Current Features
Archive A-L
Archive M-Z
Print Archive
Best of Blendetta
RSJ on MySpace
RSJ on LiveJournal
RSJ Staff
Contact Us

For the past year, Chromeo's been bringing the non-stop dance party to the stereo of anyone lucky enough to happen onto a copy of their Vice Records debut, "She's In Control." A little bit old school hip hop, a little bit funky electronics, and a lot like nothing else at the moment -- Chromeo's been paving their own way in a music scene dominated by trend-seekers. Lately they've been bringing it live, as vocalist/guitarist Dave 1 heats up stages in the States and abroad with partner and talkbox master Pee Thug. As the pair comes off a series of east coast dates, RSJ speaks with Dave 1 about Chromeo's world of sexx jams and b-boy ballet...

Rock Star Journalism: You've recently been out for Chromeo's first series of live dates -- what's the reaction been like?

Dave 1: For the most part, really good. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it still, know what I mean?

RSJ: Well, I've certainly talked to a number of bands that keep on touring, despite less than stellar reactions.

Dave 1: You get your good shows and your bad shows, like everybody else, but most of the time it's really good. We toured England this summer, we did the Sonar Festival in Barcelona, we did some gigs in France and then we did a whole tour on the west coast, here in the U.S. And now we've been doing east coast dates in the States and Canada.

RSJ: What's the biggest difference between performing in Europe vs the States or Canada?

Dave 1: In Europe, we might be playing bigger venues, but there's certain places where I don't feel that they get us 100 percent. Whereas here, I just feel that there's more of an immediate rapport with the audience. It's weird cause we get treated really fancily when we go to Europe, like we get the plush hotels and all that, whereas when we tour here we've gotta double up in a hotel room. But I'd still, most of the time, rather play shows here.

RSJ: Tell me about the Chromeo live show. Do you have a live band with you?

Dave 1: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We have three live formats: one is just me and Pee and it looks like what you might see in the video. Another one is the same thing except there's a drummer behind us, and that gives it more of a rock feel. And then sometimes we have a three-piece, and we don't use any backing tracks.

RSJ: Which set-up do you prefer?

Dave 1: I don't know -- when it's just me and Pee, it's more about us interacting with the crowd and presenting our personalities. But when it's the whole band the show comes off really well. They are really good musicians -- it's guys that played with Lucy Pearl and Blackstreet, so it has a very New Power Generation feel. It's like the Arsenio Hall band. That was always one of my favorites.

RSJ: How did the dates go where you opened for The Unicorns? That seems like an odd pairing.

Dave 1: Yeah -- it was dope though! We had a good time with those dudes. It was odd, but their fans loved us. They're very young kids; they've never had hip hop cats like us come up and be friendly to them and entertain them with music that they can actually not feel threatened by. Of course, they can go to a Jurassic 5 show and see them do really harmless hip hop, but our shit has more of an edge than that. It's sexier -- we're more like white Rick James. Now we're headlining our own shows, but we've played with so many different bands. It never fits, cause there's nobody really doing what we do.

RSJ: It doesn't really seem that you're part of any of the current scenes.

Dave 1: Exactly. And that worked against us cause we can't benefit from any bandwagon sales. Like you know all the indie kids are gonna buy every indie album that comes out if Pitchfork says it's good. They're like sheep; they listen to the same shit. So, we couldn't really benefit from that. But at the same time, I'm happy, cause we're just on our own little planet; we're building our own thing. We're like the White Stripes when they first started.

RSJ: Before everyone jumped on the garage rock bandwagon --

Dave 1: Yeah, they had albums just doing their kooky thing and just being weird people in their own little bubble. And so, we're just like that except that since we're also producers, we're producing for other people and our sound can lend itself to other cats. We're doing remixes for all kinds of people now.

RSJ: Yeah, I know you started in the production area of hip-hop. Who have you done work for lately?

Dave 1: We're just finishing up a remix for the Twista and R. Kelly song, that "So Sexy" joint they had this summer. And then we're doing remixes for a band called Bloc Party; they're really big in the UK right now. We're doing a remix for a band called Death From Above 1979 on Vice, and we're also doing a compilation for Eskimo Records in Belgium where they're letting us do a mix cd.

RSJ: Since you've been out with Chromeo, how much have you been involved with the label you run with your brother, Audio Research?

Dave 1: My brother, A-trak, has been holding it down, but we've been putting out singles, and there's this producer from Toronto called DJ Serious whose album we're releasing in the first quarter of 2005. And I'm executive producing the album, picking the tracks and stuff like that. I still get involved a bit, but not on a daily basis. But my brother, he's Kanye West's dj right now, so he's on the road with him all the time, so that gets a bit crazy.

RSJ: Well, that makes it a little hard to be handing the day-to-day details of running a record label.

Dave 1: He makes it happen. I don't know how he does it -- he's iller than me.

RSJ: Coming out of Montreal, you've described the hip hop scene there as unique. What did find particularly unusual about it? Is it the dual languages?

Dave 1: Yeah, definitely. The two language thing, the fact that there's a lot of Haitians. You won't find a lot of cities where the hip hop scene is dominated by Haitians. It has a different kind of sound because when we all started making beats, a lot of those Haitian kids were just going into their parents' record collections. And their parents had all these old French records, and that sounds completely different. So we were coming up making beats just using these really dramatic French joints. And now Montreal is the big indie city. Which, you know, it is what it is -- I'm happy we're not part of that.

RSJ: I read that you originally got into hip hop because of graffiti, that was the aspect that most interested you.

Dave 1: Well, it all interested me, all of it together. But yeah, we were writing graffiti. You know, you're like 16 years old trying to get with the flavor. So, yeah, me and Pee were definitely tight with the graffiti writers in Montreal.

RSJ: Would you say you got into the hip hop culture before the music?

Dave 1: It's all the same shit. Hip hop, rap, music, culture -- to me it's all the same thing. Especially when you're a white kid getting into it -- every dude that's like me, that got into it from the outside, you just come to a point when you're growing up where you're like, yo this is the shit. It doesn't get doper. But now, I'm reconsidering, cause I see guys walking around with Von Dutch hats and bad dress shirts, and I'm just like, yo, this is corny. When I was coming up it was Tommy Hilfiger head to toe and Helly Hansen jackets.

RSJ: Oh, I remember that.

Dave 1: That was my shit. Like '95, I had the whole Grand Puba wardrobe.

RSJ: So, you mentioned your video briefly, for Needy Girl. Tell me about the process of creating that.

Dave 1: We went through dozens upon dozens of treatments in a process that lasted six months. Cause we were so particular about what we wanted, and people misunderstood what we were and gave us these 80s treatments about roller skating rinks and trucker hats. Or it was about a girl that's kicking my ass -- kicking it way too literally. So then at one point we fell upon the reel of [video and commercial directors] Tomorrow's Brightest Minds. They never even sent us a treatment, but we really liked what they did with animation and so we started building with them, and they came up with the whole white and gold concept. And I came up with the fact that the song had to completely break down in the middle, like I'm really answering a phone call. I wanted the music to break down; on the record it keeps going. And I also came up with having the dance sequence.

RSJ: Whose idea was the impromptu croquet game in the middle?

Dave 1: That was theirs. The milk was theirs, the croquet was theirs, the sugarcubes were theirs. It's weird, that video really touched people. People really react strongly to it in a positive way, and I think it's the piece of our whole campaign that I'm most proud of.

RSJ: Yeah, I've witnessed the phenomenon. I actually sent that video to a friend of mine, and he said, "you know, sometimes when I'm down, I watch that Chromeo video."

Dave 1: You know how happy that makes me? Cause we're on a small label; it's not like that gets played on MTV or anything. So the fact that people just watch it, wow, that's ill to me. And if we do another one, I just want to have even crazier choreography with like ballet moves. Some b-boy ballet shit.

RSJ: When do you see Chromeo getting back into the studio?

Dave 1: ASAP. We're gonna start like December. The next album's gonna be called "Cupid Took His Arrow Back."

RSJ: Are you already thinking about what that album's going to be like?

Dave 1: I want to get more melodic. We have a few songs, but it's too early to tell. But the title's going to be that.

RSJ: With all your various projects, you also managed to get your degree in French literature. Do you eventually see yourself getting out of music?

Dave 1: I can. And then there's a song that pops up in my head. It's always about balancing the two and managing everything, but I wouldn't be able to not do music. Especially with my brother, cause I'm about to start working on his album as well.

RSJ: As someone who has been in the music business for awhile with all the production work, what's been the biggest surprise about actually being in a touring band?

Dave 1: That I don't like it (laughs). I'd rather be producing, just hiding up in the studio. I don't know, the biggest surprise -- I guess just seeing certain people enjoy it. This record wasn't even supposed to be serious. Not to say that we weren't serious -- we were extremely serious -- but I never thought people would relate.

RSJ: Much as critics questioned the sincerity and all that, I think that was more an issue within the media than it ever was for fans.

Dave 1: Well, there was the whole Vice Records stigma. I don't know, it's like c'mon man, just enjoy the music, stop thinking about it. I don't question bands I like, I just like them. I don't question Steely Dan and Hall and Oates, I just listen to them. I don't care what they think. In literature, we study authors that are dead for 2000 years -- you think I can go and ask them what they thought? You just read the book. If you like it, you like it. Who cares?