Cookie Monsta Talks Lost Lands, Riddim, & His Take On The Current Bass Music Scene!
UK dubstep master Cookie Monsta is a cheeky bloke with a heavy sound, and interesting perspective. Hailing from Nottingham, Tony Cook transformed into his dubstep alter-ego back in 2008 and began dropping quality tunes that helped shape the sound of dubstep. With initial releases like “Ginger Pubes” and “I Know Jiu-Jitsu”, he signed with Circus Records in 2010 and has continued to move crowds ever since.
At Lost Lands, he took some time to chat with me just before he melted some faces during his set! Cookie Monsta was very down to earth and candidly spoke to me about his thoughts on dubstep, Kettle Chips and his long-running collaborative friendship with FuntCase, who also put on an unforgettable show at Lost Lands. To step into the mind of the man himself and learn more about his process, check out what’s below!
Stream Cookie Monsta’s Wobble EP on SoundCloud:
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! What are your thoughts on this pre-historic themed festival?
Dude, it’s so good! It really is so good. I was on the tour bus when they were thinking about it, talking about it, on their laptops finding a city to have this in. And that was in January, February, March on the tour bus. And a few months later, it’s a 3-day festival with a thousand DJs. How crazy is that?!
So you were on the ground for the decision-making?
No, no. I was just on the bus. But I thought it would take 12 months at least. The bus tour was January, February, March. When they were talking about it, thinking about it. It’s fuckin’ crazy! Not only do you have those DJs, but you’ve got so many professionals out there, you’ve got so many permits and so many things. I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with this.
You’re particularly known for your grimy sound. Do you produce anything outside of your normal style?
Little bits of works that are left in my studio. Loads of little weird stuff. It’s nice to make weird stuff.
Do you ever publish any of it?
Nah, it’s just for myself.
Do you listen to the stuff you make for yourself?
No, no, it’s just really fun to make. Making hardcore dubstep for a long time, for nearly ten years now, is really fuckin’ hard. And sometimes I get in the studio and I can’t make it. I genuinely, physically cannot make it because it grinds you down. It’s good to just make weird shit and just refresh and start again. Just clear your browser history.
I’m sure it’s also good for facilitating productivity. To sit down and ease your way into it.
Yah, because sometimes, I’ve made weird shit, then be inspired to make heavy stuff after that. Or like a little lead, that I’m like ‘All right, yeah, I’ll use that.’ Rather than sitting down and saying ‘I need to do this, I need to do this…’ And it’s not working at all.
Yeah, trying to force a creative process is…
It’s just horrible. It’s like the worst process. Imagine if you’re a painter, and your passion is to paint and paint and paint. But you’re trying to paint this one picture and it’s not going anywhere. But it’s half done. You’ve spent so much time on it.
Over the years you’ve worked with FuntCase on a variety of sets and collabs. What’s the history behind your friendship?
Well, we’re on the same record label, but the whole back-to-back thing, it was 2011 in Belgium, I think. The promoters put us on this festival as a back-to-back, and it was the first back-to-back we did at the time. But the thing that kind of blew up was a videographer there. He was doing so much cool shit, spinning around and going all crazy. Afterward, that video kinda blew up, then loads of promoters were just booking us from that.
How do other scenes around the world, including the US, compare to the scene in the UK?
Well, there’s no scene in the UK now.
Really? At all?
Yeah…Basically… We as Circus Records, we do like one show a year as a record label. But, it’s because of the elitism… that killed it off basically.
Just like the purism, of what a thing “should be”?
Yeah…what Circus Records is about, actually even before Circus Records, when I was making music, the only kind of platforms I had were MySpace and the Dubstep Forum. And on the Dubstep Forum, it was all heady shit, like the original style of dubstep. Then I came along with my stupid ass samples and just tongue-in-cheek music, and there was a mix I did that got so much more views than the other shit.
But, I was…infamous in that place. I just was starting a career. It was the elitists banging on their keyboard, hating everything that I did. So I was like ‘Fuck you, I’m doing this.’ I was full of rage back then.
Back then. I’m happy now.
But it was… Rage was good. Because I’d get in my studio… Not my studio, I’d just get on my laptop and just get angry as fuck and make some crazy angry stuff, with the emotions just pouring out. That was my output. Rather than going to jail for 10 years, so… It’s fuckin’ great.
But, now, the UK scene is nonexistent.
Really? Where do you think the densest bass regions are?
Do you mean for like dubstep?
I just think America in general.
In the UK there’s huge music scene. I’m very thankful for my upbringing because there’s Pirate Radios and so much music around. So I was very spoiled but in a good way. But now, it’s funny, because I’ve seen revolutions of things from like 10 years ago, that are now popular. I’ve got to that age, I’ve been through it, then it goes out of fashion.
I’m 28 years old now, but I feel like I’m 38, because the kids are 18 years old in the UK just like doing things that were out of fashion but now back in fashion 10 years later. They think it’s brand new, they think it’s absolutely fresh. Like dude, what the fuck?! “Oh my gahd! This is my music! I own it!”
So I’ve gone from my age range DJing to my age range ten years later. I can’t play a classic because a classic is like three years old. So the people that are 28 years old that would have known “this classic” aren’t there because they’re too old and at the back. Whereas the young kids are fresh. Three years ago… that’s like a lifetime.
As an artist, it’s really frustrating because I love music! I love playing older stuff, but because it sounds sort of outdated, it’s not mixed down, as tight as nowadays, you just can’t play it out because the crowd it so used to how it is now…the platform it is now. It’s crazy.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received in your career, and what advice would you give to aspiring producers?
I don’t think I’ve ever had advice…
Well, if you could conjure some advice, what do you think it would be?
Ah, I always say to the people wanting to make music, ‘If you really wanna make music, and you’re not just doing it to be on a festival lineup, or just wanna be cool and say you’re a DJ, then just do it. Fuckin’ do it. You’ve got a thousand people against you. Do it.’ I had a thousand people against me. I lost a lot of friends, but I’m happy for it. My back isn’t weighed down as much. So, it’s great.
Everyone’s like ’What are you making music for, you’re not going to make money.’ I’m like ‘I don’t want to make money, I just want to make music.’
So you’ve been a prominent member of the scene now for many years, as you were just saying, what are some trends or changes that you’ve noticed, in either culture or music?
Yeah… It’s kind of like this whole riddim thing. That style was like the older style…very simplistic and it had a rhythm to it. So it’s strange to see that coming back around and everyone thinking it’s brand new, it’s different to dubstep. ‘Don’t call riddim dubstep, ’cause it’s not.’
It’s just like when bro-step was around. But… I don’t even know what fuckin’ bro-step is. I know what it is, but, it’s dubstep… But riddim is exactly like the bro-step thing. They just categorically say ‘This is what this is’, and if you say otherwise they’re gonna reply on Twitter very angrily! Woooo!
I guess I can see the advantage of classifying as the genre changes…
No, I get it. Of course. Rather than just saying ‘this is riddim, that’s dubstep’ they say ‘THAT is a RIDDIM… Do NOT call it dubstep’. But, it’s all the same fuckin’ path.
If I say ‘drum and bass’ I mean drum and bass as a whole. There are a thousand different subgenres. But in general, you just say ‘drum and bass’ you’re allowed to say ‘drum and bass’. But dubstep, you can’t say it, because of the riddim kids… they gon’ fuck you up.
Having been playing and producing dubstep since it was underground, has its mainstream presence changed your perception of the genre?
Yeah, yeah… It’s totally different. It’s flipped, totally different to what it was. When I was making music, it wasn’t available at a festival. There was no festival. There was a tiny club with like 50 people. The subs were huge, it was dark, you put your hood up and you just vibe to it. It was nice. It’s crazy different.
Yeah, it’s not underground anymore… At all.
It’s so strange because I still feel like I’m still on the ground, I’m still no one, I’m still floating around. So it’s strange to be called just like ‘a legend’. I’m not a legend! I’m not. There’s no way I could be a legend. It’s so… Just to think about it, is just strange for me. ‘Cause I’m just a dude! A normal dude.
It’s true. I can imagine that being weird.
But I understand because there are people who make music that I’m emotionally attached to. Music is emotional, obviously, but it just took a while, many years, to handle it, to process it. Because the first time I came to America, really, everyone was just off their head on MDMA. Afterward, they would say ‘Oh my god that was amazing, your set was fuckin’ amazing!’ And I was like ‘Okay… okay.”
It’s also like that in Europe, everyone’s off their head, they won’t come up to you and say this. They’ll just give you a fist bump. And be like ‘That’s sick, yeah…’
America is like “DUDE! DOOD!” with a brass band in the back “That was fuckin’ SICK!” But it’s good. I definitely appreciate Americans, because there’s so much more appreciation.
It’s definitely much easier to be traveling around in America. Just in general. Because they’re just so much more vocal about their feelings, and, yeah… it’s very strange.
Really, do you think that’s a cultural thing, or just in the musical realm?
It’s a bit of cultural and musical realm as well. Because in Europe, there’s definitely just elitism, everywhere you go. The reason there are top dogs is that they’re fuckin’ amazing at what they do. Whereas here, there are a thousand top dogs because they’ve made a few tracks, but then they’ve been glorified. Then everyone’s like “DUDE!” So, there’s a lot more. It’s so hard to explain, but… it’s good. It’s good.
When prepping for a set ahead of time, what goes into your track selection, and is there anything special you chose for this particular set?
Well, before I would just rock out with my CD case and just play whatever the fuck I wanted to play. But now, it’s kind of evolved into a… a show. Nowadays there’s so much planning into a set. It takes hours and hours and hours, just to make a set, and do tiny little edits.
So you’re stranded on a desert island, there are only three items you can have with you. What are those three items, and why?
An iPhone cable.. cause you always need it! Bags of kettle chips. Bags and bags.
Just salt and vinegar. …and… mmm… *snap* A huge Mexican hat. Because I sunburn, fuckin’ easy! I burn so easy. So I’d have a nice big round hat like this, and chill.
You could put the chips in the hat, then reach on your head to get the chips.
Yeah… but, that’s too much movement. I would just make a little pit of chips.
With your iPhone cable wrapped around..?
Yeah, snaked around it, waiting for that charge. ha! ‘You got a charge bro?!’ Ya know, everyone’s a fiend for those cables. I’ve given out those cables then they come back six years later like ‘DUDE! You do not wanna know what they did to me!” Mmmm…smells kinda funky…
Finally, as the Cookie Monsta, what’s your favorite type of cookie?
Ugh… there’s been so many fuckin’ amazing cookies. But, I just fuckin’ love the freshly, out of the oven chocolate chip. So warm and just…ugh…
There are a few hotels that give you cookies on arrival. The first time it happened, I actually thought it was a joke because there was this guy at the reception. Instead of ‘Tony Cook’ to sign in, it was ‘Cookie Monsta’, and the guy hands me a cookie! I was like ‘You’re a clever guy!’ But afterward I figured out.. it wasn’t genuine. It wasn’t genuine. They just handed it out to everyone.