Thugfucker Talk Breakthrough Success and Doing the Macarena

With a handle like Thugfucker, one doesn't really know what to expect from this Icelandic-American duo. Are they gangsta rappers or some bizarro grindcore act?

To place them, though, you need look no further than a little 2011 banger called "Disco Gnome" on the hotly tipped Life and Death label. Because the lowdown is that Thugfucker are transatlantic boogie virtuosos of the highest order. And as you read this, they are probably destroying a dance floor near you.

Crossfade caught up with the pair ahead of their debut Miami performance at the Electric Pickle this Saturday. We talked about finally making it big after a decade in the game, doing the Macarena, and teaching the rhythm-blind how to get down.

Crossfade: Who is Thugfucker? How did you meet? And how did the collaboration come about?

Thugfucker: Originally, we met in a darkly-lit room in a party above a former brothel where we launched into a long discussion about the plight of the rhythm-blind and what we could do to help them. It was immediately apparent that we were operating on the same wavelength. We became fast friends and started working together shortly thereafter. And now in 2012, we're going to be officially [launching] the Foundation to Help the Rhythm-Blind. That last part's been a long time coming.

Two lovable misfits. One from Iceland but living in New York (his name is Holmar Filipsson) and another from NYC but only recently returned from an eight-year self-imposed exile in Europe (he's called Greg Oreck). Both pretty nice guys, but definitely troublemakers, if you like that sort of thing.

You've been releasing music for almost a decade. But 2011 was your big breakthrough year. What was the turning point?

Well, for most of that time, we've been living on different continents, so that definitely could've had something to do with it. But also, really, it probably had a lot to do with the way the scene has been shifting. We've been doing stuff both together and separately all this time. But this last year, we cemented a really amazing crew of close friends and collaborators with Life and Death, which has just been so so good. And then on top of that, we've found our crew coming together and working with a lot of like-minded crews in the scene, who are doing amazing stuff and really trying to push the boundaries of dance music. And the collaboration and good vibes between everyone is stellar. Like a musical Pangea of dance music families.

Did you have a feeling "Disco Gnome" would become such a big hit when you first produced it?

Ha! We had no idea. But we loved it immediately. And whenever we played it, we always got a great response. Especially from the ladies -- who are always the best litmus test for this sort of thing. But when we sent it around to some labels, nobody was really interested. And thank god they weren't, because if they had been, Manfredi [Romano] would never have approached Greg about doing a label together with "Disco Gnome" as the first release. So thanks for saying no, guys! Turns out it was just what we needed!

How have things changed for you personally and professionally now that you've gained international recognition?

Well, we've pretty much upped our game on the late-night bullshit talk now. Plus, we're eating higher quality pizza.

How did you come up with the name Thugfucker? And what does it mean?

Depends on which of us you ask. Truthfully, we both have two different memories of how we came up with the name Thugfucker. And neither one of us is willing to accept that the other person's version of the story is right. That sounds made up, but it's actually totally true. What does it mean? Supposedly in one of the Inuit languages it means "Two guys who don't take themselves too seriously." That might not actually be true, though.

What prompted you to launch Thugfucker Recordings? And what do you have in store for the label?

Kai from Word and Sound distribution talked us into it about three days into an afterparty at Tom Clark's house in Berlin. We'd just finished teaching everyone the dance moves to our house music answer to the Macarena -- essentially a bunch of dance moves that, when followed correctly, make you look like a complete idiot. That's what sold him on the idea that we should become tastemakers on a larger level. Go figure!

But for the moment we've put it on hold, as we just don't have the time to focus on it with the other things we've got going on now. Greg's working on Life and Death and Holmar's just preparing a new label called YAH! with some pretty amazing stuff coming up when it launches later this year -- not to mention spending more time in the studio and all this DJing and partying and stuff. But we'll probably go back to it for special occasions now and again.

What have been some of the highlights of 2011 for you? And what's next for Thugfucker?

Traveling around the world, getting to DJ for nice, smiling people everywhere is already pretty awesome. But then throw in the fact that we're often traveling or playing with our friends (either from Life and Death or elsewhere) and it just makes it even better. Not to mention, all the hijinks we seem to get into on the road. The kind of trouble that, as someone said to us once at an after-party, "is just the right amount of wrong."

On the studio side of things, we've done a bunch of collaborations this year, which is just always mega fun -- all with people who we both really like on a personal level and are also all amazing producers and DJs. One is with Tale of Us and is going to be coming out on Visionquest. And another is with Deniz Kurtel and Pillow Talk that'll be out on Wolf + Lamb. We're pretty excited about both of them, as well as a few more in the works with friends, as well as some solo stuff, which we're working on for Life and Death. Plus, we've met a hell of a lot of cool people this year all over the place. It may sound corny but that's definitely one of the highlights of doing all this!

Thugfucker with Electric Pickle residents. Saturday, October 29. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit

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Sean Levisman