The solar powered, reggae groove guru Monkey Marc isn’t somebody who follows the paths set by others. With a focus on environmentalism and an unerring devotion to rightful protest, this is one producer who will never back down from the things he believes in.
With a worldwide viral video now resting on his shoulders and Wide Open Space festival nearing rapidly, we caught up with the mean, green, beat machine for a chat.
Working out of a solar studio pieced together by vintage equipment, the life of producer Monkey Marc is as unique as it is uncompromising.
HAPPY: Hey, how are you doing? What are you up to at the moment?
MONKEY MARC: I’m currently multi-tasking like a madman. I’m actually out in the desert getting the Red Dirt Crew ready for their performance at Wide Open Space plus writing some new songs with them. I’m also mixing my next single I recorded in Jamaica recently.
HAPPY: The No Surrender project was pretty amazing, and the reaction was huge. Can you talk a little bit about how that came together?
MONKEY MARC: The response has been really wild. I’m pretty sure the film clip has had almost 1.5 million views now on all the sites it was shared on, which was a total surprise to me. The project is actually called “Soundclash inna Kingston Town” and came about after my trip to Kingston Jamaica last October/November. Basically I have always wanted to go to Jamaica and an opportunity came up, so I packed my bags (mainly recording gear and microphones) and headed over.
Once I got their I just kept meeting all the right people and the next thing I new I was recording all of my favourite artists. It’s just so amazing as it’s a small, localised community so everybody seems to know everybody. The first artist I recorded was Fantan Mojah. That was a wild session. He played my riddim to Capleton who then wanted to do a version over it, and the rest I guess is history.
HAPPY: Where did you find those dancers? Amazing performances all round.
MONKEY MARC: I met quite a few dancers while I was there but essentially my girlfriend was over in Kingston spending six months learning dancehall from Jamaica’s top dancers. That’s where the link was. She suggested the idea of making a full dance clip to my song using only local dancers. Next thing you know, we had hired a video crew, 25 dancers and the video was a reality. These dancers are some of the best in the world and we really wanted to highlight how amazing and vibrant the scene was in Jamaica.
HAPPY: Did you have any sense that the song and clip would be so viral as they were being created?
MONKEY MARC: I never had any idea that it would be so big. It’s been a total surprise though, really with so many people from all around the world messaging me. I’ve had requests to record South American rappers, Arabic rappers and even record North African musicians etc etc… it’s been amazing.
I’m actually recording some of the new talent that contacted me because of the No Surrender video really soon. I’m organising to record a young amazing young rapper from Algeria and another Brazilian singer and rapper for another secret project coming up in the next few months. Funny how things work out.
HAPPY: You use a lot of old school equipment in your process. If you had to name one piece of gear as essential, which would it be?
MONKEY MARC: The heart of my studio is my battle weapon AKAI MPC 3000. I’ve had it since the late 90s. Most of my production centres around that. I’ve done so many projects with it. It still sounds amazing. It’s made from an era when the Japanese made them to last!
HAPPY: On that note, are there any new gadgets you have your eye on?
MONKEY MARC: Hmm. Yes but I can’t afford them… I have expensive taste! If someone wants to give me an old API or old German recording console I’ll kindly take it off his or her hands…
HAPPY: You’re playing Wide Open Space Festival quite soon. What can we expect from your performance there?
MONKEY MARC: For Wide Open Space I’ll be bringing female powerhouse singer Vida Sunshyne to rock the stage with. She’s amazing and has one of the best reggae/soul voices in Australia. It’s going to be next level. I’m also playing with the indigenous hip-hop group I mentor for called Red Dirt Crew. They have come out of a great project called Barkly Desert Cultures that I have been a part of for the last three years. Pure indigenous power centre stage. I can’t wait.
HAPPY: Are there any other artists you’re looking forward to seeing on that line-up?
MONKEY MARC: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing Karajala Kirridarra a project that’s also come out of the Barkly Desert Cultures program. They are an all female indigenous electronic group with amazing story telling and language throughout their songs. I’ve been mixing their album in Melbourne and it’s sounding amazing. Beatrice Lewis aka Beatrice has been working hard with them for the last few years doing amazing work.
HAPPY: What’s coming up next for Monkey Marc?
MONKEY MARC: Lots. I just released a full-length album with my band/alter ego Combat Wombat called Just Across the Border. Check it out, I think you’ll like it. Also I’m putting out a 7″ on Jahtari in Germany in a few weeks, plus I’m currently recording my next video with young Jamaican star Dre Island. Oh and I’m making a full length album with YT (UK).
Phew. Stay tuned.
Wide Open Space Festival 2017 is from 28 – 30 April. Grab your tickets on their website.