Superstar DJs-in-the-making Crookers (aka Italian duo Phra and Bot) knock out soaring, bouncing, choppy electro club belters hinging on heavier than thou hip hop, from MC vocal lines to grimey Miami bass jitters, that's hotter than Beyoncé's G-string. They've been all over Europe this summer – I caught their blazing sunrise set at Melt Festival in Germany in July and went to Ibiza with them to see them spin at Eden last week and it was e.l.e.c.t.r.i.c.
Here's the un-edited version of my Q&A with Bot, which appeared in short in Time Out last month.
What are you doing right now?
Doing something that I shouldn't. I'm trying to do some stuff with Peaches, but I don't think it needs much doing to it because her voice is killer. She has energy I wish I had.
We saw you at Melt in July and it went off – how was it for you?
Really good. We met a lot of people we've been emailing, like Edu K, for the first time. The night was great, the location was super, and the best situation is when you have people dancing around us so you can feel this 'thing', the sweat and stuff. In some places, like Sankeys in Manchester, you can see the sweat in the air through the lights.
Do you prefer Manchester to London?
In London we always play in strange situations. We've played at Fabric three times but always in the small room. It's great to be there but it was better in Manchester because when we played the big room we didn't play too late. We make music demanding physical energy – you have to dance! – so if it's too late then people are too wasted and you see that they want to scream, but they're hardly breathing.
How are you coping with your crazy tour schedule?
I check all my gigs on Myspace because I don't remember! It was getting too much, like two gigs every weekend and then making music the next day, so we decided to calm down a bit with remixes and gigs so we can focus on our album. We are lucky because our label told us to take our time. So I think realistically it will be coming out early next year because we've got a lot of collaborations, so we don't have complete control over the timings of recordings.
Can you give us a sneak peak at who you're hooking up with?
We've already done a track with Kid Cudi that will be on the album, but you can find it on blogs now [it's called 'Day and Night' and it's belting – check it out. Kate]. And then Edu K and Steed Lord… And A-Trak is co-producing on one beat. We're also working on a track with Roisin Murphy – we like how hot she seems and how she looks. She likes the beat we've done.
It's quite an international mix of DJs…
We've tried to use all the people that we meet when we go to gigs who aren't particularly into this type of music. We also like rock – I was a huge fan of Sepultura – so it's good to use people who are open to other types of music so that we don't have an album full of just dance tracks. It would be boring to do and boring to listen to.
But it's still got hip hop and electro as its core?
Yeah, hip hop electro, baile funk, rock, we really listen to all these styles. I never listen to electronic music when I chill out or when I'm in the car. My favourite album at the moment is the new Jamie Lidell album. He's a crazy guy, he did this project called Super_Collider, which is a techno thing and is nothing to do with what he does now. He's the sort of artist I like – someone who can do really underground stuff and then maybe a track that my mother can like!
Does your mum like your music?
She always complain, 'This is not music! Boom, cha, boom, cha – what is this? Is this the future?'
Do you see yourself doing something completely different in the future too?
I see us as continuously evolving and doing new stuff, so I don't think we will change from today or tomorrow. I don't know what we'll be doing in a year or two, but I don't think we will do something completely and totally different.
Do you think you're original?
Maybe in that people say that. We were surprised that people were saying 'This is Crookers' style' because we don't maybe realise we have a recognisable style. But when people tell you, you think that you must be doing something right.
I was thinking more in terms of this new style of global bass-led electro that you and a lot of others you've mentioned are involved in?
Yeah, I think you are right. Lots of people are trying to do this kind of stuff. The important thing is that everyone does it in his own way. But I think you only realise that you have done something or changed something years after you did it. It's really hard to know that in the moment you're doing it.
How do you set yourselves apart in that scene?
Hip hop is one of the big, with a capital Big, influences we have, starting from when I was a kid. I got into hip hop through graffiti and that led into buying my first deck because I wanted to scratch, not because I wanted to mix electronic music. Phra and I both discovered electronic music after hip hop. The guy who sold me the turntables was into house music and he gave me all his old records, which were really good, there was a lot of Detroit stuff in there. It was natural to mix hip hop and dance music together because it was the two things that we liked the most and nothing felt more natural than putting them together. It's a double passion!
Did you get into clubbing?
No, not that much, the music in Italy was shit. We always have the wrong timing here: when I was listening to electro, the DJ's thing in Italy was hard house, which I hated. Then some years ago, Italy discovered minimal, and four hours of a set like that is too dark and moody. We have 60-year-old DJs who still play for a lot of money here but no one outside of Italy knows them – but they soon won't be able to DJ anymore because it will get too much for their hearts!
What kind of atmosphere do you like to create with your sets?
We like to create a party atmosphere with lots of energy. For our kind of set, its good that its not too long, because we always try to be on fire and we realise you cannot do a six-hour night of all this. I prefer having a short but really intense time.
Do you often have dancers grinding on stage (there were LOTS at Melt)?
When it's possible, we always ask the security not to turn people go away because we like it when we have people around. We don't like a lot to be on the stage with the people downstairs, we feel a little bit stupid.
But doesn't that exclude the audience who aren't dancing on the stage?
Yes that is the danger – some people in New York told us that too, that we let everybody up on stage but nobody else could see us. This is maybe the bad thing; people see a crowd and nothing else. It can be strange; it is not the perfect solution.
What's been your zaniest set?
We were at Malmö in Sweden; it's a very strange city because it's very quiet but the people are really crazy and we were a little bit drunk and I the stage collapsed three times. But it was good because the music never stopped!
What's your favourite city to play in Europe?
Amsterdam, because the audience is great. They know every track that is out and also I like the city, the promoters. When we go we have the same promoters who are really great who take care of everything. There are big, green cigarettes everywhere.
What is it like for you back in Italy now?
Sometimes it seems like we are more popular outside of Italy but it's good there now because we dance to Bloody Beatroots and Congorock – the clubs saw that we were playing so much outside Italy and they started calling us to play in Italy. We'd play for really rich people: the people before us would play minimal stuff and then we came on and everyone went crazy. Promoters realised that something was changing and then the big commercial radio stations in Italy started to play some of our tracks. It's great that people outside of Italy think there is something interesting coming out of this country because for years not much has been. Also, last week I was on my only week of holiday on a beach in Italy and somebody recognised me and wanted their picture taken with me and everyone was staring, thinking that I must be famous. It was strange because that never happens!
So someone is going to have a picture of them and you in your swimming trunks up on Facebook?
Yeah! I was with an umbrella for the sun and things to eat – not particularly in rock star mode! It's nice to get recognised but it's a bit embarrassing.
Who else coming out of Italy do you rate?
Our friend from Milan, who is doing different stuff to us, Nic Sarno. Well, there is maybe... doing different kind of stuff is a friend of us, from Milan, Nic Sarno. He has a side project called The Love Supreme, which more disco, but he is one of the interesting guys coming out from Italy.
How do you uncover new music?
With touring so much, I get sent the newest music from all over the world from where we meet people. We get sent a lot of music now. Most of it is pretty bad, but it's cool. One thing I do miss is going to the record shops though – I used to work in one and I spent a lot of money there.
Have you got any forthcoming remixes?
One is for MAN Recordings – we've done ISA GT from London with a crazy remix inspired by the old Dance Mania records that were very fast, digital style techno. We've also remixed Zadar from Cassius, who is doing a solo project. He's a really great, friendly guy and we went to his villa in Ibiza in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't a big villa or anything like that, not like the rest of Ibiza.
How was Ibiza for you?
It's not even cool anymore. I saw huge posters with DJs billed that I've never heard about.
Did the crowds get your music?
Yeah, it was really cool. We played after three hours of really progressive house music from Sasha – it wasn't quite like Melt! We did the ending from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and its not a good time to do. But we were told that the night was good because the dancefloor had never been so full at half past six! But yeah, it wasn't the most beautiful night we've ever had.
It's a bit weird that they billed you after Sasha?
Yes, but maybe they want to change something and they were seeing if it works. We're playing there another two times at Amnesia and then another time with Pete Tong in the most awful place in Ibiza that is San Antonia.
But Pete Tong loves you guys, so that should be pretty cool.
Yes, he likes us and he's a lovely guy. Maybe he will not be so difficult like playing after Sasha.