The fact that we’re hosting three tracks from Thatmanmonkz on our Soundcloud – second only to Henry Wu – goes some way to show the respect we hold for the man. A DJ and producer based up in Sheffield, his graft and passion over the last few years has seen his music slowly filter out of his hometown and around Europe. Starting off self-releasing on his own Shadeleaf Records, his music has recently found a home on Classic, Delusions of Grandeur, Fifty Fathoms Deep, Razor N Tapes while also teaming up with Kon on a remix 12″. In short, it’s good to see a grafter and all round good bloke now getting the props he deserves. We thought it about time we had a proper catch-up, with TMM also providing an end-of-summer mix (tracklist at the bottom) to accompany his words.
So who the hell is thatmanmonkz and what’s he all about then?
thatmanmonkz is a dance music producer, DJ, record label boss at Shadeleaf Music, and recording artist based in Sheffield, up north. I’m all about the music I guess, as a lifelong fan and collector, starting with Golden Era hip-hop as the foundation, which led me towards deejaying, and then to everything else from there. I feel really honoured and blessed to able to work in something I love, and definitely feel a responsibility from that to develop as an artist in the best way that I can, remembering the artists and music that paved the way for us all now. The art comes first for me basically.
Could you give an intro to your label, Shadeleaf? What’s the label’s mission statement and is there a common thread you like to have running through all releases?
We’re just finishing up the ninth release for Shadeleaf at present. It’s a vinyl orientated label that started out as a vehicle for me to have more control and get more of my own stuff out there but, it quickly snowballed to a level where I get to work with friends and cyberbuddies all over the world that have a like-minded view of music. I’d say we were a soulful underground dance music label, that would be prepared to release anything we love within those parameters. So far we seem to be known for that crate digging, dusty sampled vibe, but expect more and more varied stuff from us as things progress! It’s not really planned out and structured like a business, more a labour of love. 18 months or so ago when we started, I’d never have believed we’d have been working with the likes of Kon, Art Of Tones and Kai Alcé, and to have put out all the artists we have is great, as I’d buy and play them all if somebody else had done it!
Your latest EP on Classic…how did you get involved with the guys there and is there a particular route you wanted to go down with this one?
Luke Solomon at Classic has been a really big supporter of what I’ve been trying to do for the longest, regularly playing me on his radio shows. We got to talking via mutual friends and he suggested doing something with Classic, which was a dream really, as a fan and buyer of that label for years. As far as the route we went down, it’s very much ‘my style’ of house music (as I said, the label had been supporters before we worked together). I’m lucky enough to have worked with labels that know their sound and market really well, and therefore can give really good A&R advice to artists as projects come together…. I’m trying to learn from the guys at Classic, DoG, and Kolour LTD etc. and apply what they teach me to running Shadeleaf!
We hear you’ve got an album coming out soon with Delusions of Grandeur. How’s that coming along and what can we expect?
It’s looking like early next year for the album with DoG. It’s called Columbusing and is all finished up and being prepped for release now. It has collaborations with Khalil Anthony, Pete Simpson, Ta’raach, Dave Aju, Malik Ameer, Erik Rico, and my man DJ Kali and his Raw Standard crew on there. It’s a great honour to be asked to do an album, and allowed me to be a lot more stylistically varied, so there’s hip-hop, soul and nods to jazz on there, as well as my usual disco and house influenced stuff. I’m really happy with it, now it’s finished I just hope other people like it too!
A lot of your work is with vocalists. How do you choose the vocal talent you work with?
I’ve been really lucky there. One of my best friends and one of the first people I ever worked with, is Pete (Simpson). He’s world class, and has worked with just about everybody in the house game, as well as being a great multi-instrumentalist. To start with guys at that level really helped me develop quickly as a producer, and from that I’ve always felt natural collaborating with singers, emcees and musicians. I prefer to work with singers and musicians more than I like to collab with other producer and programmers actually, as the musicians bring their unique skill set to the table, which makes it more of a true collaboration, in my humble opinion. I met Khalil Anthony when he was over doing a book reading and we hit it off. Nowadays most of the other guys I work with come through friends of friends, or personal recommendations.
Who would be your dream vocal collaboration?
Damn, that’s a hard one. If I only got one choice I’d have to say Marvin Gaye. Still alive I’ll go with Erykah Badu.
Looking at your hometown now, what’s Sheffield underground music culture like nowadays and how important has Sheffield been in your development as a producer?
That’s an interesting question. I can’t honestly say that I came to Sheffield because of its music scene or heritage, or that I’ve always felt that it was linked directly to what I do. However, there is undeniably a unique energy here that becomes infectious, and a great amount of musicians and creatives compared to its size, which is inspiring in itself. With the exception of Pete Simpson, my other great influences and role models have been the producer Ross Orton and the artist/DJ Chris Duckenfield, who are both Sheffield through and through. Add to that my first forays into writing and production were with Toddla T, and I guess Sheffield has been much more influential on me than I perhaps even realised myself! The underground aspect of music culture here is always thriving, and always really eclectic too, though I’ve felt that the warehouse party scene, and the speakeasy vibe of some of our more underground bars have had the most to do with this. Currently, Banana Hill are smashing it out of the park with their bookings and since I’ve been here there have been awesome nights like Old Skool, NY Sushi, The Store, Scuba, Lights Down Low, Kabal and Cargo, that have always keep the fires burning.
Who’s doing good things for music in the city you’d like to shout out?
I’m always going to forget somebody here, so my apologies! I’d always say anything Ross Orton and Chris Duckenfield first, but also Krooked House, Shabby Doll, Es Q, Winston Hazel, Lo Shea, Lodger, Danae Wellington, K.O.G, Bozzwell, Adi Carter, Danimal Swainger, Bennett Holland and Jube, Darren Campbell and Marios, Tommy Vicari and Rev.Austin are just some of the names that spring to mind that are up to some really interesting things, as well as spots like the Night Kitchen and Hope Works. In Sheffield there’s always so much music being made, and it really is so varied in all genres that there’s not really a defining ‘scene’ or ‘sound’, which is what I think makes Sheffield a little bit special if you’re prepared to dig a little deeper for it when you’re here.
Outside Sheffield, what’s been on your stereo / in your headphones recently?
Apart from the fact that we’ve had a couple of big name albums that’ll probably make my all-time list in the last year, in Black Messiah and To Pimp A Butterfly, there really is so much amazing underground music being made currently, which comes from the social situation and hard times that a lot of the world are living through. All my Shadeleaf guys, Kon and Kai Alce, Seven Davis JR and Ge-ology, Dego & Kaidi, the Box Aus Holz and Money $ex stuff, the ultra consistent output of people like Kolour LTD and Razor N Tape, DJ Vas, Fouk and Sleazy Beats, Hiatus Kaiyote, all of the Fly Lo and Brainfeeder crew, Robert Glasper, Theo Parrish, Waajeed, Jay Daniel, Kyle Hall, Funkineven….I feel it’s really an amazing time for music, with new guys and already established guys all on really good form at the moment. It’s great to hear ‘proper’ hip-hop and broken beat again, as well as all the awesome house and disco being made. Long may it continue!
And finally, what’s on the horizon for the rest of the year?
Release-wise I’m pretty much gearing up for the album now, though I have just finished up a couple of remixes that will be out there shortly too. As well as that, I’m producing some more downbeat and hip-hop-styled tracks for Malik Ameer and Ta’raach, and I have some new bits in the pipeline with Khalil Anthony too. I’m just staying busy y’know? That and getting some new gear for the studio to ‘change up the sound’ a little bit also. As far as gigs, luckily, and thankfully, the releases have generated more interest in the deejaying, so I’m keeping my agent Ally a little more busy (firstname.lastname@example.org). It looks like I’m due in the States soon on both coasts, and I’ll be at the ADE in October, as well as getting out and about fairly regularly here in the UK. This mix I’ve done for you guys is in many ways kind of a summer wrap up for me, with tunes that have really worked on floors over the last couple of months. Thanks for the opportunity to chat, I’ma big fan of the site and really grateful for the support you’ve shown me! 🙂
Thatmanmonkz – Are You Still Sleeping EP is out now on Classic, with his debut album forthcoming on Delusions of Grandeur.