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Riz MC

Dazed Digital presents the video for the live version of his single 'Radar' filmed undercover

As Riz Ahmed is about the take over Sadlers Wells this weekend with his part rave part theatre part action art experiment, Dazed talk to the polymath about his critical acclaim and successes in acting and music and his vision for a dynamic creative future. We also present an exclusive video for Dazed in true audio visual style. 

Dazed Digital: Which came first, the acting or music?
Riz Ahmed: I grew up always watching music videos of proper performers who put a lot of performance and presence into their live shows, whether Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and the Wailers, or Qawalli (it's like the Pakistani version of jazz meets gospel) so I always saw the idea of acting on stage, dramatic performance and music as linked. For me it's always been stuff feeding into each other and happening together. Professionally, I got my first acting break filming Road to Guantanamo the same time I won my first battle on Radio One, and my first song Post 9/11 Blues was out the same month my first film was out, so from the start they've been moving in parallel.  
DD: Where does your heart really lie with these different creative mediums?
Riz Ahmed: They're rewarding in different ways. See, with music I am running the whole show and that's it's own buzz, it's like directing a film you take a lead in all aspects and that's hard to match, but that also means it's tainted with a non-artistic flavour too as it also about putting together all sides of it including the business side. Whereas when I'm acting I can just involve myself in the creative stuff, the process of researching and performing the character without worrying about editing and selling the film afterwards. You can keep it purer in a way because of that.
DD: Do you feel that one has enabled the other in anyway?
Riz Ahmed: It doesn’t work like that really with the kind of stuff I'm doing in film and music - it's credible stuff that has to work on its own terms - It might be different if I was making pop music - but I'm making edgier music than that - it has to stand up on its own. But when the guys at Warehouse Project or Fabric book me, they don't care if I've just won a BAFTA, it's gonna be because they believe in your music. When your getting cast in roles it's gotta be cos you can act. I'm not doing reality TV it’s drama and stuff with substance.
DD: What areas of music have influenced you the most?
Riz Ahmed: US hip hop in the mid 90s, and UK dance music, our heritage from old skool, jungle, dnb, garage, through to dubstep. I've grown up with it all and I'm proud to be a Londoner. I have always wanted to fuse the ambition of those lyrically dense rappers with our own UK tradition of brazen, futuristic beats, not just do a ravey MC thing. In general I love 4hero, Mos Def, Massive Attack, Bjork. People with a bold vision adding something fresh.
DD: This massive event you have devised is billed as an experiment, what are the hypothesis and variables for this experiment of an event?
Riz Ahmed: Well the whole things an experiment in the sense that it's something different, we're trying to create an immersive next-level live music experience. The hypothesis on that level is that we'll pull off something ambitious against the odds that most people have never experienced before. And the variables are whether I stay standing for long enough to do the performance after this insanely intense preparation period - we've pulled it together overnight really. In the show, there are lots of hypotheses linked to each of the experiments / songs we perform. The variables are movement, video, vocalists, costume, and the audience themselves.
DD: The music industry is changing the way it releases music, and you are doing a live event different from the norm. Do you think that the current live music format is becoming redundant as well?
Riz Ahmed: I don't think it’s redundant, I just think there's scope to innovate. That's my thing really, I'm trying to do a fresh sound with my music, and now I'm presenting it in a fresh way. I think there's a shift and resurgence for live music as recorded music is now undeniably free, so the next thing we will see is a race for offering a new level of spectacle and theatricality at our live shows.

A lot of the music industry are reacting to the death of recorded music by churning out samey commercially un-sinkable trash, X factor is riding high, most of what's on radio I consider to be unimaginative even on supposedly cool shows, and in the main just fucking rubbish, it's a very reactionary, knee-jerk stage we're in right now. Others will see an opportunity there, I know I do, to do something bolder now that the gate keepers are dying.  
DD: Where do you see its future?
Riz Ahmed: For this show, it'll reach live music venues, clubs and theatres, it bridges a lot of areas with the flavour of it.  For gigs in general we'll be at fully immersive VR-enhanced gigs set in 3D no doubt!
Riz MC Microscope is at Sadlers Wells this weekend. Tickets are still available for the Saturday matinee. Riz’s album is out on Crosstown Rebels.

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