A few weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Dirtybird legend and founder of Anabatic Records, Sean Worthy. Over the last 10 years, Worthy’s bass-driven tech house music has been lighting up clubs and beaches all over the globe — so naturally the Mass Musings staff couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get him on the phone to hear more about his passion for music, his opinions on “the scene”, and his eye-opening personal experiences.

Born in Washington, D.C., Worthy relocated to San Francisco in 2001 to pursue his music career after being inspired by the late-90s American rave scene in New York City. In San Francisco, Worthy teamed up with Claude VonStroke, Christian Martin, and Justin Martin as one of the four original founders of the booty-shakin’ Dirtybird Party. This party was the basis for what is now well-known as the Dirtybird BBQ, and has increased dramatically in popularity over the past couple years.

While releasing hits like “Irst Te” in 2007 on Dirtybird Records, Worthy also founded his own record label in 2006 called Anabatic Records (formerly known as Katabatic Records). Since 2006, Worthy has released countless quality tracks on his record label including his wildly successful album, Disbehave. Recently, Worthy has released an album of Disbehave remixes that feature loads of artists including Yolanda Be Cool, Thugfucker, and Will Clarke. Worthy also released a new EP titled Rusty Hoe this month… so make sure you check it out!

How was the Dirtybird show at Mezzanine in San Francisco on Friday (April 24th)?

It was insane… like they always are. You know, you get a crazy line down the block now. I think it’s one of the only parties I’ve ever been to in San Francisco where there’s a giant line down the block before it starts.


You were one of the originators of the Dirtybird party, what’s it been like over the last two years to watch things explode in popularity?

It’s been pretty crazy. Everyone’s just loving it so much now in comparison to what it was five or six years ago when I was trying to push it. If he (Claude VonStroke) asked me 10 years ago if I thought it would be at this level, I wouldn’t believe it could be where it is now. It’s pretty insane how much people love Dirtybird. When I go out everyone is wearing Dirtybird clothing and chanting Dirtybird when I play places now. It’s insane.


It’s nuts how fast the tech house / Dirtybird vibe has taken over. In your opinion, do you think it’s the music? The scene? Or both coming together at the right time?

It definitely comes from the music. It’s fun party music, you know, somewhere in between the crazy EDM stuff and deep house. So, I think it’s a perfect middle ground for people to come to. I just think with dubstep and trap people were like, “WAAHHH in your face.”  And now they’re looking for something that is a little easier and more straightforward to dance to. You have a younger generation of people coming up and finding Dirtybird because it’s pleasing to the ears after hearing those crazy, crazy bass-like sounds for however many years they were into it. Then we’re also getting the house world into it. There’s definitely some crossover with some of the deeper tracks that have come out on Dirtybird. I just think it’s this perfect middle ground.

There’s also been a crazy resurgence of House music in the last four years. So, it’s been kind of amazing to see that blow up too for guys like Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, and Lee Foss.


I was wondering, Claude VonStroke mentioned in his recent Dirtybird 10 mix for BBC, “I like to think we have stayed consistent and managed to enjoy the ride. The players may change but the theme stays the same; keep it fun and funky.” If you go back and listen to House music from 10 years ago, it was basically the same. So, what do you think has changed about the American music listener that’s drawing more people to house?

It’s hard to say what has changed in the American mindset. I always felt like it would take hold like it did over in Europe for a long time. I guess it was just that pop music started taking their sound from what was going on in Electronic music. Like Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas started seeing what was going on with Electronic music and suddenly people were more open to it because they were hearing what was going on in that genre. They were getting introduced to the groove through popular music, but then you start growing up and digging deeper and trying to find something different.

I also think it has a lot to do with the festivals. All of sudden there been a huge surge of giant festivals and people really wanting to go and see these acts. As a result, they’re getting introduced to a lot of artists that way.


It’s true, that’s how I originally got into it 5 years ago. I like festivals because you really get the feel for the vibe of an artist and get to appreciate them in an unfiltered environment. What’s it like, as an artist, to play a festival versus a club?

It’s a little bit different. When I play a festival I’m really trying to bang it out, go a little bit harder, and a little bit crazier than normal. You know, that’s what people are looking for, but obviously still (spinning tracks) within what I play. Nothing super over the top, but if I was playing in a club I’d bring it up a little bit slower and then get into those (heavy) tracks a little bit deeper into the set. But at a festival, if I’m playing for an hour, or an hour and a half, I really try to bring it. It’s a different mindset, in a club you really have to take people on more of a journey because they’re there for a long time. They’re coming to see you! At a festival, they can be like, “I’ll just go over there and see someone else,” they can bounce around. So for me, I just want to try and grab them and keep them there as long as I can. It’s my time.


Going off of the idea that you’re targeting your listener differently at a festival versus a club, I read that you used to try and plan out your sets but then you found that wasn’t the best way to interact with the audience. Do you find that most DJs try to plan out their set? Or that most play off-the-cuff?

I think that most of the Dirtybird guys, we’re playing a little more off-the-cuff. We’re not really planning out our sets, but there’s certain mixes that I’ve found that really work. I’ve talked to Justin (Martin) about it and he’s the same way. You play a certain mix all the time, but everything else isn’t the same. There’s certain areas where I’m like, “Okay, these two or three tracks, if I put them together they’re just gonna fucking destroy.” So, you kinda have those mixes up your sleeve so you can go to them at any time. For me, (between these mixes) I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to play. I’ve got a bunch of new tracks so I’ve always got new songs that I’m trying to play every week. Some of them will end up staying in my sets for months or up to a year… and sometimes they won’t. My sets are always changing and developing.

I have to think about the audience I’m playing to as well. Like this weekend, I went from playing at the Dirtybird party which is really bassy, crazy music… And the next night I was playing a small festival in Mexico with maybe 500 – 1,000 people. It was a super intimate crowd where everybody is pretty twisted in the middle of the night. For that, I’m playing super-heady (tracks), you know, a little more druggy music for everybody. If you would say…


What are your 3 favorite clubs to play in America?

Yeah, Mezzanine would definitely be ranked number one. That’s where we did the Dirtybird parties.I mean, the sound system there is amazing, and the crowd gets (extra-)amazing.

I’d say Exchange in LA has quickly become a favorite of mine to play. It’s a really cool. It’s a really cool looking venue. That screen, just the layout, the open rooms. It’s just really cool to play there. 

I dunno, the last one is a toss-up between “U Hall” (U Street Music Hall) in DC and Verboten in Brooklyn, New York.


Cool. I haven’t been to Verboten, but I was at Output last weekend in Brooklyn. Have you played there ever?

No, I still haven’t played there. I haven’t ever been in it yet. Everyone talks wonders about how amazing Output is too.


Speaking of Output I recently saw Eats Everything in The Panther Room. Three years ago you co-produced a track with him called “Tric Trac” which was recently featured on the DB10 mix — what was it like working with him, he seems like a fun guy? What do you find rewarding about working with other producers who seem to have so much fun?

It was really fun working in the studio with him. We actually worked together a couple of times and made a couple of different tracks, but that was the one that was the best. You know, working with other producers you learn some new techniques especially when you get in the studio. It’s good there’s someone there to give you guidance. It opens new possibilities. Just seeing the ways that other people do percussion, little tricks and techniques you pick up here and there that make you a better producer in the end.

And also, it’s really nice working with someone else because they give you confidence in what your ideas are, and suggest their own. Whereas if I’m sitting in the studio by myself, I’m second guessing if that’s the right way that a track should go. But with someone else, you have that other mind there saying, “Yeah, that’s good” or they give you criticism in a way that backs you up. You know, “I think it’s good, but…” when every other person may just say, “Yeah, it’s good.” And there’s no doubt that working with someone else, you make a track way faster.


Do you know when your tracks are going to be good? Or is it totally random?

Oh, I never know. I’ll work really hard on a track and put it out and then no one will like it. Then I’ll throw something out there for free… and people will be going ape shit over it.


What inspires you?

I’d say just putting out for people. Just those moments when you’re playing for an amazing crowd and you’re just, in the zone. For me, it’s one of the best feelings. That’s when I know I’m doing the right thing and I’m going down the right track… And I just breed insanity in people, there’s nothing else like it. That really just keeps me going. It keeps me focused on what I have to do. When I play a bunch of gigs, it inspires me to get in the studio and make a new track. (After a tour) I just want to make something else crazy for people to latch onto.

Without the listener, there’s no reason for any of us to be doing it. If other people aren’t into it, well… you want people to love your music and when you’re getting that reaction back from people… it definitely makes you happy too. In the moment it’s awesome when people are totally digging your track. And then it’s time to make another one.


Let’s talk about Anabatic Records. Resident Advisor says that Anabatic has, “allowed (you) to be a bit more experimental with (your) production, and expand (your) reach as an artist”. How has it been? What’s it like to control your own destiny?

Yeah, it’s nice. Running a label is a lot of work. It’s really fun finding new artists, but there’s a lot of aspects to doing a label. Also, creating music, doing all these other things… but, you know, I’ve really enjoyed doing all the work that I’ve done with the label. Putting an album out, putting tracks out with other artists. It’s rewarding. It’s also building my artist career in a different way. Trying to build up a label (haha), not just myself. It’s an underground label, more underground than Dirtybird is.


What should a listener expect out of an Anabatic Records track?

You know we’re 4/4. Some breakbeats in there. I’m always just trying to make something that I would play. It’s hard to say that it’s going to be like this, or like that. It could be a little deeper, or maybe a little crazier, but I’m just looking for quality in the music that I put out.


I must say, I really enjoyed Yolanda Be Cool’s remix of “Handle It” – what’s it like having a bunch of artists remix your whole album?

It was amazing to have all those people do my remixes. It was really fun that them all do it, but it was also a bit of headache working with that many people at the same time. Trying to make sure that everyone is happy and that everyone’s remixes were (something). There were 18 different artists, so that was a lot of people to work with. It was definitely one of the craziest things I’ve done on the label, for sure.

Just to have all of the guys who I completely respect doing remixes of my music. It’s very humbling for me that I could get all of those people to do it.


What are you grooving to right now?

Just some of the guys on the label. Eyes Everywhere, out of Buffalo. I really enjoy the music he’s been putting out lately. Will Clarke, his stuff is killin’ it. ADMN, his stuff is next level for me.


You’re coming to Boston with Christian Martin on May 2nd (Prime Nightclub) – have you been to Boston before? What should we expect from a Christian Martin and Worthy show?

Yeah, I think that this is my third time playing Prime. I’ve been there a couple times before that. You’ll hear some pretty crazy bass rumbles in there. Just some fun music. It’ll be a fun night. We play a lot together, so we usually are pretty good going back and forth with each other. Christian is pretty experimental. There will always be like, this crazy pig sound, and oh…it’s a Christian Martin track. What is that? That thing is crazy sounding. But he plays some amazing sets and he’s a get DJ.


Anything (shows/tracks/etc.) coming up that you’re excited about?

I have a new EP coming out on Anabatic called the Rusty Hoe EP. Finally get some new material out. I’m working on a collaboration with Yolanda Be Cool. Right now I’m just trying to get back in the studio and make some new stuff for the Fall. Maybe find another track to do a bootleg of… I haven’t found anything to really get my juices flowing yet. But I’ll keep looking.


Enough grilling you on music stuff… Where’d you get this jacket?

Well… the jacket’s from the 90s originally. We were doing this photoshoot and we were looking for crazy clothes. One of my friends took me to this crazy consignment place with all this old Hip Hop gear. And that was one of the jackets, so I was like, “Yeah, I’m buying it.” It definitely looks like it’s from the late-90s or something.


Also, what’s up the gold chains? Is that a recent wardrobe addition?…Or are you just more OG than I thought?

It was a look for a second. One of my friends, who’s pretty eccentric, threw those on my at a Dirtybird show a couple years ago. So, I started rockin’ ‘em for a while. They’re fun to wear. It’s funny and super over-the-top. I haven’t rocked them in a second, but I think I’ll try to bring them back.


What’s the craziest thing a fan has said to you? Or the craziest thing you’ve heard at a show?

There’s a few times where people have been having sex at my sets. At Mezzanine I got in the backstage afterwards and everyone was telling me this couple was going at it during my set. Another time I was playing down in LA and there was another couple, pretty high on drugs, they climbed underneath the scaffolding of the stage and started getting it on. They got caught too. So yeah, I guess I’m playing some baby-making music in the club.


And finally… would you rather — be a giant hamster, or a tiny rhino?

A giant hamster. You’ll still probably get a lot of love if you’re a tiny rhino. But I’m leaning towards the hamster.


Thank you so much to Worthy and his team for taking the time to interview with us. As always, his show at Prime was excellent and we can’t wait to catch him again soon! Make sure you listen to Worthy’s new Rusty Hoe EP and check out his other tracks on Beatport and SoundCloud!

*all images provided by Worthy

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