The Lord Hanuman Trilogy

His name's Hanuman, he's in a band called Monkey Steak, and he's just killed a fucking great pheasant


Monkey Steak, aka Jon Wheatley (Hanuman) and Sam Atkins (Atki2), first cropped up on south London's Werk Discs in 2005, kickstarting the label's irreverent Grim Dubs series. The blogosphere's confused reaction to Grim Dubs Vol. 1 was a mixture of intrigue and scoffing, as po-faced pundits derided the sending up of Rephlex's Grime series and message board dwellers failed to grasp that Grim was in fact completely made up for Werk's own amusement. What really mattered of course was the music, and Monkey Steak always deliver: "rude and skewed grim and bass to wind up your waist," as Hanuman puts it.

Along with many memorable Monkey Steak shows this year, Hanuman has proved himself to be a bit of a demon selector of tunes. Here at Spannered we thoroughly enjoyed his Salty Dog and Smoke & Mirrors mixes, so we asked him if he'd be good enough to do another especially for the site. The result is Hanuman's Ornithology Mix (titled following his recent pheasant hunting trip), which finds Justin Timberlake, Sizzla and Natacha Atlas sitting, somewhat confoundingly, next to exclusives from the Monkey Steak camp. As we've pilfered his other two mixes also, we asked the klezmer 'n' bass fanatic some questions to tie the whole trilogy together.

Tell us about your three mixes please, Mr Hanuman.
OK, right. I guess the point of these mixes is just to try and present the music I love to other people. Much as I love dubstep, dancehall, drum 'n' bass, whatever I can find... a whole mix that runs at the same tempo with the same beats a bit dull, so I always try to mash up a whole variety of different styles. Also, I'm a bit of a closet pop fan, which is why there's usually some Timberlake or some such hidden in there. I did a recent set for Wedge's Sub FM show and I reckon I'm the only person to have dropped Shakira and Lionel Richie on it. Whether this is a good thing or not is still up for debate!
Given the diversity of the track selections, perhaps you can explain to us a bit about your musical background, in terms of your influences and production experience.
Yeah, sure. I started off playing bass in a 10-piece soul band at weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, etc. This really gave me a love for old Motown and Northern Soul. I'm still trying to find a way to do a remix of Skiing In The Snow by The Invitations without it sounding shit. I then went on to pay my obligatory indie dues, playing in bands MikeTV and The Northern Lights, and did a couple of MTV shows. At the same time I was making very lo-fi electro-waltz on an old Juno and 707. I met Atki2 over some ill-advised beer thievery and a drunken argument about Atari Teenage Riot and we went from there.
Going on your mixes, and Sam's history as programmer for breakcore/electronics act Anarchic Hardrive, one might be led to believe that Sam brings the beats and bass and you bring the quirky samples, drifty atmospherics and worldly flavours to your recordings. Is this the case? Is there a split in your production roles? Is one of you the monkey, the other the steak?
I think that's fair up to a point. Technically Sam is a better producer than I am and so does more work on how things actually sound. Having said that, we are both lovers of BIG bass and so both of us make it. I think I probably do more of the sample digging than him simply because I listen to more 'world' music. The way it generally works is one of us will start something then pass it to the other to tinker with and we will generally fire things between the two of us. Incidentally, Sam is the Steak. Don't ask why, you don't want to know.
Which begs the question, have you eaten any particularly peculiar meats? If so, how were they?
Well, the beautiful lady on my arm on the front cover of the latest mix caught tonight's dinner for me. I went falconing on Sunday and came home with a freshly killed pheasant. I felt like a true country boy stepping on the 148 bus to Camberwell with a big dead game bird in my hand. It has meant that my girlfriend and I have spent the last couple of nights hunched over the bath recreating some kind of avian Shallow Grave scenario to get it ready for the table. Mmm, the smell of burst gall gland is hanging faintly in the air even now. Oh, and I had some elk salami last week. Tasty as.
'Grim'. As alleged proponents of said 'genre', did you get much grief from anyone who didn't get the joke? Did anyone threaten to pop a cap in your ass?
I loved the idea of Grim. Those Rephlex compilations were wicked but they were packaged up in such a po-faced way. Grime had been around for a while before that - Rephlex didn't 'invent' it. I thought the Grim Dubs were a great series of records simply because they were so varied that it was impossible to define what Grim actually was. We didn't get that much ill feeling at all for them, although some people didn't like the idea of us and Werk sending up that Rephlex mentality. So no ass capping I'm afraid.
Dubstep don Pinch has remixed your Lighthouse Dub track for Bristol's fledgling Punch Drunk label. How did that come about?
OK, here's a choice of three answers. You pick which one you find most plausible or interesting:
A) We met in some kind of underground dubstep club, and having nearly shot each other after a case of mistaken identity related to some contraband Calpol he agreed to do the remix by way of apology.

B) We met on a post-MySpace cyber community and he did the remix over some kind of psychic ethernet connection plucking the samples directly from our brains, and so pushed the boundaries of music technology forward 50 years.

C) He was a mate who really liked the tune and wanted to have a go at it.
Monkey Steak is a silly name if ever I heard one. How important to you is humour in music? Can you recall any particularly rib-tickling artist names you've come across of late?
Ooh tough call. I love that Peverelist always gets called Pervalist on posters. Also, MZO [Monster Zoku Onsomb] - not only a funny name but a brilliant comic live show; its the kind of ethos I really approve of. I firmly believe you can take music-making seriously without taking yourself too seriously. I like to think that the stuff 'Akkers and I do can make you smile as well as shake your booty.
What's on the horizon for you guys? Gigs? More releases?
Yeah, plenty at the mo - it's great. Lighthouse Dub has just dropped on Punch Drunk. We've got a four-track 12" out on Death$ucker called Electric Birdland, as well as a remix of Stormfield on Combat Records early next year. In terms of gigs, we're playing at Goatlab in Bristol on 1 December, before taking a Christmas break, and then I'm doing a Hanuman set at Yardcore in London in January.
In no particular order, can you list your current top five klezmer/Balkan tracks? 
  • Frank London's Klezmer Brass All stars - In the Market Place All Is Subterfuge
  • Nikitov - As Der Rebe
  • Mahala Rai Banda - Spoitoresa
  • Yiddish Swing Orchestra - Ch'sidishe Nigunim
  • Shantel - Ya Rayah
...and your current top six non-klezmer tracks? 
  • Easy Star All Stars/Toots & the Maytals - Let Down
  • Farid El Atrache - Ana Wenta Lewahdena
  • Atki2 - Douceur
  • Skream - Dutch Flowers
  • Joe Cocker - Woman To Woman
  • Afua - The Struggle
 Listen to Hanuman Salty Dog Mix
 Listen to Hanuman Smoke & Mirrors Mix
 Listen to Hanuman Ornithology Mix (exclusively for Spannered)
 Monkey Steak's Lighthouse Dub and Electric Birdland are out now
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