We wanted to check out Rjyan Kidwell,
AKA Cex's live show in New York but we missed it, which is to damn
bad because it's supposed to be wicked. The 20-year-old has just
released his new album, Oops I Did It Again on Tigerbeat6. It's
a collection of sporadic programming, guitar lines, glitched out
atmospherics and a couple of funny ass skits between the tracks.
But despite his refreshing contribution to the IDM/Laptop scene,
the album is only half of what Cex is all about. To really get the
big picture, you must have to check out the live dates if you want
to catch Cex as he jumps out from behind the laptop, grabs the mic
and freestyles through most of the show giving a nod to his hip-hop
roots. Best of all, Cex doesn't take himself as serious as some
of the IDM cohorts and adds a much needed and unique humor to his
energetic music and live shows. If a show isn't coming near you,
I'd suggest checking his website, http://www.rjyan.com because some
of the journal entries are well worth the read.
It looks like you just finished a show in NY? I guess we just
missed you. How was the show?
Eh, it was all right. Apparently the club didn't really promote
it well, and there were no local acts playing, so attendance was
curiously low. I had a pretty good time, though, and I'll be back
in a month-- as I usually am with NYC.
I guess you've been a little freaked about flying after the
Not really. I mean, I stopped and thought about it, but I'm actually
not any more scared to get on a plane than I used to be. Usually
I try and envision the plane exploding, people catching fire, people
getting sucked out of their seats, screaming, crying, etc, while
we're taking off in order to 1) take my mind off of how creepy take-off
is and 2) visualize the worst so no matter what happens, I can be
like, "OK, here we go, just some screaming and exploding, no
I'd like to know more about your new album, the Brittany Spears
reference and what you tried to do on this record? The mood is very
spastic and almost gets a little grim at times.
Well, the new album... probably the best electronic music album
I own right now. I mean, besides some of the obvious classics. And
there are some joints coming out recently that have some good songs,
good tracks, but for an album, a representation of a person, I feel
like this one's probably one of the hottest in a while. The title
is all about subversion of pop culture through the most direct,
the most blatant, the ballsy, and the most sincere means necessary.
In that order. The title doesn't make a lot of sense without the
cover... it's kind of a complex notion to describe, but when you
see it, it's completely straight-forward and you understand it immediately.
And I'm very much interested in crossing boundaries that artists
don't normally cross. I'm very into the fact that I can take this
title, which people hear and immediately think Brittany Spears,
and then turn that into something entirely different -- something
even antithetical to what people think when they think about Ms.
Spears -- so easily. Turn that title around with a new context that
makes even more sense than when Brittany used it.
I'm just a regular guy who buys CDs and loves music. And so I look
at it like, they make Brittany Spears for me. They manufactured
her to appeal to me and be this cultural icon to entertain me and
make me happy. So she's mine. She's making music for the people,
and unlike most other artists out there, I actually am one of the
people, so I'm taking it and I'm using it. You know? I'm trying
to take that pop culture stuff, everything from the sickeningly
contrived psycho-murderers to the sickeningly contrived pop starlets.
I'm digesting all of that, all of that overload we get from MTV
and Entertainment Weekly and shit -- I'm digesting all of that and
making it into something that's genuinely interesting, and that's
a little more real.
I noticed you thanked Ginuwine, Jay-Z and Nas on the inlay?
I've been a fan of all those guys for a while; they've all been
definite influences on the Cex music and the Cex philosophy. As
far as "their new stuff," the new Ginuwine is a little
slow for me, but I still bump 100% every now and then. The new Jay-Z
of course I'm feeling, that shit is hot, although I wish it would
have had more Timbo beats on it, but this record seems to be all
about the lyrics and none about Vol. 3-style jiggified production.
As for Nas... well, I haven't totally given up on Nas like a lot
of people have. Obviously he's been languishing for a long while
now, but I'm thinking (and hoping) that the beef with Jay will motivate
him to make good on his promises to bring it back to Nasty Nas and
the Illmatic flows... we'll see, though. If he doesn't bring it
back with the next album, I'll be very disappointed.
Since you claim yourself to be the #1 entertainer in the world,
do you see yourself as the future of pop music?
I definitely don't have a singular vision of the future of music.
How boring would it be if "the future of music" was 1
guy? That would be terrible. Also, what I'm doing is something that
will never ever be employed widespread. I go over-the-top with the
showmanship and the self-revelation and the disgusting and awkward
honesty to make a point. I'm trying to pull the center back a little,
because right now, music -- in ever genre - is lopsided so ridiculously
towards the bullshit. Towards the sacred distance between artist
and audience. It's weighted towards the telling of lies but not
of talking about the lies. It's all so artist-centric. So I'm trying
to short-circuit that, you know, reconnect some wires within the
internal logic of all this and say, "Alright, you want artist-centric,
I'll SHOW you what that means," and put this regular guy in
the place of the artist, then tell all the secrets to everybody,
then BANG, suddenly it's a whole new landscape out there. People
will never do what I do, but they'll take a tip from what I do.
They'll be influenced to bring it a little closer to the center,
a little more communication, a little less taking one's own art
so seriously, a little less useless superhuman posturing and a little
more genuine showmanship. After Cex you won't be able to mince around
like the #1 artist in the world with the secretive live performances
and mystery liner notes, then turn around mumble incoherently in
magazine interviews. People would rather hear you call yourself
#1 then get on stage and tell them about some elementary school
trauma and then do a hilarious dance. Things are backwards in a
lot of ways now -- the audience is being completely ignored -- and
I'm just making an attempt to recalibrate things a little back towards
excitement and fun and not boring and not old and not retarded.
So no, I'm not the future of pop music, but I think I am helping
pop music get to the future it needs to get to.
Do you have your own fan club or merchandise?
No. Tigerbeat6 made shirts for my last tour, so I guess that counts
as merchandise, but there's no Cex mousepads or coffee mugs or anything
yet. I don't know what kind of Cex merchandise there would be besides
shirts. We're definitely gonna make more shirts, maybe skullies,
too? Nothing outrageous, though. No mousepads or anything gay like
What would you say musical influences are?
All of them. All the music ever. I love music. I think David Bowie
is the artist I've admired most for the longest time, though.
How did you get into the electronic side of music? It sounds
like you've been playing guitar for a while as well?
I was playing guitar since I was 12, and I used to be pretty good,
but I stopped playing that caveman music with bands and shit a while
ago so my skills have degraded quite a bit. I never could play solos
or play other people's songs, but I was pretty good at making up
my own. I got into the electronic side of music when I had this
dream. I got shot in the chest and as I was lying on the floor of
my room, this giant came and told me three things that I would find
to be true. The first of them had to do with Brian Eno and Aphex
Twin and the Em:t label. The second one was about owls.
Tell us about your live show/tour. What kind of response have
you been getting? Any memorable performances?
All of them are memorable, except for one or two ones which I'd
rather forget, but even when I stink -- which is rarely, and usually
not my fault -- I stink so bad that it's impossible to forget. But
really, all of them are memorable. When I've said things about being
the #1 live entertainer in the world, it wasn't a joke. A few of
my favorites, though, are some shows like Detroit this summer where
I took the entire audience outside for a sing-a-long in the tall
grass behind the museum where the show was. Or the set I just played
at the wedding of my friends Stewart and Jen. They got married in
a crater that erupted 30,000 years ago and a lot of their friends'
bands played in a tent at the base of the crater, that was great.
I mean, it's kind of hard for me to sit here and go, "Oh yeah,
that one time I did this great thing, that was so great." I'm
the one on the stage; I don't really get to see the shows. When
I like a show, it's usually because of the crowd or the venue and
has nothing to do with how well I performed. Sometimes, the best
shows from an audience point-of-view are when I'm really mad or
depressed or otherwise worked up about something. So I don't necessarily
have a great time -- sometimes it's just like a blind, raging catharsis
and I don't even feel like I've performed at all afterwards. But
to an audience member, that might be one of the best shows I've
played. So I'm not really the person to ask about memorable performances
I've given. If you want to know about some of the best audiences
I've played to, I can tell you that (Austin, TX; Missoula, MT; Iowa
City, IA; among others) but you should ask other people about the
me-performing part of my performances. I'm sure there's tons of
people who will testify.
Does it seem to be predominately guys at the shows?
At the shows I play? Sometimes. But there's a healthy amount of
girls at most of the shows I play. I think more girls get into the
Cex set than they do into virtually all other laptop guys' sets...
I mean, you don't need to know anything about electronic music to
have fun at a Cex show. You don't even need to like it.
How was Japan?
Amazing. I'm taking a Japanese class now so I can learn the language
and go back and understand things this time. But I loved it. The
yens, the -sans, the vending machine with really good soda in them
on every block. And the food, my god, the food. I can't wait to
I understand you do a bit of writing as well?
You understand correctly.
How do you prefer to generate the sounds you use?
With whatever. I do some synthesizer stuff, some software programs,
some sampling from old LPs and 45s, some stealing from CDs, all
of that. Whatever is at hand that's going to help me turn a feeling
in my chest and ribs into a song, I'm gonna use that.
How did you hook up with Tigerbeat6?
I was there when Miguel started it. He asked me to help out with
the label, update the website and check his spelling and shit like
that. So I've been Tigerbeat6 before there was a Tigerbeat6.
Anyone is particular you would like to collaborate with?
Oh, lots... there's a lot of vocalists I'd love to work with, but
I'm such a spotlight-hog that I haven't yet been able to write many
songs for someone other than me to sing over. But in particular,
I'd love to do tracks with Matt Johnson from The The, Craig Wedren
from Shudder to Think, Phil Elvrum from the Microphones... I'd like
to do stuff with Dose and Sole from Anticon, although a lot of other
electronic heads are going to beat me to that one, I'm sure. I'd
like to work on some songs with my friend Chris Prison, who is the
drummer of a band called the Oxes and also is a genius. Not sure
when we'll get around to knocking our heads together, but it'll
most likely be sooner than later.
Yeah, bury me with the 'Lo on.