Amidst the pleasantly chaotic weekend known as HARD Summer, we had the fortune of sitting down with house music legend, Claude VonStroke, to discuss the significance of owning and operating the first US label to have its own stage at the festival. He shed some light on where he thinks the next evolutionary change in dance music will take us, and even gave us a glimpse into what his future as an artist looks like.
To give you a taste of what the Dirtybird Players stage looked and sounded like, we've included tracks and mixes arranged in a way to simulate the set times of that glorious Sunday. At the bottom, you'll also find a preview of the track "Dood" Claude mentions during our conversation. We present, in all his musical glory, Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird Players:
Earmilk: First off, congratulations on the Dirtybird stage; first US label to have a stage at HARD Summer. Considering the size and influence this festival has, what do you think this means for the future of dance music and deep/tech house?
Claude VonStroke: Hopefully it means good things for us, I don't know what it means for everybody else [laughs]. I think that people are starting to come around to deep house. It takes a long time. You could see it in the first big wave when it started out super trancey with Sasha and Digweed. Then people came back from that into house, even Sasha and Digweed, with tech house. My prediction is that all the kids that saw the giant brostep hammer come down will eventually go back to house music. That stuff was really out there so it will take some time, but they will have been...17 when they first heard that, so by the time they turn 22 they will come back, guaranteed.
EM: Do you think deep house will come first, or tech house.
CVS: Well, deep house is already here. I think Jamie Jones is probably making a lot of money [laughs]. I think that, if history is correct, we're going to go into techno now. We'll then filter out of techno and get into some funk. it will go back to tech house, then back into deep house.
EM: How does it feel to have the whole Dirtybird family together for this festival?
CVS: It's really cool! I think it's great to have everybody play. I haven't actually seen any of them yet, though [laughs]. I mean, it's not like we all just hang out all day since it's such a 12-hour day, but to know that we're pushing our thing the whole day is really awesome.
EM: How close of a family is the label?
CVS: Some of the people are closer than others, like we started our party in 2003 with just me, Justin Martin, Christian Martin, and Worthy, then J Phlip came into it a few years later. That group was super tight. Then some of the European guys came in after that and they're still really tight with us, but we don't see them everyday.
EM: Is there anything in LA that has recently piqued your interest, in terms of artists and events?
CVS: I've always been a big fan of The Gaslamp Killer. He's an awesome performer.
EM: His strangeness is great. Really out there.
CVS: I think that Brainfeeder is the big crew in LA, in my opinion. If we were going to say Dirtybird is the crew in San Francisco, I would say Brainfeeder is LA in that sort of quasi-underground-maybe-overground-you-don't-really-know kind of way.
EM: Is your own music influenced by what they're doing?
CVS: Definitely. I get influenced by everybody. The Gaslamp Killer album was really out there, like super weird.
EM: I was actually listening to that on the way here. The track where his mother is talking on the phone is great.
CVS: That's definitely the best one.
EM: Do you prefer playing big festivals like HARD or the intimate feel of the small venue, like a club in SF?
CVS: I prefer...well it's tough to say what you prefer. Yeah, if I was just going to play The Sandbox I'd prefer a 300-person club with no lights, but nobody's going to pay me to go do that.
EM: I'd imagine it gets tougher to make decisions like that as your career progresses.
EM: In terms of your production setup, what is the next planned equipment upgrade or what have you recently purchased that you're really excited about?
CVS: I added that little Arturia MiniBrute to make a lot of the weird sound effects in this track "Dood" that's coming out; I think it's the best track on the album. It's a super trip-out track with a lot of weird analogue as opposed to all "in-the-box". I really like [the Arturia], but it's such a specialty piece. But my argument for buying equipment, 'cause I'll justify any way to buy stuff, is if I use it in a track and the track makes more money than the piece of equipment costs, then I'm okay [laughs].
EM: Silly question, but hard-synth of soft-synth?
CVS: I like playing a hard synth, but if I want to be able to mess with it later the soft synth is so much easier. You can definitely get luckier with hard synth—more happy accidents.
EM: You have a lot of happy accidents?
CVS: Oh yeah, definitely. One of the best features in Ableton is that you can take a bass line from a scrapped track and bring it into new projects. You can be like, "Oh my god, I made that song and it didn't work at all, but that bass line may work with this new one!"
EM: Favorite synthesis/sound engineering program?
CVS: I'm not really sure which one is my favorite, but I really like Rob Papen Subbombass. I used it a lot on the upcoming album for bass lines. Just solid bass, no frilly bullshit. It has a little bit of top-end, also, so you can hear it on the radio.
EM: Awesome. Thanks for sitting down with us in the midst of all the festival chaos!