April 2009

Mike Taylor: What Monkey Business Sounds Like

Author:  | Photographer: John Brackett

Mike Taylor’s a big guy. He leans back in his chair. His office has the cluttered, hectic look of a man who’s busy putting things together. Busy going somewhere. For now, he’s calm, perhaps even centered; but it’s impossible not to notice the energy straining under every movement, every gesture, every thought. It’s obvious Taylor’s not used to sitting quietly. It’s also obvious he’d rather be moving around. Even when he’s chilling out.
And that’s exactly the way somebody in Taylor’s line of work should be.
Mike Taylor has been a DJ since he was 15 years old. His apprenticeship was quick—a New Jersey DJ who liked talking to women more than spinning records taught Taylor to fill in for him while he sought out more, um, dynamic opportunities. Taylor ended up taking the guy’s job. “The drinking age was 18 back then,” said Taylor, “so it wasn’t that big of a deal. The guys who hired me knew I just had a birthday. They just assumed I had turned 18…” Taylor smiles and shrugs. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Tossed into a career, Taylor absolutely loved it; and anytime we love what we do, we get good at it.
For the next several years, Taylor spent his time bouncing around what he describes as “mid-level clubs” in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Boston and Connecticut. Then one day, in 1983, a friend called him. He had a gig for Taylor, nothing big. It was in New York, every Monday and Tuesday, for $300 a night. “I was thinking, ‘That’s a lot of money. I’ll take that on a Monday and Tuesday night,’” said Taylor. He got directions to the back door, which was on Fifty-fourth Street. “I didn’t have any idea, walked in the back door, walked upstairs, they turned the lights on; I started playing and realized I was in Studio 54.” He played there for three years, from ’83 to ’86. “I was the last of it.” The club closed in March of 1986.
Studio 54 opened a whole new level of opportunity and craftsmanship for Taylor. He began to travel around the country more and more. The money was great—he was clearing more than $1800 per week—the scene was something to behold, but it took a physical toll trying to keep up with the parties and the music. (Mike would regularly spend $500 to $700 a week on music. The album collection sitting behind the DJ booth at Monkey Business proves it.) “Luckily, I was young and I very quickly learned that drugs weren’t for me. Never tried it, never will. I watched several people at a very young age, kill themselves because of drugs. Because I stayed away from that, this job has afforded me a business I never thought I’d get into. Never in a million years would I have thought not only would I still be working in a nightclub, but owning one.”
Mike Taylor has recently re-opened Monkey Business. The long-time island resident started playing music there when the location was still Wingo’s back in 1990. In that time, Taylor’s seen a lot come and go, both behind and in front of the DJ booth. He’s gone from records, to cassettes, to compact discs, to digital, to records and CDs that can be played digitally. He’s traded linen suits for flip-flops. He’s watched the island’s tastes ebb and flow like the tide tables. And nothing can take the place of any of those experiences—experiences that have taught Mike what works and what doesn’t.
What’s the secret to keeping a crowd excited and happy? A music library, for starters. Taylor has about 36,000 songs in his library. “Now, with iTunes and Napster, everybody can grab the music, but it’s what you do with it that matters,” he said. Then it comes to geography, demographics, persuasions and culture. Simple, right? “A lot of it is just one big experiment. What works one night, might not work the next.” So, like any good scientist, Mike keeps tinkering, consistently finding better and better results. Kinda like with his nightclub.
“Monkey Business has gone back to a dance club format. It’s a cleaner, neater place with a fun, party atmosphere and lower drink prices,” said Taylor. Different nights have different themes. Live music is still embraced—Jupiter Coyote will be playing Heritage weekend, as will old pals David Wingo and Lost in the Media. Check out myspace.com/monkeybusinesshiltonhead for more information or call (843) 686-3545.
Mike Taylor gets up from his chair, his interview finished. He can’t sit still any longer. There’s work to be done and fun to be had. Plus, it’s just too quiet in here.

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