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What’s in your bag, Claude VonStroke?

Creative toys and a dash of silly fun

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What’s in your bag? is a recurring feature where we ask people to tell us a bit more about their everyday gadgets by opening their bags and hearts to us. This week, we’re featuring producer, DJ, and record label owner Claude VonStroke.

Barclay Crenshaw, known to the world as Claude VonStroke, is an ultimate multihyphenate in the world of dance music. Not only does this illustrious house and tech house artist tour and DJ under the VonStroke name, he also tours with fellow artist Green Velvet under the alias Get Real. In fact, the two are on tour this December.

VonStroke also produces music (like his recently released and delightfully bubbly remix of Elderbrook’s “Capricorn”), runs Dirtybird Records, one of the top independent electronic music labels in the world, and throws loads of festivals under the Dirtybird umbrella, including The Birdhouse Festival and summer camp-themed Dirtybird Campout. It’s a lot.

When VonStroke comes into The Verge offices to show us his belongings, it’s clear this is the bag of someone who is a high-operating creative. There is a place for everything, items are marked and stowed accordingly, and there are heaps of items that show VonStroke’s hunger for artistic and sometimes silly fun — like one of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators and a pair of Randy Macho Man socks (more on that later). Read on to see what else the man behind the Dirtybird empire brings with him while he’s on the road.

Tell me about the bag.

It’s by Current. I got it through this subscription box I’m signed up for called ThreadBeast where they send you streetwear every month. It’s the one bag I like that they sent. It’s called Current because they send you a battery that goes inside, and you can use it to charge your phone. But I use the compartment for my wallet because it’s the exact same size.

Okay, let’s start with the computer!

I usually use the iPad more.

When and why do you use each of them?

I use the iPad Pro for a lot of email work and watching movies, and the MacBook Pro is for heavy-duty music production. The MacBook is new. I’m still porting files over to it. It has Rekordbox, which is my DJ database that I sync to USB so I can take it to the club and have all my playlists. It also has my Maschine software, Ableton... everything I produce music in. If I don’t need to use Rekordbox, I don’t even bring the laptop on the road.

Do you use the Apple Pencil a lot?

Yeah. For example, we just designed the stages for a lot of our festivals, and I sent in drawings. My drawings are really shitty, but it gives the team an idea of what we’re doing. And then I also use it to sketch out clothing ideas in Adobe Draw and send them to our merch guy. So the iPad is more of a sketchbook, and the MacBook is where I do real work.

Okay, and what’s this calculator-looking thing?

This is a Pocket Operator Tonic. It’s a cool little drum machine. It’s by this company Teenage Engineering, and it’s just fun. It’s for goofing around. You can make little beats and stuff. They don’t even give you the opportunity to change the tempo; you just pick a term, like “hip-hop,” or “disco,” or “techno.” Those are your only choices. It’s limiting, which makes it even more fun. It’s great if you’re sitting in the car.

And these are headphones, I assume?

Yeah, but it’s more than that. I fit everything into one thing. These are Pioneer HDJ X10s. I’m an adviser for Pioneer. I advised on their last synthesizer and their last drum machine, and I will advise on the next headphones after this. They come over to our house with the people from Japan. The next headphones will be even crazier.

Do you use these for everything?

Usually, yes. Sometimes I use the AKG N series earbuds because it’s faster. This shit annoys me so much about the iPhone. The earbuds go straight to iPhone with no adapter.

Those USB sticks are what I DJ with. Some are marked with red tape because I have two different names. So some have different stuff than others. Some have visuals on them. These are all for DJing. None of the tracks I’m working on would be on those.

I have this system I’m doing with this guy Mike Monday where I make a draft of a beat, upload it into this series of Dropbox folders, and it syncs with Trello. Then in Trello, we have a system where we move the drafts into columns like, “we like this song” or “things we’re actually making” and then into “finished.” It’s crazy. So I can make a beat while my kids are going to bed for, like, one minute, and drop it in there to listen later. It’s so busy on tour, we figured out that if I just have more volume, I can have better ideas in a faster amount of time. If every track you start has to be finished, it sucks. It’s not going to work.

What USB brand is your favorite?

PNY. It’s the fastest, and I have no idea why. And they’re cheap.

What’s Hi-Fructose magazine about?

It’s my favorite magazine. This is the style of art I’m really into. We hire artists for Dirtybird Records every year, and I find a lot of them through this and Juxtapoz and Instagram. Hi-Fructose is by far my favorite over all the other publications. I’ve followed them for five or six years. Juxtapoz is dark and it’s always like, somebody bleeding. This is way more fun and quirky. We get Juxtapoz, but I find that I look through it once and then never look through it again. Hi-Fructose I keep around my house, and we go back to them over and over and over again when we’re brainstorming for projects. I have a huge stack. They also make a great book every year.

And why do you have this pen?

This is a funny present my brother gave me. It’s like, a spy pen made by Smith & Wesson. It will go through security, but you could still shank somebody if you got in trouble. But it’s a real pen! It’s made of titanium. It’s not really sharp.

The socks are also from my brother. I love Randy Macho Man. I love WWF from that period. I have lots of weird socks. I have Kim Jong-un socks, Kim Kardashian socks. My favorite detail about these socks is that it’s not just a print. It’s fully woven, and the back of the sock is the back of his body. I have a Macho Man jacket, too.

I usually have socks in my non-clothing bag because, for some reason, I step in a lot of puddles. I don’t know what it is, but I even did it on the way to New York. I had taken my shoes off, and someone spilled their drink in the aisle of the plane. It keeps happening all the time. I got wet shoes in Chicago, too!

I really like these stickers.

Those are for my kids’ clothing company, JasperAndElla. They’re 10 and 12. That’s their logo. I make them do all the work, and that’s why there’s literally nothing happening all the time. [Laughs] The whole point is to try and have them do something that’s better than college. To teach them how to operate a business so you actually know what to do in life. No one ever told me anything. I was so bad with money until I was like, 35. I was a nightmare: a creative writing / film major with huge credit cards. [Laughs]

What about these sunglasses?

We make these with a company called Proof. I like them and wear them. I don’t wear all our stuff all the time, but I really like these.

And how about the paint marker and some of this other stuff?

The marker is for signing stuff. I like the blue metallic.

The candies are what we normally send out with every shipment. But sometimes, I steal a bottle. They’re egg gummies, and then we made it look like they’re medicine.

And that converter is by Uppel. You just pick the country, like UK or Australia, and the right type of plug pops out.

The little canister is earplugs for other people. Like my wife, I can guarantee she didn’t bring earplugs for tonight, so these will be for her. It can get to like, 118 decibels. It’s a lot, you know?

How often are you on the road?

Usually, every other weekend. But this year, it’s more than that.

Tell me about your festival.

Our main festival is called Dirtybird Campout. It happens in October in California, near Oakland in a place called Modesto. We had a brand-new location this year. The festival is different because it’s based on American summer camps. So we have two stages that are house and bass music that go all weekend, but the main theme of the festival is when you arrive. You get a bandana in one of four colors. That’s your team, and it’s randomly assigned, so you don’t necessarily end up on the same team as your friends. That’s your team for the whole weekend, and you play camp games against other campers like tug-of-war, archery, hiding contests, all of it. It creates a unique vibe and a lot of the artists play the games, too. So the artists are walking around instead of being backstage most of the time. It’s a different feeling. The whole thing is really fun. I think it’s a festival where you can go by yourself and really enjoy it because you’re automatically on a team.

I will come with my marshmallow roasting sticks.

We have that! And storytelling around the campfire.

Stop Motion by Michele Doying / The Verge

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