A purveyor of the Toulouse sound, 1985 phenom, and supreme talent. Monty Brimley has quickly established himself to become all of the above – and this couldn’t be more evident than on his debut album, Hit The Lights.
The highly anticipated LP comes about five years after keen-eyes first started seeing his name pop up. Since then he’s seen a rapid rise to prominence – releasing on labels like Vandal, Flexout, Critical, and finally finding a home on Alix Perez’s 1985 Music, where the fit is perfectly aligned. Case-and-point being his collaboration with the boss – Dreamer is one of many that hits like a tonne of bricks.
Whether it’s the wonky and abrasive tracks, the slick and soothing liquid-style, or something more rogue – Monty’s put it all on the album, tying it together with the simple but effective concept of lights. Even with such variety in tempo and style, he’s made sure to prioritise the deep-listening experience, with the tracks seamlessly moving from one to the next.
Hit The Lights is also an exhibition of the strong bass music coming out of Toulouse. Key collaborators from the city appear throughout: Vibin with Visages, Birdland with Redeyes, and Cinnamon with Trail – while each is unique, there’s an unmistakable thread among them all, a refined sound that’s absent of anything cheesy.
Vocal features from Chimpo, PAV4N, Strategy, and Eva Mango take this album to even greater heights. Each track provides memorable highlights, as well as already creating special moments in the rave where everyone knows the chant.
To shine a light on his largest body of work to date, UKF sat down with Monty, discussing what went into the album, and where his sights are next.
Hey mate. How’s things over in Toulouse?
Things are good. Shows have finally come back, I’ve been able to play at my favourite club in the whole world, Le Bikini – our second home where most of the biggest bass music shows are. It’s so good to see everyone there.
Also, it’s just good to be able to be free, you know? Go out, have a drink, and get back to normal life. That’s how it’s been here, but I’ve seen some countries in Europe are starting to lock down again – so that’s kind of scary, but hopefully things stay good in France.
Have you been DJing out much since restrictions loosened?
Here in Toulouse I’ve only played once since clubs reopened, and that was in September. Then I went to Belgium and the UK for a tour in October. I guess I’ve been pretty busy, but it’s been kind of compact. October was intense, but I’ve got just 1 show in November, and then I’m going to New Zealand for a tour with Alix and Visages! I was supposed to be going now actually, but it was postponed. So now it kicks off at the end of December, and I’m really excited for that.
Nice. They’ll be very excited to have you I’m sure. You’ve become a massive name in the bass music scene in what feels like no time at all. But looking back, there’s a massive catalogue going quite a few years back. Does it feel that quick for you?
It’s starting to feel like I’ve been in it for quite a long time now. I guess when I really started to get serious about producing and releasing on labels was around 2016. Then I met Alix in 2017, and now we’re here. But with covid, it feels like we’ve skipped through nearly 2 years, which sucks because it pauses everything. You’re making music, building up your profile, and then it just stops. It was really frustrating. But yeah, I feel like I’ve been around for a while now – not as much as others, but I don’t feel like I’m a newcomer, that’s for sure!
Is music your full-time job?
Yeah it is, I quit my job around 2018/19. I used to work in a restaurant, only part time though – I was actually still living at my mum’s place, because I just wanted to make music. I basically produced from about 8 in the morning until midnight every single day, until something happened.
Eventually I got regular shows and I was able to move out, and I’m doing music full time now. I also have a Patreon – dropping content like tutorials, sample packs, track breakdowns, and there’s a cool little Discord community where we all talk about music and life. I also give 1-1 lessons, which helped a lot throughout Covid – that was basically what allowed me to eat.
When was the turning point for you?
I’d have to say the Hypnotize EP – that’s the one that kind of ‘did stuff’ for me. The Hold Me Back EP was kind of like the introduction to me, then the Hypnotize EP did really well, people seemed to really love it. It got me doing more shows, and got my name out there.
And now comes your debut album – let’s get into that! Where did the concept of ‘lights’ come from?
Haha. My tracks… I honestly name them pretty randomly. I was producing a track one day, and under my desk there’s a light switch that switches off the main light in my bedroom – it’s kinda weirdly placed under my desk, on the wall where my feet are. I switched it off accidentally and I was like “huh, yeah, hit the lights”. So there’s where the title track name came from.
Then Alix was telling me I need to find a name for the album, and I was like OK, out of all these random names, which one sounds album-ish, and it was Hit The Lights. From there I thought I could do a thing where the intro is ‘ON’ and the outro is ‘OFF’ – and I then added noises of lights being switched off and electronic sounds and stuff. It’s kinda cheesy, but whatever, it works.
How about the surreal artwork? That seems to tie in with the lights theme quite nicely.
That actually took quite a long time to figure out, Alix and I are pretty picky about artworks. But I found an artist who I thought was cool, so I showed Alix a few pictures from this person – he’s called @muff_is_hot. I think he’s great, and out of the ones I’d picked there was one with a beam of light, so that made the most sense.
So we’ve got this massive beam of light shining on a dude on a rock. Lots of people have said it looks like Alix haha.
I didn’t like it so much at first, but now it’s really starting to grow on me. I guess that’s how it is sometimes, you’ve got to take a step back – you know what I mean? It’s like when you listen to music and you’re like “this is alright” and then you listen again and again and it’s like “oh yeah I get it now” and you start to love it. It’s kinda like that with this artwork for me.
I feel like I had a similar experience with the artwork, but after listening through the album several times it all starts to align and feel consistent.
Yeah, and we did change it up quite a bit, there were several iterations we worked on together. But people really like it, it seems – I was really surprised about the feedback on the artwork. I’ve also got to shout-out my good friend Kasaey, who is also from Toulouse, who does all the animations for 1985 and the 3D art – he nailed it.
You mentioned Alix had a fair bit of input, and he obviously has a strong direction and aesthetic for his label. What’s it like to work with him on a full album?
It was pretty natural. I trust Alix 100% on what he thinks should come out or not.
We don’t always agree on the artworks and stuff, but that’s fine. For me it’s the music that counts. When I made this album I wanted something diverse – I didn’t want just a drum & bass album. I love drum & bass, but I also like all sorts of music and genres, especially in bass music; 140, garage, 120, all these other weird tempos.
With the album I wanted something that wasn’t just dancefloor music. I like listening to music on trains and planes and other places, so I wanted to make it a deep listening experience, and Alix fully supported that.
Was it a challenge to write a full album, as opposed to EPs and singles?
Yeah, sort of. It took me a long time to decide to make an album, I wanted it to happen in 2019, but every time it came to it I wasn’t ready and it felt too early. I still needed to do more EPs and I wanted to step up my work. For me, EPs are sort of like… practising. Everytime I brought out an EP, I was reflecting on it and taking notes like “oh that’s wrong” or “that needs improvement” – then eventually it would become time to put all these notes together for a strong body of work.
So then I started to send tracks to Alix, and he was helping me select them – and we were getting to 8, 9, 10, and eventually 16 tracks. Originally it was going to be 18, I wanted to get Halogenix and Skeptical on there, but unfortunately it just didn’t work with deadlines and what we were able to produce together.
But what makes it consistent I think is the fact that I connected every track together – when you listen to the whole thing in one go, all the endings of previous tracks transition into the intros on the next track. So it never stops basically, just one big listening experience, like how they used to do on a lot of albums back in the day, and still do.
So the glue and flow came from final mixes, extra little bits, and the ON/OFF intro/outro?
Yeah exactly. And with selecting the tracks it was kind of like, “I’ve already done some dancefloor stuff, now it needs more musical stuff”. And then “ok, I need some different tempos now”. We just sorted it just by looking at what was missing. Alix helped me with that too, suggesting things like a minimal roller here, and a classic Monty track there.
It must be good having Alix there. In terms of producing albums he’s in a tier of his own.
Yeah it’s so great to have him as an advisor, and to get tips from. It’s cool with him, if he likes it he likes it, if he doesn’t he doesn’t. He’ll just give you a straight answer – there’s no “yeah it’s cool but you need to change this, this, and this”. He doesn’t tell someone how music should be made. You know what I mean?
Not interfering with your production, just selecting finished tracks?
Yeah, maybe small tweaks occasionally, but it’s nothing crazy like you get from some other labels like – he’s not gonna say to change the whole vocal or the arrangement.
In a previous interview with us in 2018, you mentioned sampling animal noises as a go-to production technique. Are we still hearing that on this album?
Yeah! I find it fun. I like to look into series like Stranger Things and try to figure out how they make those monster noises for example. I’ll go on forums and browse the web to find out who the sound designer is, and then sometimes you’ll find an article on how they actually made it, which is sick. I’m very inspired by sound design from TV and films.
I used elephants in the album, as well as cats, dogs, pigs, birds – haha, just the stuff I had on my computer. But you might not recognise these sounds because I resample and process them – I’ll make them into a bass or an atmospheric or a pad. It’s cool because it gives it an organic feel. The one that you can really hear is on the intro track ON – there’s blatantly a massive elephant sound there, just with a load of reverb and cleaning up to make it sound like a horn instrument.
On the track I Knew So with Eva Mango, there’s a little intro where I can hear you two working together. Were most of the collaborations in person?
No, that was the only one that was in person, aside from the Visages collab. Eva’s actually my girlfriend – she likes to sing around the flat, and I asked if she wanted to make a track together. So I made an instrumental track, found these royalty-free vocals, and asked Eva if she wanted to re-sing them with her own lyrics and style. At first she was hesitant, I had to push her a bit. Eventually she said yes and did these cool vocals which fit the track really well. It was fun.
Yeah it came together well – it’s one of my favourites on the album.
Lots of people have said that!
The producer collaborations are basically a list of Toulouse’s finest – was it important to get that representation there?
Yep. Definitely. This is where I grew up with drum & bass. I discovered it in the UK, but I really got into it here in Toulouse. Funnily enough, some of the first D&B I heard was Redeyes – I was listening to him on YouTube when I was 17 or 18, and when I first went out in Toulouse, his name was popping up and I was like “hey I know that name”. Then came Le Bikini, Vandal Records nights, and so on. When you’re in your early 20’s, getting into new music, and meeting artists you like – it was all very formative and inspirational, you know?
If it wasn’t for some of these guys like SKS, Redeyes, The Clamps, Lutin, all the promoters, and scene in general, I wouldn’t be doing D&B I don’t think. I’m happy to say these are my friends now, and have a load of respect for them. And also not to forget my favorite D&B artists – Halogenix, Break, Alix, Calibre, Noisia, and many others who’ve been a crucial influence.
Toulouse has been a big influence for this album – so I wanted to get Redeyes involved, and all my friends who I’ve met through D&B like Visages, and Trail – who I was actually just with a few minutes ago, we go running together. Kasaey is another one who I mentioned before, who did the visuals for the album. Getting these people from Toulouse heavily featured was important for sure, because these people have helped me carve my sound.
Seems like an amazing scene down there. Speaking of great scenes – you’ve also got some of Manchester’s best MCs, is that a similarly special place for you?
Well that’s just a coincidence in a way! I didn’t seek to get all of Manchester on the album, but I mean guys like Chimpo, Strategy, T-Man, the guys from Levelz – all those people, I was listening to all of them before I even started producing. So they were hugely influential, and it was important to get them on the album for sure – they’re some of my favourite MCs, who have super distinctive voices.
That PAV4N and Strategy track was actually started by them and Visages, and then I jumped on it with some ideas. They were all down for it, and it has become what it is now. But yeah I’d like to work more with people from Manchester, they’re really nice people.
This is an album that is a true reflection of you, where you’re from, and what you were raised on. I think as far as albums go – you’ve smashed it. What’s your next goal as a producer?
A lot of 140. I’m still going to be doing drum & bass because I love it – but I want to play multi-genre sets and be known as a bass music producer. So my next EP is going to be a 140 thing. And on that note, I do want to get out to America – the scene over there for slower tempos is massive. Myself, Visages and others from the 1985 crew are really pushing to get our sound over there. There’ll definitely be some tours soon.
Is there any desire to do more film stuff, like you were saying before?
Yeah I think so, but I just don’t know how to get into that sort of thing. I’m not musically trained or anything – I just do it by ear. But I would like to. Something I’d really like to do is sound design for games, alongside doing music. Even though I don’t play games anymore, I find them really interesting. Trail did all the soundtracks for an indie game recently and I thought that was really cool. It’s a different way of making music, as in, you’ve got a set theme, you’re looking at pictures and visuals and you’re thinking about how you’re going to make people feel when playing the game.
But generally looking to the future, I just want to keep doing the same thing I’m doing now – making music, trying to grow as an artist, and also helping other producers along the way because that helps keep the scene alive.