Monkey Puzzle : Interview with new Glasgow rap metal band
Just when everyone thought rap metal/nu metal was gone Miff Morris finds a band that proves it’s alive and kicking
Monkey Puzzle Facebook page here
Underground, Glaswegian Rap/ Metal crossover band, Monkey Puzzle are collectively out for an explosively energetic time regarding their live shows.
Their overall creative outlook is to express with ferocity and embrace their creative ventures as fun, rather than taking themselves too seriously.
This outlook has seen them flourish in the most incredible of ways and has landed them slots supporting some of their most respected mentors, from American Rapcore band, HedPe, to the mighty DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) to Alt Rock/Rap Senser to Crazy Town. I caught up with the band to first and foremost highlight the band’s progression and to catch the low down on some of their gained experiences over the past year. Monkey puzzle has only just played their first Scottish independent music festival this summer along with landing themselves on their first ever mini tour of Ireland. Please take a unique view on a young energetic Nu-Metal band who is undeniably on the rise.
Miff- What was it like initially starting out as a Rap/Metal crossover band on the Glasgow circuit?
Lead Vocalist – Conor Moore – Scary. At the time, we were convinced beyond doubt that everyone would hate us, we grew up in a time where this stuff was the ultimate scape goat for heavy music. All we ever heard or saw was negativity thrown at similar bands which had once dominated popular culture.
Miff- What local bands/ artists/mc’s have you shared the stage with which have inspired and willed your progress?
Lead vocalist – Conor – Psyko Dalek, Fuck Yeah! Molecules, MILK, Neshiima, Deadsoundz, Skeleton Verse have all encouraged and inspired us in various ways, offering us advice, inviting us to play shows or just even telling us your stories to fuel the fires!
Bassist – Luke Donnelly – I agree with Conor, but I also like playing with bands outside the genre. Acts like Anchor Lane or The Lawrence O’ Brien band, spring to mind.
Miff – Since you formed Monkey Puzzle back in 2011 can you provide us with insight into the band’s creative mindset and evolution?
Lead Vocalist- Conor – Creatively, it’s always been about having fun, I’d say that’s become our strongest attribute, we’ve been through periods of taking shit way too seriously and found it hindered our progress instead of helping! As soon as we go back to laughing and smiling, shit gets done, maybe slowly (because we’re fucking about) but it gets done!
Bassist -Luke – I knew as a fan coming into the band that it was a music solely based on fun/party music. And id say the bands stuck true to that. Perhaps also developing a heavier sound since I joined.
Guitarist Ross- If we don’t have fun, nothing gets done.
Miff- What stage would you say Monkey Puzzle are now at in regards to crafting your sound? e.g. Will you stay open to shaping and experimenting more, or do you see yourselves reaching a defining point?
Lead Vocalist- Conor – We’re stronger than ever, 2017 has been amazing so far but I don’t see a defining point. Only thing solid is that there will be rapping and there will be a live band backing it up. Ain’t gonna be no Linkin Park U turns going down in this bitch! Fuck, we could write the next Indy revival hit with rap depending how many cans of beer we have in practice, it’s a versatile kind of music.
Bassist-Luke – Just gotta keep on doing our thing, keep writing and developing. I’d hate to think we would ever become stale or boring!
Guitarist- Ross Mc Adam- I’d say we’re all still growing as musicians and it definitely shows in the newer stuff. I’m proud of everything we’ve written as a band but I don’t think we’ve reached a point where we’ve thought if we can keep coasting on stuff like this then that’s good enough – I hope we don’t.
Miff – What is your definition of Nu Metal? & do you consider yourselves a Nu-Metal band?
Lead Vocalist – Conor – Nu-Metal was definitely an industry catch-all term for some really out there bands that had varying similarities, but to me, it’s the thump, the groove and the anger. Are we a Nu-Metal band? Fuck yeah we are, I’m not ashamed of the label like so many bands are. Fucking “Alternative Metal”? Really? Sounds like some starchy shirt bullshit to me, I’d rather be a freak than a sheep.
Bassist- Luke -For me it’s Hip-Hop and metal fused in some aspect or another. We fit the bill in that regard and I don’t have a problem being labelled as such. I mean it makes sense!
Guitarist -Ross- If anyone ever uses us as an example of a Nu-Metal band I’ll have a huge grin on my face. Aye, we’re a Nu-Metal band and I’m proud of that.
Miff – I see you played Scotland’s Rock & Metal Festival ‘Wildfire’ 2017. was Wildfire the first outdoor festival you have ever played? And do you think it’s difficult to find a festival to accommodate your Rap/Metal cross-over style here in the UK?
Lead Vocalist-Conor- Yeah! Festival number one and it was an honour to be playing on the Moshville Times stage on Sunday! So a huge shout out to Moshville Times for having faith in us. In terms of it being difficult to get slots at festivals, I don’t think it should be, there are numerous rock and metal festivals up and down the country, we just need to get in contact with them, or them with us *wink wink*. The only problem we may encounter is family stuff, we’re not the most family friendly folks.
Bassist -Luke- It’s the first one we’ve played, as far as difficulty goes I’m unsure, I mean there’s hardly a massive scene for our style, folks always seem to dig the sound though. I think we do as well as anyone else doing similar music.
You only recently got back from a three-day tour of Ireland along with melodic Metalcore band, Dream Awake. How did the tour go down?
Lead Vocalist- Conor – Ireland…where to even begin? It was our first taste of touring and in all honesty, we loved it, especially because we were playing in completely new environments. Before I get into the details, all I’ve got to say is that Dream Awake is an INCREDIBLE band, not to mention lovely guys who made the whole thing possible, it was an honour sharing the stage with them every night!
We did three dates with the guys in Northern and the Republic of Ireland, specifically Belfast, Omagh and Dublin. Belfast – Belfast is a cracking place, really nice people and reminded us a lot of home. Voodoo was an awesome venue with great sound and the crowd was totally up for a laugh! Victim Royal opened up with some class, tight riffage and the sheer ferocity of Heel Of Achilles melted everybody’s faces off. It was easily the hottest show we’ve ever played, there was literally sweat dripping from the roof and we were still giving it 110%! Some start to the tour!
Omagh – Omagh will be the subject of band reminiscing sessions for some time, I mean fucking hell Omagh, if anyone who was at that show is reading this thank you for being the maddest bunch of bastards ever! I think we’ve all agreed, despite a couple of unavoidable technical difficulties at the start, that this was the best show we’ve ever played. Walls of death, pits, even the promoter was throwing down and kicking ass! Guys were asking for pictures and if we charged for them, stole drumsticks and the set lists, even knew our tunes before we arrived. Unreal!
Dublin – Dublin was a great end to tour, even if a pint was five fucking euro (didn’t stop us). Antidotes opened with a slamming set and, Call To Arms was just wow…best frontman skills we’ve seen in a long time, nicest lads out and their shit was heavy as fuck too! It was our quietest set on tour but still an absolute pleasure! The only thing bad was it was the last show to see our dudes in, Dream Awake tear it up!
All around the most positive experience imaginable, we’re hungry for more already! Dream Awakes EP “Don’t Hold Your Breath” is out on August 18th, trust up you don’t want to sleep on that shit!
Miff – Can you give us some insight into the Independent label ‘Esquimaux’ Records in which you are part of?
Lead vocalist- Conor- Esquimaux is a one man operation headed up by the super talented Ross McCann, also the drummer for our dude’s MILK (Band) it’s relaxed and fun just like us! For insight into our recording process, we’ve curated a rough list of how much we all drank during the “Suck Macaque” sessions:
126 Cans of Tennents
42 Casual Pints
10 Cans of Stella
1 bottle of Jim beam
1 bottle of Auchentosh
1 bottle of Smirnoff
1 Smirnoff Ice
23 cans of Rockstar Energy Juice
Esquimaux is the shit!
Miff – What stand-out experiences fuelled the creative fires within Monkey Puzzle from finding yourselves on some incredibly inspiring gig slots with international touring acts such as Senser, (Hed) PE, DJ Lethal, OPM etc?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- God, too many to list honestly, we’ve been so fortunate to have shared stages with people we admire. Personally “Snot” was a huge inspiration, I’d never heard of them prior to getting the slot and holy shit what an amazing hidden gem of a band, “Get Some” is a flawless album.
Bassist- Luke – I usually have very little knowledge of the bands we get support for. But I always walk away with new music to listen to and I always feel inspired. Hed PE being a recent example of all of that.
Guitarist – Ross- From the same Snot gig, meeting Mike Smith, the former guitarist of Limp Bizkit, has to be my go to one. Chatting to someone that’s written a lot of my favourite songs was amazing, and thinking back I’m always surprised at how friendly and humbled he was.
Miff- Are there any backstage/ after-show antics which sticks out and is worth sharing with us?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- Our first ever international support slot, BrokenCYDE and The Millionares, it was a hilarious gig, the crowd fucking hated us from the start, there was a guy dressed up as pichachu right in front of me at the front row covering his ears, so I went over and leaned in nice and close during the heavy bits so he could hear. But I digress…After the show, we approached the two bands, one made of all dudes and the other a female duet, and asked if they were hanging out after the show and if they wanted us to show them a place to go. After a language barrier breaking conversation we ended up in Garage pretty much drinking them under the table, all their songs are about drinking…they cannot drink, well not like MP can.
Bassist-Luke-The 70 or so cans of beer we managed to drink as part of our rider for Hed Pe sure was something! Not to mention the antics drummer Lewis got up to in their dressing room!
Guitarist-Ross- I think forever one of my favourite memories will always be amid the duration of a Battle of the Bands which we played. There was just this weird competitive, unsocial vibe going around. All of the bands were sticking to themselves, and taking everything pure seriously. Then you’ve got Lewis and I carrying on, prancing about the place and we’re all just trying to have as much fun as possible. We won the competition and I feel that night defined what sort character we wanted to have as a band.
Miff- Hilariously, nearing the end of every Monkey Puzzle set you guy’s command the crowd to shout at the top of their voices ‘Wee Chocolate Bananas.’ How did this phrase come about? and how did it find its way into being a set fixture? Tune into the ‘Wee Chocolate Bananas’ compilation on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTzFAwAsYOE
Lead Vocalist- Conor- we must wholeheartedly admit that it’s pinched patter, we lovingly tribute one of the greatest Scottish comedy shows ever made every time we scream that phrase, the mighty Burnistoun. (Look it up) Long story short is that we just fucking love that show, I think we pretty much just hit out with it one time in the studio and buckled with laughter, it has remained ever since! The guys from Burnistoun have actually seen our tribute video, Iain Connell (Scottish Comedian And Actor) even certified us FOR REAL March 17th this year! (2017)
Bassist – Luke – Bumped patter, straight up stolen from the boys over at Burnistoun!
Miff- Let’s talk about your material. What has been your source of inspiration for writing material over the years and in what way has this developed and channelled itself as time has progressed?
Lead Vocalist -Conor – Lyrically I take a lot of inspiration from my personal life, people I know personal lives or something that’s bothering me. It’s quite aggressive music so it’s perfect for venting. For example the song Luke mentions, “Crush Bra”, I wrote after seeing what’s became of the 4 corners kids (who used to be the central weans and before that the borders bookshop goths) they got moved on from everywhere they used to hang and wound up down there mixing with Neds and drugs etc. They used to be all about bright colours and free hugs and now they look terrifying and broken. hence the line “I used to feel envy now I just feel sadness, youth down the drain for a taste of badness”
Bassist – Luke – Personally whatever I’m listening to at the time is always a big inspiration for me. Our track Crush Bra is a direct result of my Motorhead binge after Lemmy passed.
Guitarist- Ross- I think I find it really hard to write anything without drummer, Lewis hitting out with a smoking hot beat. Personally, I find without any direction from him it’s much harder to find footing. I love writing really chunky riffs but it doesn’t happen at home.
Miff- I find that a huge amount of your individual character shines through in the way you play your instruments and also in projecting aspects of your humour, creating an overall unique chemistry within the band. From your own viewpoints. What unique contributing factors you say each one of you brings into the Monkey Puzzle fold regarding shared musical influences and imaginative ideas?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- Without sounding big headed, mostly what I bring to the fold is a semi sort of order to an otherwise unruly chimps tea party. Besides that, originally, I was the Hip-Hop element, I’ve listened to Rap and Hip-Hop since I was about 12 years old but only got into heavier music because of the band. The fact that I can’t sing has definitely been a big contributing factor as well.
Bassist -Luke- I like to think I can be quite active on stage, I hate when you see a band and they just stand there as if they aren’t having the most fun ever! People come for a show, not just to hear bands go through their set like they don’t care Haha. I suppose that comes from being a massive glam rock/80s metal fan though…
Guitarist Ross: He can sing fine, he’s just lying so he doesn’t have to. I drive a car so that helps, can’t fire a guy and ask for a lift home!
Miff- Lead vocalist, Conor and drummer, Lewis. You both have separate projects outside of this band. Tell us about what you have been involved in.? and from dedicating your attention to another project does that help create more dynamic within your creative perspective when you return to write Monkey Puzzle material?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- Over the last year I’ve been working on a project with Ross McCann of Esquimaux and MILK called “Hessian Renegade”. He works his production wizardry and I rap (of course). It’s a more Hip-Hop focused group but uses a lot of EDM and rock elements. I’m a sucker for a drop. It’s a totally different style and way of working to Monkey Puzzle, so it’s exciting, but also helps me appreciate what I’ve already got! Ultimately it’s made me a better writer and performer, at least in my mind anyway.
Drummer – Lewis Kelly: I’ve played in all sorts of whacked out shit, like “Celestial Spew Canoe” me and Luke’s spandex clad 80’s Glam Metal band (who may be making a return) to Titan Breed which is heavy as fUCk! and an amazing opportunity for me playing Bloodstock Festival. I love each project, but every single one is a different kind of beast and I take completely different stylistic approaches to them. Monkey puzzle is a no strings attached eclectic spaz-fest of drumming and I have zero rules to follow when writing parts for it and I couldn’t be happier thumping the tubs for my boys.
Miff- Monkey Puzzle has a fresh track titled ‘Killjester’ which you have been recently kicking out at lives shows. Can you give us some insight into the song and is it part of a forthcoming Ep/album?
Lead Vocalist – Conor- I can confirm that “KillJester” will be a single release as well as part of our next EP, which we’re hard at work on between shows. It’s named after one of our favourite Limmy Show sketches (running theme here) except with a less humorous twist. The lyrics revolve around the idea of living separate lives, rocking the stage one night and sitting at a desk in the morning, the ever present feeling that “real life” needs to take precedence even though it’s shit. I guess it’s my own personal fear of growing up.
Bassist -Luke- What he said!
Guitarist- Ross- It’s my favourite guitar part I’ve ever written and it’s my favourite song to play live.
Miff – Would Monkey Puzzle consider releasing an album? & have you ever thought about a crowdfunding campaign to help with your creative endeavours?
Lead Vocalist- Conor: I don’t see why not! With all our faff it would probably take 10 years to write it! Personally, I’m not a fan of crowdfunding at our level, I know people who have done it to great effect, all power to them, but it’s not for me. Buy tickets to our shows, buy a T-shirt and a CD, fund it that way.
Bassist – Luke- I’m game for an album one day, who knows when that may be though! As for crowd funding, we just aren’t at a level that would seem like a good idea.
Miff- Conor. You have a highly distinctive vocal tone which makes you a great contender for collaboration. Even the lead vocalist of (Hed) PE complimented your vocal ability when you supported them in the O2 Academy ABC. How have you been finding your journey of vocal development?
Lead Vocalist Conor- This is something I’ve heard quite a few times lately off of various people and it’s easily one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. As a frontman it’s what you strive for, to have a distinctive delivery, and I’m so pleased people think I do! The Hed (PE) thing was crazy though, getting a compliment like that off of one of my musical heroes was unbelievable. The journey has been one of a lot of experiments, but to be honest when I first started rapping it just kind of came out like that, quite high pitched, which is really weird because I have a very deep speaking voice.
Miff -Who has been your biggest inspiration regarding vocal technique?
Lead Vocalist -Conor- I’ve listened to many artists over the years, but when I started really attempting to write lyrics it was House of Pain that really taught me how to do it, Everlast’s technique highlighted a way to stay on beat, which up until then, I had no idea how to do! For delivery in Monkey Puzzle, my first port of call was obvious, Limp Bizkit. Fred Durst’s delivery, no matter how you feel about him, is interesting and engaging, it’s live, that’s what we needed. From that base I’ve taken inspiration from Jared Gomez of Hed (PE), Chino from Deftones (specifically Adrenaline period), Insane Clown Posse, Cypress Hill, Funkdoobiest, The Beastie Boys…The list is endless, there’s always more to learn to add to my own arsenal!
Miff – Who would you most like to collaborate with vocally in the future?
Lead Vocalist – Conor – Locally, Liam Hesslewood from Neshiima or my dudes in Deadsoundz Inc. Liam is a hugely talented vocalist who I admire allot and I definitely look up to as a performer. Deadsoundz is my boys and amazing MC’s, if anything, I just know we’d have a fucking great time jotting down some shit with cans!
Internationally, of course, is mostly Pie in the sky, Fred Durst is a busy dude, but he or Jared would be a dream come true. If I could actually speak to them let alone record!
Miff – If the opportunity occurred would the band be open to touring some exchange gig slots with other bands throughout the UK in the future?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- Yes, yes and yes, hit us up and we can see what we can sort out!
Bassist-Luke- We’ve managed to get ourselves out and about a little bit this year. Played with some great acts, I think we would all love to get out playing with and to as many new people as we can!
Miff – What band would be your dream tour companions?
Bassist- Luke: Preferably someone as mad as us, I heard about Rush on tour with Kiss and how they’d go back to the dressing room for tea and books whilst Kiss got up to all sorts. So definitely someone on our wavelength!
Lead Vocalist – Conor- I agree with Luke, they’d need to be on our level of party and immaturity otherwise I think it would be a fucking short tour. I’ve always fancied a wee tour with the boys in Neshiima and MILK, I love their music and all of them as well, I could definitely get drunk every night after my set and belt out “The Cycle” or “New Shades of Black & Blue”
Miff- If you only had three words to express the overall atmosphere of what your sound projects what would those three words be?
Lead Vocalist Conor- Tennent’s Lager, please.
Miff – What can we expect from Monkey Puzzle over the future months ahead? Is there anything you would like to add for your current Monkey Puzzle fans?
Lead Vocalist- Conor- More gigs, less Glasgow ones though so don’t miss the ones that do happen! A single! Recording the next EP! We’re keeping ourselves busy, so for everyone, that’s supported us from the get go and the folk that joined us along the way, thank you for helping us literally live out dreams. We really never thought we’d make it as far as we have and that’s all thanks to you!
Bassist– Luke – More of what we do best. More shows, more tunes and especially more dates outside of Glasgow!
Guitarist Ross- I got a pretty sweet kitten recently so you can probably expect lots of cute photos and videos from me.