Chromeo tune in for peace

Jewish Telegraph, April 2005

MUSIC seems to have the power to heal rifts. Just last week Israeli and Palestinian radio stations made history by playing songs by the “enemy”.
But in Canada, a Jew and an Arab have been performing together for a number of years.
Pee Thug and Dave 1 — better known as Chromeo — recently completed a British tour supporting flavour-of-the-month Bloc Party.
The electronic-dance group released their debut album, She’s In Control (Turbo/V2), to critical acclaim last September.
Dave 1 — known to his family as Dave Macklovitch — said: “I grew up in Montreal. My father is a third generation Ashkenazi Jew and my mother emigrated from Morocco in the mid-1960s.
“As a child, I was raised on a strict diet of Bob Dylan and co. My grandmother bought me a guitar when I was nine and soon after I started playing in rock bands.”
Dave, who now lives in New York, adds that he discovered hip hop when he was 15 and “fell in love with the whole culture. That same year I met Pee and we formed our high school funk band. A couple of years later I started producing hip hop”.
Dave owns Audio Research records — one of Canada’s prime independent rap labels, distributed worldwide through New York’s prestigious Fat Beats.
Pee, meanwhile, was born in Lebanon in 1977 “in the worst period of the civil war”.
The artist formerly known as Patrick Gemayel said: “I grew up in Lebanon until I was eight, then my family decided to leave for Canada. I was raised mostly on Arabic music until I moved to north America, where I adopted hip hop as soon as I got off the boat.
“But this love slowly faded away around 1992. Then I discovered funk and 80’s music. Since I never lived through that period it was all new to me.
“I picked up my first guitar at 13, my first bass at 14. And then . . . Roger Trouman came into my life. I heard More Bounce To The Ounce and I built my first talkbox at the age of 16. The talkbox has been my number one passion since.”
Pee Thug also claims to have been “accidentally barmitzvah at my best friend’s little brother’s barmitzvah. I also speak more Hebrew than Dave”.
But does the fact that the media concentrates on Chromeo’s Jewish-Arab background ever detract from the music?
“Maybe it does sometimes, on a very superficial level,” Dave said. “But we asked for it by talking about our backgrounds in our biography. But we can’t hide where we’re from, can we?”
Pee, 27, added: “We’re always very quick to kill the subject in interviews. We have enough knowledge and personal experience to talk about religion and politics, but it has nothing to do with our music.”
Dave, currently studying for a PhD in French Literature at Columbia University, says he hasn’t been to Israel since he was two.
“I have tons of family over there though,” he said. “My brother was barmitzvah in Jerusalem but, as I was at the prime of my adolescent rebellion, I didn’t go.”
Pee, though, has never been to Israel. He explained: “I’m not allowed into Israel with my Lebanese passport and my Canadian passport is full of Lebanese stamps and visas . . . so we’ll have to wait for that. I’ve been to the border though.”
What are their views on the situation in Israel?
Dave — who describes comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm as “the most brilliant display of televised Judaism” — said: “Just like tons of Israelis who aren’t represented by the government nor by the depictions of the country in most media, I am very secular, very moderate, very left-leaning.
“Without going into much detail, my views are that of a proud, yet secular socialist Jew. I am in favour of a State of Israel. I am in favour of a State of Palestine. I am hoping for peace. But most of all, I wish both governments would fall out of the grasp of religious extremists.”
Pee Thug, meanwhile, chooses “to stay naive”. He said: “I want peace. The so-called holy sites belong to everybody and there’s enough land for everybody to co-exist, so stop the bull . . .
“We even eat the same food — except Israelis don’t put lemon juice in their hummus.
Dave, 26, describes Chromeo’s fans as “Jews”. He explains: “God’s chosen people. There’s not a lot of them, but they’re special.”
Pee, who works at his mother’s restaurant in Montreal, added: “The reaction seems great. I don’t really follow press or sales, but I respond to every single fan email I receive . . . I want to tell them that we love them all.”
Chromeo are currently shooting a video for their new single Rage! This will be followed by the re-release of single Needy Girl and a compilation on Belgian label Eskimo Records.
The group will be recording their second album Cupid Took His Arrow Back during the summer.
For more details about Chromeo visit www.chromeo.net