Claude VonStroke: I am an Urban Animal

Words by: Kristan Caryl
Posted: 5/9/13 10:02

Claude VonStroke: I am an Urban AnimalIt might have taken him 8 years, but finally Claude VonStroke feels that he has been accepted by his homeland. Notoriously slow on the uptake when it comes to dance music, Americans are finally getting behind the San Francisco based producer, DJ and label boss and everything that he stands for. It makes sense, especially now, on the eve of the release of his next artist album, Urban Animal, because it is one largely inspired by life lived in big cities.

In the past these big cities have included Detroit, where the man born Barclay Crenshaw spent part of his childhood, but increasingly in 2013 he is at home in any major city in the world, most often when hosting one of the famous dirtybird parties – such as the one that has regularly played out at Sankeys in Ibiza this summer - with the ever growing family of artists he has nurtured in recent years.

To find out more about the family, the album and just why it is that he loves quirky and left of centre tech-funk, we managed to make him sit still long enough to answer some questions.

How are you, how are you coping with your busy summer? Does the lifestyle suit you?
I love playing music. I love making music. I don’t love being away from the family but I choose this profession and I embrace what goes along with it.

Given your musical past – from playing cello to making a rap record as a kid – how/why did you end up making house music at all, and can you see yourself ever going back to hip-hop?
Yes, I actually see myself going back to hip-hop for sure. I think it is meant to happen. Although I am not really loving the commercial hip-hop so much of right now I know I will find someone to work with someday who wants to make something amazing. To answer the other part, I got into house cuz that’s where all the girls were going out to listen to house.

I am an Urban Animal from the heart. I spent years & years & years having office jobs & doing things I really didn’t love & I value my time in the club. It is a special place where I can be myself & tell everyone what I am thinking through music...I wonder if you still see Europe as your major… for want of a better word… market, or do you feel America is ready for and accepting of, you and your work in 2013? Do you care about such things ie being appreciated at home?
America is my major market without question. I am actually surprised to be saying that because even 2 years ago I would never have said this to be true. But I want to play at home if I can and America is totally ready for dirtybird. I see it happening right now there for us. Of course I still love Europe but like I’m sure even the biggest DJs would rather play amazing parties close to their home.

Detroit is a much-mythologised place and you spent some of your youth there and your parents still live there. Did you learn anything, musically, from the city? Can you feel the musical energy in the air of the streets, as I think some people would have us Europeans believe?
Yes I know it seems like it is an overblown myth about Detroit but it is really true that city has one of the weirdest coolest vibes in the world. I’m not saying good or bad, but it IS different than everywhere else.

What do you make of the city filing for bankruptcy and selling off everything from the parking meters to, possibly, the city’s lauded art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts… do you think it will ever be able to recover? You sort of touch on it with the artwork on the new album… what did you hope that would say or convey?
I was just there, nobody even cares about that. Once again it’s an overhyped news story about Detroit being a disaster but really it is the exact same city it was 2 months ago. They label it bankrupt but nothing changes.

You obviously aren’t afraid of releasing fun and quirky music... is there a line? A point when something is too… novelty to put out there?
Yeah maybe. I am always conscious of what I would play and what I wouldn’t play. That’s pretty much how I gauge if it is too stupid or not.

Where does that love of the curious and quirky come from do you think?
It comes from watching boring kick drum sets…6 hours of kick drum. I eq out the kick drum and then I bring it back in. yaaawnnnn

About the dirtybird residency at Sankeys – why was that club the right one for you?
It’s a dark, underground club room. I wish we could get more Spanish people in there to come try it out. I think it’s an asset to the island to have a real dark dirty club room as an option for partying.

And how has it gone so far this year? Will you do it again? Anything you would change?
The crowd response has been amazing. One thing for sure our crowd is not holding back their energy. We have had huge fun in there this season. I don’t know if we will come back or do something else next year that all remains to be seen. This season our goal was to simply have a packed crowd and have fun in there. So we did that and now we see what happens next.

And so to your third album… did you enjoy the process or was it torturous?
Both... some days I enjoy it some days I want to cry its going so badly. Some days I feel lucky and happy in the studio and some days I think I am the worst music producer on earth. It is always this way with trying to make something good that represents you.

Regarding the title and statement “Urban Animals congregate in heaving warehouses, seeking solace in the liberating beats of the kick drum.” Are you an urban animal, are you happy being one or is it an unfortunate product of your job that you go from city to city all the time?
I am an Urban Animal from the heart. I spent years and years and years having office jobs and doing things I really didn’t love and I value my time in the club. It is a special place where I can be myself and tell everyone what I am thinking through music.

Claude VonStroke - Urban AnimalAt seven tracks long it’s relatively concise – why is that? Was that on purpose or just how it happened?
Well I snuck two more on there and with the bonus track its actually 10 tracks. I know that is crazy but I wanted to have a couple tracks on there that didn’t get on the blogs or shared around by everyone, like a couple surprises right at the end so everyone will have to listen to the real album when it comes out to know what it really sounds like.

Tell us about the collabs on the album – Mr Fox & Py – how did you decide on those people and what do you hope they have brought to the process?
I just found them through friends or listening to other music. Everything was done on the internet just sending files back n forth. I picked the people for their style of hoe they sound on other records.

Why was the time right now to do another one and how have your tastes, styles and sonic preferences evolved or changed since the last one?
I’m much less concerned with Beatport charts and music sales and I’m more concerned with growing the fan base and getting the music out to everyone. Because of this maybe I didn’t make as much house music on this album as maybe you might expect. I felt it was time to do some new music it wasn’t really much more than that.

Was it done in one session as one complete project or is it a collection of tracks from the last few years? Also, was it always planned to be the 100th release on the label or is that coincidence?
This one was done all together over 6 months. It was all made just for the album not picked up from other projects. We saw it was so close to being the 100th release we just basically worked it out so we hit it exactly. I think its cool that I got to have release 100 that is kind of a milestone for most labels.

Did you have a plan for it from the start, did you know what you wanted it to say and sound like or was it more trail and error?
Some tracks I had planned like “Cant Wait” & “Oakland Rope” and some just came out of nowhere like “Clapping Track.” There are also at least 5 tracks that didn’t make it on here for some reason or another.

How do you feel about the label now it’s hit the century, and will anything change looking ahead to the next 100 releases?
Not really. I think our events entity will be growing a bit. We will have better merchandise and other things but the music will continue in the same way. I will go find tracks I love and release them just as always.

Does it get easier or harder to stick to your distinctive vision for the label as the years and releases roll on?
It is easy for me to stick to my vision because my vision is to simply release music I think is good. The one thing that sometimes isn’t as easy is trying to separate myself from the label a little bit. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the label I do not concentrate on my own development as an artist.

Next Ibiza Dates
05 September - dirtybird Ibiza @ Sankeys
12 September - dirtybird Ibiza Closing Party @ Sankeys

Urban Animal US Tour Dates
Claude VonStroke  20 + city tour, supported by J.Phlip, to celebrate his third album titled “Urban Animal” out September 24th.

04 October - The Regency Ballroom - San Francisco, CA

05 October - Exchange - Los Angeles, CA
12 October - The Sinclair - Boston, MA
13 October - Club Metronome - Burlington, VT
17 October - Grand Central - Miami, FL
18 October - The Hoxton - Toronto, ON
19 October -  SAT - Montreal, QC
24 October -  Kingdom - Austin, TX
25 October -  Mountain Oasis - Asheville, NC**
30 October -  Monarch Theater - Phoenix, AZ
31 October -  Royal Oak Music Theater - Detroit, MI
01 November - Rendezvous - Buffalo, NY
07 November - Wow Hall - Eugene, OR
08 November - Branx - Portland, OR
09 November - City Hall - Denver, CO
13 November - U Street Music Hall - Washington, DC
14 November - The Kennedy - Tampa, FL
15 November - Union Transfer - Philadelphia, PA
** denotes date J.Phlip will not be supporting

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