Your analogy of squatting as 'living in the gutter' is way off the mark.
16/11/2014, Xavier KRUTH
Sex Gang Children is an inevitable band if you’re interested in experimental and intelligent post punk. They’ve been around since 1982, but only last year did they release their fourth full studio CD: Viva Vigilante. We had the opportunity to chat with frontman Andi Sex Gang, and jumped on it straight away. Andi is currently working on his new solo-CD ‘Achilles In The Eurozone’, which will be out in the beginning of next year. He still took the time to answer our questions, though.
Hi Andi. In my review of ‘Viva Vigilante’, I wrote that Sex Gang Children comes up with an incredible album every decade: ‘Song and Legend’ in the eighties, ‘Medea’ in the nineties, ‘Bastard Art’ for the first decade of the new millennium and finally ‘Viva Vigilante’ for the current decade. Is this just a strange coincidence? Will we have to wait another ten years for the next CD?
Never thought about it… maybe it is a 'subconscious' coincidence. As for the next Sex Gang Children album, well it's all about the feel as with anything else in life. If it feels right, we'll do it. Maybe next year, maybe in10 years. Let me get back to you on that one.
You must have worked a long time on Viva Vigilante. I think I remember a live version of ‘Die Traube’ from an excellent concert in Waregem in 2005. How long did it take and why was the release delayed?
That album was in the ebb and flow development process for quite some time. It wasn’t a case of sitting down to 'write a new album'. I had several solo projects already on the go when the first of the songs on the Viva album were worked on and those songs became part of the Sex Gang Children live repertoire. We recorded those songs first with that live line up, even though the rest of the album was still in it's 'sketch pad' phase. That line up changed and so the album was put on hold. When it felt right, Kevin, Matthew and I went back in the studio and completed the album with a fresh feel, heading more into a baroquial atmosphere.
On that same concert, you performed ‘Conversation’ as a spoken word piece. I loved the poem so much that I went looking for this song on your solo-CDs… in vain. I guess you really wanted this text for a Sex Gang Children release. Was it a hard task to put fitting music to the words?
I was teaching a girlfriend some bass riffs for her to practice at the time, as she wanted to learn, and one of them I came up with just seemed perfect for Conversation… and that's how it came about. Previously that piece had been performed live with all manner of chaotic sounds behind it, mainly guitar feedback.
I always have been curious about the true meaning of your lyrics. From ‘Draconian Dream’ to ‘Salamun Child’ (did I rightly spot a reference to Jacques Brel in there?), over ‘Arms of Cicero’ and ‘The Bormann Chain’… they always sounded like a mystery to me. Can you give us a glimpse of how you write your lyrics and the effect you want to create with them?
Jacques Brel? Hmmm… remind me. I am not aware of it and don't recollect a reference to Brel, but I could be mistaken. I write lyrics as and when they come to me. Just jot lines down. Sometimes I realise straight away that a certain line is perfect for a certain piece of music. But often I trawl through my lyric notes and a certain line will jump out and play in my head with the music it's destined for. Lyrics should always be a part of the music, not laying on top of it and like the music itself the lyric should work on every level, sonically, as in a piece of music in it's own right and thought provoking. Sometimes they end up being very direct, or ambiguous, with each personal interpretation from the listener making total perfect sense to that particular listener. Each person can have a different interpretation of the same lyric, and each interpretation is valid, because the lyric gives that out and each interpretation, no matter how they differ, is valid and connected from the source. Picture a stone when dropped into a pool of water, and the ensuing rings that eminate from it's entry into the water. A good lyric works upon the same principal.
The original CDs of Sex Gang Children are pretty hard to find. Legendary albums from your back catalogue as ‘Song and Legend’, ‘Beasts’ or ‘Medea’ are out of print for a long time. Is there a chance of a re-release of these albums?
I own all the rights to those albums so one day of course they shall be re-issued.
Sex Gang Children came into being in a period that you were a squatter in London. You squatted since your teenage years, and were involved in radical politics too. You were even involved in an attempt to kidnap a politician, if I am not mistaken. That sounds like hard but exciting times. How do you feel looking back on how you went from the gutter to becoming a rock star?
My entry into the world of music was after my life as a political activist when I was squatting. Your analogy of squatting as 'living in the gutter' is way off the mark. I was 'squatting'... I was not in the gutter. Squatting then was a very organised and militant affair. It was not about living in the dirt and freeloading. That my friend, is a very textbook tabloid perspective of squatting. Squatting then was about fighting for housing rights for all, helping homeless people, battered wives who sought refuge from violent partners and protecting people who had fallen behind with their payments to local loan sharks, putting a stop to local minority groups being beaten up by neo Nazis and racist police, clearing the area of crime and making it a no go zone for heroin dealers. I would say that it was a useful life and had a lot to do with how I conducted myself in my later life in music, as when I raided the offices of Hansa Records and held one of their A&R men hostage in his own office to send out a message to the rest of the music industry that their days of arrogant slavelike domination over the artist was over. I do not consider myself as a rock star, I consider it my duty to make good art.
Yes, it is true about that politician, he was under the impression he could do what the hell he wanted, using the police as his bully boy enforcers and people were suffering for it. He too needed to be taught a lesson.
Sex Gang Children is one of the bands connected with the legendary Batcave-club in London. There’s a real cult around this club, even among people who have never known or seen it. What did make it so special?
They played great music there, but we were not actually 'connected' with the Batcave club. We just frequented it as did most of the other alternative musicians in London at that time. Some bands were connected to that club and it was their launching pad. But that was not the case with us. We had already established our own ground by then. How we got associated with the club in the eyes of the media outside of the UK baffles me. We did a secret show there once, that was about it.
‘Song and Legend’ reached nr 1 in the British charts in 1983. The band could have broke trough and achieve big success. Instead, you remained in the alternative, underground scene. Any regrets about that?
What can I say? what is there to regret? Bad labels, bad management, feuding and turmoil within the band at that time? I had formulated a 12 month plan when I first started the band, of which the goal was to have our first album top the indie charts and to headline the legendary Lyceum Theatre in London, against all the odds, both of those goals were achieved. My plan did not go further than that as it relied on a good manager taking over at that point, leaving me to be free with the music and it all begins and ends with the music and that I do not regret.
Unlike several other bands, you never distanced yourself from the ‘goth’ label, at least not as far as I know. Do you feel comfortable with it?
And we never embraced it either, that or any other label. I do not believe in the false necessity of labels. Artists and bands should rely on the originality of their music and not a label to identify themselves with. The press were trying to hang the 'Goth' label for some time and Bauhaus, Death Cult, Virgin Prunes and ourselves did not want to be stamped with any label as we had established ourselves without relying on such trinkets. It wasn't until 1985 when The Cure broke rank and officially called themselves a Goth band in one of their press releases, that the name became the official moniker that the press and popular media would use to refer to those post punk arthouse bands.
These days I don't mind the term as used to describe a subculture. It is what it is now. So long as people realise that it should never become a restrictive uniform in all manner of expression. When Ian (Astbury) and I were discussing this very issue, at the same time the press were trying to hang the Goth label on us and others. He just put it into such precise words when he told me that Bauhaus, Banshees, Prunes and Sex Gang were more post punk arthouse than gothic.
Thank you so much for the interview. Any last words?
Be a warrior not a slave.
2ND CIVILIZATION • I feel with this album something is starting to move and if promoters are willing to book a good live band, they know where to find us.
RASTABAN • We create, record and produce our records ourselves, and we want to keep this freedom!
JONAS GOVAERTS (DIRECTOR) • The question is not, 'What can't you do?', it is 'What hasn't been done yet?', and also, 'Why isn't Emma Stone answering my calls?'
JOHN CARPENTER • I’m encouraged for the future.
VANNESSA VASQUEZ (ACTRESS) • I am a very free spirit, I don’t know what lies ahead but I trust that they universe has great things in store.
SAIGON BLUE RAIN • Gothic with hints of color and light in a global dark universe
DALE LLOYD (A VIDEOTAPE COLLECTOR IN 2014) • I will happily watch the latest releases on DVD and Blu-ray, but why spend heavily on older films that I already own on VHS?
AHARON KESHALES (DIRECTOR) • We don't want to educate people, we want them to test their own set of believes while they watch our films.
CATHERINE MARY STEWART (ACTRESS) • I’ve always been a kind of “tom boy”.
TANZWUT • As it was forbidden to play streetmusic in the GDR, we were arrested from time to time...
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SEX GANG CHILDREN • No matter what obstacles we encountered, and there were many, it was always about the music and the music shone through.