Describe yourself using three words.
Where’s my monkey?
How did you get started in the music industry?
Around the time my beard first reared its furry head, I came across a mixtape. It contained ‘The Prodigy – Fire” and I immediately started a one-man-moshpit in my bedroom. Up until that moment, I had only encountered mainstream music and these overly aggressive sounds were completely alien to me. Something just snapped in me, like this was what I had been unconsciously looking for all my life. Ever since, I’ve been making music and trying to mold all of my emotion into sound. When I found out the industry wasn’t too keen on my kind of hyperactivity on record (whilst the crowd loved it), I decided to start up my own label in order to release it. I wasn’t about to let the opinion of a multi-billion dollar established industry change what I felt was right.
We understand your full name is Björn Franken, and your artist name is Vato Gonzalez. How did you come up with that identity? Is there any story behind it?
Around the same time I started to produce music, I saw a movie “Blood in, Blood out” about Hispanic gangsters called ‘Vatos Locos’. When I was 13, I had a head full of hormones and I obviously immediately related to that life, as it was everything I’m not and everything my parents hated. It wasn’t long before I got the nickname ‘Vato’ for watching that movie over and over again with my friends. When my productions started to get noticed, I needed a name, so it became ‘DJ Vato’. After a while I found out it sounded more like a brand of dishwasher detergent. After a few promoters started calling me ‘Speedy Gonzalez’, because I just can’t stand still while mixing like a maniac, I decided to combine the two names to form ‘Vato Gonzalez’. People in the Netherlands have always had a soft spot for anything even remotely Latin, so the foreign name immediately took off.
Your big break came in 2007, when you unleashed the first “Dirty House” mix tape to the public. How did you come up with starting this series, and how did it affect you getting recognition?
I wanted to make a mixtape that would make sense to the crowd. Mix the sounds in an ultra fast blend like hiphop, hosted like it was UK garage, using classic acapellas on top and containing only tracks that I really liked. Basically, at the time it was everything that was ‘not credible’ and the mixtapes were frowned upon by the established names. I’m glad I never took the industry in high regard, as these mixtapes soon started to spread like wildfire amongst the public. So, my name started popping up everywhere without having a single production out on a decent label. This lead to a lot of gigs, so in a way the mixtapes were the absolute start of my professional career as a DJ.
How would you describe your style of music?
Rocking your socks off is essentially the bottom line. I don’t see music in genres or styles, it’s all just music and only people in the industry feel the need to specify it in categories in order to make sense of it from a business point of view. The crowd on the other hand couldn’t care less about specific genres and just goes out clubbing to have a good time. I think more like a raver in that sense, so I play and produce a variety of styles with EDM as a main course. I’d be really unhappy if I could only produce one genre. It would bore me after a while. No two events are the same; sometimes you can catch me wrecking the venue with deep house, sometimes with moombahton and most of the times with just bigroom EDM. Don’t be surprised if you find me bouncing around like a muppet, whilst playing the dirtiest drum and bass ever invented. Before I go on stage, I tend to stand backstage for a few minutes analyzing the crowd and deciding what the best angle is to get the crowd going wild. Eyes are far more important than ears as the promoter didn’t hire me to go on an ego trip and play only my latest releases, but to set the floor on fire by any means possible within the range of music I want to play. Audiences that know me are used to the fact that my sets can contain anything, but will always be energetic and connecting to their vibe. That’s why next to EDM, I also produce a variety of styles so that even when I’m shifting to a different genre, it’s still going to be authentic Vato Gonzalez you hear.
What is one of the strangest samples that you have ever used?
Using 1958’s “Screamin Jay Hawkins – Put a spell on you” was a pretty strange one to fool around with in the studio, yet it wasn’t as unusual as the track I’m working on right now. It samples an ’90s dot-matrix printer and that works like a charm in the club.
What are you working on right now?
My collaboration with Afrojack, currently called ‘Gaza Riddim’, a collaboration with DJ Fresh, my upcoming single with Wiley, J2K and Chrom3, 3 new Vato riddims and an EP with Lady Bee.
If you had to be stranded on an island with one thing and one person: who and what would it be?
Charlize Theron and a machete. I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel in order to make a fire and if that doesn’t help, at least I’ve got an awesome view while dying.
What’s your favorite quote or saying, and why?
“Rock hard or die trying”. I’ve got a goal in life and am willing to work as hard I as possibly can to reach it. If that means dropping dead from a heart attack while I’m on stage, you can rest assured I died doing what I love most.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
In a private jet, flying across the planet, performing on my own Dirty House stages all over the world and helping those who helped me reach their goals in the process. Having a worldwide #1 hit record under my belt that will be described as “The loudest and most insane track to have ever entered the charts”. But, that’s just the business side of life; most of all I’d see my self just being happy. Whether that’s with my cat on the couch with Charlize Theron doing the dishes or rampaging TomorrowWorld main stage, happiness isn’t for sale.
Anything else you would like to share with us, feel free to do so now.
If you’re getting kind of curious what this Dirty House thing really is and what Vato is all about, check out Dirty House Mixtape 8, and follow me on facebook.I hope to see you all one day at a show so we can share some energy and forget about this wretched world for a night!