Brooklyn noise-techno label Primitive Languages is powered by two starkly different personalities: Nick Klein, the overly-manic alpha, and his mega-chill counterpart Miguel Alvariño. They’ve joined forces to launch the imprint as well as a boutique record shop that’s located in a shipping container in Brooklyn. Like many constituents in the contemporary psycho-techno community, both have roots in the noise scene that informed their wild take on dance music. The recipe has proved popular at home and abroad; Klein and Alvariño recently returned to New York from a European tour booked by Unknown Precept, a likeminded outpost from Berlin that has released killer industrial-tinged vinyls and tapes from Klein, Corporate Park’s S. English and brutalist beat-maker Profligate. If you’re into the more bizarre moments of techno, take note of these working visionaries.
Miguel, did you change your stage name to Enrique?
Miguel Alvariño: Yeah. I had been thinking about it for a while. It’s just my middle name, but it seems more simple and to-the-point and a little more ambiguous. “Miguel Alvariño” was a little too long and specific. It’s a little more bearable to hear white people say “Enrique” than hearing “Alvariño” [in a very honky American accent].
Nick, are you going to start going by your middle name as well?
Nick Klein: “Barry”? No, I don’t think so.
MA: That would be fucking ridiculous.
NK: At this point, I should probably come up with some type of pseudonym or something, like an alias. The reason why I’ve always just used my name is because I want to be able to account for everything I do—like really account for the art that comes out and the growth. I was listening to my stuff on SoundCloud yesterday, and the things I was making two years ago were really different. But there’s still a through line that makes sense. The work is an extension of me.
What’s changed since you moved from Miami to New York a few years ago?
MA: A lot, but also not really anything. That was a big transition for me from just doing like, hard work, like physical work, into making digital work and exploring sounds or rhythms that I was already interested in. It’s been an ever-developing work ethic that we both cultivated when we were in art school.
NK: A lot has changed, but pretty much all for the better. There’s more clarity, a little more foresight and a lot of focus. It’s just a matter of focusing on your practice and making sure that it’s intentional and it’s real and it has integrity. But yeah, there’s been so many changes. Sleeping on people’s couches. Having drug problems. Getting fired. Getting hired. Crazy girlfriend issues. I guess that’s the same all the time. People are just more receptive to what we’ve been doing, and we’ve gotten amazing opportunities. We played Bossa Nova [Civic Club, a venue in Brooklyn] the other night, and there were people that had in the past said, “Nope, we can’t have those guys play a weekend show. We gotta keep the floor moving.” So while we were once a liability, I think now people are a little more receptive to our perspective. And that’s cool. And we didn’t really have to change that much.
MA: We didn’t change.
NK: That was the one time for me where the normies were there, the freaks were there, and everybody was just going off and having fun. It was finally the actualization of the democratic potential of what interests me and Miguel in dance music. People were together—moving together—and it’s really hippie. It’s a really beautiful thing.
How has your friendship and artistic relationship developed over time?
NK: I think in our entire friendship we’ve had one fight, and it was about the label.
MA: It works based off of our personalities. That’s probably why we’ve been friends for so long: a certain combination of acceptance and non-expectations for a lot of things in our relationship. We’re not emotionally dependent on each other for certain things, so we just chill. That’s why we can do projects together without tearing our faces off or something.
NK: There’s a stasis chamber that has existed since we became friends. There’s a lot of yin and yang aspects to our personalities. I’m fucking crazy; Miguel’s chill. We push each other really hard to work.
MA: We have similar work ethics, and we see that in each other, and that pushes us even further. When he makes something good, it makes me want to make more stuff, and vice versa. But we’re not dependent on it because we’re just making stuff constantly.
NK: The thing that gives us the power to dialogue artistically the way we have is this idea of no excuses. It’s either being done or it’s not. Is the idea executed? Did you get the shit done? That’s in the back of our heads. And I think we want to get even more shit done. This year we put out about 20 tapes for people. It’s simultaneously manic and super chill. And that’s just Miguel and I. There are a lot of people who’re really close to us who inform our work too. Alex Suarez [Cienfuegos], Danny Moore [Pvre Matrix], Kieran Morris [Negation], Justin Lakes [Shredded Nerve], Lucy Lewis.
MA: They’re outsiders who’re obviously just doing this regardless of whatever situation they’re in. They need to do this. This isn’t a passing fad; it’s something in their lives that needs to get done, because what else are you going to do that gives you a little bit of purpose? And it’s taken seriously in those ways. But it’s also this ridiculous thing that’s completely selfish and completely pointless.
NK: It’s only important to us.
MA: But that’s how you know. When it’s only important to that person.
Tell me about what Primitive Languages. How and why you did you start it and how has it changed?
MA: When I first moved to New York, we were going out a lot because we didn’t get a chance to see a lot of these people in Miami. Nick was talking about starting a label to put out friends who we had been seeing but we knew weren’t getting a chance to be released. I wanted to immediately put something out, and that became our first tape. Then we were like, “Oh shit, we can store the music in a shipping container and have a home base and a store.”
NK: The store aspect of Primitive Languages was really un-thought out, but it was an important investment in our lives. We suck at being businessmen. But as far as identifying important work, it helped. Primitive Languages is now and will continue to be a curatorial exercise as long as we can sustain it and as long as people think it’s worth buying from. We put out the people who inspire us and kind of don’t get enough shine. It’s like every other [small-scale] label, I guess.
Published November 11, 2015.