Nick Klein
Nick Klein
Courtesy of the artist

Nick Klein's Love for Miami Comes Full Circle at Kill Your Idol

The visceral sound of a Nick Klein record isn't something that can be easily sourced or replicated. This is due in part to Klein's approach to texture, volume, and recording: In his hands, the medium becomes shaped by the material in an inescapable way — evidenced by Klein often recording directly to four-track cassette. On Saturday, September 29, at Kill Your Idol, music collective Vlor will present the New York-based electronic artist. Originally from South Florida, he's released recordings on L.I.E.S. and Alter Records. He's toured internationally, playing European festivals such as Gamma and Norberg. New Times caught up with him to talk about the Miami influences that shaped him, his current New York practice, and what the future might hold.

"I grew up in West Palm Beach. By the time I was 14 or 15, I was heading down to Miami for shows often," Klein reminisces cheerfully over the phone after a long workday. "Then I eventually moved to Miami to study and ended up there for a while. [In 2011] I was part of General Practice, an artist-run space. We hammered out a lot of special exhibitions," he explains.

General Practice was a unique gem among Miami venues. Unpredictable and cutting-edge, it blurred lines between disciplines. "The back-and-forth between the visual arts community and the aesthetics of the experimental music community, these two things had a Venn diagram midpoint at General Practice," he says.

After the space dissolved due to an eviction, Klein "felt like [he] needed to go somewhere else, needed a wellspring of more music." He set his sights on New York — though he jokingly acknowledges, "I guess New York is a cliché place to go for that." A few admirable artist friends helped him along the way. "There was this guy, Andrew Ross, an amazing sculptor and conceptual painter. He was a good friend, and when I was on tour with Cop City/Chill Pillars, I stayed with Andrew. He somehow had this place that was M.I.A.'s old apartment," Klein mentions casually. A combination of factors drove him northward: "There was my conception of the noise scene, which seemed to thrive much more in the Northeast, and then Andrew saying, 'This is how much rent's gonna be — come up.'"

But the appeal of the Big Apple has worn off. "I think New York is lacking authenticity more and more each day," Klein laments. He recalls the early feeling of moving into his current dwelling, another artist-run space with a considerable creative output. "It was the kind of environment where you'd walk in and see one of your idols or heroes just walking around, tagging your hallway, or playing a show. It's been like that for a long time." Klein's mood turns a bit more somber. "But it does start to wear spiritually. This building is coming to an end after many, many years. I'm going to use that as my exit, to reevaluate where I wanna be."

Asked about Miami, Klein remains optimistic. "Miami is such a die-hard place. I felt like I'd hit a ceiling, but a lot of people are OK with that. There's a lot of peace and Zen in that. In a way, it's a place where people literally give space away, where certain opportunities manifest."

Klein also still engages with several Miami labels and curators. "I think Miami has a legendary gem, a label that's stuck to its guns. Schematic Records, Romulo Del Castillo's label, it's been going for so long and it's never really stopped. That's really influential to me," he expounds. "Castillo is a cool mentor, Schematic is an encyclopedia of an era of electronic music, and the fact that it came out of Miami is insane. It's really special. I think it will be more recognized over time."

He's also excited about local label head Matt Preira's newest project, 21 Hundred, which happens to be releasing a tape with Dim Past, also on the bill for Kill Your Idol. "Brad [Dim Past] and I have known each other since I was 15 years old. I used to book his punk bands, like Space Manatee. My parents owned a dance studio," Klein recollects. "We did a lot of punk, hardcore, and noise shows there. We've been playing together for a long time."

Regarding the way he's recorded and performed over those years, Klein says it's a mixed bag. "I've gone back-and-forth. My first record, first tape, first tour... was very gear-heavy, but I didn't even own a computer. I didn't have a computer for years," he explains, laughing. "Treasure Teeth or Alex Suarez would let my bum ass come over and digitize and work on stuff on the computer, and that was my introduction to using Ableton."

That phase didn't last. "I ended up selling all my gear, and I would tour with just a laptop and a little synth, which I thought was pretty punk." Klein says his pursuit has continually shifted and morphed. "Now I'm more into modular stuff, less about fine-tuning, more just capturing it live. I just like to amass and see what works. I'll add compression here and there, but I don't go crazy-maximal. I'm way more interested in the vibe than all the incredible tricks."

Elucidating his approach, Klein says, "I appreciate that people push the boundaries of maximalism, but I guess I'm just lazy. On Lowered Flaming Coffin, that's a four-track cassette recorder. Each song has a maximum of four parts." This is definitely intentional, part of the music that's shaped the artist's ear. "Greg Beato and my other heroes, those are raw-ass recordings. Just the kick drum, hi-hat, bass line, and synth, and it's raw as fuck, but it's transformative — takes you places," he gushes. "I think setting restrictions on myself is a hallmark of my specific style, and it enabled me to perform live."

Regarding his release schedule, Klein says he's been lucky to have a full team of support. "I just have a pool of three to four people in my life that I'm fortunate enough to know, and they know my dedication to my practice. If someone hears something and feels a connection to it, I let them have it," he explains. "Luke Younger of Alter liked Lowered Flaming Coffin, and that became the second one I released with him. As long as labels respect each other and don't get weird, it's cool."

Klein is somewhat transparent about his plans for the future including extended stays in Miami. "Since I've been gone, there's a batch of young people responding with a resurgence of a certain kind of electronic, club music," he notes excitedly. "There's Edward [eDad] and Phantasman, and seeing Nico [Andean Shrine] buying modular... it's cool."

Nick Klein. With Dim Past, Phantasman, and Andean Shrine. 9 p.m. Saturday, September 29, at Kill Your Idol, 222 Española Way, Miami Beach; 305-672-1852; sub-culture.org/kill-your-idol. Admission is free.

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