Music

Meet A.G. Cook, the Producer behind Charli XCX's Brand of Electro-Pop

The founder of PC Music, right arm of Charli XCX, and much-sought-after producer is bringing a breath of fresh air to electro-pop.
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A few days following his photo shoot for L'OFFICIEL, A.G. Cook finds us on Zoom to recap the day. "It was fun! Here in Montana, we live surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, so we were spoiled for choice for the locations of the photos. The team arrived on a day when the snow was starting to fall and it was kind of fun posing in spring clothes when the outside temperatures were freezing," Cook tells L'OFFICIEL. "Between two sessions, we obviously had thick coats to warm up. I really liked the colors and the camouflage inspiration. I haven't been on a lot of shoots in my life, but I find it very fun. What a great paradox to wear Louis Vuitton in the middle of a farm!”

The musician and producer is not originally from this rural area of the American Northwest, as his English accent indicates. Born and raised in London, A.G. (initials for Alexander Guy) Cook has most recently been living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, singer Alaska Reid. In early 2020, just before the Coronavirus surge, they decided to join her family in Montana. The state, with its very low population density, is ideal for self-isolation in the open air.

While Cook has spent the year in geographical limbo, he is very much still in the mix. His label, PC Music, has had a profound effect on pop music since its creation in 2013, and can be partly credited with popularizing the abrasive, synthetic, and hyper-distorted sound of what's come to be known as hyperpop

Before founding PC Music, the Englishman studied music at the prestigious London University of Goldsmiths, which is renowned for its artistic education — Mary Quant, Malcolm McLaren, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, John Cale, and even James Blake are on the scintillating list of alumni. The son of two well-known architects (Sir Peter Cook and Yael Reisner), Cook was first passionate about computers and software before welcoming music among his obsessions.

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In his early days, Cook imagined music created just using a computer, sans instruments. “It was just a phase, a personal challenge,” he smiles. Compressed sounds, heavy Auto-Tune, and blaring synths: Cook's digitally-filtered style does not go unnoticed. PC Music counts Danny L Harle, Hannah Diamond, Tommy Cash, EasyFun and GFOTY among its artists and producers. The genre is polarizing, but has found an audience among a dedicated group of young fans. 

Cook has also done a number of collaborations, teaming up with Sophie, Oneohtrix Point Never, Caroline Polachek, or most recently with Jónsi and Oklou. One of his most loyal collaborators remains Charli XCX; since beginning working together in 2017, the two have produced two mixtapes (Number 1 Angel and Pop 2) and two albums (Charli and How I'm Feeling Now), for which Cook was producer and co-composer. He also holds the official role of creative director of the English pop star. “I love collaborations where the personality of the artist comes out clearly, when you feel the charisma or the personal touch behind it,” Cook says.

While some artists are reluctant to reveal the thinking behind their own image, this jovial thirty-something gladly explains his relationship to his look. “I've always liked playing with it. My look was often described with the term "normcore," and it amuses me to hijack the codes, to always wear the same glasses, to have the look of a chic British nerd. It creates associations of ideas out of sync with my music," he says. "This shoot was an opportunity for me to do a completely banal act, that of having a photo taken, while at the same time being a bit subversive, because I am not a model. When I first started listening to music, I was fascinated by artists like Daft Punk, Gorillaz, and Kraftwerk, who have a very strong aesthetic and play with pretense.”

Cook's music has been used in various fashion shows — notably during Chanel's Resort 2015 collection, which Karl Lagerfeld presented in Dubai — but the musician prefers to observe the fashion world from a distance. “Fashion interests me, in particular the visual side and the possible links with music,” he says. "It's an intriguing world, a little intimidating too, with all the metaphorical aspect of the fabrics, the impact on the public, the trends that follow one another...I like the endless debates on what is retro or not, innovative or not, all these labels that I find quite funny. I find it hard to follow all of this, but I admire people who manage to decipher the codes of fashion.”

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After working in the shadows of studios for years, Cook was thrust into the spotlight in 2020, an important year for several reasons: the musician turned 30 over the summer and also released two albums under his own name, 7G and Apple, thus launching his career as a solo artist. However, do not believe that these two works were conceived in total autarky: several members of the PC Music tribe are credited on the albums. In addition, Cook has allowed himself a new freedom, with each of the seven discs on 7G having been conceived around a musical instrument (drums, guitar, piano, or even spoken word and “extreme vocals").

“I had planned to produce a solo album, but the quaranine made me want to go even further and compose more. I never had any plans to go on tour anyway — staying in the studio is fine for me," he says. "I lived a strange period; both oppressive, because of everything that was happening in the world, and creative, inventing music geared towards escape.”

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hyperpop

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