Worthy Talks About Being a Dirtybird OG And The Comeback of House Music in iEDM Exclusive Interview
If you are into house music, you know Dirtybird. Even if you aren’t into house, you have probably heard of it thanks to internationally recognized producer Claude Von Stroke. But before Dirtybird was an international record label, it started as a crew in their early 20s throwing parties in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
One of the OGs of these Dirtybird parties in the park was Shaun Worthington Williams, known as Worthy. He grew up in D.C. and then later moved to NYC where he met Justin Martin. At 22, he moved to San Francisco because of Justin in search of a more vibrant scene.
Worthy began fully focusing on music after being let go from a job over a decade ago, and then had his breakthrough and signed some records, all while Dirtybird began to blow up. Ever since, he's been successfully producing music in his home studio and collaborating with artists and labels all over the world.
iEDM recently got to talk with Worthy about being a Dirtybird OG and talk about how it all started.
iEDM: You grew up on the East Coast and then moved to the West Coast when you were 22, can you tell me the difference in those two scenes?
Worthy: When I first moved out West, it was a whole different story. Everything was very laid back. Everything felt more free. We were doing our Dirtybird parties in the park. We were doing them like illegally and not getting hassled, but I feel like if we were in New York or D.C. that could never happen. We never would’ve gotten away with that.
Nowadays, I feel like the East Coast has gotten rejuvenated. It was vibrant when I was like 18-22 or something then I feel like it started dying off and the West was vibrant. But lately, I think the East Coast is super vibrant again. There's tons of stuff going on there, like lots of clubs in all the east coast cities that are super awesome that weren’t there before.
iEDM: You are one of the OGs of Dirtybird. How did it all begin?
Worthy: Christian Martin went and bought a sound system and that was pretty much it. I knew Justin from New York City; we went to school together and I moved out here because of him. They were bartending at this bar and we’d all go hang out there. One day Christian was like “well I bought this sound system, let’s throw some parties.”
We were inspired by this other crew called Sunset because they used to do that as well. We were like well we can do that too. We could get a sound system and throw some parties. The first one had like 30 people at it. In the end, we had like 2,000 people in the park.
When we were doing it back then, we were doing everything free. All the expenses were out of our pockets. Then we started doing some parties at some clubs to get some funds for our outdoor parties because they started being pretty expensive.
iEDM: Are there any specific parties that stand out in your head?
Worthy: There was the one where I felt like we sort of like broke to another level. It was a couple years into it and all of the sudden we had 1,000 people and it started a snowballing effect. Mark Zuckerberg was even at one of our parties back in the day. It was super crazy and it kept getting crazier and crazier. Still getting crazier.
iEDM: What’s your involvement with Dirtybird now?
Worthy: I took a step back and I’m just more of an artist now. I have my own label, Anabatic Records. I created that just to have another place for me to put out my own music. There is a separation between the parties and the Dirtybird Records label created by Claude. Claude took everything to the global scene. I started my record label so I have a place to experiment more and see how this music does in the world without having to box myself into somebody else’s sound.
iEDM: How do you define your sound?
Worthy: I'm a mix of house, techno, bass music, and sometimes break beats are in the sound I play. When I’m making music and playing music, I’m looking for fat low-ends and good grooves that people will get down to- music that I would get down to.
iEDM: House is starting to have a comeback, do you agree?
Worthy: Yeah, house has always been there, it’s like the base of everything. I feel like everybody is kinda like brought into EDM with dubstep, but it’s only so long until you want to find something more relaxed and not so over the top. I even came into it like that listening to jungle back in the day, very loud and more aggressive. Then I got into house, and these long progressions in songs are more enjoyable. You can dance for a lot longer and not tire yourself out all fast. You can go all night.
House is making a huge comeback and I think a lot of that has to do with Disclosure blowing up. It brought a lot of younger people back into listening to house and exploring that area. I don’t think that age was jumping into it that early until he exploded on the scene.
iEDM: Who are your biggest influences?
Worthy: Everyone in the original Dirtybird crew has influenced me a lot because we all pushed each other a lot in the beginning. Going to my old school roots, Sasha and John Digweed, LTJ Bukem, and Mark Farina. And still to this day.
iEDM: We’ve touched on East Coast / West Coast scene, but what about Detroit / Chicago where they claim house music?
Worthy: I play everywhere. Detroit is one of my favorite cities to play in. I try to go like twice a year to perform and I usually play like a 3 hour set there, which is amazing. It’s one of the only places I can do a consistent 3 hour sets. I get to really explore and bring out these different tracks I wouldn’t normally get to.
iEDM: I recently saw you play at Symbiosis, how was that?
Worthy: It was super amazing! I had the best set Friday night. I felt like I killed it and everyone afterwards was telling me how it was one of their favorite sets of the festival. I was really excited to be playing the time slot so I went into it and played the best set I can and came out happy.
iEDM: How do you go about planning your set?
Worthy: I go through the songs I have and I have a folder and say these are the songs I kinda want to play, but not sure about which way there were going to go. But these are cool songs that are going to work together well and for this crowd. Brittany, my wife, asked me to play this old track I haven’t played in a while, and I was like maybe I can play it and see if it work. Then I did end up playing it because I was like alright cool this song is going work right now perfectly.
iEDM: You also played a daytime set during the Atoll boat party, how does planning for that differ?
Worthy: I like to play more chilled out house music, more disco vibes for daytime parties. More straight pulled back house music, that’s the vibe I like to hear. Then nighttime I like the crazier stuff.
iEDM: You guys started putting on Dirtybird Campout, which has received great reviews. What can tell me about that?
Worthy: It’s crazy. Last year we went into it with the best hopes and all those hopes came true. Everyone was so into the idea of the festival bringing in the games that we all played at summer camp and I was amazed everyone was so into it. Everyone was really going around having their childhood summer camp experience with the music being part of it.
The other part that makes Dirtybird Campout really special is there’s a sense of like one-ness because there is only one stage. Everyone is in the same thing. Even when the games are going on, you can hear the music going on throughout the entire thing. It’s a special experience. The fans we have are amazing. They’re so dedicated to Dirtybird with all their flags and Dirtybird totems.
iEDM: You guys also do the Dirtybird BBQs, tell me about those.
Worthy: I did two of them this year; I did San Francisco and Detroit. They’re pretty fun; it’s just a daytime thing with same vibes as the Campout, amazing fans and fun music. Those are trying to bring back the vibes we had in the park. But it’s impossible to truly bring back the freedom we had in the park.
iEDM: When did that vibe change?
Worthy: When we stopped being able to do them in the park. It’s not that we wanted to stop, but the park came down on us. We were putting more and more money into do these parties and we really couldn’t afford to do it out of our pockets anymore, and the park didn’t want to work with us. A new person came in and was running the permits and she wasn’t into electronic music in the park. It started to be more people than we could handle. Then there was a hiatus for a bit and then we created the Dirtybird BBQ series and are bringing it back in a different way. We had the original crew that would be there, making it all happen.
iEDM: You’ve played festivals across the world from Coachella to festivals in Canada. What are your favorite festivals that you’ve played?
Worthy: Shambhala in Canada is pretty amazing. There’s something really special about that festival. Symbiosis has very similar vibes. Also Burning Man is an all time favorite, but that’s such a different experience. It’s not just about the music; it’s about the art.
iEDM: What do you have coming up?
Worthy: I have a Halloween show in LA, Dark Carnival and then one in San Francisco too, Ghost Ship. I have a new track coming up on Insomniac Records. I just signed some music to Exploited Records in Berlin. I put a new EP on my label recently called the Faded EP. I did it with a friend Nick Olivetti from Italy. I’m working on another EP and a winter tour as well.
Stay tuned for that winter tour in the works and like his Facebook here. Don’t miss a chance to see his fun, bass-driven experimental house music in a city near you.