House DJ Nic Fanciulli Talks About His Music, Collaborations, and Partnership with Designer Marc Jaques Burton

by Brad Wete

Nic Fanciulli | image by Dean Chalkey

Nic Fanciulli | image by Dean Chalkey

January is a month that rides synonymously with new beginnings and new opportunities. Not only is it a time of renewal, but it is also a time of new friendships and new ideas, all while invoking innovative thoughts and creative invention. Producer and DJ, Nic Fanciulli, and British Designer Marc Jacques Burton ignite 2018 by collaborating and creating a new fashion line, a 15-piece set, numbered by hand designs on t-shirts and hoodies that forms a furtive stance and defies authority.

Following Fanciulli’s album release My Heart, an effort that took a while (to say the least) to make and dropped in October 2017, the UK artist pairs up with longtime friend and contact, MJB, blending a scad of music and fashion in his creative process. The House genre DJ talks about his musical progression and collaborations, opening to up Flaunt about his foundation and insight with his experiences in the music world. 

My heart 20 years in the making. What took so long?

It wasn’t quite 20 years! My career’s been around 20 years, but the album probably took around 10 of those. I guess it took so long for a number of reasons. The main one was simply paranoia. I was really worried about finishing the record and being completely happy with it.  I also set out to make a record that was a lot different content-wise to what I normally made; It wasn’t just club tracks. I wanted to make a more melodic, musical album and take the production in a different and surprising direction. 

I guess the last reason is down to touring; I’ve been on the road for such a long time and constantly touring all year long, so I found it really difficult to lock myself down in the studio and really finish the record. The idea came from the Grammys in 2007. I was surrounded by so many important talented people. I really decided then to make and complete an album. But yeah, it took a while!

Collaboration is a key part of the album. You have some Flaunt faves on here: Matthew Dear, Guy Gerber, Jaw. What does collaboration mean in the context of My Heart? What did you take away from these collusions? 

I think my main goal with the collaborations on the album was to ensure they were really organic and not forced. I had a list of super unrealistic collabs, people that I wanted to work with, in the beginning. But as I started writing the record I would find myself thinking “This would be perfect for Audion.” Or “Guy Gerber would really work here.” Most of the collabs were really easy and stress-free. Everyone jumped on the record straight away. 

The most surprising collab was the Damon Albarn vocal on "Saying." It’s so unique and it’s hugely important to the overall flow of the album. I’d just finished a remix for Gorillaz that had done really well for everyone involved, and on the last day of recording my album I thought “I’m just going to send him this demo and see if he likes it.” I really didn’t think I would get a reply, or that it would happen. The next day his management got back, and said Damon loved it and wanted to jump on it. The end result is one of my favorite records I’ve ever made, it was a really nice, and easy process; stress-free!

As a Brit of a certain age what does it mean to have him on your record? 

I first started listening to Damon Albarn and Blur during the "exam period" of my life. You know, the period at school when you’re 16-17. Blur especially were a huge influence on me as a teenager. To get to work with someone like that, especially since we’ve never actually met, was a really strange experience.  As i said, Id just finished the Gorillaz mix, and things really ran on from there. For me it was an honor to have someone like that on the album, someone I totally respected; i’m so happy with the way it came out.

So Kanye West is credited as writer on My Heart

Yeah, it’s mad, he’s credited on "The Light" alongside Mr. Hudson. I wrote this record, and I kept singing the "Flashing Lights" vocal sample from Graduation in my head whilst I was in the studio. I’m a massive Kanye fan, and I thought there’s no way we’re going to get this cleared; i think it’s rare rare for him to clear any sample, but I really wanted to try. So we laid the vocal on, and reached out to his team. After we explained the situation, they were really good about everything and said--once they had his approval--that we could move forward. We had CONSTANCE, the girl that sang the original vocal, re-sing everything and add a new verse. She was amazing throughout the whole process and so on point.

You're working with denim designer Marc Jacques Burton on a limited My Heart line. Is he someone you've followed for a while? What can we expect from the line? How do you view music and fashion collabs in general? 

This is the first time I’ve properly collaborated with a fashion designer, and I’m a big fan of Marc and his brand. I’ve had a friendship with him for a number of years, even before he had the MJB brand, and we’ve always discussed doing something exciting together. When I finished the album I decided I really wanted to take the main heart image and do something interesting with it, make something unique and exciting. Marc was the perfect person to expand on the creative and put his spin on it. We’re working on the range at the moment. It’s only three pieces, so super limited. But we’ll have two t-shirts and a hoody, and only 15 of each piece.

You made your debut on the Essential Mix as a teenager in 2003. It feels like you have been an ever present in Ibiza and the wider house community ever since. How tough is it to sustain a career in that world? What's the mental and physical cost? 

The biggest cost is the direct result of traveling and being away from your family. I’ve missed weddings, birthday parties.... It’s hard, but the upside is you’re doing something you love, and are immersed in a career that you’re blessed to have. Nowadays kids dream of being a DJ, but when i was growing up, it was just a means to play music. The real passion came from the music, not from being a star or anything like that. To have a career this long is a blessing. I always say to kids you need to treat it was a marathon, not a sprint. Otherwise you’ll just burn out. Every year I’m still doing new things that I’ve never done before.  I think you need to treat it with respect, and pace yourself. You’re traveling and doing more than 100 shows a year, so you need to remember to appreciate what’s going on around you.

Ibiza has obviously been a pretty central part of your career. It's ever evolving, where is it at right now? Are the claims of Vegas being the new Ibiza credible, or is the vice versa true? 

I think Vegas is Vegas, and Ibiza is Ibiza; for me they’re not comparable. It’s true that over the years, Ibiza’s VIP scene has grown, but i think the essence is still there. It’s still the heart and soul of dance music, and the hub for that scene.  Vegas caters for a very different type of crowd. I have friends in Vegas who’ve really been pushing the underground scene for a long time, but it’s always a small number of people that are really into the music. 

The one thing for me is I’ve always tried to look forward, not back. People always talk to me about the glory days of Ibiza in the '90s, or even the early 2000s, but i think perceptions change over time. The island is definitely different to when I first started going, and whether that’s for better or worse depends on your perspective, but for sure it’s a reaction to the culture of today. The one thing that’s true is kids are still coming in 2017, and they’re still appreciating and enjoying the island. It's just in a different way than we used to.

You come from Maidstone, and that's the birthplace of the Social Festival you created. It's a huge global event brand now, Maidstone seems an unlikely origin for an event like this. Did you imagine it would get this big? What do you think defines the Social experience? 

I think the key thing to remember is Maidstone is in the Southeast of the UK, which is around 25 miles outside of London. This is kind of where the rave scene was created in the early '90s - lots of illegal raves that were known and acknowledged around the world, with DJs like Carl Cox, John Digweed and Sasha playing. The area has a great history, and it might not be a global city like London or Los Angeles, but Maidstone’s always had an amazing underground and electronic scene.

In fact, it had the longest weekly running drum ‘n’ bass night in the UK at one point, so music is firmly ingrained in the culture.  The Social started as an excuse to throw parties for friends. All the local fans that were into house and techno and wanted somewhere to go. It grew from 1,000 people to 25,000 in the space of five years, and It makes me really happy that I get to invite my friends to see my peers play in a town that I grew up. The ethos behind it is just good music, good sound and good people. 

When we launched the Mexico and Colombia editions in 2017, we had a big press conference with the partners, me and Carl Cox, and I’ll always remember the interviewer saying “The Social started in Maidstone, and now we’re in Mexico City...,” and Carl jumped in and said “I find that really strange when I hear Maidstone and Mexico City in the same sentence, but i kinda like it," That’s the message behind The Social.