Open AdmiSSION: Cody Critcheloe Gets Bent

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Published May 11, 2011

IMAGE COURTESY OF CODY CRITCHELOE

MoMA’s Pop Rally opens this summer with a triple performance run by SSION (pronounced as in “obsession”), who will take over PS1 this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Helmed by queer punk performance artist Cody Critcheloe, who has directed music videos for Peaches and The Gossip, SSION creates campy, do-it-yourself punk narratives that trace the artist’s own journey into hedonism.  

We recently caught up with Critcheloe over Skype, and got the low-down on the band’s new record, getting evicted from a 3,000-square-foot apartment, and how Kansas City is just like Berlin.

MADISON MOORE: So, what’s a “SSION”?

CODY CRITCHELOE: When I was 16 and living in Kentucky, I would make these cassette tapes and I put the name “SSION” on it just because I liked the way it looked… And it was confusing and I liked the idea of it being something that’s shunned, like s-h-u-n. I always liked that name. I still love the way it looks. I love the way it sounds. I love how no one can pronounce it. I think that’s what’s cool about it. MOORE: Are you doing “Street Jizz” at PS1 this weekend?

CRITCHELOE: No, we’re not! I love “Street Jizz.” But “Street Jizz” is one of those… I mean, I grew out of that pretty fast. I’m not against it or anything, but we did away with that one. [laughs] People that are really into SSION always want to see that song. If anyone wants to be a true SSION fan, they’re just going to have to get used to change.

MOORE: You’re performing three nights in a row—are you performing the whole three hours each night? What’s the set-up?

CRITCHELOE: No, we’re definitely not performing for three hours. I don’t believe in any performance going on for longer than an hour. We’re playing for an hour, tops. I don’t know what’s going on the rest of the time. Hopefully that’ll be enough time for people to get stoned and drunk before we play. [laughs]

MOORE: [laughs] Tell me about your new song “Listen to the Grrrls.”

CRITCHELOE: The “Listen to the Grrrls” track I did with this dude named Ian Pai and Michael Cheever, who both live in New York. That was the first time I ever broke away from my Kansas City crew to do something.

MOORE: What else should we know about the new SSION record, which is called BENT?

CRITCHELOE: Well, actually, we’re giving it for free for the entire month of July. I’m excited about it. It seems like in this day and age, I just can’t really imagine it working any other way. SSION works outside of a record label, so the most punk thing we could do was give the music away for free for a month. I like the idea of people just getting it so easily. I mean they could if they wanted to anyway. And I don’t really pay for music, either. It’s a very rare thing.

MOORE: Who does nowadays?

CRITCHELOE: I’m sure there are some who do—maybe Kanye West. [laughs] But as far as the record goes, in the middle of it I was like, let’s just do the most fucked-up thing we can. Let’s just make some noise—which was really liberating. There’s also like two tracks on it that are over six minutes long.

MOORE: You’ve been living in Kansas City for a decade. Have you ever thought about moving to New York?

CRITCHELOE: Yeah, actually. When we did the show at The Hole, I was only planning on being there three weeks, and I just fell in love with New York. It became really easy to couch surf and go from place to place. I ended up staying there until December. I really fell in love with the city and the vibe of it. And actually, it’s funny you say that because that’s actually my next plan. I have this huge apartment in Kansas City, like 3,000 square feet… This city is reallylike Berlin. Anyway, I just found out that we’re being evicted.

MOORE: What happened?

CRITCHELOE: I’ve bargained with the lady to stay until the end of June so I can do this PS1 show, come back and figure out what the hell I’m going to do.

SSION PLAYS MOMA PS1 ON FRIDAY, SATURDAY, AND SUNDAY NIGHTS.