INTERVIEW: Penguin Prison – Don’t F*ck With His Money
by Marcus K. Dowling
A sprightly mix of down-tempo funk and electro pop has finally guided New York based singer/producer Chris Glover, aka Penguin Prison to the precipice of greatness. Headlining at Washington, DC’s U Street Music Hall on December 17th, a past involving singing in gospel choirs with Alicia Keys blends with self-aware irreverence for a top-tier crossover sound. His eponymous-titled debut album, featuring latest single “Don’t Fuck with My Money” is out now, continuing in the familiar story of Big Apple-based intellectual dance pop. The song’s video, shot as the 99% occupy Zuccotti Park is topical to the song and politically timely, placing the vocalist that much closer to relevance in the mainstream world. I had the opportunity to interview the global-touring performer, to get a better handle on his past, present and thoughts about his future. Enjoy!
Many new listeners to your sound have been intrigued by your chosen moniker and stay for the quality of your music? Where did your name come from, and how does it fit into your creations?
I am called Penguin Prison because of George W. Bush. I used to rap and I made a joke rap song with my friend about G W Bush when he was the president. We were freestyling and started chanting, “he’s a penguin vision, he went to the penguin prison and assumed a penguin position.” I don’t know if it makes any sense but that’s the truth. Later, when I was trying to think of a name for myself, I remembered that line and decided to call myself Penguin Prison.
The nu disco/low fi/slow mo house movement is gathering steam rather quickly now. Was this style your first love, or is the disco house style impulse something you have gravitated towards?
I have made lots of different styles of music but I started experimenting with disco / electronic / dance music in 2007 when I made a few songs with Alex Frankel from Holy Ghost! We made the song “Golden Train” from my album, Penguin Prison, and I liked it and decided I should make an entire album that would go along with that song so that’s what I did!
Who are specific producers and what are the specific tracks both past and present that have influenced your development?
There is a lot of music that has influenced me but some of the obvious influences that can be heard in the Penguin Prison album are Michael Jackson, Prince, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem.
Your latest video is for earlier released track “Don’t Fuck With My Money.” Did you already have an idea of the treatment for the video before the Occupy movement took hold nationwide, or was the decision to make the serendipitous connection between the song and the nation made after Occupy began to grow?
I wrote and recorded “Don’t Fuck with My Money” some time before the Occupy Wall Street protest began but I felt that some of the lyrics reflected the sentiments that a lot of people have right now. Inspired by OWS and by the other protests that have sprung up all over the world I decided to film the video for “Don’t Fuck With My Money” at the Occupy Wall Street March that went from Zuccotti Park to Times Square. Filming it was an amazing experience and I hope the video can help to bring their message to even more people than it has already reached.
Your thoughts about musicians being tied to political movements.. With the popularity of the video (for “Dont FUck with My Money” you’re now clearly identified as someone down with the aims of the 99 percent. Was this the aim?
I feel that this movement is almost not even political in the sense of left vs right or democrat vs republican. The main issue in my opinion is that corporations should not be able to contribute to political campaigns more than ordinary people can. If there were restrictions on that, politicians would not have as much incentive to pass or not pass certain laws because of who funded their campaign and got them into office.
What has been the best story or development to come from the time you’ve spent on the road growing your fanbase of late? Did you expect this level of notoriety and success to come so quickly? What have been the most difficult adjustments so far?
The best part of being in a band is playing shows and traveling to new places and meeting new people. I like to go into the crowd when I perform and after the show I try to walk around and meet as many people as I can. Of course being on the road can be tough sometimes like when the whole band is sleeping in a stranger’s house on the floor with no heat but it’s an experience and it’s all worth it in the end.
Penguin Prison plays alongside RAC DJs and Reptar (Live) at Washington, DC’s U Street Music Hall on December 17th. FOr more ticket information visit www.ticketfly.com/event/43017/