||Introduced to audiovisual computing through the late ‘80s demoscene, it was perhaps inevitable that Damien Quick’s musical journey would lead him from the bedroom to the stage to where he currently stands – manning the vision and lighting console at the front of it. It’s rare for a VJ to take charge of the lighting desk as well, but for the Brisbane artist known as Monkwhy it’s an essential part of his mission to make every show an experience through the visual reinforcement of sound.
Monkwhy’s custom installations are now a constant presence on his local bass music scene, where he’s been the go-to man for loft venue Coniston Lane since 2012. From there he linked up with the Shucka Tours crew, for whom he’s lit up shows featuring headline acts like Calyx and Teebee, The Upbeats, Concord Dawn, Truth and Black Sun Empire. With such a healthy drum’n’bass pedigree, it’s little wonder that New Zealand festival Summerlands booked him for their 2014 event, though it’s not just electronic music where his talents shine. One of Australia’s premier rock crossover acts are also working with Monkwhy to deliver an immersive accompaniment for their next Australian tour.
Monkwhy’s on-stage experience is a big part of his success at what he sees as being “an extension of the mix”. He started life as a guitarist but gravitated towards electronic music with his first synth purchase in 1996, teaming up with Brisbane DJ Kieron C shortly afterwards to form Monkey Wacks – when the Monkwhy alias was also born. The duo were in the thick of Brisbane’s turn of the century breakbeat boom as part of the legendary Fresh ‘N’ Funky club night at the now defunct Moon Bar. He was also performing as a solo noise artist and as part of live outfit Beat End Profilers before dropping out of the scene for a ‘normal’ life in 2002, but the seeds were sewn for what was to come.
In 2006, a new show reel of digital animation scored him a gig with the Photon VFX house at the Village Roadshow Studios, where his skills as an all-rounder saw him working on productions like Baz Luhrmann’s Australia and the animated series Animalia. As that door closed, another opened when he rekindled his musical flames with a former Beat End Profilers bandmate under the Fort Kilsby moniker. With a DSLR camera and more creative software in his arsenal, he began to incorporate visuals into that act’s live performances. A gig at Brisbane’s Mustang Bar, where Coniston Lane owner Nathan Heng saw him in action, was the gateway to his current position front of stage.
Monkwhy’s core set-up of laptop, MIDI controller (or two), Resolume Arena and a USB-to-DMX lighting controller may slip easily into a backpack, but it’s the work he does before a show that has him in such high demand. Incorporating the artwork and logos of the performing artists with custom visuals built in the Adobe Creative Suite, he then immerses himself in the artists’ discography as he builds the visual and lighting theme from the ground up. On the night, he feeds off the energy in the room to manipulate his set pieces on the fly, using modified UV mapping techniques favoured by film studios like Pixar to send images onto multiple screens from the one projector.
It’s an approach that evolves with each show, helped by his ‘day job’ involvement with the freshest technology through production house Vast AV and constant finger of the pulse of the still growing demoscene movement. Hardly surprising, then, that he’s racked up a half-century of events since things got serious in May 2012, and the rest of the world is catching on to what Brisbane well knows.