Nicolas Stecher: Maxim Deputy Editor and Freelance Writer

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we’re talking with Maxim deputy editor Nicolas Stecher. Nicolas is also a freelance writer of cars, music, spirits, culture, and travel for outlets such as Rolling Stones, Wired, Robb Report, Mix Mag, and others. He’s also an author and musician. Hello, Nicolas. Welcome to Media in Minutes.

 

Nicolas Stecher  00:51

Hello, Angela, how’s it going?

 

Angela Tuell  00:52

It’s going well, thanks for joining us. You know, I’m not really sure where to start. You are such a prolific writer and cover everything from cars to spirits to adventure travel to culture and music. Where should we begin? In the beginning?

 

Nicolas Stecher  01:10

Well, yes. I guess the only place to start is the beginning, which I started off as a music writer essentially. And for obvious, like, I was a musician, I love music. It was for free like paper, and I went to UCLA. And it was for free paper, in San Diego that my friend worked with, it was like an LA Express. I don’t know if you know what that is. It’s basically like, a newspaper to like sell, like ads for like strip clubs and stuff with like, right? When we, you know, eat content in between. And I would write music reviews from LA for I remember, the first one was like Jane’s Addiction. And the idea was, you know, I would get free tickets, and then I would have to write about it. But I really liked writing. And those guys really liked my writing. So I kept doing it through like my senior year. And then I left free when I graduated. I did you know, the typical travel around the world thing and spent like, say five months in, in Europe in the seven months, nine months in Chile. Yeah. And then wrote from there, basically.

 

Angela Tuell  02:15

Okay, so did you know before that you wanted to be a journalist?

 

Nicolas Stecher  02:19

No, I really, really had my like, sights set on being a musician, but I just didn’t have the talent.

 

Angela Tuell  02:24

Okay, what do you play?

 

Nicolas Stecher  02:26

Guitar. I was a guitar player. And then I also got really into electronic music. And then I started producing music. And again, you know, I just hit that one point, like in my mid-20s, where I’m like, I can see that I’ve talent, I’d more talent, the writing sphere than I did in music. So I just accepted it.

 

Angela Tuell  02:44

Yeah. All right, I have to get paid to get paid in that area, right?

 

Nicolas Stecher  02:47

One was giving me money. And one was costing me money. So, yeah.

 

Angela Tuell  02:51

So how did you get to where you are today in covering all of the different beats?

 

Nicolas Stecher  02:57

For music, I wrote for an electronic music magazine in LA called Industry Insider. The two partners split, and one of the partners started Dub Magazine, which was really, really quite famous and really blew up and had like 10 years of huge growth. And what he did was essentially shoot, they did stories on athletes and rappers mostly with their cars and posing in front of their rims. I thought it was an absolutely ridiculous idea. But I loved hip hop, and I needed money to write and he was, you know, I helped start the magazine. So I was super stoked to do it. And the blessing of that was that I was able to keep writing music, but then also start doing, you know, athletes and musicians and then mostly cars, and then I segwayed into cars.

 

Angela Tuell  03:53

Okay. And of course, you started in travel, not necessarily writing but traveling. So you started. You started out that way.

 

Nicolas Stecher  04:01

Yeah, actually, like when I was in Europe, I started when I initially left, I was writing these free pieces for that magazine. That is for that paper in San Diego. Totally, like off just weird shit that was happening to me, like weird adventures that I would get into. And the blessing of that was I wasn’t getting paid, but they were taking anything that I was writing because they just needed content, which is like a real blessing.

 

Angela Tuell  04:26

If you had the clips then.

 

Nicolas Stecher  04:27

Yeah, I had the clips, but it was I was also given an excuse to write so like I was having like this really, you know, sort of, you know, anybody that’s done this at that age, like they have all these thoughts and you know, you’re traveling through Paris for the first time and like at least I had an outlet to put it out. And then I guess in a way that also opened the way for me to understand that I could get paid for doing this like that was actually an option was to not just travel around, which a lot of my friends were doing, but also writing about it. And then, you know, theoretically getting paid in some respect. So I think that was huge, like, looking back. You like? Yeah,

 

Angela Tuell  05:11

Turning point. Yeah. What is something we’d be surprised to learn about you?

 

Nicolas Stecher  05:17

I know that there’s, there’s probably plenty. But like, for me, the good thing about the spectrum of stuff I get to write about is the fact that most of my interests I write about. So like, if I’m really into spirits, and I, you know, I really get into, like, the nuances of agave is and then American whiskey and scotch and stuff. And I said, you know, if I’m gonna read up about this, and you know, in research it, I might as well start writing about it. So then I did that. And then like, I started off in the luxury in a travel spot, it certainly wasn’t luxury, but luxury travel beat way beats any other form of travel. And then, you know, getting a travel was really important to me, but it was always to do something, right. Like, if, if Mercedes Benz was going to, they would send me Jaguar send me to Iceland, a Jaguar Land Rover to drive a Land Rover, in the snow in Iceland. That was amazing. And it was, you know, eye-opening. And the first one I did was driving, an Audi Q seven, across the outback of Australia for four days. And like, that was absolutely mind-blowing that that was even in like, people were doing that.

 

Angela Tuell  06:28

Yeah, and you’re getting paid for it.

 

Nicolas Stecher  06:30

Yeah. Before being able to write about it. But the thing was, what I loved most about it was the was travel, and driving the cars was secondary. So then, when I started bumping shoulders with people that were like travel writers, I realized that while you can actually just travel to a place and people will, will do the same thing. But I don’t have to spend 24 hours driving a car essentially. So then I started, like digging into that world. And I think that’s where it was me and you got to know each other was, you know, you guys approached me about doing a story about Peru, and who’s been a bucket list. So whenever anybody hits me with a bucket list place like Morocco, Peru, Scotland, Mongolia. You know, any place like that, that I’ve either been or dying to go up or down, go for the first time like that, that gets me more than that gets me more than anything.

 

Angela Tuell  07:23

Yeah. And you did it for Maxim, how long have you been with Maxim?

 

Nicolas Stecher  07:26

Um, I think, you know, I’ve been a deputy editor there for I’m gonna guess like three to four years. Three years, four years, and I’ve been writing for them for three or four years before that.

 

Angela Tuell  07:36

Okay, so what is your role involve as a deputy editor?

 

Nicolas Stecher  07:41

Well, it’s not going to shock you to know that we’re a relatively small team. We’re like that. There’s the print magazine. And then there’s the online, we work closely with each other. But Chris Wilson is our digital editor, he handles all that, you know, the digital stuff, I send them things I write for him too.  But he is at the pinnacle of the Maxim brand because we also do events and other things like that. And social media is the mat, the magazine is the big prestige piece. So my editor, my editor in chief is, is pretty much the creative director, which is Guillaume Bruneau. And so he really cares about aesthetics. So the prime, the prime thing that we worry about is finding stories that are going to translate on the page beautifully aesthetically, and also with you know, really interesting stories and I have a partner Jared Stern, who’s also an exceptional luxury travel writer. We overlap a lot we both love luxury spirits we both love luxury travel. I’m a little bit more in the automotive supercar realm, he’s much more into watches and things like that. So we have our specialties but we overlap a lot. And to answer your question long but ways like essentially what we want to do is cover things that interest men that want to experience something new and interesting are into. There’s still the girl aspect we always have like you know beautiful girl on the cover but you know now we’re really trying to find women that are doing interesting things or you know really moguls and running their own worlds on top of being aesthetically you know, beautiful to match the Maxim brand but for me as a, as an, as an editor I’m more care about the other content I care about like let’s get a story of us riding you know, Baja buggies across, you know, Baja Mexico for three days and camping or let’s go to Mongolia, Jordan and drive these you know, Infinity SUVs from Wadi Rum to you know, see go see Petra, and like really cool things that like any, and you know, any guy that’s curious and, and likes to travel will flip this through and be like, Oh, holy shit, I got to do that trip or inspired me to do another trip, I guess. Or to buy this bottle of whiskey, you know, like, we don’t really cover like your traditional like, well, we try to find things that are really interesting.

 

Angela Tuell  09:56

So has your audience for Maxim changed a little bit over the years?

 

Nicolas Stecher  10:00

Well, I think the Maxim audience changed before I got there. There was a big pivot under a previous editor-in-chief from being like, you know, straight girly mag with, like five-minute articles to being something that was more would actually be our wouldn’t the Mr. Biglari. Sardar Biglari bought the magazine, he really wanted to make it into something that was more of a prestige piece, more luxury and things like that. So that happened prior to me getting there.

 

Angela Tuell  10:27

Okay, so how would you describe the typical reader?

 

Nicolas Stecher  10:30

I would say males 28 to 54, doing tequila shots, maybe until like, starting to figure out better clothes to buy, better whiskeys to get into, better watches. So I would say like, like the developing young man into somebody that has the means to do it to somebody that always wants to kind of, you know, keep the finger the finger on the pulse.

 

Angela Tuell  10:55

That’s a great description. And that’s it. That’s a wide range, you know, that you have to appeal to. I know, you mentioned spirits, and you handle the Maxim SPIRIT OF THE WEEK articles. Right? That must be a tough job, right?

 

Nicolas Stecher  11:08

Yes, it’s terrible. The only one that hates it is my girlfriend because we get a lot of really, really good spirits here, way more than I can, you know, drink. So we open bottles, I have to you know, I try to try everything. And you know, my friends really are the ones who benefit most because like, I’ve been like, you know, we hang out three or four open bottles to whatever house is there and everyone gets to try and I get some. I’m incredibly blessed in the whiskey world. And Mezcals but mostly whiskey, like, just absolutely social right for Robb Report and other magazines and right. You know, some people send me these. Just, you know, I know more from like, the way I see my friends’ eyes were whiskey nerds when they.

 

Angela Tuell  11:51

Uh, huh? My husband’s one of those.

 

Nicolas Stecher  11:53

Yeah, exactly. I’m a little jaded. So like, but I’ll get like, you know, the Buffalo Trace Antique collection. Oh, no.

 

Angela Tuell  12:02

Wow. Yes. Stuff you can’t find on the shelves at all.

 

Nicolas Stecher  12:05

Exactly. Like stuff that people you know, you know, maybe $150 SRP, but, you know, people are paying literally $900, $1,000 $1,200 for a bottle. It comes to my house. And then I’m like, I invite my three or four best friends who are whiskey heads, you know, to come over and try it and everybody wins.

 

Angela Tuell  12:24

That’s awesome. You’re one of the best friends they have. Right?

 

Nicolas Stecher  12:28

I’d say that. The ca- there’s moochies in my world, but

 

Angela Tuell  12:32

Right. So, you know, in all of these different areas, there’s so many great stories. What are your favorite types of stories to write?

 

Nicolas Stecher  12:41

I’m right now ticking. I have to do tomorrow’s cover story for Rolling Stone Australia on this band, but electronic leaning called a Rufus du Sol. They just won the Grammy. And number one, I really I got to spend some time with those guys. And we drove around to different venues that they played in LA from starting off in the Echoplex to like the house they used to live in Venice, which is where I live and really kind of recorded and their labels called Rose AB so it’s like, you know, they’re there. They’re Australians from Sydney, but they spent five years in Venice and now they have you know, Calif like California girlfriends like they’re very much – Los Angeles is like their second home. And we got to go round and eat together and things like that. Like, that’s really cool for me, like, meeting people I respect who are either music I respect or art I respect, being able to sit down with them, talk to them, really ask them any question. It’s all really as long as they’re into it, which I’m lucky that I don’t can’t think of anybody that I really had a terrible interview with. Most people give you a really thoughtful and give you the time of day. And it’s really awesome. You know, like, it’s really beautiful to sit down with these people and spend time with them and learn what makes them tick. And, you know, what’s their songwriting coming from an old musician’s position like, what’s your songwriting process? How do you, how much time do you dwell on it hi that sound and, you know, different philosophies of why that’s a waste of time versus not? And, you know, we hung out for like, six hours and the interviews, you know, probably half an hour of the interview. So there’s a lot of time you, you know, you build up, you get to know them, and then you afterward when you listen to them, you kind of like pluck the ore out and you’re like, Oh, this is the cool part. This is a cool conversation. What do people would fans really want to hear about them? Has this topic been gone over a million times? So that’s really one of my favorites. And then the other one is the one like going, you know, like I mentioned before, like going to Peru or going to I did a trip to Sicily where Bentley sent me out to drive the like their fastest GT in Sicily, and then I expanded it and spent like another week there driving around the island and getting my own hotels that were like, you know, my favorite type of hotel all these like European GrandAm hotels like the ones that are like, two 200, 150, 200, 300 years old. And they have that real luxury, not like the Vegas, fake love old luxury, real luxury, like not just a pillar there because, like, looks good, but like, it’s, you know, it’s, you know, architectural Spiller, you know, marble and in just, you know, they know how to treat people, I love Europe, because it’s just, it’s a beautiful place. The vibe, there are people, you know, it’s more about communication and talking and experiencing things. It’s unnecessarily about a blaring pool party, like, you can sit by the pool, have a Campari brought to you or be even better you’re on the Mediterranean by, you know, on, you know, on the beach, and somebody’s paying, you compare it and you’ve got nothing to do for like the next eight hours, then your only job is to take it in, kind of process it and then come up with a story by the end. I mean, that’s, that is like my ideal gig. And I’ve been super lucky to be able to do it a couple of several times. And, you know, that’s just, I got to pinch myself be like, I can’t believe this is my job. I get asked that all the time by my friends, like, I can’t believe this.

 

Angela Tuell  16:23

You get paid for this. You have a story coming out soon in Peru, as you mentioned a little bit ago. How was it from there?

 

Nicolas Stecher  16:31

From Maxim, we went down there. And then again, there’s another one that you helped you lay, paved the groundwork for that one. And you know, we talked about it pre-COVID, and then everything shut down. We ended up going in November. And again like that, that one is a microcosm of exactly what I love because we went to Lima and spent four days in Lima trying like their world-class cuisine. And we went to Central, we went to Astrid & Gaston. These like world-famous restaurants and get to eat this. Like, you know, there is no meal I’ve ever had it. Yes, it’s the most refined like Central is the most it’s up there with like Noma or, you know, Tickets or like, you know, these just ridiculous restaurants like there’s, they’re there on a different pier, on a different tier, right. So yeah, you get to experience that you get to eat this amazing food. It’s brought to you, you know, at that point and talk to the chef, but Virgilio but we ended up emailing and having a really beautiful, you know, communication that way. And then you do like three or four days of that and you jump in a plane, you go to the Valle Sagrado, or like the Cusco area, Machu Picchu met the most awesome guide. Ernesto. I think he’s his Instagram is Ernesto of the Sacred Valley. If you ever if anybody out there is going to Peru, he is by far the best guide I’ve ever had anywhere on anything. And, you know, he took me to these tiny villages, because he’s, you know, he spoke Quechuan, and, you know, some of these people don’t even speak Spanish. And then, you know, we were on dirt roads and hiking. We didn’t just drive up to like, you know, the landmark, we would take the long way around and hike in and stop at somebody’s house. And they gave us you know, Peruvian food. Yeah. And Peruvian beer. I think they have like a corn beer. Yeah, so you experience you know, I like to use that, to me is my ultimate, ultimate trip where it’s where you get, like the really elevated, refined, you know, first world type of treatment. And then you get into the weeds. And you’re among like, you know, indigenous people, or, you know, like, you get that in Oaxaxa a lot. You see how they make the best cow and how they like getting your fingers dirty. But when you can do both of those in one trip. You’ll be amazed. Amazing. Yeah, you probably have played all my keys.

 

Angela Tuell  18:58

So how do you tend to find your stories?

 

Nicolas Stecher  19:01

Um, to, I mean, I’ll be completely honest, like 75% are brought to me. And it’s just a matter of processing and deciding which ones I want to do. And then there are ones that I seek out and say, I really want to go here. I really want to do this. I hear about a festival somewhere or some really weird thing that’s going on, and I tried to figure out a way to get there.

 

Angela Tuell  19:27

Yeah, that’s great for us as PR professionals. You know, how can we best help you do your job besides bringing you those stories? Or do you have any pet peeves, too?

 

Nicolas Stecher  19:36

There’s a lot of very good PR. Present me with an opportunity. You know, I would always say circle back at least once, especially with the way of modern email. Like I get so many emails I miss stuff and sometimes I’m like, “Well, thank God this person circled back.” At the same time, like, you know, I would say three is the most to circle back to sometimes. And I get that some people are desperate. They’re trying really sell their thing, but like, also try to, like, you know, I don’t like when I write for Maxim and people are sending me like, “Oh, here are great ideas for Mother’s Day gifts,” like, we don’t cover Mother’s Day gifts. So like, you know, target your audience intelligently. And then, I mean, again, I’ve had so much luck with some really good PRs, I think it’s hard to give general advice. But like, in luxury travel, a big one I would say is make sure your client has really good photography, you know, you’d be shocked. If you’re going to be in PR, there’s always the text and the copy. And the words are super important. But the visuals are also really important too. So that’s sometimes disappointing. And you’d be surprised like Belmond hotels like they have the greatest photography ever. We never have to take a photo there. But then there’s like a smaller hotel, and they might not have great photography or a database of photos. But I think even those independent ones, should invest a little bit in that. It’s like, hey, that’s, that’s, that really moves the needle, at least in our world.

 

Angela Tuell  21:03

Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to include ones that don’t I mean, if you don’t have any photography for them, absolutely. I’m sure there are some that can’t be included, then.

 

Nicolas Stecher  21:10

That’s 100% the case. And we’ve worked with what you know, and they’re usually in, you know, it’s like could be in the desert of Mongolia. And they’re just not used to the fact that they’re not savvy, they’re not used to IG in this whole new world. And I get that and you have to work with them. But like, if I worked with – as a PR company, one of the first things I would do is make sure that they had really good visuals and things like assets, all sorts of assets.

 

Angela Tuell  21:38

Yeah, that’s great advice. Now, before we go, we also have to talk about your books. You’ve written one and are the co-author of another to tell us more about them.

 

Nicolas Stecher  21:48

Okay. Again, luckily, it’s, it’s sometimes I envy people that just stick in one world because they’re very focused. I dated a PhD student and like, all she did was linguistics in the minutia that she would focus on was amazing, because she was one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet that knew this. Meanwhile, I didn’t know anything about it. But I knew all these random things about tequila and the Ferarri things. But the good like the first one was The Ultimate Impossible Collection of Motorcycles, which is an azulene, publishing a French publishing house. They have a series called The Impossible Collection where they take something and, you know, could be the impossible collection of guitars and impossible collection of Ferraris impossible collection and whatever. They approached me one about like, I think they approached like seven writers. And they said, give us your idea. I worked with a guy called Ian, who’s Ian Barry, who makes his own motorcycles he made if he does custom bikes that, you know, now they’re in the Peterson. He’s an incredibly well-respected motorcycle guy. His brand was called Falcon Motorcycles. So I said, I could theoretically do this, but I really want to bring somebody whose entire world is motorcycles. Yeah. So I brought him along, and we selected, you know, 100 bikes, and that’s in the 100. That’s the possible collection, it’s more of a coffee table book. But the work came in deciding which were going to be the 100 bikes we would cover which was a lot, a lot of work. And then writing up was short, was easier than it was on each. And then the second one is called The Secret DJ book three. And what that is, is the secret DJs A writer for Mix Mag, which is a number one music magazine, dance music magazine, maybe in the world, but that’s in the UK. And what they did was they had this really good writer, there was also a DJ share the stories about being a DJ behind the scenes, which is fascinating because it’s every Yeah, like, what’s it like, you know, being touring, but then also, you know, the drudgery of visas and you know, like up shady promoters and when dealing with the editor of that book, because he was the editor of Mix Mag, Duncan Dick, I suggested the idea of why don’t we do one with we just approach to a bunch of different DJs like world-class DJs and we get like stories that are like tales of of of warning about what to avoid with shady like promoters and then your stories about when you first started DJing like great stories from headlining DJs and yada yada yada and collect them all. And that was a blessing because that happened during COVID and nobody was doing anything as everybody knows and so three good something to work on because I got to talk to all these like big DJs and nobody was touring they will maybe producing but they had the time to talk about this and really share some really amazing stories about you know, everything from you know, they’re getting chased around by Barcelona by you know, gangsters to like, you know, storms coming in when they’re in Ibiza in like tornadoes and getting their turntables thrown off the table. So essentially all we did was we got like, I think seven contributing editors, a contributing editor and we just collected like 10 stories each and put it into a book.

 

Angela Tuell  25:19

That sounds fascinating.  It’s out now. We’ll definitely have to link to tell you.

 

Nicolas Stecher  25:25

Yes, it’s a fun read. I mean, I looked like when I got the book I was like reading through because I was like trying to see which ones were mine. There’s no way to know. And I read-alike, you know, 30, 30 of them. It’s if it’s a world that you’re interested in. It’s, it’s fun.

 

Angela Tuell  25:40

Great. Thank you so much for talking with us today. Where can listeners find you on social?

 

Nicolas Stecher  25:45

I’m at Nick Stecher, N-I-C-K-S-T-E-C-H-E-R on Instagram. I also have a spirit-centric one on Instagram called at Booze of the Day. So B-O-O-Z-E of the day on Instagram, and then Twitter is man versus himself. Man underscore vs underscore himself. And that’s it, Twitter.

 

Angela Tuell  26:10

Perfect. We’ll have those links in our show notes too.

 

Nicolas Stecher  26:13

That’d be awesome.

 

Angela Tuell  26:15

Thank you.

 

Nicolas Stecher  26:15

Thanks for reaching out. I appreciate it.

 

Angela Tuell  26:19

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.