paycheck, or a manager with 50 artists, or someone who just wants to look cool."
Likewise, Martin admits: "I never thought we would come as far as we have. I just followed Claude's leadership and learned that anything is possible through hard work, dedication, and a strong team of friends."
Looking back on the past decade, these two Dirtybirds acknowledge that it wasn't always easy. But they insist there was never any chance of selling out or giving up.
"There have have been ups and downs -- years when we were not as cool or in as other years," Martin says. "But I think another key to success is sticking to your guns and making the music you love, and of course, being as creative as you can. Dirtybird has always been my outlet to do that, and the open-minded fanbase we have acquired in the process makes me feel lucky, day after day."
As for whether we can expect another ten years of Dirtybird? "Yes, I think so," VonStroke assures us. "I feel like we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg in America. We are not really the hot, hot label in Europe at the moment, but Europe is always much more moody, and we literally go up and down in waves over there, year by year. My plan is to keep expanding without changing the music or going commercial."
And because Dirtybird's affinity for booty bass pretty much makes the crew honorary 305ers, and its label showcases during Miami Music Week are now an annual tradition, what better time and place to celebrate the label's tenth anniversary?
"Everyone is playing back to back," VonStroke reveals. "And since lots of artists will be in Miami, I'm sure there will be some great cameos at the party."
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Dirtybird 10. As part of Steam Miami's MMW Closing Party. Sunday, March 29. Steam Miami, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $40 plus fees via wantickets.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 786-516-3393 or visit steammiami.com.
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