Pop Singer from Kansas makes new record in GarageBand then Performs it at MoMA

Interview by Adam Baran

This week, SSION (pronounced ‘shun’), the Kansas City performance collective founded by Cody Critcheloe in 1996, rolled into New York City like some kind of cult in their rented, fifteen-passenger van. On the trip up, they’ve been tweaking their choreography and editing the accompanying videos in preparation for a three night run at MoMA PS1 this weekend. At the heart of the operation is Cody’s latest album, ‘Bent’. It’s music that breathes new life into the whole pop-meets-performance-art thing. I met up with him a few days before the show to figure out how it all works.

Adam: What are you up to today?
Cody: I’ve been piecing all the videos together for the show. There are two other guys working on them with me, and one of the guys, his computer crashed, so we lost like three of the videos. Tears were shed… But we’ll pull it together, it’ll be fine.
Sounds like you know how to keep a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
This shit happens all the time. Every time I do a big project something fucks up.
Were you the type of kid who was always trying to create a fantasy world?
I was trying to, yeah. I was really obsessed with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel in the ‘90s, the one with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. Do you remember that Disney Channel band, The Party? I was obsessed with them too. The Party was the first put-together Disney pop band. There was like a redhead, an Italian, a black guy, an Asian girl — they really tried to appeal to everyone. In elementary school, I tried to put together a Party-type group with my friends.
Do you remember what The P-A-R-T-Y acronym stood for?
No…
Positive Attitude Reflecting Today’s Youth. They had a contest to name the band…
I would be in the backyard with my friends making up dance routines to their music. I’m still doing that. Even when I was doing my punk band, it was still a put-together band.
When I meet people who make work that’s visually-wild and colorful, I wonder if they’re trying to compensate for their own, maybe less exciting reality. Do you see the world as a drab place that needs brightening up?
No, not necessarily. I don’t think about it that much. It’s weird because I don’t think of what I do as colorful. I just love making music so much, and creating a world around the music.
What comes first, the music or the video?
It definitely starts with the music. I’ll think of a title first, then a hook, and build up from there. I’m constantly making music on GarageBand. At the same time, I’m collecting images for the videos. There’s never this really solid vision in the beginning, I’m just going off instinct, pulling it together into this thing that works. I guess if you act like it’s all planned, people will think you’re a lot smarter.
Is your work ironic?
My work comes from a genuine and sincere place. I definitely don’t consider it to be some sort of joke or bullshit spectacle.
Were you out in high school?
I was such a late bloomer that being gay didn’t even cross my mind until I was like a junior in high school. I really wasn’t that interested in men. I didn’t have a boyfriend until I went to college, not until I was like nineteen or twenty. I did give a guy a blowjob in high school…
Where?
It was like in a cornfield, in his car. I remember that it was something I had planned, that I was gonna do. Like, I have to try this and see if I’m into it. So I did it with the one other gay person that I had heard about. He was really into Marilyn Manson, so there was this rumor going around town, and I was like, I should try him out. I met him at my friend’s trailer, and he offered to give me a ride back to his house. It was so awkward. I didn’t want to kiss him, but he just like attacked me with his tongue. It was alright.
What are you into, in terms of sex?
I don’t know if I really have a thing.
What kind of guys are you into?
I’m into dark guys.
Dark hair?
Dark hair, dark skin. I’m not really into the all-American guy. Madonna’s probably responsible for that. She sort of set the tone for the kind of guys I’d be into. I paid a lot of attention to her, and the guys in her videos. The guys she was associated with were these really hot latino or black men… But I’ll go a really long time, like over a year, without hooking up with anyone. I’ll just shut myself off to it. Of course, coming to New York changed that whole situation for me because now I’ve opened myself up to it. You can have it if you want it.
What do you like to do in bed?
I guess like the most normal, boring thing you could imagine (laughs).
What’s the worst sex you ever had?
There was one incident where I was really drunk and I puked all over the place. It’s hard for me to say because I think the whole sex thing is kind of funny anyway. I mean, it’s supposed to be like gross, right? It’s sort of impossible to be sexy, like porn sexy — that would be the worst. I don’t think I’ve ever actually hooked up with anyone who was so concerned about being hot.
Do you feel like, if you’re really into a guy, you have the mojo to pursue him?
Totally… But it’s a very rare thing that I go to a bar, see a guy I’m into, and make it my mission for the night to get him. That’s not something I’ve ever put a lot of effort into.
Are you the wallflower at the orgy?
Yes, definitely. I wouldn’t even get invited to the orgy. I’m not into that really.

SSION will perform selections from the new record, ‘Bent’, at MoMA PS1 this Friday, May 13, through Sunday, May 15. The record will be available for free from June 28 via SSION’s website.

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