Raw, Passionate And Innocent: Meet Nick Monaco

Words by: Peter Adkins
Posted: 27/2/13 9:51

Raw, Passionate And Innocent: Meet Nick MonacoYou might not be familiar with the name ‘Nick Monaco’, but you will be soon. The latest addition to Soul Clap’s ever-expanding entourage of innovative producers and DJs, the 22-year old San Francisco native might just have finished college but he’s no newcomer to the world of house music. Raised on a steady diet of West Coast hip-hop and rambunctious house parties, the last eighteen months have seen the upstart producer produce tracks for the likes Dirtybird, Moda Black and Soul Clap Records, whilst also touring Europe and the US with the Wolf + Lamb crew.

What’s more he’s about to drop his biggest release to date: a seven-track EP on Soul Clap Records. Ahead of the record, we caught up with the San Fran youngster.

Your bio describes you as residing in San Francisco. Did you grow up on the West Coast?
I was born and raised in the Bay Area, Santa Rosa to be exact. Growing up I was a diehard hip-hop head. As a wee 15 year old I was really involved in the local hip-hop scene as a scratch DJ. I was, and continue to be, an avid digger. Some of the most formative experiences of my youth [were] taking the bus to the city to dig for records and educating myself through that.

How did you first get into dance music? Did you have an epiphany moment when you knew that house music was for you?
I got into house music on a euro-trip when I was 17. I went to this dark underground club in Zurich and heard minimal and tech-house for the first time. I was blown away. The sounds were so psychedelic and heavy, I hadn't heard anything like it. Before I discovered house, I was obsessed with Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow, so it was just a matter of time before I figured out a way to merge my Hip-Hop and R&B leanings with house.

A few years later I discovered the Dirtybird [crew] throwing bbq parties in my own backyard! They were doing exactly what I wanted to do at the time, and that's when I knew I wanted to contribute to house music in my own way.

Tell me about that leap to making music. When did you start producing beats? Did it take a long time before you got anything signed?
I started producing hip-hop and R&B beats on a Roland keyboard when I was 15. I wanted to produce way before DJing. I wanted to be a super-producer like Timbaland. I befriended all the rappers in high school and they wrote to my beats, someone probably has those beat CDs somewhere, holla if you do! I was about 17 when I started making house and it took two years before I got my first EP signed, I was still only 19 and very naive. I was very impatient and just wanted to put something out desperately. Now, still only 22, I've matured a little bit and feel more in control of my sound and finally feel like I'm making music that speaks to me rather than trying to adapt to a certain style or label.

The first time I heard of you was when Soul Clap featured your track ‘Set The Table’ on one of their mix CDs. How did you get to know those guys?
I moved to Barcelona for a summer just to make music. I was making a few tracks a week. At the end of the summer I randomly decided to send Soul Clap a demo after listening to their DEMF mix one evening. Eli (of Soul Clap) hit me back like a day later and was like, "these tracks are dooope!" From that point on they became my mentors and have encouraged me to push boundaries and experiment. They told me start making "song songs" instead of just club tracks. All of the tracks on my Naked Is My Nature EP are the result of them pushing me to find myself and I couldn't be more proud of the outcome. It's my most personal work to date.

Raw, Passionate And Innocent: Meet Nick MonacoYour biography tells me that you are a member of the “Soul Clap family”. Tell me a little bit about what that involves!
Well, now I'm part of the larger family that is Wolf + Lamb. To be honest I didn't understand the concept of a label as being a family at first, I was sceptical, but it truly is a family. Everyone looks out for each other and is really open and supportive. There is no other label that compares and there is nowhere I would rather be. Crew love is true love.

Your new Naked Is My Nature EP has a free spirited quality to it. Could you tell us a little more about the ideas and influences that informed the EP?
I completely let loose on Naked Is My Nature, all the clothes came off, the full monty. I didn't have any influences in mind when I was making it. I was still in college when I made those records, so I think you hear this really raw, passionate, and innocent voice in the music. Naked Is My Nature documents my musical growth spurt.

The music you’ve put out so far has very strong house-party vibes to it. Have you got a background in djing at house parties?
House parties are one of the only venues you [are able] to DJ at when you are a teenager in California, since you can't get into the clubs until you are 21.

So, I got really good at rocking house parties! Nearly every weekend my best friend and I would load up his dad's pickup truck with vinyl and a DJ rig and roll around like suburban vigilante DJs hunting for house party's to rock. We would set up (often a 2x4 setup) and DJ until the cops came, it went like this every weekend for years.

These days I don't frequent house parties as much since I've been playing clubs... but recently I was DJing on the back porch of this house party in Chico, California. People started climbing on the roof above me and dancing and jumping. I heard the roof starting to crack so I immediately shut the music off and told them to get down before the roof collapsed on us. That was a close one.

You music is the embodiment of that feel-good West Coast sound. Can you ever see yourself leaving the city, moving elsewhere?
This is my home, so I'll always come back, but I'm thinking about doing the Berlin thing at some point. I'm still really young so I can stand to live in some other cities, I'm in no hurry though.

Finally, if we were to come to San Francisco and hang out with you for a day, where would you take us and which clubs would we end up at?
After getting all the touristy stuff out of the way (i.e. Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Cable Cars) we would grab some beers and chill in Dolores Park, eat some mexican food in the Mission and then head to Haight Street for shopping and people watching. When night time comes around I like to start off with hip-hop/dancehall vibes, Little Baobab is a blast. To keep the night moving we would head to 222 Hyde and Monarch to groove to some house. And after the clubs close it's up to the gods.

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