Citizen Of The World

Posted on September 13, 2014

Words: Lena Kochetkova

Among all the categories of DJ Awards, Newcomer is the most thrilling one: it is a short list of up-and-coming artists to keep your eyes peeled for a precise forecast on what’s going to happen with dance music in the next few months or years. One of Newcomer nominees this year is Citizen, born in Nottingham as Laurence Blake. It might come as a surprise, but his artistic alias has nothing to do with civic spirit: it was spotted as the name of the bike anime character Akira was driving. In the beginning of his musical path Citizen was playing drums, but soon switched over to computer-based composing for the sake of getting full control of his music. Right choice it would seem: since then his tracks have been released on Kerri Chandler’s Madtech label, Waze & Odyssey’s Street Tracks and Love Fever Records. Gig-wise, this summer has seen Citizen debut at DC10, where he played for Paradise on July 16, sharing the room with Ida Engberg, Richy Ahmed, Magda and Jamie Jones. Another landmark set of his took place in Space on June 1 at the DJ Mag party, where he played on the Terrace together with Midland, Dense & Pika and Ejeca. Anticipating the DJ Awards ceremony, we talked with Citizen about the importance of being recognized as an artist, his attitude towards visual elements in music and how he manages not to get jaded staying on that side of the DJ booth.

Citizen-1

Congratulations on being nominated for DJ Awards! From your own viewpoint, why do you deserve the prize, what are your strongest points as an artist?
Thank you very much, it’s an honour just being nominated! I’ve been going to the White Isle quite a bit and it’s definitely been instrumental in shaping and educating my musical persona. Ibiza, for the most part, has this understated spirituality and vibe that can’t really be found anywhere on Earth. For an institution like DJ Awards to place me in the running is a tremendous footnote in my time there. Right now I feel it isn’t a matter of anyone deserving the award – it’s an honour to have been recognised in a new crop of emerging artists trying to make their mark. I’d have to say my strongest point as an artist, in my viewpoint, is that I can stay up really late, like way past my bedtime.

To your mind, what impact do music awards and DJ Awards in particular have on a DJs career?
I think it canonises a certain part of a DJs career, quantifying all that they have worked for in that year and distilling it into a title that brings an exponential amount of recognition. It also helps to carve out a scene of sorts: grouping particular types of DJs together helps people to understand who’s doing what right now and who they roll with.

On July 16 you debuted for Paradise at DC10. How was that gig, did it meet all of the expectations you had of it?
Playing at DC10 for the first time was an intense crew filled affair. For all the times I’ve been there on the other side of the booth couldn’t have prepared me for that day. The lineup was huge, the crowd was amazing (eventually) and everyone played beautifully that night. The after party was something else as well…

Which other gigs that you had in Ibiza previously left the biggest impression on you?
My Space debut was another insane moment in Ibiza. Stepping out to a packed terrace, the crowd already whipped into a frenzy. It was actually quite surreal. Again the lineup totally on point, banter was rife to say the least!

Citizen-2

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement has to be turning this project into a full time occupation, living and breathing music. Making the leap from hobbyist to full time artist when in a stable job and environment is always a hard decision for most people going down this path. It takes a lot of faith to jump in feet first and a great network of friends and peers to see you through. Additionally retaining my love of the dancefloor and partying has been a huge achievement for me personally. It’s very easy to get jaded from this side of the booth, but I’m still loving life.

How important is it for you as an artist to live in the UK? Do you find the creative environment supportive and inspiring enough?
The UK is the best, I love my peers and creative heritage, friendly competition and support network. I love hearing how people are pushing things forward (or looking back in some cases) – it keeps you on your toes, and generally just has me really excited every time I get a promo email. The UK is killing it right now, but then again hasn’t it always. We’re a nation of dons.

Who is your mentor and your biggest source of inspiration in music?
That’s a tough one, there are so many… Some that I’ve met, some that I haven’t, some that are long gone and some that have chosen a different path. They are all important and all equally inspiring as musicians, thinkers and humans. It would be impossible for me to pick a favourite as it were. You all da fu**in’ best.

You did fashion marketing, your alias was inspired by anime – this means you must have a keen eye for all things visual. In your opinion, should every promoter pay much attention to artwork, show and performance, or is it the music that is paramount?
Coming from a visual arts background has made me particularly sensitive to bad design and I have lost count of the bad artwork I have witnessed in my life. Bad design is everywhere, in every industry, I feel its prevalence on music is a testament to it not being the main focus. Now don’t get me wrong, I do feel like good design and good music do go hand in hand together and generally create a much more unifying experience for the partygoers, but it doesn’t particularly irk me as much as it did anymore. In all things music should be the focus, and in design my opinion is subjective. One man’s Basquiat is another mans GCSE final project.

New Citizen 3

To your mind, what’s the role of music in the life of modern society?
It has many roles and many faces, some more obvious than others. In the spirit of life I feel that the main role of music is to bring us all together under one ideology, but keep us questioning ourselves and our relationships with each other. There isn’t an environment in the world where you can totally run from yourself, achieve escapism so complete that you forget who you are entirely. I feel like music facilitates that desire and temporarily allows us to be free in a kind of time vaccum. It’s kind of society’s band aid. They haven’t offered us immortality yet, and hey let’s face it, it’s gonna get well boring after a while, but here’s the next best thing.

Click here for the link to Citizen’s latest release

The 17th edition of the DJ Awards ceremony will take place at Pacha, Ibiza, on Monday 22nd September. 23 awards will be presented: 11 music categories which are voted for by the public and another 12 special industry awards. DJ Awards have presented over 500 Kryptonite awards in the past 16 years. The DJ Awards ceremony will be followed by the Ibiza Rocks House, featuring an eclectic line-up including 2ManyDJs (DJ set), Fritz Kalkbrenner (Live), Soul Clap, Doorly and Graham Sahara. DJ AWARDS is a non-profit organisation.