Interview Citizen N.I.

Citizen N.I. is a industrial electro-rock band from Wroclaw, Poland. Created in 2015 by Kevin Hess – vocals, and Wojtek Roczon – lead guitar & composer, and completed with Michal Szymonik – guitar, and Krystian Pekalski – bass guitar. They are actually working on their first album, and will soon start shooting their next video.

Credit: Monika Wawrzyniak

How did you start Citizen N.I.?

Kevin Hess: The band started working together in 2015 and played our first concert together in 2016.

Wojtek was one of my English students at the time, and he contacted me after seeing my music from Seattle with my band XY Beautiful (playing in Cafe Niebo in Wroclaw February 6!) and my music video Little Vices (watch the video here), and wanted to work with me – usually I am not eager to work with other people on music, but I agreed to work with him just on a trial basis, and was blown away by how good he was at writing music, so I agreed to work with him. After that we played, including at 2018 Castle Party.

How would you describe your music?

Primarily, industrial rock music. It has the proper elements of such, and is both industrial and rock music. So, that’s a good description. I tell people who don’t know what that means to think of bands like Rammstein. That doesn’t mean we sound much like Rammstein, but it does mean that we have the same elements of rock music with a lot of electronic sound, and lots of different types of vocals.

I was around for the Myspace generation of music and it seemed like every Seattle band at the time was using adjectives for themselves like ‘beyond description’, ‘can’t be explained’, or other highbrow nonsense. We do industrial rock music. That’s primarily the design of our guitar player, Wojtek, who composes the music. Krystian and Michal, our bass player and second guitarist respectively, primarily handle booking and networking.

Credit : Żubr Aleksander

I noticed a while ago that most of our music centers on the things that most people should agree on anyway – politicians are generally corrupt on both sides and you can’t trust them, regular citizens should stick together despite their differences, and humanity has a good future ahead of it despite our problems

You describe yourself as a band who fight oppression and injustice. Can you elaborate a little more for us?

That’s a little more complicated. First, to be exact, the subheader says that the music ‘represents the fight’, not that we personally fight.

This probably sounds like lazy slacktivism, but let me clarify. My personal belief is that foreigners – including myself – should generally stay out of political involvement in the country they are a guest of. To me, it’s a right of the citizens to determine how their country operates.

Since that includes me, I stay out of anything that even remotely resembles political activity in Poland out of respect for the citizens and culture here.

I do write the lyrics, and they often touch on politics – and we are in Poland, after all. Still, everything I write is just as applicable to America as it is to Poland – and if it happens to reference an actual political event, it would have been an American one if anything, since I actually know about those.

I noticed awhile ago that most of our music centers on the things that most people should agree on anyway – politicians are generally corrupt on both sides and you can’t trust them, regular citizens should stick together despite their differences, and humanity has a good future ahead of it despite our problems. These ideas shouldn’t be radical ones, but nothing surprises me anymore.

So in a way, that represents the fight against an increasingly unhealthy political climate.

As for the rest of the band – politically, we’re all over the map in terms of our personal beliefs. We don’t argue about it or even really discuss it much, which is how most normal people behave in their real lives.

What inspire you to write music?

I’ve been doing it for over ten years, why stop now? To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to work on music with anyone else here in Poland. I’d mainly wanted to do my own stuff. As it happened, I was teaching English at the time I met our guitarist Wojtek. Since I don’t have an English degree, I tried other ways to make myself interesting and credible to my students. One of those ways was showing off one of the music videos I shot in Seattle with my other band, XY Beautiful.

As it happened, Wojtek wasn’t in the class then, but one of his coworkers tipped him off. He saw the video and was quite insistent that we work together. Of course, I’d been through this song and dance plenty of times with lots of other people, and it usually doesn’t work out for one reason or another.

So I didn’t have high hopes, but I agreed to put down some lyrics on some tracks and just see what happened, and never expected to hear back from him on it. Then he actually got back to me right away, which was the first thing that surprised me. I found out he was actually very good at not just playing music on his guitar, but also writing music, which is considerably rarer, and before long we were working together.

After writing/recording 50+ songs for XY Beautiful over the years it was nice to have someone else do that part of things, not to mention someone who was extremely good at it.

Credit: Żubr Aleksander

With regards to Citizen N.I., there’s basically not a song on the entire album that we couldn’t shoot a music video for, or have as the lead single, or use in a promotional effort.

So every single song on the album is going to sound different, they’re going to be amazing. That’s what everyone should know.

You’re actually working on your first album. Can you tell us more about it?

Sure thing. Wojtek’s a perfectionist by nature and wants to make sure everything sounds right, and he’s in charge of that part of things as well. That’s why it’s been awhile. But, it will be worth it.

One of the things that always bothered me about music is that I used to consider it a raging success when I’d buy an album and there were 3 good songs on it. When I noticed that, it occurred to me that most musicians weren’t very good at music.

With regards to Citizen N.I., there’s basically not a song on the entire album that we couldn’t shoot a music video for, or have as the lead single, or use in a promotional effort. They don’t all sound the same, and maybe you could make the argument that some songs are more representative of our sound and our general vision than others.

But there’s no reason that we couldn’t have shot a video for “Our Resolution“, or “Between The Steps of Titans“, or “Stand Idle By“, or any other song on the album besides than “Scatter The Debris“. They’re all fantastic. He knows how to use tension, timing, chord progression, everything. He writes complete music. He’s just amazing.

So every single song on the album is going to sound different, they’re going to be amazing. That’s what everyone should know.

Any date when you will release it?

As soon as I can convince him that really, it sounds fine, it doesn’t need more engineering.

When will you come to Tricity?

Ready for an invite. Probably when “Machine Driven Sun” sets up another local date beyond February. Local acts are very important to the traveling side of things, since we can’t do posters/flyers/etc. from Wroclaw – and it’s a hell of a drive up there, so that’s important.

So to Tricity bands out there, if you like what you hear and can bring some people to come see us, we’ll return the favor here in Wro, so let’s talk.


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