Exclusive Interview with Nick Monaco
“Seriously, Amsterdam is overflowing with beautiful women. Must be something in the Haring..”
Nick Monaco is here to take you back…. and move you forth. Raised in the California Bay area, Nick proved he was made for music from a young age. Rocking house parties is how Nick spent most weekends in his not so distant adolescence. Thank G-O-D for out of town parents! While his peers fussed over iPod playlists, Monaco busted in with crates of wax and brought down the spot, learning to win the crowds in true school style. Next to becoming more and more handy behind the decks, his producing skills became the tipping point. The Soul Clap boys received Nick’s demo that featured ‘Set the Table’, back in 2011. It was this the track that nested the belief in mr. Monaco over at Soul Clap. After his “the Stalker” EP, Nick is taking the scene by storm with his melodic and funk-laden sound. He can be heard in Amsterdam today at Studio 80, where he has been invited by party-instigators WKND. Before his visit here, we had a digital rendez-vous with Nick Monaco to talk about his younger years, pre-gig rituals and how he sometimes feels like a pair of binoculars.
So tell us, how did this musical journey start out for you?
It began in my sister’s bedroom, I would always hang out in her room and read her magazines while she got ready or fought with her boyfriend on the phone. I clearly remember reading an article about Timbaland and telling her very decidedly “I am going to be a music producer.” From that day forth I set my sights towards becoming the next Timbaland or Dr. Dre, twelve years later I’m neither, but I’m producing music and DJing as my career, which is kind of close, not to say I’m anywhere as prolific as my former producer idols, but I get to make and play music that I love and have the privilege of being in an environment where I’m able to grow as an artist.
You had 2 releases on Anabatic Records before catching the attention of more established labels such as Dirtybird, Nervous and in the end Soul Clap Records. Did you ever expect to impress so many people right out of the gate?
Well, I didn’t expect to end up with the Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap crew, that part happened really organically, which is beautiful in itself, but I always believed that I would be on dirtybird – I was so obsessed with that label that I made it a goal of mine, and I always achieve my goals (96% of the time that is) and their music was so influential to me as a house producer that I had to be a part of their crew on some level.
I’m a very self-critical person, so I take the opinions of the people I respect and admire to heart, like when Eli and Charlie [Soul Clap], Wolf + Lamb, and Claude Vonstroke started showing interest in my music I was really surprised, I was still finding myself as an artist, so getting that validation from them really gave me the confidence to push the envelope further. I thought, “ Wow, they like this? Well what if I pushed my sound a little further, wow! they like that too! Well I guess I’m not a shitty producer after all, let’s see what else I can get away with, they like that too!!!” and then I started really perceiving myself as an artist and becoming confident in my own decisions.
How did your music end up on the desk of Claude Vonstroke and the boys over at Soul Clap Records?
Well, it’s kind of a funny story how my music ended up in Claude Vonstroke’s inbox. I became good friends with the dude who sorts through his promos and demos and he would sneak my demos into his inbox. And when I started working with Soul Clap they sent him my demos too, so he was getting it from both ends. Finally Barclay (Claude Vonstroke) sent me a personal email basically saying look dude, these are all really dope concepts but I don’t think you are “there” yet (and he was right). He encouraged me to keep going and keep being myself, and not try to sound like dirtybird. So I did exactly that. Barclay and I have a great relationship now, I actually have a record coming out on dirtybird this spring and he’s doing a remix for my album so it’s cool to see how our relationship has evolved from when I was just a lost soul.
My relationship with Soul Clap developed really effortlessly, which is why it seems fated I guess. I heard their DEMF 2011 mix and immediately connected with it, it was like everything I believed about music, DJing, and philosophy encapsulated in a mix. I sent Eli the demos I had been slaving over all summer when I was living as a broke starving artist in Barcelona one summer, and he got back to me a day later saying that he loved them. This was before the label had even started. 2 years later I consider them my older brothers and I’m releasing my first full-length album on Soul Clap Records.
Referring back to Soul Clap Records, in 2013 you released an EP and a full-length album. Tell us a bit more about the creative process and the inspiration behind the album “Naked Is My Nature”. I have to say, when I hear it, it makes me think I’m in Venice Beach driving a 70’s Cadillac.
Well, “Naked Is My Nature” wasn’t meant to be an album, but it ended up being the length of one, I had been churning out so much music that we felt we had to put it out all at once, in hindsight I’m not sure if that was a good idea, it was such a large release and so eclectic that I think it went over people’s heads, which is not necessarily a bad thing. “The Stalker” EP was a more restrained approach, two songs, short and simple.
My creative process is both painstaking and bi-polar. I’m a gemini so I go through these very intense mood swings, I get these intense lows where I collect all these thoughts and ideas – it’s very heady and emotional and then I get these huge highs where it all comes out in one joyous burst – for example I wrote most of my new album “Mating Call” in a little over one week. So the creative process is making space for intake and disciplining myself to write it all down
Your sound today fits like a glove to what Soul Clap & Wolf + Lamb are all about. Looking back, did you ever imagine you would be part of this family? Or did you have a total other direction in mind? Like I said earlier I didn’t really expect the whole Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb thing to happen, it all just happened very naturally, which is how things work with our crew; one of the most important things I’ve learned from them is to let things happen organically and not to rush things, which is exactly how I entered the crew. I thought I would just keep making music for dirtybird and various other labels and see what happened, but I truly found a family with the crew that gave me structure and community that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.
Also your recent EP ‘The Stalker’ was released on Soul Clap Records and we had it on repeat in the office. What do you feel when you listen to it?
I feel like a pair of binoculars.
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Perfect answer. When you have a showcase with Crew Love, is there a pre-show tradition with the crew?
Zev will usually read us passages from the Torrah as we all make prolonged eye contact with each other, then we just go out there and tear the place down, kill it, you know? It’s either that or we just sip a few beers, catch up, throw a few high fives.
Usually, it’s the latter.
Some DJs have a secret recipe when it comes to sets. What is your take on that when you perform in front of people? More than that, how do you balance what you produce with what you play?
Well if you’re using a food analogy, I would describe my DJ sets as a spicy Cajun gumbo. My secret recipe is a surprise around every corner, mixing old with new, hard with soft, happiness with heartbreak. I like to play with contrast in my sets and I always like to bring it down to reggae, hip-hop, or something slow at some point just to give the dancefloor a breather. I’ve been playing a lot of my own music lately, so it’s been pretty smooth to translate what I produce to the club.
I’m quite curious how you characterize your style and how others have characterized it?
A friend told me that I don’t have a sound, but that I have an ethos. My sound is my ethos, it’s very personal, it’s whatever I’m feeling or being influenced by at the moment, but through my perspective. So whether I’m making an indie pop record, a house record, or a dub record, it’s all going to fit within that genre but have my ethos imprinted on it, you’ll always be able to tell it’s something I made.
On your RA biography, there is a statement saying: “the weirder, the funkier, the better”. Is that something you made up and you went with it or did you always have that vision? How is that statement influencing your productions?
It’s always a credo I’ve believed in, I think it’s especially a call to house producers (and artists in general) to do something interesting, to be daring, to be brave. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s like the Talking Heads said, “Stop Making Sense.” I think it’s important to challenge people but to make it accessible at the same time.
What do you have in store for us in 2014? Any releases we should keep an ear out for, or anything that is completely new for you?
I HAVE SO MUCH MUSIC TO SHARE THIS YEAR!!! My biggest project this year is my album “Mating Call”, which will be out this summer. I also have an EP on Wolf + Lamb coming soon, a single on dirtybird, a single I did with Wolf + Lamb featuring Chicago vocalist Russoul, some exciting stuff in the works with Louie Vega, and we’re also doing a Crew Love album, which is going to have a bunch of new music from the crew, including a few new originals from myself.
Will you bring something special over to studio 80 on Feb 13th and what can people expect from your performance?
I’ve been testing out a lot of stuff from the album and from the crew, we’ve got some really dope stuff on deck right now. Expect me to be the butterfly I am – eclectic, funky, sexy, silly…
But seriously, I’m really stoked to be playing at Studio 80, it’s really important to me to build a relationship with this place because Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world and I’ve got a lot of close friends there now, so it’s a place I hold close to my heart.
Your productions send out a lot of love, so it’s inevitable to ask this question and we hope your significant other won’t mind readying this. From all the places you visited, where would you say the hottest looking girls are?
Why Amsterdam of course! Seriously, this place is overflowing with beautiful women. Must be something in the Haring.
What has been your biggest compliment so far and who made it?
Probably from my mom and dad, they’re finally fans of my music. Now if I can just remember to go over for dinner more often.
Check out Nick Monaco tonight at WKND in Studio 80, where he’ll be laying down the funk together with Amsterdam’s own disco-guru Elias Mazian. Boogie night!
Nick Monaco | Elias Mazian | Paul Cairo | Joost Nicolai |