"I come from a middle-class American family. When I was in middle school, we were one of many families who were convinced that a personal computer was an essential part of a modern household. Sometimes things got typed up there, but no one really had any specific use for it, it was just there– a necessary appliance like the dishwasher or the microwave.
We lived out in a distant suburb, near some farms. It took me an hour and half to walk to 7-11, which didn’t interest me in the slightest anyway. I lived at the far edge of my school’s district, so hardly any of my classmates lived near me, and none of those few that did were into rock & roll or taking drugs. Eventually I figured out how to use the computer to call up these things called “BBSes,” which were like the hunter-gatherer ancestors of today’s Internet. The cool BBSes were places where you could download digital art and music by self-promoted cliques, virtual gangs in a worldwide but completely non-commercial computer art scene. I tried to get into making ASCII art, which was like fantasy graffiti for super-introverted computer kids, but I was horrible at it. There was an important side-effect to my short-lived interest in artscene BBSes, however– my initial exposure to techno, specifically the DIY techno produced on freeware music applications by superbraggadocious artscene elitists.
It was maybe 1995, and the computer was in a lot of houses but it was a weird, glowing altar. It was big, it made a ton of noise, and older people didn’t know how they worked, but if you lived far enough away from the closest 7-11 you could shave off quite a few nights down in the basement exploring the way it worked by trial and error. Pretty soon the same process that I used to figure out DOS worked to figure out the freeware music applications.
I was raised on rock & roll, though— the faceless enigmas making techno and its thousand sub-variants seemed severely deficient to me. I longed to see the character of the boy who harnesses the machines around him to create a personal future-music writ as large as possible— like Bowie, Christ, or Kobain.
As personal computers slowly infiltrated the rest of the middle-class families of America, I found new places to pimp myself and my personal future-music. I connected with a like-minded kid on the west coast named Miguel. We toured together the summer I got out of high school, a month before my 18th birthday. It was the second tour for Kid606 and the first for Cex, playing shows with other folk we had met through our computers– Keith (Fullerton) Whitman, Nick Zammuto, Kurt Ralske, etc. At the time, bringing a laptop on-stage had to be defended to surly soundmen on a daily basis– nobody before had put the laptop-toting soundboy out onto the buckled stages of the “Book Your Own Fucking Life” circuit. The press showed up on cue, too– a news item on Apple.com was the very first, and soon after the Village Voice in NYC and the Wire magazine in Britain were speaking exicitedly of the rise of Tigerbeat6 and its superbraggadocious crew of young producers.
There never was any particularly identifiable demographic for homemade future-music– I would always just play wherever I could get booked. After that first tour, it became a priority of mine to deliberately try and play for crowds that weren’t ready. I expanded from simple laptop-jockeying to full-bore chatterboxery on the mic during shows in order to make my sets more personal, unpredictable, and unsettling to people with preconceived notions. The ease at which any kid with no fear of embarrassment could fuck with crowds made me excited like nothing else. I dropped out of college so I could go play all the places that were emailing me looking to book a show. Soon, critically-acclaimed indie rock bands (Dismemberment Plan, Death Cab for Cutie, Super Furry Animals, Mogwai, Postal Service, etc) were asking me to open for them on tours and I got the chance to fuck with hundreds and hundreds of people a night, hundreds of nights a year. Just me, my laptop, and whatever was on my mind. I never practiced and I tried not to plan anything about a set at all if I could help it, not even the selection of songs. Mostly, I made fun the audiences and their passiveness, because they seemed to eat that kind of shit up. I felt like a dominatrix, doing a vital service for the squares, a sort of sacrament. I would expose myself, pull down the fourth wall and make myself open and vulnerable, and then I would strike at the pride and lameness that kept the audience members from doing the same thing. I also taught them that they needed to know about pop music and hip-hop, to dance sometimes, and to keep an online journal full of shameless personal and financial detials– advice that, as you can see, was all quite well received.
Every time I released a CD– there have been five since the debut Cex album, ROLE MODEL, came out in 2000—- it’d sell another couple thousand copies and get reviewed in another dozen or so new places and a whole new batch of writers would get a chance to try and succinctly explain why a story about a kid in his basement obsessed with fucking with people was so important. Every year there’d be less people stomping their feet and pointing at the laptop, or the gold fronts, or the white rap, etc., and more people delightfully repackaging their memory of the time Cex opened for a band they were really into for a while back in the day. There are people who make music because they like making music, and those people have a lot bands that are great bands, but they are still just bands, and can only really offer you distraction from your problems. Cex is not just a band. Cex is, and always has been, about changing the world you live in using your bare hands and whatever happens to be in reach, and ACTUAL FUCKING, the sixth Cex record (or the sixth “Joker’s Card” in the language of diehard Cex fans) not only continues this central theme but ups the ante on all levels.
Today, in 2006, the now-omnipresent personal computers seem to be spewing dark, dark news nonstop— bleak tidings which uncomfortably underscore the lack of power most people feel that the individual has over the world around her. The truth of the matter is, though, that we have all the power that an individual has ever had, and that it isn’t something external which makes us powerless, it’s something internal. It’s repression. Many have begun asking, “What can I do about all this dark bullshit that’s eroding my people?” but have not hunted for the answer beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior set by the established authorities– parents, government, advertisers, the entertainment industry. It is becoming increasingly clear that only by intentionally breaking these boundaries will we be able to regain a sense of the power of the individual. Once we acknowledge that a single human is not any less capable of making history today than she was at any point in our past, then we may feel ourselves competent to take control of the institutions which used our complicity as license to mismanage our society toward their own selfish and destructive ends.
I am a musician, a producer and a performer, and after years of touring and releasing, I have found myself in a position where I can release an album and know that people will be seeing it at stores, reading about it in magazines, and downloading it on the Internet. At one time, the music-tracking software buried in the cracks of my parents computer was the tool I had to make tapes unlike any the world had seen before– now, my tools are the CD pressing plant, the booking agent, and the publicist. ACTUAL FUCKING hopes to re-establish that breaking rules is not only fun and sexy, but also totally necessary to determine what is important art and what is just more entertainment product. And it’s not hard, nor does it require a single bit of this kind of dry, expository rhetoric. The record itself captures all of these heady themes in one one simple philosophy: you just gotta follow your boner.
ACTUAL FUCKING is 8 funky songs about breaking free from things like guilt and shame, which exist purely to keep you from doing exactly what you want to be doing, and 8 explicit stories about getting it on the way people really get it on. I made the songs by traveling around the country and recording some of the best musicians I’ve met during the last few years of traveling and touring, including Roby Newton (Milemarker), Cale Parks (Aloha, Joan of Arc), Mark Shirazi & Jason Buehler (Nice Nice), Jason Caddell (Dismemberment Plan), Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc), and Bobby Burg (Love of Everything). It took more than a year and a half to complete this record, and the result is easily the most subversive sounding Cex record ever. Comparisons could be made to the Talking Heads’ REMAIN IN LIGHT, because we were definitely trying to bite that album, but one might put it in the popular album-description format by calling it, “BSSM-era Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with Low,” or, “A full-length Peter Gabriel-Kate Bush collaboration with a for-real money shot.” The stories were collected from a separate, anonymous selection of friends from around the country, and together with the music, represent the beginning of a real stand the younger generations of this country need urgently to make against the repressive morality of the Baby Boomers.” – Rjyan Kidwell aka Cex