Listening to the dirtybird BBQ compilation is a smorgasbord of sounds and thematic rhythms for the senses. TDJ and Producer Claude VonStroke is the mastermind behind dirtybird Records, and has maintained a close friendship with his fellow DJ colleagues, many of whom will be on the BBQ tour with him, since it all began in 2005. This label and friend group is taking their annual ‘dirtybird BBQ’ to a national level. Originally started and held in San Francisco, the BBQ is touring the US and Canada in the upcoming months, and for the first time spreading around the dirtybird love and sound the way it was meant to be shared.
We spoke with Claude VonStroke while he was on vacation with his family in Mexico about what makes his label work and the special guest being featured at Sunday’s BBQ.
So, you started dirtybird in San Francisco in 2005. What is so interesting about this label is that you are a group of friends — so many of the early members are still integral to the label’s sound and prominence. What has it been like for you to work with and watch your friends’ success alongside your own?
Well, the truth about it is that it was a party first, which was more of like the group effort. But it was only me who started the record label end of it, but everybody stayed in the group. But to answer the question more I guess, it’s been great! It’s kind of weird though because some people do better than others, and while I’m always trying to nudge people along, some people want to be nudged and some people don’t. Some people take advice, and some people think they know what they’re doing. It’s just all kinds of every possible scenario.
What I love about dirtybird is how eclectic you all are and how willing you are as a group to pull from various genres yet still remain cohesive. How do the dirtybird members manage to maintain their personality and style throughout the years?
It’s really just about me picking a song and also the relationships with the people that are on our label. We build really good relationships with everyone, and I try to not be too much of a dictator [laughs]. Really, it’s the songs. I pick the songs. I listen to every single demo that comes in and I kind of know right away if it’s going to be [great]. I’m picking songs that I want to DJ. That’s it. I have a theme. Justin Martin is on the same wavelength, but we’re different, and J. Phlip is on the same wavelength. Everybody’s on the same general wavelength but they’re all different, but they all get like, what is a good track. It’s very interesting. I don’t know how to explain it. We don’t really follow anybody, that’s the main thing I guess. We just listen to the demos and pick the best ones, and I try not to even look at who made them.
So onto the BBQ…
It’s the 13th year [of the BBQ]. It’s the first year we’ve ever taken it out of San Francisco.
That’s great. Are you excited to be bringing it to Detroit, your hometown?
Yeah, it’s going to be great. I’m super excited about that.
Is it a party, like how the label began? Is it a showcase of the Dirtybird sound? What are you hoping to see from the nationwide tour of this BBQ?
Well the BBQ is always a little different because it’s a day party and it’s definitely more laidback, but also more of our eclectic style comes out. Like a night show might be very, very house-y and/or techno-y, but at the BBQ, all the weird bass stuff sneaks out and it’s got a very hip-hop feel. It’s a different style of DJing actually than what we play in the club. It’s not totally different, but it’s more daytime-ish.
Well, speaking of nighttime shows, you just finished your European tour, didn’t you? How was that?
I finished my European tour a while ago, but I’m ever off tour, I guess. I’m on the 365 day-a-year tour every single year.
And how is that with your family?
Yeah! We work it out. It’s not perfect, but you know, we try our best. Right now I’m with them for 15 days on vacation.
So what is your favorite place to perform in? Do you like small, intimate venues or are you a 100,000-person festival kind of DJ?
I like the club. I definitely like the club with like 500 people – that’s the best. And, I like it if the DJ booth is pretty much like on the floor, or maybe 2 feet above everyone, an they’re just standing right in front of you and you can just shake hands with everyone.
And is that the kind of vibes we can expect from the BBQ?
I don’t know! In order to make these happen, we have to go through a lot of red tape in all these cities and work with other promoters, so we’re doing our best to create that vibe, but we’ve told everyone that’s what we want and I don’t know exactly what we’re going to see. We only know what we’re going to do in San Francisco cause that’s the only one we’re doing completely ourselves. Hopefully it’s going to be really a homey vibe and close to the crowd – I’m hoping!
Anything else we can expect? Anything special?
We do something at our BBQs that nobody really does where sometimes – not all the time, but sometimes – we bring in like a legacy, like a heritage hip hop act. Our special guest in New York in going to be EPMD. It’s really fun! It works really well and everybody goes nuts. They keep telling me to delay the announcement, and I’m like, eh, that’s it, I’m telling someone.