Written by Glo(w) | Playlist Embedded
Even down to the singularity
A single cell
Divides to two
And two becomes four.
Each part makes the whole.
Scents, sounds, and sights are linked to cultural memories. The smell of Pink Oil Moisturizer turning hair from kinky to curly is ingrained in the collective consciousness of black girls. The sound of remixed nursery rhymes jumping from a remodeled van filled with Bomb Pops and other frozen sweets is a common millenial memory. The vision of spirit meeting Grandma’s flesh and causing her to hop her way towards Hallelujahs is a keystone in the experience of black religion. Culture is embedded in the colors adorned by the people, the music the people create, and the savory scent of the connectivity. At some point, culture was packaged in a seed and planted in foreign spaces. Regardless of what the ground previously bore, culture overpowered the native flora and fauna.
We consistently witness this phenomenon with music. Sound, though swift, doesn’t move as quickly as light; and yet, sound permeates every culture on every corner of world. The sounds we like remain and become classics. Forgotten favorites are refurbished into new forms. Music is a mechanism of unity with a mystic message for all to receive. Music is the heartbeat of culture, the soul of life.
St. Louis Funk maestro Monkh focuses on infusing every bit of his soul into the sounds he creates. Founder and leader of defunct funk band, Monkh and the People, Monkh is the cherry on top of the soul music sundae. He is as peaceful as his moniker suggests. The literal depiction of “Play that funky music, white boy”, Monkh is a rarity in the world of synthesizers and artificial sounds. Wielding his guitar with as much might as Thor and his hammer (um, ax?), Monkh creates moving compositions that permeates both blood and bone. He has carefully nourished the music seeds gifted to him. Soul don’t get old, and funk lingers in the air. Monkh is a master alchemist at manipulating these genres to create the next classic sound. Learn more about his creative process, upcoming projects, and the brief hiatus from Monkh and the People below.
For the record, what mediums of art do you partake in?
Well I mostly perform, compose, and produce music with guitar,vocals,keys, bass, and more. I also do a lot of my own visuals, whether it is putting together the graphics for an album cover, or writing and directing a music video. These days, it’s the norm to do everything yourself, where back in the day there was usually a different cat for each medium around a certain artist’s work.
How long have you been creating?
I’d like to believe that the second we are a thought in our parents’ minds we are creating vibrations in this universe, possibly even before that. I’ve been creating outside the womb since Summer Solstice 1989.
Do you think it’s important for other artists to congregate and work together?
Well, of course. It’s important for us to be the social beings that we naturally are.
How do you think the energies that we collaborate with effects what we create?
We take pieces of frequencies of the Grand Artist’s work, which is the entire universe, and twist it into our perspective. The energy is the biggest thing because I could be creating in the comfort of my home, compared to or right outside in the alleyway viewing downtown St. Louis in 30 degree weather, and those two compositions-- even if I have the same exact chord progressions, same key, same everything-- will have two different feels. Energy is definitely everything.
I’ve personally noticed that race and sex can pigeon-hole artists. Many times, large companies expect a certain look or sound depending on racial and/or gender identity. Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you ever witnessed anything like this?
I witness this everyday. If it’s in our everyday lives outside of music, well, then you can definitely expect it to be in the music as well. I don’t let the mainstream ways of the music business get to me too much even though I know someone will look at me and say..oh here’s this white guy leading a group of all kinds of people..men and women..bleh bleh bleh…no matter what I do. People can suck. The music industry really sucks on that tip. Prove it wrong and expel the demons. Fuck a corporation.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Yeah, a little bit. Not the traditional meditation, full lotus everyday type of person. I found meditation in my music and what I do with music. Mediation is a form of relaxing you mind and/or digging inside your mind to focus on an emotion. I do that with music.
What larger themes exist in your music? What is the most important idea you want people to get from your art?
I write about what I feel. How people take that is up to them. I’m not going to tell anyone how to listen to music or what to take away from it.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through your creative process? What inspires you?
Well, I have went through many stages with my creative process, and have been making music for almost twenty years, but I would say that I usually approach things at a more difficult perspective than I should, and I quickly learn overtime that simplicity and subtly are the keys to making greatness. Not just with music, but everything in this world.
What inspires me? Pretty much everything. For real though, when you open your mind up to the world, and constantly work on having this “universal” state of mind where everything is one and everyone is family, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with inspiration every second of the day.
A lot of artists pull inspiration from past creations (like older music artists, movies, etc.). Do you do this at all? If so, what are some of your favorite eras to pull from?
Yes. It really just depends on what it is I am working on. Every era has greatness, but right now I am mainly focused on the funk. My mind is in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s mostly (like Isaac Hayes, Gap Band, Con Funk Shun, Sly and the Family Stone, JB, anything George Clinton and Fela, D’Angelo, OutKast). With my guitar work I lay in the Sicilian flamenco style, which can date back hundreds of years. It really all depends on my focus at that point in time.
What do you think about music’s classification of genres?
If you like cages, be in a cage. In some ways, it’s understandable. A genre always starts with culture and then just goes from there, but it’s really so it can be sold. If you weren’t trying to sell your art to someone else’s perspective you’d just say “It sounds like me”. I don’t know, everything is something if you want it to be.
What do you think about the art scene in St. Louis?
It’s beautiful and I need to make myself more a part of it all. I’m getting there though. Let’s not compare, but be grateful and grow together in this process. People act like it’s a competitive sport out here and that’s where this gets twisted. It’s an expression of the times, not a sport. Let’s not compare. Let’s inspire.
In your opinion, is there anyway artists can generate more resources and opportunities for their own city without traveling elsewhere?
I personally think you have to travel. Otherwise, you’re just speaking to the same crowd that is already here in the city. If there’s any resources this city needs, it’s for the less privileged and mostly forgotten about parts of the city. That’s more important than any illusionary fame.
Is there anything you want to share about the dissolution of Monkh and the People?
Back in early 2016, I had just gotten back from Portland, OR, and I created an 8-piece funk band called Monkh and the People. Through time, working with eight people, every single person has something else going on their life. Over the two years, people started to grow in a way that made them want to focus on their own artistic focus, their own dreams, and I felt like I had begun to be a burden in a sense. Even though this was all our escape, I felt like it was time to move on. As I felt people mentally and physically move on already, I called it. I didn’t want any bad feelings, anything like that. All of us miss the band and killing it as much as we can with the funk. As time goes on, I truly don’t believe Monkh and the People are officially over. But people move on, people grow. I just wanted to let the people face the east and go. No harm , no foul. We still all love each other.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“If you’re in tune and listening to the universe, then you’ll never be lost or alone.”
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