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Claude VonStroke and Miss Kittin Go B2B and Interview Each Other

Kittin gives good advice, Claude won’t fake the funk, and other juicy tidbits from two house music honchos.
May 29, 2015, 5:35pm

Though they are both Ibiza veterans, this Saturday, May 30, Claude VonStroke and Miss Kittin will both play the White Isle's notoriously beautiful Ushuaia for the first time when the join forces for a B2B set at the club's annual opening party. In honor of their Balearic tag team, the two DJs went back to back in an interview, asking each other the tough questions and sharing a few compliments as well.

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CLAUDE VONSTROKE: A few years ago in Serbia you gave me a nice little pep talk while i was figuring out how I was going to follow Richie Hawtin's sunrise set for a massive crowd. You told me to be myself and that i would play the music for their souls after a much harder techno set.

MISS KITTIN: Ha! I do remember your amazing set in Serbia. The crowd was intense and beautiful, but I do not remember giving you advice and certainly not that you would take it! Happy it helped anyway! I have these moments of doubts all the time. Usually, when I travel with a friend as a tour manager, I always turn to him. He's seen me so many times, he knows me by heart. He tells me the same: do your thing.

I am totally fan of your sound design, the way you treat rhythmics and lyrics, the constant ambivalence between "serious" and "stupid." Each track sounds like a cool blockbuster: wire with the bassline, suspense with percussive elements, humor in the vocal effects, action plan with crazy breaks and explosion at the end. How much does your music reflects your personality? I don't know you at all, we only talked briefly, you seemed quite shy so I am curious.

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: I can be very shy. I always try to get out of my shell but sometimes I can be extremely quiet. It's funny because I am a big tall guy with a beard I think some people take the silence as confidence which is probably not the case most of the time. My mind is always thinking really dark jokes, like stuff you couldn't say in public without offending everyone, so sometimes I am only really funny around my closest friends. I tend to loosen up at shows and get more relaxed when the music is on.

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MISS KITTIN: Your different labels and artists form a family that's out of this world. Each release brings something new; you never know what will be next. How did you manage to scout these talents, defining such an avant-garde and old school-influenced sound? I call it "new school" because in our world today, we are looking for modernity with something comforting from the past, reinventing our roots.

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: This may sound crazy but it's very simple: I just listen to every single demo that gets submitted. From there I weed them out and play them in clubs until I know for sure it's the right song for Dirtybird. In this way, I find many new artists every year. All it takes is the work of listening to everything and knowing in my heart what are the right tracks.

MISS KITTIN: You come from Detroit and moved to San Francisco, which is a strange move because most Detroit artists usually go to Chicago, New York or Berlin.

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: I have actually moved around a lot more than just Detroit and San Francisco. I've lived in Cleveland, Detroit, Connecticut, New York, Berlin, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles throughout different times in my life. Most people associate me with Detroit because it's where my parents live and I was a kid there and also the track I made called "Who's Afraid of Detroit?" The other city people associate with me is San Francisco because that's where I started Dirtybird and met all of the original Dirtybird crew. But now I live in Venice Beach with my family, an artistic part of Los Angeles that has very similar vibes to San Francisco.

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MISS KITTIN: I remember my first trip to Detroit with The Hacker in 1997, thrilled to play live for $50, we met incredible people who showed us around. We still talk about it. Detroit has this legendary flavor for all of us, but can you explain your roots, the scene you grew up in and your move to San Francisco? Your profile seems very different from the usual Detroit area producers.

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: My roots are mostly in hip-hop and drum and bass. I was always on the fringe of what people liked, in Detroit especially. I was the only kid in my school who listened to people like Whodini and Spoony G and Egyptian Lover. Later, when I moved back to Detroit to work on car commercials, I was one of the only people who was into drum and bass. I never really fit into any scene very well. Even when i moved to San Francisco the sound i wanted to do didn't even really exist, but I think that made me even more hungry to prove myself.

I also played the cello for 14 years and you could say I owe just as much or more to wide ranging groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy as I do to Roni Size and Isolée and Basic Channel. I even listened to a lot of rock when I was younger like Zeppelin, Journey, the Doors, Steve Miller Band, etc. Cleveland and Detroit, where I spent all my childhood are also big rock towns. I had some of the most fun in my life in Paris. How do you find it to live there?

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MISS KITTIN: I moved here to get closer to my friends after ten years abroad. I never lived in Paris before so it was new to me. I never really liked Paris, I found it too stressful, busy, aggressive, I still feel that regularly but traveling every weekend is a perfect cure. I like to leave and come back. Mostly I have a fantastic social life with amazing friends, and home is where your friends are. You can't be bored. There's so much to do—too much when you have to lock yourself in the studio. I allow myself to be a tourist in my own city all the time. It's one of the biggest joy of this town, to wander, not knowing where you are going, stop at a café outside for a drink and watch people passing by. It's so inspiring.

You said you had the most fun in Paris. For me traveling is like breathing. It's the best school in the world and the best present music ever gave me. Do you feel the same, even though living in California means you're constantly flying long distances? How do you deal with it?

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: I love travelling but my children are now seven and eight years old and so maybe the twelfth trip to Europe isn't as exciting as the first trip every year. But overall, it is absolutely an amazing gift. Now, I make fewer and fewer trips outside of North America, which makes my life easier but it also makes me slightly sad that I don't see Europe and all of these foreign cities as much. Thank goodness the market in the States is so amazing right now. It is helping me so much.

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When I was in Paris I just met so many funny people. I think Americans don't understand how funny the people are. All you have to do is get past the initial meeting and have everyone loosen up and it is always the most fun. I think this is so much like my personality that it's the main reason I enjoy going there.

MISS KITTIN: You have this B2B project with Green Velvet AKA Cajmere. I am very jealous by the way! I suppose you play often with your fellow label artists, what's special about this one? Why you two, besides the obvious music influences you share? What's happening behind the decks that we don't know about?

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: I almost never do B2B. For many years I always turned it down until I played with Green Velvet. The only other person I played a few B2Bs with officially is Justin Martin, but that's because it's so, so easy for us as label mates. But with Green Velvet we have a kind of magic thing where we are playing all different music from each other but it's totally seamless and everything is working.

The funk is very very important to both of us. I think it's the number one thing we want to hear in a beat. The other part of it might be that he is the only artist I really ever looked up to when I was starting out. I respected a lot of artists but he was the only one I wanted to be like. When I heard his music I was thinking this is the music for me.

MISS KITTIN: Talking about B2B…

CLAUDE VONSTROKE: You and I are going in blind to this set [at Ushuaia]. We have never played together before but i think it's a cool match. We both like to play a very wide range of sounds. This could be risky for B2B but it could also be very exciting. What do you think will happen?

MISS KITTIN: I love B2B! If the two DJs are generous and adventurous, it's a big thrill. Much more fun than playing alone. Two universes collide to create something new. I am really excited about this one. Out of every artist on the bill I would have chosen you. I play a lot of your productions, sing over them sometimes. We both like irony, strong bass, big kicks, sexiness, and silly lyrics, so I am sure it's going to work. We will probably smile all the way, and will end up hugging each other if everything goes well! But it's better to leave the mystery and not have too many expectations. Let's have some fun and the rest will follow.

Tickets for Ushuaia Ibiza's opening party available here.

Miss Kittin on Facebook // SoundCloud Claude VonStroke on SoundCloud // Twitter