Photographer: Mario Kroes.
Groomer: Miho Suzuki at mihomakeup.com.
The Dirtybird Cleans Up Dirty
There he is: The Workaday Schlub. Pity him, that silly fool. Look at him heft those stacks of Xeroxes (Schlub’s higher-ups still call them that) like a baboon in a cage, those nappy yellow rings on the armpits of those silly JCP’s starchers he’s got on rotation screaming one too many rounds of Pornhub, that god-awful Judge Judy bobblehead on his desk, that heinous Ford Probe he docks in the lot every morning at 8:55, the loser halo round his hack-job haircut nearly visible ’neath the grim phosphorescence of his cubicle. Pity him, that silly fool.
Or don’t, reader. Picture this instead. Schlub stacks high his final Friday Xerox, issues Judy a courtesy peck, nods goodbye to that pervy Janitor Jim, and glides out into the lot, settling into the Probe, his co-captain a rack of Tutankhamun Ale and the latest from S.F. label dirtybird’s chief and dance floor prankster, Claude VonStroke: Urban Animal. It’s a hefty stack of inspirational tracks, and we watch as Schlub, a $50 ale in his lap, winds through the highways and byways of his non-descript city to a warehouse, a line of hipperati outside, the foundations jiggling with bass.
Before we know it, the JCP’s gone, the hair’s been shaken loose, and Schlub’s actually kinda hot. So hot he’s soon intermittently tonguing a pair of babes on the dance floor and catching up on the local team’s successes and failures with the “mints” guy in the john. He’s a whole other animal this Schlub!!! Such is the inspiration for VonStroke’s album, which draws from the father and husband’s own workaday blues, and his eventual rise as a producer and label head, a label head who’s just enjoyed a tasty residence in Ibiza all summer.
Between ocular migraine waves via the spreadsheet he’s tinkering away at, and the 2,500-person freakfest of a rave he’s overseeing, VonStroke dishes on cliff jumps, the challenges of DJs and their premature ejac’, and learning by the sword of credit cards.
Hey CVS, you’re no spring chicken. What’s that like? Risky business? You know what, it took me 32 years to jump off the cliff. I started this record label way later than most people. Most people are doing this in their 20s, and I started in my 30s, and I don’t know if it was a risk because I was so sick of having a job that it was almost a must-do. And I feel I appreciate it more. It’s not the same if you’re 19 and you become a popular DJ if you’re 32 and you’ve had to kiss everyone’s ass and dig ditches and do a million jobs. It’s totally different, and so it’s a much sweeter type of success because you’ve seen the other side.
What did that cliff jump look like to you? A beachside dance pit beckoning you hither? It wasn’t the record label; that wasn’t the cliff jump for me. I made this documentary film, and I basically sold everything I had. I borrowed money from everyone, everyone hated me, I was shooting, editing, making the music, directing—the whole thing by myself—and I took it past the point of where a reasonable person would’ve given up. Because I knew that if I didn’t finish it, I was never going to finish anything, and that was the catalyst for everything. I finished it, it came out. And because I went beyond the limit of where a sane person would go, where everyone’s furious with you and you sold everything and you have $40,000 dollars in credit card debt, and you’re not even answering your phone…
There’s a lot of “hurry up and go” out there in the dance game, isn’t there, CVS? Every sucka looking for a chart topper? I think it makes it scarier nowadays, yeah, because you can work on something for a year, and have no one know it even came out. Or it comes out, and people pay attention to it for three days because there’s so much media. When I began, you would have a record take a year to get popular, on vinyl, and eventually it would get popular on digital. Eventually everyone would get it, and then it would get to Italy and whatever—you know what I mean. And now it’s like, four weeks, everybody’s heard it or not heard it, but it’s over.
Where’s the honeycomb in that? It sounds kinda’ bleak. Any upsides? For a music producer, the upside is nothing. If there’s any upside. But the upside to it for the consumer is that they just have a ton of stuff. If you’re a music listener, it’s cool, ’cause you just have a never-ending stream of awesome stuff. But you’re never going to get the Led Zeppelin album that you listen to for 10 years. It kind of destroyed that thing.
That said, you have something grooving despite it all, don’t you? You’re off to the Spanish isle now aren’t you, CVS, to lay it down? Everything’s going good there, yeah. We have our own night, which is a huge deal for our label. American labels don’t get nights in Ibiza. It doesn’t happen. So it’s kind of a coup. But that was another thing where I just had to be like, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m super nervous about it, and I’ve basically pulled my hair out since January about this, but we just said, ‘Fuck it we’re doing it.’