Monkey Boy interview

Monkey Boy are not your usual band. 2 bassists, and not a six string guitar in sight. The drummer sings, and live the bassists line up behind him. And this affects the sound as well. It takes a few listens to get used to, but once you manage that, it's surprisingly addictive. At the moment, they're still a very young band, I don't know the ages, but they look young. The material has shown progression already, so given a few more years, who knows what they are going to produce, though I'll put my money on it not sounding derivative of pretty much anyone.

And so, as this interview takes place, at the good old Vic in Derby, as well as just having played a gig, they've just about packed all their stuff away. So it's time to begin proceedings. So meet ....

Right, so tell us about Monkey Boy, how long you've been going and all that sort of thing.

Paul - Drums and Vocals

Mark - Chainsaw bass

Stu - Bass

We've been going about two years. We started when me and Paul decided to go into the studio with a drum and bass. Started `95 with me and him doing some stuff, then we got this girl in who played bass with us for a bit, but she wasn't really into it, so we kicked her out and then Disco joined in January `96 and that's when we sort of really started playing properly. The first gig we lost, cos we played Rock Week (which was some kind of local talent thing I think!) and we got the lowest score. And the local press covered us and said it "sounds like younger brothers on their older brothers intstruments." So we had a good laugh at that. And look at the rest of the bands now. Where are they?

The obvious, and boring one, why the name Monkey Boy?

We just like Monkeys. reckons Disco. Paul has a further angle on it. It's stupid and easy to remember and primates are cool. Love `em. Monkey this monkey that y'know. There's loads of bands being called it now, there's Yellow Monkey, The Monkees, Iron Monkey.

So were you influenced by the 70s Japanese programme, Monkey?

There's a resounding Yeah which is a relief to know that I wasn't the only one that watched that programme. Definitely, we've got the video's, recorded them off Bravo. And there's Planet of the Apes.The thing about them, the first time you saw them you thought they were fucking brilliant, and then you put them on now and you wait for the letdown, but they're still great, still fucking cool after all these years.

Somehow from this point things descend into small talk about a few tv programmes, and, this bit I'm still trying to remember, suddenly it's on to the zine, how it started, who it featured and how difficult I find it to approach bands in order to ask for an interview. Look, I don't know, it's been a few months since it was committed to tape and I forget how these things come about.

Thought you were going to get us, lynch us. Nah, I try to reserve that for the rest of the world. Time to finally get back to that interview thing.

So how would you describe the Monkey Boy sound?

Monk rock reckons the disco one. Ladies and gentleman, we have a new genre. It sounds like you should be in a monastry then. We're thinking about it assures Paul in a manner that doesn't assure and instead makes me think they simply pity my feeble humour. Yeah, we're really religious freaks. Nah, it's just good fun really innit. We're not trying to copy anyone, though a lot of people have said we're trying to be No Means No. But I mean, how many other bands do you know that sound like No Means No? I don't know any. Yeah, I'm not saying that, just that we're not trying to sound like them. We just jump round, try to make a bit of noise and have fun. When we write songs, there is no songwriting involved, we just going in and practice and just bash around, I shout away and out of it we may have a few songs. And that's it. It's not just us, a lot of those bands, hardcore or whatever you call it, there's just noise and there's no sense of fun. Yeah, people take themselves a bit too seriously. We don't practice that much either, we just experiment when we play. We don't practice, practice, practice, cos it doesn't always do you good. If we don't practice all the time, then we can come on and the energy is still there. We don't get bored of it. A lot of the sessions we'll only do one or two songs from the set, just spend the rest of the time fucking around really. And I'll be jumping and they've got to kind of guess what to do says Paul of the habit that seemed to be evident in the gig, that he would decide how the songs would go. The disco man, and the chainsaw bassist focus on him, as a songs direction or end point is decided on the spur, with Paul jumping up and down on his drumstool. It has to be seen to be understood, and so you will go see them next time won't you? Good, ok, back to what they had to say then.

I was wondering if that was improvised or rehearsed?

We just add little things in there and every show we do is different. I'll try trick beats and just try to put them off y'know. Make sure they're paying attention and are still awake. There's nothing worse than playing in a band and just churning out the same old thing gig in gig out.

So you mentioned being compared to No Means No, are there any bands that actually do influence you?

Primus, Shellac, Penthouse nah, let's plug some Lockjaw stuff now, Tribute, Zen Guerilla, Lever. Jacob's Mouse is my main influence says Paul to my bemusement. They were on Media records about 6 years ago, but they've split up now. And they were the same sort of setup, well, they had guitar, bass and a drumming vocalist, and I'm trying to do what he does. They're a band I've never heard of. Oh, they were a brilliant band, live they were amazing.

So what about this Lockjaw thing then. You've had some tracks on the two Helping You Back To Work compilations, and now they've put out the Monkey In A Rocket single. How did that come about?

We've known them for a while, and at the start of this year, I do a lot of website stuff, and I called them up because we've always been in contact sending tapes, and they've been sending us stuff back. And I said we'd recorded some stuff, how about putting out a single for us or whatever. And they said "yeah alright then", and that was it. And now we're doing stuff for them. They came down and mixed it with us. They're really cool, we can just record stuff and they don't tell us what to do. The best thing about the label is they let you do what you want to do. If they don't want to release it, then they won't. Yeah, they'll tell you exactly what they think about it Disco emphasises. And they're straight 100%.

At this stage we're kinda turfed out of the pub as everyone else has departed, the gear is loaded and there's something about some law saying that you're not allowed to stay in t'pub after certain hours in the UK. So, it's time to hit the luxurious transit van. The ever present stable factor in any young bands existence. Er, yeah. Time to try and pick up where we were then ... luckily Paul decides to start things going.

Yeah, the drummer and the bassist from Pulkas came down to one of our shows the other week and seemed to enjoy it. We get all the celebs now. One of the guys from Carter seems to enjoy it as well.

Um er, there was a few questions in mind, so lets see. Fast forwarding to the current single, Monkey In A Rocket, with the Monkey on the front (quick discussion that I actually bought the single, where it can be found, or at least could at the time of the interview, and the cost of it ensues. Which I won't bore you with. Though having told you I won't I could've actually done in the space. Ah well, you live and learn. Sometimes.) Anyway, you have the Monkey on the cover.

Yeah, we do all our own artwork. We do everything, the layout, and then when we get in the studio we try to get involved in the mixing and the production as well. The idea behind it was the NASA chimps that they sent up in a rocket and then for no reason the rockets don't get out of the atmosphere and just blow up. And it's just, "stick another monkey in".

I was going to ask about that sort of thing. Are you for or against animal testing?

Against is the unanimous cry from them all. So why am I not surprised about that then?

The front cover, there was a few people said "you can't use that" cos it is quite graphic. You can see it's a monkey being strapped up and being tested on (and you can see it by guiding your eyes just to your left), and we're not making a joke out of it. We're not doing it thinking it's a cool or funny picture but because we think it's pretty disgusting. And I saw that picture before, it's got to be seen. It's not actually a NASA chimp, but the one on the inside that's being strapped down and looks like he's having a good time, I found on the Internet the NASA site and I've got pictures and pictures of all the chimps being strapped down and trained and in suits and everything. I've been reading up on it. It's very interesting but disgusting. And that picture is actually a chimp being tested on, but I don't know what they are doing to it.

Sticking with the single, you've got, the fourth track is It Came From Mars. So does that tie in with the monkey and NASA stuff and do you believe in alien life and that sort of thing.

Yeah reckons Paul. We don't think about it much. I mean we're not big cyber sort of nerds, but like the next man, we like Star Wars and that sort of stuff.

So if you could send someone into space, for a test, who would you send?

Shane Richie comes the reply to much laughter. What about Joe Pasquale (or however the kcuf you spell his name) asks the Disco man. Shane Richie would be the first to go though I tell you. Wanker. Would you like to elaborate?

I couldn't have anyone, but there's three people I could have in this world, that's Beavis and Butthead and Shane Richie, and I'll kick their arses. (Please note the spelling American dudes. Arses. That's what we have. An arse. Not an ass. How many people do you see walking around with a donkey on their backside. On second thoughts, don't answer that one.) He lives around the corner in Uxbridge. Have to find his address and go round there. He's dead. I'll sort him out. Wanker. I really hate him. Was it when he brought out his new album that he annoyed you? Shane Ritchie. We talking about the same bloke? Michael Owen? Oh yeah, fucking Michael Owen. He's terrific. Everyone's fucking pissing over him. He's just a boy, he's going to be fucked up on drugs like George Best. Shane Ritchie though, I don't want no-one else, just Shane Ritchie. If we do loads of them, it's going to cost too much quips Disco. Yeah, and it takes away from Shane Ritchie, just do it on him. I don't want it to turn into a hobby. Is that too much detail for you?

No problem I explain, relating the One Minute Silence interview and the amount of time and effort YAP spent ranting against Mark Morrison. All of which of course, wasn't on the `kin tape. Ah well, c'est la vie. Back to things. Two bassists. Was that a deliberate ploy.

Yeah is the collective agreement before Paul adds some more clarity to it. We started with the guitar, and did that for about five minutes before thinking "that sounds fucking awful", so we took the strings off the guitar and put bass ones on it. And we played a few shows like that. And that sounded shit, so we said "fuck it" and went and bought a bass. We used to hire it at first.

Right, cos my moral question was going to be say EMI or someone like that comes along and offers you a multi-million pound deal, provided you get a frontman and / or a guitarist, would you take it?

What like China Drum did? asks Paul amidst a series of "oh my god" like groans. No. No, what's the point in that? I'm giving up he thinks before adding one of these would have to play guitar. And we didn't want a frontman to start with. It's a band, that's what people see. I hope when they see me up front drumming away with these either side jumping away and stuff, they see it as a band. It's like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, you see Kurt wassisname and Billy, and that's all you see. See I know those names, but I don't know any of the other band members. It's a band thing. Same in songwriting. No one writes the songs, on the CDs and whatever, there's no credits for so and so, it's Monkey Boy. If I can't believe in something, then I can't get into it. I mean, lately since we've been touring and getting more and more into it, I used to be more and more static on stage. I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a lot more into it now. And it's like if we got a singer and a guitarist and I didn't really like it, I couldn't get into it and I wouldn't be able to start mucking around. As a three piece, it's easy. There's not much equipment, and he's my brother as well Paul points to the Chainsaw.So there's the bond there, and Stu we've known for years and are best mates, it's very very solid. Get anyone else in here and it's going to start messing with the formula. We've got a good formula going.

And there wouldn't be enough room in the van I add, looking around the er, luxurious home for the duration of this tour. Back to the band, the set up that you had tonight, of Paul being in front of the others, is that a normal thing?

Oh yeah, I always go up front. A couple of sound engineers have been a bit funny about it, but I said you know, you're one out of a hundred venues we've played. If you don't like it, what's the problem. When we did JBs at Dudley, the best thing was that they have like a three foot high drum rise, and the guy was going "set your kit up there" and I was "yeah ok.". And he went "what you doing", and I was setting my kit up right at the front, right on the edge, and the drum rise behind me. These two got on the drum rise and jumping off it. One of best set ups we've ever seen. And we had the amps one side, and the other on the other side on little crates. It looked so stupid. And it was just so cool cos it was really different, and the people there loved it, because they haven't seen anything like it before. There's a bit of a shock element in there as well "oh drums at the front". There's not much we're very consistent about, we always fuck with the set, but the one thing that we do every single time is the stage layout.

Second track on the single, Planet Paul Pope Paul finishes for me. There's a good story to that one. Go on, tell it the others urge. So he will. Sit back and enjoy.

There was a guy at our school called Paul Pope, and he was like a year below me. And he was basically a thief. You know the kid at school, the dirty one that everyone hates. And basically one day, he was a bit of a dunce as well, he thought he'd steal a pair of Nike trainers off this girl. The fact of it was they were pink, and not only were they pink but on the side, they had the girls name in white biro. Her name was Debbie Parsley. So he thought he'd have the bright idea of scribbling her name out and writing his name next to it. Not only that, he wore them round school. He wore them round and he got caught. And the best thing about this guy, he could wheelie a bike down our street. He could wheelie for about a mile on a racer. And he used to wear this really nasty vest that we used to think was his sisters. And he was a real arsehole, so he had to have a story named after him. He had to have a song. One of those people. He's done loads of other stuff, but that's what the song is about. I'm sure there'll be a sequel. Keith Bunce maybe. Oh yeah, Keith Bunce, he was like Paul Pope, but he was a bit more screwed on. He was a crafty one, a bit of a devious thief, but there's some funny stories there. A guy who sat on a javelin, well, fell on it and it stuck .... straight up ooooh. Peter Raynor who got spiked on the school railings. Loads of stories left to come.

Anyway, the thing I was going to ask about the Planet Paul Pope song was that there sounds like a big Primus influence in that song.

It is. We got the new Primus abum (the Brown album), and we were so impressed with the production sound and the bass sound, and Mark started fucking around with some riffs on it and said "what do you think of this?" And it was a similar type riff. so I said "well swap this around a bit and no-one will notice the difference" And we took the riff and then when we went to record it, we just sort of moved bits around and transformed it into the song. So we have to admit that.

Well I've not heard the Brown album, but I have Frizzle Fry and it sounds similar to say Too Many Puppies.

That's our Primus song. We've got another song which a lot of people reckons sounds like Shellac, but there's little bits. I think there are elements, and at the end of the day, music has been around for centuries and to come up with some that is completely original you can't. Yeah, and with all these influences coming in. Even if you do write songs, someone somewhere is going to to say "oh that sounds like this," and you've probably never even heard them.

Yeah, it's just for people like me trying to write about it, you go, now who does that sound like? You know, is it similar enough for people to go "aah, I like that band so I'll give them a chance."

But we've still got the element of being completely different to the norm. Yeah, I mean, you can disagree, but I can think of similarities with therapy? from around the Babyteeth era. The energy and the vocals and distortion and chaos.

I don't know that I would agree with that on the sound, but I'm definitely into those albums.

It's just something that I could relate it to. We're getting defensive now reckons Paul We like to think we're a bit different but we understand what you're saying. We're not punk rockers are we. We're an 80s band aren't we? laughs Mark. You can probably tell we're not ones going for the trendy look.

I gave up on trends years ago. I'm still stuck in the 80s. Best place to be. We've got some covers coming up actually, Dire Straits and we've just started getting into ZZ Top, the later stuff. Only as a piss take though.

So are you going to try and grow honoury beards?

Nah we can't do it. We've got the worst stubble. If we could grow a beard, if one of us could. We could take our arse hair.

I don't think we need to go there. So, I guess this is the first tour around the UK. As it been how you'd expect.

It's the first tour, thanks to the guys at Lockjaw who sorted everything out and just told us where to play. We turn up, play and collect the money. It's been a bit of both. Some really really good gigs. London was brilliant, Norwich, Dudley was good. And then you get ones like tonight, where it was a really good show, but the turnout was poor but it was a really good gig. I think it was excellent. I think we've learned from the tour that we just play now for ourselves. Like tonight, there's no-one there, but just play anyway. Even if there were two people, one person. Would we do it for none? I'd do it for a laugh.

I've been at a gig where there was two of us and the barman. For a band from the States. We've cleared it out to two people. There was about 20 people there, and we cleared it to 2. And we knew one of them. But from what we've seen, we've picked up so many people on this tour.

And that's as it should be. Monkey Boy may be slightly different in their music and their performance. But they are bloody good. And that's the bottom line. So next time the transit pulls up in your vicinity, make sure you check out one of the best new bands in the UK.