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Monki hits the hot seat to talk touring, fashion and DJ doppelgängers

We throw a few curveball questions the way of DJ Monki...

From Rinse intern to Radio 1 regular, with a weekly Sunday night/Monday morning slot from 1-4am, Monki — aka 25-year-old Lucy Monkman — is the face of the national broadcaster’s latest specialist show. From an eclectic background playing everything from grime to UK funky, these days her sound, also highlighted on her own Zoo Music label, is mostly centred around the various teeming rivulets of house and techno.

Words: JOE ROBERTS

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Finding her club feet with a residency at Annie Mac Presents and spots at Fabric, which earned her the helm of ‘FabricLive 81’, her own latest The Warning Tour has been taking place throughout March and continues into April, while Snowbombing, Annie Mac presents Lost & Found and Defected Croatia are amongst her spring/summer dates already in the diary.

With April also heralding the next of instalment of Monki & Friends, an on-going series of EPs recorded in the Red Bull Studios, we took a peek into her Monki business...

Most internships don’t end up on Radio 1. What were you putting in the tea?

“I was actually the first intern Rinse had ever had, which was in 2009. It was really weird how I got it. I did a day’s internship at Radio Jackie, which is a local radio station in South London for over 40s. I’d go back now and again and work for them making cups of tea. The guy I worked under realised it wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do, so told me, ‘We know a station in East London that plays dance music called Rinse, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?’ ‘Oh course I’ve heard of it, I listen to it religiously’.

“He knew the guys there and said he could put me in touch. Radio Jackie used to be a pirate in the ‘60s and I think they had a bit of a soft spot for Rinse as they were a pirate then too. They used to help them out with their aerial. They put me in touch, but it took about three months of going backwards and forwards to meet them, they were so elusive. I didn’t know where they were, I didn’t even know they had an office at the time. I thought it would be at the top of an estate building. After me, my mate Oli got an internship and he now owns Radar Radio. For three years it was just us two — I’d do the day shift and he’d do the night shift.”

Your mum used to go to Fabric. How much of an influence was she on your musical tastes?

“My mum’s quite young, she’s in her 40s, so when I was younger I’d be at my nan’s and my mum would go to Fabric. Then she’d come back in the morning with my uncle. Actually, my uncle came to Monki & Friends at Fabric last year and hung out with my crew. It was quite funny. My mum used to listen to a lot of Chemical Brothers, 808 State, The Prodigy, a lot of Ibiza house, when I was younger. Same with her brother. Their other brother was quite a bit younger than them and I grew up with him, so he was kind of my brother. He grew up listening to EZ mixtapes, garage and ‘90s and early noughties hip-hop. I got a good range of influence through those three, then ended up finding out what I like myself when I was about 14.”

Your tour is called The Warning. What are you warning against?

“We wanted to give it a bit of a theme. Without giving too much away, we have lots of massive warning lights like you stick on top of an ambulance. It turns out there are lots of warehouses that literally just stock warning lights for things like tractors.”

You must have been tempted to put one on the top of your car...

“There is one in my car which has a suction pad on it and I was very, very tempted. Me and my mate were doing the promo video with them. It would be so bad if I got nicked though, being on the BBC — ‘Radio 1 DJ pretends to be a police officer’. Not a good look!”

Lots of people want to get into production and DJing. Why did you specifically want to do radio?

“When I started listening to electronic music in my own time, rather than listening to my mum’s, I discovered it through specialist shows. I listened to Toddla on Radio 1, Skream & Benga’s Stella Sessions on Rinse, Annie Mac’s show when it was on a Friday night after Pete Tong, Benji B... I listened to all the In New DJs’ shows. It wasn’t a specific genre, I was hooked on music and radio at the same time. If you’ve only listened to Radio 1 in the car with your parents, all you know is daytime. Then when I happened to be listening to it at night I was like, ‘What the fuck is this music?’

“My other half makes music, and his uncle was into production, so that was the first thing that he saw. My first connection with electronic music was radio. Also, there weren’t a shit-load of women producers that I listened to when I was a teenager. The first women I saw in dance music were radio broadcasters. So Mary Anne Hobbs, Annie Nightingale and Annie Mac. It opened my eyes, especially at 16. Before that, I didn’t even know it was a career path.”

How important has Annie Mac been in achieving that?

“I was 17 when I first started talking to her, through MySpace — weirdly enough. Then I ended up meeting her on the set of a TV show when I was part of the audience. We kept in touch and went for a coffee a few times. She was really supportive considering I was a teenager sending her mixes, which I’m sure she gets a lot of. She then gave me my first residency for Annie Mac Presents when it was at Koko. She didn’t get me a show at Radio 1, or anything! It’s just nice to have someone of that ilk that you can turn to when you need some advice. It’s quite handy!”

Googling your name brings up a fashion brand of the same name. Which came first? Have you set the Radio 1 lawyers on them yet?

“About a year after I started my Rinse show, people from Sweden and Europe who listened to the show would send me pictures of them standing outside the shop. At the time it didn’t exist in England. About three years ago they opened one in Oxford Circus, so I started getting loads of photos. ‘I know, I’ve heard of it...’ I actually played a fashion show for them three or four years ago for Fashion Week, which was quite funny. Technically I came first, I was born in 1991, so I doubt they were around then.”

We saw you tweeting about a fellow Monkman on University Challenge. Here’s your own bonus question for five. What’s the difference between a monkey and an ape?

“I’ve never met anyone called Monkman who’s not related to me. Saying that, there’s a DJ called John Monkman. I’ve seen his name on flyers, I think he plays house and techno. When I saw the guy on University Challenge I thought it was quite funny. Oh my god, I don’t know. Is it the way they stand?”

Incorrect. A monkey has a tail. Goodnight!

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