No matter what obstacles we encountered, and there were many, it was always about the music and the music shone through.
29/10/2018, Xavier KRUTH
Sex Gang Children raided England in the early 1980s with their experimental punk, and they became a huge success. The singles from that period are now collected on 'Electric Jezebel', and the band now performs with three of the original members who recorded the legendary music. Last month Sex Gang Children performed at the B52 in Eernegem, Belgium. We thought that was a good opportunity to ask singer Andi Sex Gang about the band and its history.
You have recently released ‘Electric Jezebel’, a compilation of the singles from the heyday of Sex Gang Children from 1982 to 1983. What was the motivation behind this release?
There had never been a complete Sex Gang Children singles A & B sides release before and I felt the time was right for this. 'Electric Jezebel' captures the jagged intensity and surreality of those early singles. The stand-out point of this compilation is the realisation that the songs have a timeless quality and that was something I felt people would appreciate hearing, in its entirety.
At the time, Sex Gang Children were a huge success. You were a very alternative band, though, coming straight from the punk and squatting scene. And you had a very provocative name. How was that success possible?
No matter what obstacles we encountered, and there were many, it was always about the music and the music shone through. I am a very determined person, and when I feel the cause is right, nothing will stop me. I will fight to the bitter end for that cause.
‘Electric Jezebel’ contains the full ‘Beasts’ EP, which had remained in the UK charts for 18 months. It was a huge sensation and one of the best selling 12” singles ever. Were you surprised by that success?
There was no room for surprise. Once the songs were written and released, we had already moved on to new songs. We were aware that our music would have an impact not based upon anything other than it was straight from our gut and it was different. Raw and passionate expression layered with epic overtones. It's our soul music.
A few months later, the ‘Song & Legend’-LP was released, which went straight to number 1 in the indie charts and even entered the mainstream charts, as did the ‘Sebastiane’-single featured on the new compilation. Even though ‘Song & Legend’ has been unavailable for years, it is still hailed as a landmark album. How do you explain that?
Again, I would say it is down to the music. We did not try to affect or simulate anything that wasn't in us and that album is a good representation of us at that time, as is also represented on the 'Electric Jezebel' album. Yes, Song And Legend has been unavailable for some years now, however it will be reissued as part of a CD box set and also on coloured vinyl through Cleopatra Records later this year.
The success of ‘Song & Legend’ also spawned the release of a compilation that was - again - titled ‘Beasts’ and is also featured in its entirety on ‘Electric Jezebel’. Where did the unreleased tracks on that record - like ‘Mauritia Mayer’ or ‘Salvation’ - stem from?
Mauritia Mayer was the follow-up single to Sebastiane. Salvation was on the 12" EP version of Mauritia Mayer.
It all started out as Panic Button - the band’s first name - in 1980. How did you manage to start a band back then?
Panic Button was a spur of the moment creation, we had a gig booked before there were any band members. I put together the band overnight and we played around London and this developed into Sex Gang Children. It was a matter of jumping in and learning how to swim rather than taking it slow and easy.
You later got the rights to the name Sex Gang Children from Boy George, who performed under that name for a while. Is it true that he gave you the name in exchange of a meal at a snack bar?
At the time, Boy George was performing under various band names on a regular basis. Sex Gang Children was just one of the names he used for a short period - about two weeks for each band name. There was no exchange of the name for a free meal. George suggested that I should use the name since I loved it so much. I took him for a coffee to persuade him to continue to use the name for his band. The name itself is originally from a William Burroughs poem.
The current tour sees you playing again with astounding musicians from the past: the great guitarist Terry McLeay and the wonderful drummer Rob Stroud. How did this renewed partnership come to be?
When I decided to release Electric Jezebel, Kevin Matthews (Sex Gang Children member) proposed bringing in Terry and Rob for the Electric Jezebel Tour, as they had played on the majority of songs on that album.
The success period ended with the split of Sex Gang Children. You have repeatedly said that ‘Blind’ - your solo LP from 1985 - was originally meant to be a Sex Gang Children record. Why was that not possible?
This was never truthfully explained to me by the head of our record label at that time. The album was already pressed when I learnt that it was to be released as a solo project. I personally believe that there were some inner politics involved, but I'm not going to get into that right now.
In the nineties, you reformed Sex Gang Children with original bassist Dave Roberts. Even if you have been critical of this collaboration later on, you released the wonderful Medea with new material, and a compilation titled The Hungry Years with most of the earlier material. How did the reunion take place?
Dave Roberts had started hanging around with me again and had attended some of the London studio sessions for Medea. We ended up inviting him to play bass on some of the tracks. At the time it seemed a natural thing to do. And at the time, it worked well.
As if from nowhere, Sex Gang Children resurfaced in 2002 with ‘Bastard Art’. How did that come about?
After recording several solo albums, Kevin and I decided it was time for another Sex Gang Children album. The new material lent itself towards that. Kevin introduced me to Matthew James Saw and Carl Magnusson with a strong recommendation that they would be perfect for the new Sex Gang Children album. Their energy, enthusiasm and arthouse approach to the music was ideal. Their creative input on Bastard Art was impressive.
A decade later, in 2013, you released ‘Viva Vigilante’, this time with an almost identical line-up. I saw on your website that you have been cheated by the person who released ‘Viva Vigilante’. What happened?
Actually, Viva Vigilante! was released on my own label. The person who cheated us that you are referring to was our distributor; Steve Morell of Pale Music, Berlin, Germany. We later discovered he owed money to a lot of bands. A man to avoid at all costs, if you want to be paid.
Thanks for the interview. Any last words?
Well maybe a few words about my new music project, 'Dada Degas'. I feel it's been a long time coming to envelope myself in another, different alter-ego. One that has no ties to the past yet opens many creative challenges for the future. 'Dada Degas' will challenge the normal rules associated with multi-media, as I did with Sex Gang Children and as Andi Sex Gang. These previously unreleased Sex Gang Children rarities will be available through my own independent company 'Liberation London', which serves not just as a music label, but also an outlet for my paintings and other related artwork. I believe that artists have to push the boundaries as never before. Cultural Revolution is our natural destiny. Art is expression, art is freedom, art is at war. So, be a warrior not a slave.
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