His debut album's out now - and as iDJ discovered, the Sheffield-based producer's done it all with a little help from his friends
Scott Moncrieff is something of a rarity. Not only is the Melton Mowbray-born, Sheffield-based producer a keen collaborator, but he's also prepared to admit his weaknesses.
"A proper producer knows not to do everything themselves, and who to work with to develop it," he cheerily says down the phone from his Steel City studio. "The best way is to collaborate with talented musicians and singers. I know I'm a really limited keys soloist, so I don't do the keys solos on my stuff. I can put the chords down if I have to, but when it comes to doing a solo, I'll call somebody."
Moncrieff has been DJing in his adopted home city for the best part of two decades, first turning his hand to production - alongside longtime friend Tom ‘Toddla T' Bell - as Small Arms Fiya a decade ago. It's only been in the last four years, though, that Moncrieff has begun to blossom as a solo artist, delivering a swathe of highly-regarded, soul-flecked deep house releases on Delusions of Grandeur, Kolour LTD, Classic and his own Shadeleaf imprint.
Throughout that time, the man known as Thatmanmonkz has continued to learn from those around him, and the musical collaborators that he's reached out to. "Through circumstances I started sharing a house with Ross Orton, who went on to produce the Arctic Monkeys," Moncrieff says. "He really taught me what I was doing in the studio. I've also been working with Pete Simpson since I first started getting into production, and through him I've learnt about keys, chords, structure, vocal phrasing, and much more. These are all things that you need to know if you're producing a body of work, and working with lots of people. I'd put people like Ross and Pete down as being responsible for a lot of my knowledge."
That growing knowledge is put to great use on Moncrieff's debut album as Thatmanmonkz: the Delusions Of Grandeur-released Columbising. Little less than a love letter to black American dance music – from deep house and disco, to hip-hop, jazz and soul – with a few nods to British variants thrown in (think broken beat and dancehall-influenced riddims), the album oozes soul from start to finish. More importantly, it also portrays Moncrieff as a producer at the top of his game.
"That's always the hope," he chuckles. "Soul is certainly the starting point for my music, that's for sure. I decided to do an album where I could explore all of my influences, rather than just house. As much as anything else, it tells my story a bit better."
As you'd expect, the cast list is a lengthy one, with featured guests and collaborators including Pete Simpson, Khalil Anthony, Malik Ameer, Erik Rico, Dave Aju and DJ Kali. "I'm aware of my limitations," Moncrieff laughs. "If somebody asked me whether I wanted to collaborate with someone who sits there with an MPC and a couple of synths, I'd say no, because I can already do that. I want to work with real musicians and artists, because they can bring something I can't."
Words: Matt Anniss
Columbising is out now on Delusions of Grandeur