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BPM Ireland Special: Munki Magic
Michael Gleeson reports on Dublin club Munki's first birthday, as well as having a few words with those who started it all.

[IMAGE: A completely different Monkey]
A completely different Monkey!
As first birthday parties go, Munki's anniversary had to be about the shit-hottest way to celebrate one year's existence. A Bentley Rhythm Ace DJ set with an electrifying Scratch Perverts support slot in front of a packed Temple Bar Music Centre. The ensuing delirium spews beats, breaks and a whole lotta groove all over a willing rabble of hip-hop heads and dance music-junkies. Believe me, those guys from Munki know how to throw a party.

The day before St. Patrick's Day 1998, Ben, Morgan and Rob, three students biding their time in college, hatched a plan they'd held dear for quite a while. They wanted to promote music, dance music, in a city fast becoming famous for its commitment to and excellence in the field of dance. They wanted to bring the alternative face of DJing to Dublin both from within its own scene and, indeed, from further-flung avenues of invention.

So with a little help from DJ Glen Brady, the concept known as Munki was born. And my how it's prospered.

The Munki headquarters in Sandymount may be tucked neatly into a conservatory in a house owned by Ben's mum, but the set-up is far from amateur. The business of organising gigs, promotion, flyer-design, and press and public relations is all done from this one room.

A huge mural of the Munki logo dominates one wall (Morgan, who did modelling in college, is the artist), while posters and flyers decorate much of the remaining space. It does the job of your average office but this place is stress-free and relaxed, almost like the computers and fax machine are incidental.

Morgan reclines in his high-backed comfy chair and reacts to Munki's first, successful year with an unholy degree of modesty. "We'd worked hard for the year and it was nice to see people were listening to us." In fact, Bentley Rhythm Ace was more of a treat for the fans, a thank-you for the year. The lads don't normally bring over mainstream acts too often, but birthdays were invented to be celebrated in style. It just so happens that the Bentleys topped off the most exciting and awe-inducing feast of hip-hop magic that this writer has ever witnessed.

Munki's own Tu-Ki, Splyce, Link and Redsettaz were more than mere warm-up acts. A series of sizzling four-deck DJ sets delivered with professional aplomb that left the small numbers, who had gathered so early, reeling with the kind of perversely-agreeable shock that sends rushes to every physical extremity of the body. The inimitable Scratch Perverts showed why they are widely considered the best DJs in the world by mashing beats and delirious scratching in an exhilaratingly contagious set. Jumping from The Beastie Boys to The Chemical Brothers to The Stone Roses (!) like that was a wholly natural progression, Tony Vegas, Mr Thing, Prime Cuts and First Rate proved that very little is beyond them when it comes to the art of turntable-manipulation.

[IMAGE: Bentley Rhythm Ace]And the Bentleys. Weird, wacky and wonderful, they put on a show that was not only memorable, but downright maddeningly unforgettable. Live they may be off-the-wall crazy and a little disjointed, but as DJs they are a smooth operation, pumping out big beats and one climactic build-up after another, working the now-teeming Music Centre into a wild frenzy like the end of the world was nigh.

After that, the future for Munki looks very bright indeed. Next up is Freq Nasty in The Funnel on 10 April, a first venture into Nu-Skool for Ben, Morgan and Rob. "We're really looking forward to it 'cos it's the first time we've got someone over who's doing that music," Ben muses. "We're lucky as well that since we've booked him he's done some really good remixes and he's got into the news, so sometimes we're lucky that way."

Obviously, a commitment to alternative and underground hip-hop acts means less money at the door than, say, Pete Tong at the Temple Theatre, so luck does play a part in getting the punters through the doors. But the brains behind Munki possess enough suss to navigate the music business successfully. The Munki profile was built through experience. Bring over the acts and DJs that people want to see and the rest will follow naturally. Morgan explains: "If they [the major venues] see that we're responsible and capable enough of putting on a gig somewhere and it turns out relatively well, if not good, then they're gonna say 'let's give these guys our venue, see what they can do'".

In one short year they've put a business together that, if not doing so already, will thrive in the years to come. Between them they are efficient and consistent, they've organised some of the best hip-hop nights our capital will ever experience, and they've earned themselves a loyal following that won't ever jump ship as long as the same standard is maintained.

And that standard doesn't look like dwindling. Plans are afoot to install a studio beside the current office, which will in turn lead to a Munki record label. "A label is something we will do eventually", Rob discloses, "but we have to have the perfect material." "There's no point starting up a record label if your first release sucks", Ben interjects.

That's not all, either. Morgan (the artist) plans to expand the business into merchandising: Munki caps, t-shirts, and so on. If you've seen the flyers then you'll immediately see the promise in such a venture. The logo and paintings (all designed by Morgan, incidentally) are t-shirt friendly in a South Park kind of way; less space-age than the stereotypical dance music promotional material and more laid-back, couldn't really give a shit, cartoon-fun.

That innate freshness that characterises everything Munki do comes from their one definite guideline: "anything goes".

Everybody dreams of ending up in a job that they truly love. Ben, Morgan and Rob have grabbed their dream firmly by the balls. A dedication to creative music in a group where anything goes is earning these guys a living. And as I've said before, they really are doing it in style.

Maybe you don't like Boy George and his chart-happy record collection. If you want to hear two-a-penny, guaranteed-favourites you can always listen to the radio. But if you want something else, something not so generic, if you want a real-life, no-nonsense party, then follow Munki to the ends of the earth if needs be. Because these electric nights out are pile-driving forward. Fast. Do NOT miss out.

by Michael Gleeson