So Sex Judas finally gets the band together.
Tore Gjedrem: “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time; have a multi-ethnic group.
Tore and I are talking under the cover of an opaque shade cast out in the alley in front of Bare Jazz. It’s been four years since I last interviewed Tore as Sex Judas, when the cartoon character was still in its infancy and Tore still lurked anonymously behind the big, burly figure of his own invention. Four years later and Tore has finally realised the band that he had intended for the project all along
Made up of a an eclectic and formidable group of musicians, the band consists of Ivar Winther on keys, guitar and flute; Kristian Edvardsen on bass; Sidiki Camara on percussion and a string instrument called a ngoni; and of course Tore on vocals and everything else. Each member brings his own unique character to the project, which they solidified on the debut album, released earlier this year via Optimo music.
“Go Down Judas” was a charismatic work that embodied the spirit of its protagonist in an LP that looked to further stretch the known boundaries of the Sex Judas sound. “The idea of the album was to be an enriching musical experience for me” explains Tore about the primary concept behind “Go Down Judas”. Uninterested in the way the outside world might perceive the LP, Tore wanted to approach “different styles and experiment with music” as Sex Judas. “I equally love as much folk music as I do House etc; that’s why there are so many styles, it’s a playground.”
Tore Gjedrem is possibly best known for his work with Petter Haavik as the electronic music duo Ost & Kjex. Together they’ve released three studio albums, several EPs and cemented a legacy as a studio- and live act through labels like Crosstown Rebels and Diynamic.
Is Sex Judas more or less restricted than Ost & Kjex?
Tore: “It’s not that Ost & Kjex is locked in, but after many years of doing it, it forms a style and behavior in the studio and (there are) certain expectations from the audience. You also have some obligations to the people that know your band. You don’t necessarily put out a noise album as Ost & Kjex.”
In the case of Sex Judas it’s about being “as open as possible” and allowing the project to move between different factions of musical tastes, which can go anywhere from Funk to Disco to Afro, to House, Ambient, as far as the imagination can stretch. Lacking the personal skill perhaps to achieve this on his own, Tore has tied in his ragtag band of musicians and through the album and the live show he is able to actualise his vision for the project with each musician bringing some key element to the group:
Sidiki, a Malinese professional musician provides that essential African rhythmic device. “He is not on the ones and fours, he operates on a different time“; Ivar Winther is a “good friend” and “a soul mate when it comes music” who has worked with Tore before as Snuten; and Kristian Edvardsen is “the best bass player ever” who is “very central to sound”, providing that unmistakable funky groove to the whole project.
It is Edvardsen’s bass on “Det Syke Vesen Som Kjeder Seg I Bunnen Av Mennesket” that brought an entirely new dimension to the Sex Juda’ sound from the first two EPs, “My Girls” and “Big Sex Thing” and became fundamental to project, heading into the debut LP. Alongside Camara’s evasive rhythms it established the distinct sound of “Go Down Judas” that lended a human touch to the LP. From “Sidiki’s Jam” with its progressive nature and African themes to the funky groove of “All good Junkies” the music takes on a very organic nature in its execution all under the pretense of a cartoon character, bridging that gap between fiction and reality.
What exactly was the intention with the album?
Tore: To create a small universe with the characters that portrays life in all its glory. There’s a lot of personal things in there. I also love the connection between sexuality and music; it’s just such a great, positive thing to have a horny vibe in a club. This is also why I flirt with sexuality in the context of a character, so people don’t see me as a fucking freak.” (Laughs)
On the LP, Sex Judas breaks the fourth wall. Increasingly disillusioned with the conservatism of the real world, “Go Down Sex Judas” finds the character in sombre mood. There’s a sense of lament and sorrow on songs like “The Hedonist Disappeared into Normality” but it is also constantly contrasted with this sense of upbeat enthusiasm in the music made for the dance floor. Sex Judas is a complex character and Tore plays on certain “duality” between conflicting notions in an effort to “confuse” his audience.
Sex Judas sometimes becomes the mouthpiece to Tore’s political views, tongue firmly in cheek but coming from a sincere desire to respond, reflect and criticise current political dogmas in society. Sex Judas questions things like “the abhorrent direction politics is taking today with the far right” through the music, the lyrics and even the cover LP has its own significance.
Sex Judas and Ricky sitting outside the infamous SEX shop – Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s clothing store that became the symbol of the disenfranchised Punk youth – is no mere coincidence. It’s a small “call to arms, to have this connection with the punk era.”
Today he sees the club and club music as the equivalent of Punk and Disco in the seventies; “a place for the left-outs and the liberals.” But as club culture has become popular culture it feels like there’s little room for the left-outs and liberals as superstar DJs wearing sunglasses at night, play to completely disconnected audiences preoccupied with their phone. Tore believes club culture doesn’t take to much notice of the world outside a quite isolated space”, but at the same time he believes there’s room for change.
What needs to happen for it to change?
Tore: There is room for people to speak their own mind also in electronic music. Even a song title can convey a lot of meaning. In the simple lyrical meaning in the Disco era, there’s a lot of black- and sexual liberation in these short choruses, that can be about being happy, but can also be about liberation.” I don’t want to be to preachy though, music is also supposed to be fun, but It can be about a lot of things in the same time.
It’s this duality, and there’s that word again, “duality” that Tore tries to instil and bring across in his work as Sex Judas. “I love the contradiction in the character” reiterates Tore, and that in itself breathes life into the project, where Sex Judas lives beyond the two dimensional world from which he is born.
Within that fourth dimension Sex Judas is constantly evolving too and some of that evolution in is sure to be influenced by Ricky and the Moist. “The more you work with people, the more they grow into the concept”, says Tore. He believes Edvardsen, Camara and Winther “will definitely put their mark on it” and “already have” in some respects with another album already in the works and Tore currently putting the final touches on an EP earmarked for the end of the year.
What’s the EP like?
Tore: “It’s quite similar to some of the album tunes with an organic sound. One song is with Sidiki playing the ingoni recorded in the same session as the track on the LP. But it takes the whole thing into a long song structure, with singing and choirs.
The other song is a love song for my girlfriend that started five years ago as a House track, but I’ve been re-doing it because I want this one to be perfect. That will be the title track and then the other tracks will be a slacker Disco track.”
The following album will be subtle, “something you can listen to going to bed” adding yet another layer to the complexity of the Sex Judas sound which shows no signs of ever settling on anything concrete. Sex Judas has taken on a life of his own and as he modulates freely between various aspects of music it’s Tore’s vision that keeps the character grounded.
From the politics to the humour, from the music to the musicians, Sex Judas is a very intriguing and multifaceted character. It’s easy just to get lost in the entertainment value of the music Tore creates through the cartoon, but equally and concurrently it’s so much more rewarding to dig a little deeper and delve into the immense world, and reality of Sex Judas.
*Sex Judas featuring Ricky and the Moist play Jæger tomorrow for Frædag.