Tickle Torture
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Tickle Torture

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Funk

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"DELUDED HIGH FASHION AND SHAMELESS LOW BUDGET SLEAZE: ENTER THE WORLD OF TICKLE TORTURE"

Tickle Torture never stops surprising us. Whether he's spraying the crowd with champagne and glitter cannons at CMJ, or lounging austere, observing a bedazzled make out session in the video for "You're Gonna Be My Baby" or sending us a chocolate mold of his wang in the mail, this man is our favorite who-knows-what-the-heck's-coming-next kinda artist. Of course all of this peacockery and free treats wouldn't be worth a damn if his music wasn't ripe and rich as a perfect peachy ass. The other week he performed at the legendary First Ave & 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. No biggie, he's played there a bunch of times before, but this event wasn't just a live show.

"We got asked to play after a fashion show and when we found out we would have access to the runway during our performance, plans were immediately hatched to present a full Tickle fashion line," explains Uncle Tickle. "If life gives you a runway, you gotta flex."

Words to live by. Below is a couple of live excerpts from the show—essentially an orgy of gold body paint, feathers, chains, touching, fondling, and feathers—as well as a bunch of snaps from the night. We thought it would be a good chance to talk fashion with Tickle Torture, and find out what he's up to for 2015.

Noisey: Did you have a hand in all the creations?
Tickle Torture: I was involved mainly as a financier and excitable dog trying to help out as much as I could. Sierra Starr and Sam Spafford took matters into their own hands after that, I'm pretty sure Sierra spent three days straight hot gluing rhinestones.

What was your inspiration?
I stumbled upon a record of French space-rock band Les Rockets a few years back. I bought it based on the cover alone. A bunch of dudes covered in silver body paint, dressed in space suits, frozen in blocks of ice, floating through outer space, shooting lasers. Game over. Turns out the music was pretty great, too, and they played in these outfits live. I admire any band with the full, crazed, committment to transporting the audience into a fantastical place. Also see George Clinton and his UFO.

How many gold spray cans do you use every Tickle Torture show?
We actually use a golden powder mixed with baby oil which is then applied to the Ticklers with a large house painting brush. It's just like paintin' a barn. Most of our backstage arguments are over what ratio of gold powder to baby oil is optimum for both coverage and sheen. Voices get raised. People get pissed. But it all works out. Buying three large bottles of baby oil at Walgreens every couple weeks starts to feel a little creepy.

How would you describe Tickle Torture aesthetic?
Deluded high fashion and shameless low budget sleaze.

Ancient pagan rituals and Rick Owens bedroom wear.

Witchery, BDSM tribal fantasies, and Alexander McQueen at the world's best orgy.

Partying every night to run from the sadness.

Why gold?
After the first time I painted myself gold, it became a compulsion. Being mostly naked and slathered in a symbol of decadence and luxury changes the way people act. Humping the ground painted gold somehow elevates the act. It's like watching Roman sculptures grind on each other. We have yet to experiment with other colors so we don't have the scientific method to back us up, but I think gold just makes people horny.

Why does each show end with you whipping your penis out?
That's not true.

Whoops! Our bad. Do you remember the first time you did it?
Not specifically, but it was most likely at a venue called the King Club in Madison, WI that has since closed and re-opened as a "gay sport's bar" by the name of Woof's. Their website is in a pretty awesome state right now. But I have a long and healthy history of being "the naked guy"—so it's really hard to pinpoint a specific show.

You were in an indie band before TT. Were you secretly dressing up and making awesome synth pop in a gold thong while you were in your old band, or did you uncover this side of yourself after the band split up?
I was working on Tickle T as a somewhat embarrassing side project for the last couple years of that band, but didn't really go full force maximum power until we broke up.

How do you feel onstage?
An invincible sexual thunderbolt.

A lonely sixth grader jerking off for the first time.

A world class chef preparing a PBJ at home in his skivvies.

What's your worst glue gun injury you've ever sustained?
I have thus far managed to keep the burnt skin injuries to just the fingertips, but Sierra had this lovely tale: "In attempt to perfect a bejeweled bra piece (while using myself as a body reference) I created a lovely welt, the size of a third nipple, on my left breast. The stuff carnival dreams are made of. How appropriate!"

What the most you've ever spent on a gold accessory?
Not counting the crown, probably $10. Most of the gold shit in these pictures and videos is Sierra's, and she hasn't spent more than $5.

Thrifty! How many people do you think get laid after a TT show?
Lemme put it this way, if you didn't get laid after a Tickle Torture show, you probably didn't stay 'til the end.

What does uncle tickle have in store for 2015?
First order of business is getting rid of these scabies and I'll figure it out from there. - Vice/Noisey Magazine


"THE SOULFUL, SEXUAL RELEASE OF TICKLE TORTURE"

There are many ways to say "thank you" — a card, bouquet of flowers, even a song. For Tickle Torture's frequently near-nude Elliott Kozel, giving proper thanks is a complicated labor of love and lust.

"It's weird because you're trying to have sex and do chemistry at the same time," he tells us of the gift he made for a journalist after a recent interview.

When it comes to sex, Kozel isn't shy about filling us in on all the gory details as we smoke cigarettes on the Muddy Waters patio. (Incidentally, the phrase "tickle torture" itself often refers to using tickling as a means of sexual domination.)

"You have powder, and you have to get water that's exactly 98 degrees," he continues. "I had this bowl of water by my bed that we'd heated up to about 110 degrees. I put a thermometer in the bowl, then we started [having sex]. When it went down to 98 degrees we quickly put the powder in. Then we had to mix it up and put it in this tube, and I had to stand up straight and stick my [penis] in this weird gooey stuff. It takes about four minutes, so I was about half-hard by the time it was done."

You're probably wondering what kind of weird fetish called for this series of steps. It's actually not a fetish at all. To thank the journalist for her story, Kozel had decided to mail her a chocolate mold of his penis.

"We put it in the fridge for an hour, then took it out and heated up the chocolate. We poured it into the mold, then put it back in the fridge. Finally, we peeled the mold off." Voila, a confectionery delight of sorts. Still, Kozel was somewhat disappointed.

"I was hoping that it would be a permanent mold," he says. "So I could just sell these at shows. But it's a one-and-done kind of thing. So I just have one of these things now. It's just sitting in my fridge, next to the mustard. My roommates are like, 'Dude, when are you gonna get rid of that chocolate [penis], I'm tired of looking at it.'"

Each kit retails for a prohibitive $50 at Sex World, so fans won't be grabbing Kozel's chocolate privates at the merch table any time soon. For a peek at his crown jewels, just stand in the front row.

Since Sleeping in the Aviary disbanded, Kozel has devoted all of his spare time and energy to Tickle Torture's intriguing melange of funk, R&B, and noise music. Inspired by the noise scene in Minneapolis, he began writing material for Tickle Torture back in 2009, after relocating from Madison, Wisconsin. His first EP, 2012's Spiritual Machine, not only garnered him comparisons to other sexually charged artists like Prince but also connected him to film editor Josh Hegard, with whom he has since collaborated on a series of stunning music videos — including "Would I Love You," the first single from this week's release, Spectrophilia.

The title is a reference to sexual attraction between ghosts and humans. For this album, Kozel enlisted violinists from the Minnesota Orchestra. They met via commercial work he does writing jingles. "I had them play on 'You're Gonna Be My Baby,' where the lyrics are 'Maybe tonight you want to be lied to, ready or not, to fuck.' I felt slightly embarrassed," he says. "They had to keep listening to it in their headphones and I was like, I hope they're okay with this!"

Recently, Kozel released a video for "You're Gonna Be My Baby," directed by Ryan Kron Thompson, and produced/edited by Dan Huiting. The video maintains Tickle Torture's theme of eroticism, seeing Kozel through a paint and glitter-filled bisexual encounter as his sultry, falsetto voice emerges from behind a bejeweled Hannibal Lecter-esque mask, pleading, "Are you gonna be my baby?"

"The song is based off of Barry White's music, which I was really inspired by," Kozel explains. "I love music that's really positive. I got tired of all of my songs complaining about being lonely. I had just started dating a girl, and I was inspired by new love and the excitement that comes with being so happy that you met somebody."

Today, Kozel is optimistic about his romantic future. He's at a place with his sexuality where he feels safe to be open, and to continue pushing forward into newer and better things — a mentality that relates directly to his music.

"You've got to have no fear of love — otherwise it's not going to work," he says. It's looking like rain is going to start pouring down, and he stubs out a final cigarette before we embrace and bid adieu. "You have to go in with no fear." - City Pages


"THE BEST NEW MINNESOTA MUSICIANS OF 2014"

"I'm gonna point at this year and be like, yeah, that was the year that I had to stop drinking tequila," Elliot Kozel says. Kozel, better known as the bejeweled face of Tickle Torture, managed to "salvage" four cases of cinnamon Jose Cuervo from the Zombie Pub Crawl after his surprise stand-in show for Sugar Ray. "What do you do with that? What do you mix it with?"

The lack of a perfect mixer could be the only flaw in Kozel's design for this year, which has been marked by a sold-out album release show for Spectrophilia at the Entry, a string of much-hyped music video releases, and performances at New York's CMJ Festival.

He'll play the First Avenue mainroom on December 4, and expects to wrap a new music video collaboration with Ryan Olson featuring Caroline Smith and Lizzo.

Despite Tickle Torture's busy touring and work schedule, Kozel currently sits upon eight newly recorded slabs of synthesizer soul, one of which finds him displaying a new sense of vulnerability.

"There's a new love in my life now," he says. "I wrote a song about it yesterday. I don't know what I'm going to write about now, because I always write about depravity and sadness."

Last time we talked, Kozel was entranced by notions of sexual deviance, and it shone through in the lyrics on Spectrophilia, the title of which is a reference to sexual attraction between ghosts and humans.

Feeling love rather than sheer lust has sparked a strange revelation. "I want to put energy into it, which I normally don't feel," he says. "Now I'm just like, man, there's this other person that I want to make happy. I want to see her like, every day, which is fucked up... for me."

True, considering that Tickle Torture's aesthetic thus far has been reliant upon polyamorous love -- his performances verge on orgiastic, a sequined and gold-spattered display of hedonism.

"It's a good sign. I can't be a lone wolf forever, you know? I gotta figure out some way where I can write music and be happy," he contemplates. "There's gotta be a way. It's not worth being alive otherwise, you know?" - City Pages


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Tickle Torture is the sex-pop soundtrack for a new generation of freaks. His first EP, “Spiritual Machete” (2012), felt like catching Justin Timberlake and Prince making out in a dumpster full of broken synthesizers. Equal parts electro-funk and sleaze, “Spectrophilia” has further expanded this sound, incorporating the influences of trashy disco, post-Yeezus experimental hip-hop production sensibilities, and 80’s synth drenched R&B classics to create a one-of-a-kind maximalist assault. Feeding on the sweaty energy left from the funk dynasty of his home base in Minneapolis, one man producer, composer, engineer Elliott Kozel created these tracks over the course of the past year. This do-everything-yourself aesthetic expands into every aspect of the project, from creating his own masks and costumes, to styling and producing many of his own music videos. His sexual, chaotic live shows are half-party, half-performance art, and include a full live band, a team of backup dancers, an arsenal of confetti cannons, strobe lights and video projections.

Band Members