Interview: Citizenn

Awarded the title of DJ Mag’s ‘Breakthrough DJ’ in 2013, Citizenn has made quite a name for himself in a short space of time, but far from succumbing to his own hype, he’s maintaining a cool head and steely gaze on the future.

The dreadlocked wonder exploded onto the music scene with a slew of releases via Kerri Chandler’s Madtech label, Waze & Odyssey’s Street Tracks and London-based party people Love Fever Records. Support for his music has come from far and wide, with Radio 1’s Pete Tong throwing his weight behind him as well as many of his peers and, of course, the godfather Mr. Chandler.

See also: Interview + Contest: Kerri Chandler

A film director in a former life, his affinity with working with technology led him to this first album, inspired by the direction it was taking humanity ‘Human Interface,‘ which builds on the retro-futurist foundations he’s already laid down. The whole record is visual, creating a vivid landscape that only an artist familiar with the details of more than one creative medium could deliver, with themes and textures that use both digital and analogue synthesis, and human oral and physical input.

‘Human Interface’ is available on Crosstown Rebels on 29 June and can be purchases – here

“The moment we create something more intelligent than ourselves or even AS intelligent as ourselves but not tainted or instructed by the human condition we will essentially be gods birthing a new species.”

You have recently added an extra “n” to your artist name. What was the philosophy behind this?
It wasn’t a philosophy as such… more of a necessity and understanding of my embracing the project fully. Giving it a new moniker where it would stand alone, something truly unique and not used by any other artist or company.

As you have been a film director, how has the approach to the visual aided in your music production?
I would say more on a subconscious level. They say a picture paints a thousand words, utilising our mind to think up vast compositions and scenarios can bring us out of a creative slump and influence ideas that have almost nothing to do with the original context. It isn’t a constant point of reference for me but it definitely helps me in some way. I’m sure of it.

Speaking of music videos, what elements make for a standout example?  Do you have a particular music video (whether you created or not) that  is a definitive example of a successful electronic music video?
Music videos to me work just like their aural counterparts. They stamp a moment in time utilising all the contextual tropes and technology of the time into this artistic mass of history. I feel they should canonise a moment in cultural history, something that you can return to in 15 years and be like “so that’s what they were thinking and feeling back then…”, this is high art and commerce coexisting.

My favourite music video always had my film peers in stitches (Layo and Bushwacka – Love story vs finally). It’s a video that means so much to me personally but on the surface just appears to be a simplistic farce. It’s just a woman dancing in morphing lights and lasers (a genre trope that would be repeated time and time again). But as I mentioned earlier, music videos canonise a moment in time, the feelings and atmosphere of the artistic and technological landscape. Therefore I can only state that there are no definitively successful electronic music videos or music videos period. It’s an entirely subjective topic that takes into consideration everything.

How would you compare the workflow of audio production and video production?
I would say that they are very fluid in their similarities. There is no one work flow that works for everybody and that would suit every situation. It’s amazing we have all these amazing tools to work with, to tailor a workspace to our own work flow only that one operates in a visual capacity and the other in an aural capacity. At times in fact the lines are blurred with a lot of programs and work flows now utilising both video and audio into the mix. The most common way creatives put their work together is in a fixed linear grid system that works forward from point A to B. There are exceptions of course, people that try to break the mould and eschew any idea of linear narratives and work flows. Take Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction for example.

You mention that your album is inspired by the direction technology is taking humanity. Can you elaborate on this concept?
Less about where technology is taking humanity and more about our interaction with it at this stage. I guess I’m talking about the age we are in now, I suppose you could call it the pre-singularity age. Where we toy with incredibly advanced systems that don’t posses any form of intelligence outside of their programming parameters. This period where we are marvelling at our own technological advancement, growing at an exponential rate.

Humans have always used tools and technology to express themselves creatively and emotionally. From the cave paintings of the neanderthal man to the head mounted go pro camera of some thrill-seeking sort jumping off cliff faces for carbonated drinks brands.  It’s an incredibly exciting period to be in and I wanted to celebrate that. It does come with a warning though. The moment we create something more intelligent than ourselves or even AS intelligent as ourselves but not tainted or instructed by the human condition we will essentially be gods birthing a new species. I don’t think we could handle it.

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