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We're in a recession. We're coming out of a recession. We may never have been in a recession, just a slump. These are the kinds of conversations bandied about in the music community, following one of the worst years for the industry in a long time.
But a little economic hardship isn't all bad, claims DJ/electronic artist Monk. "When times are tight, people become more apprehensive about what they buy and who they go out and see," he says. "Instead of purchasing a CD they may just copy one track of somebody else's. Or instead of going out and spending like $25 to see a show, they might stay home and listen to music."
And this is a good thing? Well, for the music it is. Tight times make artists work a little harder and stop taking their audiences for granted. For those who never took their audiences for granted, it's even better. "You get back the same level of intensity and enthusiasm that you put into your shows, from the planning stage to the performance stage," says Monk, a solo artist as well as one-third of the Tampa-based Rabbit in the Moon. "What I've found is that if you are an entertainer, the best attitude to have is one of wanting to go out and try to blow the minds of the people who come to your shows."
The members of Rabbit in the Moon -- Monk, Confucius, and Bunny -- are both compelling live artists and heavyweight DJs/producers/remixers. They met up in 1992 when Monk, a Detroit-born former FSU student, moved from Orlando to Tampa. He and Confucius started collaborating; soon they added Bunny to the crew, who "had been doing some incredible performances in clubs around town."
Since then they have developed a reputation as one of the top electronic acts on the scene. On the production front, they have put out some of the most headrush-friendly electronic music of the past decade. Sting, Smashing Pumpkins, and Orbital are among those who have tapped them for remix work. And live they take on a trippy, performance-art-leaning vibe, one that makes sure fans get their money's worth.
"When I do a DJ set, I have a girl -- Scandalous -- who dances onstage, and gets the women involved. I have a freestyle rapper who has the crowd give him words to freestyle off of. I think the key is to assure people of having fun. If they don't have fun, then they aren't going to support you."
Monk ensures his audience's enjoyment by making sure he's fostering his own. And he does that by keeping his mixes fresh enough to stave off boredom. "I remember one writer calling me “the DJ for attention-deficit disorder,'" he recalls. "I will start off with some house, and then do breakbeat, and then go to some hip-hop or some disco funk. And you don't see a lot of people do that. But fusing all that together is fun and a challenge. Besides when I'm doing that, I'm helping expose people who were into one kind of music, like breaks or house, to stuff that they may not have been into. And that's satisfying to me." And probably to his crowd too.