nick monaco is letting his freak flag fly

The San Francisco based producer taking a stand against the hyper-masculine aesthetic dominating dance music. Armed with nothing but a lipstick.

by James Hutchins
25 February 2015, 10:30am

In a scene that has been flooded by hench bros in short shorts and gym vests that are better off living in the underwear section of Primark, it seems that the dance music world is rapidly moving away from whence it came. The days of Paradise Garage, The Sanctuary and The Loft, and the black, gay and Latino scenes in New York and Chicago seem to have been forgotten by the average surface-scratching dance music enthusiast. Crew Love member Nick Monaco's lipstick, launched last year and titled Freak Flag, aims to shed light on the hyper-masculinity and misogyny currently associated with the dance world. With every penny of profit going to the Jim Collins Foundation, a charity that directly aids people in their quest for gender confirmation surgeries, Nick aims to pay homage to those who nurtured modern dance music into existence.

During his current string of European tour dates, we managed to sit down with the producer, performer and DJ and get to grips with the man letting his freak flag fly.

Where is home for you now?
Home is still San Francisco, I'm rarely there though. I go back and change, do my laundry, sleep in my own bed for one night. But I'm actually thinking of moving to New Orleans in Spring. I went there a few weeks ago and fell in love. There's just so much heart and soul there. There's no electronic music, which is so nice.

What is the story behind Freak Flag?
A couple of years ago when I started touring I started wearing lipstick at after parties as a gag and a fun thing to do and I started to notice some reaction to me wearing it. There was a lot of resistance to a straight male wearing lipstick. And I sensed the hyper-masculinity within the dance world, which concerned me because I dig for a lot of old house music and disco and it's kind of the world I work in. That's where dance music came from: the gay, bisexual and transsexual community.

So do you feel that dance music is losing a connection to its history?
Yeah totally. Now with dance music on top 40 radio, it's getting saturated and being picked up by the mainstream, which has a certain ideology behind it. The mainstream is largely hyper-masculine and misogynistic and anything that gets put through the pop machine, takes on those qualities. I'm afraid that's going to happen, or is happening with dance music. You see that in Ibiza and festivals with these big jacked-up bros and when that happens you need to take a step back and recognise where it started.

You wanted to bring back the connection with history but not do it in a forced way… Why was lipstick the route for it?
It think it happened naturally. If you are preachy about something it doesn't sink in as much. And I think lipstick is a fun thing. You put it on and it allows you to embody femininity a little bit and try that on and realise how fickle our gender boundaries are, so I think lipstick is a good bridge into that experience.

And all the proceeds are going to the Jim Collins Foundation right? How did you find out about those guys?
I just researched online, looking for a charity that helped transgender people with gender confirmation surgeries. I wanted the foundation to be pretty extreme and radical because I wanted the idea to cut through and stick and if you say it's going to LGBT support groups, that's not as powerful. When you go back 30 years to these warehouse parties and these loft parties in Chicago and New York, it was all transgender and transsexual, they were at the root of dance music. So how do we directly pay homage to them - by supporting them directly.

Do you feel there are any venues or DJs at the moment that are bringing it back to the Paradise Garage/The Loft type vibe?
I think our crew is doing it pretty well. The Crew Love vibe is all about love and positivity and kind of has that body and soul ethos to it. I feel like we're trying to capture that.

Is there anyone you look up to who is making positive movements for the LGBT community?
In the dance world DJ Sprinkles is a big influence for sure. Her work in gender studies and politics and her distance to dance pop culture is really inspiring. Black Madonna is another DJ out of Chicago.

What's your lipstick colour of choice?
I like the hot classic red. Or a nice purple, I been wearing this dark purple shade recently.

Would you try and get some of the big cosmetic houses on board?
We are talking to Bobbi Brown. Not Whitney's Bobby Brown by the way! It's really open-ended right now, that's kind of the whole point of this prototype. We're just going to let it grow organically.

You mentioned to me before that someone within your management team inspired Freak Flag?
Our assistant for our European agency, her name is Faye Adams. She is a trans woman who has been going through her transition in the last year. I was talking to her about her experience and that's when it all came together because I was really inspired by her story and her experiencing this resistance to femininity within the dance world and the idea coalesced. Her story was the story of a lot of people back in the late 70s, early 80s.

Do you think there is a wider context for Freak Flag to move into?
The macro idea for this to break away from the binary system that we are in, black, white, straight, gay, trans. Clubs are a perfect place for this to happen. It could be the breeding ground for social change with people having the ecstasy moments you know? One love.

Have you ever had any personal anti LGBT experiences?
I always dressed kind of crazy in high school wearing vintage pink shirts and I grew up in a small town, so even wearing that was quite extreme, which meant it got met with a lot of resistance. People always thought I was gay and I always got called names, so I would have to escape to San Francisco to feel comfortable. Even now when I perform, I wear these crazy jump suits and lipstick and it's pretty out there. I remember when I was walking down the street in Vancouver on the way to the club, I was standing there minding my own business and these guys walked by and said "what's happened to the world?!" and I've been called fag once in a while. But that's the whole point. Challenging that idea.

Nick continues his EU tour this weekend;
Feb 27th - Wanderlust - Paris, Fr
Feb 28th - Urimuri - Budapest, Hungary
Mar 1st - Horse Meat Disco - London, UK


Text James Hutchins