Claude VonStroke: "My Dream Has Always Been to Make Tracks With Rappers"
Claude VonStroke, the Claudefather of Dirtybird records, the big guy behind the ghetto-booty-tech madness that defies genre limitations, is enjoying some highly-deserved time in the spotlight. He's built his empire from the ground up for years, and 2013 has seen him reap serious benefits.
But it wasn't always that way. Just a few years ago, most people had never heard of Dirtybird or VonStroke. Put him on a big stage among big names, and he all but fell into the cracks of the sidewalk. With much dedication, perseverance, and oodles of talent, he's turned his luck around and taught American masses to stray from the shallow end. But now, he wants to make moves again - into the rap game?
We submit to you part two of our recent Claudeversation.
Crossfade: It seems like you've been coming to Miami a lot recently. Where is this coming from?
VonStroke: I don't know, because I used to never go to Miami.
I think you've been here at least 3 or 4 times already if not more.
Well, we had our DB party at the winter music conference in march
And New Years.
Oh yeah, we had New Years there, you're right. Two before March is even over, and then I played at Story, and then maybe somewhere else or no? Then Story two times, I think?
And then I'm playing Grand Central for the album tour. So yeah, that's way more than I could ever imagine being in Miami. But this is important, because I'm actually trying to become more of a USA-based DJ. In the beginning of my career, I sent everything to Germany and England, and I wanted to be big in Europe. That actually worked out really well because that's where all the scene was, and I got reimported back into America, kind of in a reverse way. But I live in America, so at the end of the day, I actually would rather play in America. It makes a lot more sense to try to make it in America, because that's where I'm from.
I've heard a lot of act, not just dance music, will catch a break in Europe first because maybe it's an easier market to break into.
I don't know if it's easier. It's just they're more accepting of underground dance music. That's what it is, and I knew that so I sent all the music there, you know what I'm saying? It's easier market for independent music, so I guess it is easier.
The first time I saw you play was at EDC Orlando which was almost like three years ago, and it was a small crowd for you and right after that was Calvin Harris who had like a bajillion people, and it's funny now because you're playing clubs like Story more times than you can even remember, almost the same crowd Calvin would be getting, not the same people coming to your show...
I don't think it's the same crowd. I think the crowd that recognizes our sound has gotten bigger. They're willing, which is crazy. I can't believe it.
Was there a moment when you realized it was happening, or did it just kind of snowball until wow, all these people are paying attention that maybe weren't before.
There was a moment when we had a big internal change in my structure of working that I don't really want to get into the details of, but we went into a bigger place. We were always in more of a boutique system, then I decided we're going to really try to go for it and kind of my management system changed. Everybody just started thinking "why are we limiting ourselves to Electric Pickle? Why would we do that? Every time we do a party there 300 people don't even get in." What is the point of just hammering the tiny club when we can play that and the big club.
I don't want to just play the big club. I'd like to play Electric Pickle and I'd like to play Story. I don't want to just be like I'm only going to Story forever. But I do like it when everybody is there and it's rockin'. That's amazing, because it is hard to believe. Three years ago, they might not even sell me a ticket to get in here. The people that run that are super professional, and I really like that place.
They bring cool acts.
They're really trying! Theyr'e trying to go for it. The people that work at these clubs are not necessarily like rubbing their hands together in a back room like "can we get Deamau5 in here this year because we love it so much." There's music fans that work at all these places.
Why would you do it unless you really loved music at the end of the day?
People care about getting the music that they actually listen to into the bigger bookings, and that's what started to happen. The promoters are seeing the opportunity to bring someone like me into the bigger room. They're taking a chance. Sometimes it doesn't totally (work), like EDC Orlando, maybe that was a little too early. But at least they were trying, and I actually think that isn't a mistake. I think from everybody that heard that set, there was probably 40 percent of the people were just waiting for Calvin Harris that had no idea who I was, and maybe ten percent of them were like "oh this is pretty decent."
You get to share your style and educate people on something different.
I tell my agents every once in a while "just go for it." Put me on the main stage in the impossible back to back, the slot that I hate, just do it. Just to see if I can win it over for an hour.
That's the challenge, right?
Obviously I'm going to kill it in the Dirtybird tent, that's not going to be that hard. But it's definitely like, if I want to get some more people to listen to Dirtybird, I have to try to go into some weird situations.
Dirtybird is good for weird situations. It's kind of weird situation music.
Oh-hohoho. Yeah. It is.
I am really interested in what you were saying before, about how you want to start producing music outside of the dance music realm. You did get to touch upon that on Urban Animals. You had tracks with vocalists and it was very musical, but what do you mean by getting outside of dance music?
Well, my dream has always been to make tracks with rappers and stuff. Not Lil Wayne. Tracks with like Q-Tip and Rakim. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but it would be amazing. I'm a fan of people who can actually rap.
Well you've had Phife Dawg and De La Soul at the last two years at the BBQ, so it's not totally out of left field.
I'm a fan of people who can actually rap. Not this we repeat the line five hundred times in the song, like some of the new stuff, man, oh my god. I don't want to get into it, but it's just bad music. There's the same thing going on in hip hop that's going on in electronic music. Basically, there's just like super-super pop garbage, and then there's people who can actually rap, Nas and Common and people that actually know what they're doing. It's dangerous territory to even mention names in any of this. At the same time when I say this, there's stuff that I do like from the new kind of hyped up stuff, I kinda like that guy Schoolboy Q, kind of like a sillier version of Kendrick Lamar.
I feel like there's this young budding back to lyricism kind of thing happening. It doesn't all have to be super conscious and heavy handed.
It just has to have actual rhymes instead of saying the same line as the rhyming line. It's not a rhyme. You just said the same thing twice. That's ridiculous.
Claude VonStroke's Urban Animal Tour. With J. Phlip. Thursday, October 17. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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