Drumtrip Sessions #07 – DJ Monita (Interview and Mix)
I am very pleased to say that Drumtrip Session seven comes in the form of an interview and mix by boss of the excellent Skeleton Recordings, and of “Luv Ta Luv Ya” fame; DJ Monita. I caught up with the man himself on Twitter and he was kind enough to not only produce an immaculate mixtape for us, but also answer a few questions about his work throughout the 90s.
So to begin, an interview with DJ Monita, and then the mix below (don’t miss it!).
Tell us a bit about yourself .
Well, I’m born and raised in West London. A 70’s child, father of 3 fantastic kids, a husband and some might say a bit of a perfectionist.
I lived in West London all my life until I moved a bit further out so I could get myself on the property ladder.
Started collecting hardcore vinyl from late 89 really, trying to get a lot of stuff I missed like Beat Club – Security, Raze – Break For Love, Ritchie Rich – Salsa House, Debbie Malone – Rescue Me etc. to build up what was then my very little collection. 1990 was when I can first remember starting to DJ, mixing on 2 belt driven decks and budget mixer at first before buying a set of 1210’s.
How did you first get involved in the hardcore scene?
1989 was my first time at a rave. It just progressed like it did for a lot of others my age from the 80’s Hip-Hop scene. I’ve always loved music, from the disco sounds of the 70’s to the Hip-Hop and soul sound of the 80’s.
I went to Tenerife in 1989 and the clubs were playing the likes of Kariya – Let Me Love You and Inner City – Big Fun, which were big rave tracks from the year before and I guess this is what planted the seed for me of this ‘new sound’, that electronic bleeps and bass sound.
When and why did you make the leap into production and what kit did you use?
At the early stages Shut Up & Dance and Ibiza Records were a major part in my collection and I used to love Rum & Blacks ‘Slaves/ESQ’, which was from 1991. Someone from my estate who used to come raving as part of the group, approached me because I had a bit of a name and rep around the area as a DJ. He had a sampler and said he would like to try to do something with me.
I never knew what to expect but took a bunch of vinyl up to his and said “this is the break I want to use”, that being the ESQ break. So away we went for a few hours, but neither of us really knew what we were doing and the ‘studio’ only consisted of pretty much a sampler and keyboard. After the first session we only managed to loop the break and I got frustrated because I knew there was something, a sound, I wanted but just couldn’t get it with the equipment he had and with our knowledge, so I gave up after 2 short sessions.
An old friend of mine knew someone who had a studio in his bedroom in Chiswick and knew that I was keen to give it a proper go so introduced me to him. This was when I first met K-Rox. It was a basic setup of a Casio FZ-10 sampler, Yamaha FX500 unit, Seck desk and Atari ST running Cubase but this was so much better than the other guys set up and K had experience in how to use the equipment.
I went up there for first time in early 92’ish and just started playing around with sounds and seeing how it all worked. After that I started listening to tunes differently, noticing the layering etc and started to get ideas for stuff all day while not in the studio. I guess I just got the bug for it.
He later upgraded all his studio equipment to a Mac running Cubase, Atari S1000, some nice little outboard rack equipment and an automated mixing desk.
What was the inspiration behind Skeleton Recordings?
There were a lot of sounds around in 92 which were so inspirational. Guy Called Gerald, Doc Scott, Rufige Kru to name a few and I just knew that I wanted to try quite seriously to make a 12 inch. It was never the plan to set up a label but after completing the first two tracks (System Crashed & Luv Ta Luv Ya) Skeleton Recordings was decided upon. It came about because the guy I started System Crashed with was part of a little click that was known as ‘The Skeleton Krew’ and it was just a lazy decision really to use that name. This obviously led to the label being called ‘Skeleton Recordings’.
As for the design, the original label design was taken from something that was designed on a car at a motor show. It was modified a bit but pretty much the same as it was on the car. From SKEL011 the design was changed to include the bones to spell out the label name around the logo.
Luv Ta Luv Ya was the first release on Skeleton. Was this your first release full stop, and how was it received at the time?
Yeah ‘System Crashed’ and ‘Luv Ta Luv Ya’ was the birth of Skeleton.
The first track ever completed by me was System Crashed, which had a bit of the old techno sound influence in it as I loved that old industrial warehouse sound like LFO, Beltram etc. The track was actually named this because the equipment failed a couple of times and we lost quite a bit of work. So this was just a little shout out to it name wise.
Luv Ta Luv Ya was a great track to make and it didn’t take long at all really to complete. Someone gave me a few albums and 12”s to have a listen through to see if there were any things to sample. One of the things was a Disney album and there were a couple of things on there that I wanted to use. One being the “Jungle” vocal which is from Jungle Book and the other is the Chime riff from “We Are Siamese”.
The Luv Ta Luv Ya break ended up being quite a noticeable break and was sampled so much in jungle/D&B tracks that me and my mates named it as ‘The Skeleton Break’. I’ve lost count of how many tunes actually used the break in one way or another and I even heard it a few weeks ago in something new. In one way I’m quite proud really that it has been used so much by other artists, but I’m also pissed that I didn’t get any recognition for it as everyone thinks it’s originally from DJ Seduction – Sub Dub. Well let me set the record straight and mark that break as officially mine!
I think the 12 went down OK. I got 1,000 pressed and I went around to the clubs with a box of them waiting to catch the DJ’s coming out so I could hand a copy to them. Also DJ Monk, who I knew for a while, was doing a little regular at the Marquee Club on Tottenham Court Road so he helped hand it around.
You worked with other producers like Steve C and DJ Monk. Who else from back in the day would you have liked to have worked with?
A very hard question really as I was always happy just to do my own thing. 2 artists I would have loved studio time to work with would’ve been (Sir) Photek and Dillinja, but I was nowhere near worthy to join forces with them. They were both in a completely different league.
Me and Steve C used to work so well together. He is a very talented guy that really should have made a big impact on the scene, but never took it as serious as he should have done, which is a big shame.
I done some tracks with Mark Force (G-Force) who was part of the Reinforced family which were never released and also done some bits with Dom & Roland under the name of ‘Current Affairs’ on Moving Shadow.
What do you feel is your finest / favourite tune you put out? Luv Ta Luv Ya remix. It was the first tune of mine that I used to hear regular on the pirates, in clubs and on mix tapes. I laid that track out in about 4 hours as I knew what I wanted from it. I was building ideas in my head for a while and it just all came together in the studio. I remember one day getting back home and hearing a message on my answerphone from Randall saying that he thought it was massive and it was rare to get a remix that smashes up the original. Made my day that did!
Also, Razors Edge that was done with Steve C is another that I am quite proud of. This track was a favourite of Bukem’s and used to get played pretty much every set he done at that time. The edited Gary Busey “This, this is jungle” sample I loved.
There are another 2 versions of Razors that I done in 95 and didn’t release and also a 1995 version of Luv Ta Luv Ya that didn’t come out.
I rate one of the Razors remixes above the original and it’s definitely a personal favourite of mine.
Skeleton had 13 releases from 1992 to 1994 and seemed to abruptly come to an end. What happened?
Distributors, that’s what happened!
Razors Edge was starting to get a bit of a name for itself and I started to distribute exclusive through a company from that release. Unfortunately, I didn’t know it was run by a jumped up little prick who was only bothered about getting his own peoples stuff out there and holding back on selling my stuff. They had SKEL012 and 013 and just sat on them. Both releases lost their window and it led to a loss.
This was the time when I started to have responsibilities as I had a son who was about a year old and I needed to think about getting regular money in. So after working in the scene for a couple of years I decided to go back to full time work with doing the music in spare time. This was when I had the releases on Moving Shadow, as I could do tracks and just hand them over for someone else to deal with. But in the end it just sadly drifted away.
Did you continue to listen to D&B post-Skeleton? – If so, what do you think of the scene and how its developed? Of course I listened to D&B post-Skeleton. I never fully lost touch with the music but will honestly say that there was quite a big time span where I wasn’t too keen on the way things were shaping up with the scene. Thinking about it now, it seems around the time when Headz Blue Note ended.
A lot of D&B heads were turning to the garage scene and a lot of artists were getting big album deals because of corporates throwing big money around. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the artists for going with it, but it just didn’t seem to have the blood, sweat & tears going into it like it did before when controlled by the little independent labels.
So, probably from around 2000 to 2006 I didn’t really have the same knowledge of what was going on because I wasn’t following the scene that closely anymore. I was still listening to mixes etc. when they came about.
But I have to say that I’m really pleased with how things are going with Drum & Bass at the moment. It seems to be having a massive re-birth what with the digital era. The new production sound and quality of some of these young guys and newcomers is something else and there’s a lot of the old firm that went missing returning to give it another go as there’s a big call for it.
One thing that really does excite me is the return of Studio Pressure. His new Presha XII is absolutely tough and it makes my hair stand on end! Tune of the year by far in my opinion, but I’m probably a bit biased with that.
If you could have produced one tune, what would it have been?
Wow, such a difficult choice to make.
If you mean a tune that was massive in the scene and a classic then I would have to say ‘Terminator’ for obvious reasons. The tune was groundbreaking all in ways. Crazy sounds, crazy beats, we all know the history of that one.
If it was something that I feel should have got a hell of a lot more respect and recognition then I would have to say Rufige Kru’s ‘Fury’ from volume one of Shadows 2on1 series. I absolutely love this track. It has the exact sound that makes me go into ‘tunnel mode’ where I ignore everything else around me. This tune is in my top 5 D&B tracks ever and I have sent Goldie a few tweets about giving this a new fix. Everyone needs to get on the case to help me out and bug him to do it!!! Tweet @MrGoldie #RufigeKru #Fury2013
Since Skeleton what have you been up to? Any plans to return?
It’s all about my little family nowadays. Kids equal responsibilities! I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve got the ideal wife, a son who has just started Uni and I couldn’t be prouder of and 2 beautiful daughters who will be keeping me on my toes for the next few years.
Recently I’ve been back in touch with quite a few people from the old days and also met some great new people who have all offered me the opportunity to get back into the studio to bang the buttons. I’m really tempted, but at the moment it’s a time issue. I’m nearing the end of doing up the house, that’s my priority, after that I can take time to sit down and try to get something done.
For the moment though I’m currently in the process of ripping all the Skeleton back catalogue and unreleased tracks from DAT to put up on a digital download site in quality MP3 or wav format. They will be an exclusively available on hardcorejunglism.com and the only place to purchase the back catalogue and unreleased tracks. They will be straight digital rips, re-mastered and top quality. Once they are available I’ll definitely let everyone know.
Tell us a bit about your Drumtrip Sessions mix?.
I wanted to do a mix with tracks from 92-95 as I think this is the best time for me in the D&B/Hardcore scene. This is the time when I was DJing the most, playing out, on the radio and of course running the label.
Most of the selection for me was easy to choose but I wanted to limit it to 25 tracks overall otherwise I could have gone on for ever! Out of these 25, at least 10 of them are my all-time favourites.
Fury, Sinister, Jump, Here Comes The Drums, The Core, Deep Deadly Subs, Feel (Feel Good), Why, The Calling and Skyline. These were definites and easy to decide on, but I had about 50 tunes that I shortlisted and found it hard to choose between them to cut it down to the 25. I’ve got to say that I’m very happy with the result as these tunes are what inspired me and developed the scene personally for me.
The intro is my old partner in crime MC Millitant who used to be my MC from the radio days. Unfortunately Milli passed away about 5 years ago so this is my little tribute to him as these tunes were some of his personal favourites too. He had a really good sound and like any good MC was there purely as a hype man for the DJ. It was all about the music and mixing and not all about him chatting crap over the tunes.
The intro is taken from one of our old M&M mixtapes that I edited into the mix once it was done, just as a little shout to him. There are a couple of our tapes from 1993 posted up on my Mixcloud page so check them out.
Drumtrip Sessions #07 – DJ Monita
01. D-Livin’ – Why
02. Studio 2 – Dirty Games
03. Omni Trio – Feel (Feel Good)
04. Roni Size & DJ Die – The Calling
05. Rufige Kru – Fury (2on1 Version)
06. FBD Project – Terminate
07. Doc Scott – Here Comes The Drumz (Remix)
08. Grooverider – Sinister (The Influence Remix)
09. Doc Scott – Mayday, Mayday
10. Studio Pressure – Jump MK II
11. Roni Size & DJ Die – Music Box
12. Potential Bad Boy – Let’s Go
13. Johnny Jungle – Devoted Drummer
14. Pascal & Sponge – Nosebleed (Mix 2)
15. Johnny Jungle – Johnny (Dance Conspiracy Mix)
16. FBD Project – The Core
17. Bay-B-Kane & Hoppa – Pro One
18. FBD Project – Breakin’ Up (Neil Trix Re-Edit)
19. Dillinja – Deep Deadly Subs
20. Jo – R-Type
21. Dillinja – Sovereign Melody
22. Rufige Kru – VIP Riders Ghost
23. Photek – The Water Margin
24. Studio Pressure – Touching Down
25. The Invisible Man – Skyliner
Any big ups and shouts?
Yes, I would like to shout out to my 3 ‘Mini Monitas’ Josh, Ria & Ava and to my wife Mrs Monita.
Big respect to Monk, Al, K-Rox Steve C, Exodus and all those that supported and was part of the label.
The original Trance FM crew and the new Dream London crew….original pirate material.
Drumtrip for giving me the chance to do this.
Also, all those from back in the original days that are still there soldering on along with all the new blood / talent that’s keeping the scene alive and making it what it is today, I salute you.
Keep your eyes open for the new re-mastered Skeleton Recordings back catalogue and previously unreleased tracks which will only be available through www.hardcorejunglism.com
You can follow me on:
Twitter – @DJMonita1
Mixcloud – mixcloud.com/DJMonita
Soundcloud – soundcloud.com/djmonita