Interview: SSION

SSION, is a musical group formed in 1996, in Kansas City, by vocalist Cody Critcheloe who studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, and drew from a range of influences, including the punk spectacle of Iggy Pop, the dance-party new wave sound of the B-52’s as well as performance art and gay culture.. Known for their extravagant live shos, Ssion were signed to Sleazetone Records in 2008. Before that, in 2003, Ssion made their label debut, releasing the “Minor Treat” EP and the album “Opportunity Bless My Soul” on Version City Records. They are known for their albums I Don’t Want New Wave and I Don’t Want the Truth, Opportunity Bless My Soul, Bent, Clown, Fool’s Gold.

-To begin with, what does SSION mean? It’s pronounced “shun” right? How did you come up with the name?

It doesn’t really have a meaning. I mostly just like the way it looked and that it was confusing/hard to pronounce. It’s pronounced “shun” – like when you shun something or to be shunned, so you were right! Although I don’t care when people mispronounce it.

-SSION seems to be a persona that evolves and revolves around Critcheloe. That would be you. Around one person, though it seems to be a band. A group of people (sometimes different people) that work to create this image and “soundscape” we love so much. Isn’t that a bit difficult or even conflicting sometimes?

It’s actually not a band. I would say it’s more of a brand for my ideas/ideals. Music is the most important part of this brand because the videos, visuals and performance wouldn’t really exist without the music. There are certain people that I prefer to work with when making videos or visuals but the only constant thing is that it’s under my direction. It’s the same with the music. I write the songs and work with different producers to create the sound I want. In some ways it’s very typical pop star procedure. Or at least I step into that imaginary head space now and again.

-SSION seems to me like a sultry electronica, funked up revival of the 80’s detroit movement and 70’s disco sound, dipped in a bit of 90’s aesthetics with a generous sprinkle of pop (yep ,all that!). Cody could be the child of Andrew WK, Snoop Dogg, Boy George and Freddie Mercury all mashed together, though he manages to establish SSION as a completely unique and mind-blowing genre. SSION has its own identity. How would you describe it?

I would agree, but it’s hard for me to describe it because it’s so intuitive.  I’m just doing what I do and staying true to that. There isn’t a game plan really regarding anything other than just doing what feels right at the time… And when I get bored with something I move on and don’t reflect too much on what it was or what it needs to be. That’s what keeps it alive for me and anyone else who’s tuned in.

-SSION is not just the music. It’s those amazing visuals. The video concepts. The style. Where does the inspiration come from and how do you pull such a multi-realm project off so ably? It’s impressive.

It comes from heaven. I’m just doing what the goddess tells me to do.

-You’ve released albums that could pay off, financially speaking, though you decided to let people download your work for free. Why?

I’ve only allowed the album “bent” to be downloaded for free because at the time I had no label and no support. I had been working on the record for almost 4 years and it was really starting to rip me apart, so I had to get it out there and I wanted as many people to hear it as possible, so I just made it available for free download. In a week, over 20,000 people had downloaded the music. I was blown away. In the long run it was worth it.

-Bent was a major success and it was re-released. It got you through to a large audience. Do you feel you can make that happen again? Put together another album as successful, as big and professional, as crowd loved as Bent, and free to download?

I’m sure I could but that isn’t my main concern. Making pop music came from a very reactionary place. I was doing that because I wanted to be liberated from a lot of bullshit in my life and music is always the best way to create another reality, especially pop music. The only thing I really want to do is make stuff I care about. Who knows if the next record will be as pop as “bent”? I’m not worried about it. I just work at my own pace. On my terms. I’m sure I will love it whatever it turns out to be.

-SSION is a gay icon, as a persona and as a band as well. The audience is a mix of styles, ages, sexualities. SSION could be a mission. A positive, colorful art project geared towards encouraging and liberating people’s minds towards freedom of sex and love. Do you see SSION as such a means?

Sometimes, yes I do.

-What are your plans and dreams for the future? Can you visualize your next moves?

Win an academy award. Star in a huge Hollywood movie. Have a hit album (top 40). Write and direct a huge Hollywood movie. Take over Moschino or do my own fashion line. Become a fashion photographer. Become a painter. Travel the world. Get really tanned. Go skydiving. Work with Fergie. Build my own version of the Acropolis. Have lots of jewelry and nice shoes. Grow a beard when I turn 40 and have sex with Marc Jacobs.

Interview: Nelly Skoufatoglou
Photo by: Bernard Steffin