House and bass music collide.
Claude VonStroke has released tracks featuring monkeys, whistling and gurgling. Claude VonStroke has also retained credibility. These two things don't exactly add up. But that should tell you something about the man in question. The San Francisco-based producer has been releasing bass-heavy house with a sense of fun since 2005. The ongoing twist, however, is that just when you think you have him figured out, he'll go deep on a track like "Aundy" or remix a bass music anthem to devastating effect.
VonStroke's Dirtybird label has been the vehicle for almost all of his original material but that's not to say it's been a one man show: a family of artists has formed around the imprint, with names like Justin and Christian Martin, Catz 'n Dogz, J. Phlip and Julio Bashmore all achieving international recognition from the Dirtybird stable. Looking at RA.271's tracklist you could be forgiven for thinking that this was mostly an "influences mix" but as is explained below, Claude VonStroke has recently taken to playing whatever the heck he feels like. And he has his grandma to thank for that.
What have you been up to recently?
I'm on my new remix album tour called "Makeovers." Right now I'm doing the North American part of the tour. After this I'm going to my dad's birthday in Detroit with our family for a week. Then finally I will get home to work on new tunes!
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was actually made at a cabin in Minnesotaïno joke. I didn't have any access to a DJ setup so it's done in Ableton, but in the wilderness of Minnesota where my wife is from. Every year we go on a cabin trip to the middle of nowhere, like an hour past Brainerd if you know Minnesota. I had to wait until everyone was asleep to work on it in the middle of the night which might give you a sense of the vibe in the second half. When it was done I had to go into my brother-in-law's car, turn it on and listen to it on his car stereo like a nut in the middle of the night.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
You can hear the beginning of the set is very bass-oriented, then going Dance Mania style, then deeper into house. The concept of my stuff is always the same: just choose all the tracks I love and try to put them together in a way that makes sense. I also wanted to throw in a couple surprises like the EPMD track because I've started to drop all kinds of music in my sets. I'm not really satisfied with just playing three hours of house. I'm doing tons of drum & bass, hip-hop and reggae editstlike Easter eggs for the crowd. No obvious radio tracks but cool stuff like Krust, EPMD, Ed Rush, Fela Kuti, Damien Marley, whatever.
You just had a show on Rinse and put out a remix of Girl Unit's "Wut" through Night Slugs. What do you think is the common ground between yourself and the UK scene?
I really enjoyed meeting all the Night Slugs guys in London and to tell you the truth I asked them if I could do that remix for free. So part of it is me kind of putting myself in the position to be in alliance with the UK bass scene. It really harkens back to my original first love, drum & bass. I was an unsuccessful drum & bass DJ, I never got into the right clique or made the right tracks or got the right lucky break or whatever. I'm still overcompensating for that perhaps.
As far as house music, Dirtybird is one of the only American bassline labels. We always deliver on basslines. That is definitely not the focus at most labels. So it's not really any accident that we have strong ties with towns like Bristol and Leedsetowns where people go ape-shit for basslines. We definitely give it a different flavour on the West Coast; not quite as dark or moody perhaps. But even as I say that I just signed another Bristol guy last week!
Are there any firm plans for a Claude VonStroke live show?
Nope. But maybe something else. I'm delving into some different ideas this year, no concrete plans but I am practicing live loop making on Maschinesthat kind of thing. You can expect the unexpected I imagine. I'm getting a lot more comfortable with big risks and just going for it musically. As your grandma always says, you can't please everyone all of the time, so you might as well go crazy.
What are you up to next?
I'm working with some other producers and exploring new ideas. I think there will be a new VonStroke album next year as well. Definitely some new singles soon. I can't say much more until I actually do some tunes and see what happens.