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Friday, 21 October 2011 08:30

An interview with P-Thugg of Chromeo

An interview with P-Thugg of Chromeo
Written by Matt Fernandes
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There are some who would call the synth-heavy funk pop of the 1980s an unfortunate detour from the cosmic path of the funk mothership.

For electrofunk act Chromeo, though, there's gold to be found in every bubbly synthesizer run, voice-warped talk box lyric and artificially-flavored drum fill of the era.

The seven-year-old Montreal duo channels bygone acts like Midnight Star, Zapp and Klymaxx to create pure party music with a lot of electronic twists. If you like Jamiroquai, Daft Punk or LCD Soundsystem, you definitely want to be at the Pageant on October 24 for the Chromeo show.

The bandmates, P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) and Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) first met as teens growing up in Montreal. What started as a side project to their rock band slowly gained traction while the duo continued to tinker with their vintage synths. After making some noise on the festival circuit, Chromeo broke through in the US a year ago with the release of their third studio album "Business Casual."

As far as I can tell, the Pageant show, which will feature background singers and lighting effects, represents their first visit to St. Louis. (OK, Know-It-All, correct me in the comments area -- I can take it.)

I reached P-Thugg as the band prepared for a gig in Arcata, Calif.

Matt Fernandes: Tell me about growing up in Montreal?

P-Thugg: It is an amazing and fun city to grow up in because it's so multicultural. It's a really good place to raise kids, become an adult and learn about life.

How did your early club hit, "Needy Girl," help your career?

On our first album we were still experimenting with our sound -- it was basically the birth of Chromeo. It was mostly a trial and error album with a couple of good results like "Needy Girl." It gave us a chance -- kind of like a musical business card -- to get a shot at doing a second album.

Tell me about your songwriting process.

It's different for every song. Sometimes I do lots of demos and sing on them and sometimes I just write choruses. I'll send them to Dave and he chooses a few. Or he'll send me ideas, even if the recording is just him humming something. Once we have a bunch of demos that we like, we sit down together and complete the album.

How do you reproduce that 1980s sound?

We mostly use all vintage instruments like analog synths. A lot of the stuff is from the mid- to late-1970s and we have some old-school vintage drum machines from the early-1980s. I usually don't go past 1985 when buying a synth. It's definitely a hobby. We continue to buy more and learn more about them as we go.

How do you reproduce your sound live?

We emulate the sound with newer technology. It's so hard to bring in all of our vintage gear. It's fragile and it has a mind of its own. The risk for things going wrong is too great. We can't have thousands of people standing there waiting while we try to get our gear to turn on!

Do you have any cool dance music from back in the day you can turn our readers onto?

Our favorites are Zapp & Roger, Cameo, Midnight Star, the Bar-Kays and Parliament. On the classic rock side, we love Michael McDonald and Fleetwood Mac.

Will you do a Michael McDonald cover for us in St. Louis, McDonald's birthplace?

We'll try to remember to!

Chromeo performs at the Pageant on Monday, October 24.

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