Home Featured Feature: Citizen Kain [Interview + Premiere]

Feature: Citizen Kain [Interview + Premiere]

26 min read

Hi Bruno, thanks for sitting with us today. Tell us where in the world you are and what your plans for the week are?

Hi my Little Astronaut, it’s a pleasure to be with you. I’m currently at my friends house in the South of France, 200 km from my home, resting for some days. I’m staying here for the weekend and Monday I will be back at home and at work in the studio.

Tell us about growing up and living in France, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

I was born and spent my childhood in a little village in the East of France where I had a very classic life with my parents and sister, we also had some friends in town that were really passionate about music and we discovered Metal Hardcore around the age of 10, we pursued this passion, playing in local bands without any pretensions and at this time I couldn’t imagine to someday have the chance to live off my music. Around 25, I started to discover Rave Parties and Techno, logically started to learn deejaying and production by myself, organizing a lot of parties and then I moved to the South Of France, it was at this moment that things started to become more serious. I don’t come from a musical family, everybody in my family was into football except myself who was a little bit like the black sheep. So, I think it has made my music, let’s say “rebellious” and even now I think that is still the case.

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

Not at all, I cannot say I’m a real musician, I don’t have any formal training, I just worked a lot on the technical side of production, trusted my ears and what I feel when I’m producing. So no, I don’t think it’s really necessary to be a great musician to write electronic music. Especially today, because we have a lot of help provided by the new instruments and software era that allow you to stay in the scales and have the basic fundamentals of a musician. So, let’s be honest, if you work hard, have good ears and a bit of inspiration, you can produce something correct and have the chance to release on very good labels and then have a successful career.

Can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Depeche Mode – Behind The Wheels
New Order – Blue Monday
S’Express – Theme Of S’Express
Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam
Faith No More – Caffeine

And strangely, a lot of hardcore bands, the groove and the energy is not so far from techno music.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

To be honest, I spend so much time working on my own music that I rarely listen to other music. I’m listening a little bit to the radio in my car and discover some new music there or it can be by some friends giving me recommendations about a band or an artist. And for the music I play, there are numerous ways, by a lot of promos I receive every week and by the social networks. I’m often curious and press play on things that I don’t know, for example something that you will post on Facebook.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? You’ve obviously lost gigs because of it and the impact it’s having on travelling DJs is hugely significant. What’s your feeling on all the live stream sets happening now?

Well, of course it has been and is still a strange and hard period for me like for most of the peoples and artists. Indeed, it’s very strange to suddenly stay at home, to not travel anymore but I took this situation and lockdown as an opportunity to take the time to make more things, I worked a lot in the studio, so at the end it has been something positive despite it’s not a funny period.

I think livestreams are very cool and it has been a very good thing during lockdown to take our minds somewhere else. It’s also nice to put a video on a dj set that we would usually just post the audio on Soundcloud. It’s a little something more to see the guy playing and I think it will certainly stay in time. Why not, after all, personally I prefer to see these kinds of things when I check my social networks than to see all the sad things of the world, same if of course I always stay updated.

What is something you do now (regularly) that you did not before Covid-19?

I discovered gardening during the lockdown and it became a real passion. It takes a bit of time out of my day and I love this, it’s like a relaxing break during my long day in the studio.

Once nightlife eventually resumes what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

I don’t know exactly but I hope it will be like a refreshing revival. I think people will appreciate being together more and will change their manner in which to live and party. Most of us have seen our little world shutting down, we are all afraid how Covid will change our lives, I believe people are a little bit more united today and certainly a lot of people realized that we are fragile, we can loose it all from one day to another. So I think it will bring good things and a refreshing happiness to be together again, it will certainly change some things in a positive way in the clubbing experience. It’s also difficult to travel so we will certainly rediscover our local scenes.

You’ve long been noted as a creative DJ by both your fans and contemporaries. A lot of this comes down to your unique track selection and impeccable programming skills. How much time is spent on finding those unique selections and do you think the art of DJing has been lost to an extent?

Yes, I spend a little bit of time to search what I like to play, maybe 3 or 4 hours per week. I’m listening to the promos I receive because for sure I love the unreleased material and I also try to organize my research at Beatport by following artists or labels that I don’t receive the promos from, to find quickly what I’m looking for and be updated of their news.

About the second question: there is now so much DJs. The quantity does not always equal quality. Sure there is still a lot of known, famous or unknowns that are incredibly good deejays but there are also a lot of bad ones that just play track after track without trying to tell a story, or make people discover new things and prefer to just take care of their image on socials networks. ☺

We’re thrilled to host the premiere for ‘Soundwagon, a track out this week on Senso Sounds. The response has been fantastic with Tale of Us and Mind Against both playing it. Tell us a bit about how you approached the track and the production process behind it.

There isn't a different approach to production compared to how I usually work on other tracks, I started to find a good kick and a nice and groovy bass, searched a bit for catchy percussion and hats, snares, a nice lead and then I built the track like a progression and a story with a break, rises, adding some effects to keep the tension and as always I tried to end the track, thinking to the deejays, how it will be cool to play the track and to launch the next one.

Is that a typical flow for the majority of your work or is every track a different journey in a sense?

I think most of the time I use the same process to produce but at the end the result is always a different journey because the theme, the rhythm and the atmosphere of the track is coming from the inspiration of the day and each day is different.

How much road testing is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And how much does crowd reaction influence whether or not a particular track gets shopped around or released?

It depends, sometimes I know quickly that the track is finished and will be efficient on dancefloor and I road test it 2 times and I know that I can release it. Some other times, I feel something could be better, so it takes a little bit more time till I find what is missing or too much in the track. There are no rules.

What made Senso Sounds the right home for this project?

I've known Oliver Huntemann for many years, if my memory is good, I think he released my very first EP on his label in 2008, something like this. We always kept in touch, I always had a deep respect and a great admiration for his work, I think I also played 80% of the Senso Sounds catalog’s in my dj sets and I immediately thought that this track had a chance to fit to what Oliver is looking for.

What’s a piece of gear that always gets used when you’re writing a track?

My Moog Sub37, it makes 90% of my basses and I use it also a lot for percussion, leads, pads or effects, it’s so polyvalent.

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

Yes sure, the inspiration comes from trips, life experiences, mood, state of mind, my wife, nature, a movie, all the little things I live everyday.

The problem of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of.

There are dramatic shifts in emotion being a performing artist, from playing in front of large crowds where there is a tremendous amount of energy to travel days where you may be stuck in airports or on a plane for extended periods of time. Do you have tools or practices that you use to get yourself back to a state of balance?

Indeed, an artist's life is not as easy as people might think, it’s a lot of sacrifices, it’s also a lot of work, the travelling is great but exhausting. This is why I choose to not play more than 12 times by month and to keep a good balance between gigs and family life, also trying to have a healthy life. I need to be with my wife and my dogs at home. I love to work in my studio and it would not make sense for me to spend all my time on flights and always be far away from my home.

Looking back over your discography, what release or track holds the best memories for you and is there a correlation between that track and how successful you are today?

Maybe “Doppelganger” because it really launched my career and helped me to have my first international shows.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

The simple things in life, spending time with my little family, drinking some glasses with my friends, making a good BBQ or going out to restaurants, walking my dogs, travelling with my wife and of course taking care of my house and gardening, nothing exceptional but this is how I like to live ☺

What does the remainder of 2020 hold for Citizen Kain? Anything you can share with us?

I don’t know what to answer, the current situation is so strange, we don’t know exactly when we will be back to a normal life. The only thing I can tell you is that I worked a lot during this period and I will come back with a lot of cool releases ☺

‘Soundwagon’ is out now on Senso Sounds, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2OrcIHN

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