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Claude VonStroke, Mija & More Holy Ship Veteran DJs Share Wildest Memories
Hold on to your captain hats, Shipfam, Holy Ship is about to set sail from beautiful Cape Canaveral, Fla., on its annual voyage to the Caribbean for two more back-to-back weeks of absolute madness. In 2019, Holy Ship celebrates its 12th and 13th sailings, and while there are a few new faces, we all know it’s about those returning favorites.
Veterans are important to the Shipfam community, because they help virgins get their sea legs, and veteran DJs, like Claude VonStroke, 12th Planet and Mija, know what they’re in for, which means they’ve planned these sets to be extra special and are fully prepared to go absolutely wild. Some of the best music of their careers was actually born on Ships of the past.
Holy Ship 12.0 and 13.0 set sail Saturday to Wednesday, Jan. 5 to 9, and Wednesday to Saturday, Jan. 9 to 12, respectively. The first sailing is sold out, but you can still hop aboard the second sailing. Check the website for details.
In honor of the premiere sea-fairing experience, we catch up with some of Holy Ship’s favorite returning acts to hear of their most cherished, if often blurry, Holy Ship memories.
In a moment of drunken madness of the Spice H2O stage, I had a chat about a beat I was hoping to get a vocal on from Green Velvet. I mentioned it to him whilst he was drunkenly swaying from side to side, wearing a Mr. Incredible superhero outfit, and he said, “I have an idea, let’s record it now.” I ran over to my cabin to get everything set up, while my team tried to get him to the cabin (a very hard task that took detours via the food court and an impromptu piano duet with Mr. Carmack). We got in the cabin, talked shit for 10 minutes, then cut the vocal in 15 seconds. That ended up being what you heard on our track “Deceiver.” Here’s some footage taken right after we cut the vocal and listened back to it for the first time. Ten minutes after this, I went to do my B2B set with Chris Lorenzo, which was the launchpad for us starting our Anti Up project. It was a very busy hour.
The amount of debauchery that occurs on Holy Ship is unprecedented and often (due to the high level of alcohol consumption) forgotten. However, on last year’s ship, I found myself in a uniquely magical situation. It began on day three. I woke up at 5:00 p.m., dying of a hangover, and running late for the group signing/meet and greet. Thanks to my shipmate’s moral support and a very dark pair of sunglasses, I survived the full 2.5 hours of meeting and greeting each Shipfam attendee with a smile (sans voice). After the meet/greet was over, I raced back to my suite to continue dying in private, while preparing for what was supposed to be a legendary DnB/Jungle set with my friend Gina Turner. Unfortunately Gina did not make it onto the ship (RIP) and because of this, my expectations were incredibly low. In the midst of my serotonin-depleted pity party, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “No one is going to show up. Nobody cares. Everything is terrible,” over and over again, but I had a job to do. I was adamant about putting on the best show that I possibly could, even if I had to do it alone. So a few hours passed by (or like, 10 hours, but who’s counting) and finally it was time. I walked to the stage around 3:00 a.m., and began setting up my SD cards. As expected, very few people occupied this room, validating my low expectations. As soon as I began DJing to all 10 people, I started to let loose and enjoy myself. About 15 minutes later, I turned around, and to my surprise, I found a wild Craze jamming behind me, alongside a random tall guy. I decided to kick up the tempo and go in a bit harder. I went with Noisia‘s remix of “Divide and Conquer.” Right when the intro kicked in, the random tall dude came up behind me and excitedly gave me a high five. That’s when it hit me — this random tall dude was Thijs of Noisia. “FUCK,” I thought to myself, trying hard not to fangirl all over the place. So Craze and Thijs jumped into the set and became a low key B2B. Soon after, more friends began to show up; Soul Clap, Redlight, Claude Vonstroke, Justin Martin, AC Slater, and everyone wanted a piece of the action. There was probably just as many DJs behind the decks as there were people in attendance, but the energy that flooded the room left no empty space. Each song getting crazier than the last; back slaps and cheers crying out every time someone dropped the next track. I probably only played five records in total once the B2B picked up. There were just too many legends at the decks, all nostalgically thriving off of each other’s selections. I can honestly say that I had never felt this level of energy and synergy in my entire existence as a DJ. For those few hours, we got to experience something that felt magical, honest, and really fucking fun. Come 5:00 a.m., the sound guys finally kicked us off, despite our hunger to keep going. We amicably shuffled out of the room, still high off the vibe, and headed straight to artist lounge where we kept the jungle flowing until the sun came up.
The most interesting part of Holy Ship to me is the mixing of genres. Even though I’m a house DJ, I have played with and made friends with some of the most unlikely characters. I have played B2B with Tiesto, Diplo, and Skrillex. I have hung out with DJ Mustard, Ty Dolla $ign and even met Pharrell. Last year, Jauz and Snails and I all played the most unexpected deep house set in the Theater. I’ve played jungle with Mija, Noisia and Redlight. I’ve played hip hop with A-Trak and Too Short. I’ve hung out with everyone from Coyu to Fatboy Slim. This is the only event where (if you dare to go a little bit out of your zone) you can end up having some really amazing experiences. The most important thing I’ve learned is that everyone is a musician at heart. A lot of really underground acts assume that the more commercial acts are manufactured or fake, but I assure you that for the most part, everyone really loves the music they produce. Even though it might not be your taste, it doesn’t mean they aren’t cool people. Keep an open mind, and you can have a great time.
One of the coolest things about Holy Ship to me was all the impromptu back to back sets that happened, and that I got to be a part of. These are sets that would only happen in this type of situation where artists are just hanging and having fun with nowhere to be. We threw a scotch and cigar party one of the days. We hadn’t put much thought into it apart from securing the cigars, scotch and smoking jackets, and when we arrived, we realized there was no music or sound system. With all the people there, it had a lot of potential to be turned up a notch, so we quickly ran around and set up some CDJs and speakers. We ended up playing a B2B set with Gorgon City and Diplo, which was one of the highlights of the Ship for me, and I think a memory the fans won’t forget either. Another interesting one was when I was wandering around the Ship one evening, and I stumbled into a theater where, minutes earlier, Dillon Francis was scheduled to play but had to cancel because somebody had spilled a drink onto his laptop when he started. Flosstradamus was trying to save the show and called up a few people that were on stage to play, me being one of them. It ended up being a back-to-back with myself, Floss, Skream, and Disclosure. I remember Skream on the mic listing off the artists and saying, “You’ll never see this again.” A-once-in a-lifetime experience for those that were there. Not saying it was a spectacular set (I have no memory of what we played), but those kind of things are what make Holy Ship a special experience.
Holy Ship is one of those festivals that brings you and the people around you closer. (You’re thousands of people stuck on a ship for a few days…what else is there to do?) You’re bound to run into other artists, friends, managers and fans as you walk through the long, maze-like hallways aboard the ship. One memory that stuck with me, and what really defines the ability that Holy Ship allows an artist to make with their fans, was when I was walking through one of those cabin hallways last year. I walked by a fan, and they made some awkward eye contact. I had no idea if they knew who I was, so I kept walking. Then I heard the footsteps stop, and the person turned around and asked if I was who they thought I was. I said yes, and they immediately starting crying (I never know what to do in these situations). It turns out they were a big fan of my music for years, and that my music’s helped them through a lot of hard times in their life. It was a touching moment, because it was at that moment I realized why Holy Ship is such a special festival — the barrier between fans and artists is broken down to a point where I was even starstruck around some of the artists playing. It made me realize that everyone, including artists, are just human beings who want to enjoy and celebrate good music.
After so many awesome years in the scene, when I reflect back, Holy Ship always stands out as one of my most fun and rewarding experiences. There are lots of stories I could tell, but the one that stands out the most is the night when I was hanging out with Justin Martin, Fisher and Chris Lake. Chris Lake had given me one of his instrumental tracks, and right there in the middle of the ocean, some lyrics came into my head. So I went to Chris and said, “I have the words to the track you gave me. Is there a place we can go to record it?” Chris said yes, and we went to his cabin, and one of the biggest tracks of the year was born — “Deceiver.”
I remember one time on Holy Ship, I was hanging out with Snails and Kill The Noise we had all finished our sets and wanted to get into some debauchery. I can’t remember how we got to this point, but Snails threw me on top of the bar table while everyone sang “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The room was a hazy fractal of good vibes and good people truly living in the moment, forgetting about all of the daily struggles in the real world, fully disconnecting from the past or the future and just being there. I have a very blurry memory of reaching for another patron’s drink while I was still on the bar and them giving me a look that said “only because we’re in the middle of the ocean.” I have said for a long time that Holy Ship is one of my absolute favorite events, and there’s so many stories I wish I could tell, but were gonna keep it PG-13 for now. I can’t wait for my third trip on the boat. It’s never short of unforgettable.
Walker & Royce
Last year, there was suppose to be a Dirtybird party earlier in the day on a private island, but when we got up to go, it was so windy that the party got postponed. Justin Jay was supposed to play first, but went back to sleep once he found out it was postponed. They finally decided to have the party on the boat much later in the day, but Justin Jay was nowhere to be found and eventually missed his set. It wasn’t his fault. He was just never told the correct time to play. Catz n Dogz played in his place, and the whole time, Justin Martin kept getting on the mic and yelling, “Justin Jay everybody! Give it up for Justin Jay!” Later that day, we were walking around the ship with Justin Jay and people kept stopping him to tell him how great his set was. He’s the nicest guy in the world and just kept explaining to everyone that it wasn’t him and that he was really sorry. We couldn’t stop laughing about it.
For me, Ship is always a surreal time. The amount of memories I have all turn in to one big blur. However, I can say there have been a few moments that were pretty magical. When we were on MSC Divina, I was playing in a small room. I invited Shiba San, Justin Jay, Christian Martin and Ardie to come play B2B with me. I was expecting no one to turn up. I was wrong. This room was slammed, people were crowd surfing and getting loose. That was actually my first Ship, so a good intro. On last year’s Ship, I held a live barbershop with MK, Born Dirty, Chris Lake and Walker & Royce where we were all just talking shit and playing records, whilst Mika (Born Dirty) was giving people hair cuts. Was nuts.
A cool memory I have from Holy Ship actually happened last ship. Valentino Khan and I were walking through the crowd, and I noticed this guy dressed up as Ric Flair. I pulled him off to the side and cut him a Ric Flair promo, and he was impressed. It was the one that went ,“You’re talking to the Rolex wearing, diamond ring wearing, jet flying, limousine riding, girl stealin’, wheel and dealin’ son of a gun!” After I cut the promo, I bought the guy a shot and told him how cool he was for dressing up as Ric Flair for Holy Ship. I don’t think he knew who I was at the time, but he sure did immediately after I started to play my second set in the Dubstep Dungeon. While I was playing, I noticed that Valentino had on the WWE title, and I was like, “WTF!” The guy that dressed up like Ric Flair ended up realizing who we were, freaked out and offered us his Rolex and WWE title and we were like, “Holy shit, this is awesome!”
On the last night of 2016, a time slot in the theater opened up from 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., so I came up with an insane idea to do the biggest most epic B2B the Holy Ship had ever seen. I asked the Holy Ship guys if I could do it, and they were more than happy to let me. So, I got all of my friends to come and we did this epic B2B2B2B2B2B2B with Flosstradamus, Tommy Trash, Slumberjack, Peking Duck, Valentino Khan, GTA, 12th Planet, Wax Motif and maybe a few others — it was just so crazy. I became, like, a conductor of the music, making sure it never stopped, and keeping this nine-DJ party going. That night was truly one of my favorite times out of like the other million fantastic memories. I wish I had a video of it, but luckily, Valentino Khan got one.
It’s hard to pick just one memorable moment, because to be honest, I don’t remember many of them. One of the many reasons I love this party is because it’s so unlike anything else. Showing up to the ship is like coming to your first day of school, because I get to see all my friends again in one place and finding our cabins is like getting seat assignments in class. From the beach party to late night room hangs, being with friends and meeting new people is what I look forward to every year. Every ship awaits a new adventure.