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Go BackHANDS UP FOR DETROIT FROM SF - Circoloco NYD guest star, Claude Vonstroke, is one dirtybird...

Posted: 5/12/06 14:18

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 I first met Barclay Crenshaw in 2002 at the Winter Music Conference in Miami. I was doing publicity and promotions for a prominent DJ booking agency and Barclay was putting together a DVD of DJ interviews. I remember setting up a couple interviews for him, but I mostly remember him just being one very sweaty guy.
He panted under the weight of camera, recording equipment, light stands and reflectors, which probably seemed that much heavier beneath the blazing Florida sun.
At the time, I thought, "You poor, bastard." But what commitment!

The resulting DVD, Intellect, a balanced and in-depth DJ and dance culture documentary, was critically praised and it put his name on the map. But it would be another name that would elevate to the dance scene's consciousness just a few years late. And that name is Claude Von Stroke.

It's the kind of regal handle you'd expect to hear of a trance DJ from central Europe, not a video geek from San Francisco. He's anything but uncool, though; as Claude Von Stroke, Barclay's tunes have become the toast of discriminating house and techno DJs around the world, both minimal and deep. It's almost like, back when; I met Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter... Now I get to "hear" Superman. 

Read on as we ask Crenshaw about hip-hop, Hollywood, Detroit, silly names and his upcoming gigs at Circoloco.

How old are you and where do you live?
I live in beautiful, San Francisco, my favorite city in the world. I'm 35, a bit older than the average bear. It took me a while to find my niche, but once I found my sound it all fell into place quite quickly. 

How long have you been DJing and producing? How would you describe your style, either as a producer or DJ?
I've been making beats since I was 13, doing tape edits of hip-hop beats and then overdubbing lyrics with a second jam box in my bathtub. I've been DJing since I had a radio show in high school, but I've only been mixing properly since about 2000 after I moved to San Frandisco.

My style is very broad, meaning I never like to make two tracks that sound the same. It's house, techno and everything in between. I would say the main theme would be dirty tech-funk.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic to have once helped you get interviews with DJs to your now being the subject of interviews. Do you find that odd?
Yes, really weird, and I'm grateful. As you know I interviewed over 40 DJs in 2002 for my documentary film, Intellect. During the film and the endless editing, I actually listened to everything these people had to say. It was like a graduate program in dance music. What better way is there to get started than to sit down with Juan Atkins, Paul Van Dyk, Derrick Carter, Theo Parish, etc. for an hour each and pick their brains.

When we met, I had no idea that you were a DJ.
I had been producing and DJing drum 'n' bass and hip-hop for years by then. I had even taken upper level classes in synthesis and sound theory with people like the legendary Howard Massey. I also learned how to make sounds from scratch with a Nord Modular. So, by the time I actually sat down to make house music, the technology that was available made everything really easy. It was like, 'OK, so I've learned what all the button and knobbies are for, so now here's some software that will let me do it all in one box.' It was perfect timing, right around when Reason 2.0 was released.

Your bio mentions that you got together with Justin so he could lay down some house music for the DVD. So, was it original music for the DVD?
Yes, Justin laid down about six or seven house tracks and I did a lot of the tracks for the techno and progressive guys (for the people who wouldn't license us something for free). It was really great training because we had to make tracks that sounded like the artist being interviewed. So, even if we didn't really like it, we learned how to change and integrate styles. I actually think some of the music is really nice that we made for that project.

What inspired the DVD project?
I had been working as a TV commercial editor (after leaving Hollywood where I worked on a bunch of bad big budget films). I was so bored with my job and I really didn't want to simply give up my directing ambitions. I had always been into music, so I decided to find out how all the people in dance music generated their success. The DVD ended up much more like a "how to" tutorial than an actually documentary. The project was self-funded and a real ball buster, but it taught me how to really work hard and never give up on a dream.

How did Intellect do overall? Did you break even; win any awards, that kind of thing?
We broke even and made a tiny bit of money. I managed to pay back my friends when we licensed it to Japan. My distributor has since gone bankrupt here in the U.S. But beyond the monetary aspect, I owe everything, all of my success to that project. Even though it nearly killed me.

Why the name Claude Von Stroke?
Justin Martin and I love to joke about the typical DJ promo picture of a guy with sunglasses looking off into the horizon. As soon as I see that I think, "Is he trying to be a male model or something?" I actually love the old school DJ names. I am a huge fan of Green Velvet, Underground Resistance, Grandmaster Flash, etc. What's the point of being boring? Claude Von Stroke is just what it is, a name that best defines the music that you hear from me. Truthfully, if you were going out to hear some really filthy music, who would you rather see, Barclay Crenshaw or Claude Von Stroke?

Just reading your press kudos on the site and the acclaim comes from what I once would have said was a wide and disparate range of DJs, house to techno. However, I think nowadays the lines are being blurred closer together, with everyone playing a little bit of everything. What do you make of it?
I love it. If you can fit it in and it sounds great, you should play it. I love hearing great music that takes you one place and then another. I've seen Francois K just rip straight into a drum 'n' bass track in the middle of a house set and I think that kind of thing is wicked if you can pull it off. I really don't like hearing three hours of minimal drums. Yawn. But there's also something to be said for a real artist set where the person is trying to expose you to a sound and not throw you all over the map.

Can you talk about how the upcoming New Year's Circoloco dates at DC10 in Ibiza came about? How are they a good fit for you and what do you like about the club?
I started hearing rumors that Richie Hawtin and some other top people were playing my track "Who's Afraid of Detroit?" in Ibiza. Believe it or not, I've never even been to Ibiza but I thought it was cool that they were playing it so I went looking around on Myspace for some clips. I somehow got to the Circoloco page and "Who's Afraid of Detroit?" was playing on their home page! I sent them a short message about how it would be cool if I could maybe get out to Ibiza this summer since I have never been.  They wrote back that they might possibly be interested in this idea. At the exact same time, my New Year's gig in South Africa fell apart. The guys at Circoloco heard this and then booked me for three gigs on New Year's and New Year's Day! It was just meant to be. This is a good lesson for people about staying on top of your shit and never letting an opportunity slip by.

You're headlining the Circoloco New Year's Day party at the End. Can you talk about that? What do you like about the End?
I just played the End for Bugged Out last week and it was great. It's really nice to come from America and play on a quality sound system like that. I had so much fun and stayed the whole night listening to Damian Lazarus and Hanah Holland rock the place. London has turned into a town that is all about the after party, but I think the End has still maintained quality programming and has a great vibe overall.

Are you looking forward to hitting Ibiza?
I am very excited to go. I'm in Madrid right now and it is my first trip to Spain.

There's always so much made about the importance of getting noticed based on your productions and how that leads to stardom, bookings. That seems so true of your career. Can you talk about that?
Yeah, I mean that is THE lesson to be learned if you are starting out. Don't even bother handing out your mix CD, just make tracks, tracks, tracks! It will not hurt if you can make them really good, too, but really that is the fastest way to enter the scene and start getting bookings.

You're originally from Detroit and have just remixed Fedde Le Grand's "Hands Up for Detroit." Does that connection strike you as ironic?
It's quite interesting. Being from the U.S., I'm not always aware of the charts in Europe and I had no idea this track by Fedde was such a big pop single. All I knew was that I had the opportunity to do a remix with a nice little Detroit sample, so I was into it. The fact that the original became such an anthem with such a cheese bag music video is really weird to me.

This is no diss to Fedde, who probably had no idea any of this would even happen, but it is slightly disturbing to me being associated with the exploitation of my home city by non-Detroiters, especially on a track that went on to make so much money. In my opinion, it's fine to say you like a place and pay homage, but if you are making money off of the image, then you should give something back. What I mean is that if you want to make Detroit music then give something to Detroit. Do a party in Detroit. Spend some money in the D. Otherwise you have no credibility in the long run. I'm going back this winter to shoot a music video for one of my new tracks and I'll probably play a show for free just to represent. (btw, watch out for my new single, "Drop your pants for London" … lol)

Can you provide us with a current top 10?
In no particular order: 

  • Andre Cromm – Bodenturnen Dub – Leftroom promo
  • Groove Rebels – Horny as a Motherfucker – Bee Low
  • Work It – Workidz - CDR
  • The Planet Krypton – Mr. Zim – Undefeated promo
  • Data Rape – The Rejekts – Mothership promo
  • Manager – Marc Houle – M_nus
  • Jeff  Samuel – Right Then and There - ?
  • Klaus Schneider – Nothing is Real (Buttrich Remix) - Dimmer

Who are DJs and producers you think we should be watching out for?
Martin Buttrich, Justin Martin, Sebo K, Andre Comm, Worthy, The Bald and the Beautiful, 3 Channels

Who are your influences?
James Brown, every classic hip-hop album from 1983-1995, Ed Rush and Optical, the Meters, Cajmere, Dillinja, Parliament, Aaron Copeland, Girls shaking their asses, Saint Sans, Miles Davis, and on and on and on.

What are your plans for 2007?
I plan to start recording a new album this February. It will probably take me a majority of the year to complete it.  I have a new label called Mothership also starting up, so be sure to look for that.

What is your philosophy of life?
Work first, play 2nd, then work some more. When you're all done, sit on your ass, sip margaritas and watch the kids run around in circles.

 Check Claude´s debut in Ibiza, 1st Jan 2007 at DC10.

Words by Yuri Wuensch