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From the very beginning, Crookers wasn't like other dance music producers. Its first hit, a remix of Kid Cudi's "Day 'n' Nite," didn't even have a hook, just some blaring sirens and attacking synths, but it was a game-changing chart-topper.
Yes, Crookers is really weird. And that's what makes this project work. Maybe because Francesco "Phra" Barbaglia, the Italian mastermind behind Crookers, embraces his strangeness wholeheartedly.
"I've always been a little bit different from the other guys," Phra says. "I always explain my music, like, if you see two babies, my music is the one with the cross eye."
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He's a man with a bubbly personality and a big sense of humor. His bizarre point of view bleeds over into his productions, which are sometimes catchy, sometimes completely off the wall, but always danceable.
"Everything comes out of a random process. I don't even know what I'm doing when I do music," he says. "So I just make whatever I want to make in that moment I'm doing it, without even thinking if I can play it out after or if I can sell something.
"I actually don't care about selling records. I just love that I can play out my music and see people going mad."
Phra's explosive and awesome unpredictability spans genres and influences, from hip-hop to punk rock and classic rave to '60s psychedelic and classical composition. It's a variety of musical flavors that lives at the heart of the Crookers sound and makes the strangeness so relatable for dance fans.
"All these different tracks that I am doing is because I listen to too many different genres and it just gets weird," he snickers. "When I start to make music, it has everything, from noises and drums. And then, little by little, it takes some time to find a weird structure and make something really strange, but it works."
Of course, Phra isn't interested in the easy way. He prides himself on taking risks on the stage as well as in the studio. Unlike other EDM stars, he never gives the kids what they want and expect.
"You see a lot of DJs always play the same track, one after the other. It's like you watch a movie and then watch the same movie, and then watch the same movie again," he says. "When I come in, it's superweird. 'Uh-oh, what's this?' And I feel good about that."
For Miami, he'll unleash a fresh arsenal of sexy weirdo tunes, a bunch of brand-new secret weapons he's been working on for the past few months. He's hoping to blow minds, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm going to drop for sure some new, new, new, new, new, never-heard stuff, because I love to see the reaction of people when I play that stuff," Phra says excitedly. "It's too simple to play Swedish House Mafia's 'One.' I want to see what happens when you play something they don't know."