Fifteen minutes with DJ Monki
Lucy Monkman on her rabbit, the Red Bull tour, and her Boiler Room football team
Monki is on the line-up for practically every festival worth going to this summer.
She started out at a small pirate radio station called Jackie, honed her skills at Rinse, and now she’s landed two weekly residencies: Sunday nights on BBCR1 and Mondays on 1XTRA.
Her Monki & Friends EP is renowned across the UK’s big room house, jungle, grime and garage scenes, and that list is not exhaustive. It’s now on its fourth volume, and this year she’s touring it in association with Red Bull Studios. The idea is to bring together the greatest minds in music, whether that’s established names like Joe Goddard and Preditah, or emerging artists like Novelist and Woz.
Here’s the new EP, which was released yesterday:
“Joe Goddard and Kidnap Kid was cool [in the second EP] because Joe is a music legend and Matt is a big fan, so it was good to make that happen,” she says.
Why hasn’t she made any tracks of her own? “[The EP] came about because people started asking me when I was going to start producing music,” she explains. “For me DJing always came first. Producers start making music in their bedrooms when they’re little kids, and I never did that. I was always quite an outdoor person: I wasn’t one to sit in a room and listen to about 10,000 kick drums, and pick the right one.”
This year’s EP will, as usual, feature a few undiscovered people. “This year was a lot like last in terms of the fact that [a lot of the] producers are pretty new. That’s just as exciting for me. The idea of it was that I would get people I really like, who haven’t worked together before, and stick them together. We’d go into the studio all three of us and we’d make a tune in two days.”
She has a lot of freedom in terms of who she features: “Red Bull Studios are really good, they give me sort of free reign. I come to them with ideas and they never really say no.”
The tour starts on 14th April in Manchester, and the last date is in London. “I’m sort of nervous about it. When you throw your own parties – even when you know it’s sold out – you get there at 10pm and think: ‘Oh God, no one’s here’ then you’re like, ‘Well, yeah, it’s 10pm’.”
What about summer? This year, she’s playing at We are FSTVL, Wildlife, Parklife, Sonar, Hideout, Lovebox and plenty of parties in Ibiza. She starts to tell me about her top three (“the ones I’m most looking forward to”) and then stops. “Sorry I’m just chasing my rabbit off the sofa, he keeps jumping up and he’s not allowed. His name’s Thierry.”
After the football player, Thierry Henry: Monki is a zealous Arsenal fan, to the extent that she even watched a match whilst playing at Creamfields. “Me and Justin [Annie Mac’s photographer] are huge Arsenal fans. I was DJing and he had his phone on the side. You couldn’t see it if you were in the crowd but me and Justin were just ducking around checking the score. I just sort of was going by what Justin’s reaction were. If he was f-ing and blinding I would go have a peek.
“It was quite a big game – I think it was Tottenham or someone like that. I think we won, otherwise it would have been a really shit set. I would have been really pissed off.”
She also plays on a team in south London. “Boiler Room have a women’s team – I train every Tuesday with people who work in media, music, and illustration. I only play once in a while, matches are on Sunday and I can’t play every Sunday as I work pretty much every Saturday.”
She returns to her top three summer gigs. “Sonar – I haven’t played that in a couple of years so that should be good. Ibiza Radio 1 Weekend, because everyone’s going to be there and it will just be a laugh. And Bestival. This will be my sixth year playing in a row.”
The first time she played at Bestival she was only 16. “I just kept emailing Rob Da Bank saying: ‘I will literally play in a mud hut, just please let me play’ and he gave me a little slot in the Bollywood tent, which was awesome. I also worked on the radio station there.”
Over the summer, she barely spends a week in London. She says that’s pretty common. “DJs in the summer are pretty much like passing ships in the night.”
She’s seemingly always a beat ahead: who’s she tipping for success next? “There are two guys from Amsterdam called Anotr, they’re big room house DJs. They put out an EP last year that we hammered in our sets – pretty sure Annie [Mac] did, too – mainly ‘Stop the Music’ but their whole EP is sick.
“I get sent so much music, I’ve got a promo email which anyone can send music to.” She listens to every track she is sent – she’s had 432 emails in the last two days.
“[This job] is just constantly listening to stuff and trying not to miss stuff as well. [Sometimes] you’re listening to the radio and hear something and think, ‘Why haven’t I got this tune?’ I often look back through my emails and realise I’ve actually had it for days.”
She only bought a proper pair of decks this week. “I had 1000s but they’re so old they’re practically useless. When I first bought them they were amazing, I was about 17 and I saved up my life to buy them. I’ve still got them.”