Exclusive Interview with Crookers
Crookers has been making waves in the scene since the mid-2000’s when Francesco "Phra" Barbaglia (alongside since-departed producer Bot) started creating genre-bending music in Milan, Italy. Crookers combination of house music and hip-hop broke through big time in 2008, when their remix for Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite” began receiving serious airplay on radio stations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as in the clubs.
Fast forward to today, and Crookers is still at it, having just released his first LP in 4 years, 'Sixteen Chapel' (Ciao Records / Dim Mak). The album features beautiful compositions layered with eccentric sounds that have been a staple of Crooker’s songs since the act’s inception. Pick up 'Sixteen Chapel' on iTunes.
“With this record I tried to take a time machine into my past, into 2006, and project that moment into an alternative future, to re-conceive what directions my work would have taken in an alternative life," says Phra. "It is filled with collaborations because that is the Crookers way. The greatest thing about music is collaboration, especially when it is spontaneous and it arises from real admiration and respect.”
Elektro reached out to Phra to discuss his new album, how he was able to corral those guest spots and his thoughts on his upcoming tour of North America.
With the title of your new album called “Sixteen Chapel”, is that a reference to the famous Justin Bieber flub on “The Late Show with David Letterman” from years ago?
Crookers: Ha! No, actually. The most common error tourists make when visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome is by calling it the Sixteen Chapel — so it's a play on that.
The album was originally supposed to be released back in November of 2014. What caused the delay?
I was fortunate enough to have people in the music industry like it and want to license it — so it changed everything! Album drops very soon in the U.S. on Dim Mak.
There are a lot of eclectic sounds throughout the album. Would you care to clue us in on where some of these musical ideas came from?
These ideas actually came from old hard drives I stumbled across. They were actually earlier productions before Crookers. It was a real throwback — I loved them and kept grooving to them and decided I wanted to re-work the music in a more current way. I'm super happy to have found them. The tracks are very Crookers — I have to be
very careful knowing what sound is Crookers and what sound is Lucky Beard. The answer was clear in this case.
There are a few skits on this album, which is rare for the EDM scene. Is that an ode to your love of hip-hop, where albums do have skits in between songs?
They were the things I loved on the internet the most whilst writing this album. They're totally stupid but made me happy at the time.
There are also a good amount of guest spots on the album. How did those came about?
They all happened differently. For “I Just Can’t,” Jeremih and I had to work over email as our schedules kept conflicting. It was a super easy process — I’m hoping to sit down with him properly in the studio soon. With “Strokin’," TJR is a very close friend of mine — he sent me over a sick brass line one day and used Antwon’s vocal which was originally meant for “Heavy” on it — he’s an incredible rapper. “Dangerous” came about with Midnight when I met him in NY and we decided to book some studio time together. So yeah, it’s a mix bag really.
What made you decide to release it on your label, Ciao Records? Does this mean that all future releases will only be through Ciao Records as well?
I’ve been releasing my tracks on Ciao Records for the past year and a half or so. I wanted to have more control over them and my creative/artistic space.
How has the Crookers sound evolved from when the project first started?
I don't think my music has changed that drastically at all. Since day 1 of Crookers I've been very involved in production. The only change (for the better) is the overall process — I work 200x faster! It's also great not having to answer to anyone and being able to feel more free.
You are about to tour America pretty soon. Without giving too much away, what should fans expect when they come see you perform?
Expectations in general are bad, in my opinion, especially in sex. I don't want people to expect anything — you just have to enjoy the moment.
Are you looking forward to any shows in particular this go around?
It’s the first time in a while that I have done an extensive tour of North America. I’m looking forward to sharing the new record with everyone. I’m just so fortunate to be able to do this!
Are there any goals left for Crookers to accomplish?
My main goal after all these years would be find some time for me. It’s a weird answer but as much as I love my job, it doesn’t allow you to live ‘your’ life in a normal way (i.e. build a home, have kids, spend the weekend with your dog in the hills). I’m finding a way to do both touring and studio time whilst including some more ‘me’ time. It’s not easy but I’m trying!