Nick Monaco Answers Cosmic Calling On 'Heroin Disco'
“We were just writing,” genre nonconforming artist Nick Monaco said of the birth of Heroin Disco, his latest LP. Spur of the moment tendencies set the tone for the eight-track, high tempo project that flirts along the lines of all that is playful, slightly cynical, and considerably taboo. The LP, which Monaco described as the product of pure and uncontrived songwriting—literally, just two friends chronicling their streams of consciousness in the middle of a vineyard somewhere north of San Fran—earned its expressive appellation from two recurring themes in the artist’s life.
Now releasing music under his own jurisdiction via Unisex Records, a label he created in conjunction with friend, fellow musician, and now business partner, Emmett Kai, Monaco finds relief in being able to personally execute every aspect of both the production and creative processes that accompany record-making. As a longtime admirer of disco culture, Monaco’s distinct sound leaves a euphoric ambience in his listeners’ ears and Heroin Disco certainly follows suit. Check out our interview with Monaco and get a first listen of Heroin Disco below.
Disco has a very distinctive sound that traces its roots back to the 70s nightlife scene. How did your fascination with this sound come about?
I think I was drawn towards disco because of the versatility of it; I’ve always been interested in many different styles and genres. That traditional style of disco DJing, before disco music was actually a thing, was playing all types of genres and mixing them seamlessly — this was the style of all these early New York disco icons. I didn’t really know about this sort of style and the history until I started playing with Soul Clap — they’re DJs from Boston, they’re like my DJ mentors — they were versed in this style and I learned from them because I started in the hip-hop world. When we talk about disco, we’re not just talking about that specific music style that comes into our heads, like Donna Summer, it’s the culture and the style of actual DJ that I’m really drawn to.
Tell me about the LP’s title, Heroin Disco.
Heroin Disco, the name, was something that had just been tossing around in my head for a while. I don’t know where it came from. I think I was trying to connect the heroin epidemic somehow with disco, and the words together somehow emoted something to me — I heard a sound when I heard the words together. So, I had this working premise, this concept. I connected with someone from my hometown — I come from a small town an hour north of San Francisco, a small, little wine country town. I’d taken some time off the road because I was super exhausted and burnt out and uninspired, and I connected with a friend of mine. We spent like two weeks together in his house, and I told him the concept, I played him 10 of my favorite songs and created a musical palette for him to reference. We sat down in his house, which was in the middle of a vineyard, and we did acid and started writing this record. And a few weeks later it came to be. Through that [experience] we became really close friends and eventually partners in this new label that we started called Unisex (more on this later). It was really the birth of the album and the beginning of our relationship. Just to finish the idea, coincidentally, [my friend’s] cousin had died from a heroin overdose like a week before we started writing the record, so it seems there was some sort of cosmic inspiration, or something to be fleshed out in this music and it was appropriate that we were dealing with this word “heroin.”
What’s the story behind “Pink Pussies In My Dreams”?
When you look back on making a record, it’s always kind of hard, at least in [the songwriter’s] case — we were so enveloped in it and it flowed so naturally — it’s kind of hard to say what particularly inspired it. We were just writing. But, we were working within this theme, and “Pink Pussies In My Dreams” works in this theme of cynical, disco pop. It’s self-aware. These words, like heroin, pussy, they’re sort of evocative; they make us feel uncomfortable. They live within this world of pop and disco, and disco is very positive and fun, and I guess that’s the juxtaposition that I’m trying to achieve with this record.
Music is meant to evoke certain feelings in listeners. What feeling would you say your music echos?
I want people to feel like they’re being whispered to; I want them to feel like they’re being told a secret. I like that quality in art — intimacy. I think there’s something that you connect to and you remember, like you’re being let in rather than being attacked by music or preached to. My music, for me, it all happens in the moment and it’s all a new, exploration for me. I want people to feel like they’re on that ride with me.
How has your artistry transformed since your past projects like “Naked Is My Nature”?
I’ve had more time on the road, more life experience since I wrote my early work. I think there’s a self-awareness in this new album and a cynicism that wasn’t there before. I still think the spirit of experimentation and freedom and not being tied to a genre and intimacy — I think those core themes of who I am as an artist are still in the work. This new album is speaking to the apathy and the escapism that’s sort of purveying our culture right now, which the word “heroin” is meant to signify.
With the creation of your new label, Unisex Records, you’re now in total control of the production and releasing of your music. What has this responsibility been like thus far?
It’s been really fun actually, I really enjoy the process. I’m really hands-on with the artwork and the design and the whole production process. The only thing that’s changed is curating the identity of the label itself, which has been super fun and I have a great partner, Emmett Kai. Working with someone like him, we’re both on the same page. It’s been a really great experience. One of the reasons we started this label was because we were shopping our own albums to bigger indie labels, and that whole process was so exhausting — sending it out to all these labels, and they like it but you never know when it’s going to come out…they could put it out two years later. I think the power is in the artist’s hands now more than ever. It’s kind of like, we’re creating our own little planet and people can come visit us on our planet; we’re curating what that looks and feels like.
Photographed by Dylan Thomas; Styled by Mitch McGuire
Stay tuned to Milk for more first listens.