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Though likely best known to American ears as one half of former duo Crookers, producer Francesco “Phra” Barbaglia helped launched international rapper Kid Cudi to mega stardom with the acid-fried “Day ‘n’ Nite” remix back in 2008, simultaneously defining the electro house sound and genre. Seven years later, Crookers now operates as a solo unit with Phra at the reins, though the vibe of the sounds still pushes limits on the dancefloor. This May, Dim Mak will release Crookers’ newest full-length album, Sixteen Chapel, a more focused effort than previous albums Tons of Friends and Dr. Gonzo.

In chatting with Barbaglia about his forthcoming release and current American tour, we hear his thoughts on the permanence of his now-iconic club/techno sound and the shift in American audiences heading back from the festival to the dancefloor. For the veteran producer, it’s intriguing to note that though styles may change, the classics still retain an impressive impact.

“Club music will always stay strong, in my opinion. It’s such a primitive instinct to dance.”

Sixteen Chapel is the new album. What was the thinking behind the LP name? Did you have any themes or particular goals you wanted to accomplish artistically with the release?
The most common error tourists make when visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome is calling it the “Sixteen Chapel,” so it’s a play on that. The album was created and inspired by my naturally random production, so there were no particular themes or goals for the record. I wanted it to stylistically sound like Crookers… just better.

Jeremih, like Ne-Yo and Chris Brown before him, is starting to really gain traction in the dance lane. Were you familiar with Jeremih’s work before collaborating on “I Just Can’t”? How did the collaborative process for the track come about?
Yeah, I’ve been a huge fan of Jeremih since day one. This track was done over the internet because of logistical reasons. We’re hopefully going to meet in person at some point and work on a track in the studio together.

What are the characteristics of the Crookers sound that you believe have made it stand the test of time? While other artists deviate from the club/tech vibe, you’ve been able to successfully maintain it and now see it influence two generations of producers.
For me, I’ve always made music that is fun. Honestly, I’m never happy with the result, so I just keep trying and trying to evolve and improve. Maybe all of this trying is interesting for people. What I create is more than a copy of a copy of the last radio hit.

You’ve worked with vocalists like Rye Rye, Kelis, and now Jeremih. Who are two modern voices and two classic ones that you feel would really take a Crookers production over the top?
I have absolutely no idea! I can work with anyone who isn’t a complete douche in the studio.

​You’ll be touring extensively in America for a bit. Thoughts about the US scene emerging out of the heavy bass phase and maybe wanting to really dance again?
I really hope that the US, and the rest of the world, will hark back to the days of dancing to a good groove, drinking and having fun in the most natural way. Club music will always stay strong, in my opinion. It’s such a primitive instinct to dance.

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