Female industry powerhouse, Lucy Monkman (aka. Monki) is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does she have a weekly spot on BBC Radio 1 every Monday, she founded her own record label, &friends, in 2012; created the self-titled Party Brand, ‘Monki & Friends’ which has toured around the UK; plays right wing for AP Phoenix Football team; and more recently, released her debut EP, ‘Voices’ on the 4th May.
Before we find out more about her latest music release, Monki explains when her love for music and radio began, starting with the discovery of Pirate Radio when she was young. “The radio that I used to hear in the day time – when I went to school or when my mum had it on – was all commercial mainstream music. The first time that I heard Pirate Radio, they were playing all underground dance music and I got opened up to a world that I hadn’t seen yet because I wasn’t old enough to go clubbing.”
Monki is someone that worked her way up to success in the music and production industry by diving at opportunities rather than pursuing a degree. She took a course at the world-renowned music school, Point Blank, before interning at Jackie Radio and Rinse FM. “I did [Point Blank] because I had absolutely no experience in any sort of production technology whatsoever, I just knew that I wanted to do radio but I had no skills. Once I got the underlined knowledge of audio software under my belt, I felt like I had enough confidence to then take more work from these internships.” When asked which she found more beneficial, she explains, “They both did different things for me, but in terms of learning stuff and meeting people, the internships were definitely more valuable. I met so many important people during those internships – that I stayed in contact with – who brought me more work. People take different paths but personally I wouldn’t have spent time studying, I’m someone who’s better off just going out and getting stuck in and that works for me.” Her drive and talent for radio was clearly recognised, as she was offered a Thursday morning slot at Rinse FM, later promoted with a prime time Saturday slot.
With all of these great opportunities and experiences, the BBC snapped her up, giving her a monthly show on Radio 1’s ‘In New DJ’s We Trust’, followed by a weekly slot on 1Xtra. Two years down the line, Radio 1 called her up and gave her a coveted spot every Monday night 1-4am, where she is known for educating and entertaining her listeners in equal measures. Monki explains how she uses her show to educate her listeners. “It’s a balance, isn’t it? Because you want to try and educate people about tunes or genres that they aren’t necessarily really into, so for them to listen to it for the first time, you need to gauge their ear. It’s basically all about making specialist music edible for a listener that wouldn’t usually listen to specialist music and then maybe something might catch their attention.”
Lucy’s passion for music, however, came after her love for football. “From the age of five I was obsessed with it. I always went down the park or went out on the street and played football with my mates. And then, when I discovered music and clubbing and became a bit of a teenager, I kinda put [football] on the backburner because late nights and being serious about sport don’t really walk hand in hand, so it fell to the waist side a bit.” But as she reached her early twenties, she realised just how much she missed playing ball and tells me how important it is for her routine as a DJ. “I realised that staying up late and going to parties is not a healthy thing to do all the time.” Monki made the decision to start playing football again, making sure to be stric with how she manages her time. “It definitely benefits my career because I have another out source. When I go to play football I don’t think about work, I just think about football. It’s another socialising aspect as well. My mates at football don’t really care about what I do, they take the mick out of me half the time anyway so, it’s a way of bringing me back down to earth, I guess.”
As a member of the BBC’s station’s influential team of electronic music tastemakers, Monki is known for promoting and uncovering fresh tunes to play on her show and even gives us a name of an artist that she is listening to ‘relentlessly’ at the moment. “The pick up tune from DJ Koze recent album is an absolute belter. It’s a bit of a summer anthem that ticks off of the boxes because you can listen to on a Sunday evening whilst having a BBQ or you can happily listen to it in a rave or at a festival with a drink in your hand.”
Monki’s EP, similarly to DJ Koze, is just as versatile, with beats that effortlessly make you want to dance but also a tune that you can wind down to with the personally nostalgic vocals. The inspiration for ‘Voices’ came from a mixture of different things, from childhood memories to Italian music genres. “The vocals are actually taken from a really old Sting and The Police song that was re-sung. I had this old Sting and The Police cassette tape when I was a kid and I used to listen to it in the car with my dad, over and over again.” After playing around with the hook of the song, she tells me how the bass line has similarities to Italian Moroder. “I was also listening to a lot of Italo Disco at the time, so that’s what kind of ended up coming out into my own music.”
With all of these achievements under her belt – all in the space of a decade in the industry – Monki shares that a career highlight was her set at Barcelona’s Sonar Festival in 2016. “Obviously the Radio 1 deal is a career highlight, but set wise it was at Sonar Festival where I played three-hour set from 4-7am.” She tells me how, at the time of the set, she thought she was only playing until 6am, which is the reason why she labelled this experience the ‘scariest but most enjoyable’ of her career. “I looked over at the stage manager and was like, ‘Have we only got a couple minutes left?’ and he was like, ‘No, you’ve for another hour’. At this point I had pretty much blown my load and used everything that I had planned on playing so I was like, ‘shit’. I had to completely wing it up until the last hour but it was amazing because the majority of the crowd, made up of about 15,000 people, stayed right to the bitter end and it was amazing. Playing the right tunes at the right time – the mood tapping – is really key and I think I got it on point that night, so I was happy.”
Monki is a naturally talented, versatile and dedicated DJ. Her passion for music has definitely earned her a place as one of the UK’s most respected selectors and is a definite one-to-see if she’s on a festival line up this year. “I’ve got about 16 shows in 7 weeks this summer, a lot of European festivals, which is pretty cool.” Before heading back to the Radio 1 Studio, she announces that more music is waiting to be released and the schedule of her festival sets will be posted on social media this week. So if you like the sound of Monki, be sure to visit her Instagram and listen to her EP ‘Voices’ on soundcloud now.
Website | Facebook | Twitter |
Natalie Blain | WRITER
Jake Turney | PHOTOGRAPHER