2 weeks ago
Saturday, November 22, 2008
FOOTNOTES # 13
Throbbing Gristle. Whitehouse. Nurse with Wound. Clock DVA. 23 Skidoo.
(CHAPTER 8 in the US edition)
c.f “Demystification is our duty”
---Genesis P. Orridge, Hayward Annual 1979.
>English meadows… pastoralism
In the Sex Revolts, we explicitly defined psychedelia in terms of a revolt against the city and the modern industrial world, specifically in the chapter BACK TO EDEN: INNOCENCE, INDOLENCE AND PASTORALISM, which looks at how in the mid-Sixties, “rock's site of fantasy” abruptly shifted from “from th ecity centre to 'getting it together in the country'. Early-to-mid '60s British rock was about the 'mannish boy', about breaking free of the mother's realm, domesticity, good behaviour. Psychedelia, on the other hand, was the culture of the mother's boy, who longed to come to rest in the arms of Mother Nature.
Mod's lust for action, its restless craving for kicks and kineticism, was replaced by psychedelia's cult of passivity, indolence and sleep….
Psychedelia mistrusted masculine logic, proposed the cultivation of 'feminine' flow and receptivity, and believed that industrial/urban existence was synonymous with living death.”
We also analysed the Futurists’ antipathy to all things pastoral and placid:
“At the dawn of the twentieth century, Henry Adams contrasted The Virgin and The Dynamo as symbols for two incompatible realms of human consciousness. With her divine passivity, the Virgin Mary stood for sacred mystery, a force once strong enough to erect cathedrals, but now fading from the world. The electrical dynamo represented the dawning era of scientific mastery, in which men could become godlike through harnessing the forces of Nature. A decade or so later,the Futurists exalted the same dynamic forces (electricity, speed) and explicitly identified them with male will-to-power and phallic thrust. Futurist rhetoric offers another version of Camus' opposition between rebellion and grace, or Adams' mastery/mystery dichotomy. Rejecting Romanticism's quest for the lost state of grace in Nature's bosom, the
Futurists extolled disrespect for Mother Earth--conquest and rape. F. T.Marinetti decried not only 'nostalgia' but 'the picturesque, the imprecise, rusticity, wild solitude': all the things that the mystical tradition in rock celebrates. Ardently urban and secular, the Futurists pitted themselves against the pastoral, poured scorn on the 'holy green silence'; they celebrated sharply defined edges rather than blurred borderlines. Rock'n'roll throbs with a Futurist exultation in speed, technology, neon and noise. But there is another strain of the rock imagination that isn't madly in love with the modern world, but is instead nostalgic and regressive: psychedelia. Defined in the broadest sense to encompass everything from the Byrds, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, the Incredible String Band, to Can, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine,
and ambient house--psychedelia is a resurgence of Romanticism's pastoralism and pantheism. Above all, psychedelia is the quest for a lost state of grace.”
Industrial music’s seemingly incongruous roots in psychedelia make sense if you figure industrial as in some sense an attempt to work through the trauma of industrialisation’s violation of Nature, its rape of repose.
Another point of convergence between post-psychedelic music and industrial was the interest in environmental sounds--the birdsong, splashing ducks and humming bees that create the water meadow mise en scene of Pink Floyd’s “Grantchester Meadows” on 1969’s Ummagumma. There’s a whole prog subgenre of environmental soundscape and audio-verite records such as David Dunn’s Angels and Insects, a path retraced later by such post-industrialist sound documentarists as Cabaret Voltaire’s Chris Watson. Another set of overlaps: the use of organic and somatic noises in Roger Waters and Ron Geesin’s 1970 Music From the Body project parallels the last pre-termination Throbbing Gristle release Journey Through A Body (recorded 1981), while the group were interested in similar holophonic, surround-sound recording techniques as used by Floyd-influenced cosmic rockers Tangerine Dream.
“Imagine walking down blurred streets of havoc, post-civilisation, stray dogs eating refuse, wind creeping across tendrils…. It’s the death factory society, hypnotic mechanical grinding, music of hopelessness…. The music of 1984 has arrived. Made up of various people from all creative areas, post-psychedelic thrash, vanguard for thee Wild Boys, death seekers”
---Flyer for Throbbing Gristle’s debut “disconcert,” at the Air Gallery, London, July 1976.
“We need to search… negate Control”
--P-Orridge, from his essay Behavioral Cut-Ups and Magick, in Rapid Eye #2 (Annihilation Press, 1992)
The ultimate goal: "to heal and reintegrate the human character.” Which sounds pretty fucking New Agey!
“the future of music lies in non-musicians”
--P-Orridge, quoted in Simon Ford’s Wreckers of Civilisation (see bibliography). P. 2.11
Compare with this section from David Stubbs' interview with Throbbing Gristle in the Wire, July 2007, around the group's reunion and recording of Part Two: The Endless Not:
"We have the great luxury of never having had a musical education," laughs Sleazy. But all the same, you must have accumulated competence over the years, I protest. Gotten a bit better. "I've got worse!" splutters Genesis. "I've got much worse. I used to be able to play the bass. I can't play it now. And no, that's no bad thing. I don't want to play it".
Here, TG excitedly emulate Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen in their efforts to outdo each other in the un-musicality stakes. Chris says he never knows which key he's in or what note he is playing. "When I feel like I'm getting to be a bit like a real musician, I walk away from what I'm doing." "Because what's the point in repeating yourself?" adds Cosey. "I'm very proud of the fact that I don't know how to tune a guitar," boasts Genesis. "Can any of you play 'Three Bad Mice'? I can't. That's pretty amazing after 30 years of making music and releasing I don't know how many albums. It's obviously not important. That's something we wanted to prove and we have. It's editing and assembling that's the trick."
>The Alien Brain
Which was staged at Hull Arts Center and funded by the Yorkshire Arts Association
“running battle… art itself”
--P-Orridge. Sounds. 6/3/78.
To watch Fluxus short experimental films, http://www.ubu.com/film/fluxfilm.html
To hear Fluxus’ s actual music, visit http://www.ubu.com/sound/fluxus.html
>the basement of a disused factory
In Martello Street, Hackney.. After living there surreptiously for a while (it was registered as a non-residential artists’ space), they moved into a squatted house half-a-mile away in Beck Road, while continuing to work out of Martello Street--the (in)famous Death Factory
>all over Europe
Belgium, Holland, Germany…
>Carter, a technical whiz
Orridge assisted with the basic manual work of wiring and construction
Actually not the name of the mellotron-like proto-sampler, but a different device. Genesis P-Orridge explained it to me:
“The GRISTLEIZER was an effects box using sine waves and envelopes and other stuff I don't understand that gave TG that pulsing effect. We had one for each person and one for my vocals. The instrument you describe [in the book] is Sleazy's for-runner ofthe sampler. A form of MELLOTRON using a series of Walkmans to play field recordings and found sounds,etc through the keyboard and sequencer. He could play eachside of a cassette with a key and each side of the stereo too so each cassette COULD give 4 sound sources. Sleazy rewired the walkmans himself to do that. Then by sequencing he could create rhythms from any form of sound. plus each side could be 45 minuteslong and all kinds of different noises within that.”
> “People think music’s… blood vessels”
--P- Orridge. Another Room fanzine, 1980
>Metal Machine Music
Useful piece on MMM and Reed’s intent and technique, http://www.gyrofrog.com/mmm.php
Lester Bangs on Metal Machine Music, http://www.rocknroll.net/loureed/articles/mmmbangs.html
Tiny blog thing by me on finally listening to Metal Machine Music after nearly 20 years as a rockcritic
“We had moments… we hit”
World Art magazine interview, unedited text at http://www.chemtrailpatrol.com/cpr_annihilating_reality.htm
“Let's give it a…. see what happens’”
---P-Orridge. Voltage, date unknown.
>Arts Council was doing with the public’s money
The cutting edge of 1970s artistic practice--performance art, body art, conceptual art, etc--had never been further from the general public’s notions of taste and creativity. The immediate prequel to the Prostitution debacle was the outcry about the “bricks in the Tate” (Carl Andre’s
‘Equivalent VIII’, actually made in 1966 but acquired by the Tate in early 1976). But this was nothing compared to the firestorm of rage that engulfed Prostitution.
“It starts with chords… what you want”
--P-Orridge. Sounds 11/26/77. New Musick feature package.
“TG started off as a joke in the beginning,” Tutti said in an interview for Tape Delay (see bibliography). “We were quite serious about breaking down the ‘rock and roll’ thing, but it was tongue in cheek at the same time because we knew we were giving them a load of rubbish soundwise just to get them out of their expectation of music.”
Sleazy has also written, source unknown--CD liner notes?: “We had little or no musical knowledge and had no idea what we were doing. Pieces were created more or less spontaneously, without any rehearsal or preparation other than Chris’s privately made rhythm tracks and a general discussion about possible topics for a new lyric which Gen could use as inspiration… As far as I know the words came out as spontaneously as the music.”
“you should approach… a child will”
--P-Orridge. Guitar World. June 1995.
It also contains the killer couplet “I’ve got a little biscuit tin/to keep your panties in”.
>asked Christopherson what he should sing about today
Wrong, says Genesis P-Orridge:
“”Persuasion” was triggered by a Colin Wilson book that included a serial killer who I mixed up with an ACTUAL biscuit tin ( which I still have) that contains panties from various lovers, surrendered with their consent and each with a polaroid of the lovers vagina fixed inside on the crotch...the canal picture has, by the bridge I think a tiny white shape which is mybiscuit tin.”
Despite their seeming indifference to both conventional musicality and the idea of music-for-music’s sake, TG were paradoxically arrogant about their sonic achievements. There was a certain “anything we do is worth hearing” attitude, which took the form of recording every single performance and releasing almost all of them, resulting in scores of gig tapes (boxed together in the 24 Hours cassette chest), live albums, and semi-official bootlegs that carried on longer after TG’s official demise. All this was in part a hangover from COUM days (for performance artists, the process has to be recorded for there to be any proof of a career’s existence, there being no art objects as such). Such such excessive self-documentation creates a fair amount of redundancy in the TG body-of-work. There were videos too (indeed Industrial Records claimed were the first independently released music videos), including on that documented the recording of Heathen Earth and another that captured a chaotic gig performed at Oundle, a boys public school, which came about when one of the boarders cannily tricked his music teacher into booking TG by saying they were John Cage-influenced.
>Free improv… Sound samey
The sameyness was exacerbated further by the group’s fixation on making everything up from scratch in the absolute spur of the moment. Their idea(l) is similar to the free improv movement, but without the virtuosity (e.g. Derek Bailey’s long background as jobbing musician). It’s not surprising that in their post-TG ventures both Chris & Cosey and Sleazy (with Coil) went in a more studio-as-instrument direction, the kind of more protracted, fastidious work that tends to produce more varied and voluptuous textures.
Here’s a review (circa 1990?) by me of a reissue of AMM’s first record:
Nowadays, we're familiar with the idea of "free music":
music that abandons the shackles of training and technique,
in an attempt to propel both player and listener outside
history, beyond culture, and into a Zen no-where/no-when.
We've heard this rhetoric reheated and this approach rehashed
by all manner of marginal rock iniatives: the Pop Group,
early Scritti, Rip Rig and Panic, Einsturzende, and currently
God. So it's both chastening and valuable to go back to when
the idea was more or less originated: 1966, a group called
AMM who made (and still make) "music as though music was
being made for the first time". This is their first album,
originally released by Elektra Records, in those heady days
of the counter culture when people thought this kind of thing
might just be marketable. Recommended have reissued it
complete with segments from the original sessions which never
made it onto vinyl.
As AMM member Eddie Prevost puts it in his copious and
illuminating sleevenotes, AMM music "gently but firmly
resists analysis". Listening the mind's eye swarms with an
inferno of images: gales, tidal-waves, timber-processing
plants gone mad, a monsoon of stalactites. But in the end,
adjectives and metaphors sheer off the obtuse, elusive,
jagged surfaces of the sound. AMM music may initially seem
impenetrable, but it sure as hell penetrates you. Soon, the
desired state is instilled in the listener: a rapt vacancy
somewhere between supreme concentration and utter absent-
mindedness. Prevost describes how AMM music was widely
assumed to be "religious", and how in some senses this was
true. Fully immersed, you can escape the inhibitions and
repressions that hold you together as "one", and revert to a
primal state of manifold unbeing. In it, you can be
everything and nothing.
There was a whole buncha theory behind this music -
ideas like "all sound can be music", "silence can be music",
elements of Buddhism (meditation without the mysticism). But
ultimately words are neither needed nor enough. For a while
AMM used to discuss their music endlessly, but soon they
stopped, just turned up, played and went home without a word.
And it's not necessary to bone up in order to bliss out. Just
come with an open mind, and leave, 74 minutes later,
marvelling at just how opened a mind can get.
C.f. AMM, TG’s effect was closer to totalitarian!
“In the early song “10 Pence” P. Orridge used the phrase “Tesco Disco”.
Tesco, for non-UK readers, is a cheap-and-cheerful supermarket chain that for people of a certain age evokes the sheer scuffed-formica crapness of Britain in the 1970s.
C.f. Public Image Limited, the name--Industrial Records Limited--also served to brutally demystify the music business.
“Industrial music was closest to journalism,” P. Orridge wrote. “… a documentary in black and white of the savage realities of fading capitalism.”
“We’re writing about… at today”
--P-orridge. MM. 11/20/76.
P-Orridge, “We look at this scabby, filthy, dirty, horrible society and transform it into an inhuman, emotionless parallel… It’s ‘future rock’ if you like, but not that tacky sort of Hawkwind stuff, it’s real”
>‘After Cease To Exist’
“The dreams of complex industrial machines” is how a reviewer for the Malvern Gazette & Ledbury Reporter nicely described this track, which could almost pass for an ambient solo piece by Edgar Froese.
>East London… deprived inner-city
But in a sense P. Orridge had always lived “here”. As a child he’d grown up in Manchester--a profoundly formative experience. “When people ask me where I am from, meaning my nationality, I never say British, I reply that I am from Manchester, in England,” he told Throbbing Gristle biographer Simon Ford. Wreckers of Civilisation. P. 10:17 “It doesn’t mean I am nostalgic about the place. I was created bitter and resentful by Manchester. I learned absolute emptiness from Manchester. It is not a spiritual environment.”
This might explain is his affinity with close friendship with Ian Curtis, who admired TG a lot. Supposedly shortly before his death Curtis was talking about collaborating with P-Orridge and/or TG.
Also suggests the notion of the factory as a place where people had their spirits killed (“creative death, death of self-worth”, as P. Orridge put in an album sleevenote). C.f. Mark E. Smith’s comment about two kinds of factory in Manchester, one that makes dead men and the other that lives off a dead man (Ian Curtis)
“a metaphor for… in the world”-- P-Orridge. NME 7/22/78.
>England Awakes lightning flash
A factoid-meme that’s circulated for a long while without actual substance, says Genesis P-Orridge:
“The TG flash was NOT in any way based on Oswald Mosley's fools. It was Chris Carter who found it on a British Rail pylon warning DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE ELECTRICITY. Which we liked...we even had plastic warning plates screwed on various TG equipment with the full phrase. The red and black was the (spanish Ibelieve) ANARCHIST INTERNATIONAL flag. A left over from my radical student days when I was involved in sit-ins, the squat at 105 Picadilly, the squat in DruryLane in an old hotel near the Arts Lab etc. We pointed this out over and over but sadly subtlety and informed logo design were not as sensational as deliberately disinformed journalism so the initial deception ( John Gill actually at the Film Makers Co-Op reviewed it as H H for Heil Hitler. He later apologised but the damage was a meme by then).”
>“the blockhead punk culture”
“Tesco pogo” is how P. Orridge described the crude and muddy music they made on “Zyklon B Zombie”
>paedophilia, and abduction, rape, murder of children
At an April 1979 gig in a Derby cinema, TG used soundbites from an interview with a porn producer talking about the Lolita market (15 to 17) and the Nymphet market (below the age of twelve). “Something Came Over Me”, the flipside of “Subhuman”, is one of P. Orridge’s funniest sick jokes (some body or thing ejaculated over him “but I don’t know what it was” and “I rather like it”). But the cover image of a canal sidepath and a seedy looking bridge recalls the a scene of the crime in a story about child molestation by Ian McEwan (then very popular with postpunk youth for his creepy short story collections like First Love, Last Rites and In Between the Sheets). Inset in one corner is a smaller close-up photograph of something pendulous and milky-looking suspended in water: Sleazy’s semen.
of the DOA artwork, Genesis says the inspiration was something quite different from paedophilia:
“What happened was I fell in love with a Polish artist.Went out to LODZ to be with her. When Poland was still heavily communist. SCARY! I took all the photographs on the cover. The living room is the ex-husband of my l over's. He joined the communist party and hence had stereo, fridge, LUXURY goods as a result. My friendwho was a distinguished Professor of art historyREFUSED to join the party. So she lived in a hovel.(See the pic on back of miserable blocks of flats).Every weekend her water was turned off, often herelectricity. To harass her. She was forced to work asan assistant to another teacher. All she was ALLOWEDto do was load slides of artworks into carosels forother, less qualified teachers to use in lectures. Tohumiliate her further. She was a fantastic woman.Her daughter, KAMA, is the child in the photos. I babysat her for several wonderful weeks. My intention inthe design was to show innocence in conflict withcorruption and greed. The lavish apartment, her simplejoy in life. Nothing was posed. She was justuninhibited. To me, her purity shone through and madethe idea of materialism seem a corrupt as it is. Theposters on the wall of TG were in Hackney, the UKparallel of Lodz..to me.In all honesty I saw purity versus corruption. I wasSHOCKED and saddened to discover that the West saw theimages as vicarious and salacious, I saw the joy of achild before they are battered down by the forces oftyranny. She was free, we are jailed.With hindsight, as long as I remember to think theworst of people, I can see it was misinterpreted. ButNEVER was it perceived as sexual by me, TG, or hermother, who loved thje design and felt proud to find acreative way to escape her enforced misery. The childflew free, a hope, a possibility of change.You may feel it was too subtle. I am guilty ofexpecting too much thoughtfulness from the public, butit was a strong message about political destruction ofoptimistic childhood joy in life.
Killed by axe blows and strangulation
“Slug Bait” appeared in three different versions in straight succession on Second Annual Report, and it montages two different homicides together, the 1976 murder of a farmer in Rhodesia in front of his wife (they cut his balls off and made him eat them) with rumored details of the Manson Family’s murder of Sharon Tate (the unborn baby head munching
>criminal as artist
From the Sex Revolts,
“The cult of the criminal as a heroic individual in an anonymous, servile world goes back to the heart of Romanticism. The murderer, like the artist, privileges aesthetics/desire/id over ethics/solidarity/super-ego. In the early nineteenth
century, writer Thomas De Quincy equated the sublimity of psychotic murder with the bliss of opium trance. Raskolnikov, Dostoevski's anti-hero in Crime and Punishment,believed he belonged to an elite of exceptional individuals who had the right to transcend the morality that bound lesser beings, and proved it to himself by
killing a 'worthless' old woman. Raskolnikov would have concurred with Blanchot's dictum that 'the greatest suffering of others always counts for less than my pleasure'. In this century, the notion of the criminal as amoral superman has intensified, right across the spectrum from Hollywood and pulp fiction to continental philosophy (Sartre's 'the criminal kills; he is a poem'). Writing about the white
hipster's identification with the ghetto black in 'The White Negro', Norman Mailer defined the psychopath as a truly free man: 'in short, whether the life is criminal or not, the decision is to encourage the psychopath in oneself, to explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness....'”
Thomas De Quincey’s 1827 essay “On Murder Considered As One of the Fine Arts”
analysis of sadism from The Sex Revolts that maps in negative onto the idea of psychedelia as Nature-worship and mother-nostalgia:
“Could it be that the urge to outrage is a kind of severance rite, a
re-enactment of the original disconnection from the mother's body? The rebel's quest for sovereignty, for godlike independence, ultimately leads to de Sade.According to Susan Suleiman, 'The founding desire behind Sadeian fantasy is the active negation of the mother. The Sadeian hero's anti-naturalism'--his repeated violation of 'natural' laws (incest, infanticide, etc)--'goes hand in hand with his hatred of mothers, identified as the "natural" source of life'(and thus of death). The rebel also resents the power of the mother, wishes he
was self-created, invulnerable, omnipotent. If you follow the rebel impulse to its logical, if not inevitable, conclusion, you end up here: a place where ascent to wholeness only comes with another being's mutilation and annihilation, where ecstasy means someone else's agony.
>Jeff Nuttall… Brady & Hindley
from the Sex Revolts:
For Jeff Nuttall, it was the same impoverished, entropic culture which spawned both the British bohemians of the '50s and '60s, and the child-murdering lovers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in 1965. 'Romantics, Symbolists, Dada, Surrealists, Existentialists, Action painters,
beat poets and the Royal Shakespeare Company had all applauded de Sade from some aspect or other. To Ian Brady de Sade was a licence to kill children. We had all, at some time, cried "Yes yes" to Blake's "sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse an unacted desire". Brady did it.”
And also this on TG friend Derek Jarman’s punk movie Jubilee:
“…punkette Jordan recites a touching little homage: 'As a child, my heroine was Myra Hindley. Do you remember her? Myra's crimes were, they said, beyond belief. That was because no one had any imagination and they didn't know how to make their desires reality. They were not artists like Myra. I can smile now at the naivete.”
P--Orridge talked of the band and the audience becoming “at the mercy of the sound”
20 Jazz Funk Greats, the group’s third album, diversified further into electronic mood-music, ranging from the peeling picturesque pastoralism of “Tanith” to “Exotica”, a tribute to band-leader Martin Denny’s Polynesian easy listening sound of the 1950s.
> “Hamburger Lady”
She was kept alive by tubes and in such torment she could only sleep for a few minutes at a time
>Monte Cazazza conceptualisation and strategy
As well as offering physical help (it was Cazazza who stuck the labels on the first album’s cover).
>books about weaponry
containing “controlled” information about weapons, terrorism, etc
TG used their research in the military use of sound as a weapon to build ultra-sonic devices called Pizo Horns. Heavily camoflaged and concealed in the back wall at the bottom of their garden, the weaponry was beamed at the unwitting travellers. Cazazza and P-Orridge would also go over the wall on commando-style pre-dawn raids, slashing the tyres of the travellers’s precious vehicles.
“They saw the travelers as an infestation
>given the theme of the day by Cosey
Wrong, says Genesis P-Orridge: “DISCIPLINE was suggested to me by Sleazyimmediately prior to going onstage”
William S. Burroughs, Industrial Records recording artiste.
>fascination with fascism
In light of their playing with such dangerous materials, it’s worth asking what were Throbbing Gristle’s politics? Influenced by William S. Burroughs, they viewed power as a malevolent and occult force or system, Control, that seemingly operated
independent of human agency--because the Controllers were themselves controlled, victims of conditioning. “It’s got to that strange stage now where Control exists separate of anyone,” P-Orridge told NME in 1982, on the occasion of the Final Academy, a kind of festival/symposium in honor of the ideas and techniques developed by Burroughs and Bryon Gysin . “I don’t think anyone controls Control anymore. I think that is what is so horrible. You can’t pick the enemy off because nobody knows where it is. It has become self-perpetuating, a force in itself.” The notion recalls Michel Foucault’s theories about power/knowledge, in which various forms of social science--public health, criminology, psychiatry, sexology--are seen as disciplines: apparatuses of cultural engineering that operate as much through positively producing behaviour as through repression and punishment. Foucault imagined resistance taking the form of local struggles against specific regimes of power/knowledge (the prison system, asylums, medicine) and through what he called “forbidden popular knowledges”. P-Orridge emphasized an internal battle against the Control Process as it operated within the individual’s mind, body and soul. “The first and most important thing…to become an individual again… win back as much independent ground… as possible.”
The danger with this kind of thinking is that it leads to a kind of fatalism: Control is omnipresent, omnipotent. The humdrum reality of power as the aggregate of decisions made by individuals, operating separately or in organisational cahoots, gets mystified away. P-Orridge developed a kind of Manichaean worldview in which power and anti-power were engaged in a perpetual unresolvable war yet secretly interdependent. “We need this system as a target, a stimulus outside ourselves to fight against, and the system needs a rebellious questioning minority to develop new possibilities from a flexibility of view it can never possess by its very rigid nature.” He even suggested that the only way surveillance and military research achieved economic viability was through its consumer spin-offs, things like cable TV, computers, Xerox, video, cassette recorders--all of which could be repurposed by the dissident fringe. Pitched somewhere between the “beloved enemy” theory (the USA and USSR needing each other) and a Star Wars notion of the Force as potentially “dark” or “light” depending on how it was used, this theory of power’s reversibility goes some way to explaining the confusing way that TG flipped between libertinism and quasi-totalitarian/militaristic game-playing.
Magic, or “Magick” as these sorts often seem to prefer to spell it, as a category promised to dissolve the boundary between art and life by having aspects of both--it was creative in the most basic sense, changing reality. Or, in another sense, magic fused science and ritual.
The atmosphere at Throbbing Gristle’s last gig--at Kezar Pavilion, San Francisco, May 1981--was magical, according to Tutti, who felt there was a telepathic connection between the group and the audience.
>tensions within TG caused by Cosy’s break-up
Wrong!! says Genesis P-Orridge: “As to the Cosey being with Chris situation beinganything to do with TG splitting up. Absolutely not. Cosey and Chris had been sleeping together since we all met. Often in the bed with me. Yes I was very heartbroken initially to see her leave. But mainly because she felt compelled to do it secretly, behind my back, not in a mature, open way. The deception made me distraught. By 1981 I was married and very happy with everything except TG.”
He says it was personal disillusion with the group, feeling it was exhausted, that led him to terminate the mission.
Or ‘slave music’ as P-Orridge called it
“to go beyond… inside the head”--P-Orridge. Radio interview on LBC, February 1981.
>Disdainful attitude to music
P-Orridge repeatedly stressed that he was “a writer and a thinker”, not a musician, and that TG weren’t primarily concerned with “music or musical technique or the future of music or the history of music”. It just happened to the “organized recorded sound” that they selected as the “medium for our propaganda” (and even then, records and gigs weren’t their only front of activity, individually and together they produced videos, films, articles, etc).
>a delivery system for their ideas
And not just ideas but “research”-- the all important ‘information’.
This emphasis on the primacy of discourse was a hangover from COUM’s previous existence in the world of conceptual art, and it meant that TG were their own best critics. They had no shortage of incisive and sympathetic supporters--Jon Savage and Sandy Robertson at Sounds, V. Vale at Search & Destroy and Re:Search (and again, see the emphasis on data trawling for extreme information) in San Francisco--but there was a sense in which this criticism was redundant. This created a weird cognitive dissonance: the well-reasoned arguments and soberly eloquence of Genesis P-Orridge clashed with the subject matter of horror and aberrant, atatavistic instincts, the fascination with the supernatural, paranormal and irrational.
TG were modernists in the oldfashioned sense, firm believers in concept and intent (whereas in properly postmodern pop, it’s the finished product that counts, the meaning the consumer makes out of it, rather than any intrinsic significance implanted by the auteur). The reductio absurdum of this atttitude was P-Orridge’s conviction that he had to personally know the artist to be sure of their integrity and purity of motive--meaning that the only stuff he had any interest in checking out or any respect for was by allies like Cabaret Voltaire or Non’s Boyd Rice!
If you define rockism (as I do) an approach that privileges content, context, and intent, then Throbbing Gristle--despite their contempt for rock-as-music--were the ultimate rockists. Also totally rockist was their belief in authenticity, edge, rebellion, the outsider, epater le bourgeois/shock the square etc…
>the extremes of existence
TG’s stance of being reporters presenting “information” in a morally neutral tone without any hint of judgement or taking a position on it also lent itself to abuse.
>extreme music of all time
Bennett further promised “the listener to this album will experience the most extreme reaction possible”
Jabbing gouts of pink noise and white noise
“a bludgeoning, tyrannical sound”
--Bennett, Vertigo fanzine, 2001, unedited transcript at http://www.susanlawly.freeuk.com/textfiles/vertigo.htm
>any previous musical genres
Especially rock, which Bennett despised with particular vehemence
>”ears are wounds”
the expression comes from an Einsturzende Neubauten lyric--“Ohren sind Wunden” -as penned by Blixa Bargeld in the song “Die Genaue Zeit” (which translates as “The Exact Time”)
The whole lyric actually suggests some influence from TG.
Everything will be muzak
Everything will be the same
How late would it be?
Power is a conveyor belt
and my ears are wounds
It is so plain here
Muzak for mortuaries and new buildings
A pleasant hum leaves behind no traces
chord marks on my face
It is so plain here
How late would it be?
Listen to your master's voice
Even lackeys have a good sense of time
How late would it be?
Everything will be muzak
Everything is the same
Power is a running tape
Everything will be muzak
Everything is the same
How late would it be?
> power electronics
The term was apparently coined by Bennett in the sleevenotes for the album
Psychopathia Sexualis. For a potted history of this genre, which suggests its peak occurred within the time frame of Rip It Up, check out this anonymous blogger's post. I couldn't possibly assess whether it's a correct account, but the mystery blogger's unqualified enthusiasm for the genre's content ("women-hating", themes of genocide, Nazism, etc etc) speaks volumes and rings true to me.
Update: ah, see comments box for revelations from that blogpost's author, who says it's a work of fiction, and has some interesting justifications of power electronics's extremisms in terms of the social-political climate of Thatcherism. Not sure I buy it, or even see it, but it's well argued...
Here's the comment transferred from the old footnotes comments box:
As the 'anonymous' author of "Bang Out Of Order" (which began life as a pamphlet and was bootlegged online) I was flattered to find the citation here as I've enjoyed your writing for many years and the book was a good read - particularly enjoyed the astonishing McLaren-Vermorel-Chicken chapter.
I didn't particularly like being accused of 'unqualified enthusiasm' for Nazi fetishism, woman-hating etc. The postscript to what was a satirical short story continues in the tone of the main text and my authorial voice there is a fictional construct, but the OTT stuff about 'Europeans are worthless idiots' apparently didn't make that sufficiently clear.
I do think that the excesses of the 82-84 'power electronics' era (which involved a grand total of about thirty people worldwide)had more in common with the work of someone like Crass than with the genuinely right-wing Euro-folk fuckbulbs like Von Thronstahl et al who stink up the fringes of the underground scene these days. Which is to say that the work was a scream of disgust during the era of Thatcher at her most apocalyptic, not least towards the more dogmatic and authoritarian aspects of the left - those Weller-listening, NME-reading students who were always quite transparently hypocritical to me at least.
This chapter really could have done with more original research - the numerous ties between the industrial/PE scene and the more florid branches of anarchism could have been pointed out - however I guess you found the whole thing an instinctive turn-off and that's fair enough - it was a very ambitious book.
all best - Simon, the Ceramic Hobs
The group attracted the most unsavory element of TG’s former audience. According to a Sounds reviewer, the audience at one 1983 “aktion” contained sickos in Ian Brady T-shirts
Saint-fond declares: “The passions are more strongly fired by whatever is obtained through force than by anything granted voluntarily”. As well as restructuring society with a permanent helot class, He also dreamed of banning Christianity and reviving Roman-style spectacles of cruelty (Bennett was an expert on the decadent roman emperors too).
an extract from an interview in 1983 with Bennett and Whitehouse member Kevin Tomkins, in which WB talks about the influence of de Sade:
Is there any central philosophy in your work?
WB: Pleasure--no matter what the cost
Isn't that taken from DeSade?
Did you read some of his books?
WB: Yes, I read all of them
(Talk goes on to Come Org. bands, M Bianchi, Ilse Koch, Peter Kurten, Peter Sutcliffe, the film M.)
Why do you have such a worshipful attitude towards these 'despicable', 'awful' people- what is so intriguing about them?
WB: They're great people!
Great in what respect?
WB: They are everything that a person should aspire to be. They expressed their pleasure to the fullest. They extracted the most from their situation.
But by doing that they took away from others, isn't that wrong?
full transcript at http://www.susanlawly.freeuk.com/textfiles/whinterview03.html
>Tit Pulp… Shitfun
Magazines that Bennett discovered on a trip to Amsterdam
There was talk (possibly merely a wind-up to provoke outraged media attention) of rereleasing “Songs and marches of the SS and SA” on Whitehouse’s label Come.
Then you got groups influenced by Whitehouse themselves, like Ramleh, whose Gary Mundy ran the label Broken Flag, a home for all manner of post-TG/post-Whitehouse operatives, releasing their works mostly on cassette and occasionally vinyl. Some data snippets about Ramleh, Broken Flag and their allies:
* Ramleh is the name of the place in Israel where Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was executed, on May 21st 1962--exactly twenty years before the day Ramleh made their first recording.
* Broken Flag's releases include Maurizio Bianchi's Symphony for A Genocide (containing tracks named after Treblinka, Auschwitz, and so on), Ramleh's A Return To Slavery, and an uncredited cassette called Swastika Command that contains "segments of propaganda films and other music edited together".
* One Broken Flag artist, Mauthausen Orchestra(aka Pierpaolo Zoppo) also released cassettes via his own label Aquifer Sodality, including such works as
Dedicated To J. Goebbels and Necrofellatio. The name Mauthausen comes from Mauthausen-Gusen, a cluster of slave labour concentration camps in Austria, among the very toughest camps in Europe and the last to be liberated. From Wiki: "The two main camps, Mauthausen and Gusen I, were also the only two camps in the whole of Europe to be labelled as "Grade III" camps, which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich". Unlike many other concentration camps, intended for all categories of prisoners, Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination through labour of the intelligentsia, who were educated people and members of the higher social classes in countries subjugated by the Nazi regime during World War II."
* In the sleevenotes to the 2007 Vinyl On Demand box set of Broken Flag material from the early Eighties, Mundy writes "We were teenagers. Most teenagers do dumb provocative shit but most of them don't have it recorded for posterity"--a form of special pleading rather undermined by the deluxe repackaging of the material in question over twenty years later. Regardless, as grown men, Ramleh had already returned to the themes of yore with 1995's Be Careful What You Wish For, which features an eerie pre-WW2 photograph of Anne Frank with an ominous shadow of man in the foreground of the picture. The design was the work of Whitehouse's Philip Best, by this point also a member of Ramleh. No doubt Art should not shrink from confronting the very worst that the 20th Century came up with, peering into the abyss of humanity's capacity for Evil, etc etc. You'll have to excuse me being a wee bit sceptical about the motives of people who, in Best's case, released on his own label Iphar a 1983 compilation titled White Power. It all looks like teenage boy rolling in shit from this vantage point, or at best, a pointless morbidity that responds to the shittiness of the world by... reflecting it... putting more shit in the world!
Three other outfits who also misunderstood TG
Various Artists -- Come Organisation Archives Anthology 1 part
Commentary from Old Europa Café’s Peter Vercauteren"This double cd documents the formative years of the friendly Come Organisation label. Eat your heart out if you just paid £125 for a cracky and tampered copy of one the following classics: 'Bradford Red Light District' (a walk down this district mixed with extensive radio tuning), 'Come Sunday' and 'Rampton' (the 'industrial electronic rock' vinyls released by William Bennet's pre-Whitehouse project Come), The 150 Murderous Passions (Whitehouse and Nurse With Wound set the ideas of the Marquis De Sade to music) and last but not least the highly acclaimed 1981 compilation lp 'The Second Coming'. This influential record marked "the second coming of electronic music" and features industrial heroes like Whitehouse, Come, The Sodality and Nurse With Wound (the hilarious 'hit' "Registered Nurse"!). All tracks are digitally remastered and come with pictures of the original artwork and extensive biographical notes by William Bennet. Of course every self-respecting Industrial Archive must store these fine recordings!
Bradford Red Light District = presumably one of Peter Sutcliffe aka the Yorkshire Ripper’s stalking grounds for prostitute victims
from the Sex Revolts, a bit on Adam Parfrey’s 1987 collection of “extreme information” Apocalypse Culture and its exaltation of Sotos’s Pure magazine, in Parfrey’s own essay Aesthetic Terrorism'.
“In an age in which avant-garde gestures are quickly absorbed and repackaged by the media, Parfrey proclaims that we must look to the real outsiders for 'aesthetic purity', the shock of the sublime. The 'genuine outsiders' hailed by Parfrey include John Hinckley Jr, the
Jodie Foster obsessive who attempted to kill Ronald Reagan and who also churns out a grisly line in paedophiliac poesy. But Parfrey's biggest hero is Peter Sotos, editor and publisher of Pure magazine, which 'extols child torture, murder, and extreme misogyny' and celebrates 'the psychotic outsider such as Ted Bundy, Ian Brady or John Wayne Gacy'. Prosecuted for possession and reproduction of child pornography, Sotos is a hero and a martyr to free expression, according to Parfrey…. Parfrey also declares that apart from Pure, 'the most refreshing art or tracts I've seen lately have been from clinical schizophrenics and racist revolutionaries. Their avenging monomania powerfully transcends the wan self-pity and hair-splittings of the status quo'. Because these forms of extremist art could never become commercialised or Madison Avenue-d, they somehow become 'pure': Neo-Nazi genocidal venom is, for Parfrey, a distant descendant of anarcho-mystics like the Free Spirits or the Ranters, 'Aesthetic Terrorists of half a millenia ago...[who] were burnt at the stake for suggesting the then demonic idea that every human was in some way god-like and should therefore find freedom in the exercise of free will'. In
the interview that follows Parfrey's manifesto, Peter Sotos elaborates on his aesthetics of terror: 'I don't find everyone who kills, beats or rapes someone admirable. I'm interested and respectful of those who view and understand their instincts completely and correctly and then go about satisfying them.'Ian Brady is the consummate murderer as virtuoso ('he fucked and tortured little Lesley Downey every way imaginable before smashing her tiny skull in half') whereas Manson and Ed Gein are incompetent artists who had 'no idea of what they really wanted.... It's analogous to fine music--anyone can bash an
instrument and make noise but it takes a skilled, intelligent and insightful individual to make music.' Artists in the traditional sense of the word aren't singleminded enough for him; Sotos prefers individuals who bridge the gap between art and life--'a
breed of genius' that includes Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and Streicher.”
more info on Sotos
>‘artists’ of the Third Reich”
One PURE issue’s editorial quotes Goebbels on how Mankind divides into predators and domesticated pets, then declares: “PURE exists, then, for those who desire extremities and are tired of listening to/or acting like housepets. Pure satiates and encourages true lusts.”
Other things that make NwW “industrial”-- the starting point of extreme lack of conventional technique (Stapleton is more like a producer than a musician, to this day he still cannot play any instruments), and the debts to Dada and surrealism. Hell, Stapleton even married an extreme performance artist!
Full simile: "he is beautiful… as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!"
Lautreamont, aka Isidore Ducasse, was worshipped by the Situationoists as a heroic ancestor. Here’s what Andre Breton said:
“...That dazzling figure of black light, the Comte de Lautreamont. In the eyes of certain contemporary poets, Maldoror and the Poesies sparkle with incomparable brilliance. They are the expression of a total revelation that seems to exceed human possibility. All of modern life, in its most specific aspects, is sublimated in one stroke. His backdrops revolve on the swinging doors of ancient suns that illuminate the sapphire floor; the silver-beaked gaslamp, winged and smiling, that glides over the Seine; the green membranes of space and the shops of Rue Vivienne, prey to the crystalline rays from the center of the earth. An absolutely virgin eye lies in wait for the scientific perfection of the world, disregarding the consciously utilitarian nature of this perfection, situating it with all the rest in the light of apocalypse. Definitive apocalypse: in this work, the great instinctive pulsebeats are lost and exalted on contact with an asbestos cage containing a white-hot heart. For centuries to come, the most audacious things that can be thought or undertaken will find their magic law formulated here in advance. “
Les Chants du Maldoror happens to be my favorite book EVER.
>list of ‘electric experimental music’
Annotated list at http://tgk.konshak.org/nww/tgksnwwlist.html with info on the artists, links, whether the album in question has been reissued, etc
>junk… sex and magic in an industrial setting
Newton’s DVA partner and soul-mate was a “too fast to live, too young to die” character called Judd, “a Dionysus who will always remain in the minds of those who knew him as eternally young…” according to Newton. He died of a heroin overdose.
>A relationship with TG
With whom DVA shared a lot of inputs: Ballard, Duchamp, Aleister Crowley, R.D. Laing, Kenneth Anger…
>White Souls Black Suits
Before this record DVA recorded an EP for the Small Wonder label called Sex Works Beyond Entanglement--the soundtrack for an experimental film called Genitals and Genosis-- but for various reasons it was never released.
The back cover featured P-Orridge-penned sleevenotes about music as “magick, a religious phenomena that short circuits Control through human response”.
“That’s what we’re… makes you move”--Newton. MM
The track was inspired by Newton’s interest in lucid dreaming.
“Discipline”, which was released posthumously, after the mission’s termination
She fulminates against pop music for displacing "manly" activities like athletics. When the rancid old nut opines that “the people who constantly listen to pop have their ears degraded by wrong style and reiteration, senseless reiteration...” Skidoo mischievously double-loop the word "reiteration".
>inspired by Gristle musically
Turnbull says the influence was more their attitude to performing live. “They were such terrorists, you know, virtually locking people in rooms and making their ears bleed”.
Genesis P-Orridge says the relationship went beyond being protégés
“I don't know if you knew but I produced their first twoalbums? I took my TG "box of tricks" (including agristleizer and mini-harmonizer) and processed a lotof the music through that.”
>Highly rhythmic groups
Also the Pop Group, obviously, and Cabaret Voltaire
Skidoo were aquainted with not just his Iranian pop singer sampling track “Persian Love” on 1980 album Movies, but 1969’s Canaxis, which featured a Vietnamese boat-womans’ song
>The Culling Is Coming
more information here, http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk/23Skidoobio.html
An extension of Seven Songs’s closer “Quiet Pillage”--a TG-style homage to Martin Denny and his massive Fifties hit “Quiet Village”
Their whole career could be said to have sprung from a single song, “Discipline”, and the single image of TG on the cover, posing outside the building that was once the Third Reich’s Ministry of Propaganda. For much more on this Slovenian Laibach--who started out doing noise environmental recordings made at Yugoslavian factories and progressed to a sort of parodic stadium-rock-as-fascism shtick (preposterously over-orchestrated versions of “Sympathy for the Devil”, “One Vision”, “Life is Life” etc--) check out Interrogation Machine by Alexei Monroe. Laibach the band was just one front of the NSK (Neu Slowenische Kunst) organization, which continued its parody-of-totalitarianism (or are they for real? we'll never know) with the parallel art-collective Irwin and parallel dance troupe whose name I forget. The whole 20 years plus enterprise culminating in the creation of a fake nation-state complete with passports, paperwork, uniforms, flags, and for all I know their own gulags! Interrogation Machine reminds me a bit of Simon Ford’s Gristle tome Wreckers of Civilisation, both for its meticulous, unstinting detailedness and the powerful sense it conveys of industrial as the most content-heavy and intent-heavy form of music ever--in that sense, for all its refusal of rock’n’roll as sound, the most rockist form of music ever.
More on Laibach at http://www.gla.ac.uk/~dc4w/laibach/hpart1.html
Picture gallery of just some of the children of Gristle:
Notes From Underground -- amazing resource of industrial music and tape-trading culture zines from (mostly) the Eighties, scanned and available for download
Nurse With Wound interview archive
Nurse with Wound homepage
United Dairies (nurse with wound’s label) discography
Audion’s (massive) Guide to Nurse With Wound
Full transcript of a long interview with Genesis P-Orridge about his musical influences, by Alan Licht for The Wire, http://www.thewire.co.uk/web/unpublished/genesis_p-orridge.html
A long, touching interview with Genesis P-Orridge at Radar magazine which fills in a lot of detail about his childhood and early life (much of it not in Wreckers of Civilisation) and also stuff on his post-TG life, his relationship with Jaqueline Breyer, experiments with pandrogeny, being widowed and so forth.
interviews with William Bennett
Bennett's label Susan Lawly, with an extensive archive of interviews, "live action" dossiers, etc etc
Whitehouse and porno art critiqued by Stewart Home
William Bennett's blog
All non-pictorial contents copyright Simon Reynolds unless otherwise indicated