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Highsnobiety Q&A September, 28 2012

A Conversation With Citizen

Right now Citizen is one of the brightest young stars on the London house music scene. Signed to Love Fever Records, his last 2 EPs have both sold out and currently DJ’s all over the world are rinsing his remix of Adina Howard’s ‘Freak Like Me’ – (we defy anyone to not lose their minds to that track). His productions are full of character and are often infused with 90’s rave and R’n’B acapellas that sound fresh yet nostalgic all at the same. The slickness of his productions belies his 24 years and hints at just what a wealth of good music there is to come (just don’t call him a boy wonder). We caught up with Laurence Matthew Blake, aka Citizen, to find out more.

To kick off, can you tell us about your musical roots? What music brought you to where you are now as Citizen?
I am still into everything from Jazz to Daft Punk – I have pretty eclectic tastes. I used to be into a load of hardcore ‘Screamo’ bands too when I was a teenager. My parents listened to a lot of Soul and Motown so I loved that too. I grew up in Nottingham, which has always had this love affair with house music so I’ve always been exposed to that, my first rave was when I was 16, it was called Firefly and I went to it by accident, but I went again to every one after that. That first party is just an awesome blur in my memory now. What I love about House music is how it stays constantly fresh, to my ears anyway.

Which other producers do you look up to?
All the usual ones I guess, Kerry Chandler, Carl Craig, Theo Parrish – oh and Daft Punk as well. It’s a weird one maybe, but I was obsessed with Daft Punk especially the Homework album, it’s so good. How they went from Homework to Discovery and then Human After All…I think they’re really pioneering. They really turned me onto the French house sound too, with that whole French crew.

The Adina Howard ‘Freak Like Me’ remix is blowing up right now. Were you always a fan of that song? What inspired you to put it together?
Well I was going to make all these Jack Swing tracks, and then I stepped the beat up and it was basically House. I had all these Acapellas from Jack Swing classics, and that Freak Like Me one was there. So I decided to do an EP with them called The Diva EP which is out now on Five Easy Pieces - with 90’s Divas Whitney, Adina, KP and Envi sampled – actually I just got told it’s already sold out! It’s pretty nice, printed on red vinyl.

Wow, well done! And what is that draws you to female vocalists?
I’m not sure exactly but I do know that often male vocalists are just so easily parodied. I don’t want to say that female vocalists sound more honest, but in a way that’s it i think.

Your last EP on the Love Fever imprint Room Service also did really well, right? How many weeks was it on top of the Juno charts?
Yeah it was at the top of the Juno charts for 2 weeks. It was a tough act to follow as my label mates Bicep released $tripper just before me which was huge, so I was really nervous. But we did alright, so I was really proud in the end.

And why is it called Room Service?
Room Service is inspired by a night a couple of years back; this Russian magazine did a party at what is now The Great Eastern Hotel. Anyway it was a really crazy party and my mates and me all ended up back in Kelly Osbourne’s hotel room. And we just ordered a shitload of room service, like loads and loads of food and bottles, ice, mixers. I think I ordered a full English breakfast. So whenever we do something reckless now, we call it ‘room service’ (laughs).

And musically, what were you aiming for?
I wanted to make a softer R’n’B-tinged Deep House record with a long and obnoxious break down towards the end. The whole point was that it should be really standout and a bit obnoxious and that is what we did and I guess we achieved our aim (laughs). Then I did the collaborations with Jimmy Edgar and Sean Alto, I like working with old friends who you trust and know. I’m actually really shy about meeting new people; I’m not really good at it.

Surely you have to meet a lot of new people lately though?
Yeah well I’m being forced to overcome my fear, as a lot of people are approaching me lately. And that’s a good thing though of course for me, even though it’s challenging. Like the producer Breach approached me recently and now we working on tracks together which is amazing. And Joe Ashworth (from Joe and Will Ask) also contacted me, which is also really exciting.

How has London influenced you and what do you consider to be the best things about living in London right now?
I love the creative community you have here. I find inspiration on every corner. I’m always discovering new things and meeting new people. I grew up in Nottingham though so anything compared to that is super interesting (laughs).

The label you are on Love Fever have an East London party series of some repute which goes by the same name. What makes the parties so special?
There is just something about the Love Fever parties but it’s hard to put your finger on. Like they’ve built up a really nice loyal following and the parties have a really musically open and passionate crowd.

So do you experiment on the crowd at Love Fever parties?
Definitely. Some tracks wouldn’t work in any other kind of set but they work there. Even if I want to maybe drop in a guilty pleasure of mine, the crowd will just have fun with it. They’ve got a sense of humour but also a really discerning ear and I appreciate that a lot.

As a label, what sets aside Love Fever right now from the rest?
Love Fever as a brand is just a really good thing. It’s the most positive label that I’ve been around. Everything is done really exclusively and secretly, there is a mystic to what they do and I like that as that is what I was about too. I also love the artwork that they do; it’s very sexy and cool. So I love it aesthetically and sonically and the vibe of the way Alex and Andy run it is also really good. Good vibes all the way basically.

What are you a High Snob about?
I only ever wear Vans. I’ve hardly worn anything else since I was 16. I used to skate in Nottingham a lot so I got into Vans then, the only shoes I’ve worn since are Vans Eras and Checkers. I have one pair of Jordan’s maybe, but my cupboard is just full of Vans, I like to hoard them. Oh and flannel shirts, I live in them. I have 100 variations on a flannel shirt.

Ha! Really nice speaking to you Laurence.
Same here Highsnobiety, thanks for the love!

Watch the video for Citizen’s ‘Room Service’ below.

Photo by Matilda Finn.

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  1. Source: A Conversation With Citizen
  2. Photography: Citizen by Matilda Finn

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