Interview: Before inaugural run, Dirtybird Campout East founder Claude VonStroke talks corporate EDM,the merits of St. Cloud and more

The festival runs from February 2-5.

click to enlarge Interview: Before inaugural run, Dirtybird Campout East founder Claude VonStroke talks corporate EDM,the merits of St. Cloud and more
Claude Vonstroke

Running alongside, yet separate, from the corporate culture that has become today's rave industry, DJ, producer, and Dirtybird label head Claude VonStroke seems to be having a pretty good time just being himself.

The 46-year old has become well-known to the masses by bringing his underground brand of dance music before thousands at main stages of festivals like Outside Lands and Electric Forest, but he’s just as comfortable playing his now-fabled BBQ parties and underground sets.

As the head of innovative house and techno label Dirtybird, Claude has assisted in launching the careers of acclaimed DJs like Justin Martin, further spreading his brand of "booty house” and techno funk. While he's done his best in recent years to distance himself from the increasingly greedy corporate structure of the rave and festival scene, that doesn't mean he's held back from expanding the Dirtybird brand.

Several years back, CVS founded his own festival out west, labeled the Dirtybird Campout.

Disassociating himself from the mainstream festival mentality of booking the biggest acts for the biggest revenue return, Claude's Dirtybird instead focuses on raking in fans with its one-of-a-kind adult campground theme. Upon entry attendees are assigned a group color for which they will compete in summer camp favorites like Tug-O-War, Kickball, and more. These activities are, of course, paired with a stellar lineup curated by Claude himself, and in 2018 it'll feature acclaimed acts like Mija, Green Velvet, and over 60 others.

For its first east coast run, 2018's Dirtybird — set for February 2-5 — will be hosted in St. Cloud, Florida, a location picked by Claude earlier this year when he spent time driving around our Sunshine State in search of the right venue. The fan-favorite DJ was kind enough to chat with us ahead of this inaugural east coast festival, catching us up on his work in the studio, picking out the venue and what to expect at Florida's first Dirtybird Campout.

Check out our conversation below, and get more information on Dirtybird Campout click here.

Dirtybird Campout East
Feb 2-5. $220 & up.
Forever Florida , 4755 North Kenansville Rd., Saint Cloud.

Thanks for taking the time. I know you’re a busy guy. I was told that you’ve been in the studio a lot lately.

Yeah. We got so much stuff it’s crazy

Are you working on solo stuff or material for the label?

I have a track coming out on the Dirtybird compilation with this guy from Brazil, Bruno Furlan; and a bunch of solo records that I’m working on.

Looking ahead at your schedule it looks like you’ll have a break from the studio, as they have you playing all over from California, then Miami and then back to California. These shows vary from festival sets, solo shows, and the Get Real collaboration shows [Get Real is the collaboration project between Claude and producer Green Velvet]. Do you have a preference in which you like to perform?

I mean all the shows are so different from each other so it really depends. The Get Real shows are really fun, but they’re so different than the solo shows. The solo shows I can just do whatever I want, which is fun but sometimes I like the Get Real shows because they’re more driving.

The festivals are great. Sometimes they are amazing. Like Outside Lands, Electric Forest, Campout were all great sets.

I can attest to [the festival sets,] I had the chance to catch you close out both Imagine Music Festival and Suwannee Hulaween.

Oh yeah, Hulaween was awesome. The stuff they had there was really cool. I really liked the installations, it was beautiful.

These festival sets have evolved from your underground shows and now-legendary BBQ sets, which is where we get Dirtybird Campout festival. This February’s weekend festival is the inaugural East coast edition of the festival. What led to you bringing it to our coast and the state of Florida?

Well it was just kind of logic. We knew we wanted to do an east coast version of Campout. For marketing purposes, we knew it had to be on the opposite side of the year. So it had to be winter and the only place you can do a festival in the east coast is in Florida. So that’s basically how it happened.

I literally drove around Florida looking for a spot and then my manager Abby was calling around all these places. Abby found a place and we went there. The venue is always the hardest thing to do, but we found an awesome venue, it’s going to be great.

Well that’s pretty much my next question, how did you guys end up finding the venue? It’s in St. Cloud just south of Orlando.

Like I said, I was driving all over. We cold-called about 40 places and then finally we got it down to a list of about five places. Only one of them ended up being right, one that could actually handle it. Sometimes you can find a field, but there’s no electricity, no water and then it’s going to be ten times more expensive. It’s hard [finding a venue,] it’s so hard. I’m not even going to lie. Even in California, finding a venue is so difficult.

Circling back to the festival, Dirtybird Campout is billed as a weekend summer camp for adults. What can fans expect to experience when they get there?

It’s so fun. It’s like a kids camp, but for adults. Like we’ll have all the games you’d play at a kids camp. When you get there, you get assigned a color and bandana and that’s your team. There’s a team leader for each team who are these crazy guys and girls. It’s so hilarious. The teams start to bond, so it’s really easy to make tons of friends because you’re all lumped together on these teams and no one knows each other. It’s an awesome bonding and friend making experience.

And then, you have all the amazing music on top of that. It’s like a whole thing beyond a regular festival. It’s not like, “Hey, just show up at the main stage and get drunk.” You can do all this stuff and it’s super fun. You can do games in the morning and then go listen to music or whatever. It’s just a whole different vibe.

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How many stages are there?

Two different stages. The Birdhouse stage, which is named after my radio show, is all Dirtybird and house music. The Bass lodge, which we confuse on purpose because the logo is a big fish, is all kind of alternative bass music and live bands and rappers.

Looking at the lineup, there a lot of notables from your own label and others as well. How did you pull together the lineup? Was there a specific sound or style you were shooting for?

I’m very particular. I do the whole lineup. I have help, but I choose it. All the house stuff is people I respect or people on Dirtybird. The other stuff, it’s just all people that I’m super into to.

Wrapping up, I really wanted to touch on this last point. In the last few years you’ve been vocal about distancing yourself from “corporate rave culture.” What does it mean to be an independent label and/or festival in today’s scene?

Well, it’s really not so easy. Corporate raves are these massive companies. They don’t only do EDM. They do country. They do rock. They have deep pockets, so they can take a couple losses and it just has to make sense at the end of the year for them. For us, we can only take one loss, if you know what I mean. We put everything in to our festivals. It’s all heart and soul, its what we do. So when you get there, hopefully that’s the feeling that you get. It’s very personal. It’s not just another thing put on by a company, it’s us. You’re our guest. It’s just a different vibe. It’s not that the big festivals are bad. Some of them are absolutely amazing. But a lot of the time they are just playing with house money and say lets just get the biggest trance guy, the biggest house guy, the biggest rapper and make a giant festival. We’re putting a lot of personal care into this.

Check out the lineup below, which includes recently added phase two artist:

click to enlarge Interview: Before inaugural run, Dirtybird Campout East founder Claude VonStroke talks corporate EDM,the merits of St. Cloud and more
Dirtybird Campout

About The Author

LJ Hilberath

Franz “LJ” Hilberath is a Clearwater-native who contributes to Creative Loafing's Music section. He previously served as an intern and is now a freelance contributor for all things music.LJ can be found in the field reviewing concerts and music festivals around the country, and also works interviews for both local...
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