Sunday, September 11, 2011

FOTP Exclusive Interview with Penguin Prison

Penguin Prison is New Yorker Chris Glover, best known for his remixes for artists ranging from Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue, Martina & The Diamonds to Faithless, Jack PeƱate, Jamiroquai and so on. His first break came as part of a college band called "The Smartest People at Bard", whose demos came to the attention of rapper Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest), and through him, Interscope. Chris released a solo album for Universal (Interscope's parent company) in 2009 but the LP attracted little attention and he left the label that same year. Thereafter he took up the Penguin Prison moniker and set about making his name as a remixer for Passion Pit, Goldfrapp, and Marina.  

Together with producer Dan Grech-Marguerat (Scissor Sisters, Radiohead) Glover - now Penguin - crafted his electro-pop sound. Two singles followed: "Animal Animal / A Funny Thing" (Nov. 23rd 2009) and "The Worse It Gets/Something I'm Not" (March 22nd 2010), both through US indie label Neon Gold. A third single, "Golden Train", was released on November 22nd through Wall of Sound. He then inked a deal with Downtown Records in the US and to Strange Records in other territories, including the UK, Australia and most of Europe. 

Now Penguin Prison has finally unleashed to the world his self-titled album, composed of eleven original tracks, out in the UK on September 5th and in the US on October 18th. Available on HMV with an exclusive double CD with a bonus remix album, on iTunes with bonus tracks "Animal Animal" and "Penguin Prison In The Mix" (just over 20 minutes of continuous PP remixes of his own songs segued together by Glover himself), and on Amazon with 6 bonus acoustic songs. Basically, you've got to get them all so as not to miss out.

Recently my collaborator Luis from popular Brazilian blog OhMyRock with some help from myself put together a few questions to forward to Mr Glover, here are his answers:

Hi Penguin, how are you?

I am fine, how are you?

I'm great thanks. So..your real name is Chris Glover. Why did you chose to go by Penguin Prison instead of your real name?

I wanted a band name because when I make songs I like to work with other people and when I play live I perform with other people, so I wanted the project to have a name instead of just my name, because it's not just me who makes the music.

And the million dollar question: what does "Penguin Prison" actually mean?

I made a song with my friend Bob and we were just joking around and he came up with a line where he said 'penguin prison' and I liked it and decided to use it as the name for my band.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I am currently listening to the new Metronomy album, the new Bon Iver album.

You were signed last year, and then unsigned. Now you're signed again, but did it ever cross your mind to release your album independently?

I think the label I am on now, Downtown Records, is a great label so I am happy to be releasing the album with them.

Your album was completed last year but it's only being released now, September. Are you the kind of artist that always goes back to your songs to make changes (big or small) or do you feel the songs were ready since last year? 

The album was worked on for a while in different places with various people so I was always perfecting it here and there until I thought it was done. I think my next album will be a little different the way I will make it but that's how I made this one!

What was the most challenging thing about recording your debut?

I would take breaks on certain songs because I would hit a wall and not know how to finish the song. Then I would try to work on it again with different people helping me and then I would be able to finish the songs.

How many songs did you write or record for it?

I made about 13 songs and there are 11 on the album. There was one that didn't really fit so I left it out and the other was Animal Animal which was released as a single almost 2 years ago now!

What is the most special song of the album for you, and why?

I supposed "Something I'm Not" is probably the coolest song on the album. I think it is the most innovative sounding one for sure.

This is a funny thing: do you really call your car "Jenny"? If not, how did you come up with it in "The Worse It Gets"? 

I don't call my car Jenny no! My friend Alex Frankel from the band Holy Ghost! came up with that lyric. He brought the idea for a song to my house and we worked on it and turned it into what is now known as "The Worse It Gets".

My [Luis'] favourite song from the album is the extended version of "Golden Train", which is almost seven minutes long. How did you come up with it? Did you do it before the Radio edit or did you do it after realizing the song needed a few more minutes?

Golden Train is the first song I made as Penguin Prison. I made it with my friend Alex Frankel from Holy Ghost! I made the long version first and then cut a radio edit afterwards, but people still haven't heard the long version yet really because it's only on the album.

Have you already chosen your next single? I'd [Luis] guess your choice would be "In The Way", it's very Penguin Prison!

"Don't Fuck With My Money" is the next single and I think it will be the biggest one on the album! Maybe "In The Way" can be a single too!

From the unreleased songs, my [Luis'] favourite one is "Desert Cold". I love how playful it is in the verse and how it gets serious in the chorus. Any chance it becomes the next single?

I feel like 'Desert Cold' could definitely be a single at some point for sure. I think it is different from the other songs on the album which is cool. It has some more rock elements in it that the others don't have.

We both love the album cover and think it's one of the most amazing covers of the year. What's the meaning behind it?

All the art for Penguin Prison is done by a woman named Frau Grau from Germany. It kind of took a while for the album art to come together but if you get the CD or vinyl you will see that the art work is really special. We just kept talking about ideas for it until she came up with something that I would like and then she would go more in that direction. I don't know what the meaning is really to be honest!

Your singles/album artwork seems to follow the same pattern. Have you ever thought about having a picture of yourself on the cover?

No, I don't think I would ever want to have myself on the cover of any of my albums to be honest. I really like my album art where it's just a really cool image. Like Radiohead albums and stuff like that.

We love your remixes. Can you tell us a bit about how these collaborations happen and which one you had the most fun doing?

My favourite one is the first one I ever did - the one for "I Am Not A Robot" by Marina & The Diamonds. Usually someone from an artist's label or their manager asks my manager or me if I will do a remix for them and then they send me the parts to the song. I take the vocals and put them in Pro Tools and come up with music that fits in behind their vocals.

Can you tell us about your next remix, or if you can't, can you tell us what artists you think that need the Penguin Prison touch?

I did a remix recently for an artist named Lana Del Rey which I think is very cool. I think I like making remixes for female voices better than male voices. The best ones I have done are all for female artists! So any female artists out there that I haven't remixed yet - that's who I want to remix.

Would you like to produce a song or even album for someone else? Have you already been proposed?

Yeah that would be cool for sure. Some people have asked me here and there but I haven't done it yet.

This year we are seeing a lot of debuts. Do you already have a favourite?

I like Twin Shadow and I like Das Racist!

Would you like to come to Brazil?

Of course I would like to come to Brasil!!!!! What kind of question is that?

Haha! If you had to describe Brazil in one word, what would it be?

I don't know much about Brasil honestly but it seems like the coolest place in South America and apparently there are lots of attractive women there so in one word I guess sexy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answers our questions. We really love your work and it was really nice to have a chat about it! 



Check out Penguin's official website for all the latest official news and links to purchase his awesome new record. You can stream his AWESOME (I mean it) latest single "Don't Fuck With My Money" and the rest of his album below (thanks to Luis for uploading to Soundcloud):

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