From 2003 to last year Italy's Crookers were a duo comprised of Phra and Bot. But in October the longtime pair decided to go their separate ways. That hasn't slowed down Phra at all. Carrying on under the Crookers name, he's just released an EP, Giga a Go Go, and he says that is just the beginning.
"The Giga a Go Go EP is just a glimpse of what's in store, and I will be bombarding my fans with a lot of new originals, collabs and remixes in the near future," he tells Rolling Stone. "Hopefully in the near future after returning home I will start working on Dr. Gonzo 2."
While some fans have been disappointed the successful duo parted ways, Phra is very open that the pair weren't the tight-knit friends everyone assumed. "It's kind of hard to admit, but the perception that maybe some people had of us being best friends was kind of a façade," he says. "I think that was evident to some people or other artists that we always toured around, but generally life after the split hasn't felt much different to me at all."
That is also true of making new music. "I've always been more militaristic in my work ethic when it comes to studio time, and in the past me and my ex-partner never really worked together on music in the same space," he says. "We'd only really hang out getting dinner and playing shows."
Still, he says there's nothing but positive memories from his tenure with his former musical partner. "I can say that in the eight-plus years we were together we told a great story," he says. "Truthfully, I left the partnership with no regrets, and I hope he did the same."
That's not the only change that has Phra feeling so invigorated. "A new weight has been lifted off my shoulders – not just with the separation, but also with a lot of my past deals expiring," he explains. "I have new management based in L.A., which I find very beneficial. There are so many good things getting rolling for me."
Case in point: he recently joined Deadmau5 at the dance music superstar's Grammy-night benefit for Children's Hospital at House of Blues in Los Angeles. The following week, Phra was working tightly with the Roc Nation family.
"Getting to walk to Westlake Studios every day and share musical ideas and concepts with the people who have contributed to some of the biggest records in the last five years is a dream come true for me, and I'm definitely ready to contribute my part to make an imprint beyond 'Day 'N' Night' [the hit remix Crookers did for Kid Cudi] to this whole new dance phenomenon in America," he says.
His high-profile associations will continue when Crookers hits the road, doing some dates with Skrillex. "I don't really know many more details as of now," he says, "but from the whispers that I've heard, the shows are going to be crazy."
Phra has a lot of respect for Skrillex, with whom he became friends doing the HARD Ship together. "It's refreshing to see someone who is genuinely so passionate and happy about the little things, considering how much success he's had in the last couple of years," he says.
One of the things Phra is anticipating when he takes the stage again is musical freedom. "I'm really excited to notice that the kids are starting to move away from this progressive cheese that has seemed to dominate the last few years and are looking for something more experimental or outside of what they already know," he says. "Recent fads like moombahton and trap, among others, have given people other avenues to explore besides the customary four-by-four stuff that people expect when you say you play 'dance music.'
"I'm more excited than ever to be as free as I want during my sets and bounce around from one genre to the next and get as weird as I want."