Skeleton XXV: An Interview With DJ Monita

Attention all junglists! If you weren’t already aware, this year marks the 25th anniversary for one of the most legendary jungle imprints around, the mighty Skeleton Recordings. This hugely influential label was conceived back in 1992 by jungle maestro DJ Monita, with its first 12” featuring 2 massive tracks in ‘Luv Ta Luv Ya’ and ‘System Crashed’. Skeleton became a buy on site label up until it entered a 20 year dormancy in 1994 shortly after the release of the seminal ‘Razors Edge’ by Monita and Steve C. Thankfully back in 2014 we witnessed the revival of Skeleton with a string of remixes and updates of some of the labels most revered classics, alongside plenty of fresh new music from the likes of Tim Reaper, Threshold, Sicknote and more.

2017 however brings perhaps the biggest release we have seen on the label to date: the 5×12” Skeleton XXV album which hosts 20 of the hardest hitting pieces of production you’ll find on any piece of wax! To give us a little more info on the history of the label and the new album, we caught up with the main man DJ Monita for a little chat, here’s what he had to say:

Hi Brian, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I thought we could kick things off with some of your own history ad find out what it was that drew you into the dance music scene? Was there a particular night or track that caught your attention?

It was a natural progression for me. I was into 80’s Electro and Hip-Hop at school, so always had that love and ear for the electronic sound and breaks. When I first went to Tenerife in 1989 and started hearing the likes of Kariya – Let Me Love You and Doug Lazy – Let It Roll, it was this what took me into the rave scene and the ‘Summer of love 89’.

So once you began producing, what led to you starting the label? Did you approach other labels with your music first or did you always want to have your own imprint?

It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. When I finished my first two tracks, System Crashed and Luv Ta Luv Ya, I thought it would be a nice thing just to have my own tunes on a bit of vinyl. So, as I had the money, I enquired about pressing and an old friend drew up the logo and Skeleton Recordings was born. It was never intended to be an ongoing thing where I kept putting out releases after that first one. It just sort of happened.

Did you continue production after you had to step away from Skeleton?

I put Skeleton on hold in 1994 for a few reasons, but did continue with studio time and working on tracks through ’95, which were never released. SKEL014 & 015 were actually lined up and ready, but I decided against the releases. It was around this time when I linked with Dom and collaborated on a few tracks with him which were released on Moving Shadow in ’96 under the name Current Affairs.
To be honest, I thought Skeleton was forever gone. I never would’ve guessed that 20 odd years down the line I’m back working hard on the label and pushing it more than I ever did before.

Do you feel the vibe and musical motivations are still the same with the label after all these years?

More so now. It’s going to sound strange, but back in the first run of the label (92-94) I didn’t really see it as something big or important to anyone. I was just doing my thing and never really took it as serious as I should’ve been doing. Now though, since coming back into the scene and having all the social media around, I have learnt just how much Skeleton was loved back then. Because of the interaction and I can see the response of the fans, it has made me appreciate it. Now I take running the label more serious than ever.

Having witnessed the evolution of the Jungle/DnB scene from the start, what would you say was your favourite period in terms of the music being produced? Do you remember the first real Jungle tune you ever heard?

I have raved to Acid House and Hardcore in fields with big tops and fun fairs with tens of thousands of people, to raving to hard, nasty beats in dingy little clubs like Headz Sunday Sessions at Blue Note. It’s hard to pick a favourite period as both of them examples were amazing on many different levels. If I had to pick one though, I guess it would be the Blue Note Sessions. They were legendary and still get talked about to me so often by so many. Plus that style of music is me all day long and the style I still most like to play. Dark and hard.

First Jungle tune I heard? Probably A Guy Called Geralds ‘Anything’ or Lennie De Ice’s ‘We Are I.E’, both in 1991.

Thought you might mention Lennie De Ice! So what can we expect from the 25th anniversary album? There are a few artists involved I’ve not heard of before, how did you come across these guys?

The first four volumes each have an artist on that have been producing / releasing tracks for a while, but maybe needed a little push or helping hand. I felt that by including these lesser know names alongside some very well established artists it could give them that well deserved push they need. I’ve just been keeping my eye out on the scene and was also being sent demos from a lot of artists as consideration for a Skeleton release.

I was also slightly surprised not to see a track from yourself on the album, was there a particular reason for this? Can we expect any new DJ Monita material in the future?

Basically, it’s all down to time. There’s never enough hours in the day for me as it is, let alone trying to fit in some studio time. I am hoping to get in to the studio next year to work on some productions, as there have been a few people approach me to say they would be up for working on some beats with me. That’s a good sign I suppose. But technology has changed so much over the past 20 years that I wouldn’t know where to start.

The artwork for the album has an interesting theme, where did the idea for that come from/who designed them?

The whole concept was my idea. Volumes 1 to 4 covers was an idea that I got from the old Moving Shadow 2on1 series. I basically gave my idea over to my art design guy Dusan at Pele Design, which he worked hard on and once finished handed me over all the different layers. Then myself and Morgan OSL split it up and shuffled it about to come up with the four separate covers plus the picture disc design. I wanted all the five volumes to have the same scheme and also to look clean and classy. Having the original logo featured throughout this project was a must for me as it was what started it all off 25 years ago.

The album will consist of 5 x 12”s, with digital copies only available after all parts are released; a rare bit of exclusivity these days for the vinyl selector. How important is vinyl to you? Would you say its a big factor in the label’s identity?

It does seem like it’s a big part in the labels identity yes. But Skeleton is all about putting out good quality music first and foremost. I’m glad I went down the vinyl route though, as I like having that product tat I can hold and show off to people. The whole vinyl resurgence has been massive over the past 12 months and it seems as though I made the correct choice with it. Pressing and selling vinyl as a label is very hard work. But all that effort, time and money put into it is so worthwhile when you see the photos and hear the comments of support from the fans.
The digital release will come in December exclusive on the Skeleton Bandcamp store for around a month before it hits the other download sites. I wanted that little bit of exclusivity for the fans that supported and purchased the vinyl.

Can we expect any events in celebration of Skeletons land mark 25 year anniversary?

There was actually a joint event that myself and the Repertoire guys put on back in August. We held it in Rye Wax, London and it was quite a success. It was really nice to be able to put something on for the supporters and to have artists from the labels play our night for us.

We had myself, Law, Dead Mans Chest, Tim Reaper, Future and Charlie Turbo on the line up. Artists that have represented both or one of the labels.There won’t be any more planned for this year, but next year maybe.

You played a set down in Sardinia for Sun & Bass last week, how did that go? Did you stick around for the whole festival?

Man that was nerve wracking for some reason! I never really get nervous when DJ’ing, but for some reason I felt like I had the whole world watching. Being on first, the thought of it being a competition and having A-Sides and Gambit, two hugely successful and respected DJ’s judging you, I think got to me. It was cool though. To come second out of 111 entries is a good result. There’s only one result better. But to have a chance to play at the festival and to have my name put on the SnB 2017 artists line up posters was good enough for me.

I missed the first couple of days but stayed a few extra days after. It was very heavy going… very! So the days after were needed to recover.

To finish off, could you pick a favourite Skeleton release from the past 25 years?

If you’re talking about an individual track, then yes, Razors Edge. That’s my baby. Even to this day I can listen to it and feel the same about it now as I did 23 years back.

The thing I’m more proud of as a release though is this XXV Project. It has taken me a lot of time (over 12 months), money and effort to pull it off. But I’m pretty sure that in 20 years time I will take a look at it and think to myself, ‘You know what B? You done a real good job on that and you should be proud of yourself’.

Well now you’ve got all the info, all thats left to do is head over to the Skeleton bandcamp and bag your copy of one the biggest jungle or drum & bass albums you’ll see for a long time!