Back before he became an all-round gay idol, Michal Nicolas was this close to making it in the schmaltzy teenaged girl world of boy bands. Born and bred in Surry Hills, Nicolas spent his late teens auditioning for, joining, and suffering the failures of a string of potential world-beating pretty pop projects.
A few of them were put together by big management companies, and they’d send us to dancing school, the whole thing, Nicolas says.
It was hideous! But I did it because it was what I kind of had to do. I was in Australia, I wasn’t a rock singer, I wasn’t following the Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham route and we were trying to emulate what was happening overseas.
Luckily (for us, at least), the acts were all pretty crap. For one reason or another -“ police busts, personality differences or general pop drama -“ all five of the would-be Michal Nicolas boy band success stories fell apart.
That’s when Nicolas set out on his own, investing all of his savings into his vocal future. He released Your Loving Arms in 2001, which was part of a major fundraising drive for the AIDS Trust of Australia. An album was the obvious next step, he says, although it has ended up taking a bit longer than he expected.
The result, Uncovered, is a diverse collection of remixes (think Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield, Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy and Lou Reed’s Perfect Day if you doubt that description). The long wait has been worth it, Nicolas says.
Not that I know what giving birth is like, but it felt like I’d just given birth, he says.
When you have something in your head and it’s your whole life, when it actually happens you don’t quite know how to feel. It took a lot of manoeuvring and massaging to pull it through -“ the first couple of weeks I didn’t know how I felt about it but now I’m just so pleased and so relieved.
He had some doubts about some of the tracks, like Smalltown Boy, for example. He says he would not have messed with such an iconic Jimmy Somerville number if he hadn’t been asked to do it, but now it’s out there, most people seem to like it.
Nicolas, who performed a song from Uncovered at Brisbane’s Sleaze party on the weekend, has never shied away from the gay community. He lent his voice to Mardi Gras fundraiser Never Miss the Water and is a regular, out-and-proud presence on Sydney scene.
I never ever made the decision to be the gay artist or the non-gay artist, he says.
Of course, thank god, the gay community has been so supportive since day one. I was really scared of that, we can be a fairly critical group of people. But the support was amazing, and because I do dance music it was like a natural collusion. While I don’t go out there waving a rainbow flag I don’t ever hide anything. It has always been, -˜This is who I am, and this is what I do.’
Michal Nicolas will launch Uncovered at a special World AIDS Day fundraiser at the Midnight Shift on Sunday 28 November.