James Monro from Flying Rhino Interviewed
James Monro is one of our true legends of psytrance.
Not only was he one of the founders of the evergreen trance label from the 90’s and early 2000’s called Flying Rhino, James was and has always been an extremely accomplished DJ and a music producer.
…it will be fat, hypnotic and just a little bit wonky… no idea what to expect with you guys, it’s been so long, so I’m filled with a heady combination of excitement, nerves and the unknown…bring it on!”
Recently his trance act called Bumbling Loons (with Dick Trevor – Dickster, Green Nuns of the Revolution) has also been resurrected and as you will read in this interview, they have a fully refreshed live show ready for us at Rez Fest 2016.
James will DJ and perform a Bumbling Loons set (with Dick Trevor) at Rezonance NYE Fest 2016/17.
The sheer passion and demand for what we did and what we stood for is very much alive – which is very reassuring!”
It would be impossible (for me anyway) to interview you without talking about the ‘good old days’ of Flying Rhino. We live in a highly disposable world now where everything seems to be transient, but do you still enjoy a fair amount of acknowledgement/recognition around the world for what you guys did as a label and as a musical force within the psytrance scene back then?
James Monro: Yes very much so, and that is what has partly fuelled bringing back Flying Rhino. The sheer passion and demand for what we did and what we stood for is very much alive – which is very reassuring!
Is there any one particular compilation or EP that Flying Rhino released that you consider the pinnacle of your sound at the time?
James Monro: Blimey, tough question! Perhaps the Black and the White Rhinos… and Slipstream…I also can’t forget the Retrodelica compilations – they still sound amazing – they are, afterall, collections of music that massively influenced where we went with FR.
Although FR was intrinsically a psytrance label you’d always flirted with a more techno type of sound in your own sets; what does Flying Rhino represent today in terms of music policy?
James Monro: I suppose a more honed, stripped back convergence of the 2 – a hybrid form of trance with a techno influence – yet maintaining a strong psychedelic element.
It’s a bold move to resurrect the label, particularly in an era where nobody seems to make money from releasing music in the underground dance music scene. Was there a single moment where you thought ‘screw it, let’s relaunch the label’ or has it remained a nagging case of ‘unfinished business?’
James Monro: First off let’s be clear… we NEVER made any money back then as a label! We just managed to pay the overheads and costs before eventually going bust!! Saying that, I love it too much to let go, so definitely unfinished business… l just want to keep exploring the music.
After FR was discontinued in 2001; did you ever stop DJing completely for a while, or did you simply shift focus away from the psy scene?
James Monro: I totally moved away (to Brasil!) and dived into another scene…the techno and deep house scene and even went so far as to start up a label and agency there, focusing on that side of things. I was slightly damaged goods to be honest. Let’s not forget that FR was a very personal and emotional project, so when it all went tits up I had to withdraw and explore other things for a while.
Did you ever lose faith/interest completely in electronic dance music – as in think about walking away? I can think of several legends from those days who we simply don’t hear of anymore.
James Monro: No…..never!! It’s part of my fundamental make up.
MUSIC AND CREATIVITY
I love music in all its forms and trance is no exception.”
As James Monro – the music producer and DJ, you’re still very much invested in a techno based sound yet Bumbling Loons I’d describe more as ‘deep trance.’ Does this sound about right?
James Monro: Bumbling Loons is a project that always explored the more tech end of things and we have developed a deep trance sound as you’ve correctly said.
I love music in all its forms and trance is no exception. The thing is I get easily bored and am always looking for fresh angles on an old formula, so with Dick who is massively involved in the trance end of things we have found our own magical little formula that pushes both of our creative processes and brings something a little different to the dance floor.
Over the past 10 years or so you’ve surely played less psy festivals and more club circuit or techno/house gigs etc?
James Monro: No, wrong there…
I have actually found myself playing techno and a slower sound, but within the trance scene as much as in clubs and outside of the scene. I have been very lucky with the trust that has been given to me by the promoters and organisers of some of the largest psychedelic gatherings in the world from Boom to Rainbow Serpent and the likes to actually play my techie sound.
Obviously not always on the main stages, but still firmly within the Psychedelic community. It has been very flattering and a challenge to be given the trust to push the envelope a little.
If I visit your Soundcloud page the music is very much along the lines of techno. In fact your set at BOOM just 2 years ago in 2014 is techno. Yet your recent Psy-Fi set (which is awesome btw) sounds like the James Monro from the old Flying Rhino days – deep, rolling psychedelic groovers. As you’ve said you’re not confined to one sound but is the Psy-Fi set more representative of what you’re playing currently?
James Monro: Well I love it all…..so I can’t really say!! I guess it depends on the audience and the situation, but that set at Psy Fi was in fact a representation of Flying Rhino and where we are currently at! All the music in that set bar a couple of tracks are from the label.
As we all know, and it is well documented, technology has made everything in music more accessible; DJing, producing or listening to anything is just a few mouse clicks away; do you think with all this instant accessibility there is as much appreciation in the industry today as say, 15 years ago or is it in fact better today?
James Monro: I’ve no idea! I can only speak for myself… I miss the magic of discovering rare test pressings on a vinyl… but there are upsides too. The deluge of music that’s available is spectacular, if you choose to wade through it all.
With all this instant access to music would you say dancefloors are more informed or less so than they used to be when access to music was limited to vinyl/CD?
James Monro: No change really …it depends who’s telling the stories… Obviously there’s many more DJs and producers out there, but then there’s many more festivals and parties going on across the world now too and more music to give each DJ their identity and sound.
Tell us a bit more about Bumbling Loons. I see you and Dick played BOOM this year; is it exciting to be doing these live sets again and are there plans in place for regular releases?
James Monro: Boom this year was a real surprise to be honest.
To be sandwiched in between X-Dream and Tristan was not only frikking daunting, but also a real honour. Let’s not forget we hadn’t done any music as Bumbling Loons since 2002, so when we started to be asked do live sets as BL, a couple of years back, with no new material, it really was a surprise to see it gain traction so quickly, and to see how positively the dance floor reacted.
As a result, we have been buried in the studio whenever possible and have a set now made up of pretty much all brand new material. It has been so exciting to play together again… it’s such a joy working with Dickie. As for releases, well there is actually an EP on FR coming shortly and an album is being cooked up as we speak!
So yes…lots more to come…
…a psychedelic festival should always have the space for an exploration into all things psychedelic…”
There was a golden period where each Easter Flying Rhino would represent here in South Africa. What do you remember from those heady days in the 90’s?
James Monro: Jesus… it was madness… but the memories, hazy as they may be, are of creating strong friendships, messing about at insane parties and this all amongst the lush backdrop of SA… crazy times!
I’m sure the millennium still stands out as one of the highlights in your musical career…
James Monro: It was nuts…welcome 2000!
South African psytrance dance floors were always known to be quite full on, although in recent years they’ve certainly shifted a bit toward a more progressive vibe. When last were you on a South African dance floor and what’s your current perception of things here?
James Monro: Blimey it was years ago…I can’t even remember when it was it was so long ago! All I know is we started to go down a slightly proggier end of things with FR and that’s when we stopped being invited to come and play. I know the scene in SA has been fully immersed in the more full on end of things, but I’d like to think that there’s room for what we do now, and a psychedelic festival should always have the space for an exploration into all things psychedelic, right?
Final words on what the SA massive can expect from your sets ahead of Rez Fest 2016/17?
James Monro: As Bumbling Loons it will be exactly as you put it – deep trance, with a funky little twist.
As a DJ I won’t know until I’m there… but whatever it is it will be fat, hypnotic and just a little bit wonky… no idea what to expect with you guys, it’s been so long, so I’m filled with a heady combination of excitement, nerves and the unknown…bring it on!
And…. Absolute final…
Are you aware that when you Google your name a lot of posts about Jack the Ripper come up?
James Monro: No. I wasn’t…! Can’t say I’ve Googled myself very often! “Jimmy The Plate” maybe?
Catch sets by James Monro and Bumbling Loons at Rez Fest 2016 this New Year.
Sunday 1 January:
– 10:00 – 11:00 :: Bumbling Loons
– 15:30 – 17:30 :: James Monro