Francesco “Phra” Barbaglia has carried on the Crookers name alone with his own DJ gigs and the launch of a new record label Ciao Recordings since October of last year. The Italian DJ stormed through the Observatory in Santa Ana on Friday night for an 18-and-over show filled with woofer-rattling bass which ignited some serious raging and grinding in the sauna- like room despite the rain. We got a chance to speak with Phra, (whose aliases apparently include Lucky Beard, Disco Samurai and DJ Premiere–dude, that one's taken already) about his famous DJ friends including Skrillex, Deadmau5 and his plans to take over Mars.
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Crookers has been an EDM favorite in the states since their remix of Kid Cudi's club favorite “Day 'n' Nite” was released in late 2008 and reached number two on the UK singles charts. Though the remix released on A-Trak's Fool's Gold Records has a radio friendly feel it had the Crookers signature electro house sound, which was popular with everyone from the indie hipster kids to the nu disco fans at the time. The duo were soon propelled into the electronic scene despite their Italian hip hop roots and released their debut album Tons of Friends on Fatboy Slim's label Southern Fried Recordings in 2010.
Yet despite the almost decade of working in this industry Francesco's charismatic Italian personality remains the same. Perhaps his track on Tons of Friends, “Embrace the Martian,” captures his sense of humor best. “I'm thinking about six months here [LA], six months in Italy, six months in Australia and six months on Mars,” he says after we ask him where he is currently based. “I know how to get there [Mars] and breathe just like a fish.” But don't expect him to bring his bass loving beats to the red planet anytime soon “You can't DJ there because of the gravity shit,” he adds.
Along with hopeful future plans of getting married and settling down, Phra will be working on a steady flow of releases to follow up Dr. Gonzo which was released in 2011. “It's actually going to be an EP of two tracks titled 'Giga' and 'A Go Go' on my new Ciao Recordings label.” His song titles are just as serious as he is with what he calls “rubbish dance music,” whose titles, he says, don't need a real meaning. Louis Benoit will also be one of the first artists to release music on the new label. In the near future, he is headed to Denver on February 2nd, the Rock Nation Grammy Party at the House of Blues alongside Deadmau5 and Nero and then Avalon Hollywood March 1st before heading to Europe.
“The only thing I know about Deadmau5 is that I find him to be a pretty funny guy,” he says when asked about his future gig. The two actually met during a recent tour in Australia. “He's kind of a sarcastic dark guy, but in a way Italians can understand that kind of humor. It's odd in the beginning but then it's super funny.” When we ask him who has been his favorite fellow DJ or producer to meet he says, “I did a set on Holy Ship after Skrillex and he is the kindest guy ever; even on Mars I'm sure.” He jokes with his girlfriend on their plans to cook a real Italian pasta dinner for Sonny along with some good red wine to “get some red on his cheeks.” Yet besides the laughter and jokes Francesco says, in the 17 years he's been around he's never meet a guy that's so “happy, fun and lovely.” Who would have thought the boy king of EDM would be so plur?