Hey guys. The track above is a new remix from Vato Gonzalez, and it's seriously dope. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Vato, and boy is this guy awesome!! The 28-year-old Dutchman is riding high after his collaboration with Diplo "Rasclat Riddim" and has some new productions on the horizon as well. Many already know him as the man who started "Dirty House" and he talks about that a bit here. By far, this is the best interview I've done so far. Easily the most interesting responses I've ever gotten to my questions and Vato's personality really shines through. Enjoy!
1) Briefly introduce yourself to my readers and how you got into the music business.
Hi, my name is Björn and I am an alcoh.. whoops, wrong meeting. Ehm, well, let me see how to put this. If flower, eggs and butter make a pancake then Dutch, relentless energy, house and a pinch of hiphop roots would be the recipe for a Vato Gonzalez waffle. Born and raised in the same boring suburb that brought forth Afrojack, where the only thing to make life a little more interesting was making music I guess. I rolled into this business after my friends tossed me over the counter at a local bar after hearing an announcement they were looking for a new DJ. I had been entertaining my teddy bear for a while, so the timing was right to take a new step. After that came a lot of organizing my own events and finally the infamous 'Dirty House' mix tapes, which spread widely across the internet and a new national DJ was born.
2) What unique aspects of EDM draw you to it that you don't find in other types of music?
Approaching music with the same suicidal enthusiasm as a raging lunatic whilst staying void of the concept of genres. I don't make a certain type of music, I just make whatever feels right at the moment. I don't work from templates or default schemes, every time I start a project it's like the first project I make in my life. I've had a lot of people asking me how I produce and what techniques I practice, while in fact I usually haven’t got the vaguest clue of what I'm doing. This all sounds a bit random, but the crowd isn't all too picky when it comes to specific genres - as long as the beat is alright, they'll dance all night! So that is why usually none of my productions sound like the previous ones.
3) What was it like collaborating with Diplo on "Rasclat Riddim"? Who did what and how was it merging your styles and habits?
I had created the basis of ‘Rasclat Riddim’ about a year ago and within 30 minutes after putting it on Soundcloud, I got support from Laidback Luke and Diplo. I got into a conversation with the legendary US DJ and we started looking for some vocals. After a while we found the right ones and with a little hint here and there on the final arrangement, I finished the track at my home studio here in The Netherlands. Working over the internet saved us a lot of air miles and jet lags!
4) You're often credited with starting the "Dirty House" movement which contributed greatly to the rise in popularity of Dutch House. With so many artists now coming out of the Netherlands, how do you try to continue differentiating yourself and standing out from the crowd?
I started the "Dirty House" movement. There was no such movement before I got fed up with the straight forward boring type of house that was coming out in 2006. The 'Dirty' part refers to the fact that it was an outlawed form of house. It were the bootlegs, the unofficial remixes and the tunes that combined different styles of music that were rocking the clubs - yet the industry completely ignored the 'sound of the streets' as if it were an illegitimate bastard child. We had been spoon fed the same commercial dance and boring 8 minute deep tracks by major artists for years, so I decided to start it as a movement and philosophy. To keep myself from going astray from the original idea, I wrote 'The Dirty House Manifesto'. I was smart enough to realize that one’s vision changes over time as you become more and more removed from your original surroundings, so this manifesto keeps me with my feet on the ground. Even now, 6 years later I differentiate myself by not thinking in genres or what the next artist does - just what I would like to hear myself when I would be standing in the crowd. After all, being an artist is fine and dandy, but if you want to be rocking big crowds you've got to have something that pleases them.
5) If you weren't making music and DJ'ing, what do you think you'd be doing? Do you ever think a time will come when you'll want to do something else with your life?
Secretly, I want to be a zookeeper. There is something about penguins that would make me laugh myself to certain death at the job! But on the serious trip, I'm not only a DJ/Producer. At the moment I also run an agency (010bookings.com) with 11 artist that we represent worldwide and run 2 record labels. Before my career as an artist was going into the proper direction, I went to university and did a bachelors for graphical media technology and one in software engineering. So unless the world stops using computers, I'll be fine. Beyond that I think I'd go back to Uni and get a degree in psychology to become a full time artist-coach. Managing isn't really my cup of tea, but I've experienced a lot of artist get quite mentally screwed by this industry and could use a little guidance beyond the business.
6) Tell us about your production process. What sources do you see as your main influences and where do you like to begin work on a track? What do you do when you hit a wall creatively?
When it comes to producing, I am Commander Chaos! Judgement is the cancer of creativity and at my best I consider myself a Bob Ross of sorts, making happy little bass lines and colouring them VanDyke brown in Logic Pro. The most important part is what has become known as 'the drop', that 4-8 seconds is the beating heart of any production. It is the essence and once that loop is booming, I'll start with the whole break and climax towards the drop. Sort of like writing a book and starting on the last page. Since I'm doing a lot of things at the same time, I just go on to the next project as soon as I hit a wall. Thinking consciously is the worst you can do when it comes to making music, just take a shower and sing for a bit (like you don't.. ) and the best ideas usually come while shampoo just found its way into your eye. My biggest influence is that moment when it gets serious on the floor. That 'moment supreme' where people just go bzerk and lose it. That energy is what I try to reflect in my music.
7) What was your favourite or most memorable moment in your music career? And by "moment" I really mean anything at all ranging from a gig you played to a song you heard that inspired you or having a major breakthrough in learning to produce/DJ.
The first time I heard one of my oldest tracks being played in a club and people went nuts to it, I was puking rainbows! Later, when I performed for the first time at a really big indoor festival and went from being a shy guy to an on-top-of-the-dj-booth-rage-
8) It's the nature of the music business that even the most-talented, hardest working individuals almost always get some help along the way. Who or what played a key role in helping you reach where you are today?
I've known Afrojack since he was 5, Hardwell since he was 12 and Nicky Romero from when he was about 17 - all of them way before they went global with their music. Yet, I’ve never felt the urge to try and surf on their waves. I respect them too much as friends to want a piece of their pie. I've always been keen on making my own moves and being the king of my own castle. I hate to be in a situation where somebody else can 'pull the plug' on me. I see my career as a pyramid. It takes an awful lot of stones to make it high, but men fears time - yet time fears the pyramids if you catch my drift. If you get pulled up by someone up high, it's like building your career like a really narrow and long tower. It just takes one unstable piece to bring it to the ground. Obviously, I've learned a lot from the three guys above, but it has been the people that did not believe in me that inspired me the most. I had the complete Dutch music industry against me at some point, because of my Dirty House movement. I've been banned, boycotted and made a fool off for years, but never gave up on my own vision.
9) Which artists would you most like to collaborate with? Feel free to name anyone at all whether they're a global superstar, recent breakthrough/up-and-comer, or complete unknown.
I'd get in a plane towards the US for a collabo with Timbaland any day, the man is a genius. Beyond that, I've got JME, Tinie Tempah, Akala and the Prodigy on my list and I’ve got a lot of hot collaborations coming up with some amazing artists, but you’ll just have to be patient for those.
10) What was it like for you transitioning from being just a fan listening to EDM to making and playing it professionally? Do you ever still go to clubs or shows purely as a fan just to hang out in the crowd and watch another DJ perform?
If I wasn't booked all the time, I'd be partying like a maniac. I don't do what I do because I must, I do what I do because I love the music. I cannot stand still when it's on. I'm not the artist you'll find all posh in the VIP section, I'd much rather be on the dance floor enjoying every bit of the music when the right DJ's are at it. Two weeks ago, Diplo was in Amsterdam doing a Major Lazer show. I had a backstage pass and I could have watched the show from the sides of the stage or the VIP. But, where is the fun in that? I got tweets later that night of people being surprised to find me in one massive moshpit, tossing around people like it was a game of darts. I don't think I'm that much different from the people in the crowd, I'm merely the one pressing the button and giving the example.
11) Any upcoming gigs or productions we should be on the lookout for over the summer?
We've got the 'Dirty House Most Wanted' European summer tour coming up, with shows in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. The festival season is in full effect at the moment, so we've got big things like Tomorrowland (Belgium) and Dance Valley (The Netherlands) on the menu. On the production side you can expect a lot of releases, some of them will be free and also two (2) new mix tapes before July!
12) Lastly, say anything at all that you'd like to tell the people reading this interview.
If you are an artist or want to become one, just go for it. Never take no shit from people telling you that you can't. If you are a fan of the music, follow me on twitter @vatogonzalez or facebook.com/vatogonzalez and if you see me after a show, come and say hi. I will most likely bite, but don't worry. I had my rabies shot last year, so you'll be fine after a few years of plastic surgery.
So as you can see, Vato is a very unique guy withs TONS of personality. If you ever get a chance to see him live, go do it!