Chromeo - Business As Usual Interview
An Arab, a Jew and a synthesizer all walk into a bar...No, it's not some cheesy dad joke, but the makings of a band that has taken the music scene by storm. Welcome to Chromeo. The brainchild of David 1 (David Macklovitch aka A-Trak's big bro) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel to his moms), Chromeo has electrified fans with their updated take on the New Wave game, winning the hearts of hot chicks and geeky fellas alike. With a hard on for keyboards, talk boxes and Jordans, we talk to P-Thugg on the eve of their tour down under for Summerdayze 2011.
What up P-Thugg, welcome to Sneaker Freaker. Take us back to the old school - how did you and Dave 1 connect and when was the beginning of Chromeo?
We met in high school at around 15 or 16. We had a band together even back then so we've stayed together all this time, changing musical projects, changing bands and musicians around us, even cruising a bit of hip hop. In 2001, Dave got approached by a dude he knew in a record store, to do something on the Turbo label, so Dave called me up and we formed Chromeo.
Where does the name of the band come from?
Actually, I don't know, haha. We came up with it one morning. Dave called me and said ‘here's a few names' and when he said Chromeo I was like ‘alright that's cool'. It's a twist on Romeo... It was such a spur of the moment thing.
An Arab and a Jew making synthesizer ‘80s-inspired music - how tough was that to market?
The Arab and Jewish thing really has nothing to do with us. We came up in a very diverse school so it wasn't really a subject for us at any point. We just enjoyed the same kind of music.
You're both avid hip hop heads, which may come as a surprise to anyone listening to a Chromeo record for the first time.
In school, I was a young kid listening to hip hop. There was a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s funk being sampled in the music, and being a hip hop head you recognise the samples when you're listening to funk. So you go, ‘wait this is the original - I'm going to listen to that band instead of EPMD and De La Soul.' Not that it's one or the other, but you can enjoy funk music and learn from hip hop.
Many of us were influenced by our parent's music, yet you guys seemed to be more on the self-discovery tip with all these sounds...
Yeah, for me I learnt about the music through listening to hip hop. Dave grew up in a more Americanised background because he was born in Canada and grew up listening to video hits shows in the ‘80s and the radio where all these ‘80s songs were played. I was in still in Lebanon. I came to Canada in the mid to late ‘80s, so most of the stuff had passed and I got straight into hip hop. For me of it was more a discovery thing, after the fact. Rediscovering the ‘80s sound.
It must be incredibly surreal working with artists you idolised from that era, like Hall and Oates...
Yeah! We hooked up with Darryl in June at Bonnaroo Festival - we might do it again at some point next year. It's so surreal, especially playing their songs with them - I mean, Darryl Hall playing our songs?! It was so incredible because everything we do is a copy from him anyway... so he was pretty much playing back his own stuff.
Awesome! So, you can thank Fancy Footwork, your second album for putting you on the map?
Definitely. I mean, with the first album, ‘She's in Control' we had one or two medium songs, which kind of put us on the map by establishing our team. But the second album, just took off...
It went bananas! How have you guys grown and developed over the last three years since its release?
Firstly it's allowed me to buy a couple more synthesizers to work with. It definitely helped us explore different sounds, drum machines and incorporate other influences. It has also allowed us to take on other projects as well...
Yeah we were going to say - Dave has quite the serious side to him, with his PhD and job as a professor. Does that ever get in the way of your music?
His schedule is pretty flexible - it allows us to gig between school time and Chromeo time, so we always make sure there is a balance.
For sure! And just last week you hit another milestone performing on Letterman with your Robert Palmer-esque backing singers...
We've been touring with the Chrometes - the three backing singers - over summer. Not for all the shows, but certain select shows. Letterman was pretty important for us, as it's THE biggest, most important talk show! We wanted to take it to another level and add the string section, and use all our girls.
You guys worked that stage so well, and man you were busting out some mean auto-tune... Is it as difficult to use as it looks - how do you not drool over yourself?
Hahaha, yes it's hard. It's definitely something you have to learn and practice. The person I idolised and learned the most from was Roger Troutman from the Zapp Band. That was my main inspiration in taking up the talk box. I would watch, study and imitate everything he did.
We also noticed you looking more subdued than the last time you guys were down under. Don't tell us you've hung up your sneakers and Starter jackets?
Yeah unfortunately it's all gone by the wayside. I used to collect mostly Jordans and I now have all the numbers, all the colourways, some of them double and triple...
So you've got nothing more to buy?
I mean, growing up, Air Jordan, The Bulls, The Raiders... those were our big teams and I like thinking about that time and remembering the Bulls and getting all the Air Jordans because I couldn't afford them as a kid. I especially like 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Word..You'll have to come compare kicks when you're in town. How many times have you now been to Oz? You must love our summer season!
Totally, this is our fourth time Down Under.
You're rocking the stage at Summerdayze and also doing a sideshow with N*E*R*D. Are you guys all good mates and party hard over the Summer?
We don't really know them - we both know of each other's music and we have met Pharrell. With Chromeo it's an internal party... so if they want to join in, it's all good!!!
Haha, sweet! Chromeo parties sound the tits! What's next for Chromeo?
I'm thinking we'll be locked down touring the new album for the next year or two so we'll see you all on the road!
**Win a double pass to the Chromeo x N*E*R*D sideshow in Sydney or Adelaide over at our WIN WIN section**