Q&A : Five minutes with Monkey Safari
They’re best known for their brand of sunny, groove inflected house and dance music that’s designed to make you swing from the trees. German duo Monkey Safari have made a name for themselves as connoisseurs of rhythm and nuanced club production, a style mostly honed under their own label Hommage. Since building a home in Hommage, Monkey Safari have come into their own. It’s clear not only from hit tracks like Cranes, but also in the impressive resume the duo have racked up as remixers. Their sound is programmed to channel the energy of the dancefloor quite like no other, which is why lockdown presented an interesting creative conundrum. Refusing to relinquish the vibe, last year saw the duo release Love Will Set You Free, a sizzling collection of bright and propulsive tracks designed to be equally enjoyed in your living room as it would be in the club. We caught up with Monkey Safari to find out more about the process of creating Love Will Set You Free, and how lockdown has made their passion for the dancefloor wilder than ever before.
Monkey Safari! It’s such a pleasure to chat with you guys, welcome to The Playground. First of all, how have you been surviving the apocalypse? Did you make it out okay?
First of all, thank you very much for the invitation. Yes, it was quite a difficult time for the whole scene over the last 2 years. Especially in Germany the restrictions were probably one of the strictest. That hit the clubs and festivals here really hard, and us too of course. There was a lot of reliance on the creative scene to find creative solutions to maintain their existence, but it’s been a challenge, especially mentally. Let’s hope that now we can all look to a better future.
Could you tell us a bit about what you got up to over lockdown?
We tried to focus mainly on studio work, since music was still being consumed and with streams we quickly created an at least temporary alternative to the parties. This actually helped us mentally a lot to just have a distraction and the feeling of doing something meaningful. Having more time to spend with our families was also nice. We just tried to make the best of the situation.
It doesn’t seem like you stopped making music. There was Safe on Spectrum and an EP on Anjunadeep in 2020, and of course the new album Love Will Set You Free last year. How did the pandemic change your creative process, if it did at all?
We’ve actually released and produced more music than ever before. The freedom of no longer producing exclusively club oriented music had something in itself and meant that we were able to dedicate ourselves to our solo profiles as well. So in the time, DJ Island with more housey stuff and with Borneo, a UKG and breakbeat sound emerged.
Joris Voorn literally just dropped his remix of Safe. What was it like working with him and Spectrum?
It felt very good and we always felt like we were in an eye-to-eye exchange. We had already sent him Safe as a demo as part of a mix he did for BBC Radio One before the pandemic started. He signed it directly. The plan was that it would come out much later, but when the lockdown started we had the idea that the track would fit perfectly into the time. So we decided to bring the release forward even though his remix wasn’t ready yet. Releasing the remix almost 2 years later is sometimes risky, because it feels like rehashing a theme but the timing seems right. With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine we decided together with Joris and Spectrum to donate all proceeds of the remix to people in Ukraine.
When you guys dropped Love Will Set You Free, you noted that it was a pretty eclectic mix of dance styles designed for “the dance floor or home chilling,” did you take the fact that people may be experiencing this music in isolation into consideration when making the record?
Definitely. That played a role, because it was the same for us. We couldn’t test the stuff in the club or at festivals, so the approach was to be more responsive to different listening environments and situations.
Dance music really had to find new channels to thrive in, but that’s always been what’s magical about it. There’s an element of overcoming adversity or obstacles that’s characteristic of dance music, would you agree?
One hundred percent!
What was your experience online over lockdown like? You guys did a few streamed DJ sets for Anjunadeep. Did you enjoy these, or was it a bit strange to experience?
It was of course unusual at first to stream and not have people in front of you. Fortunately, platforms like Twitch have reacted very quickly to this and have also partly created solutions for the situation. The possibilities of interaction with the viewers and the chatting felt more like an exchange between us and the people.
We have to ask about this recent Facebook post. Will we be seeing Monkey Safari play the Metaverse soon?
We don’t have an official request yet but if it comes we are definitely in.
What are your opinions on The Metaverse? Especially the recent ‘rave’ that went down last month, that was quite infamous. Do you think the Metaverse is destroying dance culture or is it an untapped opportunity?
We have been working on this issue for a while now and we are convinced that the Metaverse and NFTs are the next big step in the development of the internet. For many people, the topic is still very abstract, because a lot is still in a kind of test stage. Many have the idea that the Metaverse will be like Second Life, where I walk around with my avatar GTA style. We see it a bit differently. It’s much more a multidimensional platform for the exchange of ideas in which everyone can participate. For example, we could virtually sit down in the studio with fans and produce a track that, when it’s released, everyone who contributed to it will be involved. As I said, this is all a huge construction site, but it’s definitely the future. You could philosophise about it for hours, but that would probably go beyond the scope of this interview.
How have your live shows been going recently, what’s it like to share the music of Love Will Set You Free to an actual crowd of living, breathing humans?
It’s fantastic and we feel like there’s a real sigh of relief going through the scene. People have so much energy and of course you soak that up. With Body Language on Get Physical, we also have a bigger project coming up this year. So we won’t be lacking in new music at the parties.
What’s the next stop on this safari?
We’ll be in the USA for 2 weeks followed by some shows all over Europe before the German festival summer starts. A really exciting time.
Thank you guys so much for your time!
Thank you too.
Monkey Safari will release a new mix / compilation for Get Physical’s Body Language series. Body Language Vol. 24 is curated by the duo, and includes new music. Listen to a snippet of the latest single from the mix, a cover of WhoMadeWho’s Hi & Low below and stream the full track here. Body Language Vol. 24 is out March 18.
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