Penguin Prison was born, appropriately, at the dawn of electrofunk, in 1983 - the postdisco era of Peech Boys’ Don’t Make Me Wait and D Train’s You’re The One For Me - and grew up, an only child, on New York’s Upper East Side with his mother, a business coach, and father, who writes handbooks on running. “It was cool,” he says of his upbringing. “The best thing about growing up in New York was being around all the other people who later turned out to be successful in the same field as me.”
These childhood friends included everyone from fellow contemporaries electro-disco exponent Holy Ghost!, who appears on and co-wrote tracks for the PP album, to R&B goddess Alicia Keys – the latter who attended the same performing arts school on Broadway, where he majored in vocals, even appearing in the same plays as PP.
Chris became Penguin Prison at the start of 2009. It wasn’t long before he earned a reputation as remixer du jour for the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Goldfrapp and Passion Pit. He agrees that he conferred NY kudos especially on the British artists, and admits his favorite remix was for Jamiroquai, adding that the secret to a good remix is “to throw everything away from the original track and start from scratch”.
Chris clearly knows what he’s doing, and is in his element in the studio. The music is both programmed on computers and played by real live human beings, including Alex from Holy Ghost! “Most of it is me,” explains Chris. “I tried to keep an element of the human, only using modern technology. I use ProTools as a canvas, a place to put things, but the synths I use are analogue.”
The album was mostly recorded in Chris’ home studio and completed in London, at State of the Ark, with producer/engineer Dan Grech-Marguerat, who has worked with Radiohead and Paul McCartney. “He tied up all the loose ends,” he explains.
Throughout, Chris put his vocal training to good use, his flexible tones able to reach as high on the scale as Barry Gibb and as low as Barry White. “I treat my voice like an instrument,” he says. “It’s about entertaining people, really.”