Ahead of his headline date at Ultra Brasil, Nic Fanciulli speaks with Chandler Shortlidge about his debut album, My Heart, an LP that draws from 20 years of influences and came together over a decade of work.
For someone as recognisable in global dance music as Nic Fanciulli, it’s hard not to wonder why it took until now to release his debut album. His production career started back in 1999, and in that time spawned originals like “Green Tea” and “Movin’ On,” as well as two high-profile projects with Andy Chatterley (Skylark and Buick Project), and a slew of major edits, collaborations and remixes, including for Jamie xx on “SeeSaw.” But as he tells me over Skype upon returning from touring Asia, My Heart has been boiling in the background for a very long time.
“The starting block was actually 2007. It's been an ongoing saga for the last 10 years,” he chuckles.
His remix of Tiefschwarz & Tracey Thorn’s “Damage” as Buick Project had just earned Fanciulli a Grammy nomination. A huge accomplishment for any producer, and one that invariably sparks chatter of bigger things to come. “Everyone was talking about albums,” Fanciulli says. “And that was really what stemmed it.”
But Fanciulli was and still is one of the busiest DJs on the house and techno circuit, with summer residencies in Ibiza and constant headline gigs at clubs and festivals around the globe. Not to mention remix duties, regular club-oriented productions and his Saved Records imprint, which at two-years-old in 2007 was picking up serious steam. “And as usual,” Fanciulli says, “after sloggin' away on and off for 10 years, everything came together at the last minute.”
Fanciulli estimates he’s written “200-300 loops or grooves or ideas” in the last decade for the album, and admits he could have spent “another 10 years on it.” But with all the pieces of the puzzle coming together in the last two or three years, he finally felt confidant enough to release My Heart.
“I wanted to create something that would represent what I do in the clubs, and what I listen to and am inspired by. So the album is very melodic and musical, and that sort of music takes me a lot more time to write and produce. It's not just beats and a groove and a breakdown. It was something a little bit more special and interesting that you could listen to at home and an after party.”
Getting something that well-rounded was always going to take time. But boiling down decades of career inspirations into 72 minutes only made the process that much more complicated.
“Christ,” he says, somewhat exasperatedly. “It doesn't matter who you are as an artist, you're always inspired by someone else. Even the Rolling Stones were inspired by blues and jazz. I was inspired by drum & bass and techno and US house, by so many different things. And to narrow all that down to 16 tracks is obviously quite difficult.”
Then there were the inevitable co-conspirators, with Guy Gerber, Eagles & Butterflies, Agoria, and Jamie Principle all featuring on My Heart, along with Matthew Dear as Audion, who co-produced a standout techno-electro banger called “Resistance.”
“That's a lot of people's favourite,” Fanciulli says.
A longtime fan of working with other people, Nic sounds somewhat amazed at how organically collaborations happened for My Heart. “Oh, your process of wanting to work with certain people is just—you may as well throw it out the window when you start,” he says. “But there was no stress or pressure or chasing people to be on the album. I did these records, and as I was writing them I was like, ‘that sounds like Matthew Dear could really add to this record.’ I sent it to him and he did it. Same with Eagles & Butterflies and Guy Gerber.”
It’s a method more producers might try and learn from. Each co-produced track is strong enough to be a single, but retains enough of Nic’s touch that it doesn't interrupt the overall sound and structure of the LP. And incredibly, every collaboration was done via email, something Nic says worked perfectly for him. “The basis of writing together is basically friendship,” Nic says. “But when you're sitting in a studio together, you might be too nice to each other to say what you don't like.”
Nic and Agoria traded “about 10 versions” of their track "Wrong,” but Nic was happier that way. “It’s better than sitting there actually having to speak my mind in the studio because you don't want to lose the vibe,” he says. With his productions locked down, the next step was perfecting the record’s sound. For that, he peered across the musical spectrum for help.
“I was looking at what Jamie xx was doing,” Nic says. “He obviously writes the records, but he has these amazing mix and mastering engineers that are at the top of their game that turn the record into a masterpiece, and that's what I did.” Nic is quick to point out that he doesn’t want all the credit for My Heart. It might be a solo album, but it certainly wasn’t a solo effort. Something he acknowledged when he released “Wrong,” crediting everyone from the artwork creators to the mix engineers—“everyone was mentioned,” he says. It’s a somewhat unusual move for house and techno producers, and didn’t go unnoticed with fans.
“Someone commented that was very normal and nice because everyone was getting credit,” he says.
Soon, Nic is heading to Ultra Brasil in Rio, and has several special album edits lined up for the occasion. “So they're definitely gonna hear a lot of stuff on the album,” he says. He’s been traveling to Brazil for about 10 years, playing about three or four times a year at clubs like Warung in its earlier days. Though when “EDM thing really took over” in Brazil, Nic put touring there on hold.
“So I'm really looking forward to going back and doing more shows there. It was nice to take a break and come back and be inspired.”
Header photo by Joris Voorn