CZARINA® (styled as C Z A R I N A) is a lady by the name of Vero Faye Kitsuné an award winning multi-instrumentalist who's keen eye for aesthetics & story driven performances have taken her fans on some amazing journeys through soundscapes and new age mysticism.
Her multi-disciplinary approach to her craft has etched her into the hearts of many creating an amazing lore surrounding the character she created adding that touch of class and edge that keeps her fans wanting more.
CZARINA's unique soundscapes fuse the electronic with the organic to offer us a rich tapestry in genres from Cyberpunk to Industrial and Darkwave. She's has been influenced of course by many to include Kate Bush, Nine Inch Nails & TOOL and immerses herself in the visual masters and storytellers such as Hajime Sorayama, HR Giger, Katsuhiro Otomo, but never strays from carving her own truth in each of her unique creations.
It's fair to say that CZARINA is truly at home on the Neon Lit stage and is an established Creative Director and Fashion Designer, she has also tenured as a professional brand architect for several fashion labels and master licenses globally.
She co-runs the creative branding powerhouse for art, design, photography, film and music called THE KITSUNÉS with the artist DeadlyKawaii (Carlos Kitsuné). She is also an active wildlife, marine life and ocean advocate.
There's no stopping this Warrior Princess for today she drops another incredible Single called 'Ad Initivm' which is paired with another incredible video leading on from her altogether powerful presentations including a short film that debuted in 2019 called 'C Z A R I N A - "BLAZE: Dances of the Yokai [The Tale of the Assassin and the Samurai] which won the coveted New York Film Award for Best Music Video.
Forged took the opportunity to interview this formidable lady, read on!
Thank you very much for sharing your time with Forged in Neon today, you’ve had some significant changes in your life over a short space of time, how did 2020 go for you overall despite everything?
Thank you so much for having me here, Ashley! 2020 was a strange year for sure. It was one of the most challenging, yet also one of the best years for me personally. It forced me to go through the changes I needed. I somehow ended up in paradise. That was not really part of my plan, but I definitely have no right to complain. :)
It’s fair to say that you’re quite possibly the best at fusing your Art and Aesthetic with the music you create to give the fan and/or onlooker quite a visual and aural experience drawing on influences from Blondie to Nine Inch Nails, how hard is it to maintain that creativity given the bar that you’ve set so high?
You’re making me blush. Thank you - I can only hope to push the envelope and set a bar.
It’s hard for me to think in those terms when I’m in any creative process. I guess I am only aware of the bars I’ve set for myself or things I’ve already done. I think continuous growth has a lot to do with maintaining creativity. I’m a nerd and a hungry little sponge for a lot of random knowledge.
Everyday I just want to learn or nerd over some weird interesting topics I never looked into before. One day, I’ll nose dive deep further into Ancient Astronaut Theories. The next moment, it would be about new findings in metaphysics. (I guess my A.D.D. really shows right now.) But I’m always looking for things that would take me to strange places and teach me. I do absorb a lot of it, and then followed by a need to churn it into art with my own perspective. Fashion also taught me that.
Part of being a designer is researching and developing new concepts constantly. So my mind is always ticking and wired to look for things that are new or have not been further explored or developed.
Also, I am a weirdo and I’ve learned to embrace my weirdness - and that really helps! As long as it’s all done with style, right?
Those that follow your career will know that you’ve re-located to Galicia in Spain, such a change from New York, do you miss it? Why?
I miss my friends, my family and the pre-pandemic life in New York. I definitely miss the
audience and the shows. We have an excellent and super supportive New York City Synthfam.
Synthwave nights were always epic. If things were normal, I would have probably already played my 20th show at the Knitting Factory along with Bunny X, Turbo Goth, Faith In The Glitch and then partied our butts off at St. Vitus for Nightwav with the rest of the crew. But other than that, I am enjoying life in Galicia way too much to really miss New York. The Galicians introduced me to a truly beautiful, gentler and more sustainable way of life, which I really need at this moment in my life after doing the New York hustle since forever. The food alone! OMG, it’s insanely awesome! Also, we’re surrounded by the ocean and nature. I woke up one day and realized that under all that cybertech attire, I really am a nature-loving, granola hippie deep down inside.
7th Nov 2018 | Knitting Factory, Brooklyn NYC - Pic Credit: Joy of Violent Movement
Some may not know that you’re also the lady behind the much-celebrated shoe label Ivy Kirzhner brand NYC which has garnered quite the status and has celebrity followers such as Beyonce, Christina Ricci and Shakira to name a few. That’s incredible, I do understand however that prior to the pandemic you were to re-launch your brand. How far into the process are you with that at the moment? Is it likely you’ll start trading again this year all things considered?
We definitely had plans set for entering a new price point and market range. We wanted to
step up and challenge ourselves to bring more sustainability fused with technology in fashion.
Concepts and ideas for collections, fashion presentations and e-commerce were laid on the table which are all easy to get back to and rehash. Right now, we’re just watching how the global market is doing. We don’t want to add to any noise as most people need help getting back on their feet first and get re-centered and revitalized. I always say, fashion can always wait and is at its best when the world is happy and healthy. A lot of the concepts and ideas will change depending on what the world looks like post-pandemic. With the way things are, it seems things will most likely make the move late next year at the earliest. For now, I’m just taking a deep breath, enjoying life as I never had before and making magic happen in my music and visual production.
Well, we cannot chat and not mention the absolute triumph that was the award winning ‘BLAZE: Dances of the Yokai [the Tale of the Assassin and the Samurai] a New York Film Award Winner no less. How fun was that to do from conception to realisation?
BLAZE: Dances of the Yokai was one of the best creative experiences I’ve ever had so far! I
love “chanbara” Samurai flicks, especially the ones by Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Seven Samurai). My husband, the artist DeadlyKawaii, is a 3rd Dan budo, Japanese mixed martial artist and a long-time disciple. Martial arts is at the core of our life together, along with music and art. He has been training me in swords for quite some time, and he has been the inspiration and muse for this music film project. Since I don’t foresee any real battles happening anytime soon, I figured, why not start a fictional one and make it look like a live-action anime?
We just threw all of the concepts and ideas we love - badass cyberpunk samurais and warriors inspired by Mortal Kombat and Tekken characters. Yet we also wanted to give it some heart and magic, so we threw in a bit of folklore and Yokai legends reminiscent of Ghibli films that we both grew up on. Each of the fighters represent a guardian Yokai or “spirit.” And what is a Samurai-themed music film without Kabuki? I’ve been personally dying to participate in Kabuki, but the art is only reserved for men. I felt this is the right
opportunity to do some Kabuki flair my way, complete with a keytar.
With all these concepts, DeadlyKawaii and I didn’t care if combining all these ideas were going to be a hot mess. But as we drafted the treatment, the elements and the story all had fallen naturally into place, and we managed to include a message. Then we started developing concepts for the costumes, sets and production. We wrote the treatment back in 2018, but because it was so ambitious and production-heavy, I ended up shelving it to save it for the right moment. Like with all C Z A R I N A films, I have a very miniscule budget, but we try our best to make the most of it and go beyond in terms of execution. Then early 2019, this really cool film crew from Barcelona discovered my Instagram and reached out to see if I would be interested in working on projects with them as they’ll be in New York for the summer to shoot several shorts and videos.
I sent Paul Carr, the director of Deliris Films Spain, the treatment for Blaze, wondering if he’d be up for the challenge. To my surprise, he was really excited to bring it to life. With limited time in our hands, I reached out to all my talented family and pals to see who’s got time to flex some muscles, work on some fight choreography and acting chops. I was really grateful that many from East Coast Synthfam answered - Bunny X, Faith in the Glitch, S.P.H.E.R.E.S., Turbo Goth, Wes Spaulding and Nes Phan all appeared as Yokai warriors. My cousin Ponti David, who used to be my drummer in my metal band 20 years ago, also helped with production and filled in as the Taiko player. One of my oldest friends, Chris O’Leary who’s known for doing a fabulous parody of Ming the Merciless on his show on Public TV, did the makeup and hair which led to a couple of the film fest nominations.
Finally, my dearest friend Missy Papageorge, a seasoned film executive producer who also worked with me on “Burn,” always generously offered her expertise and has always been a guiding force in production. She offered to shoot at her barn and this gorgeous lily pond next to the Audobon wildlife private park in Connecticut. Her daughter, Plum, appeared as the young Assassin and her best friend Griffin as the young Samurai. I felt I have to have my own kid, too, in the flick, so I had my french bulldog Hamlet Bacon do a cameo with Plum and Griffin.
The filming span over 2 days, but we had the worst luck with the weather as production fell during a heatwave. It was intense, and I was so humbled that everyone involved had truly been good sport and super pros, giving such amazing and beautiful performances despite the conditions.
I felt the stars definitely aligned for this project with how it all came together. I am grateful for the film industry acknowledgement and accolades it got, but they were cherries on top of the overall, incredible experience of working with everyone to breathe life into such an otherworldly and bizarre concept. Which is why there’s a part 2 - which we hope to film as soon as it’s safer to regroup and engage larger production units.
Of course, to accompany your new music coming in March there is a new music film in the works, can you tell us a little about that? I’m guess it’ll be a continuation from the previous film? How excited are you to show the world ATOMIC: AD INITIVM?
“ATOMIC: Ad Initivm” is my first single from my upcoming full-length record “ARCANA” under the iconic music label DarkTunes Music Group (Germany, France), which is known for fostering talents across the dark genres - darkwave, dark synth, dark pop, goth, industrial, metal etc.
When I got signed, I figured it would be an awesome opportunity to reassess my vision with C Z A R I N A, which started as a retrowave-adjacent synth project, and expand further on the development of its DNA. My music and songs are already dark and more industrial-based than a lot of where synthpop is, but I wanted to crossover and further explore heavier, darker, progressive, moodier vibes yet still keeping it adjacent with the synth pop and synth rock universe.
I’m very excited about this new sound and how it’s evolving. I do all writing, composition, arrangements, performances, recording and production on my own. But once in a while with production, I would invite another producer to help flesh the vision out like in my debut track “Silence & Surrender,” in which I invited my long-time pal and collaborator Joe Peretore (Future Enemies) to take my writing and composition and lead the production on both versions of the song. With “ATOMIC: Ad Initivm” and the full-length record
“ARCANA,” since I am creating a new world that crosses heavy electronic sounds with organic orchestral dynamics and complex vocal arrangements, I knew this new sound is going to be quite a beast to tame in the technical production end. The project is epic and super ambitious.
I asked my friend Von Hertzog (VHxRR) who has been the mixing and mastering maestro in some C Z A R I N A tracks to help co-produce the record and help me harness and push the new dynamics. Sometimes art requires science to execute, and Von truly is a mad scientist who understands the full scope of how sound frequencies work at their best and who could make complex towers of analog devices work like magic. The same holds true for DeadlyKawaii when it comes to the technical end of the visual dynamics (3D, CGI and VFX) in all C Z A R I N A visuals. Instead of audio frequencies, we’re dealing with frame rates, lighting, textures, green screen, chromakey, etc.
“ATOMIC: Ad Initivm” is the first fruit to come out of this new chapter. It’s a Sci-Fi inspired gothic cyberpunk and neon noir track that explores themes of awakening. It’s heavy yet ethereal, but also danceable and high-octane. It’s my first dance track - finally! I also sing some parts in Latin. The music video follows the themes and concept of the track closely. It is gothic neon noir - dark, futuristic, Sci-Fi like Blade Runner, and yet still organic, carrying biomechanical elements inspired by H.R. Giger. I decided to do a dance video, which I have never done before - even though I am a seasoned dancer and performer. I had no time to do a formal choreography, so I had to freestyle all of it, mixing Kung Fu and Wushu in the movements. Also, this is the first time DeadlyKawaii and I did a full-scale CGI and VFX production together. We’re flexing a lot of muscles which we never shared before. I think people will be surprised and hopefully they’ll have as much fun experiencing it as we
did producing it.
🌟 Listen to the new single Atomic: Ad Initivm below 🌟
Who are you listening to at the moment?
We’re blessed to live in an era of great music and fresh perspectives constantly coming out.
I listen to a lot of dark cinematic, progressive down-tempos, cold wave, dark wave, dark pop and industrial EBM. My current favorites are Lorn, Snakes of Russia, REIN, The Black Queen, Big Black Delta, Linea Aspera, Sally Dige, Aeon Rings, VHxRR, Crying Vessel, Future Enemies, AGNIS, Drab Majesty - all mixed in with my all-time heroes like Massive Attack, Tool, Bjork, Nine Inch Nails, Telefon Tel Aviv, The Knife, Fever Ray, Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross.
You’ve also done some stunning collaborations; I may mention one or two of my favs such as ‘Left Unsaid’ with Future Enemies and that stunning cover of Irelands own Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow' with Strike Eagle. Are there anymore collabs in the works that you can divulge?
I love working on collabs. I have 6 coming up this year, including a new one with Future
Enemies and another cover collab with Runaway Droid. I am also producing a couple of exciting new tracks for the inimitable alt dark pop artist CORVYX. The rest are surprises, but with very stellar synthfam!
What can we expect from CZARINA for the rest of 2021 into 2022?
I am releasing a couple more singles and music videos after “ATOMIC: Ad Initivm” before
the full-length LP “ARCANA” drops this summer. We will definitely see more music films and the part 2 of BLAZE: Dances of the Yokai (once the pandemic is under control).
I am also working on delivering some extensive physical merch. I know I’ve been slow at this segment. I think it’s because I was dealing with inventory and retail all my life, and the thought of developing more physical products gives me anxiety sometimes. But if I actually do it, expect it to be rather different.
What is the one thing you’d love to change about the music industry if you had the chance?
Just one thing? :( LOL!
There’s so much I would change in the landscape to regain some balance in building equity in music so it can generate a meaningful fan base to help the artists. But I’ll try to keep it simple.
Overall, the streaming distribution system needs to be reset so small indie artists (who really make up for a majority of the industry) can thrive more, allowing them to get back a decent return on their investments to keep their production and release cycle going. I would follow the current standard distribution format for the film industry: Make new drops available only for purchase for a period of time, promoted through viable radio, editorial and music video curation networks before they hit general streaming. I would even add another layer with a pay-per-stream function for a period of time (like how we “rent” films on platforms before they go on streaming) where artists are compensated fairly.
New music should hit general streaming later after it passes a certain aging period. Also, along with that, I think the actual metric system needs to be removed or be made private just
like how it is done in the film industry. Numbers create a distraction and an unnecessary toxic
pressure amongst indie artists that I often wonder how much of that alone influences their art. I always say “dance like nobody is watching,” hence create as though no one is watching and let the real true fans come to you.
What would you say is the most cherished memory of your career to date?
Aside from making BLAZE: Dances of the Yokai, it would be when the legendary icon Debbie Harry came to see me at my live performances a few times. A couple of members of my live
band (Matt Katz-Bohen on synths/keys and Tommy Kessler on guitars) who are both wonderful friends of mine, also happen to be members of Blondie, which is how Debbie and I are connected. She also happens to be the honorary fairy godmother to my wedding - although, sadly she got ill the night before and sent a very lovely, generous gift with her date instead. I feel very lucky to have been touched by someone larger than life itself, and who is responsible for inspiring a lot of the music and artists out there. Definitely something I will cherish forever.
A message to your fans...