Interview - Phra of Crookers - acid stag

Interview: Phra of Crookers

Words by Jacqui Wonder.

Earlier this week resident reviewer Jacqui Wonder jumped on the phone with Italian producer Francesco “Phra” Barbaglia, the main-man behind dance music project Crookers, just ahead of his trip Down Under for the Stereosonic festival tour circuit.

Just a word of note, this is the third European that has been naked while on the phone to Jacqui…

Where are you and what are you wearing?
I am on an island, between Spain, Africa and Portugal…and I am wearing nothing.. because I just woke up.. so I’m naked like my mama taught me. I have a big coffee cup in front of me.. which can help.

That’s enough clothes for an interview with us. Tell me about the latest singles ‘Able to Maximise’, ‘Get Excited’ and ‘Picture This’?
Well all three of them are the best songs out in the market right now so everyone should listen to them. It is some of the best music that you can listen to if you want to get a headache [laughs]. Especially ‘Able to Maximise’, because the flute feature is pretty ironic..

Ironic definitely comes to mind when watching the music videos as well, or the hints of the music videos you’ve given, I’ve seen that there is a common style and plot coming together for them, what’s the story?
I actually really like doing these old animation videos with Plastic Horse, it’s been a couple of years already because they were working with me back on the videos for Dr Gonzo, but right now for the new album I just want to have them all the time working on this story! It’s kind of like a short-music-video-story that I won’t give away.. though it’s always been my dream to do videos that are unexpected.

I really love working with [Plastic Horse] because I just speak with them for like 20 minutes, and I say all the weirdest things possible that are coming out of my head and after about a week they come back with an idea for the video, which is already great – I will already love it. The videos have a pretty good story at the end if you follow them, after ‘Able to Maximise’, there is ‘Picture This’ [due out any day], and the next single will have the same style video which will further develop the story. So it’s a bigger story across them, it’s not just 3 minutes and done.

No – the whole album is coming together as one story, speaking of – is the new album going to be out soon? Can we get excited?
Yes! It’s going to drop in November through Onelove in Australia, it’s called Sixteen Chapel, which is wrong.. because Sixteen is plural and Chapel is singular.. but who cares.. I love it. It’s going to have a lot of features, not as many as normal, I normally would do more features but this time I did more production features and some really sexy vocal features that I’m really proud of. I’m really happy about the album because it sounds different to most of the music I listen to that is around right now.. it makes me happy that it’s a bit different and it’s not all the same crap..

Well that’s funny, I was going to ask you – the music industry has been going in a hundred directions the last couple years, and the electronic and dance scenes even more so, how have you navigated those changes or let it influence your style, if at all?
There is a huge EDM and really nice deep house scene happening, and then there’s people like Flume that is doing the big beats, What So Not, Emoh Instead and all the guys – I just listen to as much stuff as possible while trying not to follow what’s big at the moment. I’m not trying to jump on the train of any other people, I just do my thing.. and maybe if listening to anyone else, if I listen to a track that has some organic sound and I really like it, I’ll then think cool, I get a recorder and try to get as many different organic sounds to put in my record.. I would never try to make something because I heard it from someone else and was trying to replicate it – that’s not me. In fact, this album is more 2006/2007 Crookers than futuristic shit..

Well having listened to the latest singles, they certainly seem to be more uniquely Crookers’ and back to original Crookers’ material than anything ‘trend’ inspired so what did influence you when creating the album?
Well the biggest influence of the new album is.. me. It’s pretty weird to say but I went back on my old hard drives from 2002/2003 and one night I found this hard drive, it was a broken one, we fixed it and we listened to some old, old shit I did and I loved it. Really, really loved it. I thought whoa this is fresher than what I have been trying to do for the last three years! So I basically decided to try and remake that sound with new production.. it’s sounding like Crookers but a little bit bigger if that makes sense.. It’s a little bit bigger with something a little more fun in it.. So yeah I have to say most of the influence is me, back in 2003, and hip hop, as usual, like old school rap. This time I was listening to a lot of nineties’ stuff, so I was trying to capture that gritty sound in the production.

So it’s been three years you’ve been working on that sound, it’s also been about the same amount of time since your last appearance at Stereosonic in Australia – what are you looking forward to for your upcoming visit?
I am super happy to be playing for Stereosonic! Because they were the first ones to bring Crookers to Australia, back in the days.. not so back in the days really.. But I am super excited for it. I can’t wait to feel the crazy jetlag of Australia, there’s something magic about it.. because I’ll be there what.. ten days, two weeks? And I always love that when you stay in Australia for such a short time, you come back home and it’s like there is a hole in your memory.. It’s long days.. and no sleep, like you never sleep.. the trip becomes a big old hole in your memory and it’s a good thing.. it’s something weird. But also Australian crowds are really good, when you play they are so passionate! So I’m sending a lot of love and looking forward to it.

Crookers will be in the country for this year’s Stereosonic festival tour – see details here

Facebook.com/crookers | Soundcloud.com/crookers | Twitter.com/therealcrookers

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