Hall & Oats. Klymaax. Zapp? All are typical passengers you can expect on the S.S. Chromeo, as well as the personal favorites of and inspirations for the duo of Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel). The two met as teens in Montreal and bonded over a love of funk, hip-hop and old-ass computer equipment. Carving an unlikely niche in the world of electronic music, Chromeo first caught clubber’s ears with “Needy Girl,” and kept them coming back through their most recent album, Business Casual. Stepping out from behind the retro synthesizers and talkbox and into the DJ booth, Chromeo launches a dual residency, first at Pure on April 13, followed by a series of summer gigs at Wet Republic.
Taking a break from working on Chromeo’s next album, P-Thugg gives us a hint as to what to expect when two “musician dudes” play records, while also taking a trip down retro lane.
When clubbers come to see Chromeo in Vegas, how much original material will they hear?
We try to keep it pretty balanced. Like, every 10 songs we’ll play a Chromeo song or a Chromeo remix or something related to us, like Duck Sauce [a duo including A-Trak, Dave 1’s brother]. But our set is pretty much our friends’ music and a couple of tracks that we like. Before you come see us, listen to Zapp & Roger’s [All the] Greatest Hits, and then you can come enjoy the DJ set. That’ll give you a little bit of instruction on what’s going to happen.
How do you think the commercial/tourist crowd in Las Vegas will respond to your brand of music?
That’s a good question. We’ve done a couple [of Las Vegas gigs] already, and we’re just realizing that it’s a transient crowd; it’s a lot of tourists and you do need to go a bit more mainstream with what you’re playing, or else you’ll empty the room.
That’s kind of been a challenge for us because we’re not DJs. We hear songs that we like and we follow what’s happening, but as far as DJing goes, I’m going to pick up the Beatport Top 10—we don’t really usually do that, and now we have to start getting interested in what people are actually listening to.
Studio-wise, are you still using an ancient Dell computer?
How has that thing not completely crashed?
I have no idea. Don’t jinx it!
Anything else particularly unique in the studio?
My whole studio is a collector’s item. I only have really old vintage stuff, synthesizers and gadgets. My favorite piece that’s pretty rare is my Linn LM-1 drum machine.
Even with all the production technology, is there something charming the old gear has that you can’t reproduce on modern equipment?
Oh, yeah, definitely. The way these machines were made, they’re so imperfect, out of tune, and somehow it works magically and you can’t reproduce that on a computer. It’s way too clean; even if they try to make it go out of tune on purpose, it doesn’t work. It’s so random what happens inside those machines and so different from machine to machine. Even the same model, the same year, the same production line, every machine is going to be different.
What are your three favorite items from the ’80s?
My favorite ’80s car is a Ferrari Testarossa. My favorite drums from the ’80s are the Simmons drums pads. My favorite record cover is Rick James’ Street Songs—everything ’80s is in there.
Speaking of album covers, are the legs on your covers an homage to Robert Palmer’s dancing girls?
Oh yeah, that’s a blatant homage. I love Robert Palmer.
Your songs have been featured in video games, commercials and more. Have you ever thought of scoring a groovy, funky soundtrack for a film of the adult variety?
Sure, why not? It’s a huge shame that we’re not doing the Ghostbusters III soundtrack. Maybe we can still make it happen. But I find it appalling that we’re not!
How did you initially become part of the electronic-music scene?
I remember we were never into electronic music growing up. We were into hip-hop; we collected funk records, so that’s really out first love. But we realized actually signing our first album with Tiga, who owned a techno label in Montreal, and just exchanging stuff with him, realized a lot of the guys in electronic music had the same influences as we did, except they interpreted it in their own way, which was dancier, more electronic type of stuff. So growing up and signing a deal on a label that was predominantly techno, we were getting introduced to all these crazy electronic music guys and bands and understanding how they were interpreting the stuff that we like.
Any thoughts on the direction in which electronic music is going?
It’s like everything. We’ve seen so many trends and things come in and out and every time there’s a new trend, it’s always the same thing. There’s some good stuff, there’s some really bad stuff that you have to throw away and any change is good to us. Unfortunately, usually people start a new trend, some of these guys are really good, it gets really popular and the crappiest guys start copying, producing and then all hell breaks loose. But it’s just about if you choose the songs right and keep the best of everything.
What do you want clubbers to take away from a Chromeo DJ set?
It’s very superficial, nothing too deep. Just hopefully enjoy what we’re playing. There’s a big difference between the stuff that I love playing and listening to at home and what the people want to hear in the club. Hopefully we can mix both in together just because we don’t want it to be boring for us and play too much commercial stuff but at the same time a lot of that stuff is good—not all of it, but some of it is good. And just try to match and balance out a bit of everything.