Claude VonStroke: The Dirtybird Way

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With “Urban Animal,” Claude VonStroke Keeps the Quirky Fun Rolling

Everything about Claude VonStroke is fun.

Amongst so much faceless techno, so much house that sees itself as some serious, transcendental art form, the man born Barclay Crenshaw and his all-conquering dirtybird crew are a brightly coloured, noisy, always-smiling, party-starting whirlwind of fun.

Take the sleeve of his debut album, which starred a purple bird taking a police officer hostage. Or its 2009 follow-up, in which Crenshaw’s brain served as a chick’s nest.There’s the crazy vocal sounds of his breakthrough smash, the comically named “Deep Throat,” which sampled his own gurgling and ground it into a record that slayed dancefloors from New York to Ibiza, and found its way into the boxes of everyone from Kerri Chandler to Erol Alkan to Richie Hawtin.

“Do you like funk in the beat?
                 Or do you just like to be straight?
That’s the difference between [dirtybird] and everybody else.”

There’s also the earworm hook of “The Whistler.” Or the crazed, Bootsy Collins-featuring funk of “The Greasy Beat.” Or… or… hell, just pick anything. We can guarantee it’ll be fun.

But despite his sunny disposition as he chats to us ahead of the release of third long player, Urban Animal, it turns out the climb to the house music pinnacle hasn’t been quite so fun as you might imagine. He was a lonely hip-hop fan, first in suburban Detroit, then boarding school in Connecticut. He was a frustrated filmmaker who got milled through the Hollywood machine. He was a failed drum-n- bass producer, both in Detroit and San Francisco. There have been some tough steps on Crenshaw’s road to the top.

But as he spills his life to us—his philosophy for DJing, for production, and the importance of having a crew around you—we get the feeling that through every setback, Crenshaw had a smile on his face, that somewhere in every difficulty, he found the fun.

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