Catching up with underground tastemaker Monki at IMS Ibiza 2017
During our trip to the 2017 edition of the International Music Summit annually held in Ibiza, we caught up under a bright sun with the underground tastemaker Monki to know more about herself and her debuts with Rinse FM, her show at Radio 1 where she showcases new talents of the electronic music scene and of course to know more about the club night and label she runs. We also debated the issue of health and hedonism in the dance music industry, as she was part of an IMS panel dedicated to the matter
1. So hey Monki, tell us a bit more about yourself and what you are doing here at IMS
I’m Monki, I’m from London and I do a radio show every Sunday night onto Monday morning UK time from 1 to 4. I play a wide range of music ranging from house, techno, disco to a bit of garage and UK stuffs. I also run a club night called Monki & Friends and a music label called Zoo music. I’m here at IMS in Ibiza for the first time to talk about health and hedonism and the balance between the two as someone that works into the music industry
2. You mentioned that you’re doing radio and this is also your background. Nowadays, it’s not that common to hear about people who make it through radio. So how did you get started with radio and how did you get involved with that?
In London, not so much now but when I started I was 17 and there was a massive pirate radio scene, which was mostly made of illegal radios in and around London that played underground electronic music and that’s how I came through. I started off with Rinse FM, which is now a legit radio station and that has a license
3. So there used to be pirate radio stations when you started?
Yes! When I started it [Rinse FM] was pirate radio station East London and we broadcasted out of a little tiny room in a middle of a car park and I stayed there for quite a few years and then Radio 1 picked me up from there
4. So what was the connection with Radio 1: they heard your sound and your radio show and found it so cool that they wanted to have you on board, right?
I think that back then, Radio 1 looked at pirate radio stations and stations like Rinse to see who was coming through in terms of dance music and I happened to be at Rinse at the right time and the right people were listening to my show and they invited me to do the residency. It used to be called “In New DJs We Trust” but now it is called the residency. They had myself and Jackmaster join Radio 1 at the same time. Then, someone ended up on maternity leave, I covered them and ended up keeping their slot. Now, I’m still there, 4 years on
5. Cool! So tell us a little bit about how you select music for your radio show and what defines your radio sound.
I was a radio presenter so I actually get sent a lot of promos from pluggers and from promotion companies. But then again it is really important to know what’s going on within the club. I think the most I get out of finding music is experiencing it within a club because, when you listen to it on your laptop, it sounds completely different to what it sounds in front of 200 people in a sweaty room. So basically, the way I select music is very varied: it is online, in the club, my friends sending me music as well as over Soundcloud
6. Well, so can you relax in the club when you’re out partying or are you constantly listening to the music with your phone and shazaming it?
No no no, I definitely relax (laughs)
7. So Moving to IMS, it is for us both the first time here. What is IMS for you so far?
I’ve only been here for a day and I’m only staying for a couple of days because I have to go back to London to do a radio show. But it’s just so nice to see everybody in such a small place. And of course being here in Ibiza, it is such a special island. It is the hub of dance and electronic music so to be here is very special. I also like to put faces to names, it is a great opportunity because you talk to so many people via emails and when you finally do meet them in real life you’re like “Oh, how are you?” and you can get a lot more done within like an hour when speaking to someone
8. So it is also the first time you are on a panel. The panel topic was Health versus Hedonism and staying sane in the music industry. Is there a particular reason why they chose you to speak on this panel?
I was actually speaking to Pete Tong at the time about staying healthy in such a hectic work environment. Pete likes a lot cycling and I mentioned I played a lot football. I have music on the one hand and I have football on the other, and both are super important to me in terms of keeping a bit sane and healthy. Moreover, one benefits the other and playing football strengthens my mind for work. So basically, that’s how he ended up asking me to come on board for this panel in particular. I asked him if there was something I could particularly help on in terms of panel and he said this one would be perfect. So I spoke with some really interesting guys such as Louisahhh. She went on tour in Australia and I had not seen her since, so it was nice to see her. It was also nice to hear everybody’s stories and sort out the balance of the two subjects
9. So you’re playing quite a few shows yourself, have you ever been confronted with this issue and felt like your body and mind were not fully aligned and that your mind could not really follow the party?
I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’m strong headed enough to say I’m not gonna drink tonight, I’m gonna sleep and play and then I’m going to go home. At the same time if you take two hour’s sleep before you go to a club and you turn up and you’re quite tired, it’s hard to connect with people who are raving, so it’s a hard one to balance but you get used to it. Personally I have to do it like this to sort of balance everything. Some people can actually party for days and still be ok but I’m not able to, so it was an interesting subject for me personally
10. So you meet a lot of DJs out there, how many DJs would you say to take it easier on drinks, drugs and the whole crazy lifestyle?
I wouldn’t tell anyone personally, that would never happen unless I was super worried about their health (laughs) but if I really had to, maybe like three people
11. Three people? So you have actually the feeling that it’s getting better? They said on the panel that it was completely different 20 years ago.
Yes definitely. I’m going by what they said on the panel because 20 years ago I was 5 years old, so I wouldn’t know, but I believe it is more popular to be healthy today than it was 20 years ago, as the panel pointed out. I don’t know personally because I didn’t go raving when I was 5. But I think now it is becoming more normal and people have to understand that you can’t party 7 days a week, it is not viable, the body can’t handle that. I guess there are still one or two people who can and good on them but I can’t do it. But it is definitely becoming more balanced and people are becoming more aware about mental health
12. So you think in general the scene is becoming healthier?
Yes I think so and I hope so definitely
13. What do you have planned for this summer?
So now it’s festivals for the next three months, coming in and out of Ibiza, and festivals all around the UK and a couple in Europe as well. But my festival season is almost over now so I’m gonna focus on music for the next three months. It’s gonna be hectic, and then at the end of the year it’s back to clubs in the UK. You can tour the UK all year and not get bored so I’m looking forward to that.
14. What’s gonna be your summer highlight?
I’m looking forward to going back to Glastonbury. As much as I say I hate it sometimes, I secretly love it. It is like a city, Glastonbury is so big! It is like a city of raving for 4 days. That’s gonna come around pretty quick, in like two or three weeks and I’ll be there for the whole thing so it’d be cool to be out there with BBC radio 1 guys and I’ll be back in Ibiza with the radio 1 guys as well so it’s great. More hedonism than health (laughs)
15. Where can people find you online if they want to connect with you?
Soundcloud: Soundcloud.com/monkidj `
Photo credits: REDBULLSTUDIOS London