By Stephanie Collazo
New York native Chris Glover, better known as Penguin Prison, has been making a lot of noise in the underground music scene. With childhood friends, including members of Holy Ghost! and R&B legend Alicia Keys, with whom he attended a performing arts school, how could Glover not make something of himself in the music world? His new album is the perfect combination of New York disco, burbling bass lines, resonant rhythms and shimmering synths. Glover took some time out to give us the scoop on his road to success and what is coming next.
YRB: How did you get your start in music?
PP: I started singing when I was little. I went to a school called the Professional Performing Arts School where I started singing in a choir. We would sing all over the city and then I started getting into punk rock music and [started a] punk rock band, and we played all over clubs in New York like CBGB’s and other clubs like that. Then, I went to an art college and I was in a fake boy band called Forest People That Bark. I later sent a demo to Q-Tip, the rapper, and he called me back. He was trying to get me signed to his label, that didn’t really work out, but then later I got signed to Interscope Records. I made an album, it didn’t come out, then I became Penguin Prison after that and got signed to Downtown Records and finally released this album as Penguin Prison.
YRB: How did you come up with the name Penguin Prison?
PP: I actually came up with the name Penguin Prison because of George W. Bush. I was making a rap song with my friends and George W. Bush was president at that time. We were just joking around freestyling and the way it came up was a crazy line – “He’s a penguin goon, he went to the penguin prison, and he’s in the penguin position.” I just kept saying it over and over again and everyone was laughing like crazy, and then I just remembered the line and called myself Penguin Prison when I was trying to think of a band name later on.
YRB: How would you describe your style to someone who hasn’t heard your music?
PP: I would always try to combine opposites forces when making music. I make pop music but it has substance, most people don’t think of pop as having substance. I use old equipment and mix it with a modern way of using it and I use organic instruments mixed with electronic instruments. So I’m always trying to combine things that don’t necessarily belong together.
YRB: Who are some artists that have influenced your work?
PP: I’m influenced by many, many different styles of music. But some of the main influences for Penguin Prison are Michael Jackson, Prince, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem.
YRB: How has your music changed since your last solo album?
PP: Well, I was sort of surging through the sound I wanted to make and I’m friends with this band Holy Ghost! Alex from Holy Ghost! came to my house [and] we started to make a song with this Bee Gees rhythm machine that I had. We made this song called “Golden Train,” which is on my album Penguin Prison, and that was the first song I made as Penguin Prison. I liked it, so I decided I wanted to make a whole album to put together with that song.