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New York’s Most Abrasive Dance Night Is Coming to an End

“It's a techno night where the punks come to dance.”

Photos by Reed Dunlea

No-Tech has hosted two years of fog, strobes, beats, and noise. Sometimes the back room of Williamsburg bar Over the Eight had barely enough space to move, and other times it was literally just the DJ. There was room to try to take risks live, on the turntables, and even on the dance floor. But the monthly all-vinyl and live set experimental dance party is moving on to the next chapter.


The night has seen some of the best in dance-oriented noise music and noise oriented dance-music, from the ex-Coil legend Drew McDowall to the Arizona house protégé Jock Club to the ridiculously talented freak techno act Via App. No-Tech isn’t dying though; it’s transitioning into a record label, and they will be putting out these along with many more artists who played their night on a cassette compilation. You can listen to a sampler below.

We caught up with the party’s promoters J.R. Nelson and Ciarra Black over slices of pizza in Brooklyn, and discussed their favorite moments, experimentation, and future plans.

Continued below.

Noisey: How did you guys meet?
Ciarra Black: We met at Wierd Night. It was the night that Profligate and Young Male played.

J.R. Nelson: Really they played Wierd?

Black: Yeah. I remember you saying you booked him in Arizona. We smoked cigarettes outside.

And then how did you guys get to know each other?
Black: We realized pretty quickly that we had mutual friends. I remember seeing J.R. at shows. We got booked on a few DJ gigs together at shows.

Nelson: Yeah probably.

Black: And then I wanted to start my own DJ night, and Nikki Sneakers[of Nothing Changes] was offering people opportunities to DJ at Over the Eight, and I asked her to do a night, and I asked J.R. to do it with me, and another friend. I think we had named it No-Tech at that point, but we didn't know it was going to turn into anything. We decided to do it and it went successfully and Nikki asked us to do it monthly.


Nelson: Besides adding live acts I don't think it's really changed much since the beginning. There's been a lot of progress in the execution.

Did you guys have an intention going into the second one?
Nelson: I think we just wanted a place where we could play dance music alongside a lot of other more aggressive forms of electronic music and whatever else.

Black: One of the first things I ever said or noted was it's a techno night where the punks come to dance. There are people who might not necessarily feel comfortable, or at least when it started, with going to Bossa Nova or something to go dancing. But they felt comfortable here.

Nelson: Absolutely. The night has maintained a pretty amorphous community.

Black: We've had some pretty intense nights of dancing. At the end of the night, it's really just about us having the liberty to just play whatever we want and experiment and do our thing, and eventually we wanted to add in live acts to add that element. We did that after the first year in order for us to feel exited about the night going forward. As much as we both love DJing, we are more so musicians and artists.

Nelson: That opened the night up to expressing a lot more ideas that can't be mixed into a DJ set.

Have you guys played it live?
Nelson: I haven't.

Black: I have. That was probably my first legit half hour straight up dance tehcno set I ever played. And I worked really hard on it. It was a cool place to debut it, because I played that set again at a pretty big Discwoman event at Palisades, but it was cool because I got to debut the set in front of 20 of my closest friends and everyone was excited.


Nelson: That was a really good one. Nikki lets us set the tone of the night. She doesn't give us any limitations. That's a really big part of it. Being able to in whatever projections we want and set up the lights however we want, work with the sound guy.

Black: We've had harsh noise acts and hard techno and really whatever we want to do. It's not necessarily an option elsewhere.

Tell me about the visual aspect of No-Tech.
Nelson: Chelsea Marks does all the visuals. She's a really talented photographer and she wanted to try doing video and thought this was a good opportunity and venue and it's worked out really well. She does a new video almost every time, once a month. Moving forward she's going to be designing all the releases.

Black: It will be a good way to collaborate. Chelsea is probably one of my favorite visual artists, and I feel like she didn't have a lot of her art out there prior to No-Tech.

Nelson: She definitely set a tone from the beginning.

Black: It's such an integral part of the night and the overall experience.

Is there a No-Tech community? Is there a No-Tech family?
Black: Rene Nunez has been at I think every No-Tech We have a crew. It's obviously made up of a lot of our close friends that are a part of our overall music community, but it's cool because we have gained some followers as well who found us and loved what we were doing and started coming to other events. I think we created a facet out of the techno and dance scene that already existed.


Nelson: I don't know what kind of effect it's having on the greater techno scene because I don't know a whole lot about what goes on in that world except for the things that I'm specifically interested in. I think if anything it's introduced people to new approaches to process those kind of desires in music and space and experience.

Two years later looking back, do you guys have any favorite moments?
Nelson: I remember having a really great time at that New York's Alright after party, with Sam Bosson DJing.

Black: That was when the punks really came out and danced to techno.

Nelson: Someone brought wigs.

Black: Chelsea and Jane Pain did. Jane was doing photography. It was packed and really crazy. We also did collaboration with Ascetic House and did a weekend over Fourth of July 2014, which was a really amazing and special weekend with a bunch of shows involved.

Nelson: The Red Bull Raw Sound Transgression at Output was a huge night. People climbing the walls [Ed. note: A friend of there’s was kicked out of the venue, went home and got a ladder, and literally climbed a wall and snuck back in. And then it happened again.]

Black: One of my favorites was P.O.I.

Nelson: And Chris Caiazzo the night that Young Male was playing live.

Why are you guys stopping the monthly No-Tech party?
Black: It's been two years and at this point, if we're going to do events we want to do it right every single time. JR is running Ascetic House, I’m working heavily on producing my solo music and Appetite, DJing a lot of other gigs. We would still like to do one-off events that are really well executed, but we decided that we would rather end on a band and start a new chapter rather than let any sort of momentum die.


Nelson: I'm excited about doing one-off things and releasing music and working on our own stuff. I'm excited about learning how to do shows like that on a larger scale. There's only so much we can do at Over the Eight, and it's been incredible so far.

Black: If friends ask us to do a show we might do it.

Nelson: It's too much booking a live artist and a DJ and getting our own shit together every month.

Black: I mean, J.R. likes working on the flyers, they're amazing. We want to book the right people that make sense.

Nelson: I don't want to make sense. Why would we change that?

And can you tell me about what you're going to be doing with releases?
Nelson: Ciarra just hustled up a really massive compilation of almost everybody that's played No-Tech.

Black: It's going to be a double cassette, and the roster is pretty insane of people who have contributed. Basically everyone who has been involved in No-Tech over the last two years, if they wanted to be a part of it they could submit tracks. The last party will be the comp release of the tape, and we will have a digital release in the near future. J.R. and I just started a new project together too, it's called Lunch with Carol and Stewart. We're hoping to release a 12", and we have a few other releases with other artists in the works. Chelsea is doing all the art.

Reed Dunlea is a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter.