Already having been featured on We Play Wax last month via a review for his latest release on Foot & Mouth, Montel is no stranger to all you house heads out there. But because little was known about the Irish veteran DJ and producer, we decided it was time to properly introduce him to the world. So without any further ado, I give you Montel's exclusive interview for We Play Wax to celebrate the newly arrived spring and this year's Full Worm Moon.
Hello Montel and thank you for taking the time and courage to expose yourself to all the vinyl freaks out there :D
Let's cut straight to the chase, shall we? Just how much of a wax head are you? Almost all your releases are available on physical format and a quick browse on your facebook page tells the rest of the story. How important is the medium to you and why?
Vinyl is very important to me, but I'm not one of those 'vinyl only' people that are anal about the digital format. Let's be realistic here, it's 2014. Vinyl has made a nice little come back and I'd say it will always be around, but there is no chance it will ever be the leading format in the music industry again. A standard press is now made of 300-500 units, while in 1994 it would have been made of around 3000-5000 units. So, indeed, it's having a comeback and selling nicely, but nothing like when it was 'the' format of choice for DJs and collectors! Now it's a niche product that we can all just enjoy for what it is. I personally just like things I can touch and see. I love the artwork, the sleeve notes and being able to hold the music in my hands and put it straight on a turntable. Digital has it's own purpose though, it's great for listening to things on the go and it's also great for DJs and producers. But if something is good, I'll always buy the physical release. I'm just one of those odd people that still buys magazines, DVDs, CDs and, of course, records. I personally just enjoy it, but I can understand how some people prefer the instant access and having everything on their iPad or something like that.
You pride yourself as being a "house head veteran". When did you start buying, collecting and playing vinyl? Any favourite tracks from back in the day that still do it right now?
I've been buying vinyl since 88/89, but that would have been mostly Pop and Rock stuff. I probably bought my first house record around 1993, but that was mainly out of curiosity for this new 'genre' of music. I was only buying 1 or 2 records a month back then and most of it came from Italy, Holland or Belgium. I didn't dive head first into buying vinyl and DJing until 1996. There are absolutely loads of tracks from back then that I still love and play these days. Junior Boy's Own was my favourite label, but I also loved the US sound, so I was also picking up a lot of stuff on Cajual, Relief, Strictly Rhythm, Tribal America and Henry Street to name a few.
How do you think the house scene evolved after all these years? Do you linger for the good ol' times when Jack just built his house or do you believe that change is required in order to progress?
Tough one to call… I love the old classics, but there is always this amazing new sound coming through. I think you need to let music mature in the first place. It normally does this once it hits the 10-15 year mark and then you can stand back and see what was actually amazing and what was absolute garbage. As a DJ, I always like to mix up music over a wide timeline. Some DJs just play fresh, upfront stuff, while others just play old stuff, but I like to mix them both.
Speaking of the good old times, your music has quite a heavy old school vibe to it. What is your approach to producing your tracks: do you sample the classics or just use them as a source of inspiration? What are your most profound influences?
Same as the above: I like to mix things up. There are so many people just buying old analogue gear now to get that old sound, but different things work for different people though. My production setup is very simple: a sampler, a turntable and a sequencer. As far as influences go, obviously names like Todd Terry and Armand Van Helden have inspired me the most!
Mind sharing any of your producing tricks? What's the formula for a great timeless tune? How much of it is software, how much is hardware and how much is 'soulware'? What's your approach to making music?
I make 'house tracks' for DJs and dancers. I like to keep things simple and stripped back. All you need is a good groove and that's basically it. Or sometimes even just beats and some cool editing of a disco/funk/soul sample works best. Some of the greatest tracks in history were made up of only a few elements: beats, bassline, keys and a vocal. My formula/advice is to keep it simple and only use what you need. Don't over complicate or do things just because other people do.
What's the story behind your name? You mentioned in your bio that people ofter mistake you for an American talk show host, but one of your earlier records features a very suggestive avatar of him. I bet you got a lot of laughs out of that one…
There's a funny story behind it, but it's one of those 'you had to be there' to get it. Anyway, it's all based around my nickname 'Monty' or 'Montee' and that's all I will say for now :)
How important is the clubbing life to a producer? I'm not talking necessarily about the extended pill popping whiskey chugging ball sweating weekends, but rather if can you still feel the music just by buying and listening to records at home?
That's a great question! For me it's a massive factor, I wouldn't be making music or even be a DJ if I haven't experienced the real clubbing culture! When I hear stories about young producers that literally just produce stuff, it simply bores me to death. If you can't 'feel' the music you're making or playing, then it's not real. I've heard guys rhyme off some ridiculous things as their inspiration, but the only inspiration I need to do what I do is going to a good club and surrounding myself with good music and good people!
But I just did the numbers and you've got 5 personal records and twice that of featured appearances in one single year. That's impressive to say the least, especially for someone who is not in the top 10 DJ popularity chart. How do you it? How do you keep so focused and avoid getting burned out too fast like most producers do? What's your secret behind it all?
I just make music when I feel inspired. So I could make 5 tracks in a week or, on the other hand, I could go 3 months without even going near the studio. Guys seem to burn themselves out trying to keep up with everyone else. One of the most important things when making music is sincerity. Do it because you love it, don't do it to make money, get gigs or win social media popularity contests. I go to clubs, I DJ and produce because I love it! I don't have an agenda and I'm not trying to take over the world with it. So the key to being focused is to just do your own thing at your own pace and enjoy it for what it is :)
Care to share some of your plans for 2014? What should we be on the lookout for? Plans for an album or any noteworthy collaborations coming up? Indulge us please :)
I'm considering starting up a new label this year. I co-own Seven Music & Seven Limited with a few friends, but I might start something new all by myself so watch this space! In the meantime, I've just released a 4 track EP on Seven Music, a remix on Large Music and I'm about to drop a 4 track EP on Foot & Mouth. I'm also in the process of working on some new material for an EP so let's see how that develops. Keep an eye on my Soundcloud page, as I always post demos up there. Regarding an album/LP, I think I can safely say that I have no intentions of doing one. Do people actually buy or listen to albums anymore? People only seem to cherry pick single tracks or EPs at the most nowadays.
Thank you very much for the word and keep on keeping us entertained!