Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey—Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
We’re 85% sure that Chris Glover, now known professionally as synth-enthusiast and remixer extraordinaire Penguin Prison, is not an aquatic bird. Nor is he incarcerated. This 28-year-old New Yorker is, however, an artist who cut his teeth by dabbling in hip hop and remixing tracks for such artists as Goldfrapp (“Rocket”), Darren Hayes (“Talk Talk Talk”) and Ellie Goulding (“Starry Eyed”) before releasing his self-titled, groove-slathered first LP under his Penguin Prison monicker last fall. (He previously had an album out under his real name six years ago.)
Having been born in 1983, it makes perfect sense, then, that Chris, who attended school and played in bands with Holy Ghost!’s Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, first found an appreciation for music courtesy of Michael Jackson. “I remember having a Michael Jackson doll when I was around 5 years old,” he tells us. “And I remember having the Thriller album on vinyl and playing it on a Fisher Price record player.”
Head below to why just why Penguin Prison is on our Popping Up radar, and why we think he’s one to watch in 2012.
HOMETOWN: New York, New York
WHERE YOU KNOW HIM FROM: Penguin Prison captured lightning in a bottle last fall when his buzzy, Occupy Wall Street-themed video for “Don’t Fuck With My Money” hit the Internet. Sure, the song was penned way before the protest movement began. But the coincidental, timely chorus perfectly tapped into the public mindset.
Penguin Prison — ”Don’t Fuck With My Money”
THE REACTION HE’S GOTTEN FROM THE “DON’T FUCK WITH MY MONEY” VIDEO: “Ninety-nine percent of people — ha! — seem to like it,” Penguin Prison tells us. “I’m not claiming the song to be the anthem for any movement but I thought it made perfect sense to film the video with people who were standing up against the inaction of the government to properly regulate the greed of the richest people in the country who are primarily responsible for the drastic economic situation we find ourselves in currently.”
THE HOLY GHOST! CONNECTION: Chris, an only child, grew up on the Upper East Side and attended school with Alex and Nick from Holy Ghost!. “I’ve been friends with them for about 15 years or so,” Glover says. “We were in bands together in high school and used to freestyle together. I helped write four of their songs as well as played guitar and sang background vocals on their first release ‘Hold On’. Then Alex helped me with two songs from my album — ‘Golden Train’ and ‘The Worse it Gets’.”
HIS BIG BREAK: Glover had an agent by the age of 11 and began recording jingles. Later, while attending Bard College in New York, he put together a “crazy, fake boy band” called The Smartest People At Bard.
HIS BIGGER BREAK: Given his early faux boy band success, he sent a CD of hip hop tracks to A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, which led to a label deal and his first album release in 2005, under his real name. “I haven’t talked to him in a while but I really liked his latest album The Renaissance,” Chris says of Q-Tip. “I would love to finally make a song with him at some point.”
ON CREATING THE PENGUIN PRISON SOUND: “Before I started making the songs for Penguin Prison I was experimenting with so many different genres of music, and I decided to focus on one path and came to the Penguin Prison sound. The first song I made for the album was ‘Golden Train’, with the help of Alex from Holy Ghost. And then I wanted to make an entire album that would fit with that song.” Chris’ album was initially recorded in his home studio, and finishing touches were put on it in London.
Penguin Prison — “Golden Train”
ON HIS BIGGEST INSPIRATION, MICHAEL JACKSON: “I think his best albums are Thriller and Off the Wall, of course.”
HE’S GOT A THING FOR PRINCE, TOO: Watch Chris perform his “I Would Die 4 U”-esque tune “Multi-Millionaire” at last year’s South By Southwest below.
Penguin Prison — “Multi-Millionaire” (live at South By Southwest)
WHERE YOU CAN CATCH HIM: Penguin Prison is doing a gig at Los Angeles venue The Echo on January 13. Following that, he says, “There are several tour possibilities in the works, and I hope to tour as much as possible throughout the year.”