Up next, we catch up with Liverpool selector and producer Friend Within as he marks his return on Toolroom with ‘Monkey Bars‘, his first release on the label this year and one which has whipped up a frenzy throughout the Dance Music world. Having stepped away from the more Disco focused vibe with his debut album ‘Hope‘, Friend Within mixes House, Dutch House, and Hard House vibes together, emanating the thrill of the 90’s House scene, brought straight onto dance floors in 2022, perfectly timed to sound track those moments back in clubland 2022.

With support landing from Sarah Story, Pete Tong, Paul Woolford, John Summit, Dom Dolla, Amy Elle, Meg Ward, LF System and many, many more it’s clear to see that Friend Within is still rocking dance floors worldwide with his high energy productions. Off the back of this, we asked the buzzing DJ himself a few need to know questions on his love of Dance Music and the inspiration behind his latest floor filler…

Hey Friend Within, welcome back to the label and congratulations on your brand-new release ‘Monkey Bars’! How have you been and where in the world are you right now?

I have been hot, I have been cold, I have been wet, I have been sitting, I have been jumping, and I have been smiling in equal measures! Right now I am in my studio near Oxford trying to avoid cutting the grass which is brown and long…

Your latest release on Toolroom – ‘Monkey Bars’ is a refreshing record that’s sitting in a unique place right now, with support coming from Paul Woolford, Sarah Story, John Summit, LF System and more, what do you think sets ‘Monkey Bars’ apart from your other records?

For me, what sets ‘Monkey Bars‘ apart from my other tracks is that it is more recent. But seriously, it is probably one of the clubbiest tracks I have put out in a while. Not that I really set out to make it like that, as there’s usually a bit more vocal in a track of mine but for me, this one didn’t really need it. I think it only has the words ‘go’ and ‘dance’ in it. In fact my step-mother-in-law (is that a thing?) said her favourite part of the song was when it says ‘go’ even though it does that for about half a second. such high praise!

There’s definitely a clear 90’s House / Hard House / Dutch House vibe which runs throughout ‘Monkey Bars’, is this a track that you found yourself going back to your roots a bit on, digging out some of the classic tracks you love from that era of Dance Music?

Monkey Bars‘ is definitely inspired by that era in the late 1990s. Quite a few DJs at the moment are playing some of the big tunes from that period of time and fortunately, I’ve got them all in my collection as I was buying a lot of records then. It’s been great to evoke that sound in the studio and make something new, as there’s so much energy to it!

As a DJ, you’re known for having quite an eclectic taste in music, who would say are your biggest influences?

I don’t really have any specific influences nowadays, but the producers and DJs who have shaped my music taste the most over the years are definitely Derrick Carter and Switch.

DJ Bang (Derrick Carter) – ‘Make You Jiu Jitsu (Emotional)

Switch – ‘Just Bounce 2 This

How many records do you own?

About 2000 I think. They’re all in the garage – not the genre but the place you would normally park a car…

As an artist yourself, you have that rare ability to jump between genres with ease and to create music that transcends its own lane, whilst staying true to yourself. How do you navigate inspiration and creativity when writing new music as Friend Within?

I have jumped around quite a bit within sub-genres, but I still class it all as House Music. 99% of what I’ve made has a 4×4 beat and there are an infinite number of possibilities for what goes on top of those beats. Making ‘Monkey Bars’ in this Dutch / Hard House style is probably a good example of how I get inspiration – I heard a DJ play a record I knew from the past and then that piques my interest and I get a load of ideas and bash out a heap of new tunes. I would say I tend to look to the past for inspiration rather than the present, marrying new production techniques with old sounds and styles is something I love to do.

Your last release on Toolroom was your debut album ‘Hope’ which features records written during lockdown in 2020. How would you compare your sound now to the music you were creating then and when you first started releasing records?

My new music is a bit different to ‘Hope’ isn’t it? I must confuse my fans quite a lot! ‘Hope’ was probably a bit more Disco to my current stuff. The first tracks I released 18 years ago were more jackin’ house like Derrick Carter style. As I said, I’ve always made House Music, I just move around a little bit.

Friend Within – ‘Ghetto Rock

Looking back over your career as an artist, you’ve had a lot of killer moments and releases under your belt, from working with Disclosure to your smash hit ‘The Renegade’, what would say is your most fondest moment you’ve had as Friend Within?

The open to close tour where I did 5 nights in a row in 5 different cities in 2014 was one of the best weeks of my life. I’m not quite sure how I managed it as I was doing most of the driving too. I drove 7 hours from Edinburgh to London and then DJed for 6 hours, mental.

Also doing the Essential Mix with Annie Mac for BBC Radio 1 was such an honour! 😁

What’s next for Friend Within in 2022? What are your aspirations moving forward as an artist in 2022/ 2023?

I’ve got lots of new tracks signed in this late-90s house style to very cool labels including more on Toolroom (exclusive info there!). I’d like to play Glastonbury again as it’s been 13 years since I last played on the Arcadia stage, before Friend Within was even born!

Currently, I’m in a really happy and productive place in the studio lately so let’s see where it takes me…