Vato Gonzalez

Telling us like it is. A breath of fresh air for dance music…

You were born in the Dutch town of Spijkenisse which is twinned with the UK town of Thetford where the awful Dad’s Army TV series was filmed. Your home town however boasts not one, but three amazing DJ/producers as none other than Sied van Riel and Afrojack were born there. Did your paths cross growing up?

“Back in the day, I used to be quite a hip hop head, spending most of my days breakdancing and teaching the art of hip hop at a local youth centre. One of the students attending was Afrojack. Back in the day he was ‘just’ Nick and still taking his first steps into making music. Even before that I knew him, as he was in the same school as I was.”

So where does this rebellious streak come from? What was family life like growing up?

“I come from a very small and quite average family. My dad has been working all his life at a nearby processing plant and my mom took the role of housewife to perfection. I grew up without a lot of drama, money troubles or serious struggles. I was raised with a very strong feeling of what is right and wrong. Even as a toddler I refused to back down or shut up whenever the teacher had an unfair outburst of sudden ‘God Complex’ that is so typical of teachers in general. As far as I can recall, I’ve always been rebellious, never though without a justified cause. In every part of my life I’ve been battling against authority whether it was the police to the politics in the music industry. Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is usually in my luggage wherever I go. In my opinion it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to stand up and say what is right what is wrong.”

One minute you were heading off into the world of software engineering, the next graphic design before finally plumping for the world of dance music. Which artists/music styles got you into the groove in the first place?

“We are all spoon fed the same commercialised music from birth. So, my first encounter with ‘underground’ music was an eye opener to say the least. Dubbed from dubs, a mixtape found its way into my life. On that was the way you’d imagine a mixtape should be. A cassette, 30 minutes each side and tagged with permanent marker in the way old school graffiti writers used to. On it was ’88-’95 house music mixed by a local DJ. For the first time I heard music that sent shivers down my spine and made me want to move. I remember one song of that mixtape, it was a B side of The Prodigy’s “Fire” and ever since I’ve been a huge fan of The Prodigy. Their relentless and unforgiving raw sound combined with an unparalleled rebellious stage appearance serves as one of my biggest inspirations ’till today.”

Tell us about your infamous student parties – it must have been perfect to design all of the artwork, get access to everyone’s e mail addresses with your computer skills AND then rock the dancefloor…

“I’m kind of a workaholic so for me it was all just part of the job. I never took the time to step back for a minute and realize what was going on. When I’m on stage, I’m very theatrical and openly enjoy the roar of the masses, but when the show is over I’m kind of a hermit. Me, myself and I in my laboratory like a Dexter of sorts. In ‘hermit mode’ I just enjoy the work and find it satisfying to be able to realise that what you have in mind by means of your own two hands. Beyond the creation of those events, I always had a blast organizing everything and seeing the people enjoy something I had created. At the time we had no clue that what we were doing would one day be called ‘infamous’.”

Have you ever had a really crap job?

“I never felt remorseful about my days in the supermarket nor working as junior software engineer in a very dusty basement. The only job I really resented was washing cars when I was about 14. I guess that made me hate regular jobs so much I had to become creative.”

You once said “goodbye to the boring overproduced and politically overhyped records of the past! Hello to the thumping, rocking down low and dirty records of the future!” Who was that aimed at?

“The radio. The charts. The record stores that only gave me the boring lounge type of house music. The DJ’s that kept the real ‘heat’ as underground as possible. I got pissed off that the really good music wasn’t deemed proper at the time by the big DJ’s and the industry of the moment. I noticed that all the tracks that made people go from ‘enjoying the night’ to ‘going all out freaking ballistic’ had been labelled ‘not credible’ enough. For the club scene the focus was too much on the fame or underground-ness of the producer and for the industry it was mostly about keeping the money scheme healthy instead of what it should actually be about; the music.”.

Not a lot of people know this, but I am very good at…

“MC’ing. I’ve been MC’ing and writing lyrics for more than 15 years now with my inspiration coming from UK Garage and Dancehall. It has only been last year I ‘came out’ as an MC under the alter ego ‘Gova’. The tracks I produce, write and spit under this name aren’t meant for the clubs or charts, it’s just music I love to make because I love to make music. Most tracks are either very deep and honest or lyrically incredibly and unnecessarily complicated. I’ve got a thing for rhyme schemes that near the impossible. Beyond that I love to cook. The main ingredient of any dish is love and there is nothing I like more than those interesting home cooked meals made by many loving (grand)mothers worldwide. You know, the kind of cooking you’ll not find in a book. The kind of cooking just like the music I make; one big blend of everything with total disregard to the rules.”

What did you want to bring to the dancefloor with your whole Dirty House sound/brand?

“Energy and love. Whenever we perform live, we put our hearts into it. I can’t stand still when DJ’ing and anybody who has every seen me perform knows that I’m always franticly bouncing around behind the decks. We don’t just play the music, we celebrate the party together with the people. Not from our high horses, but on the same level. We DJ for the people, not for the credibility or the fashionistas in the crowd looking like angry housewives because we don’t play deep underground minimalistic tech.”

Some big remixes for some big artists about to be released, tell us more…

“I just did a remix for Taio Cruz’s new single ‘Troublemaker’, this was of course a huge honour to be a part of and I still don’t really realise the extend of this opportunity. But, before I had time to think about it I was already in the studio to remix songs by Rizzle Kicks, RD and The 2 Bears. Beyond the remixes, I’ve got a number of possible follow-ups to ‘Badman Riddim’ ready – we’re just looking for the right vocalist(s) to collaborate with.”

You are the biggest performers at festivals in Holland and beyond with your partner in crime MC Tjen – how did this collaboration kick off?

“Night. Southern Comfort. An abundance of it. A bike. A bicycle lane that turned out to be a bus lane. MC Tjen saving my ass from getting run over by the bus. After saving my life we became friends and when he told me he wanted to MC, I took him under my wing and taught him everything I knew. Ever since we’ve been rolling together. The chemistry we’ve got on stage and the trust in each other makes it a whole lot more fun to perform!”

If you change anything about yourself what would it be?

“Uhh…a little less hairy! They don’t call me Furbie for nothing! On the more serious tip, I’m actually quite happy with myself. This body isn’t perfect, but I like it. I’m comfortable with myself and not too occupied with the many flaws I’ve got. Beyond the flesh, when it comes to my mind, well that’s another story. It’s an odd mind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

What are the 10 tunes you are getting all dirty to at the moment?

Quintino & Sandro Silva – Epic

Benny Benassi – Cinema (Skrillex remix).

Avicii – Levels

Doctor P – Tetris

Duck Sauce – Big Bad Wolf

Deadmau5 – Raise your weapon (Noisia Remix)

Alex Kenji, Starkillers & Nadia Ali – Pressure (Alesso Remix)

Skrillex & Diplo – Amplifire

Bonsai Kat – Bla Bla (Original Mix)

Datsik – Firepower (Munchi Moombahcore remix)

You currently average over 350 shows per year (!!) – what have been some of the best gigs this year and which country (apart from Holland) give you the best reception?

“The Summer Festival in Antwerp in Belgium was totally off any chart ever. 10,000 people, crowdsurfing and people with endless energy! The Norwegian hospitality and after parties can be counted amongst the most legendary. The best country to be in next to The Netherlands must be Spain. Anything is possible there!”

Has your ‘sticking two fingers up to the world’ ever got you in trouble? Have you ever been arrested?

“Does a bear crap in the woods? Of course it has got me into a lot of trouble, but never beyond the point of no return. Once at a beach festival, I was escorted over the city border by the police after I was telling 2000 people to raise their middle fingers up at them. Perhaps I just might have been the one with the mic telling people “If you hate the little boys in blue as much as I do for closing down this wonderful evening because they feel a need to prove themselves. Raise the middle ones high!”. The party was legal, permit was given, but for no reason they decided to close it down early. I’m not hip to the mindstate of boys in blue on a powertrip. I’ve been at total war with one of the biggest companies in the dance industry. They took a brand-name that was properly registered and rightfully mine and calculated I would back-down after getting half a dozen lawyers on my behind. Instead, I took the whole situation public and waged a sort of David against Goliath type of total war. The situation got a little too hot for them and it ended in me getting what I wanted. In the fashion of ‘Law abiding citizen’, sometimes your need to get totally ‘Von Clausewitz’ on people in order to get what is rightfully yours.”

What DJs and producers have you looked up to over the years?

“Dr. Dre is one of my heroes. Coming from the gutter, putting his mind and heart into the music, standing up for his friends and companions and playing the corporate game like a boss. In the same manner, I greatly respect JME and his whole movement. I’m probably the only Dutch geezer with a “Boy better know” t-shirt. For me it’s not only about the music, but the whole 360 degrees of production, performance, marketing and distribution that I greatly respect.”

Who is the coolest person on your mobile phone?

“I would be tempted to say Pitbull, although my manger pushed me to call out his name! But in all honesty, I think the coolest person has got to be my mom. Yes, I said it. This most likely means my ghetto pass is revoked, but I’m still surprised to see her handling a mobile phone. She isn’t exactly Steve Jobs when it comes to handling gadgets, so I know how much effort she puts in every message.”

The world knows you now for ‘Badman Riddim’, your tune that has been through the mill for sour years, appearing in different formats before urban stars Foreign Beggars added their trademark rhymes over it and the song went Top 10 in the UK. Was the plan always to hit the charts with this Godzilla inspired tune? And where the fuck did those costumes come from in the video?!

“The costumes were imported from the 5th circle of hell, made to boil the guys from the Foreign Beggars in the blistering hot Spanish sun on the set. I  laughed my chops off on the set, but even though they were sweating like pigs they still handled it like pros! The track itself was made more than 5 years ago. I was still living at home at the time and made it on the computer my dad did his taxes on. No studio equipment or professional software whatsoever. Just me, some samples and a creative mind state. I never imagined the track being played in clubs or hitting the charts. I made it just for me. Just because I enjoy making it.”

What is the best record ever made?

“So many good records in every style. If you guys force me to choose one, it must be “The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up”. I’ve spent many nights bopping my way through mosh pits on that one.”

So we come back to yours after a club, what 10 Back To Mine tunes do you spin us?

Ky Mani Marley – New Heights

Joell Ortiz – Hiphop

Masta Ace – F.A.Y.

Lupe Fiasco – Kick Push

Matisyahu – King without a crowd (Live at Stubb’s)

Simple Simon & Sista Smurf – Boggling Queen

Flinke Namen – Wolken

Tracy Chapman – Fast car

Otis Redding – Dock of the bay

Queen Ifrica – Serve and Protect

What is your most prized possesion that you’ve still got from childhood?

“My sheep! Not a real one, but the little plush teddy bear I’ve had since the day I was born. It’s somewhere in a box, but I know I still got it. Beyond my rebellious streaks and stage insanity, I’m actually someone that finds joy in the small things. So much for my ‘Badman’ image, hahahaha! Oh well, I feel sorry for the guys having to act tough all the time to keep up appearances.”

What one song can’t you get out of your head at the moment?

“Infant Sorrow – Bangers, Beans & Mash from the ‘Get him to the Greek’ soundtrack. Don’t ask me why. Yes, I know what it means. Like I told you, don’t ask me why.”

2011 saw you launch your new ‘Crowd Control’ brand – what’s the story there…what can we expect?

“‘Crowd Control’ is the bigger and more mature brother to my ‘Dirty House’ brand. In ‘Dirty House’ I put my love for an eclectic mix of everything from Dutch house, Latin, Electro, Baltimore, Brazil funk to UK Funky. In ‘Crowd Control’, I’ve put the part of me that enjoys proper tech- and progressive house with a little dubstep towards the end of the night. It’s for those who want to go a little deeper than the obvious. We’ve got a series of releases scheduled for the last quarter of 2011 and on the 10th of December I host my own ‘Crowd Control’ night in one of the most prestigious clubs of the Netherlands; The Matrixx. On those nights, I play 4 hours nonstop to take my audience on a music rollercoaster ride.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Stop producing, you suck”, telling me I can’t do what I love to do makes me want to prove people wrong. It’s not the haters that inspired me, it’s the people that blatantly told me I couldn’t do what I’m doing today. Being underestimated with my back against the wall is the most comfortable position to be in as far as I’m concerned.”

What one artist dead or alive would you like to make music with?

“Dirrty Goodz on the vocals, Dr. Dre on the co-production and Nate Dogg on the chorus. If possible, a remix by Skrillex and The Artful Dodger and of course the B side with a dancehall version with Red Rat on the vocals and Damian Marley on the chorus.”

And finally, what is planned for 2012?

“Preparing for the end of the world, surviving it and then make the best selling post-armageddon album! This year, I did an extensive 2 months nonstop European Summer Tour in 6 countries. In 2012, I hope to do a World Tour and come up with 3 great follow ups to ‘Badman Riddim’ while serving the clubs with a series of tech house, electro and moombahton releases! But, most of all, I’m planning to enjoy every second of it!”