I had the pleasure of spending some time backstage with Lars and Sven of Monkey Safari at Time Warp in Brooklyn this year, picking their brains (and their beards) on what makes them tick in this world of techno. Brothers from Halle, Germany, Lars and Sven have been producing music for the better part of a decade, forming Monkey Safari in 2008 and rising in the ranks of the house and techno communities across Europe. Lars and Sven are charismatic but softspoken in their German way. After half an hour of speaking with them one couldn’t help but to notice their brilliant perceptiveness when it comes to good music.
Tell us about your inspirations and the beginning of your career as producers.
In the beginning, we got a lot of inspiration from Fatboy Slim. At the moment, Luciano—who’s playing now—inspires us. We started producing around fifteen years ago. We bought turntables and a mixer to tinker around with. Lars was playing hip-hop, I was playing electronic music. Around seven years ago, we tried to make something together. Now we are here. When asked if we consider ourselves DJs or producers, we’d say both equally. Production-wise, we use Ableton for arrangement, as well as a lot of analog synthesizers (mixing it all together in Ableton). We normally don’t use any soft synths. We just use hardware. It’s everything you need.
Do you record your own sounds?
It depends on the track. Sometimes we sample; it’s fun to create something new out of something old. We’re about 50/50 between sampling and programming.
What are your favorite venues to play at?
A really special club for us is Revolver in Melbourne. It’s a really atypical club. It’s also a restaurant with couches, so it’s comfortable, but during the weekends it attracts a lot of people to party. The sound system is not the best, but there’s a really special vibe.
Where do you do most of your producing?
In the studio. Lars does most of the production stuff, producing the track, then I come to the studio and we listen together. We talk about the arrangement and soundscape, and then at the end of the day we have the finished track.
Do you mix and master yourselves?
We do the pre-mixdown by ourselves. There’s a difference between producing music and the final mixdown. The final mixdown is technical; it’s not really a creative process. For us, producing music is about being creative. There are people who studied and are much better at doing the technical things, like the final mixdown.
What track are you most proud of producing?
Our new one, but nobody knows it yet. It changes from time to time; if you asked us this question five years ago it would definitely have a different answer. We have a lot of unreleased stuff coming out in the next year. There’s definitely also a change in the sound—we’re going a lot deeper with our techno. We’re very proud of our new productions, hopefully you’ll like them.
What’s been your hardest working period in your careers?
We’ve worked really hard since the beginning. Of course, there’s a development and you become better and better. So it’s been an equally strong work ethic the last fifteen years.
What’s been your best resource for learning how to produce?
Trial and error. You spend a lot of time in the studio, try something new, and over the years you become more and more in tune. We never learned in a school—we all learned by ourselves. Being in the studio, it’s fun to try something new. It’s really cool when you have something in mind but you don’t know how to do it. You try to do it but you get something different at first… in the studio it’s more like a development. For us, the creative process is when you try new things and get a result that you didn’t necessarily intend.
Many thanks to Jackmode and Time Warp for making this discussion possible.