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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Rjyan Kidwell, am: 11.01.2004 ]

Wer sich Cex nennt, will auffallen, wachrütteln, aus dem alten Trott heraustreten. Und genau das tut Rjyan Kidwell nun schon seit Jahren. Dabei ist er einer der umtriebigsten und arbeitswütigsten Künstler an der Schnittstelle von Electronica und Hip Hop und lässt auch live immer wieder die Kinnladen reihenweise nach unten klappen. Zweihundert Shows im Jahr sind bei ihm keine Seltenheit und Kidwell lässt sich sicherlich nicht die Rolle des schüchternen, introvertierten Laptop-Nerds aufzwingen und er schafft es immer auf erstaunliche Art und Weise, Konzertkonventionen einzureißen und die Menschen aus der Reserve zu locken. Ich sprach mit Rjyan über Marilyn Manson, seine Eltern und die lästige Musikpresse.


Musicscan: How has the response to your new EP "Maryland Mansions" been so far? Do you read articles or reviews on your music? How do you deal with bad press? Does it influence how you approach your own music in any way?

Cex: I used to read music press obsessively. Not just reviews of my records, but of everything that was out. I was very interested in trends, the way certain artists get over with the press, and how others don’t... it’s very interesting to me. I’m quite intrigued by the secret story that goes on in music mags — the psychology of the journalist. Everything’s written with this authoritative certainty, but if you read between the lines, and pay attention to the by-lines, you can start piecing together a pretty good portrait of the man behind the word processor.
Now, though, I’m on a mediadiet. I’m not reading any music press about me or any one else (and no more MTV/M2/Fuse, either)— not for the entire year of 6000. I went out the last few weeks of December without any music magazines or websites or any of that, and it felt really good. I’m trying to focus more on actual energy, actual facts and events and feelings, and get my head straight without having to spend any time at all thinking about what I read. It’s fourth-generation reality. Think about it...somebody had a feeling, then made art trying to represent that feeling, then a critic picked it up and attempted to interpret that feeling, then attempted to convincingly express that interpretation to us, then I read it and had a feeling about that expression of that interpretation... phew. You know what I mean. I’ve got too many pressing issues in the first generation. I don’t need to reach out that far into meta-existence to distract myself yet.

Musicscan: What would you say is the biggest difference to your previous releases? Where there any conscious efforts to move things in a slightly different direction?

Cex: What do you mean by „the biggest difference“? Like, in how it sounds? Or do you mean in how I made it? The most glaring difference to me is that I made it in California, which is a place I had never made music in before. The album is all about me running away from Baltimore, the hometown I celebrated so heavy on "Tall, Dark & Handcuffed". I left Baltimore very abruptly and had a pretty traumatic trek westward—the first song on the record is about that trip. Two of the tracks were recorded in Baltimore before I left, and the other six were all made on a hill in Oakland. With some other bands I guess it’s not a big deal where you write and record your songs, but my music is extremely sensitive to changes like that.

Musicscan: What is your favorite part about being a full-time musician? Have you ever regretted getting into music as I have read somewhere that you tend to get compulsive over your work and the responsibility towards your audience?

Cex: I donÂ’t know if I could regret it because IÂ’m absolutely certain IÂ’m incapable of doing anything else. And I guess I donÂ’t have a favorite part for the same reason. I definitely feel blessed, though, being able to do this. Being able to avoid having a boss most of the time is my favorite part, I guess. The last time I worked a government job was a record store in Berkeley, CA.

Musicscan: What fascinated you about music and hip hop in particular when you were a kid?

Cex: Getting your story heard. When you do it right, the petty minutiae of your life, the everyday shit that everyone goes through and usually forgets in a matter of weeks or months or years--- you can make that shit into an invincible monument. Those hours you spent screaming and crying and banging your fists, they’re no longer a waste when you let that energy pool and then pour it into a song that people will love. Same with good experiences—you do the joy and ecstasy justice when you make something permanent that transmits that feeling to others.

Musicscan: Have you ever thought about working together with somebody else, to sort of integrate what you are doing into a new framework?

Cex: Yeah, IÂ’m actually doing that right now. The Cex live show has had different participants the last two tours, and thatÂ’s going to continue with the next two tours IÂ’ve already scheduled this year. But IÂ’ve been writing new music, too, with some musicians I really admire, although IÂ’m trying to get that stuff radio-ready-perfect before I talk too much about it.

Musicscan: How important is it to you to stay in touch with the kids and the fans out there? Your website is quite elaborate and you keep a diary and seem quite keen on interaction. Would you say there is a bit of a narcissistic element to it as well?

Cex: Yeah, itÂ’s narcissistic, but keeping a protective gulf from the people that value what you do is narcissistic AND cowardly, so fuck that, itÂ’s not an option. Staying in touch with people and putting it all on the table is the reason I do this. ItÂ’s the one thing I have to offer.

Musicscan: What inspires you, not necessarily limited to music or art?

Cex: Traveling and meeting new people, and trying to throw myself into it all like it might be gone tomorrow. When you take chances and extend yourself to someone, especially late at night and especially when youÂ’re somewhere far from home, you can learn amazing secrets. Things start coming out of the ground and the sky.

Musicscan: What do your parents think about what you are doing? Do they have your records? Do they listen to them?

Cex: Yeah, they have my records. I donÂ’t know how much they listen to them. I think they listen a few times when I send them over, but I donÂ’t think theyÂ’re bumping that shit in the whip on the regular.

Musicscan: What makes for a good show in your opinion?

Cex: Intimacy. When something happens that could never be repeated. When a performer uses his time on the stage to make something new with that specific environment instead of just going through a series of motions.

Musicscan: Where do you currently live? How important is it for you to travel and live in different places, to explore new things? To me it also seems like a basis for what you are doing musically. How has all this traveling and constantly being on the road shaped or changed you as a person?

Cex: Between the content of the lyrics on my last two albums and everything on my website, IÂ’ve been trying to document this exact thing. Traveling has changed me a lot. The geographic movement.

Musicscan: If Cex stopped tomorrow, would you be satisfied?

Cex: No.

Musicscan: What do you think you would be doing if you weren't into music?

Cex: Watching movies in a dark basement, pretending I might make one one day.

Musicscan: What is it with Marilyn Manson?

Cex: The effort is so awesome. He makes so much of an effort—all his liner notes, his live sets, everything the dude ever wears... most bands are just like, „Whatever, I’ll go on stage in this t-shirt“ or „My friend Danny studied graphic design, he can make our album cover in Illustrator.“ Fold out one of Manson’s CD booklets-- dude puts a hell of a lot of thought and time into everything he does, it’s inspirational.

Musicscan: 3 current favorite records, books and movies?

Cex: Right now, itÂ’s... Records: "Everything Must Go" by Steely Dan, "Aenima" by Tool, and the live Themselves CD.
Books: "Heavier Than Heaven" by Christopher Cross, "The Age of Wire and String" by Ben Marcus, and The Tormented Mirror by Russel Edson.
Movies: "The Holy Mountain" by Alejandro Jodorowsky, "Bad Santa" by Terry Zwigoff, "The Big Lebowski" by the Coen Bros.

Musicscan: What can we expect from Cex in the near future? Any plans, releases, tours etc...?

Cex: I’m working on a more ballistic performance, with musicians playing instruments for that „professional“ feel that makes those pussy college kids feel so comfortable at shows. I’ve promised myself I won’t start working on a new album until April, but I have very little self-control.

  Jade Tree Records