Crookers: The Melange Of Hip Hop And House

Italian beat mongers Crookers have been rather busy of late…

Italian beat mongers Crookers have been rather busy of late. In the days counting down to the release of their debut album ‘Tons of Friends’, which includes an A-Z of the musically inclined (think Kelis, Miike Snow and Roisin Murphy) the duo have been all over Europe and back undergoing the almighty Q&As. Originating from the North of Italy, Phra and Bot have been tweeking nobs, editing cuts and the like since 2003 but in 2008 their collaboration, Day ‘N’ Nite, with little known rapper Kid Cudi exploded into another hemisphere… sans its creators. There they were standing on the sidelines watching with bewilderment as its success mirrored something of a Frankenstein; a creature of which they were no longer in control of or benefiting from. They made not a penny. Not bothered by the irony of it all Crookers busied themselves with excessive touring and as in-game radio DJs on Playstation’s Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony. The ball of momentum had finally got the attention it so rightly deserved. Luckily for fans Phra and Bot decided it was enough to warrant something of epic proportions; the debut album. So they started making some calls; orchestrating collaborations left right and centre, sometimes making the journey and sometimes welcoming the musical guests into their own homes. Crookers may be synonymous with many genres, from Blog house, Figet, Progressive to Electroclash; indeed they’ve been called a lot of things yet they have never fell to complacency. The Italian Hip Hop scene may have witnessed the making of beat mavericks Phra and Bot but it is the rest of the world that can lay claim to welcoming Crookers; the melange of hip hop and house.

You don’t have to tell me all your secrets, but you can. When you were younger did either of you learn the guitar?
Phra:
Yes I learnt the piano and the guitar.
Bot: I learnt the electric guitar.

So very different to what you do now?
Bot:
Yes but it helped because I went through different phases of listening to different music.

Now you don’t use any instruments in the production of your music.
Phra:
Maybe just the keyboard.

The computer keyboard?
Phra:
(Laughs) Yes. But I just brought a drum.

Nice. Are you going to incorporate that into your music?
Phra:
No I have to learn how to play first.

And you’re both from Milan, Italy?
Phra:
Wrong.

Completely incorrect?
Phra:
Bot is originally from Milan and I am from this little lake North of Italy.

And where are you both based now?
Bot:
I live in London now.
Phra: I still live in Italy in the mountains.

Traditionally Italians are quite family orientated.
Bot:
Oh yeah.

How does your mother feel about you living in London?
Bot:
Well actually before moving to London I was like the perfect Italian cliché because I was still living with my mother.

Do your parents understand what you do?
Phra:
Now they kind of do especially because I’m not rushing at the end of the month to pay my rent…

So you’re more financially stable?
Phra:
Ah, kinda…

Explain to me the Italian hip hop scene.
Phra:
There’s no scene anymore.

What about when you were younger. Did it influence your music?
Phra:
Yeah. I started DJing and was an MC with an Italian hip hop band. But at that time it was good because there were a lot of different bands that were friends. Then something went really wrong.

You had a fight?
Phra:
No more like some people were being true and some were being fake.

Oh so politics.
Phra:
Yes. So bam. Everything crashed. No more girls just angry people.

Well once the girls are gone. What’s the point? You have to move on and find more girls.
Phra:
(Laughs) Exactly.

Your album Tons of Friends features so many artists. How long did it take to create?
Bot:
Maybe more than two years. We always wanted to do an album but then we were doin’ remixes and touring a lot. It was good though the time allowed us to realise which songs were better.

So you’ve got all these different artists on the album. How did you manage that? I heard Spank Rock was interviewing you and then was like ‘let me be on your album’.
Phra:
No he was like ‘yo it’s a great line-up of people I want to be involved. Now’.

Right now?
Phra:
Yes.

Did you have a favourite artist to work with?
Both:
Roisin.
Bot: Soulwax… and…

You can’t say all of them! I’m assuming they didn’t all come to you?
Bot: No sometimes they came to us and sometimes we went to them. Sometimes it was just sending bits back and forth. iChat…

…Twitter, Myspace and Facebook?
Phra: No not Facebook. We have a man who does that for us. I tried one time to write a post: I wrote like ‘hello to everyone’ and after 3 minutes there was like 200 people writing and screaming. It was too much. Too crazy.

Never again?
Phra:
Never again.

Do you guys have much input in your music videos?
Phra:
The idea behind all our videos is not to do a tits and ass video.

Cause you’re not Italian hip hop anymore?
Phra:
No, also because in Italian hip hop culture there’s no tits and ass. As I said before there’s no more girls.

Oh of course you said that. No more girls. Tell me the idea behind the Remedy video feat Miike Snow?
Bot:
They are running around the streets finding objects that spell Crookers. Like the Mercedes logo is an ‘O’, dollar sign is an ‘S’..

Oh I get it now.
Bot: And in the end they make this flyer with the elements that they stole.

Like a treasure hunt?
Bot:
Yes
Phra: We are not into stealing things but we thought it would be a nice idea. We’re against people that steal things.

No it’s not good.
Phra: So bad.

A lot of your songs from your impending release are on Grand Theft Auto.
Phra:
Two… No?

Ok fine. Two.
(Phra & Bot laugh).

Did you see your fan-base widen after that?
Bot: I don’t think it really changed a lot. People just play and they don’t really pay attention. They just change the radio station and are just focussed on killing people.

And driving taxis?
Bot:
Yeah but I’m not a great player.

Neither am I. That’s why I just drive taxis. Your sound has changed quite a bit since you first started creating music. Was that a conscious decision?
Phra: Yeah because we didn’t think there was any sense in creating a second album with the same genre of tracks that we first did. We just wanted to make an album that we could listen to in the car while driving.

I read it was a ‘driving to an airport’ album.
Phra:
Yes, it’s perfect. If you start from my house and then drive to the airport in Milan – the album will last the whole time.

I read that you said there was no such thing as a live show because material is always pre-prepared prior to the show.
Phra:
No. Where did you find this bullshit?

The internet! It’s got so much bullshit.
Phra:
That is actually the most bullshit ever written about us. We don’t have any idea what we’re going to play at our shows. We just know that we’re going to open with ‘We Love Animals’ because that’s a great opener.

What about at the end of the show. Do you walk off stage and pretend to finish and then two seconds later come back on?
Bot:
No, that’s just something that the promoter wants us to do. We never do that.
Phra: Normally we play rubbish songs at the end.

Isn’t the last song the one that you want everyone to enjoy?
Phra:
It’s better to remember the rest of the set not just the last song.

Do you have any props to take on stage with you? Justice has the cross, Daft Punk has the triangle, Etienne de Crecy has the cube. Have you got a circle?
Bot:
We have the octagon… (Laughs).