May the fierce be with you

Parisian DJ Nick V (47) has been an ally to the gay community for decades. We discuss the 10-year anniversary of his residency Mona, the power of expressing femininity and finding your inner balance through martial arts.

By Haroon Ali

You grew up in Manchester, but have been living in Paris for a long time. Do you still feel connected to your British roots, or are you completely Parisian now?
“Interesting, no one asked me that before. I was 16 when acid house exploded in Manchester, so I got hooked on that sound and my DJ experience stems from that. When I moved to Paris in 1987, it was a cultural desert. But there was a lot of hip hop emerging from the suburbs, which also nourished my musical background. I also went to a lot of gay clubs, the only places to hear good house music in Paris at that time. I still have a British passport, but as a person, I’ve moved on. I have been living in Paris for 31 years, my daughter is French and I only speak English with people abroad.”

Your monthly party Mona is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. What is Mona all about?
“Mona is about breaking the barriers between age, gender and sexuality. I was born in 1970, so I have friends who are well over 50. We aim for a crowd that spans the entire spectrum. Then there’s the dance thing. France has a strong dance culture, but it disappeared from mainstream clubs. We give free dance classes at the beginning of every party. Not at a very high level, because we don’t want professional dancers showing off and making other people feel insecure. Vogue is the style of dance that appeals to us the most, because we’ve had strong ties to the gay community since the beginning. It’s also a great way to express your feminine side. First came the typical vogue dancers, then the straight girls and now we have straight men practicing vogue. Hip hop, for example, has always been very masculine, but it’s empowering to express your feminine side too.”

Nick V | 04.01.2018 | Elementenstraat Warehouse | Is Burning 4 Year Anniversary Photo by Knelis

Nick V | 04.01.2018 | Elementenstraat Warehouse | Is Burning 4 Year Anniversary
Photo by Knelis

Why do you, as a straight man, relate to gay culture so much?
“I’ve always liked going to gay clubs, because you can totally be yourself and there is no pressure to conform. I also have Vietnamese roots, so I always felt like an outsider in the part of the UK where I grew up, which was very white, with little immigration. In the suburbs of Paris, I felt more comfortable with my background, because I was surrounded by people from many different cultures. But because I’m split between British, Vietnamese and French culture, I don’t want culture to define me.”

You played at the 4-year anniversary of Is Burning, in April. Did you have a good time?
“That gig was easily one of my favorites in the past few years. I always enjoy playing at the end, I love those last moments of the night. The crowd was very receptive and joyful – you can tell that they know Carlos and his party well. I’ve played with Carlos four or five times now, at Mona, but also for 22tracks. And we will both perform on the Mona stage at Nomads Festival, June 30th.

I read that you are an all-vinyl DJ?
“I play with memory sticks and computers too, but I prefer vinyl. I was brought up on vinyl, plus it’s a very physical experience. You move around a lot with records, arms flying everywhere. I also get lost in digital music. For every vinyl record you can buy six digital tracks. I don’t have the mental capacity to process all that music, so I went back to vinyl. I buy less music now, but appreciate it more.”

Nick V | 04.01.2018 | Elementenstraat Warehouse | Is Burning 4 Year Anniversary Photo by Knelis

Nick V | 04.01.2018 | Elementenstraat Warehouse | Is Burning 4 Year Anniversary
Photo by Knelis

This interview comes with a new mix, can you describe it?
“There are some tracks in there that I’ve been playing since day one – like Will U Luv Me by Stayshon 2 Stayshon (1991) – because they still make me want to jump up and dance. I like my classic house, so that shows in all my sets. There are also some new releases in this mix, from my label Mona Musique, like NY Collage by Hugo LX. And some Italian tracks from the nineties. I’ll be releasing a compilation album soon, because there was a lot of good house music coming from Italy at that time, but few people remember that.”

Fun fact: you practice mindful sports like qi gong, viet vo dao and yoga. Do these sports help you to stay sane during the nights, full of temptations?
“I get why you ask that, but I don’t put one against the other, like an angel and a devil. You can find both positive and destructive energy in the clubs. I also like to drink and party, and don’t feel like I need to even that out. I’ve been doing martial arts for twenty years and follow a master. We basically work on cultivating joy. He says: if you only come to my seminars to feel good and continue being a grumpy person in your daily life, there’s no point in coming here. So I try to apply what I learn. If I’m playing in a club and feel tired, or if the crowd is not moving, I try to generate energy, not only with music, but also with my physical expression. It also gives me more confidence before I go on stage. I feel less stressed, live healthier and have more energy now than when I was 20.”

Here’s a question that people often ask women: how do you combine work, marriage and kids?
“I ask myself that question all the time. First of all, I’m lucky to be with a very understanding wife – who also loves to go out by the way. My daughter is 5 now, so I want to be there at the important moments. As a DJ, I don’t have many weekends to myself, but I do have the weekdays, so I can bring my daughter to school and pick her up in the afternoon. It all comes down to organization and being a mindful parent. It’s better to having one meaningful hour together, than an entire day where you’re constantly distracted by your phone or shopping – so quality over quantity. Through my practice I’ve also learned to take things step by step. And if you and your partner create an atmosphere of joy, most problems tend to fade away.”

Carlos Valdes