Rude Photo/X-Mix, Chicago myspace.com/felixdahousecat
"This is my electronic pop record," preens Felix Da Housecat, midway through a world tour to promote his latest album He Was King. "Whereas Kittenz & The Glitz was straight up electro, He Was King is straight Felix Da Housecat pop with a nice electronic feel." Packed with club smashes like 'KickDrum' and future synth-pop classics such as 'We All Wanna Be Prince' and 'Spank You Very Much', his tenth album is arguably his most concise, complete work since Kittenz & The Glitz ripped up the electro rulebook back in 2001.
But right now, Felix is all about the present and 2009 is a big year for Felix Stallings. Not only is he about to release his tenth - and quite possibly best - album, he's also just graced the cover of club bible Mixmag with hip-hop maestro Sean 'Diddy' Combs. That's because back in March, he headlined Mixmag's Main Event 2 at Cameo alongside DJ buddies Simian Mobile Disco, A Trak, Junior Sanchez and DJ Mehdi.
"That party was surreal to me. I normally drink more than a couple of shots of tequila and couldn't get buzzed because the party was so surreal. The party was the buzz! I was so LOCKED IN, as Puff would say. He said I played with confidence, that I didn't give a fuck and that I was downright disrespectful. I was so focused! But that whole day was a party. I did 4 parties in 24 hours and was still standing at the end."
Those close to him know that he's had a tumultuous couple of years but 09 promises to be his best yet, both professionally and personally. "I totally agree. When I did Virgo Blacktro I got tired of doing the same electro/electro-clash sound: I wanted to do something different and get my passion back. People liked it but what they wanted was more 'Ready To Wear' and 'Silver Screen'. So now, I've come back with 'KickDrum'." Already endorsed by Soulwax, Boys Noize and Erol Alkan, it's the Felix-flavored club smash we've all been waiting for. It's a volte-face, sure: Virgo was an r 'n' b-style electro LP overseen by Atlanta producer Dallas Austin and made for the heart, whereas He Was King is for the heart AND floor. Ever the workaholic, Felix maintains that he never actually went anywhere.
"Totally! My whole thing is I never went anywhere," he nods. Now I'm doing what I want to do, I've gone full circle and I am at peace." But he does admit to being stumped by the reaction to Virgo. "I had just moved to Atlanta and was still all over the place. I wanted to do something different but my life was chaotic. This was my experimental album, my 'Lovesexy'." Ever the Prince fan, he considers his simile. "Well, it was either my 'Lovesexy' or my 'Around The World'. After Prince came with 'Purple Rain', he followed it with 'Around The World' and everyone was pissed off 'cos they wanted another 'PR.' But I'm glad I did it because it made me more hungry!"
So the new album sees a more fresh, focused Felix return to the fray. A better mindset, stronger songs and a desire to take on the world again. "My mentality and attitude was the same as when I made Kittenz and The Glitz. We're all thieves - I do it too - but I got tired of people questioning my edge. I guess I got comfortable and just thought everything would slam. You do have to think about the radio, the people, the fans and yourself but it was so humbling that I did that record and people weren't ready for it."
He Was King is a title that leaves nothing to the imagination - and the record inside is a stately sixty-minute adventure in electro-stereo. "This is my 'Parade' or my '1999'," he giggles. "When I heard 'Parade' I was like 'maaaan! It was like Prince but a different kind of Prince. And this time, the record is more campy. I went back to the silliness. I wanted this to be more fun."
'We All Wanna Be Prince' is pure perfection - indeed, it's his best since 'Ready To Wear' and a record only Stallings could concoct. "That's a good comparison," he smiles. "It's sort of like a tribute but it's sort of not - I didn't want to insult Prince! Every lyric on that record is from a Prince song. It was a last minute thing and [engineer] BC was working on a song and it was just a kick and I heard a stab and I said it sounds like something Prince would make."
The song is great because it sounds so simple: but the creation was canny to say the least - and they took their cue from Rogers Nelson himself. "Like Prince, we slowed my voice down, recorded me half speed through the computer and then sped me up. I sang it slow like 'Erotic City' and we were cracking up. Then I played [guest singer] Nesh some Wendy and Lisa and I brought her in and out of the track. It was a joke but then when the track was done, we realized we really had something!"
Nesh, it transpires, is Felix's secret weapon. "I met Nesh through Dallas two years ago," he explains. "She was in a girl band called Red, they were a knock off of the Spice Girls. They toured with Alexander O'Neal and Bryan Adams. She was doing law when we met..." They've been inseparable since. "Every album I try to do it different, I wanted a dreamy side to it... like a Wendy and Lisa. I wanted to bring a high-pitched dreamy voice to it - the higher the pitch, the more twisted and campy the album would be. And we were just hanging out - and then I said - let's try this out. I needed a female voice and I learned in my career, every time I work with females, the songs come out more successful." Suddenly we hear an English voice singing sweetly in the distance.