Location Is Everything Vol. 2

Jade Tree’s second volume in its’ Location Is Everything (JT1094) sampler series provides the perfect overview of the label’s most recent and upcoming releases, featuring 21 tracks by beloved Jade Tree artists STRIKE ANYWHERE, DENALI, CHALLENGER, ESTER DRANG, THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES, JETS TO BRAZIL and more. The CD also features bonus tracks of unreleased, live, and demo versions of songs from PEDRO THE LION, FROM ASHES RISE, ONELINEDRAWING, PAINT IT BLACK, CEX and STATISTICS.

All tracks assembled, sequenced and mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music except “We Had A Deal” and “Rapture” mastered by Will Quinnell.
Layout: Mehron Moqtaderi

1. THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES “Riding the Grape Dragon”
2. CEX “Kill Me”
4. STATISTICS “Hours Seemed Like Days”
5. PAINT IT BLACK “Womb Envy”
6. DENALI “Hold Your Breath”
7. FROM ASHES RISE “Reaction”
9. CHALLENGER “Input the Output”
10. ESTER DRANG “The Greatest Thing”
11. KID DYNAMITE “Heart a Tact”
12. FURY “Resurrection”
13. JOAN OF ARC “Dead Together”
14. MILEMARKER “The Banner to the Sick”
15. JETS TO BRAZIL “You’re the One I Want”

16. FROM ASHES RISE “Bloodlust” (Live)
17. CEX “Cut Wrists” (New & Unreleased)
18. PEDRO THE LION “I Do” (Unreleased Demo Version)
19. PAINT IT BLACK “The Pharmacist” (Live)
20. STATISTICS “Another Space Song” (Unreleased)
21. ONELINDRAWING “Rapture” (Unreleased)

Location Is Everything Vol. 1

Jade Tree’s first sampler “Location is Everything Vol. 1″ (JT1075) is economically priced and designed to provide a definitive overview of the label’s output. 16 of the CD’s 23 tracks dip into Jade Tree’s catalog of recent and forthcoming releases with songs by NEW END ORIGINAL, STRIKE ANYWHERE, DENALI, ONELINEDRAWING, TRIAL BY FIRE, OWLS, and many more. This sampler also features seven never-before-released songs by JETS TO BRAZIL, THE PROMISE RING, PEDRO THE LION, MILEMARKER, GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, MIIGHTY FLASHLIGHT, and PAINT IT BLACK.

All tracks assembled, sequenced and mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, NJ except “Thickened Light” mastered by Tim Green.

1. New End Original – Lukewarm
2. Girls Against Boys – Kicking The Lights
3. Denali – Gunner
4. Trial by Fire – To Whom it May Redeem
5. Cub Country – High Uinta High
6. Milemarker – Shrink To Fit
7. Miighty Flashlight – Ballet Skool
8. Strike Anywhere – S.S.T.
9. Owls – I want the quiet moments of a party girl
10. The Explosion – God Bless the S.O.S.
11. Zero Zero – Back To Hell
12. Jets to Brazil – Milk & Apples
13. Euphone – My Ladies Can’t Remember the ’80′s
14. The Promise Ring – Emergency! Emergency!
15. OneLineDrawing – Smile
16. Pedro the Lion – Rapture

Unreleased Tracks:

17: Girls Against Boys – Super Slow
18. Milemarker – New Lexicon
19. Pedro the Lion – Backwoods Nation
20. Jets to Brazil – I’ve Got All The Words…
21. Paint it Black – Another Beautiful “Fuck You” Song!
22. Miighty Flashlight – Thickened Light
23. The Promise Ring – Easy

Cex [I]Maryland Mansions[/I] Review

Cex pushes his twisted hip-hop vision deeper into everyday despair on Maryland Mansions, and continues to blur distinctions between his assortment of stylistic resources. The eight-song record is an angst-ridden, often desperate inner portrait of the artist, where the edges of rap, emo, and IDM corrode on contact. At his best, Cex draws a visceral sadness to the top of his stripped-down, chopped-up production (“My Head”; “New Maps”); at weaker moments, he slips too deep into metaphor, and cleverness detracts from his oppressive soundscapes.Mansions end result is a scarred mess, a fitting aesthetic for such introspective music.

Cex [I]Maryland Mansions[/I] Review

Trend-surfing art punks looking for the newest in punky dance music (The Rapture, !!!, Radio 4, Watchers, Erase Errata) may be surprised at Jade Tree Records’ latest offering, Cex. The artist could be the great White hope, the hip-hop scene’s offering to counter the tri-coastal agit-prop dance music axis (New York, Chicago, Bay Area), but he does little to entice the hordes. A little mystique goes a long way in this business, but Cex disagrees.

“A lot of artists pretend they don’t want to be noticed but really want to feed illusion and mystery to your imagination until it shits out a version of themselves that is worlds better than what they really are,” Cex said, on his Web site. This young man prefers to let his laptop do the talking. And the scratching. And the slurping.

On his new EP, Maryland Mansions, his first release on Jade Tree, Cex attempts to combine intelligent dance music (IDM) with his own brand of hip-hop sturm und drang, and comes off, thankfully, more like hip-hop that digs indie rock, than wanna-beat hipster posturing.

Some call Cex, nee Rjyan Kidwell, IDM but Cex’s pastiche interludes resemble recent Fugazi instrumentals or Eno’s mid-70s smoothscapes more than Aphex Twin. As his Web site says, he is “Cex, #1 Entertainer”; the concept is key – Cex is no Marshall Mathers, but he communicates the vast scope of his catalog and his offhand rhyme patter by fleshing out his beats with skronky synths and arch laptop collage to prove that he’s no Caucasian dilettante. Talk about street cred: how many other hip-hop artists are (1) signed to the record label that gave the world Lifetime and the Eggs and (2) have parodied Bowie’s “Low” for an LP cover? None, but who owns both The Sugarhill Records Story and the Jade Tree 5 collection anyway?

On “Kill Me” and “The Strong Suit,” Cex emerges from the shadow of the techno doppelganger that clouds most of the EP to step out front and drop rhymes. The problem is, many hip-hop listeners trying to push their tastes past El P and MC Paul Barman will lack the patience to take Ryan’s experimentalist chutzpah at face value, even though he’s just as confrontational as the arrhythmic slice-and-dice beats of his more “hip-hop” contemporaries. It’s hard to resist the charm or psychoanalytic value of a guy who raps about dreaming he went to work in his father’s clothes, but DJs might need to sneak Maryland Mansions on the decks to get anyone other than indie stalwarts to bring the love. Darkwave-influenced tracks like “Stop Eating,” although catchy, may cause trainwrecks of Amtrak proportions among uninformed audiences. That’s the other problem with Cex: nobody likes to shake their ass on the floor if they don’t get the joke.

Cex’s website boasts Ryan’s mediocre developmental progress record from the Weems Creek Nursery School, a possible testament to his mercurial artistic growth since spring ’86. Yes, Cex attended pre-school in the same year that the Beastie Boys toured Europe with Madonna. Ryan, a prolific blogger, established the site to have a direct link with fans. He even offers to help devotees locate hard-to-find releases, as he’s worked with six indie labels.

Although fan-friendly and accessible, Cex makes no bones about the fact that he’s ready to represent like the strident hardcore punks he currently shares a label with. True artists are at home in any demographic, but in Cex’s game, isn’t it all about the street cred? Let this one play out on the dance floor.

That Cex-ual Feeling

“I want to find a prescription or wormhole that will shed the jaded parts of my life,” declares Rjyan Kidwell. “I don’t want to be over anything. I want everything to be new. I’m kind of, I don’t know, naïve may be the word.”

Kidwell, or Cex as his fans know him, rarely sits around long enough to get bored, yet alone jaded with anything. The singer/programmer/producer/one-man-extravaganza’s latest, Maryland Mansions (2003, Jade Tree), takes off from his previous schizophrenic track record of heavy-handed IDM, nods toward old-school hip-hop and breakbeat-filled electronics to explore a mix of industrial gristle, emo’s heart-on-sleeve moping, electronic beats and Kidwell’s always-moving artistic sensibilities and it delivers some of the strongest cuts in the youngster’s catalog. “Stop Eating” is a dense post-industrial noise fest in which Kidwell’s vocals billow black, angry smoke onto an already gloriously polluted aural landscape. Kidwell makes a nod to the terminally depressed Bright Eyes on “My Head,” that matches a crushing, aching acoustic guitar figure above thunky beats, and “Kill Me” is a squirming techno/industrial number that blurs the lines between sex and violence as Kidwell loops down the same spiral as Trent Reznor.

Even by Kidwell’s scattershot track record, it’s a surprise. Maryland Mansions checks rock influences as heavily as Cex’s favored electronic and hip-hop, a direction few would have guessed he’d take. Of course, throwing curveballs has been Cex’s modus operandi for years: Early records like Role Model (2000, Tigerbeat6) and Shift-Minus (1999, Underscore) dabbled with dance music that checked IDM mainstay Aphex Twin just as easily as The Dismemberment Plan. Oops I Did it Again (2001, Tigerbeat6) took Cex away from the somber world of dance techno into a realm of playful, if not exactly giddy, techno, while last year’s Tall Dark and Handcuffed revisited classic hip-hop that was sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes serious in its adoration of ’80s rappers.

“People can look at me and go ‘Hey dude, you’re not a genius and you admit it,’” Kidwell says. “‘You’re not even that talented naturally and you admit it. If you don’t do something long enough, how can it be as good as you can get it? You’ve got to work at your craft! You’ve got to get that samurai sword out in your back yard and hack away with it every day if you want to be the master ninja. You keep bouncing from shit to shit so you’ll never have to actually be good. You’ll have an excuse.’ I don’t know exactly what to say to that argument. It’s one that’s in my head a lot. Is all my talk of boundaries and daring and unpredictability and stuff, is it just a weird cover? I guess I don’t have an answer for that. That’s how I am in my life. I move around a lot. I’m in constant motion. I’m really, really anxious if I’m not doing something that I feel is productive at all times. Since I haven’t really solved that problem in my life, I don’t really know how to deal with it in music.

“A lot of music critics think that when somebody does too many things, it’s confusing to the average music listener,” he continues. “Totally not. It’s like when you’re friends with somebody you go ‘Hey, you’re acting differently today! What’s up? Our friendship is on the line! I don’t know if I can be around you with this new mood. You didn’t make the same jokes that you did yesterday.’ Nobody fires their friends for that reason. I always wanted to be more like a friend than some kind of towering god that’s incapable of making the wrong decision with my music.”

Maybe it’s that sense of mortality that’s made Cex’s records so accessible; maybe it’s his burning desire to stave off the cynicism that’s almost part and parcel with underground music hipness that does it. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Really, it doesn’t matter, as Maryland Mansions screams as the excitement of living life and loving music collide in a post-industrial, post-punk and post-dance world that has no time for the rules and regulations of the indie-rock status quo. Disdain for the musical rank and file marks Kidwell’s biggest artistic step forward. While previous albums bounced from style to style with only a few nods toward mixing one genre’s peanut butter with another’s chocolate. Maryland Mansions, however, does that. Rather than following in the steps of Aphex Twin, Kid Koala or Kool Keith, Cex breaks from the pack to forge a sound that, while carrying overtones of its predecessors, jams with a flavor that’s pure Cex.

Nevertheless, revolutions aren’t borne of sound alone – they’re a matter of heart more than mind. Anyone can flip a new sound out, but Kidwell goes one step farther, and chews up the underground-rock mentality with revolutionary fervor. Where his contemporaries routinely perform an elaborate dance to avoid the inevitable knee-jerk accusations of selling out, Kidwell knows that artistic integrity has nothing to do with the size or a royalty check or actually liking attention, Cex calls attention to himself. He’d rather flaunt an arm full of Rolex watches than some indie-nerd’s misplaced sense of credibility. In fact, the whole notion of the reluctant rock star, Kidwell says, is a steaming pile laid by musicians who can’t come to terms with their need for gratification.

“I guess the worst part of musicians is they are attention seekers in denial,” he complains. “When you meet some kind of drama king who’s got really no hustle, he’s not in a band or he has a hustle and it’s a really shitty one and it’s obviously shitty, like he’s working on a record and he’s never played a show or he’s in some shitty play or whatever. He’s an attention seeker and he wants to be loved and validated. He knows it or at the very least, he doesn’t actively deny it. A lot of musicians, if you’re getting on stage and you’re putting out records for people to spend money on, I don’t care how much you can look at your shoes in interviews and say how much you hate attention, those aren’t the actions of someone who wants to be left alone. It’s way easier not to make a record and release it and tour than to do those things.”

“That’s the thing that I think is really retarded. When someone who is living the lifestyle and putting some effort into getting attention for what they do and certainly not stopping someone else from paying attention to them or not stopping the label from calling attention to the record so that people can hear it, then sit in a chair and deny it. That’s the thing to me that’s more annoying than their regular-world counterpart is. It’s so insulting.”

Yes, it is, and Kidwell isn’t going to let himself become so jaded as to sink into the hipster-doofus mentality. That disdain for the nuances of cool-guy behavior, and the not-so-subtle ways it plays out in underground music, make Cex a bit of a renegade. If his genre-hopping and lack of direction could annoy the hipsters, his dedication to destroying the rules of the underground he inhabits might just make him Public Enemy No. 1 at the local rock club. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Part of me is really averse to hipsters and is really afraid that I am one,” Kidwell admits. “I will totally try to have no boundaries. I purposefully and willfully do things that people wouldn’t want me to do or expect me to do, just to prove that it’s possible. Sometimes it feels like there’s invisible, enclosed rules. There’s no rules at all. To travel in a world of underground rock, underground hip-hop and underground electronic where the word ‘experimental’ is used so much, it seems like people, by and large 90 percent of the time or more, play it pretty safe. You get something like an Aesop Rock album or a Prefuse 73 album, it’s like ‘This is experimental hip-hop, experimental electronic!’ I don’t know what experiment is being done! This album sounds exactly like I thought it would sound.”

In fact, up until Maryland Mansions the Baltimore-based producer’s put as much into writing music that comments upon other music as forging his own road. Cex’s latest, however, spurns the inevitable serpent-eating-its-own-tail routine of the reactionary musician for a route that turns his songwriting eye on issues that are more important: namely, commentary that focuses on the real world instead of the recorded one.

It hasn’t been an easy task for Kidwell, however. As his chaotic musical trajectory suggests, Kidwell’s as enthusiastic about keeping up with music as he is about making his own. Because of that, he’s as embroiled in the ongoing dialogue about popular culture. So much so, actually, he’s had to curtail his fandom activities in order to keep his musical eyes on the prize.

“I’ve been trying to go on a media diet, where I wasn’t going to read as many reviews or articles about music that I knew were going to make me steamed up afterward. I would read certain things and all I’d want to do is write a jam to refute what I’d just read. It’s so lame! I did an album that was like that, Tall Dark and Handcuffed, which is almost entirely direct statements about what I thought about music. I’ve made a real effort to stop doing that. Don’t make music about music! If there’s some kind of axiom or natural law that I want to declare, I’m going to have to declare it by convincing stories. I’d rather write fiction than write manifestos. Who reads manifestos? They’re boring. I’ve tried to make my music more like fiction books.”

Enthusiastic music fans, Cex may be the man you’ve been looking for; jaded hipsters, however, had best scurry back to the shelter of pompous attitudes – Cex’s personally set guidelines probably align him with the eager more so than the cynical.

“I try to never be a dickhead, which is a pretty good rule,” he says. “If you’re not a dickhead, it will work out.”

It’s working out well indeed.

Cex [I]Maryland Mansions[/I] Review

At the age of twenty-one, Cex, the stage name of Rjyan Kidwell, has already released five records of the ‘experimental techno’ persuasion. "Maryland Mansions" is his latest and also his debut for the legendary indie label Jade Tree Records. Roster variety is not at all a new concept for the Delaware-based company, but Cex brings something new to the discussion no matter what your musical background is.

Even though "Maryland Mansions" only contains eight tracks, trying to summarize the sound of this record is a task best not left to amateurs. It’s not enough to say that every song sounds different, or that there’s an assortment of genres being blended together. Yes, the songs all sound different, as they should, but "Maryland Mansions" is not exactly a fruit salad of different genres. It’s more like a warped version of the genres that it would normally get filed under.

The album first struck me with the second track "Stop Eating" with its crisp hip hop beats and great rap vocals. I wanted to call Cex my new favorite hip hop artist, but that wouldn’t convey the reality of this recording. It’s a part of the Cex psyche that emerges now and again in about half of the eight songs, mostly interwoven with electronic mechanics and a dark, industrial tone that seems to draw from Nine Inch Nails and perhaps, ironically, Marilyn Manson. Come to think of it, it’s not a far cry from another Jade Tree act: Milemarker.

I love the hip hop aspect of Cex, but I won’t hold my breath hoping for his next album to emphasize more of that. Cex has his own agenda. Expecting him to do one thing is like me expecting my cat to come when I call her. My cat doesn’t always do what I want, but I still like my cat. And I like Cex too.

A Punk International Interview with Cex

I was surprised when I was doing some background reading for this interview to find out that you’re 21 years-old, same age as I am. I guess it’s only surprising because you already have five albums out. How old were you when you began making music?
I guess I was in 8th grade when I played my first show. It was with my first band, Guru Magpie. I played bass on some songs and guitar on others. Me and the other guitarist tried to teach the drummer "Baptist Blacktick" by Pavement not five minutes before our set started.

In your ‘mailbag’ on your website you told some guy randomly asking you for advice he shouldn’t release any tracks for 2-3 years. I’ll go out on a limb and assume you weren’t being cynical, and ask if you had a 2-3 year period like that and what your earliest, unreleased tracks were like.
I started making music by myself in like 1995, recording myself playing guitar on a tape recorder, then playing that tape on my stereo while I played more guitar or sang into a new tape in the tape recorder. That shit was awful. Soon after I got some software on my parents computer and started making music that was a little more sophisticated, but still awful. Half of it sounded like techno music made by someone who had only heard techno in commercials. The other half sounded like Negativland made by someone who had never heard Negativland but had heard it described once.

I grew up on punk rock, where starting to make music was relatively easy. You buy a guitar and an amp and learn to play your favorite Epitaph bands’ easiest songs. I imagine that getting started on electronic-based music is a bit more difficult. So how did you begin?
I bought a guitar and an amp and learned to play Beck songs. The computer shit came later, because I lived far away from anybody else my age and I could crank out the tracks a lot faster with the computer than trying to play guitar along to the stereo. I was in bands for a few years, made lots of tapes and released a couple of vinyl singles with a few of those bands, but I always had time to work on my own shit.

I could be wrong since I’m a new listener, but listening to some old mp3s has led me to believe that rapping is something you’ve just recently begun to add to your music.
It depends on what time frame you’re on. I’ve been "vocalizing" in my live shows since early 2001, starting with pure freestyling. I took a while to release anything with recorded vocals, though… the first album with singing on every track, "Tall, Dark, & Handcuffed", didn’t come out until the Fall of 2002. Since then I’ve released "Being Ridden" and "Maryland Mansions", so techinically most of my records have singing on them.

On Maryland Mansions your rapping seems to be pretty stream of consciousness, without much structure, rhyme, and the like. Is it something you don’t spontaneously?
Well, I started out freestyling. I’d get topics from the audience and make up all the lyrics on the spot. But I started writing during the downtime on tours, and everything I sing now is revised and rewritten and re-revised ad nauseam.

I heard that you had some major label interest while you were enjoying free agency. Why did you decide not to go down that route?
It wasn’t really my decision. There was interest, but I don’t think anyone was really completely sold on me. I think the majors that I talked to pretty much just wanted to make contact, give me some free shit, and put a little seed in the dirt so that later on, when I release a record which knocks it out of the park sales-wise, they can come through like, "Hey! Remember me and my label? Remember that free shit we gave you? We’ve been behind you since day one, we’re the major you want to sign with!"

Tell me a little bit about your old label Tigerbeat6. At first I thought it had something to do with the magazine for 10 year-old girls.
Nope. It’s basically the best experimental electronic music labels ever, and now they’re starting to branch off and sign acts that make rock and hip-hop and other types of music. There’s a core clique of producers and performers that are pretty tight, most of whom live in the Bay Area (I lived in Oakland for a while myself, and may end up there again eventually)— guys like Kid606, Gold Chains, Lesser, Wobbly, myself, and bands like Numbers, Crack WAR, and Zeigenbock Kopf.

Eight tracks falls in the gap between EP and full-length. How did you arrive at this number of songs? Was it the original plan, or did you add some to a shorter recording? Take a few off a longer recording?
I messed around with a lot. Originally, I had 8 or 9 tracks all built around a different "method"— "Stop Eating," "Drive Off a Mountain," and "Take Pills" were all from this group, although there were other tracks finished like "Cut Wrists," "With Fire," "Jump Off A Bridge," and "Drown in the Ocean." I really wanted to keep the record tight, though– like STATION TO STATION or LOW or ILLMATIC. I wanted every song to be an essential part of the complete though of the record, no repitition or filler. I realized that what I was really trying to do was remake BROKEN, so 6 tracks and 2 hidden cuts seemed like a perfect length. I could have waited and added more songs to the record, but they wouldn’t have come from the same emotional place as these and that would have made it feel less like an album, in my opinion. All these songs are about a very specific series of events and period of my life, and I wanted to get them out there into the world before I moved on completely.

Have you had opportunities yet to go touring overseas? Any new ambitions now that you’re with Jade Tree?
Yeah, I’ve been overseas quite a few times. The first time was back in 2001, I went to Japan. I’ve been to Europe a few times since that. I’m going again in February. The label really doesn’t have much to do with where you go tour in my experience. It’s always been a self-determined thing for me.

Do you think you will continue this pattern of releasing one record per year? Would Jade Tree be able to keep up?
I actually released two records this year– BEING RIDDEN, on Temporary Residence, which came out in May — and actually came out in two versions, an all-instrumental disc and a vocal disc. I doubt I’ll release two full-lengths next year, but it’s hard to say. It depends on how insano my life gets. I make records in order to feel OK about the events in my life, so if the stress doesn’t subside a little beneath the levels it’s been hitting in the past year and a half, I might have to crank out another couple full-lengths.

Cex Signs To Jade Tree, Release EP In November

George Michael asked to please cease and desist further requests; they’re spoken for

[Posted Tuesday, September 9th, 2003 03:40:00 Pitchfork Central Time]

Eric Marth and Stephen Nelson report:
In perhaps the most bizarre pairing since white chocolate and Kit Kat wafers, Maryland’s broken-beat answer to Eminem, Cex, has joined forces with Delaware emomongers Jade Tree. Cex (aka Rjyan Kidwell), known for his incredible live performances and tendency to release almost-as-good records, is gearing up for the release of Maryland Mansions, an EP in eight tracks. Jade Tree will be pushing out the record on November 18th.

Pitchfork recently spoke with Kidwell about the new record. According to the man himself, Maryland Mansions will feature guest appearances from Zach Hill of Hella (who provided drum samples for three cuts) and ex-girlfriend Indra Dunis of Numbers, whose vocals appear on the first track. Cex claims that the sound will be "darker, louder than Being Ridden — not quite as all-over-the-place stylistically, but I guess compared to most bands’ albums it’s still kinda all-over-the-place. Thematically though, it’s focused. Mostly focused on endings. And a little bit focused on absence– and I think there’s a bit about closing." Hmmm… ending, absence and closing. Sounds nicely postmodern and strangely unenlightening. The tracklist:

01 Drive Off A Mountain
02 Stop Eating
03 Take Pills
04 Kill Me
05 My Head
06 New Maps
07 Stillnaut Rjyan
08 The Strong Suit

When we talked to Kidwell, he was resting up in Brighton, England after playing "show five of what has been possibly the weirdest tour ever." Kidwell noted that the tour has been received with great enthusiasm, but has been plagued by poor merchandise sales, theft, robbery and lack of passports. Sounds like either really bad luck, or the plot to a new National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. Cex will continue touring Europe through most of September before bringing the mayhem to the States in the coming months. This short U.S. stint will be followed by Cex’s first-ever Australian tour this December. Those sweet, sweet dates (all U.S. dates with Nice Nice):

09-09 Frankfurt, Germany – Cooky’s (w/ Grand Buffet)
09-10 Berlin, Germany – Bastard
09-11 Hamburg, Germany – Pudel Club
09-12 Hannover, Germany – Silke Arp Brecht
09-13 Rotterdam, Holland – Rotown
09-15 Gent, Belgium – TBA
09-16 Amsterdam, Holland – Paradiso
10-29 New York, NY – TBA
10-30 Philadelphia, PA – University of Pennsylvania
10-31 Alfred, NY – Alfred University *
11-01 Northampton, MA – Iron Horse *
11-02 Cambridge, MA – TBA *
11-03 Providence, RI – TBA *
11-04 Baltimore, MD – TBA
11-05 Richmond, VA – Nanci Raygun

* with Aspera, I Am The World Trade Center

.: Pitchfork Review: Cex: Being Ridden
.: Pitchfork News: Cex Still Touring North America
.: Pitchfork News: Cex Readies New Double CD, Tours with Postal Service
.: Cex: http://www.rjyan.com
.: Jade Tree: http://www.jadetree.com

Cex London Upstairs At The Garage, 6 September 2003

Highly anticipated this one. We’ve been wanting to see Cex for so long for him to be anything other than the totally incredible, perma-freestyling live rap king we’ve built up in our minds would break our hearts.

But he is not what we expected. He is eight foot tall, for a start, and we expected mid-height. And he’s wearing a long red skirt, (bought, he informs us, from Camden Market earlier), and these big ol’ Buffalos. His hair is in bunches and has a patch missing that he seems to have gone at quite savagely with a razor. Eyeliner smudges across his face. He is gangly…

But he does not break our heart. He rocks our ass off. Woomph!

A cry of "WHO LET THE GOTHS OUT!" tears across the front of the room as the weird man-child stalks onstage. Opening with "a song about fingering", Cex proceeds to spend the vast majority of the show In The Crowd – a painfully geeky in the main but surprisingly energetic collection of awkward white people clutching at their spectacles – and is already greased with sweat by the time the last snare of the aforementioned jam slices home. He talks engagingly and cutely between songs about his adventures in our fair land (he’s had all his stuff robbed, he thinks it would be pretentious to pronounce "Garage" how we would), but most strikingly of all, that vague Nine Inch Nails influence we smelled on ‘Being Ridden’ has grown into a full on obsession – almost half of the beats sound like they’re ripped straight from ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, and tonight you’re just as likely to catch your man screaming Deep Pain as you are rocking Deep Flows… and, surprisingly, this does not suck… when Cex clambers out of the people and stands atop a monitor singing something quite touching and sad about how he fucked up his life in Baltimore and none of his old friends give a fuck about him anymore it is a brilliant, and tragic moment, and we feel a vague tear well up.

The party emcee we hoped for is still alive though, thank God, and we get a lot of ill rhyming couplets, although, sadly, only one track from the hip-hop classic ‘Tall Dark And Handcuffed’, and it’s that "Get on your bikes and ride" one, which was pretty dark anyway, and the call and response doesn’t work as well as it should… but that is a little niggle amid a set that is mainly joyful, apart from when it’s upsetting, but then it’s exhilarating anyway, and one only wishes Cex could a: play over here more often and b: for longer, because he really doesn’t. Like, dude has seven hundred songs to choose from. Half an hour just won’t cut it!

The solution, of course, is simple. Buy all the Cex records you can find. Badger local promoters. Call radio stations. MAKE CEX SO MASSIVE HE IS FORCED TO PLAY 2 HOUR SETS! Of course, he won’t be rocking the whole show from the crowd then… but we can’t be selfish about these things. Cex is for everybody, yo.

Cex is Playing in London. Hooray!

Cex is playing in London tomorrow, the 6th of September. Whoo!

We like Cex. He will be playing Upstairs at the Garage, in Highbury, and we think you should go, if you’re in the area like.

For more information on Cex go to www.rjyan.com and do yourself a favour and buy his last album ‘Being Ridden’ (if you haven’t already.)

His new album ‘Maryland Mansions’ is out in November.

Here’s some Cex waffle ripped from his website:

“Maybe it’s a little vain, but how vain is not ever talking straight to the people who support you, acting like some magic hermit who keeps mystical secrets locked in his laptop? Eff that. A lot of artists pretend they don’t want to be noticed, but really want to feed illusion and mystery to your imagination until it shits out a version of themselves that is worlds better than what they really are. I, personally, am in this game to scratch scabs and bleed out the secrets on stage so we can paint our own pictures on our bodies together with the blood-secrets…”


middle finger to the indie rock singer /
middle finger to the wack MC – TALK!

Are You Ready for the Cex, Girls?

Though he’s often labeled a sex-obsessed laptop-electronica act and lumped in with Tigerbeat6 label-mates Kid 606 and Lesser, there are few genres that Rjyan Kidwell, aka Cex, hasn’t attacked. Take care, however, to mention words like "genre" in his presence, as you’re only going to piss him off. Cex has never stayed with a particular sound for long; early albums like Role Model yield a pseudo-IDM approach — aggressive but threadbare beats under softer melodies and synth tones, underpinned by skittering glitches. Last year’s Tall, Dark and Handcuffedintroduced Kidwell’s full-fledged mouth-full-of-fronts gangsta side.

Just when people were finally getting used to hearing raps about "dodgeball and bicycles", Cex dropped Being Ridden — a dark collection of acoustic guitar heavy songs and instrumentals. Being Ridden (and its instrumental companion) shows that Cex has no plans to calm his genre-jumping: he’s an enigma, and we’ve only seen the first glimmer of his true potential.· · · · · · ·

Splendid: First, does Cex stand for "Consumer Expenditure"?

Cex: No.

Splendid: What would you say is the biggest misconception about your music?

Cex: That if you’ve heard one of my records, you have any idea what’s on the other records.

Splendid: What would you say is the biggest misconception about you?

Cex: That I’m a white guy.

Splendid: How’s the tour going? Which is the city that most surprised you? You can decide which type of surprise to address.

Cex: St. Louis was a fierce mosh pit full of teenagers — I was really into that. Also, Detroit was really hot, especially when this little chick in the mess up front suddenly decided my show needed more of my blood in it and took it upon herself to help me deliver.

Splendid: What do you mean?

Cex: She raked her nails across my back, hard. She unleashed my plasma.

Splendid: What are your plans for this tour? Are you sticking to the Tall, Dark and Handsome or Being Ridden stuff or are you gonna work in some old material?

Cex: I might do some older stuff when I headline some shows this summer, but when I’m opening for other people I try to keep it short and semi-coherent. I did a lot of the Mansions stuff on this tour, and Being Ridden songs. I was trying to do like 35-45 minute sets, including all the talking, so it was like 6-8 songs a night. Not many TD&H jams came through. I did "Ghost Rider" almost every night, and I think "Bad Acne" came out a couple nights, but I did that stuff all of last year, I’m definitely ready for the new joints.

Splendid: How do stay excited about playing the same songs over and over while you’re on tour?

Cex: All my shows are different. I don’t plan anything. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of a few staple songs I need to play — "Ghost Rider" and "Kill Me" were the crucial ones on the Postal Service tour — but I keep it fresh by just walking up there and talking to the crowd — taking in the scene and performing based on the environment, on the vibe, on the people. It has to be spontaneous or I will bleed out of my orifices with impatience.

Splendid: How have you stayed sane on this tour?

Cex: Writing in a composition notebook, talking to strangers, and sometimes taking drugs.

Splendid: Are you and Postal Service sharing a bus?

AUDIO: Not Working

Cex: No, no, no, not a bus at all. A van. I’ve never toured in a bus.

Splendid: What’s the worst possible breach of etiquette while on tour with someone?

Cex: I hope it’s not messing around with their ex-girlfriend in the next room every night.

Splendid: I read your all-time favorite video games list, and noticed that you told another interviewer that Tall, Dark and Handcuffed might be called Bad Dude — which is a game I was addicted to for ages. What video games are you obsessing over these days?

Cex: NBA Street Vol. 2 hasn’t left the tray since we got it at my house. I’m planning on picking up an Xbox after my next tour, though, because I really, really want to get down on some Shenmue II. I loved the shit out of someShenmue I.

Splendid: Totally! Shenmue and Jet Grind Radio are the reasons I got back into gaming and the reason why the Dreamcast will never leave my entertainment center. Are you a desktop gamer, or console gamer?

Cex: Ew, no offense to anybody or anything, but I can’t stand playing games on the computer. Strictly console for me. There are something like 29 million PlayStations in the country or the world or whatever. I don’t know how many people play PC games but I have the feeling it’s closer to the number of people who are down to wear their trench coat out to Denny’s.

Splendid: Have you considered the realm of game music? I think there are enough eclectic games out there that might welcome your stuff.

Cex: I don’t know… I have problems writing for other people’s vision. That’s why I haven’t done a remix in the last two years, and why my collaborations have been pretty limited. I’m just not motivated to make a single noise if it’s not about something that started inside me.

Splendid: Didn’t you used to be a PC guy? Why did you switch?

Cex: I haven’t switched yet. I use a Mac live because they’re more reliable. I use a PC at home because they don’t cost any money to get.

Splendid: How do you prevent becoming a slave to the software?

Cex: I guess I don’t consider software even remotely powerful or interesting enough to enslave me.

Splendid: I’ve kind of noticed that on your last two discs, even on your instrumentals. You seem to be bringing a more organic feel to the table, letting the human aspects shine through. Artists working in the computer-music medium often fall into an abyss where the software ends up determining the course of what happens in the studio or on an album. Do you try and steer clear of this or do you just let it take you where it wants to go?

Cex: I’ve insulated myself against this problem by having no patience. I’ve used the same gear and software since my first record, Role Model. I haven’t upgraded shit. I’m planning on buying some new instruments with the money I made on this tour, but I don’t have time to learn some new software program. I go play live shows instead. I think you can learn a million billion times more for your music from spending four weeks on tour than spending four weeks learning some coding computer bullshit.

Splendid: The abyss of freedom that is electronic music…sorry to keep using the term "electronic music". Let’s call it something else.

Cex: Let’s call it "the gash".

Splendid: Okay. With all the millions of possibilities in "the gash", it can still sound really flat and uninteresting. What bores you about it?

Cex: I don’t like any type of music that sounds like it was made effortlessly — like it glided right out of the artist’s fingers. I get nauseous listening to music that sounds like gross oil.

Splendid: Over the past few years, I’ve heard of quite a few electronic artists abandoning the idea of "music" and adopting a pure "sound"-based approach, using only mixers or reverb units. What do you think of the idea of no-input mixer pieces?

Cex: I mean…there’s always the possibility that I could see it and have my mind blown, because there’s always that possibility. As soon as you write something off, there’s a kid somewhere who makes you look like an asshole. But this particular kid, the kid who plays a mixer with nothing in it, he’s got to be one hell of a firecracker, I would think, in order to keep me awake at his show.

AUDIO: Stamina (featuring Venetian Snares)

Splendid: Have you seen many no-input mixer performances?

Cex: No, I just read about it once.

Splendid: What about the guys doing live improv with tape machines in the ’60s, like Robert Ashley and John Cage? Do you draw any inspiration from them? Do you feel associated with any tradition in music?

Cex: I have no idea. I don’t really know much about that scene. I’m seriously deficient in my knowledge of anything academic about music. I spend too much time watching MTV, I guess.

Splendid: Do you Bay area guys really have a rivalry with the European electronic guys on, say, the Warp label?

Cex: Haha, that wouldn’t be a very exciting rivalry. Warp is limping, dude.

Splendid: Oh, but Vincent Gallo is so…haha, you’re right. Ok, what do you think of people sampling your music?

Cex: Are people sampling my music? I wanna hear that.

Splendid: A friend of mine cut up a loop of yours from…I can’t remember which track, but he’s yet to do anything with it. Anyway, tell me a little about your first tour with Miguel (Kid 606) where you both borrowed "mom’s station-wagon".

Cex: We did nine days, I think, up and down the east coast. I picked him up at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and that was the first time I’d ever seen him in person. We played at two record stores, a few dirty rock clubs, a rave, a diner, and a legendary warehouse. It was super punk — and for some reason, people came to the shows. This was ’99, and as far as I know, it was the first ever DIY laptop tour…

Splendid: I’m still not really clear how you and Miguel met.

Cex: Me neither. I think it was over the Internet.

(Note: Rjyan and Miguel did meet over the internet on an AOL electronic music mailing list of which both were members, and from which an irritated Miguel was later expelled for sending a snuff picture with the subject ";)" to someone asking him what gear he used.)

Splendid: What involvement do you have with the business side of Tigerbeat6?

Cex: At the present, I go to the office occasionally to pick up checks or swipe copies of new releases. Miguel and I used to talk daily about the label, back in 2000, but our respective careers have moved in and now our girl Cathy runs most of the day-to-day show, while Miguel plans the big strategies and picks what’s coming out when. I’m focusing my energy now on my own hustle, 24/7.

Splendid: Unlike many of the eclectic/electronic labels, I read about all the Tigerbeat6 releases and have a hard time controlling myself; I want to buy them all. There’s so much diversity, yet it all kind of retains the T6 stamp. Is this all luck or is everyone on the label on same diet or something?

Cex: It’s Miguel. He’s got a killer instinct. He can see a great artist four or five albums before they manifest their greatness, and he’s totally into taking a chance and investing in somebody really early. I mean, you’re talking to Exhibit A…

Splendid: The first time I saw you perform was the Paws Across America tour last year with Numbers and Stars as Eyes. The cool thing I noticed is that everyone in each band came out and danced for everyone. Is the T6 community really as close-knit as it seems?

Cex: Well, the roster has kind of blown up in the last year, and there’s a bunch of people I don’t know at all putting out records this year. But even so, I would say we’re pretty tight. Rupture, who lives in Spain, and Sodahberk, who is from Sweden, are touring the US and Europe with Miguel this summer. And I toured with Com.A, who lives in Japan, before he was on the label. And there’s been a lot of San Francisco signings, and all those cats are super close — Crack, Zeigenbock, Numbers, Gold Chains… I guess there’s been quite a bit of inter6 getting it on, come to think of it.

AUDIO: The Marriage

Splendid: Just curious: who would win in an MC battle: you or (fellow Tigerbeat6 label-mate) Gold Chains?

Cex: Depends on what kind of crowd we were in front of. I think I could take Topher down in any city that wasn’t NYC, SF, or LA — in those cities it’d be harder, but I could still probably do it. I used to freestyle at every show I played, and I played, like, 6000 shows last year, so I’ve got that going for me. I think he’d kill me every time, though, if it went down in Miami.

Splendid: It seems that you’re prolific enough that this would never happen, but do you get hassle from management for "we need a new record" or "this thing aint sellin’ like we thought" (a la the dialog of "Jeremy Divine" from Tall, Dark and Handcuffed)?

Cex: No. The "management" you speak of is just my friends… all the people who have put out Cex records — Stewart from 555, Miguel, Jeremy at TRL, and Stuart at Rock Action…they’re all my friends. The complaint has actually been that I’ve got new stuff too quickly… they’re all, "We can get more press on the old album! Give us a few more months!"

Splendid: What are Tigerbeat6′s expectations for you?

Cex: I guess they’d probably be disappointed if I told them I wasn’t going to tour for a year or whatever. But that’s only because I’ve set this crazy precedent…other than that, there’s really no pressure of any kind. It’s a very chill operation; there’s no contracts. It’s all a friends thing.

Splendid: I just bought the double vinyl of Being Ridden. Can we talk a little about it? Where are you coming from on this one?

Cex: It’s about doubt — facing it, trying to explain it — but it’s also about just feeling totally retarded and going, "Fuck it, I’m making this record whether or not it makes sense."

Splendid: Did you approach it as a "concept album"? Because it feels, as with all your albums, like a really continuous work separated only by track numbers — or a bunch of journal entries.

Cex: The songs on Being Ridden were written over a pretty wide period of time… well, maybe not wide in the sense that most other artists can take a year or more to write a record, but wide for me in the sense that a lot changed in my life between writing "Stamina", which was the first set of lyrics I put down there, and some of the later lyrics like on "Dead Bodies" and "The Marriage". But no, I didnt have any over-arching concept guiding it. It was made as I went, adding and taking away different songs that I wanted to be a part of my next full statement to the world.

Splendid: Did you finish Being Ridden before you moved to Oakland?

Cex: Yeah, I turned in the masters to Temporary Residence right before I left on the Paws Across tour. And I didn’t even know I was moving to Oakland until the very end of that tour.

Splendid: Was it done at home, as usual?

Cex: Yep, recorded at my house, except for some of Craig Wedren’s vox, which we recorded at his apartment.

Splendid: How do you like being on Temporary Residence (who released Being Ridden)?

Cex: There’s some great music at Temp Res…there’s some really good psych-rock stuff, and some folky stuff I like a lot, too. They’re pretty diverse — they’ve got a really classy electronic act called Icarus now. I’d suggest that the uninitiated start with the albums by Nice Nice, Lazarus, or Howard Hello — those are my favs. All the Cerberus Shoal stuff is pretty mind-blowing as well.

Splendid: Do you have lots of major labels hounding you for a piece of your soul?

Cex: Not lots, no. Three. But I only think one of them is really willing to go the distance and do it right with me. We’ll see.

Splendid: I just read in XLR8R about another new release you have out soon called Maryland Mansions. The title and cover art both invoke an American-Gothic depiction of a house. Is this your sort of bon voyage to your home?

Cex: You pretty much got it right there. After I ran away, I wrote a whole mess of songs about running away. It’s dark like Being Ridden, but a lot heavier. And angrier. Being Ridden is all self-doubt, and Mansions is more of an explosion outwards.

Splendid: You’ve been all over the world; where do you think you’d like to settle one day?

Cex: When I settle, it’ll probably be in Baltimore. I’m guessing. I want to live in 30 different places before I settle, though. I want to live in a different city every couple of months for a few years, if I can swing it. Girls always seem to be delaying that plan.

Splendid: Your temporary rap "career": It’s almost like you’re sort of casting off what you were about — whatever that may have been, according to your critics. So which is your cocoon?

Cex: I don’t know what you’re talking about, dude. The only things I have ever been about are these: Honesty, Reality and Freedom. As in "Fuck a genre, fuck a critic, fuck a boundary." I’m not casting off anything. I decide what to do next, not the section of the store where they put my CDs.

AUDIO: You Kiss Like You’re Dead

Splendid: Do you do much DJ work?

Cex: Not much, but I’ve done a little since I’ve moved out here and I want to do more. I only DJ Baltimore Breaks, and I’m positive that I’ve got to be the only dude on this coast with enough B-more Breaks records to do a full set.

Splendid: All right, one last question. How was Matmos’s bathtub (rumor is Rjyan bathed in Drew and Martin’s tub)?

Cex: It was the tub in the apartment Björk bought them in NYC, the place where they were practicing for the Björk world tour. It was nice, but nothing out of control; pretty regular tub. There was a boombox in the bathroom and I listened to some music while I cooked in there, so that was cool.

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