“I did it my way”, famous words by legendary singer Frank Sinatra, and apparently also the driving force behind Dutch DJ/producer Vato Gonzalez’ success story to date. Widely recognized as the originator of the ‘Dirty House’ genre/movement in his home country and internationally renowned for his ‘Badman Riddim’ anthem, the 28-year-old music enthusiast has already won thousands of fans with his immensely energetic stage presence, rather rebellious attitude and by generally doing things his way. So who is this kid, who appears to be the poster boy for DIY artists, building his empire with his own two hands and a rather insane furry ear flap hat? What drives a lad to wake up, look at the music industry with disregard for the way things have been going for years, raise one eyebrow and say: “To hell with it!”
Born and raised in Spijkenisse, a small town generally hidden from sight by the thick smog of Rotterdam’s industrial zone, Vato Gonzalez spent most of his teenage days hanging around the block, messing up his eardrums by listening to UK garage, hip hop and dance hall. He used his college years to discover whether or not he wanted to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or become a world famous graphic designer like Paul Rand. In the end, he decided on ‘none of the above’, but not before he put his acquired knowledge to good use with slightly evil intentions. Tapping into the university’s student database, he started promoting his own party, which quickly turned into one of the most popular student nights out. These days, he is still a part-time software engineer and designs all the artwork for his own events, in between gigs and studio time.
Earning his stripes in clubland by gigging relentlessly for almost a decade, Vato Gonzalez gets his big break in 2007, when he decides to unleash the first ‘Dirty House’ mixtape to the public. The fast-paced mixed first mixtape proves to be an instant hit with the crowd and spreads like wildfire all over the internet, resulting in more than 150.000 downloads. When asked what ‘Dirty House’ actually is, Vato Gonzalez states: ”Whether your kid brother or the biggest super producer in the World has produced the record, I could care less. Genres do not apply, whether it’s tech-house, progressive, Brasil Funk, Baltimore club or electro, as long as the tune has that essential energy to rock my socks! 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, which give punters their money’s worth when they go out clubbing.” Quickly after the launch of the first mixtape, he starts with ‘Dirty House’ events and as the brand/genre grows, he keeps selling out clubs with his ‘Dirty House’ concept, starts hosting ‘Dirty House’ areas at massive events and as a result, he becomes one of the main festival attractions in Holland himself. Around this time, he also hooks up with his sidekick & partner in crime, MC Tjen, with whom he soon becomes one of the most lethal DJ/MC combos in Holland, tearing the roof of many clubs with their unparalleled energy and nonstop hype during their performances. Fed up with the state of the industry at large, he also decides to set up his own booking agency, ‘010 Bookings’, ‘Dirty House’ record label and ‘Dirty House’ publishing arm, to become completely independent. As demand keeps growing for ‘Dirty House’, he rolls out four additional mixtapes within the next 3 years, amassing well over half a million downloads together. In retrospect, Vato Gonzalez comments: “There was no masterplan behind launching the ‘Dirty House’ brand. We just felt people were looking for something hot and exciting and were tired of hearing the same old, dull records in clubs. With the mixtapes & events we brought the hype back and gave the crowd a voice! We just ran with it and it took off in a big way, way beyond our expectations.” Currently averaging over 350 shows per year, his schedule takes him all over Europe (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Hungary) and he’s ready to add a few more continents in the near future.
Fast forward to 2010: ‘Badman Riddim’, a tune Vato Gonzalez produced three years earlier, starts buzzing in the UK. While gradually notching up over 2 million YouTube views, the song finds its way to some key UK tastemaker DJs through amazing DIY promotion vehicles like Yousendit, Mediafire & Zippyshare, which are hated by the anti-piracy lobby, yet loved by DIY artists such as ‘Dirty House’ bastard Vato Gonzalez. Soon after, ‘Badman Riddim’ pops up in specialist shows on BBC Radio 1 and gets snatched up by the mighty Levels Recordings/Ministry of Sound, who turn the Godzilla inspired tune into the actual monster that slowly, but surely creeps up to people. As a result, ‘Badman Riddim’ quickly becomes one of the biggest instrumental club tracks of 2010, winning over the likes of Annie Mac, Zane Lowe, Annie Nightingale, Pete Tong, MistaJam and Toddla T at BBC Radio 1, while also being championed in the clubs by a very wide selection of DJs, including the likes of Crookers, Chuckie, Skream, Tiësto, Grandmaster Flash, Congorock, Roger Sanchez, DJ Fresh, Erick Morillo, Benga, Avicii, Zinc, and Jaguar Skills, to name but a few. As the record keeps gaining momentum, UK urban heavyweights Foreign Beggars jump on board and add their trademark rhymes, which combined with Vato Gonzalez’ killer hook and phat bassline, quickly becomes one of the biggest summer anthems of 2011.
What’s up next, you might wonder? Early 2011, Vato Gonzalez launches his brand new event concept and record label ‘Crowd Control’, which he also plans to tour the world with and use as an imprint to release some of his own releases and music by like-minded artists. ‘Crowd Control’ can be considered the big room and more tech-house, progressive brother of ‘Dirty House’, showcasing how Vato’s sound has matured the last few years. But, he is not about to leave his ‘Dirty House’ roots behind though; in true Vato fashion he states: “I don’t do ‘and/or’, I do ‘and/and’. Just like one does not only favor one type of food, I don’t favor just one kind of music.” Much like the past ten years, most would consider his philosophy quite impossible, if not sheer madness; but if he had listened to everyone saying he couldn’t, then you wouldn’t be reading this biography at present.
With forthcoming releases and remixes on labels such as Southern Fried, Sony Music, Universal, Ministry of Sound and some heavy collaborations in the pipeline, 2011 is looking like a monster year for this ‘Dirty House’ bastard!