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Claude VonStroke

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

The chief of the very successful Dirtybird Records, Claude VonStroke has been blazing his way through the techno funk club scene. Whether it is recognizing new and talented DJs, making DVDs interviewing legendary ones, or mixing his own innovative beats, originality and determination shines across his work. Releasing Fabric 46 and his 2nd artist album later this year, there seems like nothing but more success awaiting this DJ.

SF Station (SFS): How did you get into DJing?

Claude VonStroke (CVS): I DJ'ed hip hop on the radio all the way through high school and college. Then I was drum-n-bass DJ for a short time. When I made the DVD about DJing, that's when I really go into the style of DJing that I play today. I started getting real gigs after I started putting out records. That is really the only way to get started these days.

SFS: Tell us about the origin of Dirtybird Records.

CVS: In 2002 I met Christian and Justin Martin, both now artists on Dirtybird, while I was making a documentary film about DJs and how to learn how to DJ. I interviewed about 45 of the world's best from Derrick Carter to Paul Van Dyk but I had no extra money to license music for the background tracks behind all the interviews. Because of this, I had to make all the music in the style of whomever that was being interviewed.

Justin Martin had just started making house so he made tracks for the house artists. I did tracks for the techno and proggie guys, and some other friends made more techno and trance tracks. About the same time, Justin Martin's brother Christian bought a sound system and we all started a free party in Golden Gate Park called "dirtybird". Soon after, I signed some tracks from Justin and the label was started. The first record was released Jan 2005, which is now the official birthday of the label.

SFS: So the 4-year anniversary is coming up! What do you attribute Dirtybird Records successes to?

CVS: I think it's partly due to a very strict A&R where the music has to be the absolute best and most original in order to get released. I have been known to be a little bit tough on this but at the same time we succeed by having fun with dance music and not taking everything so seriously.

SFS: You have collaborated with different DJs. Who are some of your favorites?

CVS: I've only co-produced maybe 2 or 3 tracks but I have done almost 25 remixes. There are people I always like to see out on the road like Jesse Rose and Catz n Dogz and anyone we've signed to Dirtybird or Mothership.

SFS: How do you discover new and innovative DJs like J Phlip? Any prerequisites?

CVS: Well J Phlip was a special case because we've known her for years and she finally moved to SF. She was always a great DJ and now we're bringing her along as a producer. As far as finding new talent it really comes down to the music. You could have an eye patch, bad breath and one black tooth and I would sign your tracks in a second if they were hot tracks.

SFS: What do you like most about DJing in San Francisco?

CVS: SF is where we built everything from the ground up so when i get a chance to play at home it is always a special feeling. It amazes me to see all the people coming out when I remember that only about seven people came to our very first party in the park. it is also a chance for me to party with my good friends, Justin and Christian, Worthy, J Phlip, Andrew, Fernando, Boz, Greg and everyone who has been there from the beginning.

SFS: Since SF is the origin of Dirtybird Records, how have you seen the dance music scene change? What would you like to see?

CVS: I would like to see SF have a bigger influence on the dance world. Right now, everything is very Berlin centric. The parties and the music over there are fantastic but there are other people and other places contributing. But this will never really change as long as you have to shut down at 2am in America and you never have to shut down the party in Germany. I would like to see an American renaissance like when Derrick Carter, Green Velvet, Juan Atkins, etc. were all the big names.

SFS: Advice to up and coming DJs? Words you choose to live by?

CVS: This little snippet of advice from Henry Ford that is so true...maybe not a direct quote…"You can believe it is possible or impossible. Either way you will be right." As far as the path to being a DJ, you must release music. That is the only way to make it.

SFS: How long have you been using SF Station for?

CVS: Actually I have been reading SF Station since I moved here 10 years ago from Detroit and didn't know anyone and wanted to know what was going on in the city. That's how I found the old drum-n-bass parties like Eklectik where I used to really get down. I haven't checked it so much recently but it's definitely a great way to find out what's on in SF.

Come celebrate the success of dirtybird records at their four-year anniversary January 9th at Mezzanine, and checkout the dirtybird crew at http://www.dirtybirdrecords.com.