Montell Pinny - stage name Montell2099 - has made a name for himself on the festival circuit and performed around the world. So what next for the boy from Katikati?
Who is Montell2099?
I'm an electronic artist from Tauranga. First started creating music when I was 12 using the music production software called FL Studio and haven't looked back since. I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and DJ alongside making a living off my music which was always something I dreamed about when I was younger.
How did the events of the past year and a half affect your music-making, and what has lockdown meant for the world of bedroom music in general?
I feel like I can speak for a lot of bedroom producers when I say the lockdown didn't have as big an effect on me because I've always been in "lockdown". We tend to stay in small confined spaces with nothing but a laptop and speakers for a long period of time anyway. Not to say it's good to get outside every now and then for some fresh air, but most of the time it's just you and a laptop in a small room.
At the same time, I've spoken to friends who also produce themselves and we all agreed that there's also added pressure from everything in the world being put on hold to create 168 albums and 2099 songs and that there's "no excuses you've got to make some magic with all this free time". Sarcasm aside, I could relate to this also.
How does playing live in New Zealand compare with overseas touring?
It's definitely special playing in front of home crowds. I find a lot of joy in playing festivals that I used to attend when I was younger, festivals like Mardi Gras, RnV and Bay Dreams, its full circle moments like those that humble me because I can look into a crowd and tell myself only a couple of years ago I was in that crowd, now I'm playing music for them.
I also appreciate playing overseas a lot because it shows me how far music can go. Being based in NZ I never really put too much thought into how far your music can travel and that there are people on the other side of the world that appreciate your art. It's always wholesome getting to see that.
What one track should a new listener check out that best represents Montell2099?
I'd say the song Mixed Emotions which I produced alongside Belgium artist Netsky. That song holds a lot of sentimental value to me because I started the idea in my grandparents' studio in Katikati around the time of the first lockdown. The original name of the track was Katikati Dnb funnily enough. I then sent the idea to Netsky and we started going back and forth on the track until it became what it is today.
Was also a full-circle moment when we decided to create a music video that showed a lot of my family in front of our marae back home. Which is a 50m walk from the studio where the song originally started.
What one change would you make to the NZ music scene if you could?
Gender diversity within the music scene. I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement in this space. Would love to see more females and other genders being booked for shows, especially DJs!.
What one artist would you love to work with and why?
Off the top of my head Kanye West. I feel like if I lack inspiration I can always find it in his work. I think we could all agree that he pushes a lot of boundaries both in music and in life. But as an artist I love his discography, not only in the sense that he has a lot of great songs that everyone knows but also in the sense that pretty much every album he puts out he reinvents himself and comes up with music completely different from previous albums he's released. The variety of genres he taps into and the randomness of his music production is something I find very inspiring.
Outside music, what do you do to relax?
Usually, in my free time, I'm either playing basketball, playing video games or hiking.
What's the second-best thing to come out of Katikati? (After yourself!)
I wouldn't say there's a second-best haha, our small town is known for quite a few things actually. Katikati is the avocado capital so the avos must be up there with a title like that. We also have a renowned nudist park which is always a hot spot for people that like that sort of thing.
It's a compulsory stop when driving through Katikati to grab a fruit ice cream from the Big Avo, can't beat it. Also, I'd put our local bakery Sy's bacon and egg pie up against the best NZ has to offer. Not to mention we have a plethora of swimming holes to choose from, you can bet that they'll be packed in Summer. If you wanna know where the best ones are, people know where to find me haha.
What next for Montell2099? What's happening in the rest of 2021 and 2022 and where do you see yourself in five years?
At the moment I'm currently working on my second EP which I'm wrapping up at the moment. I believe it's my best work yet so I can't wait to get it out. Also, I have an NZ tour planned next year which is exciting. Hopefully, in 5 years' time, I'll still be in music doing what I'm doing right now. Maybe we can run this interview back in 5 years' time and see where I've got to haha.
In a post-Covid world, you're curating a music festival - who's on the bill, alive or dead?
Michael Jackson, Prince are a must. Not only for the discography they both have but also their shows production-wise are among the best ever. Acts in today's time that are more commonly known id say, Travis Scott, Beyonce, Outkast, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Sade, Don Toliver, Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Playboi Carti and Drake. On the more Electronic side Daft Punk, Flume, Skrillex, SOPHIE, Arca, RL Grime, Bicep, Gesaffelstein, Netsky, Dimension, Sub Focus, Wilkinson, Burial and Moodyman. A few other acts mk.Gee, Prospa, Sault, Alix Perez, Leisure and Machine Drum. I feel like we would sell a few tickets with a lineup like this haha.
• Montell2099 will perform at Rhythm & Alps at Cardrona Valley, Wanaka, December 29-31 alongside Shapeshifter, Salmonella Dub, Kora and Tiki Taane.