INTERVIEW: Vato Gonzalez (ADE 2011)
The Dirty Dutch movement has conquered the world and up next, watch out for the Dirty House scene. Coming from the pirate underground, Vato Gonzalez mashes elements of hip-hop, dancehall, baile funk, and house to create an energetic, prime time pumping sound. While his mix tapes have been downloaded over half a million times, his debut single “Badman Riddim” made top ten on the UK pop chart. Could US domination be next?
RS: Vato, this isn’t your first Amsterdam Dance Event is it?
Vato Gonzalez: This is actually my third.
RS: Are you from Holland or Rotterdam?
Vato Gonzalez: I am from Rotterdam, which is a little down South of Amsterdam.
RS: You are one of the people in the dirty house movement correct?
Vato Gonzalez: I was actually the one that started the dirty house movement; I founded the Dirty House brand about five years ago. Dirty house music is not to be confused with strictly Dutch house music. Dirty house is more about a statement towards the industry. There was so much good music online and so many good songs that the people really loved. For some reason the industry ignored these kinds of songs because they were too down low or too dirty. That is where the term dirty house comes from. Since there were no publishers, it used to be that we would only get to people through the internet. I guess it worked because five years later there are twenty million YouTube views on the mixed tapes and everything else.
RS: So you get your music out through the mix tapes. How many have you done so far?
Vato Gonzalez: I have done five dirty house mix tapes, which have been downloaded about half a million times right now. We did two packages of dirty house bootlegs. In the DJ scene, they call that a white label, which is an illegal remix of a song. When I heard a track that could improve and be made into a club track, I would do it. I remixed about forty tracks. I always play those tracks but usually people want to hear the track that only the original DJ has. I figured at the time it was an open source kind of community, so I put everything that I had online for the people to download. I received a lot of support all over the planet. One of the bootlegs just happened to be “Badman Riddim”; which is out in the US. In the UK it made it to number seven on the charts. I hope to get to Billboard one day.
RS: When I hear dirty house I think of dirty dutch, is it that same style or different?
Vato Gonzalez: We are all Dutch. I know Chuckie and the guys that are behind dirty dutch pretty well. The two concepts kind of erupted and evolved simultaneously without being in touch with each other. Dirty house has always been strictly about the music. I don’t care about the politics, the approval or the rights, if it is music that makes people dance it should be out there. Dirty Dutch has always been a legal kind of label. They have the biggest parties in Holland, they are legendary. It has been Chuckie’s movement and even though they sound somewhat similar, the philosophy and the kind of music are totally different.
RS: What is it like going from doing illegal mixed tapes to being legal and being signed to labels? How is that changing your DNA?
Vato Gonzalez: It is changing my DNA. I was talking to a friend the other day about how I used to do bootlegs of songs and now they just send me the parts. It is wonderful and pretty cool because now I can take this to the next level professionally. I don’t have to keep everything on the down low. On the other hand, it does bring territory restrictions, politics, office laws, etc. There is a whole bunch of politics that no musician should be busy with, we should be busy with making music. It is part of the business though.
RS: So did you ever imagine that a big pop artist like Taio Cruz would say that he wanted you to remix his record? How did that come about?
Vato Gonzalez: Just about how you described it actually. “Badman Riddim” was already out and Taio Cruz loved the record. If you listen to his new record “Troublemaker,” you will clearly hear that there is some “Badman Riddim” influence in that song already. I think it was a logical step for him to ask me for the remix. I am still very honored that I could do a remix like that. They specifically asked that I do the remix as “Badman Riddim” as possible. You will find that when the remix comes out there are many similarities between the two. When it comes to doing remixes, they ask you for your style, more or less like a certain record.
RS: You also did a girl band, was it RD ‘Got Me Burnin’?
Vato Gonzalez: Yes. In the UK, RD is being considered as the next TLC. I hope that none of them takes the blame because that would be a huge shame. It was a great song when I heard it and I instantly felt like it was going to be a nice deep groove, but not too deep. I hate to do a song that is so deep that people don’t understand it anymore. Right now, it is a song that will definitely blow up your subwoofers.
RS: How do you followup a track like “Badman Riddim?” What is your next song going to be like?
Vato Gonzalez. For the club tracks, we have about twenty to twenty five new tracks. Making music has never been a problem for me, I produce really fast. It all comes from the heart. My inspiration for producing is that moment when someone is listening at the club at 2:00 am. When you are feeling well in your zone, you’re not too drunk and not too messed up and you’re in the in the party. That perfect moment when you think this is the reason why I party – that’s the inspiration. Producing is fast, but we also have about seven possible follow-ups to Badman Riddum. They vary from poppy tunes, to underground tunes with commercial hooks and everything else. Right now, we are firing away at labels and with Ministry of Sound to release the initial “Badman Riddim.” It is really trial and error to figure out what is really worthy and what is not.
RS: I heard that the Ministry of Sound in the UK has one of your songs, “Drifting,” saying that it is going to be the biggest thing of next year.
Vato Gonzalez: That’s funny, you obviously talked to them, I just met them about half an hour ago. I actually had a song that they did not know about. I am not going to tell you anything about it, except the word blue. We told Ministry that we were not going to let anyone hear it until they were at the Amsterdam Dance Event. When I let an A&R listen to it, his eyes got huge and had a sparkle in them. I hope that was a good response.
RS: I need to ask, when you talk about blue, are you talking about Eiffel 65?
Vato Gonzalez: We are definitely, absolutely not talking about Eiffel 65’s “Blue.” Not even close, not even in the ballpark or universe for that matter.
RS: Okay good, I was just making sure. Now with you and your tracks, are you doing the vocals on them or do you have toasters do them? How do the vocals come about?
Vato Gonzalez: “Badman Riddim” was done by Foreign Beggars, which is actually a dubstep underground hip-hop collective. They did the vocals for “Badman Riddim.” There is a piece in the middle where it says “Badman Riddim” that is actually me. I have been MCing UK garage, dance hall, and hip-hop for about ten years. It has always been a passion of mine, dance music is great, but you can’t tell a story with beats. Then again, I can’t dance that insanely to hip-hop. Since I am white, it always look kind of stupid when I try to dance to it, but I love it anyways.
RS: The dirty house mix is a combination of the two correct?
Vato Gonzalez: Yes, Dirty house took elements from hip-hop, dancehall, a Brazilian style called by baile funk, basically everything. It has a good beat and rhythm. The great thing about dirty house is that it could use anything as long as it gives you the feeling that you want to dance, move and party, it could even be a Chinese Melody. I try not to complicate it; people aren’t too concerned with the tech house scene since they are busy with partying. At the end of the night if people think anything, they will think that I was good or bad, that is about it.
RS: Are there any plans to bring you over to the US?
Vato Gonzalez: Yes, during this dance event I have been talking to several promoters and agencies from the US. The most important thing right now is to get my name out. I don’t think that anyone could sell one ticket with the name Vato Gonzalez on it. We hope to change that with a lot of releases and club tracks. With my own underground distribution we were able to reach everyone in Holland, Belgium and Germany. That went well, but the world is a large place to reach on your own. I need a lot of help and there are a lot of tunes coming out on beatport. We are going to release at least one or two songs a month on either Dirty House or my other label, Crowd Control.
RS: With hitting the World and the Amsterdam dance event, what effect do you think the Amsterdam Dance Event has had on success of all these Dutch DJ’s who have exploded?
Vato Gonzalez: The Amsterdam Dance Event certainly has an effect because we have some major showcases here that are very important. Although they are not in the best clubs in the world, I believe that the highest level of DJing is found in Holland. There is nowhere in the world that has a crowd as insanely demanding and spoiled as in Holland. You have to have the skills of an entertainer to reach out above the average Dutch DJ. With that in mind, a lot of the music that is coming from here has become very relevant. It is the one stop where everybody from the US comes to see Europe and all the European artists. You have Miami, Ibiza, and Amsterdam.
RS: What advice would you give to someone who is going to the Amsterdam Dance Event for the first time?
Vato Gonzalez: If you came to party, check out the website of the Amsterdam Dance Event. It is amazing and everything that you need is literally on there. I am not being paid for this; it is a very good site. You can see where all the parties are. Buy yourself a subscription so that you can go to all the parties for free and go club hopping. If you are an artist, make sure that you have enough promotion material and make sure that it stands out. The weirder that you look, the more people will see you. Come here wearing a canoe, make yourself purple, look like smurf for all I care, I usually wear a snow hat. The point is that you need to get yourself out of the 99% that are not cutting it right now. You need to stand out among all the creative individuals and your music better be rocking.
RS: We now know you, Vato Gonzalez, what is another Dutch name that we should know that we don’t yet?
Vato Gonzalez: If you don’t know the name Hardwell, you should get to know it. You should also get to know Shermanology. They are singers, entertainers and DJs. They are brother and sister and originate from the West Indies like a lot of others in Holland. They have so much soul in their house sets. On one hand, they have soul and smoothness but on the other hand, they rock the house relentlessly. I have utmost respect for these guys; they are great people beyond the artist side of it. In the end, we are all humans.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Vato Gonzalez: Thank you. I never realized that it would be possible for a geezer, with a laptop in Holland to be able to reach out to you people. To everyone who has downloaded a song, or watched me on YouTube, thank you. You are making this Dutch, crazy, insane idiot quite happy and I will try to give you more of what you like.
RS: How can people reach you?
Vato Gonzalez: If you need me, I am always on Twitter. It is Twitter.com/VatoGonzalez otherwise; you can reach me on Facebook. The easiest way is through Twitter though because it is always in my pocket.
Interview conducted October 2011 at Amsterdam Dance Event.