Exclusive Interview: Monte
While he may seem like a relative newcomer to the scene, Monte is a musician who’s been doing his thing for some time now. A producer of some repute, he started out as a drummer and spent the past while working on TV advertisements and with large-scale bands. That all changed, mind you, when he unleashed ‘True’, a veritable beast of a track that propelled him to the upper echelons of dance music within a matter of weeks. Continuing on from the latter, his latest endeavor is the brilliant Canvas EP, a release that showcases his knack for club and cinematic vibes. A truly diverse producer, we nabbed him recently for a quick chat, as he discussed life in East Germany, his influences and his signing to Jeudi…
We’d like to start by asking about growing up in Hamburg. What was it like?
I can’t tell you that because I’m actually not from Hamburg. I just moved here 17 years ago, liked it and stayed. I grew up in the east part of Germany, German Democratic Republic “GDR”. I had a great time there and I remember the day the Berlin wall came down. I went with my family in a Trabant (known east German car) to Berlin, walking for the first time in my life on the west side of the city, having a cold Coke in my hand, staring at everything. I knew, ‘From now on everything will be different’. All the stuff I saw on western TV commercials will be part of our lives including these new things called “Computers”.
So when did music first enter your life? When did you begin to take it seriously?
I come from an artistic family. My grandmother was a classically-trained singer, my mum too and my grandfather was an opera singer. My father was a guitar player from a very successful band in Germany… so I had no choice. Music was always something, which felt natural and easy to me. I think I was four years old when my mum saw me hitting the drums with a wooden spoon over and over again. I couldn’t let go of this thing so she supported me from day one.
And when did you first hear electronic music? Did you immediately love it? Or did you have to force yourself to like it a bit?
I think it was 1982/83. My uncle collected a lot of electronic music back then so he introduced me to bands like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, OMD, Ultravox or Tangerine Dream. I fell in love straight away since these sounds were something special back then. That love has never left me.
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Did you always want to be a musician then? Or at what stage did you feel confident enough to make a go of it?
I think that music was always something where I was better than anyone I knew. I wasn’t good at anything else. My destiny was already laid out, there was no question what I would become so my parents kept investing in my musical education. I always had a fable for technical things too. I remember, walking through a scrapyard, looking for broken TVs and radios, dissemble the components and taking transistors, resistors, speakers and God knows what out of these things. Building my own speaker boxes, or making a light organ. Later on when my first computer arrived (Amiga 500) I start doing music on this device only. All of a sudden I was able to create my own music which pretty much sounded like the music on the radio. That was huge back then and I’ve learned a lot. I was also part of a small group in the demo scene, where I was hired to put some music under their productions using tools called Tracker (Soundtracker, Protracker). When I first won a competition with a track I did on this machine (I won 50 bucks with it!) I knew that one day I could do this for a living.
So where did you go clubbing back then? Who were the big DJs of the time?
I started clubbing quit late, in my early twenties. When I moved to Hamburg there was a healthy house scene where DJs like Boris Dlugosch, Mousse T, Phil Fuldner, Armand van Helden, Roger Sanchez, David Morales, Masters At Work, Todd Terry and many others killed it back then. It was an entirely new world for me and I enjoyed every bit. I couldn’t stop going every weekend to clubs and literally absorb the sounds I heard. In Hamburg we had La Cage, Kontor (from Kontor Records) or Voila. There were many others but these ones kinda stuck in my head.
What was it about electronic music that really impressed you back then?
The sound, the energy, that you didn’t need a whole band to create it, and a synthesizer fascination. It united people from every corner of the world celebrating the same music and going crazy for it. It was totally new back then and every release brought something new to the table. Don’t forget that all sorts of crazy toys and synthesis was invented at that time so it all came together.
So do you make any other sort of music too?
I did, but my current project needs so much attention that I don’t have the time to dive into other music. I was doing TV commercials quite successfully, won several awards and wrote for an 80-piece orchestra. I’ve mixed as an engineer several projects and played on numerous studio recordings. I’ve co-produced several records and I even did a nu rave project which worked quit well. I finally found my sound and Monte is my focus now.
You had your first big success on Jeudi a while ago. How do you know the guys? And is it a label that you’ve always been impressed by?
I didn’t know much about other labels at that time. I’d known the guys personally since 2007/2008. We were introduced through common friends and we stayed in touch ever since that first meeting. I liked the stuff they had on their label and the Jeudi Baalsaal Club was full on! They just started the label fresh and I was around doing tracks. They knew my work and it just came together naturally I guess. After “True” I became part of the official Jeudi Records roster. My “Canvas EP” is the newest/latest release from Jeudi Records.
So your latest EP – did you make it with Jeudi in mind? Or had you agreed to do it for them before it came out?
It was clear right from the start that I needed to do an EP on Jeudi after “True”. I think you have to know that I was very late with this record. I think you are the first person I gonna tell this officially: My debut EP could have been released in 2012 but, due to demand, I turned some of the original stuff into remix tracks! I don’t treat remix tracks any differently than my own originals, everything has to be on point. The original artist or label trusts me to treat their baby with respect and I do exactly that as best as I can in a given time frame. As a result most of these remixes made it into the top 10. I’m proud of that and I have often to pinch myself sometimes thinking, ‘Dude, MF TOP #10 MAN!!. Big thanks to the labels who trusted me back then! I see those remixes as the sound of my imaginary 2012 EP.
“Canvas” is a further developed version of that sound mirroring my current point of view. A darker, more aggressive but yet epic soundscape, still with some eighties in it.
And at what stage did you decide to get your own decks and start practicing? Did the production come after?
Interesting that you mention it! I´m a musician/producer first, that’s what I was doing all the time but to DJ?… My father was a DJ back then but I never thought that the circle would be complete after all those years. My best friend is a hobby DJ and had his own professional rig at home. I wasn’t even interested in that, I just told him when he asked me to join, ‘Naaaww, do your thing man, I just cool down here chilling on your sofa while listening to your set, drinking all your good single malts’. One day he insisted and taught me how to use his Traktor-driven system. It took some time but I got better until we had our first satisfying session in his room. After “True” became a hit, people and promoters started to contact me asking if I could play for them. I was in a panic! I felt cool with Traktor but a real CD player was out of reach. I was looking over the shoulder of live acts numerous times at Baalsaal but never had my hands on those things, really! Come on, I’m a producer/musician, not a DJ?? Davidè (Jeudi admin and Baalsaal boss) took me under his wing and taught me how to use these CDJs. Next thing I know I was back in school again. It took me some hours to figure it out but I got it down thanks to him. I did a couple of warm up gigs before I jumped in at peak time. Man, I gonna tell you: almost 500 people, stage fright, sweaty hands and we are talking about a grown ass man in his thirties who had played in stadiums for over 30,000 people! I succeeded and, after a while, the whole DJ thing became second nature. At the same time I got in contact with Jackmode through the Adana Twins and Doctor Dru cause I desperately needed a booking agency. Gladly they agreed so I was ready to “chew bubblegum and kick ass”!
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So what was the idea behind your latest EP? Did you feel pressure to beat your debut Jeudi release?
Pressure is always there, in fact it’s part of my job. The idea was to present my current state of mind. My style has changed over the last two years and I want to reflect that in my production. I also want to show a broader range of my skills. That’s the reason why I called my EP “CANVAS”. Having film music versions of my club tracks was also a possibility to express myself in a different way, to set a statement rather than to release a pure club-oriented EP production.
So have you been a fan of Benni & co. for some time now? What’s been your favourite release of theirs over the years?
My favorite is “Strange”. You can still play the track, it never gets old and works like a charm on the floor. Doctor Dru’s “Voice Of Dru” works the same way.
Where do you see yourself going with your own sound? How would you like to improve on it?
I just explored this new corner and I gonna extend on that subject. There is always room for improvement but I don´t know yet were it will take me. My studio is finished and I just touched the surface. Since I do also mix engineering services I constantly improve on that profession. As a matter of fact, two of my mixes went straight to #1 and #6 on the Beatport Deep House charts which underlines my way of working and thinking. I also created my YouTube music production tutorials to hand over my knowledge to everyone interested in making electronic music. That one improves with every episode. To cut a long story short: There is a lot to do….
What else are you working on now that are keeping you excited?
My eighties project, a feature and my next EP! I also started my to code my own software to get myself more productive in sound design. I hope to finish that sometime very soon.
Monte’s Canvas EP is out soon on Jeudi Records, click here for information/pre-order.