Keep creation alive.
By Licki Ucroj
Ziemba (she/her) is the performing moniker of NYC-based musician, composer, perfumer, writer, & cultural geographer René Kladzyk.
Describe your artist’s journey (thus far) in 3 words:
Playful, fantastical, under-funded.
What do you want us to take away from listening to your playlist?
My metric for evaluating music is normally paying attention to what and how it makes me feel. I hope the songs on this playlist make you feel sweet, open, uplifted, curious, and filled with a deep sense of wonder.
What kind of experience do you hope to create for your listeners?
I try to restore people’s faith in humanity one song at a time. Like everybody else, I struggle to cope with the very real impacts of evil, greed, and hubris in this world. I make music partly as a coping mechanism, and I think that translates. Music, art, dance—these forms of creative expression are reminders of the beauty in our shared humanity and the complexity of the forms through which we can connect to one another. To me, that’s a really important reminder.
That being said, the other experience I try to manifest in listeners is one of de-centering a normative human perspective. Music is an alien language; it communicates very complex and essential messages through symbol, association, feeling, tone, and intuition. Empathy is central to the human experience. I often try to cultivate empathy with non-human and alien perspectives in my music. I think that if we want to not be evil, greedy, hubristic humans, it is incredibly important to think outside the familiar scale of time and human logic.
Talk about the importance of performing your work live.
Music is very space-specific, and there’s a lot that can’t be translated through the digital dissemination of music. I love the opportunity that live performance offers for creating truly singular moments. Working with fragrance, it’s a necessarily ephemeral way to approach sound (connecting it to the scent in the room at that precise moment). I like cultivating the feeling of being 100% in your body, in this room, right this moment. I think much of 21st century life is quite distracted and ungrounded, so live performance and the relationship I can carve out with the audience offer some relief to that tendency.
How do olfactory and sartorial explorations inform and augment your music?
Everything is intermingled! I don’t find it helpful to view creative mediums as distinct and separated. To me, there is always a conversation happening between color and sound and vice versa. I love playing with fragrance and with fashion/costume in relation to music, because it opens up more entry-points into the song or into the creative nucleus at the core of the song. I can’t speak for others, but for myself, I think I am more able to fully inhabit whatever it is that I’m making by considering it through all sorts of lenses and modes of expression. And to me, it’s more fun that way too.
What is the hardest part of staying true to yourself as an artist?
I think fear of judgment and preciousness are twin deaths for creative expression. If I get preoccupied with how something may be perceived or received by others, it can be really paralyzing. Similarly, if I try to control the outcome too exactly or think in terms of perfection, then it becomes hard to make anything at all. To have freedom as an artist, you have to surrender that false sense of control. And to me, that surrender is an ongoing process. I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring what the outside world thinks of my work, and in a lot of ways I don’t want to stop caring, because I make work for the world, not solely for myself. But I have to walk a fine line in how I consider the needs or expectations of people outside of myself, so that I can be appropriately fearless. And it’s the same for perfectionism and being precious about what you make. It’s very important to hold yourself to a high standard, and judging your own work is part of that. So you have to do it and push yourself creatively while at the same time allowing things to unfold on their own and come alive.
What advice do you have for other multidisciplinary artists?
Sometimes you have to just commit to make something that day, and you have to tell yourself that it doesn’t need to be “good.” I often have to break a threshold just to make something, anything, in order to be able to dig deep and then make work I actually like. The biggest block I think comes from wanting the first thing you make in a day to be really great. If you just make work and don’t get attached to what it is or how it ends up, you can get things flowing more freely.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
I’m not going to encourage someone reading this list to just “follow” other artists. I think for contemporary musicians it is so hard to make a living, and so if you like someone’s work, I highly encourage you to buy their music, not just stream it. Buy their records, their merch, go to their shows, etc. Spotify doesn’t value the work of musicians appropriately, and for that reason it’s hard for me and many other musicians to survive in this industry. There are a lot of contemporary musicians on the playlist I made, in addition to some older music. If I were to pick one artist from the playlist, I’d say Mega Bog, because I’m very obsessed with their new album Dolphine, which their song on this playlist comes from. Y’all should buy that album; it’s stunning.
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