Charles Kriel

Clubbing ÿ it's the new circus
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The Independent Culture

Charles Kriel, a live improvisational video montage creator (VJ), was born on the back of a circus wagon in Illinois in 1968. He made his way over to England in 1994 where he now works with DJs such as Pete Tong and Norman Cook. He plays the Creamfields festival today.

You recently played at Tate Britain in a set which featured a classical guitarist and a live dancer. Was that a challenge?

In a way it's the same, because when I'm out playing in a club, I want everything to work together all at the same time – the music and the video and the audience. If my video starts becoming too powerful and people stop dancing to watch the video then I'll back off a little because there should be an equal contribution of these three elements. It was very much the same situation at the Tate.

How is VJing over here compared to the States?

I've been over here for eight years, so as the scene has grown internationally, my experience has been here in the UK. I'd say it's very difficult for promoters out in the States right now, just because of the draconian drug laws – America is much more moralistic about all of this stuff. Clubbing here has completely overtaken three generations of people. It's been a really positive place to work. If you're into clubbing you've got to be in London.

Who would you say has influenced your work over here the most?

Within club land I'm really heavily influenced by Pete Tong because I've mixed with him more than anyone else having spent two years being resident VJ for the Essential Collection. Also Andy Parfitt, the controller of Radio 1. When I was artist in residence there for a year we had a good conversation going about the importance of the audience. The day-to-day practice of an artist is locking yourself up in a studio and beating your head against the canvas. The day-to-day practice working in clubs is going into a massive room with loads of people and banging your head against the music. And that's fantastic.

Was the Radio 1 residency your big break?

In terms of VJing it was. I had written a programme in the States and I had this idea that I wanted to scratch and mix videos in the same way that a DJ did and as far as I could see it wasn't being done anywhere. I wrote a programme but I didn't have any money to go with the software that I had written. So I shelved that project and when I was made resident artist at Radio 1, I really wanted to have a go at it and they said fine.

Ibiza or Ayia Napa?

I have more fun in Napa. I love Ibiza and I love the whole scene. There is nothing in the whole world like Space at 11 o'clock in the morning. It's absolutely amazing. On the other hand, what I love about Napa is that it's a fresh scene, the promoters are still really engaged with the punters, it doesn't cost a fortune so you get a younger crowd out there. Ibiza is really expensive.

How would you describe your style?

The main thing about what I do is that it bangs to and integrates completely with the music. What I want to do is take the best and most exciting movement of a club and give it back to itself.

A million miles from the circus then?

Well, it's a long way away from the circus, but I'm travelling to two or three towns in a week, I find myself out in big fields with thousands of people underneath me, so it's actually not that different. It's a contemporary circus where suddenly the audience is in the ring and I think that's brilliant.

Kriel plays Vectors at AKA bar, London WC1 (020 7836 0110), 18 September. His work can be seen at