The last time we here at Crossfade spoke with Nick Monaco, the San Francisco DJ-producer was still a relative newcomer to the international dance music scene. He had just released his first panty-dropper of an EP on Soul Clap Records, and the buzz was definitely beginning to grow around his self-described sexual southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
Fast-forward a year, and Monaco still calls the Soul Clap label home. But this time he's serving up his debut artist album, Mating Call, which spans 10 tracks boasting his signature piquant blend of disco, electro-boogie, and dub. Live instrumentation, experimental arrangements, and his own vocals make the album a definite standout among recent dance record releases.
Here's what he had to say about the new slab, ear porn, and overripe fruit.
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Crossfade: Tell us about your new album, Mating Call. Is it just ear porn? Or did you have a bigger concept in mind?
Nick Monaco: When I made Mating Call, I became fascinated with the mating habits of animals and their use of sound to attract their mates. Mating Call is a further exploration of the main themes in my music, which are sexuality, gender politics, femininity, and innocence.
What was the creative process like on the album? How did you approach writing the songs and how did live instrumentation play into the production?
I put a lot of work into my vocals on this record. I wanted to take my voice to the next level, so I experimented with different harmonies and playing with vocal "characters" as I call them. I oscillate between falsetto, which represents femininity, and a huskier lower voice, that being a more masculine presentation. So there's a lot of consciousness about the theme and idea of the record built into the music itself. When it came to the live instrumentation, my roommate, best friend, and world-class engineer Rick Vargas helped guide a lot of the production and instrumentation. I'm not a classically trained musician, so I always benefit a lot by working with better producers and musicians.
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You sing on the album. Are you a born singer? Or did you have to develop the skill?
I started putting my voice into my productions a few years ago. I never intended to be a singer or vocalist -- I'm pretty shy when I comes to that, actually. I always wanted to use other vocalists, so I would just record my vocals as a reference for other singers to have, but I guess my vocals just stuck more and it felt more personal to me and helped me engage with the music. I have a really hard time making music without vocals -- they really glue everything together for me.
You collaborated with Slow Hands on the track "Brooklyn Is A Submarine". We spoke to him a few weeks ago and he seems to share a similar approach to making music as yourself -- a multi-instrumentalist with more of live-jam approach to dance music production. How did the two of you hook up for this collaboration and what was the chemistry like in the studio?
This collaboration happened really spontaneously and quickly. I was sleeping on the couch at the Marcy Hotel in Brooklyn -- former Wolf + Lamb headquarters -- as I did quite frequently. The night before, I was anticipating a session with Lady Miss Kier from Deee-Lite -- who's a huge influence of mine -- when I made a punk-style record. She couldn't make it, so I added my own vocals. "Brooklyn is a Submarine" because the back room of the Marcy reminds me of a submarine. The next morning, Slow Hands came in and laid his dreamy guitar on it, and an hour later the record was born.
So what should Miami anticipate for your album-release party?
Expect peach nectar oozing from the speakers.
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Nick Monaco's Mating Call Album Release. With Wolf + Lamb, Basti, and Jeremy Ismael. Presented by PL0T. Saturday, September 20. The Garret at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10:05 p.m. and tickets cost $20 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.