ROOTS&FUTURE6: Hollis P. Monroe

Hollis P Monroe

Welcome to the new and improved ROOTS & FUTURE! The new style is to get artists we love to talk to us about what they’re about and what they got coming up and give us some dope tracks to post for a week. For the first edition I had the honor of catching up with longtime house and breaks producer Hollis P. Monroe aka DJ Decent for an IM interview. Dude has been doin it doin it since the mid 90’s and has some serious tunes under his belt, including funky breaks monster “Reflex Speed” & absolute deep house classic “I’m Lonely” (which was licensed on 30+ compilations). So here’s the interview and 2 classic tracks plus dude’s latest are at the bottom.

djelyte: quick intro question. whats the dif between hollis p and dj decent?
djdecent: dj decent is for breaks. hollis p monroe is house

djelyte: i want to start with the quesiton about hip-hop. how do you see hip-hop’s connection to electonic music from back in the day vs now
djdecent: as far as the connection to hip hop i would think it would be pretty evident to anyone who was around in the 80s. i mean, the music was made using alot of the same tools and when i used to breakdance, we used to do it to techno and electro basically. take “planet rock” for instance that song is just as much electronic as it is, hip hop.
djelyte: right, so it was really that electro breaks influence that led you to house and techno?
djdecent: well, kinda. i mean, i think some where along the line we all forgot how close the genres used to be. listen to some early hip hop albums you’ll find a couple house tracks mixed in.
djelyte: like?
djdecent: queen latifah, jungle brothers are the first that come to mind immediately. also there’s a song that “we” called “it’s time” that i would hear all the time at hip hop parties and it’s definitely a straight up detroit techno record i’m looking for the actual name of it right now….found it! Hashim’s “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)”
djelyte: oh man thats the joint
djdecent: yeah, that’s what i mean. EVERY hip hop dj, back then used to rock two copies of that record
djelyte: did you ever spin hip-hop?
djdecent: yup. that’s how i started out, little house parties, in my preteens, early 80s, in philly! and i used to rap too! and breakdance. all that.
djelyte: so straight up b-boy
djdecent: absolutely
djelyte: did you chill with jazzy jeff? or king britt?
djdecent: well, i met king much later, but i remember going to parties on upenn’s campus and he would be rockin’! but i didn’t know them personally or anything like that back in the day. by the way, i remember this dj, master vic from back then as well…you might know him as vikter duplaix. and hey played and made hip hop.
djelyte: yeah it must have been dope growing up in a city with so much great music
djdecent: indeed. it was a great time musically, everything was so young and untouched in a way. good times. 🙂

so what made you start producing electronic music?
djdecent: well, it was college basically. i started going to raves and parties and such. hip hop wasn’t really happening for me and the gangsta thing started getting big and i just kinda stopped liking it. so once i was exposed to rave culture, i started messing around with the music. i had already had the equipment from what i was doing with hip hop
djelyte: where were u in college
djdecent: drexel university. still in philly. i remember seeing josh wink in my cafeteria all the time he used to dj at the radio station even though he went to temple. not sure how that happened. he was just getting going at that point, this was before” higher states” or anything like that.
djelyte: do u remember a moment when you knew you realized you were going to make electronic music
djdecent: i do believe i just kinda started without thinking. the guys that were taking me to raves kinda just led me in that direction. we had a little group and all that. i will say this though, the moment that i decided to make music differently in general was when a friend came to my house with with two songs from the prince album “sign o the times”. that’s when i realized that i want to do a little more than the kind of hip hop i was doing at the time, but i had no idea that it would eventually lead me to electronica/house

one thing that impresses me about you (and probably all producers i like) is the diversity of music you make. do you sit down with the intention of making a certain kind of track or just let the sounds guide you?
djdecent: first of all, thank you very much! actually, to be honest, i have no rhyme or reason to how i work. mainly i just start with an idea and by the time, i’m done, many times that original idea isn’t even there. but i would say that i do kinda have in mind that i’m trying to stay within the realm of house because that’s kinda what i’m known for and what people are kind of looking for from me
how’d you end up with one of the biggest breaks tracks then?
djdecent: ha ha ha ha. which track is that?
djelyte: reflex sped
djdecent: well, that came before i was really into house. i was still going to raves then. it’s weird that you would say it was a big record. because it didn’t really feel that way. i mean, it sold well but i never really heard it played out anywhere, but then again, breaks weren’t really that big in philly.
djelyte: all the funky breaks dudes were playing it: justin johnson, icey, dj dan. and then icey put it on his compliation.
djdecent: shout out to icey!

so how’d u find house then?
djdecent: house found me! i mean, the very next record i did after reflex speed was i’m lonely and i wasn’t thinking i was making a house record it just came out of me. it kinda overshadowed reflex speed and since i already wasn’t hearing many breaks i just kinda stayed on the house path. i’m realizing there are alot of fluke occurrences in my career!

you originally put that out on Renaissance Infinity?
djdecent: yes, both of those. well, i’m lonely had the logo but it was essentially a bootleg but yeah, i put them out.
djelyte: how many copies did you press of each?
djdecent: man, i couldn’t even tell you there were lots of reorders so i may have started with 1000 of each but they were gone very very quickly. i don’t know exact totals of how much they sold.
djelyte: how’d you distribute them?
djdecent: we were grinding! we did alot of direct to store sales but i mean, we used to the usual suspects as well.
djelyte: any in boston?
djdecent: yeah boston beat and there was another store or two that i cant remember now. wait, i cannot for to mention siren distribution out of jersey! they did alot for me and my label!

Stickman records took i’m lonely to the next level. they we’re a pretty huge label at the time, how did they get to you?
djdecent: stickman contacted me through nigel richards. at first, i didn’t think it made any sense to work with them but they saw a much larger potential for “i’m lonely” and to just say “they were right” would be understatement of the year!
djelyte: how many comps was that licensed on?
djdecent: man, i don’t have an exact figure but i would say no less than 30 and i’m being quite conservative

djelyte: universal agents was big for you to huh?
djdecent: oh yeah
djelyte: and i just realized it was you and g-pal
djdecent: yes, indeed. we did that project over one weekend. 6 songs in about 3 days. g-pal is a super cool dude.

back to the vinyl thing. do you still press vinyl of R.I. releases? Do you still play vinyl?
djdecent: no, i don’t press any more vinyl at this point, but i do prefer to play it. i play records and use serato. totally skipped over cds

where do you think technology will bring djing in 5 years?
djdecent: that’s a tough question. it depends on how it’s utilized. i mean, beat matching may become a lost skill but it will allow us to concentrate on other things. i don’t know. it’s not looking too good. i mean, ableton makes it so basically anyone can be a dj. technology is kinda killing the industry overall in a way.
djelyte: how so?
djdecent: the cd burning/downloading are obvious culprits but the ease by which, people are able to put tracks together, helped saturate the market and don’t get me wrong there are people making great music but it seems like there’s a huge focus on production techniques and not much attention to actual songwriting skills. no depth just a ton of “cool” sounding tracks.

djelyte: are you djing alot these days?
djdecent: not really. i’m 90% producer. 10% dj. but i would like to change that. i’ve never toured or anything like that.

i know you said you think the music is diluted but how do you feel about the overall state of dance music today? what sounds are you feeeling. producers, labels etc…
djdecent: i mean, speaking as a consumer it’s great! but as an artist it kinda sucks. like there’s not a whole hell of a lot of ways to support yourself doing it. as far as producers go: peven everett, quentin harris, chris brann
djelyte: any top current or all time tracks?
djdecent: here‘s my all-time top 20 in no particular order. if you want the long list of my favs it can be found here.

And here’s the music!

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DJ Decent – Reflex Speed DOWNLOAD
This was on the Stupid Def EP, which was the 3rd release on Hollis P.’s label, Renaisance Infinity in 1996. It blew up with all funky breaks DJs and I remember hearing it at raves all the time. It went on to appear on DJ Icey’s seminal compliation “The Funky Breaks”. You can BUY the whole Stupid Def EP and a few other choice DJ Decent cuts HERE.

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Hollis P. Monroe vs. Etta James- This Is Goodbye (Deeper Mix) DOWNLOAD
We picked up the original bootleg vinyl of this Etta James remix when it came out in 2004 and put it on our “Torch Bearers” mix cause it was so dope. Now you can BUY it and the equally dope remix on the flipside HERE.

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Hollis P. Monroe – I Want To Thank You
This is some new fire that just dropped on Worship Records. Deep, dub, funk, house just the way we like it! BUY the full release HERE.

Hollis P. Monroe’s All-Time Top 20

flowers – armand van heldon feat. roland clark [I first heard Josh Wink play this at Fluid in Philly and it brought me to the verge of tears.]
i can’t believe i loved her – peven everett [Peven is the producer i wish i was. This is the song i wish i wrote.]
nobody else – ce ce peniston [Ce Ce Peniston and Steve Hurley are definitely going to heaven for this. Gospel house at it’s finest and funkiest.]
around the world – daft punk [I purposely never play this song so that it’s there when i REALLY need it. Instant mood swing.]
dominator (joey beltram mix) – human resource [Hardcore fun. What else can be said.]
music sounds better – stardust [Yeah, i said it and i wish somebody would try to call me on it.]
gabrielle – roy davis jr featuring pevin everett [If this song doesn’t touch you somewhere deep down inside, you and I can’t be friends.]
cascades of color – ananda project [I remember Deep C and Udoh running two copies of this the first time i heard it.� They just kept playing the a cappella part over and over for about five minutes. When they finally let the beat drop in, i felt chills. One of these days i’m gonna work with Gaielle. i’m not ready yet.]
the horns of jerico – the prodigy [the experience album was basically the soundtrack of my raver days]
a stronger man – ben watt featuring sananda maitreya (terence trent d’arby) [This is the best use of a terrance trent d’arby sample… next to you know what. : )]
i’m lonely – hollis p monroe [This song is special to me because it seems to touch some people in a way beyond just making them want to dance. It seems to trigger memories and emotions and I’m constantly amazed at the effect it’s had on certain people. For everyone else, it’s just damn good track.]
this is goodbye (deeper mix) – hollis p monroe [Although I made the deep (original) mix about three or four years before it’s actual release, i made this deeper mix at the last minute instead of just putting some “throw-away” track on the other side as i had originally planned. it was one of my better decisions.]
don’t stop – brazilian girls [i don’t know why. i just love this song.]
sure thing – st. germain [This song comes on, my hands go up.]
all that you give – cinematic orchestra [Come on, now…. Pure soul]
let this – ayro [Another one i can’t pinpoint why. I think it’s because it sounds so dry and raw. It’s just very pleasing to my ears.]
destination – ananda project [This song convinces me that Chris Brann and I are soul brothers]
worlds – passion dance orchestra [I first heard this on my friend Mello D’s mix cd and i forced my mother to listen to it over and over again, almost the entire way to New York.]
brand new day – little louie vega featuring blaze [I was fortunate enough to be at the Keep Hope Alive recording session and I’m still kicking myself for not getting in that picture with all those legends. It’s all good though, because during a break, Josh Milan from Blaze got on the grand piano and performed this song for just for me. literally, just for me…]
just about any song written by – prince [There are TONS of tracks I could have added to this list and I had planned to stick to all electronic stuff but to not include Prince would just be wrong. I think his musical influence on me is quite evident when you listen to my stuff and if I don’t acknowledge him… well, it would just be wrong.]