Name: Steffen Linck aka Monolink
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, live performer
Current release: Monolink's sophomore full-length album, "Under Darkening Skies" is out now on Embassy One and Ultra Music.
Recommendations: Hermann Hesse – Demian; Monolink - Under Darkening Skies :)
If you enjoyed this interview with Monolink, the official Monolink website will take you to all his active social media profiles.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing songs at the age of 16 as I learned to play the guitar. I was into British rock music, listening to the Libertines, Oasis and alike. I loved the idea of creating something that could last longer than myself.
The therapeutic effect of writing about things that concerned me also started to play a role. It simply felt good to get negative things off my mind and onto paper.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
It certainly was a long way for me till I got to a point where I was able to make the music that I really wanted to make.
Before I got into electronic music I was a folk singer-songwriter and went through lots of difficult times. I was impatient with my desire to be able to live off my music, clearly having my dream in front of me but couldn’t see a way to make it work.
Now looking back at it I must say I’m glad it went that way and took the time it needed. Those struggles took me through some important experiences that made it possible for me to develop musically and find my voice there.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Not at all. I don’t think creativity is something that can be influenced, it can only be accessed or withheld. Sense of identity comes in at a later point of production, evaluating what creativity has come up with. I think it’s important to leave that out of the picture as long as possible.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Writing a song has and will always be a creative challenge for me. It’s just that I as a person have changed over time, so the topics that concern me are different.
A new challenge certainly is not falling into old schemes and to keep reinventing and surprising myself even after years of doing this.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I guess having a budget makes all the difference, haha. I always wanted to have a big studio with lots of analog gear but simply couldn’t afford it. So ripping plugins was the only way for me to go ahead. I had my guitars and one mic to record with.
Now that I am able to afford more I really appreciate having actual instruments to play and record with, creating analog chains to alter the sounds and not having to map parameters first in my DAW.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Better understanding of how a synthesizer works was something that really changed my way of making music.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I really love collaborating just to get an insight of how other people work. These days there are so many different approaches and ways of creating sound, there’s always something to take away just watching someone else do their thing.
On my new album the main collaboration happened with my mixing engineer and co-producer Stefan Thomas, who also mastered the record. I can’t even put into words how much I learned from him during that time.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don’t really have a fixed schedule since the things I do differ so much from each other.
When I’m not touring I usually get up around 9am and read the news. Then I’ll have a small breakfast and head over to my studio where I first do some office work and then continue on whatever musical project I’m working on those days. Later in the evening I often go rock climbing in a gym here in Berlin, together with my engineer Stefan, which really helps me clear my head and be creative again the next day.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
One of the most memorable moments in my career was my opening set for Fusion Festival 2015. It was the first really big show I played with maybe 5-10k people and quite an honour for me to be able to open the festival, which was and still is one of my favourites.
Before I started the dance floor was still cleared and people were waiting on the sides behind barrier tape. Then when I was told to go everybody was running onto the dancefloor, screaming in excitement. The space filled up within 30 seconds, it was like a dream.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I found that for me the answer lies within play. Playing and improvising is what lets me access my own creativity the best. So ideally I try to keep my studio set up like a playground, with all the toys ready to go, connected to each other and to a recording device. Overthinking, organizing, arranging is what kills it for me.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
My biggest concern these days is that music has become something that’s only happening in the background, actively listening and appreciating songs and music is becoming really rare. I don’t know if this is a development that can be stopped but I think it’s important to be aware of it.
Taking the time to listen to a good record on proper speakers while not doing anything on the side is an amazing experience.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It actually saddens me to see so many DJs being under the impression they can just use any sample they like and sell it as their own music, without neither mentioning nor paying the original artist. Oftentimes these are samples taken from indigenous tribes, street performers etc.
I think it’s great to have cultural interchange and collaborations but they should be fair and agreed upon from both sides, not one side exploiting the other, only made possible through post-colonial structures.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Visual and audio are the two I appreciate the most in experiencing art. A track or a song can feel completely different in regards to what you see while listening. I really enjoy those moments when you notice that the two blend perfectly into each other and take you on a journey.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I’m just trying to make stuff that touches me. If it then also touches somebody else, then that’s even better.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Jesus, are you tripping?