J.Phlip in conversation with Claude VonStroke
Dirtybird label owner Claude VonStroke takes time out of his international Urban Animal tour to talk signing initiations, sunburn and quitting music, with the first lady of his label, madame J.Phlip.
I met Barclay aka Claude VonStroke in Miami at WMC back in 2005. He was just Barclay Crenshaw back then, managing producers Justin Martin and Sammy D, had recently started his label Dirtybird and Claude didn't have a beard! I followed the Dirtybird crew around Miami that whole year because they were so down to earth, fun, silly and into good music. Our bond was solidified at Jazid club, listening to Matthew Dear aka Audion absolutely smash the dancefloor to pieces playing the craziest music! We had never heard anything like it and still to this day, reminisce about that night.
Barclay played one of my tracks at about 4am at the Dirtybird party in Miami during WMC 2008 and after his set, he told me he wanted to sign me. He said I would become a part of the crew but only if I could pass Dirtybird bootcamp. Which started right then and there! It basically consisted of lots of drinking, not sleeping and going from party to party for 3 days in Miami. He let me sleep a little bit by the pool. He left me there and told Christian Martin to make sure I didn't sleep in the sun to long. When he got back I was still there... Christian had only half covered me with a towel, so I was sunburnt on one half of my body! I was allowed to change clothes at some point I think. And I probably barfed somewhere. It's pretty blurry but I will never forget the dinner we had with Justin Martin, Switch, Jesse Rose, Erol Alkan, and their managers. We were at some super fancy place in South Beach. Barclay bought me a whole lobster for my signing dinner. We were so inebriated and silly, no one else at the table would talk to us except for Justin.
At some point during the marathon I hit the wall. And Barc always claims I failed bootcamp since I hit the wall first. It's ok though they still let me in the crew...
Has anyone else ever been put through dirtybird bootcamp besides me? Did they pass?
No, because you are the last member ever admitted to the core unit and you didn't even pass! The original Dirtybird crew is really just 4 people (Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Christian Martin, Worthy) and then you came in a little later on but I still count you in the group when l think of the OG unit. I think maybe we might have tried to put Ardalan through some field tests here and there but never the full DB boot camp.
Everyone always loves to hype about how young some of the new DJ/producers are. Do you think age matters when trying to make it in music?
I don't think it matters when making music but I do think it matters for managing a career path. If you have worked for a living before becoming a popular DJ then you have a leg up on the younger person who only knows the life of being pampered and told they are great all the time. Working and toughing it out at a real job can give you the fortitude to get you through the slow times and the mistakes and the mishaps that always go along with a music career. I also think age gives you some wisdom when dealing with people, knowing how to pick your battles and focus on the things that matter. I was in my 30's when I put out my first record.
Last year you released your third album Urban Animal. What kind of urban animal are you?
The giant building eating bird of course. Cousin to Mothra!
Every DJ needs one… What is your go-to record when you have to go to the bathroom during your set?
It used to be Bahia by Italoboys - the 12 minute version. Now I scope out the bathroom situation before I go on at every venue and I can get back within six minutes so I don't really stress about the bathroom records anymore… anything six-plus minutes works great though! I even keep a roll of toilet paper in my DJ bag now.
If you were a car what car would you be and would you let R. Kelly drive it?
1964 Corvair Monza Sport. And yes I would let R. Kelly drive it! I would let R. Kelly do almost anything except for hang out with my daughter. If I could drive around in the Corvair with R. Kelly and Dave Chapelle for a day I think I would go to heaven.
What's the strangest place you've ever woken up?
Roadside in Ibiza with a one eyed cat looking at me. No joke!
We've all had a few, but what is your worst nightmare travel story?
I think we have been really lucky, the worst thing that ever happens is a cancelled flight or a missing bag. One time I actually made it to the flight and fell asleep at the gate in Milan. I woke up to see a guy sweeping the floor. I asked him what happened and he just made a sign with his hands showing a plane taking off into the air. The good thing is I tend to forget the really bad stuff.
Have you ever come close to quitting music?
Yes, I quit music three different times all for different reasons. And this is a lesson never to quit. I should have got right back up after some of these but I took multi year breaks after one or two of them. The first time I was a white rapper and I had just arrived at university. It was such a novelty at the time I just got harassed at every party to "rap" to a bunch of drunk, white college kids. It was so unpleasant that I gave it up. The second time I quit I had been working my ass off in Hollywood on a movie as a director's assistant and I had managed to place a song in the movie. It was the only thing I cared about at the time and I thought it could be my big break. Four weeks before the movie release a major label came through and replaced all the music in the film. My song was cut and I moved back to Detroit, totally defeated. The third time was technical. I had built a live drum & bass rig with a flashlight on my head, mixing board, synths, everything. I took the whole rig out to play a couple of raves before I properly backed up all the data. After one of the shows I tried to back up all the music and the external hard drive glitched. It corrupted the external hard drive AND all the memory in the sampler! So I lost an entire album's worth of original music.
And so finally… How did you get so smart man?!
I don't actually think I'm that smart. I can name some people even in our own crew who I think are way smarter than me. I just work way harder than everyone else. I think having a ton of full time jobs for years and years in a lot of different industries has given me a lot of perspective. Being willing to work 18 hours a day on a film set or washing dishes or pumping gas; these things all provide wisdom that might appear to be smart but really it's all just based in experience. I've lived life and seen a lot of shit so I sometimes know what to do.