In an exclusive one on one with The Smoking Section’s Beware, P-Thugg takes time away from prepping the group’s upcoming North American tour to discuss his loyal fanbase, making albums like A Tribe Called Quest and eventually leaving a legacy similar to artists your mother might call the greatest of all time.
If you’ve got any sense whatsoever, set aside some time to start learning their songs now because these guys plan on sticking around for a while.
TSS: You’re exactly one week away from the first stop in your North American Night Falls tour in Dallas. What have you and Dave been doing to prep for the shows?
P-Thugg: Many things. We’ve been adding old songs. Changing some stuff, remixing some of the instrumentals for the show. And, um…a lot of other things that we can’t talk about…until you see the show.
TSS: Ah, until the curtain unveils. OK, well..correct if me if I’m wrong but this is your second full-blown US tour, right?
P-Thugg: Yeah, yeah. That’s right.
TSS: Well, what are some of the changes you’ve made this go ‘round?
P-Thugg: We’ve added more lighting. We’ll have our proverbial “lady-legs” keyboard stands. And, like I said, we’ll be changing some of our songs and, again, some of things I’d just rather not say until the show.
TSS: So, basically you’ve got done some fine-tuning and set aside some surprises. Gotcha.
What is the most difficult thing about embarking on not just a tour, but a journey like this…across the country, with your crew and all that. What’s the most difficult part about something of this magnitude?
P-Thugg: It’s the traveling, man. It’s the hardest part. I mean, if I could have a show everyday in the same place, it would be way less work. Because, the show is an hour. Performing is the fun part. You basically work for two months, for an hour and a half or two hours a night. The traveling really gets to you. Very little sleep. A lot of bus. A lot of bus bunks. A lot of hotels. You have pack up every day. Your suitcase.
And, I guess, logistically, on the other side, it’s getting one place to another. Unloading the whole show in a couple of hours. Sound-checking. When it adds up, it can make you really fucked up by the end of the tour.
TSS: Exhausted, I can imagine. We fans only get to see the fun part. Tell me the truth: do you ever get sick of Dave?
P-Thugg: Sick of Dave?
P-Thugg: Uhhhh, not more than…well, you know we’ve known each other for so long, that we’ve kind of passed that stage. It’s like, if you get sick of your brother, your mother or your sister. It depends. It’s not an option. We’re passed the stage of friendship, where it’s, ‘Oh, I don’t want to see Dave today.’ It’s, ‘there he is.’ And he probably thinks the same about me, like, ‘there he is.’
TSS: In general, he seems to be carrying most of Chromeo’s interviews, throughout the media and whatnot. Is there a reason for your Penn & Teller-esque shtick, if you will? Or is that just you – cool, calm and collect?
P-Thugg: You mean during interviews?
TSS: Yeah. You know, in Penn & Teller, the tall guy carries most of the interviews, while the small just plays it cool in the background – kind of like you.
P-Thugg: Yeah. That’s just me. It’s our personalities, man. Dave can’t shut up and I’m just in the background. I understand everything and have just as much to say, but I just…I’m just chillin’ man. I let him speak.
TSS: I always figured.
P-Thugg: Yeah. It’s not like I don’t understand what’s going on. I’m right up there with everybody. And, whatever he says, I kind of think the same anyways.
TSS: He’s just more willing to talk, so “hey, go ahead.”
P-Thugg: Oh, yeah. He’s a teacher, bro. He speaks and he likes to be in front and entertain the crowd. Because you know, when you start bumping, you have to know (each other). If you want a band to succeed, or even a a friendship or anything, a marriage, anything, you have to know when to let go and let the other person do his thing. If we were up there talking over each others’ words, I mean, egos get involved. And, we’ve known each other long enough to know how to avoid the dumb shit. You know, bands break up because they don’t really know each other well enough and then they’re put together on the road for six months and realize they hate each other. And, their egos are bigger than the rooms and there’s too many cooks. You got to know when everyone gets their turn. That’s Dave’s thing.
TSS: You guys obviously found your groove.
TSS: Are there glaring differences between touring in the US and touring overseas?
P-Thugg: It’s hard to say, man. Because with the information being accessible everywhere in the world basically, every place is becoming the same. All the DJs play the same music. All the kids know the same songs. There’s not much regionality left, you know?
TSS: Wow. You know, that’s an interesting point of view that I wouldn’t have thought of, being stuck here in the U.S.
P-Thugg: Well, there is to a certain extent. You know, every place has it’s local hero. Every place has these locals bands that they love. Certain places are known to start a certain style of music. That still exists, but I’m seeing it less and less just because everybody has access to the same information.
TSS: That makes sense. Do you have a preference, between the US and overseas?
P-Thugg: It’s hard to say, because you travel and you get to see different…the main difference would be how the crowds react in each country. I can say that in England and France and some other places, like Sweden, the fans react like in North America. And, maybe in the other places a little less known, we have to work on those markets. But, I’d say the reaction is pretty much more uniform everywhere. Europeans are a little more open to Electronic music, just historically and culturally. But, it’s pretty much the same. The favorites, you know, you don’t really have a favorite crowd. You have a favorite city, where you can eat well or dress well. Or, buy some dope clothes.
TSS: Where you’ve had good memories.
P-Thugg: That’s where you favorites come in. Like, I love Paris. I love London. I love New York, you know. But, the crowds are so…every show you’re in from city to city is the same, but the country will change regardless.
TSS: Using a lot of adjectives, what can fans expect from a typical Chromeo concert?
P-Thugg: Using a lot of adjectives?
TSS: Yeah. I’m throwing it out there, because I know you guys a known for having a way with words.
P-Thugg: They can expect smoothness. “Smoove”…with a V. Smooveness.
TSS: [Laughs] Okay.
P-Thugg: They can expect funk. They can expect dance. They can expect singalongs. And they can expect dope girls.
TSS: Good choices. Do you two have any pre-show rituals that you do, before you go on stage?
P-Thugg: Nah, not really. Well, we had a ritual for like three weeks. It was, that scene in Talladega Nights. What did they say before? They gave each other a pound and they’re like, something…
TSS: Oh, “Shake and bake.”
P-Thugg: “Shake and bake” [laughs heartily]. We did that for three weeks and we like, “This is isn’t really a ritual.”
TSS: And I know after the show, you’re itinerary consists of impregnating females, like you guys were doing in your new video for “When The Night Falls.”
P-Thugg: No, that’s during the show.
TSS: [Laughs] Oh, right.
P-Thugg: After the show, we just roll over and sleep.
TSS: Yeah, I can imagine you guys are exhausted. One more thing I wanted to touch on here too, was this “When The Night Falls” video came out to a lot of praise and the “Don’t Turn The Lights On” video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. How important are the visuals when it comes to you guys putting your personalities on display?
P-Thugg: It’s very, very, very important to us. It’s part of the package. We love ’70s and ’80s music, in part, because there was so much importance to the whole package. You had to have the visuals. The videos. The posters. Everything matches. Everything was one world. It’s like we created our own world. And, everything has to be consistent. Videos are really important and anything that can translate our personalities and exactly how we are with each other, with no bullshit, that’s what we go for.
Since we were young, we’ve been hanging out together and been best friends. And these people around us, they’d just tell us, ‘there’s something about these two dudes.’ We have this weird connection. Our interactions can definitely come across when we’re on stage, when we’re on videos, because you can see it’s real. You can see it’s there. It’s not like some fucking, you know, some put together boy band. We’re real friends.
TSS: It’s obvious. You touched on it earlier when you said how you might play the back role, but that’s just how you are. ‘It’s not just what you see, it’s really us.’ And, as fans, we can appreciate that, because there are so many makeshift bands that get shoved down our throats.
P-Thugg: Yeah. You can catch me and Dave at the club, or anywhere. In the street. In the car. Fuck it, when we’re eating somewhere. You’ll see exactly what you see in interviews. I’m in the back, watching Dave go off and making making me crack up. This is how we are.
TSS: Hey, keep 100. Please. It seems kind of crazy to me that your last album, Business Casual, came out just over a year ago. Looking back, how do you feel about it?
P-Thugg: Well, it’s actually exactly a year ago.
TSS: It seems like it was yesterday.
P-Thugg: Yeah, it went by pretty fast. I really haven’t had time to think about it. To me, it’s like it came out two months ago, you know? We’re already starting…we’re gonna’ pump out albums. So, were gonna’ start working this winter on a new album.
TSS: Good. That was going to be my next question, because it seems like you guys typically put about three years in between albums to fine-tune them. But you’re jumping right into it now?
P-Thugg: Well, we want to jump right into it and not make people wait three years for another album. Hopefully.
TSS: What’s your key to maximizing promotion for an album? It can’t be easy. A lot of artists just jump right into their next mixtape or their next album six months in. But you guys have always taken your time. How do you maximize that time between albums?
P-Thugg: Well, for us, an album is a body of work. It’s a whole thing. It’s not just putting songs together. So, we’d rather think about it for a longer time. Take more time between releases, so we will have something that will last forever, you know?
P-Thugg: You can’t just put an album out where the artwork doesn’t match the music, the video aesthetics, or the songs are just put together. I mean, we put so much time into the just the order of the songs. You know? Just to make it a full experience. So, once the album comes out we can really take our time and put out four singles and four videos per album, which is a lot.
It’s not like we’re trying to stretch out what we have. It’s that we are fully exploring every song on there, and we make we sure we have enough songs to make people talk for two-three years.
TSS: It’s quality over quantity.
P-Thugg: Yeah, exactly.
TSS: And, that’s what I would want as a fan. That’s what I do want as a fan.
P-Thugg: That’s what I want as a fan, too. Like, when you listen to a Tribe album, you know? Dude, I can listen to the first three Tribe albums from beginning to end. Especially Midnight Marauders. From beginning to end, it’s like a fucking journey, man. It’s an experience.
TSS: It’s cohesive.
P-Thugg: That’s exactly where we’re going. You can listen to Thriller beginning to end, nonstop. You don’t have to be like, “oh, I’m skipping to track seven.” There’s interludes. The songs connect. It’s cohesive. It makes sense. That’s what we’re going for.
TSS: I met you guys about a year ago at the Majestic, when you were in Detroit last September. You guys were very gracious and I appreciate it. But, one thing that Dave said to me, after I mentioned, “Hey, I first heard about you on a Reese’s commercial back in like 2006…” and he said something like, “Well, man, the radio doesn’t play us, so we gotta get money somehow.”
And I found that very intriguing. Because, on top of that, you have now been in the new FIFA video game, an NBC primetime TV series and even a Bing commercial, as well. Basically, in the United States specifically, you’re everywhere but radio. What’s it going to take for Chromeo to get on Top 40 US radio?
P-Thugg: That’s an ongoing battle for every band. How do you make it to Top 40? It’s having one mega-smash hit. It’s having money. There’s a lot things involved, man. It’s not as easy as people think. You can have a great song and you might never see daytime radio. Just because of, you know…
P-Thugg: It’s not necessarily politics. When you do have that song that transcends…it’s one thing to have a cult following and a bunch of people that want a part of everything and that love you. And I think that’s where we’re getting at and we’re really thankful for that. But, I think it’s another thing to hit cab drivers in Greece, you know? It’s a different game and a different way to write songs. Some people are paid for that, to chase and write songs that are made for radio. There’s a certain sound.
P-Thugg: And there is the odd song every now and then, like “A Milli” or “Fuck You,” by Cee-Lo. Stuff like that, that doesn’t sound like anything. It’s pure UFO. It comes in, everybody loves it, everybody connects and then it leaves…and the radio goes on with Ke$ha and Katy Perry. You know what I mean. That’s basically what it is.
TSS: [Laughs] Is that something that’s alluding you or something that you’re just going to let come to you? Or, do you guys even care?
P-Thugg: We are perfectly happy where we are, because we know the fans we have are die-hard. If you get us, you know – without being influenced by radio, then somebody told you about us and you really get it. You understand. You’re not just influenced by big-time, Top 40 radio, like “Oh yeah, this is a cool song” but never know what the rest of the album sounds like. Every one of our fans knows all of our songs. It’s not just, “Oh yeah, it’s that band that has that song, ‘dah dah dah dah,’” you know what I mean? That happens to so many bands.
People go to their show for one song only. I can name you bands, dude, like…huge bands that have one, two hits. People come there and only listen to the two singles and then listen to the rest of the album and have no idea what’s going on. I wouldn’t personally like to have that. Maybe if both worlds could be combined and we’d have something that universal, to the level of Stevie Wonder and Prince. That’s universal music – if you go see Stevie Wonder, you go to the show and know every damn song he’s playing. By heart. You know what I mean?
TSS: And that says a lot. About an artist and their longevity.
P-Thugg: Exactly. I mean, we’re aiming for longevity over overnight hits and radio play, and temporary stardom.
TSS: Vanilla Ice had maybe one of the biggest songs of an entire decade, yet now he’s doing reality TV shows, selling houses. I can’t see you guys doing that in 10 years.
P-Thugg: No, no. Dude, I mean, if Chromeo doesn’t work and everybody hates our next album and we basically go out of business, I’m not going to chase stardom. I’m going to go back home and open a restaurant. Anything. You know what I mean. Have a family. We’re really in it for the music. For the art. We’ve taken conscious decisions over time, to stay close and true to what we like.
It’s very easy to go out there and chase radio hits. You get to a label and they bunch you up with a bunch of songwriters who sit and write for Katy Perry, and you would probably – in a 10-year-career – have super fame for five or six years. But, that’s not what we’re really about. I want to look back on my career and have 10 albums of dope shit, that kids in 20 years will be listening to as a reference, like we’re doing old hip-hop or Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or Parliament Funkadelic.
TSS: Well, as a fan personally and pretty much on behalf of everyone else who’s a fan, I really commend you guys for sticking to your guns and not giving into the system. I feel at the point you’re at right not now, it would be easy to do that. It’s appreciated.
P-Thugg: Thank you.
TSS: You got anything to tell everybody going to the shows this fall.
P-Thugg: We’re comin.’ Get ready.
For further reasons to get pumped up about Chromeo coming to your town, check out the tour schedule on their official site Chromeo.net and download their latest release, When The Night Falls Remixes EP, on iTunes.