Making it as a DJ doesn’t always require production. Lucy Monkman, better known by her legions of Radio 1 fans as Monki, decided to plough a different path. The decision came while surrounded by books and sheets of paper during a college study session for a subject she had no interest in, and as Annie Mac played Skream’s remix of La Roux in the background, she decided there and then to go for it. She quit college the following day and set about crafting a career in radio that would eventually lead her to becoming one of the nation’s favourite young dance music DJs. Work experience at a local radio station lead to another placement at key London station, Rinse FM. When one of the DJs fell sick, she stepped into host their show and was given her own in the process. Radio 1 selected her to join their In New DJs We Trust team and she was eventually offered her own regular shows on Sunday nights on Radio 1.
Ibiza Voice: What’s been happening with you lately?
Monki: In January I did a Ones To Watch mix series on the show where I introduced four producers who I think are going to have a great 2018. Each week we got one of them to deliver a mix to showcase what they're about, we had Big Miz, Billy Turner, Mason Maynard and William Djoko. We've been busy setting up a new label called ‘&Friends’ and that will be launching soon, I can't wait to reveal the tracks and who's involved.
How did you record the mix?
I recorded the mix at home on Pioneers. No theme, just tracks and producers I'm feeling at the moment and all four-four stuff with a good groove to it. There are some bits in there from myself as well and a forthcoming track off the label from Chambray.
Where do you get your music from?
I get sent a lot of music because of the nature of my job and [my show on] radio. But I'm always keeping an eye on online and an ear to the ground. I use Beatport and Traxsource to grab records digitally that are already out and occasionally go down to Soho in central London for a dig.
Tell us about your record collection?
My record collection is currently in boxes at the moment because I've just moved. But it’s very broad, I started collecting when I was 16 and the first record I bought was a hip-hop record, Erik B & Rakim ‘Eric B is President.’ I have a bit of hip-hop old and new, garage, old Chicago house bits, Strictly Rhythm, a lot of Armand Van Helden bits, but I also have a lot of soul records. Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding or Nina Simone.
Do any of these records tell a story about you?
My record collection probably tells a story for sure [especially] the different genres I got into over the years of growing up. I actually have my mum’s record collection as part of it, which I found in the attic and was really interesting because it gave me a sneak peak of what dance music she was into when she was younger. Everything from 808 State to George Michael was in there, her taste has rubbed off on me for sure.
Tell us about the scene you came up in and how it influenced you?
I grew up in London so the club scene here was extremely influential on me and luckily we have an amazing club culture. When I first started going out, I spent a lot of my time in Plastic People, which is now closed down. Fabric, Notting Hill Arts club and KOKO were also venues that I frequently visited when I was a teenager. Pirate radio also played a huge part in shaping my taste and what DJs I chose to go and watch.
You've made it to where you are by being a DJ and not a producer, so what kind of career advice would you give someone who wants to make it just as a DJ without the promotional crutch of production?
It's not an easy task just to be a tastemaker, people have to really trust you. I built up people’s trust through radio; being a resident for a night, a label and then putting on my own night where I curate the lineup. So there are different tools you can use to do so. My advice would to be use one of these avenues to build that trust and potentially build a brand.
What personality traits do you have that make you a good DJ?
Every DJ, as cool as they may seem, is just a secret nerd. We're portrayed to be cool, but the stem of our obsession with music is ultra nerdy. So you'll have to start off a nerd if that's what you want to call it! You'll need a lot of determination and drive, a lot of people want this career and not everyone can do it.
Aside from tiredness and its knock on effect on mental health, what's the most psychologically challenging thing about DJing?
With a forever changing landscape of trends, naturally this job is unstable. Someone can be the biggest thing for a couple of years and forgotten the next. I think for some, the power to bounce back is hard to muster under a lot of pressure (financial, record label, etc) and understandably so. You really have to believe in yourself and what you're doing. This doesn't just apply to DJs, it applies to a lot of creative industries.