Claude VonStroke | Photo courtesy of Mothership Music

Claude VonStroke Looks Back on Rave Culture and Ahead to the Future

Loyal fans know Barclay Crenshaw as Claude VonStroke, the booty-bass musician and boss of dance music label and supercrew, Dirtybird Records. Crenshaw started the Dirtybird label and began to assemble his squad more than 10 years ago, way before house music made it to the mainstream and before Las Vegas megaclubs and their multimillion-dollar DJ residencies. His career path spanned the decade from a struggling musician fusing hip-hop and house sounds in the San Francisco Bay area to playing to huge crowds in Light at Mandalay Bay, where he will return on June 16 for EDC Week with Mikey Lion and Deep Jesus.

Are there elements of electronic music culture that have been lost throughout the years that you wish would come back?

There are elements [of electronic music culture] that are flowing through the industry all the time. My career has changed, but there are always new things coming up. I believe I’ve moved into a different spot. There’s always an underground party going on. There’s always a super commercial party going on. There’s always something in the middle.

You’ve mentioned being influenced by house music and club culture. Did you go to raves back in the day?

Yeah, I went to raves in Detroit. They were more like abandoned warehouse party raves. I actually did go to some early psy-trance raves in Oakland such as Mars and Mystre and that kind of crazy stuff. They would have a jungle room. Those were actually really fun.

What were those raves like?

It was all kandi kids and bright artwork. I actually haven’t seen that stuff around as much [any more]: the full kandi outfits, everybody’s really happy, the artwork is super happy. There was probably a dark side to it, but that was the image of those parties.

People know Dirtybird now as a really successful brand and label. Were there ever times when you felt like it actually wasn’t going to work out?

It was not popular in the beginning, before the music releases. We still had parties before the music releases and that was not really the hot ticket in town. We stuck with it and stayed together. We did have a pretty quick success with the releases; release No. 3 [“Deep Throat”] was huge, which doesn’t always happen. We were super cool in the beginning, then we were uncool, then we were back to being cool. We’ll probably be uncool in Europe right now and we’ll be cool in like three years.

After all of the hard work putting together Dirty-bird and the whole crew behind it, you’ve added the Birdhouse brand. Why begin another project?

The Birdhouse is kind of an expansion into the rest of the world. Every week I have a radio show with a different guest from anywhere in the world. All the guests are people who I’m interested in or I want to hear what they play, or I think their music’s good or whatever. They’re not under Dirtybird usually. The concept is to have other guests. The way that we can say, “Hey, you know, you like this, but check this out. This is also cool.”

And it’s not just a radio show, but it’s also a party series with stage productions, right?

We have some very small stage production so far. We have the Las Vegas residency, which is probably one of the first more underground-themed residencies over there. They’re trying to break [into the underground] and it’s working really well. Then there are a couple of sensible stages and I expect that to continue. It’s more of a curated brand where I’m just pitching music that I think is cool. Not necessarily Dirtybird.

Would you say it’s still in the same vein, the same vibe of Dirtybird?

That’s kind of a tough question. The Birdhouse is a little more refined, maybe. Dirtybird’s always really funny and loose and silly sometimes. This is a little bit less silly, I would say.

To find this music, do you listen to a lot of promo tracks?

I do it once a week, if possible. Sometimes I go two weeks, like [at the beginning of the month]. I hadn’t been home.

Right, you just played Movement in Detroit during Memorial Day Weekend.

Yep, and I took my son to the NBA Finals [Game 1]. It’s only once a year, but it’s not once a year that your son’s favorite team is in the Finals and he plays that sport.

What’s his favorite team?

Golden State. That’s where my kids grew up, pretty much, San Francisco.

Have your kids ever seen you perform live?

They’ve been to the [Dirtybird] BBQ. They’ve been to Madison Square Garden. They’ve been to Coachella. Not that many. If it’s super major, we bring them. But they always get bored.