(Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Label Owner)
(Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Label Owner)
Monique Bingham, has been responsible for some of the most poignant, soulful jazz infused house music of the past 17 years. Her career began with the acid jazz band Abstract Truth in 1995 at Francois K‘s legendary Axis studios. The first single, “Get Another Plan” received international critical acclaim and was picked up by Gilles Peterson for his UK imprint, Talkin Loud in ‘96. The follow up single “We Had a Thing”, penned and performed by Monique is an indisputable soulful house classic due in large part to Matthias “Matty” Heilbronn’s infectious house remix.Once injected into the veins of the underground, Ms. Bingham’s penchant for painstakingly crafted lyrics put her in a class by herself. In addition to her work with Abstract Truth she went on to solo performances with Blue Six (“Pure“/NakedMusicUS) Sir Piers (“Don’t You Love Me“/CuriousUK), Studio Apartment (“Flight“/KingstreetsoundsUS), Liquid People (“Glance Look Stare“/MN2SUK).
She has also worked with some of the house scene’s most respected dj/producers: Quentin Harris (“Poor People“/DefectedUK), Kerri Chandler (“In the Morning“/BiggasoundsUS), and Ralf Gum (Kissing Strangers/GOGO) named Traxsource’s #1 most downloaded song of 2008. Her writing also brought her to the attention of legendary dj/producer Jellybean Benitez who signed her to his NYC publishing house in ’08. In 2009 and 2010 she released songs with Karizma and Osunlade (“Good Morning“/R2US) as well as Phil Asher and Bah Samba (“Run“/Symple SoulUS).
In 2011, Monique completed her first self-produced single released on her own imprint Biggasounds! “You.Me.World“ was received with glowing reviews and championed by veteran taste makers Danny Krivit, DJ Spinna and Black Coffee worldwide.
2011 also brought Monique and her live band “The Bigga Sextet” to her many fans in South Africa for the first time. She was featured at the 12th annual Capetown International Jazz Festival in Capetown, sharing a bill with jazz heroes Hugh Masakela, Esperanza Spalding as well as soul legends Earth Wind and Fire! Subsequent dates at the South African Music Conference in Durban and performances in Johannesburg have reconfirmed Monique as one of South Africa’s most loved house artists. And if anyone had doubted Ms. Bingham’s consistency, the 2012 collaboration with Ralf Gum “Take Me To My Love“ has solidified her standing as one of the most eloquent and enduring artists the NYC underground has produced in the last 30 years.
MzHouse Diva : We know your career first kicked off with Abstract Truth with ‘We Had A Thing’ and ‘Get Another Plan’ but how did you get started with Abstract Truth?
Monique : Just a young hungry chick willing to do anything to get something going. I was going out in NY a lot to see local bands in the early 90s. Groove Collective was one I used to check out regularly. They were opening for the GOD that is Maceo Parker at Irving Plaza. Nappy G played in GC band and I just sort of approached and said I can sing! And he was like "prove it!" I sang right there on Broadway now that I think about it. And he called me in for a session with Abstract Truth and that was it. Asked me to front the band on the spot.
MzHouse Diva : What happened to Abstract Truth and is there any plans in the future for any collaborations?
Monique : The band leader, Dana kind of took a break to focus on raising his son and all of us just kept playing out all over the world. I mean these guys played with Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Chaka Khan, Lester Bowie. They just kept playing. Dana was in the band Konk in the 80's and they just did a reunion gig in NY recently so...We'll see what develops, I'm still in contact with all of them and the kid just left for college lol so...
MzHouse Diva : Out of all your songs, is there any one that sticks out as your favorite?
Monique : Noooo. That's like picking a favorite kid or something lol. I do have moments when something will happen and I'll remember a lyric I wrote that nails whatever I am thinking at that moment exactly. But no one fave.
MzHouse Diva : Your single "Take me to my Love" is currently out on GOGO Records on the album “Never Leaves You”, how long did it take to write that one?
Monique : A good year. They almost always take a long time for me. I don't rush that process ever. I have to send it out when it's right, and not a moment sooner.
MzHouse Diva : How did the relationship between you and Ralf Gum start up?
Monique : It's kind of a boring start to a very inspiring creative relationship. He just found me somehow. Had heard my other stuff proposed a track and after a year it became Kissing Strangers. I take forever to conceptualize a tune. But then I end up recording it in one day.
MzHouse Diva: How do you tend to write? Where does your inspiration come from?
Monique : Everywhere n anywhere. Sometimes it's something I see or hear someone do, and I'll come up with a line, and then find a melody for it or vice versa. The subway is great for that. I could never live in a city with no underground or fully functioning mass transit system. I hear so much crazy $hit on the subway.
MzHouse Diva : Who were some of your musical and lyrical influences?
Monique : Ella Fitzgerald, Maceo Parker, Muddy Waters, Cole Porter, Mingus, Aretha, Monk, Patrice Rushen, old Kool n The Gang, Stevie, Carly Simon, Sly Stone, Caron wheeler, Bill Withers, a million people. That's just quick off the top of my head. Ask me tomorrow you'll get another list.
MzHouse Diva : Do you play any instruments?
Monique Bingham : Not well enough to say yes, so no. I just mess around when I write songs on bass n keys. I produce as well.
MzHouse Diva : Do you still get nervous before a performance?
Monique : Sometimes yes, but usually I 'm just hoping everything works and I can hear myself. You'd be amazed at how difficult it can be to hear what's going on in a club sound wise from a stage. Sometimes it's like performing with your hands over your ears.
MzHouse Diva : Did you go to the WMC in Miami this year? If so, did you have any scheduled performances?
Monique : I went and it was a blast! First time I've been in a 4 years. Did a Funkbox NYC party with Tony Touch n Julius the Mad Thinker. Also the South African Miami Invasion Party with my boys Fresh and Euphonik out of Johannesburg. I was fighting on the side of the motherland lol. Miami surrendered.
MzHouse Diva : Considering your musical career, I assume, you had some very interesting experiences along the way. Would you be willing to share an unforgettable story that you fondly recall?
Monique : I have to say nothing really interview worthy lol. I have ended up in some very unforgettable places with very unforgettable people for sure. One of the best things about this business is it takes you all over the world. I always wanted to travel when I was younger so I love that, but no one real juicy story, that I'd tell you anyway.
MzHouse Diva: Even though you've had many releases in the House Music genre you've worked with a lot of musicians who have a solid base in Jazz. How essential is that element to the music you create?
Monique : It taught me how to sing. The vocalists I found the most interesting were jazz vocalists. And horns are just voices with no words. Jazz vocalists also seemed to be the most cerebral. Opera is hard but there's no improvisation. Gospel is mind blowing but it prides itself in how visceral it is. But jazz is heady. I just thought of all the things. I could be I wanted to be a kind of heady vocalist.
MzHouse Diva : Now that you have the freedom that comes with having your own label, what kinds of projects would you like to work on?
Monique : My album, which is starting to look like it might be a double disc. I can't realistically think beyond that right now.
MzHouse Diva : Monique, you recently performed in South Africa; what did you learn about the South African Music scene from that experience?
Monique : It is alive and thriving and diverse, and a whole new crop of artists are really ready to show the world what's going on there. I performed at the 12th annual Metro FM awards in Durban in February and I saw exactly what's happening now in the country. In all genres, not just house. I think the global attention is building. But I hope it doesn't corrupt the scene. They must keep the radio in the hands of the DJs and NOT follow the US model of payola and corporate conglomerate hoarding bull$hit or it's a wrap.
MzHouse Diva : How would you describe your writing style to people?
Monique : Hmmmmm. I suppose I try not to use ideas that are too trite although I do all the time. I tell stories a lot, I always attempt to be clever lol. But really the words have to enhance the melody which is the really important part. Music doesn't need words, so if they're there they have to improve the experience. As long as it's not boring you're good. But if your melody sucks who gives a $hit what your saying anyway.
MzHouse Diva: Who are some of the artists in the music industry, would you like to work with in me future if given the opportunity?
Monique : A bunch, but I won't say cause I've done that before and I think I'm jinxing myself.
MzHouse Diva : When you aren’t busy performing and writing; what do you like to do in your free time?
Monique : What's free time lol.
MzHouse Diva : If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Monique : Too much money corrupts everything. The payola system in radio and allowing soft porn in music. People started watching and stopped listening. The success of Madonna set female musicians back 50 years.
MzHouse Diva: What was the best advice that was given to you?
Monique : Trust your instincts. If it seems like bull$hit it is.
MzHouse Diva: Can you tell us about your future plans or Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with goals?
Monique : I want this album to be a masterpiece. A wall of songs made of pure solid stone. I want people to spend months getting into it, years even. I want an album that lasts and lives and breathes forever, that's my main goal now. That's all I'm really concerned with currently.
MzHouse Diva: I definitely can't wait until your next release. Thanks for your time and it was a great pleasure doing this interview with you.
*Monique will be performing at the Southport Weekender 49 in the UK next month . She will also be part of the line up for the Ubiquity Boat ride in July. Both these events are listed on her FB page and website .
***** For more info on Monique Bingham including performance dates please visit ; www.moniquebingham.com