Claude VonStroke is Barclay Crenshaw’s Nom de guerre, and he is a mountain of a man. Yes, he’s a big dude with a spectacular display of facial topiary, but he’s also the Dirtybird Records chief, a mountain of a task considering that the label’s meteoric rise to international fame has made things incredibly complicated for such a laid back guy. But, like a mountain, he is unmoved by all the attention. Barclay’s label rises above its surroundings, and, like a mountain, defines itself by how unusual, quirky, and funky its profile is against the sky. He’s a permanent fixture in the range of dance music icons, a sought after peak that big time festival and club promoters attempt to summit. And if I haven’t killed this metaphor yet, Barclay is somewhat of cultural and spiritual center–much like Utah’s Navajo Mountain was to the descendants of the Anasazi–collecting loyal DJs who share the same musical vision and fans who routinely make pilgrimages to dance floors all over the world to hear the famous Dirtybird sound. We talked to Barclay about his mountainous role in the world of dance, his close relationship with Exchange LA, and how sometimes, in this business, even nice birds have to get a little dirty.
The Dirtybird Crew has had some memorable nights at Exchange, including your B2B2B set with Justin Martin and Eats Everything! What keeps you excited about coming back?
That was especially fun to see all the big guys together a couple of weeks ago. I popped in to play a couple of new records, say ‘hello’ to everyone and it was really going off in there. It’s kind of crazy but, both Justin and I have residencies at Exchange, so the club’s really becoming the main place to see Dirtybird in LA right now. The best part about Exchange is the DJ booth is right there in front of the people. I can touch everyone’s hands and make eye contact with almost everyone there, even 25 people deep. It’s not so easy to find a club of that size that has any sort of intimate feeling with the crowd, but Exchange has that going on. You kind of have to fight your way to the front to experience it, but it’s there.
The name Claude VonStroke sounds delightfully sinister and pornographic. Where did it come from?
About 12 or 13 years ago, when I was partying with Justin and the rest of the San Francisco posse, we were all off our tits and we started making up fake European minimal techno DJ names as a joke. That was my name. It just came to me. I have no idea why, but everyone liked it immediately. After that night, the name kind of stuck with me and once I put it on a record, it was locked in.
What is it about your style and sound that makes it so enjoyable?
That’s hard to answer because it’s so subjective. I bet some people hate our music, but in general I try to act like a human being. I go to parties for the same reasons any one would go to a party…to have fun. When I’m enjoying myself, everyone else has more fun and it gets contagious. It doesn’t have to be manufactured fun either like me yelling at the crowd every 4 minutes to get their motherfucking hands in the air. I try to have a legitimate good time, playing good music and I think that’s the right formula. The people on our label don’t panic if the crowd isn’t freaking out every 30 seconds. We know how to build it up and make it a long, enjoyable night out.
Nothing about this business is stress free, so how does the Dirtybird chief maintain his underground, laidback, backyard BBQ grillmaster reputation?
Well, Grillson is the true grillmaster, but to answer your question: There is a certain level of toughness that goes along with being the boss. I’m laidback and I try to enjoy life as long as our team’s doing their job (including myself.) I try my best to stay balanced and keep cool, which also comes with lots of experience, but sometimes it’s much more of a tightrope and I have to get hardcore. A lot of artists don’t have personalities that enable them to deal with adversity very well. They’ve built their careers on trying to be loved by their fans. I fall into this category as well, so, over the years, I’ve had to really learn how to discipline people and have tough business conversations. It’s not so easy for a creative type person to be good at this, but I’m getting there. In the end, you have to be able to have a vision about where you want to go and understand that not everyone will be a good fit. If you keep everyone on board just because you want to be nice, your company will suffer.
Can you tell us about your Urban Animals remix project coming out on May 5th?
Yeah, it’s all remixes of my Urban Animals album that came out about 6 months ago. I tried to pick remixers that I like and are known for being innovators and leaders of their genres. It includes a really great and varied list of artists from Dixon to Jimmy Edgar, to Eprom to Photek. I did a remix as well and I’m really excited about the whole package.
The meteoric rise in the market value of the Dirtybird brand has put you and your friends on some of the biggest festival stages in the world. Has this forced you to adapt or change your approach to music in any way?
No. If that were the case then we wouldn’t be who we are.
So say you’re having your friends over for a BBQ, what’s on the grill?
For sure we have some wild salmon, a couple of steaks, maybe a few kabobs and some veggie burgers. We also like to grill asparagus and onions.
Claude VonStroke will be playing Exchange LA on May 3rd, so grab your tickets early.Purchase Tickets Here!