Monty returns to 1985 with a fresh, bass-heavy EP, ‘No Sunset For Soul’.
The five-track release showcases each corner of his signature sound. It ranges in tempo and style, but stays true to his areas of expertise: intricate drum-work, mighty low-end, and an organic, beautifully mixed final product.
He takes inspiration from dub and reggae – heard on the weighty, spacey, rolling 140 track ‘Brain’, as well as on the title track, which features the legendary vocals of Liam Bailey. Monty’s affinity for this style is hard to miss. Combine that with a blazing-hot European summer (42C during the interview!), and it’s got all the makings of a scorching, seasonal classic.
The heat continues with each single – ’Gas Tank’ and ‘Mad Man’ provide a one-two punch of drum & bass and dubstep with equal power, much to the delight of club and festival ravers.
Finally, rounding off the EP is a collaboration with his Toulousian brother, Trail. A 1985 combo that’s always worked exceptionally well. Led with a rich guitar melody, ‘Argentique’ hits on more relaxed tones, but makes no compromise on the summer vibe.
Outside of a variety of compilation appearances and collaborations, it’s been some time. ‘No Sunset For Soul’ marks his first full release on Alix Perez’s imprint since the seminal ‘Hit The Lights’ LP – where he established his position as a core member of the 1985 roster, sewing his sound into the fabric of the label.
With this in mind, UKF wanted to check-in. Between touring, ancillary commitments like Patreon, and a strive for excellence on every tune, Monty reveals the reason for this small gap in releases, how he’s developed, and some helpful techniques for garnering inspiration.
How was the North American tour?
It was really good. I preferred it over the first one I did there – just because this time I was travelling with Drone – he’s a great guy, I love him. It was nice to share the moments, and support each other mentally when we’re tired and all that. It just makes the whole tour pleasant.
Where did you go?
We went to New York, Grand Rapids, LA, Portland, Chicago, and we had two shows in Denver. They were all great – but I think my favourites were LA and Denver. Funny story about LA actually, we got there just in time. There were some cancellations and delays, so we arrived at the club with our suitcases, these guys came and grabbed our stuff and sped-us through the crowd, and literally like thirty seconds before 11pm, Drone put his USB into the CDJs and we played. It was crazy.
That must’ve taken a hefty mental reset…
Yeah definitely. Kinda stressful! I feel like these days though, I’m a lot better at not getting stressed over travel. Obviously you want to play the show and get there, but I would worry so much about missing the plane and all these other things. But now it’s like, if I do miss it, it’s out of my control.
Were there any favourite cities you stayed in?
Yeah so we stayed in New York, Denver, and Grand Rapids for a few days each. The rest it is just in, do the show, out. But yeah New York is wild – a huge city, lots of noise. It will actually be the third time I’ve been there this year, which is funny. And I’m going back again in October.
So you like New York quite a bit then?
I do – but at some point I think “okay, I need to go now”. It can all be a bit too much for me. I’m from the country-side originally, and Toulouse is a city, but it’s nothing like New York. I’m not used to it, but it’s definitely a cool place to check out. I’ve got a few friends there and the bass music scene there is great.
I saw a lot of buzz around a show you played at a venue called The Black Box?
Yeah, that’s in Denver. My agent, Nicole, runs it with her amazing team. She has a booking agency called Sub.mission, and she manages most of the 1985 guys. She’s great, we love her, and from what I understand, she’s pretty much the first person to bring dubstep to the US. So she’s grown quite an empire of her own out there. But the Black Box is really good – it’s 300-400 capacity, so it’s nice and intimate, it’s got a banging sound-system, nice high ceilings, it’s all sound-proof. It’s really nice to play there.
There were three 1985 nights in a row there, and they all pretty much all sold out on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. First night was Drone & myself, the second night was a B2B2B with Drone and Alix Perez, and the third night was just Alix.
Man… Denver love it!
Yeah the bass music scene there is massive. That’s where the melting pot is – where all the producers are, and a lot of people move there for the music.
Do you notice much of a difference between the US and Europe, when it comes to crowd reactions?
Yeah. It’s a different crowd, that’s for sure, at least with bass music. Maybe a different culture as well? In Europe it’s more ‘club culture’, finishing at 5am or 6am. Over there, aside from New York I think, it’s all pretty early.
Of all of the shows we did, I think the latest I finished would’ve been 2.30am, I think because of that, and because you get during-the-week shows over there, sometimes it feels more like a ‘concert’. The energy is just a bit different. But absolutely nothing wrong with that, I think it’s great not staying up to 6am, and it’s potentially healthier!
Do you have to tweak your sets very much to cater to each crowd?
I generally just improvise, and see what the crowd are saying. But over there [the US], they want drum & bass, that’s for sure. They’ve got so much 140 and that’s what’s dominating the scene – but drum & bass is really starting to lift-off there. There’s more shows and more people ‘get it’.
So in Denver, for example, we were playing 140 and noticed they might actually be getting a bit bored… And when we switched it up to D&B the crowd went off completely. I think they have so much 140, that when they do have D&B come over, it’s nice and refreshing for them.
So wrapping up the tour, what was your pit (lowlight) and peak (highlight)?
Highlights… well there’s a few. In Grand Rapids, they took us to Lake Michigan, which is so huge, that you think you’re at the ocean, but it’s fresh water and just so beautiful. And in Denver, Nicole took us to some mountainous places. We actually got caught up in a storm, but it was really cool watching it roll in, and then hit us – then we had to get into the car.
And for the shows – in general they were all great but I think LA was the one that probably hit the spot for me. The sound-system was really great and it was quite a big venue.
And the lowlight?
When we were flying from Denver to Portland. I’ve taken a lot of flights in my life, and had some bad ones, but I’ve never experienced turbulence like that. I thought I was going to die basically! People screaming, I turned white, I was shaking, holding the person next to me – and I was right at the back of the plane, when I looked outside I saw the wings bend. The captain said that “we’re experiencing some moderate turbulence” – if that’s moderate I can’t imagine what’s high… So it really shook us up. When we landed we were just deflated – I’ve stopped smoking, but I had to light up a cigarette after that. It was funny. Well, not funny, but…
Rough! So let’s talk about the EP. How’s the response been?
Yeah I’ve been playing ‘Mad Man’ out quite a lot over the last year. ‘Gas Tank’ is a recent one I’ve been playing a lot, too. They’ve all had great responses.
Was it all written around the same time?
Nah, I struggled a bit with this one – with time, and touring, and inspiration. It took me probably about seven months. That’s quite long for me. Usually if I’m inspired I can smash out an EP in two weeks, if Alix likes all the tracks.
But it was fun to put this one together. I tried to keep it diverse with 140 and D&B, and I tried to use a lot of organic-sounding drums. You’ll hear on ‘No Sunset For Soul’ there was a lot of reggae and dub influence because I love that music. Same thing with ‘Brain’, there’s a lot of rim-shots and organic drums. And then I just needed a rolling one to hype up the people – Gas Tank. A good banger.
Gas Tank is so good. How did that all come together?
This one is really cool. To create the main stabby, weird mid bass, I actually used a didgeridoo sample. That’s what gives it that organic vibe. I pitched it up and then added some movement with an LFO, distortion, and EQ. I’m happy with the end result!
How about ‘No Sunset for Soul’? How did the link up with Liam Bailey occur?I’ve been listening to Liam before I was even producing. I discovered him on YouTube from his track ‘When Will They Learn’ back in 2012. I really love his voice and he’s a great guy. He sings a lot of soulful and reggae and dub, and I wanted to do something in that vibe but with drum & bass.
Another collab on here is ‘Argentique’ with Trail.
Yeah that basically just means ‘analogue’ or ‘film’ in French – like film camera. Charles loves his film cameras, he’s really good at it. And I like to take photos as well, so we always like to chat about it and he shows me all his new gadgets and new cameras and things. So we thought that suited the vibe, so we named the track after it.
You two have a really nice, distinct style together. How often do you write with him?
Pretty often. I mean we see each other almost every day or second-day. We are often in the studio together but we don’t release all the tracks we make. We do have another one coming soon, but it’s got nothing to do with that ‘Cinnamon’ or ‘Argentique’ type of sound – it’s a heavy one.
I was going to say, is it always these acoustic, natural, guitar sort of numbers?
No, we make lots of different stuff, but we really do enjoy making that vibe. Because we both play guitar and bass – so it’s fun to make, and we share each other’s knowledge in music. We love bands music and playing drums and things, so we’re always trying to keep it organic, even though it’s electronic. We use things like Superior Drummer and Addictive Drums (which are plugins), or recordings of real drums, and we process them and get them sounding punchy and clean.
Speaking of film, you’re pretty good with the camera I’ve seen on Instagram – is this something you’d consider incorporating that more into your releases?
Yeah I’d like to get into it more – but I just don’t have the time unfortunately. It’s one of those things where it’s a lot of learning, so I just do the minimum. I just take my camera and take photos when I go and play, I really enjoy it. And it’s good memories – I have all these folders of photos from over the years. Everything’s organised on where I go, and which event.
Rounding out the EP are two heavy 140 tracks: ‘Mad Man’ and ‘Brain’. How do you feel about the state of 140 and dubstep in 2023? Feels like it’s slowly risen to a really nice position…
In the US it’s massive, it’s everywhere. New Zealand is pretty big on it as well from my experiences. They love the 140 stuff.
And the sort of older sound is coming back now which is cool – the 2006 to, 09, 10 era. Skream, Hatcha, Benga, those sorts of sounds. The dubby, minimal sound is coming back but with modern-day mixdowns.
There’s not many dubstep shows in Europe still, as far as I know of. But when I go and play my shows, I play all tempos – although it’s mainly dubstep and drum & bass.
I’ve got some garage, some half-time, and other bits I want to release – trying different tempos and styles to mix it up in a set. I get easily bored when I play just drum & bass, I don’t want to be classed as just a drum & bass artist.
So with your last full release being Hit The Lights – have you learned many new tricks and applied them to this release?
Yeah so that was nearly two years ago now. I think my taste has changed a tiny bit – I listen to some of the tracks on that and I’m like “I’m not sure I like that” – but even more so with my older stuff, some of it I just can’t even listen to. I’ve even taken off a lot of old tracks from Spotify because I think, that’s not me anymore.
But I’ve learned lots of things. I feel much more confident on Ableton now – if there is a problem in the track or something that needs to be changed, I pretty much always know how to fix it. For example if I want more attack on the kick, or a more thin snare, I know exactly how to do that – I just have more control over what I do now.
You mentioned this EP was somewhat of a struggle – for a variety of reasons – but with this level of control now, do you see the next few releases as being easier to put together?
Not necessarily. Because I can make tracks, but I want to be 100% sure I like them. And that can be hard. Just because you’ve got an idea and you put a track together, doesn’t mean you should put it out. It’s good to sit back on it, ask yourself if it’s any different to stuff you’ve done before or whether it’s worth bringing out. That’s why it’s good to have Alix for his good ear and a different perspective. It all depends if I’m inspired too I guess.
Where do you think you get most inspiration from?
That’s a tough question. Sometimes it’s just there, and it’s easy for six months. And then another six months it’s completely gone. So when I do struggle, I try different tempos, and I always think to myself: Why? Why am I stuck in this struggle? Why am I stuck in this loop? Often it will be something like the way I start a track – which is always exactly the same. I go straight to that plugin, or straight to these samples. If you’re doing that constantly, and you’ve already used-up all the ideas from that, you’ll struggle to be original and new.
So for example – I usually like to use a lot of midi, but the other day I was thinking about how Visages use mostly samples, so I thought, well maybe I’ll make one purely with samples. And I turned out to be really happy with the results. So things like that, new approaches and switching up your normal patterns, can definitely trigger some inspiration.
I’ve also recently been using ChatGPT a lot actually. It’s crazy, and it works so well. I’ve been asking: “can you give me a chord progression”. You can get chord progressions anywhere on the internet in midi files. But you can get specific with ChatGPT and ask for one that is moody but uplifting, or sad, or whatever. And it will just bang one out, which I can then write in Ableton, shift some things around and it will trigger inspiration.
That’s mad… I’m absolutely going to be trying that out.
And of course, listening to different music outside of bass music helps a lot. I barely ever actually listen to drum & bass in my spare time. I’m always looking for that next, original stuff. Originality is one of the hardest things to get when you make music. Not saying my stuff is original, but I do feel like I have a certain signature – and that’s what I’m looking for. Like when you hear a track and you say “that’s Break” or “that’s Alix”.
And do you think you’ve landed on a signature sound with this EP?
Yeah I do. I think since I landed on 1985, it just came naturally. Whenever I produce what feels natural to me, that’s what Alix always wants to sign. Whereas before that wasn’t the case, with other labels.
So I like to just make what comes natural, and that’s helped develop this signature sound. I think my drumwork is pretty unique to me. And the plugins I use – I use a lot of different ones, but there would be certain ones that I use that give the sound I have now. I’ve always produced on the same monitors all my life too, which were given to me by my Dad – who unfortunately is not around anymore.
That’s quite sentimental. He lives on through your music and signature sound. And I agree – you’re at the point where I could say “that sounds like one from Monty”.
So what have you got lined up next?
Gig-wise I’m playing Paris early September, then Manchester. And then I’m going back to the US, followed by New Zealand and Australia in October.
Music-wise I’m working on my next EP. I’ve also got a track with Trail, a track with Visages, and another with Visages and Killa P, and one with Emz – which I’ve been playing the instrumental out a lot, so I’m excited to see what he’s done with it.
With touring and Pateron I haven’t had a lot of studio time. But definitely from next week I’m going to be back in the studio.
How is Pateron going?
I really enjoy it – it’s been about two years of doing it now, and I’ve found a nice format now with the sample pack offerings, and the tiering. I give in-depth feedback to people on their tracks and I really enjoy that. I actually did a few masterclasses in person in the US too – so I enjoy that educational side quite a lot.
I’m also running a competition with prizes – such as one year of Patreon access, 350 euros, guest lists, and lots more.
So yeah, the Patreon is going really well!
Does it help with your own production in any way?
Definitely. It’s helped me improve in everything, really.
When I’m making these samples, I’m making them for them, not for me. Because I don’t actually use them. But when I’m making them and I hit on something cool – I can put that patch aside and kind of revisit later, and it definitely sparks inspiration.
Okay, to finish things off I wanted to do a quick fire round. Let me know the first thought or opinion that pops into your head on these topics…
Favourite UK club?
Only been there once – but I think it would be FOLD in London.
4×4 Drum & Bass?
Cool! I like it if it’s well executed. I’m not really up to date with what everyone’s doing, but I’ve seen and heard some stuff out, and I think it’s cool. Anything that’s new to the ear, and sounds a little off-kilter to the normal pattern, is good. You need that.
Favourite non-bass music musician right now?
I’ve been listening to Men I Trust.
Favourite studio snack?
Water and fruit. I don’t snack a lot in the studio.
The Visages guys?
I love them! I would also say, when they’re all together, it’s just funny. The humour is silly and absurd.
Sample or synth?
That’s so tricky… samples.
Desert island. One record. What are you taking?
Something that’s going to make me happy, and that’s reggae. So I’d keep it classic with something from Bob Marley.