Queer-flavored SSION :: the next big thing?

by Joseph Erbentraut

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 31, 2009

Cody Critcheloe is the brainchild of SSION, a queer-flavored performance art-meets-punk rock outfit that has brought many a party while playing shows with names like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Fischerspooner and, most recently, the Gossip. And despite sharing the stage with some of the music world's most sought-after performers, the band continues to live in a kitschy world of pseudo obscurity. Though that may not be the case much longer.

Indeed, SSION may soon be crawling above ground to frighten and confuse parents the world over. Their new film project - Boy - out earlier this year, showcasing some of the band's outrageous music videos while exploring a storyline with Critcheloe's female alter-ego - is touring the world, while a follow-up to 2008's "Fool's Gold" is also forthcoming.

Just days before their stint headlining a raucous New Year's Eve at Berlin, EDGE asked Critcheloe about touring with Gossip, shaving Peaches' head and why he describes himself as a "lesbian at heart."

Tired of tranny hookers?

EDGE: Your name came up during one of the first interviews I did for this site, with Scott Cramer, the Stardust promoter who booked you for the New Year’s Eve show at Berlin this week. He said he was tired of scraping the gum from your "16-year-old tranny hooker" friends off the inside of his car when you came into town. How do you respond to that?

Cody Critcheloe: I would just consider that knowing what I want. I need things. Everyone needs certain things.

EDGE: So you’d go on record as needing teenage transgender hookers?

CC: Well, I like hanging out with tranny hookers, but I don’t do anything sexually with them because I’m a follower of God. Our whole New Year’s show is basically going to be a very religious experience, like when Little Richard went back to being a Christian. I’m doing the very same thing. I was inspired by my family when I went home for Christmas. For the show, we’re dropping all the gay dance rock n’ roll stuff and going to revert back to manly Christian Southern values. A white robe is being made with a big pompadour wig. You’ll know I’m a man of the Lord and I’m sure Berlin will really appreciate it.

EDGE: Speaking of religious experiences, it must have been pretty amazing touring Europe with the Gossip this fall. Tell me about that.

CC: The experience was rad, one of the most fun tours we’ve ever been on. But Beth is a heathen and I’m not.

EDGE: What were some of the most paganistic things you witnessed Beth doing while on tour?

CC: Oh, nothing. She’s a sweetheart and I’m just joking. It was cool though.

Shaving Peaches’ head

EDGE: Just to get more name-dropping out of the way, you also filmed a video with Peaches. That must have been incredible.

CC: It was awesome. We’re still working on it and we’ll probably have it done in mid-January. She came to Kansas City and it’s all Wizard of Oz-themed, sort of a feminist take on it. She was awesome to work with and let us do anything we wanted. We shaved her head.

EDGE: So you’ve been spending a lot of time around queer ladies, which makes sense as you’ve described yourself as a "lesbian at heart." Tell me why that is for you.

CC: I get along well with them. I’m a feminist, and I like women more than men. I think they’re superior to men, more poetic and talented, more beautiful creatures. Basically, it’s the manifesto for The L Word. I just always get along better with chicks, I guess.

EDGE: That also makes sense given your character The Woman who plays a role in many of your songs and your new film Boy. Tell me about the inspiration behind her.

CC: She is sort of like a mix of all these different women that I was really influenced by growing up. She has a different trait from all these women in rock who inspired me when I was a kid. She’s a conglomerate of all those rocker chicks, with maybe a bit of Grace Jones, Madonna, Courtney Love, Kim Gordon.

EDGE: So she’s not someone from your own life, then?

CC: No, she’s a completely fictional character. In the movie, it’s implied that she’s this person I created sort of like a female version of myself, following me through my life and it goes back and forth for us. When I’ve reached my peak in the movie, she comes along and dethrones me.
EDGE: The dualism between you and The Woman is also interesting in light of the recent controversies facing gay artists like Adam Lambert. You’ve spoken before on the difficulties gay male artists have when utilizing provocative themes when compared to women doing the same thing. What are your thoughts on that?

CC: It’s really aggravating, but it totally happens. The Adam Lambert thing pissed me off though it’s not that shocking. It sucks that the most interesting male pop star we have is Kanye West and fashion-wise, he just wears a pair of crazy sunglasses. Justin Timberlake is also considered the fashionisto pop star, wearing a suit and tie. It’s really sad that at the moment we don’t have any sort of pop star that’s male that can get away with the same sort of stuff Lady GaGa does. At the same time, I think gay men don’t even want to support other gay men doing that sort of stuff. We’re all such bitchy queens.

EDGE: But it’s interesting that it took something like Adam Lambert to have more people address this topic.

CC: And a part of me really likes Adam Lambert for that. At least he’s opened the door and now my parents have some sort of frame of reference for what I do. It’s like with every fat goth girl you were friends with when the Osbourne show came out. "Oh, you’re like that!" It’s a frame of reference for all those girls pissed at their parents and slightly overweight. Just being home, and having all my family’s eyes on me, they can’t even tell a difference - to some of them I’m a doppelganger of Adam. But at least it’s happening and people are having to deal with it, even if it’s in its lamest form with Adam or someone like Lady GaGa doing the same thing. It opens that door for even crazier shit to walk in.

EDGE: A Village Voice article last year described SSION as "the perpetual next big thing." How does that label strike you?

CC: I mean, that’s true. I feel like we’re always on the verge of something. Because I’ve chosen to remain in Kansas City and there’s not a lot of media outlets, every once and a while we’ll rise to the surface and a small percentage of people become aware of us, but you can’t rely on that because [the blog culture] doesn’t really mean anything. So many bands get hyped in a short period of time and they’re just over ... I know I’ll be doing this forever in some capacity so there’s no such thing as it disappearing or not doing well. But then again, you have to realize for something that gets big that it won’t stay big forever. People will love it at times, and other times no one will give a shit. But I try not to even think about that kind of shit because it doesn’t really mean anything.

EDGE: But it is interesting that you’ve certainly brushed shoulders with "fame" - touring with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Gossip, features in Vice...

CC: And yet nothing has happened to us! No one is interested! We’ve been around forever and still no record company wants to sign us. What is wrong with the world?!

EDGE: Why do you think that is?

CC: I have no idea what’s behind it! Part of me thinks I’m too far inside of it to know. I don’t have a clue because this is just what I like to do.

EDGE: So without record labels knocking on your door, what continues to motivate you?

CC: As generic as it sounds, just creating and being able to make a world for yourself that you want to live in. That’s the best part of it. While making the things you want to make and seeing the things you want to see, you inevitably attract people who want to facilitate that or be involved. Also, I want to make something to inspire other people to do what they want and not just reproduce the same sort of shit over and over again. I think that’s the most important thing, inspiring other weirdos and gay kids to fuck shit up.

EDGE: My final question for you: Any new year’s resolutions that’ll be on your mind Thursday?

CC: It’s always the same resolution for me, just to try and be positive and be a good person, to keep working and facilitate good things by helping people out. I always have really materialistic things too. I want to have new clothes and shoes. New hair. A new face, new body. To find a hot Latino lover who’s good at math and hates fashion. The same kind of stuff. And to make money. I think I’m going to start focusing on that. It’s more feasible.

SSION headlines New Year’s Eve at Berlin, 954 W. Belmont, Thurs., Dec. 31. The celebration also features Lady Miss Navy Pier, DJ Greg Haus and Gay Terrorist. For tickets or more information visit www.berlinchicago.com

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.