Interview with Monome Creator, Brian Crabtree

July 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

We were super fortunate to have a virtual sitdown with Brian Crabtree, one of the minds behind monome, a company who’s little products are making a big impact….especially in the music world.  Along with associate Kelli Cain, Brian’s mission is to “refine the way people consider interface.”

….And they do a darn good job at it too.


1. First of all, thanks for spending a few minutes with us today. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself….who are you, where are you located, and how did you originally come up with the idea for your first device?

kelli and i have a farm in upstate new york. monome is almost five years old now, and it’s still just us running the whole thing. we’ve intentionally kept production at a small scale, not trying to grow the operation. the device has a small niche market, though that community is terrifically active.

the idea came quickly after learning to program my own audio software– i needed a physical surface which was similarly adaptable. the most minimal solution ended up being the best and most versatile.

2. Tell me a little bit about the culture & community of people that have surrounded these devices. How do you help explain the deeper meaning behind “a grid of button lights”?

various applications continue to be created given the grid is open-ended without specific purpose. a supportive community has come together as a result– people sharing knowledge, solutions, and code. the device continues to grow as the community grows and changes.

so far there have been over a dozen community-organized album releases, benefit albums, numerous city meetups, and a national/international monome-user relay tour. it’s been amazing to see so many people come together.

3. The newer models seem to sell out within a matter of minutes….! And you see everyone from hobbyists (myself) to mainstream artists (Imogen heap) use them and actively develop new ideas for software. Did you ever think it would get this big?

definitely not expected, though mind you it’s not so big that we can’t manage it.


4. It’s almost unmistakeable that you are an advocate of not only producing a great product & open-source development, but in leaving little-no footprint / wasted energy behind in the process. Speak to that for a little bit.

we use renewable/recyclable materials as much as possible, reduce waste, and most importantly source materials locally and use local manufacturers and shops. we’re deeply invested in our local economy.

5. It looks like your last round of devices sold out in December! Besides fostering an incredibly active community….What’s next for you guys?

we’ve just released photos of our new device, and more details are on the way.  besides monome, we’re excited to focus more on farming. apple orchards do require some patience.

Good stuff!  Our thanks to Brian for the interview…..

What about you, do you use anything like this?

Andrew Mason


Andrew is a husband, learner, founder, dubstep aficionado, eater of carnetas burritos, and marathon runner. I love building communities that learn together!
  • It’s always great to read about the thought process behind some of these fantastic musical devices. I particularly like the idea of this particular controller/device, and like the fact it is so adaptable to any situation.

    On a side note, I think the idea of being focused and fully behind a local community to be a big one, both in an environmental sense, and in order to create more bonded communities.

  • Josh,

    Totally. What Brian’s doing is amazing. It’s so amazing to see someone create an active community around something he’s passionate about, and then stay engaged with that community.

    Love it.