Music is a form of escapism; for both the listener and the producer. For some it’s also a means of exploring themes and issues, a platform to voice views and encourage discussion. As Sex Judas ft. Ricky, Tore Gejdrem is doing just that.
Better known for his work as one half of Norwegian duo Ost&Kjex, his Sex Judas project has allowed him to consider and discuss subjects including sexuality, politics and everyday life, through to fictional stories about the life of his alter ego Sex Judas, and his counter part Ricky. Musically the project is influenced by Tore’s love of African music, 80s new wave and acid house and, backed by a band of incredible musicians, has given him the freedom to improvise and push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of production.
Since Sex Judas’ debut EP on JD Twitch’s Optimo Music in 2015, he returned for a long player last year with Go Down Judas, and now he’s landing on their sublabel, Optimo Music Digital Danceforce, with a new EP entitled Flaming Creatures.
With the universe of Sex Judas rapidly expanding, what better time to dive a bit deeper into what it’s all about. Alongside an interview about Tore’s approach to production and the new world he’s built, he delivers a mix of 100% original unreleased Sex Judas material.
Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?
The lullabies my father used to sing. A traditional Norwegian folk song called; Blåmann, Blåmann bukken min.
Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?
Not really. I played accordion (of my own choice) for a year or two, but I could not get my head around the notes. We played “Love Me Tender” at an end of semester gathering for the parents, and it sounded so shit. I believe because of me.
What led you into music production?
I started playing in a band when I was about 15 / 16 years old. I never really thought about it but my skateboard buddy Petter – Kjex, in Ost&Kjex – asked me to join. I thought it sounded cool and jumped in. They needed a bass player, so I started with that.
Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?
For the Sex Judas project I would say in particular; Dr. John’s Voodoo albums, Madlib with his Quasimodo project (the whole imagery and taking on another persona), MF Doom for the same reason, The Residents for creating a mystery world and making otherworldly music, Hamilton Bohannon for his deep grooves, Madteo’s Noi No album for the textures and feel, Zazou, Bikaye and CY1’s Noir Et Blanc album for it’s magic mix of electronic production and African music, James Chance for his punk, funk and power, and many more. Also I have to say loads of people in the Oslo scene that have played me great music over the years.
Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?
I live close to the woods and walk through paths all the way to the studio, which is about 2 km away. I usually take a walk around lunch time as well. It’s something I’ve got to appreciate more and more as I’ve grown older. Nature has a healing or soothing effect, it’s almost addictive.
Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?
Often I have a plan of what type of track I want to do, and what feeling this track should have. Like mellow disco, punkish acid etc. It’s often tied up with what kind of project I’m working on. I wish I had the time to be more spontaneous though. That’s what’s most fun, but all these plans and projects keep getting in the way.
Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?
Definitely spending to much time on each tune, I’m never really satisfied with anything I do. There’s always something to improve, so in some cases I spend years on a track. Not working intensively of course, but I keep going back fixing, redoing and trimming stuff. You go crazy in the end.
Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?
I usually start with an idea, a mental picture. Then I make a beat of some kind. Depending on what kind of tune it is, I either make a synth-bassline or get Kristian in to do a human one. Then I construct a rough sketch of the composition with the bass and drums. After, I start laying down vocal jams. It can be gibberish at first, but something that sets the tone for the vocal feel and melody. Then, write proper lyrics and redo all the vocals. Then it’s on to record either guitar with Ivar or some synths on my own, then percussion and strings. After that, it’s months of mixing and jerking around.
How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?
Besides a tune I did a few years ago called “Big Sex Thing”, I use little samples. Some tunes can have vocal snippets, cuts of dialog from films or atmosphere, but that’s mostly it. Oh, almost forgot, drum samples. For the disco tunes I use prerecorded loops. To nail a good organic disco drum sound, I need a type of equipment and a room that I don’t have.
What’s the most important bits of kit that makes a Sex Judas track?
The vocals plays an important part, hopefully they are characteristic enough, so you easily know it’s a Sex Judas tune. Then bass is a major factor. Then I’d say all small parts of guitar, synth, keys, sounds, rhythm that make the tracks bubble. I try to see it as a mosaic, small pieces that build and intertwine.
With Sex Judas you wanted to create a world where anything was possible musically. Can you talk a bit more about the original idea for the project?
It’s a fictional universe that combines music and arts. With the main characters Sex Judas and Ricky seen as a classic twosome. A vehicle to discuss everything from politics, sexuality and everyday problems, to fictional stories about the life and times of Sex Judas.
I saw this project as a chance to combine an interest in comix and art with a music project. I’m lucky to have a friend like Sindre Goksøyr that draws Sex Judas; a very talented guy that does everything from satirical comix to designing the Norwegian classic garnish, Makrell in tomato sause. We share a taste for pranks and provocations, so it’s a funny partnership. Sindre recently made a Sex Judas bust / statue for an art exhibition, so the universe keeps expanding. We plan to do a Sex Judas exhibition next year in Oslo.
How has the moniker allowed you to express yourself in ways that your productions as Ost&Kjex didn’t?
With Ost&Kjex we mostly make house music, and we are very happy with that. It’s about creating a sound for the band and experiment within that sound; to go deep into a genre. With Sex Judas I wanted the opposite. It’s a way to play around with various musical influences, and to learn and develop as a musician and producer.
Who else plays a role in Sex Judas? Tell us more about the band you’ve built around you…
We’ve got a wonderful band going and I think the members are as excited as I am. The band came together bit by bit. First starting with my old mate Ivar Winther helping out on guitar; he’s a very talented guy that I share a lot of musical references and history with. Playing guitar, keys, flute and so on. Then there is Kristian aka Gesse, the bass. And when I say bass it’s because he is a bass! He is the most groovy bass player you’ll ever find in Norway and his whole friendly persona just radiates the instrument.
On percussion and Ngoni, we have Sidiki Camara. Sidiki lives on Norway, but originates from Mali. He is a true master of African percussion and then some. Besides his own Sidiki Camara group, he has played in many constellations over the years, with famous jazz musicians like Bill Frisell and Bugge Wesseltoft, to African greats like Rokia Traoré and Ali Farka Touré. We met by chance at a shared bill concert with Ost&Kjex and others. Sidiki was playing some beautiful sounds from the Ngoni and I just had to ask him if he wanted to do a studio session sometime. African music in it’s many guises has been a love of mine for years, and it was a stroke of luck to stumble upon someone like Sidiki. I still can’t believe he bothers playing with us.
Lately another friend of mine called Tore Brevik has joined on percussion, playing lighter types of percussion than Sidiki, like bells, woodblocks, timbales, rides, shakes etc. Tore plays with our mates in Mungolian Jet Set and also did quite a few jobs with Ost&Kjex. He has a masters in percussion from some school in L.A., and spent many years working as a musician in the US, before settling down in Norway.
Last I have to mention Ole-Henrik Moe who is almost like a member. Ole-Henrik is a modern classical composer and violinist. We met while producing music for Norwegian artist Nils Bech (DFA Records), and stayed friends since then. All the acoustic strings you hear on Ost&Kjex and Sex Judas releases are composed by him. He is also the closest thing I know to a genius and allows the band to make trips into the avant-garde.
You’ve been playing sporadic gigs as Sex Judas, were there any difficulties at the beginning when taking the project from studio to live?
Not really. I had a plan from the beginning to take it to the stage. The only hinderance in the start was to have enough band-based tunes to cover an hour.
This mix is comprised of 100% original Sex Judas material recorded live. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?
First of all I have to say sorry for fucking up a mix in there. I’m so embarrassed, haha! Please close your ears when that comes. Regarding the tracks, the mix starts with an instrumental part from the new album, all the tunes from the new EP coming on Optimo are in there as well.
The mix also features a remix I did for Adama Barry, an artist from Burkina Faso, releasing on Bugge Wesseltofts label. This is the only tune already released, but I threw it in to show the different styles of the project. There is an edit of The Teardrop Explodes’ excellent tune “Camera Camera” included. Julian Cope has got to be one of Britain’s finest, love that man!
There is a Sex Judas foray into UK bass music in the mix as well. The tune “That’s Not A Guy, That’s A Thrash Can”, is an old one. Maybe 5/6 years. There was vocals on it at first, but they were just too much. The mix finishes off with a little darling of mine “Mingus”. Don’t know if this tune will ever be released, but it’s a sweetie.
Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?
First of all the Flaming Creatures EP is out the 16th of August on Optimo Digital Danceforce. Sometime this winter, my Lithuanian friend Roe Deers will release his debut album featuring a Sex Judas vocal appearance. I’m honoured to be part of that, as I think he is such a great and original producer.
Otherwise I’m well into the next Sex Judas album and also working on an EP, with guest appearances from some Norwegian rock / alternative vocalists I dig. Hoping this will see the light of day in 2020. Ost&Kjex will release a couple of EPs this fall, the first one is coming out on German label URSL in a months time.
Grab your copy of Flaming Creatures on Optimo’s Bandcamp.
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