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Ant Mulholland

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Monrroe Talks ‘Ikebana EP’

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Monrroe Talks ‘Ikebana EP’

With his latest EP ‘Ikebana’ out 17. November, Bristol-based producer Monrroe has set the bar extremely high since the release of his previous EP ‘Warsaw’, two years ago. With the might of Shogun Audio behind him, Monrroe has gone on to be one of the leading figures in the world of minimal and liquid drum and bass. His weighty basses and atmospheric melodies have become synonymous to his music style. 

From his early upbringing listening to jungle on site as a traveller, to joining punk bands in his teenage years, and then eventually falling back in love with drum and bass as he entered his adult life – Monrroe’s musical journey is unique. This is unquestionably showcased through his consistently provoking productions over the years. 

His iconic releases, which include ‘Never Too Old’, ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘You Got Me’, have accumulated millions of streams worldwide. As a result, affirming his prominent status in this ever-evolving drum and bass community. In the process, Monrroe has matured as an artist, his minimal-type releases have sonically pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved within this sub-genre – creating compelling tracks that grace sound systems worldwide with ease. As his bookings have picked up even more than ever whilst developing his dark and techy sets, Monnroe has created a DJ experience which seems to be getting stronger with each performance. 

Following the journey since his first release in 2015 has been a delight for Monrroe fans all over the world. This new EP ‘Ikebana’ ultimately displays a mastery that’s been developed over the course of his career, whilst also giving us a flavour into the diversity Monrroe possesses. In this case, there’s a jungle and a 140 track on the EP that is sure to convince everyone that there is a lot more to come from him moving forward. Collaborations from Duskee, Sparkz, Ayelle, and Snowy add a seasoning of vocal excitement that input great personality to this innovative body of work. 

We caught up with Monrroe to find out more concerning the build-up to this sought after EP, as well as learning a bit more surrounding one of Shogun Audio’s finest. 

How are you doing? You’ve had a great year! How have you found it with Shogun Audio?

Yeah good man! Thanks very much. Yeah, it’s been crazy with loads of bookings and obviously now this EP that’s coming out. Shogun has been great. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am in music. They’ve blown up big time as a brand and an independent label so it’s great to be a part of that. With my new EP, I really wanted the freedom to create something different. They supported me including a jungle and a 140 track in there which isn’t the usual style they release so that was cool, we ended up selecting both as singles too.

Since you’ve mentioned the EP, let’s dive straight in. Talk to me about the process behind it. 

It has some minimal sounding tracks, but also I’ve been able to be a bit more experimental and have the jungle and 140 tunes in there. I’m trying to lean into it a bit more. I’ve been mixing jungle and 140 for years, but never really had the opportunity to showcase it. There was some back thought behind making ‘Tsubaki’ and ‘Blindside’, as I want it to lead the way for me to release similar tracks in the future. Building on my more experimental stuff is definitely something I want to continue doing. All round it was super cool just playing around with all the tracks on the EP. A standout one for me was ‘Blindside’, working at a much slower tempo was really beneficial for me as a producer. 

Touching on your more experimental sounds in the EP. What was it like having those released? 

When I was writing Blindside, I knew it needed an MC, just to give it a bit of character. I thought about a couple of artists, but it was around the time Sparkz had released ‘Sekkle In’ with Halogenix so I hit him up and he was down for it. I ended up with this banging top line, so we rolled with it. The jungle track ‘Tsubaki’, with Snowy, was focusing on a more old school jungle style – taking you back in time. At the moment, there’s such a focus on the mainstream with drum and bass but I wanted to have more underground focused bits. That was the thinking behind having these two tracks on the EP, taking it back to the roots is what I was aiming for. It’s exciting to bring all these different sounds together!

Who The Hell Is Monrroe?

So, was Jungle a big part of your musical journey before Monrroe? 

Jungle was big for me growing up. Free party culture was a massive part of it when I was living on site. It’s been ingrained in me since I was super young – having an amen break in my ear 24/7. I’d be listening to artists like DIllinja, Tech Itch, and Ray Keith. Funnily enough, when I hit my teenage years, I was over drum and bass. I started getting into band stuff – a lot of punk and post-punk. I’d separated from drum and bass as a whole. I got back into it when I was 16 or 17. I heard ‘City Life’ by Logistics and fell back in love with it. Just a really old liquid drum and bass style. I’d never heard that side of the genre before, where it was combining more melodic sounds with simple drum and bass. That’s what drew me back in and got me into producing. It got me wanting to put together all the band and live music work I’d done with something electronic.

There are quite a few collaborations on the EP. How was it getting all these talented artists involved? 

I love collaborating with other people in general. Getting to work with someone like Sparkz, who I’ve admired for a while, was amazing. We worked remotely via messaging, and it flowed really easily. I got to work with Ayelle through Shogun. I sent her the track and she sent this vocal back which was incredible. I hadn’t heard anything like that before. A different take on vocal drum and bass. Hearing her approach on it was really interesting in that sense. With Duskee, it was in the studio. We’ve made three tunes together this year, two of which we released earlier in the year. We saved ‘Misfit’ and once we got it polished up, we knew it was right for this EP. It all came together quite naturally. Working with Duskee was really special and being such close friends with him is a massive bonus, he’s been the missing piece to my live sets. 

This is your first body of work release since the ‘Warsaw EP’. How was working on this project? 

I wanted to make a full body of work that was coherent as a piece by itself. I wanted the music and visual art to work well together. There was  a lot of conceptual work we did behind the scenes. The thinking of Ikebana was to have it mean something that felt personal and, also, mysterious. Ikebana itself is a type of Japanese floristry. I think the imagery it holds suits the contents of the EP so well, as it’s quite mysterious. You wouldn’t necessarily associate it to drum and bass which is why I like it. The design is quite minimal and it’s the sort of imagery that has strong parallels to my music – which I think is the main thing. We got quite hands on with the artwork which was cool. I wanted to have the digital concept in the style of Joy Division’s album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. The cover of that has always been iconic to me. I think blending all this together came out really well. I put lots of effort into this one – just being as involved as possible. 

To celebrate this amazing EP, you’re going on a tour around the country. Tell me about a little bit behind this? 

I guess it’s a way of trying to bring everything together. The rave scene at the moment has got very big; I feel it has lost some of the essence of what raving is all about – in terms of its escapism. I want it to be a real authentic dance. Back to the roots, and stripping everything down. There can be quite a disconnect with the audience at times and this tour just wants to bring that celebration of underground music and show what clubbing is really all about for me. We’ve got some great artists like Sustance, Thread, Cesco, Koherent and Yan involved for these events. Going to places like Manchester, Brighton, and Hackney in London – amongst other places. I’ve wanted to find a way of staying true to the smaller venues and promoters that have been a part of my journey to the ‘bigger’ shows and that I still love playing for. This seemed like the perfect way to do that.

Are these the types of shows you enjoy playing then? Over the big events you’ve played this year for instance. 

In fairness, I do enjoy playing some of the big shows as well. Both Hospitality Festivals this summer (the Woods & the Beach) were memorable. Let It Roll is always a favourite and Tomorrowland was unreal too. But it’s often the club setting where I feel more connected to the crowd that’s for me. I played my first EP club show on Friday and it was pretty sick to be fair. Real intimate club and having a mad sound system made a proper difference. People were there for it, even the 140 stuff which I wasn’t sure how it would go down.

What artists have been influencing you over the last few years in the build up to your new EP? 

Loads of stuff. The likes of Alix Perez who is always a reference point for me. Halogenix with the Gemini Gemini stuff. Workforce with the Must Make releases. Obviously, the recent Critical work has been amazing too. A lot of inspiration for this new EP has come from early Exit records, Shogun and Critical sounds. For the jungle side of things, I was listening to a lot of Tech Itch stuff, as well as Moving Shadow and other jungle bits from Creative Source. How they were cutting breaks and combining moody melodies was a flavour I wanted to focus on. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Hessle Audio too. Definitely a big inspiration for the 140 track on the EP. The way I could bring together that UK techno and dub sound was something that influenced me and was cool to fuse with my work. Weirdly, probably the biggest influence overall, both sonically and visually, was that Joy DIvision ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album. For me, it’s one of my all-time favourite albums and although it’s so far removed from drum and bass, there’s something about the industrial melancholic tones that resonate with me, and it allowed me to channel what invoked inside me into the music I was making – putting my spin on it all. 

What other Monrroe releases have stood out for you this year? 

There’s been quite a few. The single with Solah, ‘Overthinking’, was definitely a standout. Vocally and how she thinks was on another level. What she brings to drum and bass is unique and she carries herself brilliantly. Also, going back to the beginning of the year with Duskee, releasing ‘Mud’ was a turning point for me personally. It was my first release of the year, and it was a sound I wanted to achieve. Finding that sound was a breakthrough in production for me. Working with Duskee was the icing on top. Being able to produce and perform with him has been a real highlight of the year.

It’s fair to say you’ve gone from strength to strength! So, what’s next? 

I’m not too sure! I’ve got these UK tour shows next. Then I’ll be hitting up Australia and New Zealand with Duskee for a tour over New Years. That should be fun! I’ve been before and it was unreal. They really do know their stuff out there. After that, I’ll probably have a few weeks off – ready to go again and carry on creating new projects.

Follow Monrroe: Soundcloud/Instagram/Spotify

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