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Feature: John Monkman [Interview]

14 min read

London-based producer/dj John Monkman is the founder of Beesemyer Music. His unparalleled productions are also signed to globally recognised imprints such as Ellum, Last Night On Earth, Noir, Anjunadeep, Kompakt, Crosstown Rebels & Get Physical.

Hey John, great to meet you! How are you today, what have you been up to so far this summer?

You too, I’m well thanks! It’s very nice to be here. My time has been split between travel and gigs. The highlights so far have been Fabric in London, as well as the The Noisily Festival. I’ve also had an intense studio schedule over the last few months.

When was it that you discovered electronic music?

Around 16 years old. Looking back, a lot of the music I was listening too before that was early forms of ‘electronic’, but it was around the mid-teens when I guess I could really differentiate between styles.

How much do you structure your time to be making music, looking for music to play, practicing your DJing, or do you just create when you feel like it?

I like to schedule in studio days, each day having an intention on what the outcome is for the end of the session. Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan but for me it helps to have a goal and a clear direction. There’s lots of unplanned work that pops up in between - more and more, I seem to spend a lot of time in coffee shops coming up with ideas!

There is a lot of melody in your music - are you formally trained in piano or anything? Do you wish you were if not, is it helpful if so?

I kept up with piano through grade 6. I was probably more musically technical then. I could read music, which I actually can’t now. I played the drums for 6 years, which probably helped with my sense of rhythm. I’m looking to start piano lessons again in the near future to add an extra character to my productions.

A lot of the ‘melody’ I create is often less technical. I’m not playing complex sequences by hand on the fly, there’s often a lot of programming involved to find the sound and harmony. Hence, a lot of trial and error, and generally listening to find what sounds appealing.

What synths do you use to get those sounds? Are you a collector of gear?

I use a lot of things, but I definitely have my go-to’s. I have a few bits of modular such as the Make Noise system Cartesian which is a whacky piece of kit. I’d like to get more modules and expand, however not being able to work whilst on the move often has me reaching for software such as NI Blocks or some of the Arturia modulars and synths like the CS80 and Jupiter.

I would love to collect more gear but it’s an expensive game!

And why is melody so important? Can you trace it back to any one point in your life when you fell in love with melody?

Emotion is at the heart of what I do. Melody exists everywhere! Even an intense 909 drum roll can suggest a melody. Growing up, my Dad was obsessed with the Stones and Dylan, whilst my Mum was on the Jefferson Airplane and Doors vibe... all purveyors of rich melody.

Funnily enough, I’ve been going down a bit of rabbit hole trying to strip at the melody in my music.

You had a remix on Drumcode recently - how did it come about? How did you approach it?

I’d been talking with Adam Beyer for a while about music and production. It was really just one of those things that popped up. Adam wanted something ‘Leftfield’. I took this as an invitation to really send it! I spent a lot of time on a few bits of modular working on the main sounds. Once the main patches were in shape, I recorded multiple takes before comping everything together.

And how do you approach originals? Do you start in the same place, or can you hear the tunes in your head before you start?

I tend to have an idea of what ‘kind’ of song I want. However, the end result can (and often, is) far away from the original idea.

You have a ‘Mirrors’ Ep on Anjunadeep wich is out now - how did that come about? What does it sound like? Is it any different than normal?

The lead track Komplex brings together the various techniques I’ve been working on over the recent months.

Then there is Mirrors - for this I had the opportunity to work with long time collaborator and close friend Liz Cass. We worked on multiple iterations of this track to get to its final place. It means a lot to both of us to have it out in public, especially with a label like Anjunadeep.

The final song, titled In Between, is a short moment… there’s a warm chord progression that ticks along through a bed of field recordings I’ve collected over the last year with a chemical sounding sequence fluttering in and out.

Tell us about your own label Beesemyer - what is the vibe, the aim, the musical outlook?

It’s a home first and foremost for the heady electronic music which isn’t restricted to the dance floor. Anaphase are the perfect example of where we’re at, you should check them out!

Away from music, can you tell us what you do in your spare time? What is your favourite tv show & movie?

If I’m not in front of speakers, I’ll probably be in the kitchen!

The original Twin Peaks is up there for TV shows. Movies… haha, the Evil Dead trilogy never gets boring.

To end this what else you working on or excited about and where we can hear you play this summer?

Working on my live show at the moment. It’s been a great run of shows recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing the show evolve.

Studio-wise, I’m working on an EP for Kompakt at the moment, whilst gearing up to the release of Anaphase’s next EP on Beesemyer music in September.

Thanks for the chat John!

Thank you! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

John’s Komplex EP is out now on Anjunadeep
Grab it here - https://www.beatport.com/release/komplex-ep/2665326


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