Monkey Records is an eclectic boutique independent record label founded in New Zealand in the year 2000 with offices in Wellington and Berlin.
At the turn of the millenium, Monkey Records founder Nigel Braddock had just recorded an album with a poet and a sitar player featuring himself on piano and keyboards (Braddock holds a degree in piano performance). The band was called Dystopia and the album was titled The Wisdom of Insecurity. Having had experience managing record stores in Auckland, he was well aware that the chances of any local record label releasing it were close to zero, as the NZ music scene was dominated by the major labels at that stage, so he decided to set up his own label. The Monkey part of Monkey Records came from the fact that he was born in the Year of the Monkey and it summed up the playful and perhaps somewhat irreverent attitude that he hoped his new label would embody.
Around that time, Braddock was also djing in ambient zones at outdoor dance parties such as The Gathering and Visionz and he became acquainted with a few artists such as Sleepytime (who went on to release three albums on Monkey) and chill zone organiser John Heighes who put together the excellent Leading a Horse to Water compilation featuring artists from the Gathering ambient zone (Monkey’s first “properly pressed” CD). After meeting and signing Wellington based folk artist Ben Fulton, Braddock hopped in his car and traveled round the country visiting record stores and radio stations with a box full of CDs promoting his fledgling label.
In 2003, he bought some recording gear and recorded and produced albums for Eightfold, Peachy Keen and Ishta, all of which were released on Monkey Records. Unfortunately by the time those albums were released all three bands had decided to break up, a tough lesson in the reality of running an independent record label working with emerging artists in a small country like New Zealand. Subsequently about that time, Monkey started working with more solo artists including singer/songwriters Luke Hurley, Karen Hunter and Tim Guy and electronica artist Onelung.
During 2003 Braddock also started booking tours, beginning with the Creative New Zealand funded Monkey Magic tour and compilation release in 2004 which, after kicking off at Splore Festival, brought world fusion band Ishta and the experimental electronica of Onelung and eMU to main centres, small towns and a mostly enthusiastic but sometimes bemused audience around New Zealand. In order to help fund that tour Braddock bought a van, moved out of his house and lived on the road for six months.
Many more tours followed and the roster grew steadily as Monkey started to sign more and more bands interested in getting out there and playing.
In 2007 a growing interest in Balkan/Gypsy music led to the signing of The Benka Boradovksy Bordello Band from Auckland and Wellington-based Niko Ne Zna and the birth of the popular Gypsy Fever shows and summer tours.
Following the signing of 12 piece afrobeat band The Hot Grits in 2008 and a management deal, the next couple of years were a busy time for Monkey with many new signings and also saw the beginning of annual trips to Europe to promote the label. In 2009 The Benka Boradovsky Bordello Band had a successful summer based in Berlin and in 2010 Bond Street Bridge and Tim Guy undertook a substantial European tour.
In 2010 Braddock moved Monkey HQ to Berlin leaving an office in Wellington and began a more focused effort on developing the label in the European market.
2012 saw Monkey starting to release a single every week, both new releases and back catalogue via SoundCloud which has met with an overwhelming response clocking up millions of plays.
Monkey Record remains a boutique record label choosing to have just a few quality releases a year. They have had some success with licensing over the years in Germany, France, Poland, US, Korea, Australia and New Zealand and in 2012 partnered with German-based digital distributor Finetunes which sees their releases placed in over 450 shops worldwide.
2013-2016 saw the release of albums by Berlin-based artists Charity Children, The Major Pins and Freddy Fudd Pucker as well as New Zealand acts Mamaku, Graveyard Love, Niko Ne Zna, Jono Heyes and Sleepywolf, TDeL2 from the USA, Robin Pahlman from Finland/Austria, Make Like a Tree from Ukaraine and Rooms Delayed and Flow Signs from Italy. There is also a rumour (possibly started by Monkey Records themselves) that Dystopia’s sophomore album may also finally be released 16 years after their debut. Better late than never you could say but hey it’s been a busy 16 years…