Interview & Guest Mix: Solomon Citron (KingUnderground)
Set as a soundtrack to a fictitious kung-fu movie, the debut album of Russian producer and multi-instrumentalist Solomon Citron (40) on KingUnderground speaks to the imagination: his cinematic funk with guitar, bass and drums pays homage to 70s action movies and tells the story of kung-fu fights, hot pursuits, and revenge.
Listen to Solomon Citron’s The Find guest mix below (featuring Danger Doom, Khruangbin, Squarepusher & Jazz Against The Machine), and read along while you’re listening to find out more about the man behind the music.
What do you do for a living? Is it in any way related to making music?
I’m a musician and I play the guitar in a few bands in my hometown of Rostov-on-Don, in the south of Russia. I also write music for musicals and commercials. My other job is as a swimming coach at a big fitness club here in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
I couldn’t find much about you up till the upcoming debut on KingUnderground. How did your ‘musical path’ look like up until now?
Before I recorded the album as Solomon Citron, I’d made music for many years. I’m a creator of a number of bands that are popular mainly in my hometown. One of them is Mate Band, a reggae band with lyrics in Russian. This is probably the most successful band I’m. We have been on Russian television and we’ve played concerts in many Russian cities. There is also a band called Rostov Groovers where we play funk and acid jazz.
Back in July, I locked myself in my home studio and wrote the album very quickly. I felt very inspired at that time. Then, I reached out to many labels with my demo. I chose labels from my own vinyl collection, and I have one record from the KingUnderground catalogue so I contacted Dan at KU. After a while, I received an answer from Dan and he said that he was interested in the album.
The album you mentioned is Kampu-China, a soundtrack for a fabricated, fictional movie. To fantasize: what’s the movie and storyline about?
Back in the 80s, I went to ‘video clubs’ with my friends. It was in a small basement with a simple TV set, a VCR and about 30 chairs. We watched bootlegged copies of movies there. My friends and I were big fans of kung-fu flicks.
Kampu-China is inspired by all the movies I watched back then. Every track I produced was made to fit a scene from “Kampu-China”. “The Loss Blues” is about the moment when a villian murders one of the two main characters. This track represents the feelings of the survivor. You can hear his thoughts about the revenge in the music. In the song “Revenge Scene” he puts his plans into effect.
The album’s description mentions your childhood memories of 70s action movies. Can you name a few childhood favorites that left a mark on you?
My favorites were movies starring Bruce Lee and a vast collection of ninja blockbusters with Sho Kosugi.
Besides a producer, you’re also a multi-instrumentalist: which production gear and instruments do you use and play?
I’m a big fan of Fender guitars. You can hear the sounds of their guitar and bass in the record. I like Russian equipment as well: people here make gear of high quality. I use Oktava microphones, a Yerasov guitar amp, and Digilab mic pre-amps in my home studio. All of these brands are Russian manufacturers.
Which part of your studio or music set-up are you most proud of?
I think it’s my Fender Telecaster which I own for about tn years. I’m constantly customizing it. E.g. now it has Gibson pickup. I find it funny that Fender have their main competition’s pickup.
“I remember clearly the day when my father took me to his friend’s home. That guy had a huge collection of audio tapes and he let me listen to the Master of Puppets album by Metallica. It turned my life upside down!”
What are your earliest memories of hearing or listening to music?
I remember clearly the day when my father took me to his friend’s home. That guy had a huge collection of audio tapes and he let me listen to the Master of Puppets album by Metallica. It turned my life upside down! Since then I’ve listened to music consciously. I started to collect musical albums and kept a journal of everything I listened to. I became a professional music fan.
Metallica, huh? So how have things evolved from metal to hip-hop?
I guess we are all a product of our environment. So I was greatly influenced by the people around me. In my neighbourhood, all of the kids listened to hardcore and metal. As I got older, I dived into guitar-based indie music. The Madchester scene was a very important part of the lives of me and my friends. This is when we created our first band and played real Madchester music.
I started to DJ a bit after this, playing mainly Big Beat. Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, and The Prodigy–these were a must in every set. I’ve always liked hip-hop. The same for funk and soul. When I started collecting vinyl, I decided to only buy classic hip-hop and funk, the one that started it all.
Track Premiere: “Zamooth”
Can you name a few artists–from any genre–you consider to be essential influences for your own music?
I’m omnivorous in terms of musical preferences. I listen to tons of music in all possible genres. But I should single out Damon Albarn. I think all his projects have a great influence on me. I liked Britpop and listened to Blur a lot. Apart from the popular projects he has been a part of like the Gorillaz, he also writes operas and soundtracks and is producing African bands. I’ve been liking his music for a long time now.
And I have to mention Khruangbin as well. In 2018, they were my number 1 band. I think their sound has influenced the oriental sound of my Kampu-China album greatly.
Are you a record collector yourself? How does your collection look like?
I am, but in Russia it is hard to be a record collector. In my hometown (with a population over 1 million people) we have only one or two small shops with vinyl and a flea market… So I order vinyl online from other countries. My collection is very unorganized and not very big. I have records of my favorite artists and lots of old-school hip-hop like Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Arrested Development, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, and so on. And there are quite a number of Soviet records. But I don’t have any most prized possessions; they are all equally good to me.