Crookers Interview

Phra, Bot and their 'Tons Of Friends'

We didn’t notice whether you noticed this… but over the last three years dance music has lost its attention span.

Since 2007 DJs saw tracks compress, bass drops get more ludicrous whilst build-ups and drum rolls ever mutate in Eldorado-style misadventure. Dance floors became mosh pits. David Mancuso wept over his ’70s valve DJ mixer. Eleven-minute disco edits prolapsed. MySpace laughed.

As the Internet exploded with pimped-up and bastardised breaks seething out of the litany of digital blogs there were two Italian hip-hop fiends standing noisily at the centre: Crookers.

People called it blog house, crack house or hip-house. Crookers, its main protagonists, rose to prominence at a bizarre speed. They commanded DJ fees of over a thousand pounds before they’d even released a physical single, whilst their first gig outside of Italy was in Fabric’s main-room. Hello daddy.

Crookers are Bot and Phra, two hip-hop heads working out of Milan who have shunned the gangsta raps to make fucked up house music. One half of the ascendant duo, Bot, has come to face the music in London: “Maybe if I had to choose,” the diminutive dude mulls over, “then I’d say we are really hip-hop in a house style. We are taking the really raw sample feel of hip-hop and trying to fit it into a house structure. But it works the other way, because when we make hip-hop beats there are some elements of house in there. It’s cool that there’s confusion. It’s impossible to say you are one or the other. And then there’s some bailie funk or dancehall in there confusing even more.”

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This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the April issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from March 4th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.

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This straddling of genres is evident from the HUGE list of collaborators on this album. They are all singing their hearts out, a fact that may wrong foot die hard fans who so far had only heard their devastating instrumentals. Yet if you’d caught their 2006 ‘Crookers Mixtape’ you’d have heard the blueprint.

The manner in which Crookers have bamboozled worldwide ravers’ minds and feet is fairly remarkable. Along with UK counterparts Fake Blood, Herve, Trevor Loveys and Sinden they all build an edifice of bass that is… well, splintered and perverted. It’s hyperactive and possesses a demented edge. So why this trend in dance music?

Fuck knows. All we know is that modern house became an attention deficient disordered child that romped through three-minute songs pissing and squealing before hurling down its toys and picking up another idea, another sound, another huge break down.

Bo, however, is feeling surprisingly bashful, even responsible for this trend: “Yeah,” sighs the Milanese man, “that’s what we actually don’t super like about the approach that has become dominant now. It’s like everyone’s expecting a big break, then a super crazy drop and people dance… or even pogo! Which is something I don’t really understand in a club. It should be for dancing not pogoing. What about the girls, eh?”

Such criticism of their own legacy is refreshing to say the least. Their biggest single, ‘Day ‘N’ Night’ wasn’t just the sound of the summer. It was the sound of TWO summers spanning both 2008 and 2009. This is rare. We push Bot on their musical Frankenstein: “I dont know!” confesses Bot. “We created a monster! So now we’re trying to find a way to go back but still be new. Maybe we’ll do two minutes of kick drum then eventually (mimes slowly) the clap! Oh, and there’s a hi-hat too!”

So, was it Crookers’ fault for being too infectious or the clubbers’ for going too mental that such productions lodged into influence? And where can Crookers take us now? Bot continues in his honest vein: “People now always want the music and drop to be more and more crazy. It’s nonsense! You always get ten new fidget or crack house promos every day and they are all the same and they aren’t really interesting. It seems if you make a super crazy sound with a big drop with a big grating build-up, it doesn’t make it a good song. Even if people go crazy and freak out on the dance floor, still doesn’t make it good music. I think most of it now is kinda crap. The average level of quality is really low. People can’t really tell the difference between a really well done track like that and a cheap one because they sound the same. Also, big commercial DJs have gone this way too, which means it’s hard to find your own place, or your own spot in there anymore.”

Clash is slightly lost for words. Few interviewees denounce their own genres on the eve of their debut album. The Beta Band once told fans not to buy their forthcoming debut album as it was “a bit shit” and they’d just make a better one. Such honesty is the mark of confidence. Or disregard for their art. So, what’s the exit strategy? “We are gonna change! We are gonna find out what our new direction sounds like! We have already done some remixes in that style, taking things a bit more moody, which is coming out on Kitsune as Crookers, a remix of Two Door Cinema Club. It’s more acid attitude, not too crazy, more pumping and loopy. Less big breaks.”

And so, as Crookers re-wrote the formula for main room house styles it seems they are already moving on. Their epic debut ‘Tons Of Friends’ displays just how well regarded their signature sounds have become, drawing on the global elite to contribute. However, these two fidgeting sample freaks are already searching out a new direction. Do they worry about what their fans will think if they take things too deep in the disco?

“It will be difficult, then people will accustom to our style. I think about The Beastie Boys, they always did what they wanted to: doing hardcore albums, then hip-hop, then just instrumentals – twenty-four tracks on one album! And then a rap album! It’s always surprising how people see you because I never think about it. We make music and people respond in all sorts of ways. We don’t know what our style is. We just do it.”

Words by Matthew Bennett

Listen to ClashMusic’s preview of the full ‘Tons Of Friends’ album HERE

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