Supermane: An Interview with MonoNeon
Dywane “MonoNeon” Thomas has been pumping out new music for years, not to mention all the amazing clips he makes for Instagram. Although he has quite a catalog to dig through, his latest full-length album, Supermane, is undoubtedly one of his best. The eight-song collection covers a lot of ground stylistically while retaining cohesiveness.
MonoNeon covered nearly every instrument (including vocals) and called in a bevy of talent to finish it off: Ledisi, Kirk Whalum, Mr. Talkbox, WAX, Cory Henry, Jairus Mozee, and Derrick Wright. Many know the bassist for his insane shredding, but Supermane is all about the song. Even so, the bass playing has the perfect groove, fills, and feel that make up his true superpowers.
We caught up with MonoNeon to talk about his new album, the process, jamming with Flea, and if more recordings with Prince are on the way.
Supermane is a great album with a wide range of sounds. Did you conceptualize the album ahead of time or did it come together song by song?
The album “Supermane” came together song by song. I went to visit a friend of mine, [producer/songwriter] Davy Nathan in L.A. and told him I wanted to write some songs with him and put another album out. I really didn’t have an idea in mind… just write songs.
“Just Gettin’ High, Just Gettin’ By” in particular seems to be a totally different sound for you. Is this wider palette purposeful or did it just come about through experimentation?
“Just Gettin’ High, Just Gettin’ By” came about from experimenting and wanting to see how I would sound singing on a punk-rock thing.
You’re a prolific writer and have produced a lot of songs over the last few years, let alone the creative meme play-alongs. Do you write every day, and what is your process like?
Some days I write a lot and know when I’m in tune with what I want to do and some days I don’t do anything and sit around in my own stank… [laughs]! I’m not really aware if I have a process in terms of creating, I just do [stuff].
When you’re recording, do you use a stable of basses or do you have a main axe?
At home I record with my Fender Precision bass most of the time for my stuff, I love the grit and dirtiness of a P-bass. But I play any bass I feel at the moment, whatever keeps the inspiration going.
Your vocals are stronger than ever, especially on songs like “Invisible”. How have you been developing your singing – any tips to share?
Honestly, I don’t like my singing, but I sing anyway. I sound like my grandma sometimes when I sing, I guess that comes from being around her as a kid in the Baptist church and the blues she would sing around the house. I never practiced on my vocals, never did vocal exercises. I started writing songs and recording myself. Hopefully, my singing will get better – I just have to keep doing it. One thing I do need to work on is playing and singing at the same time, but that’s kinda hard for me… but I’ll get it eventually.
Recently, there was footage of you jamming with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. How did that come about? What was the experience like? Can we expect any sort of collaboration out of it?
Some friends of mines in LA got me and Flea together to jam and eat some burritos. That was a fun hang. Maybe one day Flea and I will record something together. Love that dude, mane!
You played on the Grammy-winning album King’s Disease for Nas. What does that mean to you?
That was cool as hell to be part of Nas’ King’s Disease album – my first time winning a Grammy. I didn’t know I was going to be on the album till I heard it! [laughs]
There is a new Prince album coming out that was shelved, which leads me to hope there may be more songs with you in his vault. Any possibility of that coming to light someday?
I have no idea when or if the music I recorded with Prince will be heard. The only song Prince released from those sessions when he was here was “RUFF ENUFF”. The songs we recorded were structured instrumental jams (Madhouse-esque), probably around six songs.
Between Nas, Mac Miller, and Jacob Collier, you’ve been doing some amazing collaborations recently. Who is on your bucket list to record with?
I want to jam with Mavis Staples or record a song singing a duet with her. There are a few people I’ll like to collab/record with – artists like Rico Nasty, Herbie Hancock, Cardi B, George Clinton, etc.
What’s the best thing to happen to you in the last year?
The best thing to happen for me in the last year is having a song singing a duet with Ledisi. I love Ledisi’s voice so much. I’m happy she let me sing with her. Also being able to sit and jam with my grandma whenever I’m home has been the greatest gift ever for me.
What music has been exciting you lately?
I’ve been listening to H.E.R. and really diggin’ the music she’s been creating.
What else is coming for you this year? Will you be performing live as things open up?
Not sure… I’m just out here trying to get heard with whatever I’m doing. If the moment is right I’ll probably start doing live shows performing my own music.
All that really matters to me as of now is writing my songs, recording, and singing that stuff and get better at that I guess.