He’s the founder and boss of the Dirtybird label, he’s a DJ of some renown and a producer with a highly distinctive and successful sound. He released his fourth artist album, ‘Freaks & Beaks’, in February this year so we asked Claude VonStroke to talk us through it, track by track.
Warming Up The Bass Machines 2
This is the track that shows the setup when everything is plugged into the wrong patch and all the mistakes and feedback happen. I tried to replicate the feeling of getting started and the frustration of connecting everything in the studio correctly. I used a lot of guitar pedals to get the chaotic feeling. The main thing that really sounds crazy is this Erica Synths Fusionbox. It just creates mass chaos. This is also a sequel track to the very first ‘Warming Up the Bass Machines’ which was track one on my very first album in 2005. You can hear that I have a bit more bass in this version!
Freaks Don’t Fail Me Now
This track I started on the Arturia Drumbrute which is the meanest little drum machine I’ve ever had. It’s also like a dum machine made for dummies and I absolutely love it. I wanted to make an intro like an old Pearson Soundtrack that dropped into bass music and then into old school techno and ghetto all within one single track that still makes sense. My son Jasper sang the vocal that I chopped up in the Ableton Drum Rack and then programmed over the beat. This track also features my modular rig for all the tweaky laser sounds. It’s a track that showcases all the different genres Dirtybird Records visits and tries to gel them all together into a cohesive track. I think its fitting that it also features several production styles from modular to drum machines to Ableton all merged together.
I wanted to make something that honoured all my original record shopping back in San Francisco. I used to buy all the weirdest records from Playhouse and Klang and all these fun, oddball German labels that came before us. I also wanted to get really into the modular rig. The beat was literally made on KORG Gadget which costs like $39 on Itunes. Then I used the modular rig for all the wierdo sounds. The vocal uses a secret chain that I created which really sounds incredible. I will say one device in the chain is the Manipulator VST plugin. I think that is probably my favourite plugin for vocals it can really change your sound dramatically. Again, this track is an amalgamation of man styles of working all merged together into Ableton, from iPad to modular to microphone work.
Youngblood feat Wyatt Marshall
Wyatt Marshall is my studio assistant and my radio show producer. He also convinced me to build a little modular system. I was dead set against it until I started hearing sounds he was making at his house with his buddy Lubelski. We built this system together and then one of the first really sick loops to come out of it came from Wyatt. It’s just a super simple sequence from the Plonk and the Sequencer. I took the loop and made a beat on the Drumbrute which sounded sick but a bit too lo-fi. So I re-made the Drumbrute beat inside Ableton using the drum detection feature that is native in Ableton (where you analyze a beat and it makes it into a drum machine where you can replace all the sounds.). Once I got the beat to sound clean I got on the Prophet 6 to add pads and melodies and it all came together. A woman called Sohmi also gave Wyatt all the little vocal hits and snippets. I love the vibe on this collaboration!
Frankie Goes To Bollywood
I love this old 2000’s producer from Paris called Frankie. He’s like a weird version of DJ Rush, where everything is almost overswung but all the elements are simple hardware synths and drum machines. It’s never overdone. I made this track mostly in Native Instruments Maschine which I tend to do a ton of loops in when I’m thinking up ideas. It’s by far my favourite scratchpad. The swing is really good and natural on it and the pitch-bending is REALLy liquid sounding. For example in Ableton if you pitch a sample up and down it sounds almost like a robot is doing it but in Maschine, it sounds way more musical and weird when you do it. The rest of it I’m still using Maschine but I sequenced a Moog Voyager, an ARP 2600 and a Sub 37 to do all the synth parts. I actually kept in the latency on the sounds so they are hitting really late and adding to the swinging vibes. The vocal is me again just having fun. Again it all ends ups in Ableton but I don’t think I could have made this track sound the way it does unless I started it in Maschine.
I’m kind of obsessed with KeineMusik (mainly &Me and Rampa.) I wanted to make a track like they make BUT with a little more grit adding my personality to it. This was by far the hardest track to finish simply because there is a drone synth sound on the entire track (Prophet 6). The side chain and the kick and all of it was driving me absolutely insane but I think I got to a good place. I made this more for the European market and just to give the album some more range. I like a lot of different kinds of house music and I never want to be stuck in a place where I feel like I can only make booty bass tracks. A lot of the drums on this track are simple Ableton drum racks that I have run through and Elektron Analog Heat to give them some flavour. I use this trick a lot to spice up drums that do not feel glued. There are some Arturia VSTs at the end in the melody part as well.
Waddaday feat ZDS
ZDS and I go way way back almost to the start of my career. We have been friends for ages and we have done a few tracks together recently. This was a beat that he sent over that I really liked. All I really did was arrange it, add sub-bass and then create that chanting vocal on top. For vocals, I have some expensive mics laying around that literally never get touched. I end up using a regular old SM7B like 95% of the time. Oftentimes I go through a Roland VT-4 to get an effect on the voice going in. That VT-4 box is a gem!! I’m pretty sure that was the setup for this vocal and that processing was very minimal on it besides the VT-4.
These Notes In This Order
This was a throwback to old school electronica albums like Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, all that kind of stuff that isn’t really four on the floor. The bass sound in this is actually from Trillian by Spectrasonics. Again I got the old school vocal chopping going on by simply putting each word or syllable on individual drum pads in and Ableton Drum Rack and then step sequencing on the Ableton Push 2 to get that really hyper-quick feeling that resolves in the full sample all together just like in ‘Freaks Don’t Fail Me Now’. I would love to tell you that the synths in this track are all analogue but to be honest these are all Arturia plugins! The Arturia V Collection is very flaky bug-wise in Ableton BUT it sounds amazing especially the SEM which I have used countless times. I’m just not going to buy an Oberheim Two Voice for 10 grand so I use the plugin.
All My People In the House
This is my 11-year-old daughter Ella on the vocal but I made her sound 25 years old with Little Alter Boy by Sound Toys. This track was 100% made on the modular rig and then ported over by recording each individual sound into Ableton. Then I added all the meat and bones with the drum kit in Ableton but the whole music part is modular. I think it has a dirty, chaotic vibe I would never have been able to get in the box. I worked on the breakdown for this track for AGES. It has all kinds of sounds running through outboard boxes like the Erica Synths Fusionbox and Acid III. The sound that bends when the breakdown ends is from my iPad. It’s this amazing app called Ribbons that lets you tweak a sound with your fingers like a $25,000 Haken Audio Fingerboard. The iPad is actually amazing. If I had only $1000 to start a studio I would get an iPad and do everything with that.
This is all Prophet 6, my favourite Synth I’ve ever owned. I made a chord set in one of these chord VST creators I think maybe it was called Scaler. Then I sent the midi out and turned the ARP on and played with the filters live for about 45 minutes, recording everything. I took all the best bits and married them together and then matched up drums at the end (which I do not recommend!). it was really hard getting everything in sync especially because the delay on the synth is not in perfect BPM time, but that’s what makes it sound so good! The middle section is recorded live from Downtown LA and I made the chord break on an organ sound on the Korg Kronos. I think this track is very cinematic and emotional which is why it ends the album.