Craig Citizen on the Days of Playing to Trannies, People Getting Stabbed in the Face, and Sharks and Minnows
Fotobrad Craig Citizen is always ready to party.
While he used to be a regular fixture at dive bars and dance clubs, Citizen doesn't spin as much as he used to, saving his skills and song selections for the occasional one-off event, like tomorrow's Sharks and Minnows pool party.
He's also a well-spoken cat who was happy to dish about his feelings about the local dance scene, people who flee Phoenix for bigger cities, why he thinks hipster parties at dive bars are in decline, and what he has planned for Sharks and Minnows.
Name: Craig Citizen
Are you only doing the guest DJ/one-off thing these days?
I've slowed down a bit in my old age but I still do the paying stuff. Again, I'm really dissatisfied with a lot of what I see, so I'd rather not be a part of something I actually talk shit about than go out and do it just to keep my name relevant.
How did you get into the DJ game?
I had been playing in bands ever since I was in high school and after a host of missing drummers, army runaways, alcoholics, and a gang of Yokos, I really just wanted an experience in music that relied only on my efforts and endeavors. I met Jared (Stevens) through a mutual friend, and he and I, and our friend Matt Helend began working on a night they had been planning for a while. I booked us the gig at Hollywood Alley, and I guess the rest of the story is being lucky of enough to be at the right place at the right time, and being willing to play the first set of the night for an awfully goddamned long time.
What genres do you specialize in?
It depends a lot on where I'm playing, the last few years I've been lucky enough to be out of the bars and in more private party sort of settings. When I do those events, like the "Lunch and Learn" series with Beau MacMillan at Sanctuary, I pretty much play whatever I like, so it floats anywhere from Led Zep to Peter Gabriel to Minitel Rose to Depeche Mode. I really like to get into the heads of the crowd and try to play directly to the experience I would want to have if the roles were reversed.
How do you chose songs for your set?
Generally I like songs with words, alt-dance, and all the late night hip-hop party ragers. I'm not really an elitist when it comes to a dance floor. I just want to see people lose their minds and make out and shit. I try to avoid click-clock-blorp techno as much as possible and I'm pretty sure I've never played a dubstep track to date. But I play hella drunk sometimes so I may be mistaken.
What's your favorite track of the moment?
Grinderman's "Heathen Child" and John Maus' "Cop Killer." Neither of which I'll be playing on Saturday.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy when it comes to DJing?
Yeah, I really love being up there alone because when you fail, it's all yours. There's no one to look to or blame despite all of our best efforts. There's something very freeing about just being in your zone, looking out on a bunch of people in their zone, and the people who made the music were in their zone and all of a sudden it's like all those MTV summer break shows you saw as a kid where you were like, "Holy shit, the world isn't just fuckered and bullshit and corporations and war, it's all this wildness and I'm a part of it." So my mantra is don't fuck up, and don't play shit no one wants to hear, no matter how good looking the person who asks for it is.
Why are you so enigmatic?
I never tried to make it my living so I felt I could get a way with a lot more, because I usually wasn't taking dollars and I didn't need to worry about kissing everyone's ass or paying my phone bill. I remember playing "Paradise City" at Glam and having everyone give me dirty looks 'cause GnR was passé, which it was, but at the same time I was like, "I gave half of you free shots, and the other half were on the guest list, so y'all can suck it, I wanna hear Axl."
I like to be enigmatic because I'm writing this exactly how I would say it, aloud it sounds like I tell too much truth, but in text I think it sounds like hyperbole or whatever, I think Phoenix has always had a really good chance at being incredible, I'm just coaxing her into action, even if it means not being a part of whatever new night is happening, the old have trees gotta go before the new ones can grow, you know?