By: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Photos: QU1N5E, FEDE REYES & RACHEL ISRAELA
Styling by: Rita Bråten
He isn’t a person who waits for experiences or hides behind a facade, but rather grabs life by its horns with an urge to feel its energy in each cell of the body. Playful got under the skin of a person who’s living for the contrasts in life, and whose interests are taking new forms; although always with the same drive - to create more freedom for people, with a special focus on the queer collective.
We meet at an old German bar. Nicolas wears lederhosen and a black leather jacket of his own co-design, making it clear that he’s not a person that adapts to other people’s idea of fashion or norms. As we speak, this side of his personality gets increasingly clearer.
”As a child I was definitely a weirdo. I didn’t have too many friends, but I was living in my own world, and that was not too bad. I was really interested in ’60s psychedelic rock. Like when I was 14, I started to only wear ’60’s clothes from this one shop in Vienna that sold them”, Nicolas laughs;
”I came to school in leather stilettos like the Stones. But by then I had already been the weirdo for so long, that no one cared. I could do whatever I wanted. Evan now when I like something, I really like it and I just go all in.”
”Dressing up has always been a big interest, every day is still a dress up party for me.”
Nicolas always had the support from home to be whoever he wants to be.
”I guess they understood from early on that it was useless to fight who I was, but better just to accept it. From an early age I started to wear my mother’s clothes and I preferred playing with dolls. It was quite clear from the start that I wasn’t a straight boy, and they always supported me.”
”But I mean, just like back in school, people who meet me still think I can be a bit of a weirdo today, so that hasn't changed. I'm just trying to communicate better with them.”
Having had a safe upbringing, Nicolas points to the neighborhood outside of Vienna, as a place that was more openminded than many others.
”If I had been going to the school just a bit further down the road, I would probably have been beaten up every day. But then, I also knew how to defend myself and stand my ground, which probably helped a bit. Yet, I still spent most of my time alone at home when I was a kid, but that wasn’t really a problem for me as I never wanted to hang out with the other kids.”
Today Nicolas is less introvert and a person who’s synonymous with the underground techno scene in Berlin.
”At times, it can still be a lot of work for me to socialize. I’m a Pisces, which means that I’m either the total extrovert or the total introvert - and it can switch at any moment. Sometimes I can just decide to leave, and it can come from nowhere.”
As he grew older Nicolas got more interested in punk and finally techno as he began to DJ at some parties in Vienna. By this time, he started to hang out with some older friends, which is also how he came to Berlin for the first time.
”I think I was around 17, and was friends with these 30 years old women that I had met through some mods parties. As this scene was pretty big in Berlin, they were going, and I came along. The whole trip is a bit blurry, but we even made it into Berghain. So funny.”
”I remember I thought the place was really weird. We only went because Alexander Robotnick was playing. It was in 2007 and it was pretty cold and also pretty empty. We were like ’what’s going on?’ We didn’t even like electronic music or raves. But I still liked Berlin, it was so much that happened. I could feel that people could be who they wanted to be to a bigger extent in this city than elsewhere. Which is also why I decided to eventually move here.”
”Vienna wasn’t enough for me. I felt like I never really stopped being an outsider over there, even though I was part of the scene and had friends at the time. I just wanted to go to a place where there were more likeminded people.”
Today Nicolas has started one of the city’s most successful clubs, Herrensauna, and made a name for himself as one of the most recognized techno DJs in Berlin.
”You see, that’s how the tables turn”, he blinks.
”When moving here I liked living in this city from the start. I could go out by myself, and I would just meet so many people that I would connect to and have fun with, and on a different level than back home, for that matter. It was a nice contrast.”
Coming here with no intention whatsoever of starting a club - although finding himself two and a half years later planting the seed to what today is the internationally famous Herrensauna.
”It sounds intimidating to come to a new city and start a club in a city that has such a big variety in nightlife.But that’s not what happened. I thought ’What am I gonna do here that doesn’t already exist’. But then some friends approached me, among them was Jordan Davidson from back home, and he knew the parties I used to create in Vienna, and we found a concept that was missing here. We were totally blown away by the success it had from the start.”
”We thought we were going to do it for some friends. CEM, Jordan, Mikka and I got a small club that we hoped we could fill and when we opened the doors there was a line and we didn’t know why to be honest.”
Today Herrensauna is touring the world and describing it with three words Nicolas says:
”Freedom, diversity and hedonism.”
Things that he himself was once in a big need of, but that wasn’t available where he grew up. As part of the queer movement, Berlinprovided him with a community that he expanded through Herrensauna - a place where people who have been taught that they aren’t good enough and aren’t worthy as they are; can expand, grow and be themselves.
”The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learnt just by being in Berlin with its vibrant music scene and tireless fight for freedom. It’s a crossing point of so many different sub-cultures and that’s so interesting. It’s like a multi- sub-culture universe”, he laughs.
Although ’making it in Berlin’ had its ups and downs, it proved to him the importance of never to give up. Nicolas was drawn to the nightlife from an early age and got into the DJ booth as a teenager when the actual DJ at the club didn’t turn up.
”I didn’t know much about DJ equipment during the first gig I had, but I somehow made it work, and that was the beginning. Although I had manifested it for a long time even before that night–”
”There used to be this TV-show at an alternative music channel, named ’Go TV’ where they always invited musicians who could select their favourite music and I was dreaming about doing that until I figured out that it was basically the same as being a DJ”, he laughs.
And just before the pandemic hit, Nicolas’s life was, to say the least, hectic. Today we have had some time to adjust and get back to something close to the old reality and eating it all up has been good and intense.
”It’s been a bit overwhelming, and I’ve realized that I have to take better care of myself and be stricter if I want to continue doing this. But I have also realized, now that I’ve started touring again, that I can still do all those things, and that I really do enjoy it, which is very motivating.”
”Also realizing that during the pandemic, not knowing how to pay the bills and what to do, is over. This winter will for sure be a lot better than the last one.”
The first months of lockdown was first like a relief for him, but then it turned into a dark hole. Although they say that darkness feeds light, or maybe they don’t - but this period made it possible for Nicolas to focus on creating from his mind, as there weren’t any distractions.
The various forms of art he creates is an assembly of how he perceives the world. Besides the music and the club, there’s his physical art, fashion design and acting among other expressions.
”All I do is collages, in a way. Within the art I create, as well as music and even the club. I’m very quick at connecting two things that seem disparate and that’s what drives me – letting my mind wander off and create new connections.”
”At this time, I want to focus more on my visual arts.”
Even if the partying that follows a touring lifestyle easily can spill over on the rest of the days, Nicolas is trying to stay focused and not let the temptations win too often on weekdays. As the lack of sleep prevents him from staying focused on pursuing the visions he has for his art.
”During the pandemic I realized that I need to make more time for painting. I can’t create without sleep; after touring for example. Therefor I need to be strict with myself.”.
”Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and sometimes I need to remind myself of that.”
The leather jacket he’s wearing is half filled with the letters HIV repeating itself in red font - his own design, that he wears proudly; and that’s a part of the conceptual art and multi-media that he produces for a coming exhibition.
”It’s all related to HIV. Something that was also channelled to me during the pandemic as I was researching how HIV originated and found that it’s basically man made. Well, it was a decease among monkeys, but then in the ’50s scientists were looking for a vaccination against Polio and they created a vaccine from monkey bone marrow, which was infected with this virus. They realized what they had done but didn’t care as they prioritized the money and being first with their vaccine on the market.”–
”They consciously distributed this infected vaccine. They didn’t know to what extent it was harmful, but they knew of the risks and still gave it to people.” Nicolas explains and continues.
”It’s interesting how the government handles a situation when they want to prevent something, and how they neglect something when they don’t care. How quick it was to spring into action with corona, and how they did nothing to prevent HIV, for decades. How they still don’t care enough to abolish their patent laws that make the remedies inaccessible for large parts of the world. Millions of lives could be saved if they didn’t care more about maintaining the western market prices.”
When researching this topic, Nicolas got sick of the stigmatization and shaming in connexion with HIV.
”I don’t care what people think about me. I’m in a position where people look up to me, and I can influence people and use my voice to stand up for the ones that don’t have the same possibility. I don’t have a problem running around with a huge HIV sign on my body, and if that can raise awareness and help someone who’s struggling with their status, then I have to do that from my present position."
”I mean I was positive for years without talking about it publicly. This creates a dialogue, and it’s punk. It creates awareness."
There are several approaches and hypotheses when it comes to HIV research. The opinions in the interview belong to the interviewee himself.