Interview moderated by Alan Licht
GPO: Genesis P-Orridge
BC: Bjorn Copeland
EC: Eric Copeland
AW: Aaron Warren
AL: Alan Licht
And a taste of what’s discussed this time around: The Soft Machine, Incredible String Band, vengeful drummers, flamboyancy in music, seeing the Sweet in a sports bar, Wax Trax, cadavers, sound-induced seizures, talking to William S. Burroughs about alchemy, the definition of reality, Jesus as a hermaphrodite, Second Life, Genesis’ years as a dominatrix, plastic surgery, homophobia, Cruise and Kubrick, money, Coachella, reunion show politics, near-death overdoses, Pussy Galore specials, Tony Conrad team-ups, DFA-endorsed black sheep, the Grateful Dead, drug tolerance, rude fans, magic, and much, much more…
BC: Were bands like AMM influential to you?
GPO: Oh yeah, definitely. Cornelius Cardew. And the early Soft Machine was interesting.
AW: The first Soft Machine is the best fucking record ever.
BC: Yeah, the first one is badass.
GPO: You know about it! Alright! Isn’t it great?
AW: I listen to that record once a month, it’s so good. I listen to one song, I have to listen to the whole thing.
BC: They don’t stay that good though, they get sort of jazzy:
GPO: How many people would know about them over here? Well done, you lot. Fancy that being a point of commonality! [Laughter]
BC: That Robert Wyatt solo stuff is gorgeous–I mean, it’s depressing as hell, but–
GPO: There’s a couple of Kevin Ayers things that are nice as well.
BC: A lot of those bands were just exciting:John’s Children:
GPO: I’ve got their record. Marc Bolan was in John’s Children–
BC: The Action, Creation, we had friends who were into a lot of mod psych stuff.
GPO: Oh, you’ll find all of those round the corner [laughs]. Also we loved the Incredible String Band.
BC: I didn’t keep any of my Incredible String Band records, I kinda:
EC: 5000 Layers of the Onion:
GPO: That’s not the best one, though.
EC: That’s the one I got most into, although I like Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter.
GPO: We like the way they do this basically acoustic music and do these long, strange, complicated songs. But then all of a sudden they’re singing about being an amoeba, or a butterfly or whatever, they’ll just twitch and change.
EC: Did you ever see them when you were still in England?
GPO: Oh yeah, cause some of the Exploding Galaxy joined them as the Stone Monkey:
BC: It could sound sort of affected sometimes, to someone who was listening to it 30 years after it was recorded, like listening to â€œPictures of Matchstick Men.â€
GPO: Oh, but I like that too.
BC: It’s a good jam, but when you hear compared to other stuff it sounds like a really formulaic version of what a psych song is, flange the shit out of the vocal:
GPO: Yeah, but the Incredible String Band was something that took me ages to get into. The people who liked it at university were people that we didn’t like. [Laughter] It was sort of nerdy, almost.
BC: The Grateful Dead’s the epitome of that in the US, I can’t hang with all those jams, and shit like that, but some of those records I think are gorgeous:
AW: The story of the band is incredible:
BC: Yeah, it seems like the quintessential punk band, it’s all fueled on acid money, they’re dosing five or six thousand people at a gig, playing whatever the fuck they want:
GPO: We’ve got 20 CDs by the Incredible String Band, at least.
BC: Are some of those bootlegs?
GPO: There’s bootlegs, there’s live shows, there’s John Peel sessions.
EC: Did you see the movie?
AL: Was there a movie about them?
GPO: It’s really bad [laughs].
EC: It’s like a pirate movie.
BC: When you see photos of old Soft Machine with face paint and stuff like that, even that looks pretty hokey:
GPO: We like stuff like that now, though. Our guitarist in Psychic TV now, David Max, he does face paint. But he does because he’s so
kitsch. He can’t take it seriously. But then we try and be as silly as we can onstage.
BC: I think people have a hard time not taking themselves seriously as musicians, or bands. When you look through an issue of MOJO or something like that, it’s just the most pretentious-looking photographs. When I look at it now, I just think, how exhausting, to keep that shit up:
GPO: We have competitions onstage to see who can mess up somebody else in a song [laughter], and who can do the stupidest dance. You got to do stuff like that, otherwise it’s no fun.
BC: Otherwise you’re watching MTV, basically.
EC: I knew some friends on tour who had a fight in the van. They were all against the drummer. And every day the drummer fucked up the set, once, for every time they got in a fight, and would point it out. [Laughter]
AL: The drummer’s revenge.
[The conversation somehow shifts to “Bohemian Rhapsody”…]
GPO: That has to be one of the weirdest songs to get to No. 1.
EC: I think it’s one of the only songs that’s done it twice.
GPO: Has it?
BC: Cause once Wayne’s World came out, in America at least, it was on the soundtrack to that.
AL: Oh, that’s right.
GPO: But it’s a strange, strange thing.
BC: I have a hard time getting into music with that degree of flamboyancy to it. [Genesis laughs] I guess ELO is pretty close to that…
GPO: Yes it is [laughter], although Philip K. Dick loved ELO. Their harmonies are fantastic. You know they used to be part of the Move, right?
AW: Oh yeah, they’re pretty great.
BC: They really seemed like they were outside of the whole psych thing, cause they seemed slick:
GPO: Well, they were from Birmingham.
BC: I don’t need to go back there [laughter].
GPO: I don’t like Birmingham either.
BC: We played on Hawkwind’s touring PA, and apparently it had been Pink Floyd’s. It was mostly gigantic bass bins.
GPO: It is Pink Floyd’s, and it does go out, but it’s not very well cared for.
AW: And it seems like it’s more of a sculptural, architectural:
BC: This guy that owns this repair place here, EARS, used to be Rick Wright’s keyboard tech, and then he was Vangelis’ keyboard tech, the Sweet’s keyboard tech, this guy always drops some knowledge about…
GPO: Saw the Sweet once.
AW: Oh yeah?
GPO: They were great. We liked them. You know, when they play live they do long jams, 17-minute jams or so.
EC: Of, like, blockbusters?
GPO: Weird, psychedelic blues. They’d go off.
AW: Did you see them in the U.S., or:
GPO: I saw them in Chi-ca-go. Of all places. In a sports bar.
BC: I bet they’d go over great with the local sports bar crowd.
GPO: Couldn’t believe that they were on. We were hanging out with Pigface and somebody–it might have been Chris Connelly–went, “My god, Sweet are playing, we’ve gotta go.” So we all stormed down to this sports bar near the baseball stadium and lo and behold, there they were! It was a tragedy, really, to see it, it was like 30 people.
AW: Holy shit:
GPO: And we were the only ones who were into it [laughs].
AL: What year was this?
AW: Early ’80s?
GPO: No, no, no this was ’90s.
AW: Oh shit. [Laughter]
BC: Who’s the dude you said, Chris Connelly? That’s the guy who wrote us, right?
GPO: He was in Revolting Cocks and Ministry.
BC: He wrote us to see if he could send us some vocals throw on some Dice jams.
GPO: He’s really sweet. He used to hitchhike down from Glasgow to Hackney, to my house, when he was about 15, hang out with the TG people. Ruined his life [laughter]. He just wrote a book actually, My Life as a Revolting Cock. It’s really good. It deals the shit on Al Jourgenson too. They are no longer friends.
BC: We were talking about Ministry. They were a band that I never really got into. Aaron was pointing out that it was too catchy and not heavy enough. I kind of like the idea of that shit now.
GPO: Wax Trax was kind of an interesting label, they built up this library of bands that had a certain edge to them, KMFDM:
EC: Wax Trax was in Denver?
GPO: No, they were in Chicago.
AW: I used to work at Wax Trax when I was in Colorado. I used to pump the owner for information on the Chicago aspect of it and the bands.
GPO: They were great, they signed Psychic TV and they sold bucketfuls of albums for us.
BC: This blows my mind. My impression of the American independent music landscape has always been–it’s always seemed pretty hopeless.
GPO: We sold 40 or 50,000 of Towards Thee Infinite Beat in a couple of months.
AW: Fucking inconceivable.
BC: You’re speaking a different language, those kind of numbers. [Laughter] Drop a zero.
AW: No, drop two zeros. [Laughter]
GPO: Well, that was the only time that ever happened to us. And it was great because I paid to record the masters, so I owned it completely.
BC: A lesson I wish we had learned a while ago. [Laughter]
GPO: I didn’t know any other way to do it, apart from the fluke when we ended up on CBS. We never got a fucking penny out of them–cause we did it this way with the holophonic sound, of course, it meant that every bit of money that we would have got from the advance went on that.
BC: Is that a hard record to get?
GPO: Steve-O is still bootlegging it. He just recycles all those albums over and over and he never pays anyone. So at any given moment, if he’s recycling, then it’s available. However, we’re in the process of doing the definitive two-CD set of it, cause I have all the alternate mixes and everything.
BC: Have you ever heard that woman Maryanne Amacher? I guess she studied under Stockhausen. This one CD, the only one I’ve heard, it came out on Tzadik–
GPO: Is she the one who did the star sounds, the radio waves:
BC: This has to do more with:I met her, and she told me had gotten really interested in recordings that were recorded off of cadavers eardrums, they would send a tone in and she was talking about how the eardrum could be an instrument as well.
AL: Yeah, she activates this stuff in your inner ear. You hear this thing that’s only going on inside your head.
BC: It’s very physical. You feel like your ears are bleeding in a non-painful way, but it only works in an architectural space, you can’t do it with headphones, you have to listen to it at a pretty decent volume, on a stereo or a PA.
GPO: I don’t know that, but it’s fascinating.
BC: Throbbing Gristle was probably the first band where I heard of a sound making people sick. [Genesis laughs] People were shitting their pants, and this is one of the only types of music I’ve experienced:
GPO: The most interesting was when we played the Film Coop. Two women said they’d had spontaneous orgasms. And we asked them what song it was so we could go back on the cassette and find the moment.
BC: The G-spot on the tape. [Laughs] We have a history of people having seizures at the shows, was that ever a problem?
GPO: Not knowingly. We’ve not heard of it. But, now, with PTV3, Eddie, the drummer, he has seizures if there’s a strobe on.
AL: Were you guys [Black Dice] using strobes?
BC: No, no, it was just from the music.
AW: Or just from having an epileptic person.
BC: There’s been enough times that it’s happened. Now we have projections that are pretty strobe-y. So that heightens it, but I like the fact that you can be dealing with a medium that most people associate with one sense.
GPO: Well it’s obvious, isn’t it? Sound is going in the flesh too. You’re being hit by it everywhere, not just here [points to ear]. The deep frequencies are literally vibrating your stomach.
EC: I was reading that 33 1/3 book on 20 Jazz Funk Greats. It was in a bathroom, though, so I only had it for a couple of minutes. [Laughter]
GPO: Well you were lucky.
EC: The reason I brought it up is both sections I turned to used the word alchemy, and I was kinda curious now that you’re talking about sound giving you a physical reaction, it seems like it’s maybe an idea that’s followed your life?
GPO: Well, we visualize alchemy. Burroughs talked to me about that too. In the Middle Ages, the alchemist was the person who had the most radical equipment–glass test tubes, little flames, mercury, and other elements. If you were going to be an alchemist now, it should include a Walkman, or a Holophonic recorder, or whatever is the most cutting-edge equipment. That in fact, alchemy is an ongoing organic process that’s at the edge of technology–pushing, breaking and reassembling it so that it changes physical and mental responses to something.
That’s what we were talking about, like turning six Walkmen into a keyboard and seeing what happens when you have random sounds from 12 places happening simultaneously. What does it do to the brain? Does the brain re-sift them and listen one at a time? Or is it overloaded, and then if it’s overloaded, which message goes in–my vocal, the guitar, or what?
BC: Do you think that also applies to visual assemblages and collages too?
GPO: Yeah, now we use the video more for that With Psychic TV, we make the music far more traditionally rock, we all jump around, do the broken leg dance and what have you. But while we’re doing that, the images are going past, we’ve distracted the filter. The images are really the rhetoric, or the propaganda, if you like.
EC: That seems like a school of thought that has a body of knowledge behind it. Do you feel like that’s been informative, or do you feel like that’s been something that’s been peripheral? I mean, do you read that shit, or:
GPO: Oh–I read about new maths and new physics, yeah. All the time. It’s fascinating. Everyday of my life, we contemplate the nature of reality, and the definition of reality, and the possibility that there is no reality, what was before there was nothing. Those questions obsess me. All the time.
EC: Do you believe in Atlantis?
GPO: No. [Pauses, then chuckles] No, but we believe that something happened somewhere that was disastrous that became:a myth, or a parable, or a story. I mean that’s easy to see, it happens with people like you or me. I’m sure there’s some gig you did that there’s a story about that isn’t the truth but it’s an exaggeration of the truth. That’s how it happens. [Laughter] After 10,000 years, that could become something quite different and seem either old fashioned or potent, depending on the state of culture at the time. So, we’re always trying to mess with the internal mechanisms of culture, far more than we’re trying to make good art.
EC: Who do you mean by “we?”
GPO: Well, we’ve actually been a bit lazy today, for simplicity, but normally we say “we” to mean me and Lady Jaye.
EC: Ah, ok.
GPO: We represent me and Lady Jaye in this dimension, and she represents us on her own. Not “we” the band.
EC: Or popular culture.
GPO: No. But we didn’t remember to define it at the beginning so we’ve been slipping back and forth.
AL: I remember you talking about these paintings from Medieval times that depicted Jesus as a hermaphrodite?
GPO: No, no, God, Adam and Eve. All the original paintings that we know of of the Garden of Eden depict God, Adam and Eve as hermaphrodites. Quite literally. And they were around around the time of the Holy Roman Empire destroying the Cathars, the heretics in the South of France, because they knew about the Virgin Mary being there. And the witches, because they knew all about pagan knowledge and medicine and so on, they were also destroying all the paintings. It was a coup. The Roman Catholic Church did a European coup which was very successful…The divine state has to be both. It can’t be binary; it has to be unity.
AL: There was also this exhibition I went to of Byzantine art, and there were all these portraits of Jesus and he was always black. You see some slightly later portraits after the west had infiltrated, and all of sudden it was this white guy with long hair and a beard. But the early depictions of him are not that at all.
GPO: Like a dark skinned Arab.
AL: Exactly. Which makes more sense considering where the whole story takes place.
GPO: Of course. Now the Catholic Church, if you really look, make Jesus look like a tranny, very feminized. Very feminized.
BC: That’s a popular look though, I feel like most women on TV, like Desperate Housewives, they all look like trannys. [Laughter]
GPO: You only have to look in the back of the Village Voice. Seventy-percent of the sex service is now with she-males.
BC: I wonder how many people look through that stuff, whack off and then realize it was a she-male:
GPO: There’s been this really deep shift of heterosexual men who have been cheating on their wives by going to these she-males. That’s a huge ratio of supposedly straight men. What does this mean? We don’t know; but it’s interesting. We tend to think it reinforces our argument about evolutionary trajectory to the hermaphrodite.
BC: That’s what we’re evolving towards, or:
GPO: It’s a symbolic evolution towards inclusiveness, as opposed to separation. To us, that’s what it really represents. The reappraisal of the way society works, and the role that people have in the way they’re split male/female, good/bad, black/white, etc. But that’s actually becoming damaging to us in terms of our future.
BC: I feel like technology is eradicating the distinctions in some ways. I remember seeing on the news how kids who are going to college are all best fuckin’ friends on the Internet, but then when they show up at school, they don’t know how to have a conversation with a human being. The Internet is a medium that levels the playing field in this one way.
AW: That’s like the whole avatar kind of thing. A chick will be like, “I’m just gonna be this big black dude and just see how that is.”
BC: What’s avatar?
GPO: A symbolic representation, an icon of who you pretend to be.
AW: Yeah, like something like Second Life, you heard of that?
GPO: You can go and you can build a person, literally a three-dimensional:
AW: It’s like a game, kinda.
EC: It’s virtual?
AW: It’s virtual. You can have sex, you can buy a coffee, sell your record, you can do all this different shit. And you can fuckin’ work at a job if you want, or you can be like a serial killer. Being like a hot chick, if you’re this homely dude:
BC: It brings up weird questions.
GPO: Lady Jaye and myself worked as dominatrices at a dungeon for quite a long time. She did it for years. And the two most common things people ask for is to be made to look like a pretty woman, and to be fucked up the ass with a dildo.
GPO: Those are the two most common fantasies. So deep down, there’s a whole other language, and a whole other life going on. And things like you were just talking about with avatars, are giving people a safe way to start to check it out.
AW: Or even a video game where you pick the chick to be your character, you know what I’m saying?
GPO: And then the whole thing with cosmetic surgery. Ten years ago, everyone in Hollywood was trying to say, â€œNo, I’ve never had anything done.â€ And now they’re doing TV shows where people are boasting about what they’ve had done. So that’s also shifted from sort of a nasty secret to something to be proud of. Sadly it also made it something that could be used as a status symbol, which is a shame. But it’s getting cheaper all the time now.
BC: There was something on the news recently about some women who had their asses done to look like J Lo’s, but it was an unlicensed doctor and he was using industrial silicone…
GPO: Oh, no:
BC: Their systems just shut down, and one of them died.
AW: Holy fuck.
GPO: A lot of the transsexual women in New York that aren’t well off, they use that industrial silicone too. They have parties where they just sit there and inject loads of it into their asses. It’s so sad and bad, you know? They’re that desperate to be curvy, that they’ll risk dying young:I mean, how many old trannys do you know? Not many. So they’re dying young.
BC: A lot of times, though, you have to wonder if that just has to do with the type of lifestyle anyway?
GPO: Yeah, I know–it’s a hard lifestyle, too. A lot of them work as hookers to get the money.
BC: Yeah, I guess now you hear so much about meth within the gay community, but I imagine that it’s rampant:
GPO: But under all of that is this definite shift in the west–obviously it’s different elsewhere–and especially in the United States.
BC: The hip-hop culture’s super homo…
GPO: Yeah, there’s been a big shift away from being afraid of experimentation.
BC: I think they’re still afraid of talking about it, but the behavior:
GPO: You know the words â€œdown low.â€ We didn’t know that before. That’s quite a change.
EC: It’s still pretty predominant for them to be like, â€œI’ll fuck you up, faggot.â€ There’s still a very aggressive:
BC: Dancehall and reggae culture is super homophobic, but all the behavior that you see when you watch those dudes doing those dances and stuff. If dudes where we grew up danced like that, you would get your ass kicked.
EC: And every major celebrity has been outed as:closeted, or a very complicated, homosexual lifestyle, even like Will Smith:
BC: Tom Cruise:
EC: Not that it matters, but it puts it in popular tabloids:
BC: I saw [Tom Cruise] on Punk’d, and he was just freaky on that. He couldn’t even be on a prank show and be mellow, he had this maniacal:like clapping really loudly and jumping around:
AL: Actually I think a lot of his whole trip is due to having to be closeted this whole time, because he’s America’s sweetheart:
GPO: America’s sweetheart? I don’t know what he is. He looks like a clone:
AL: Like a Stepford Wife.
GPO: I think he looks like he’s been cloned; I think he’s not the original one. I think the original one died in experiments:
BC: Acting experiments. [Laughter]
GPO: This is just the third generation copy.
BC: A lot of his movies are kind of trash but I think he’s actually really good in a lot of them. He’s good in Risky Business, and Top Gun is a wallpaper kind of movie, but he’s good in that. He’s good in Magnolia:
GPO: What was that one about the rich man with the distorted face?
EC: Vanilla Sky.
GPO: Yeah, that was alright.
AW: He’s good in Eyes Wide Shut.
BC: He is good in Eyes Wide Shut, but he always plays a similar dude–this guy who’s tightly wound and:
EC: Eyes Wide Shut was supposed to be Kubrick’s anti-Hollywood movie–his mind control, sex slave movie. But I re-watched it trying to figure it out, and I thought it was just fucking boring.
AW: No, man, it’s fucking good.
GPO: You like it?
AW: I think it’s good. I think it’s great. It’s just a weird, tense:in a way it’s just a trifle, domestic quibble type of thing, but then in this other way it deals with people’s fantasies, and in a way they’re not even that dark, or that dangerous or anything like that, but in this other way it deals with this kind of domestic fantasy. It’s almost like a throwback to an earlier kind of safer fantasy. The tone is completely unique, and I feel like the scale on which it was made and released is like you having the budget to do your weird record…When it came out it was so huge but it satisfied no one. [Genesis laughs] Even hardcore Kubrick fans were like, â€œI don’t know, it wasn’t that great.â€
GPO: Do you give it two thumbs up or two thumbs down?
AW: Two double thumbs up.
GPO: [Applauds] That was a very, very good critique. [Laughter]
BC: The Shining is one of my favorite movies ever, and it’s one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
GPO: It’s truly spooky, isn’t it?
EC: Have you guys ever seen Let’s Scare Jessica To Death?
AW: Oh yeah, that’s a cool movie.
EC: I just watched that last night–a scary ’70s woman-going-insane movie.
AW: It’s well-crafted, but it’s cheap. If you look at the lighting setups and shit:it’s gritty, but that chick is totally unbelievable.
EC: They’re like retreating to this house in the country:
AW: She just got out of an institution, so like ’70s, hippie:
EC: There’s like, maybe a spirit:
AW: And the soundtrack is like a shitty Korg Polysynth. [Laughter]
BC: There’s very few creative projects think are as tight as 2001. That movie pushes ideas in every single direction. Visually, it’s gorgeous, from a forward-thinking point of view, there’s so much input from designers:and most of the shit they show in that is stuff that’s pretty much in existence now.
AL: The way he used music in those movies has become so identified with the music now. Like Clockwork Orange or even some of the classical music he uses in 2001.
GPO: Where do you see your music in 10 years? Would you like to do film soundtracks? I know we’d love to.
EC: I think there’s something exciting about taking something that you do and putting it with something that you don’t do. Not that you or us couldn’t make a film, but in 10 years:I have no fucking clue. Ten years ago, if you had asked me, I would not have expected to be anywhere where I am right now.
GPO: Nor would we have expected to be at fucking Coachella, right? [Laughter]
EC: Touche. I would love to see where it goes. Like you were saying, I think there’s a type of attitude where you want to take your ideas somewhere, and then there’s the type of attitude where you’re like, “I want to see what happens.”
BC: If you’re doing things that are left of center, to do it with any sort of longevity, you have to have ideas. And sometimes they don’t jibe with what people like. There was a weird point in New York where all of a sudden every magazine was writing about bands from here–the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, the Strokes–and we were kind of fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to get noticed in this way. We did a record that people seemed really receptive to, and all the people we knew who made noisy music were like, “This is really weird. There’s never this many people at these kinds of gigs.”
You either have to have a really tight relationship with the people you’re working with, or some sort of support to make decisions where you know you’re going to disappoint and piss people off. I don’t think it’s always coming from a bratty place. You have your ideas, and at the end of the day, that’s all you’re going to be remembered by–these things that you’ve done.
GPO: Do the Liars still even exist?
BC: I think so.
GPO: The Strokes? We never hear about the Strokes. So you’ve lasted longer than them, you see. Which is an interesting point. Look at TG–how it’s lasted longer than all those other people who had hit records then.
BC: Longer than Soft Cell.
GPO: So that’s why we’re asking, because it’s often the more experimental people that end up being the ones that are remembered, because they’ve done something that’s actually changed perceptions.
AW: I think it’s different if you’re at the level where you’re just living off of the music. This is one of the main things with us, and some of our friends. We look at people we know and are like, “What the fuck? How are they making a living off music, and we’re working these shit jobs and can barely survive? There’s a certain kind of freedom that comes with that, though.
GPO: There is. You’re not censored by the need to keep making the money.
BC: Everyone’s had a friend whose band got popular, and then they fully went for it, started dressing in a bunch of douchey clothes:
GPO: Doing the whole thing.
BC: Yeah, and everyone we know who’s done that no longer has a band.
GPO: Well, let’s assume that you’re the young, new version of TG, which is fair enough. In 10 or 15 years, you’ll be at that 25-year mark, where everyone reforms and people like Coachella ring up. What’s that going to feel like? Will you be playing all the way through?
AW: I’ve actually thought about it even this week, cause I’ve been:I have a hard time thinking people are going to be that into it, just given the current state of things. We eke it out right now. It’s really hard to imagine.
BC: This is the only band I’ve played in, and we’re brothers, and Aaron has basically spent as much time with us as Eric and I have spent together in our lives:I don’t want to play with anybody else, really. I think when you play with people a certain length of time, there’s some stuff that you don’t have to talk about, and that becomes kind of essential in getting ideas across.
GPO: We have this theory that you’re going to end up in the same sort of place that we’re in. [Laughter]
EC: I don’t know if that’s a threat or a promise. [Laughter]
GPO: Nor do we. [Laughs] We’re not sure if we like the idea of going onstage at Coachella. It’s probably the most scary thing that’s ever happened…Here’s the problem: the TG that got booked by Coachella is the mythical TG, right? The myth, the weird anecdotes–but that’s not me now. So that means they want me to act Gen when Gen was 25.
BC: But what they love about the old one is the fact that you wouldn’t have acquiesced and done what they wanted, at that time.
GPO: Is it, though? Or is it that they want that snapshot? They want just once to have that gratuitous snapshot of what it was like 25 years ago. It’s a very strange place to be at.
EC: It’s not like you’ve been making Throbbing Gristle songs since ’75.
GPO: No. But that’s the problem…I don’t recognize that angry young person that was nuts and drank whiskey, taking Valium before they went onstage. Don’t know who that is, really. I’m not angry.
EC: Do you feel like you have a relationship with the audience, or with some booker that you feel is important?
GPO: My only concern is the audience.
EC: That they’ll like it or that they won’t like it?
GPO: No, that we won’t let them down by doing something that isn’t real in any way.
EC: How many of the audience at a Coachella-type show do you think have invested that much in:
GPO: Not many.
AW: But these other shows that you’re doing, the hardest core people are going to be there.
GPO: But are they hardest core because of what we were, or what we might be now?
EC: Because of what you were, for sure.
GPO: Then if I’m me now, what happens? When [Lady] Jaye saw us for the first time, she had no real interest in TG. She didn’t even know that I’d been in TG, thank god. And then afterwards she said, â€œOh god, now I understand. It’s so fucking physical. I’ve seen MotÃ¶rhead, Celtic Frost and hardcore bands–nothing was like that. I get it now.”
BC: Ultimately, everyone in the band are the same people that made that adventurous, and whether someone’s older or looks different or has gotten into different music or chilled out or gotten more intense, I think there’s some things that are always going to stay there. With any band:
GPO: I guess it’s that thing of trying to be truly honest when you’re onstage, in the moment and not pandering. Do you know what I mean? And the longer the history goes on, the harder that seems to get. It can get very confusing. There’s all these reviews and comments, push and pull, in your head:
BC: And ultimately it’s probably all from people you probably don’t give a shit about, or have a whole lot of respect for:
GPO: Yeah. I wish Jaye was here, cause she’d just slap me in the face and say, â€œShut up and just fucking do it.â€ [Laughter]
EC: A lot of these reformations seem like it’s, “Play this record and we’ll give you X amount of money.” And to me that’s a very personal decision: Do I get down and do this, or…
GPO: Tou’ll be glad to know I’ve sent a list of songs I refuse to sing. [Laughs] Cause I can’t do them and be real.
BC: But if the Pretty Things can play S.F. Sorrow:
GPO: Oh, god! They do it so well, have you seen them do it?
AL: Or Question Mark and the Mysterians.
EC: But like, Sonic Youth does Daydream Nation, and I bet they play it well, but as an audience member does it matter as much, and does it matter as much to them?
GPO: What matters to me is to be lost in it. Truly, truly lost in it, in the moment.
EC: That’s fair.
BC: I agree.
GPO: And it worries me that I might not be.
EC: Hopefully you can bring that attitude on stage.
GPO: Fucking hope so. I might have to get drunk.
BC: What percentage of your shows did you have to–or do you have to be–kinda loaded to do it?
GPO: With TG, nearly every one. But not with Psychic TV.
BC: For me, I would say it’s at least in 98-percent of the gigs.
GPO: It got more so. One reason we split up was Monte [Cazazza] said to me in 1979, ’80, “Gen, they want to see you take it so far that you die on stage.” And we said we don’t want to die onstage. He said, â€œDon’t. Do it out of spite–stay alive out of spite. Cause then all the people who hate will be really pissed off that you didn’t kill yourself. And all the assholes who thought they liked you, that wanted you to die onstage will be pissed off too, so stay alive.â€
And actually, it was really important that he said that, cause I was really on the edge. I had overdoses a few times. At the Crypt, a club under a church, I nearly died. I woke up in intensive care.
EC: What was your opinion on G.G. Allin and shit like that?
GPO: He should have stayed alive out of spite [laughs].
BC: We were just watching a video of his last gig:
AW: It’s fuckin’ wild.
GPO: Jaye was there.
AW: It’s a different world.
EC: We were watching it together and Aaron goes, â€œIf you walked out on fucking Avenue A and East 3rd right now in nothing but your underwear, there’d be a fucking police helicopter escorting you away.â€
AW: Yeah, [G.G.]’s like, catching a cab! [Laughter]
EC: And the cab stops! What cabbie’s gonna stop for:
GPO: And then they take him to wherever he ODs.
BC: That’s what’s so depressing–all these other people are getting off on his:
GPO: Exactly. Don’t do it because they’re getting off on it.
BC: Yeah. I feel like a psychiatrist could break him down in two seconds. You’re watching this dude who’s got the smallest dick you’ve ever seen on film, basically:
GPO: Is that right?
AW: Dude, he’s gotta protect that shit, man. He’s like, totally exposed to the streets of New York:
GPO: So when did you both start playing music, being bros?
BC: Eric started first, actually.
EC: 14, or 15. Or 13.
GPO: Playing what? What did you pick up first?
EC: I started playing bass first, and pretty immediately after picking up any instrument I feel like I started getting into self-recording. I got this little four-track, I probably had it for six years. And then, it was weird, cause I had a couple of years where I didn’t have anything to self-record on. It was a very different couple of years. And now I’m back into it.
BC: We both got into music when we were really little. By the end of high school, all my friends who were into music were into the Dead, and Phish, and Allman Brothers, the really jammy stuff. [Genesis laughs]. And so I was like, “There’s no way I can play with any of my friends. I don’t like this music at all.” Once I got to college, Eric and a friend of mine convinced me to buy this $70 guitar. They were like, â€œThat’s a total Pussy Galore special.â€
GPO: So it was like the Woolworth’s guitar.
BC: Kinda. It probably had three different guitars combined into that one. The neck was like a bass neck, two inches deep. It was impossible to play, but:
GPO: When Cosey got that one from Woolworth’s, she turned to Chris and went, â€œIt’s too heavy.â€ So he got a saw and just shaved off all this spare wood. That’s how she ended up with the little one.
BC: Eric’s first band, the bass player had an old Univox hollow body. He tied a fuckin’ pair of shoes on the other end and it balanced out. [Laughter]
GPO: You never answered that question of what will happen to you all in 10 years if you’re still playing together…
EC: I feel the same way you do. I’d like to be as independent as possible. I don’t know what that means, but I would like not to have to worry about:
GPO: Well, we don’t have a record deal with anyone. [Laughs]
AW: Which is fuckin’ cool:
EC: But you guys could get one if you wanted.
GPO: No, we tried. They say we’re not commercial, even now.
BC: I find that interesting, because nowadays there’s actually bands that are:
GPO: We went ’round with the Hell is Invisible thing. No one would sign it. Al Jourgensen said he was going to sign it, and then right at the last minute, he wrote this nice email saying, “Sorry, changed our mind, we’re not gonna do it.”
BC: What about Trent Reznor?
GPO: He didn’t even reply.
AW: Probably didn’t actually get it.
GPO: No, nobody thinks that we’re in any way worthy of an investment.
EC: Where do you think you’re gonna be in 10 years?
GPO: Dead [laughs]. I’ll be 59 in about 10 days.
AW: Fuck! Man, you look good.
GPO: I cheat. I’ve had plastic surgery.
EC: 69, you’re not gonna be dead:
GPO: No, 59:
EC: In ten years.
AW: I mean, 69 is young by today’s standards.
BC: You can still perform at 69. Bob Seger, I’m sure he’s still goin’:
GPO: Burroughs kept going til what, nearly 90 was it? 86 or something.
AL: Tony Conrad is probably getting closer to 69.
GPO: Yeah, we’re gonna do another thing together.
BC: How did that last gig go?
GPO: We really liked it. [To Alan] Did you go?
AL: I went the first night.
GPO: We thought it was really good. We both had a good time. And then the NY Press said it was just these really loud feedback loops that make your ears bleed. And they didn’t recognize any of the songs. We’re thinking, ‘Hang on, we haven’t even had one rehearsal.’
BC: You hadn’t met before–wasn’t that the deal?
GPO: That’s right. We hadn’t played together, met, or heard each other’s music. We made it up on the spot. [Tony]’d just say, “How about if we do 20 minutes where it’s just a noisy jam?” “Ok.” “And then we’ll do a thing with the Hawaiian guitars. “Alright, good, 15 minutes.” And that was it–that was the first half. What songs? And then the guy says, “It wasn’t as bizarre as I expected it to be.” Why did he have an expectation? We didn’t have any. As it happened, we play very similarly, the violin. And it was hard to tell who was playing where.
AL: That’s usually a good sign.
GPO: Yeah, we both thought it worked really well. And the people who talked to us afterward liked it, so we were happy.
BC: But what counts is what the press thinks. [Laughs]
GPO: He must have left after 10 minutes. Cause there were no loops. We didn’t have loops. But it was noisy at the beginning, deliberately. That’s what Tony and me wanted. They must have gone home, cause they didn’t hear the bit with the tinkly bells, the African piano thing:the drummer wasn’t mentioned, and there were no songs.
BC: That seems pretty common–I feel like whenever I read a review of something it usually feels like they saw the first 30 seconds and then in their mind they expanded it to be the whole set.
GPO: It’s kind of sad to think that there are some people who might read that and be put off going.
BC: For us, that’s been a big M.O. for doing stuff. I don’t know if people are quite as dumb [chuckles] as you kinda write â€˜em off to be:Everybody deserves to at least make up their own mind about something, so for people to:
GPO: Bad journalism is irritating. Be honest: â€œI stayed 10 minutes. I don’t know what happened afterwards.â€
BC: That would be so much more engaging, if that guy really was like, “I stayed for 10 minutes, I got bored, and I split and I got a burger somewhere.” That’s so much better than fabricating a series of events that happened, or didn’t happen.
AW: In a way, it’s cool when that exists as well, because history bears out the cool shit sometimes. I think it’s equally important to have these…
GPO: Dishonest people [laughs].
AW: False records of what was going on, and you could look at it:that’s as illuminating as anything, when you see like a Velvets review now, where it says they were doing nothing but noise and everyone was pissed. It’s amazing that they even got the fucking coverage.
GPO: Ultimately, we know, because of what’s happening, that in the long term, one is vindicated, one way or another.
EC: I don’t know that. [Laughs]
GPO: You will. [Laughter]
EC: I hope so.
BC: [To Alan] Did you know that the press existed when you were growing up? It never even occurred to me that the reason I read about some bands was because they were paying a fucker to:
AL: Oh, a publicist? Yeah, I had no clue about that.
GPO: No, I didn’t know. I thought everybody was fans that just wanted to write about it.
BC: Yeah, or it was really good music.
GPO: We didn’t know that people went, â€œOkay, if you write about Psychic TV, we’ll let you do a Bowie feature in the next issue.â€ And that’s how it works–it’s just bribery, most of it.
BC: We got a lot of mileage out of that, though, just cause:well, the record label we used to be on–DFA–there’s a bunch of popular dance-oriented bands on it…
GPO: So they could get leverage for you?
BC: Well people would book us for gigs and assume that we would keep people dancing all night or something like that. And on one hand, you’re in a city you don’t know, so you’re just stoked that there’s people there, but there’s something that just feels a little bit shitty knowing that, “Alright, we’re not gonna bring the jams, but we will:make you leave the room [laughter].”
GPO: [To his dog] What do you think, Biggie? Do you like music?
EC: Does he listen to music you put on? Do you put your stuff on?
BC: What do you jam on when you’re at home?
GPO: We have nine days worth of pre-1969 music on the iPod.
BC: So, shuffle?
GPO: It shuffles, and there’s a lot of Incredible String Band, and the Who, and Dr. Strangely Strange, and Kaleidoscope:
BC: Were you a Bonzo [Dog Band]…
GPO: Don’t have Bonzo yet, no. Although I played with them once.
BC: Oh really? What did they have, the ironing board solo or something like that?
GPO: Uh, I did a duet with Neil Innes on â€œI Pity the Poor Idiot.â€ I was the idiot [laughter], sitting on his knee, and he sang it to me, with a plastic duck, it was very strange.
BC: That’s funny. I imagine that we have probably many of the same records. Everyone’s ’60s music enthusiasts.
GPO: What’s interesting to me is all the limitations of the technology. Many of them were just playing on a four-track. They had a wah-wah, and maybe a distortion. And then they could do real tape phasing, and that was about it. The complexity of sounds and edits and changes and textures that they got from so little equipment really inspires me.
BC: SF Sorrow’s a really good example of that, like that song â€œDefecting Greyâ€:
BC: It’s so meticulous.
EC: That song â€œMy White Bicycleâ€ is another one:
GPO: Oh, yeah, I have that one too…Do you have the whole album?
EC: You know, I had it at some point. I don’t have any records right now.
BC: Did you ever get into any of the American stuff. Were you into the first Red Krayola, Parable of Arable Land?
GPO: Uh, 13th Floor Elevators:
BC: That was Red Krayola, and the Elevators, and Bubble Puppy:
GPO: Bubble Puppy, yes:not the Grateful Dead. We were so disappointed when we got their first album.
BC: Cause it was so straight?
GPO: Yes. I have to be honest:the people from Mondo 2000, and Vale from Re/Search, took me to the Grateful Dead cause I was so outspoken about how I hated them and was disappointed. So they do the first set, I was bored fucking stupid. They said, â€œIt’s because you’re not high.â€ I said, “Okay, so now I have to be here and I have to be high, before I can say it’s good? Okay, get me high.” So they give me some GHB and some Ecstasy, and I start drinking beer and I’m sitting at the bar, and I walk to the back and I’m talking to some roadie, and I’m ignoring it completely, even though it’s on TV monitors, and all that:
â€Did you like it?â€ I go, “It was terrible.” â€œBut you were high!â€ I go, “Yeah, and I was bored.” I don’t know. It just did nothing for me. I liked the phenomena of the audience–all of them spinning, like Sufis, and all that stuff.
BC: Have you ever smoked Salvia?
GPO: Yeah, it didn’t do anything.
BC: Every time I did it, there was repercussions, where I would see stuff for like, a week or two afterwards.
GPO: I think my brain’s just very slowed down by too much drugs. It’s not very subtle. It’s gotta be hit with a sledgehammer these days.
BC: It’s funny. Every time I smoked it, my friends and I would put on something and be like, â€œThis is gonna sound fucking nuts!â€ Like, put on Maggot Brain or something heavy, and you would listen to it and it would sound terrible and the things that would sound really good:I remember being like, â€œThis Sun Ra record sounds like shit, but this Shop Assistants record sounds like [laughter]:â€
GPO: I was disappointed, I really wanted to like it. It was sometime in the mid-’90s, that’s all we can say. Before Jerry was dead, anyway.
BC: But there’s different levels to the Dead. There’s like a hierarchy to the Dead audience, like spinners I think are…
GPO: Not very high [laughter]. There’s people in the pen with all their recording devices that they let record it.
BC: Yeah, tapers.
EC: Spinners and tapers [laughter].
BC: Do you know that band Phish? They’re godawful, but they were the kings where we grew up. They’re from Vermont but when they would play in Maine, the fuckin’ abandoned airstrip they played became the biggest city in the state.
EC: It was over a million.
BC: I would like to open up for a band like that. I just feel like you would piss off so many fuckin’ people. When we opened up for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I felt like we pissed off most of the Hammerstein Ballroom.
GPO: Did you? I missed that–we turned up late, then. We saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs there, they were great.
BC: They were great, but there were about two thousand 16 year olds with their parents that were not having us when we
played:We played with them in Brazil, at this festival, it was pretty amazing. They just seduced this huge fucking place:they’re really great people too.
GPO: Well I think you know that Nick played on the last album for us.
BC: Oh really?
GPO: Yeah, Hell is Invisible…Heaven Is Here.
BC: Oh, wow.
GPO: He was great, he just turned up at the studio and we said there’s these three tracks we’d like you to do something on. He just went right through them; did it all really fast.
BC: When you look back at Psychic TV stuff, is it weird where you see some of that stuff having ended up? Some people could be like, “Oh, it’s got this kind of modern primitive element to it, and it’s kind of like proto-rave,” but then there’s also like “Godstar,” these great pop songs:
GPO: The real thing is garage psychedelic. That’s the main theme. That’s all it is, now–garage psychedelic. Fuck it. It’s what I like. From now on, it’s just the music I like.
EC: Do you think that you’ve got hang-ups about how people think about your shit now, being this far into the game?
GPO: Less than I used to.
EC: You think it dissipates a little bit?
GPO: It’s dissipating now. You could get really, really confused about what I want and what people want, how to find a comfortable and authentic spot between the two. Cause so many people slagged me off, I thought, god, can’t I find a way to stop them doing that?
EC: Or do you think that was something that went into your creative process for a while, or:
GPO: No, that was just a personal thing at the back of it that hurt my feelings. And I didn’t like having my feelings hurt; but it didn’t change what we did.
BC: Even when you’re in an antagonistic band, or something like that, there’s something that’s not personal about that, so it does hurt when people fucking beat you up while you’re playing, or throw shit at you:
GPO: Or say, “Oh Gen looks pregnant,” and, “What’s that stupid haircut? [Laughter] What’s that got to do with it, you know? We’ve been asked to review stuff, but we don’t start out by insulting people personally, or making fun of how they look. We try and stick to the music. And even then, we try and say whatever’s positive, not negative. It’s really strange just to be at somebody’s mercy with that.
BC: It can be really empowering to deliver a really punishing set where you’re like, “Fuck you, I don’t care if you give a shit about this,” but at the same time it’s a real vulnerable place to be. And sometimes, maybe you’re on tour and you’re having a real shit week or something like that…
GPO: Or your wife’s just died. Which happened on the tour just afterwards–people would come up and say just nasty stuff.
BC: That’s totally fucked.
GPO: â€œI’m glad you’re unhappy.â€ Things like that.
EC: That’s fucking unreal.
GPO: I mean, how sick is that? I just walked away. The minute I walked away everyone else in the band sort of closed around, formed a fence. They’re really nice, the band, they’re really protective of me.
BC: I feel like when you play with people you have to learn to communicate with each other in this way that goes beyond normal:
GPO: I mean, you have real family, but with me, in Psychic TV, I always choose people to be in it who I get on with. That’s the most important–”Do I like them? Do I like their attitude toward life? Do I think that their ideas are positive?” Then they’re in the band. Oh, and can they play? Good! [Laughter]
EC: I think that’s incredibly important, when you think about it, that you like somebody’s ideas as much as you like the person, and I don’t think that’s ever differentiated.
GPO: So when bands just talk about their skills, that to me is strange, because the skills are the secondary part:
BC: What if your band is based around, “Oh we all like the same music.” That, to me, is a pretty vapid and ridiculous reason:
GPO: That’s definitely not true with us. Eddie [O’Dowd] likes Kiss and all this weird heavy rock. [Alice Genese] used to be in Candyass. God knows what she likes. I don’t know, but not what I like. And the keyboard player likes the Residents. So I’d say it’s a real mix when we’re trying to play music.
EC: I would think the Residents would resonate with you more. I don’t know why:
BC: We did a bunch of gigs with them in Australia. It was fuckin’:bad.
GPO: I like the idea of it.
GPO: But I can’t listen to the music.
EC: For sure. [Laughter]
BC: Some things are great, though, in the conceptual state. Maybe that’s a San Francisco thing–an area where bands are better in theory. [Laughter]
GPO: I think we’re nearly finished aren’t we? I’m getting tired.
EC: You need to go back to bed?
GPO: No, I’ve gotta work. I’ve gotta finish a book by Monday.
AL: What’s the book?
GPO: I’m writing several books, but the book I’ve got to finish is Thee Psychick Bible: Definitve Edition. It’s about 350 pages. It’s the story of the Temple of Psychic Youth condensed down to various essays and proposals, experiments about how to generate magick or how to focus oneself without any mysticism. De-mystified magick. For example, revolver as magic wand. [Chuckles] Write down what you want to have happen, put it inside the bullet, fire in the air! As your orgasm. [Claps hands] That’s a nice idea, isn’t it?
EC: Dude, that’s just a lot to think about. [Laughter]
GPO: That’s just one page.
EC: Was Psychic TV more than just music, then? It has a reputation, but to be honest, I don’t know:
GPO: Yeah, the sleeve notes on the albums were about sociology and magick.
EC: But it gets Crowley-ized, if that’s a word, quite a bit.
GPO: It did, but that wasn’t–it was actually Austin Spare-ized, which is different.
EC: What’s that?
GPO: Austin Osman Spare, who was briefly a friend of Crowley but they split up because Austin Osman Spare was far more intense.
EC: Another published author?
AL: He was an artist too.
GPO: Yeah, oh, brilliant artist, much better than Aubrey Beardsley. Sort of similar idea.
AL: Didn’t Freud have something to say about Spare?
GPO: They all say he was a genius. We re-published some of his books.
BC: Industrial Records was your:
GPO: That was the first one.
BC: And then…
BC: Is that still ongoing then?
GPO: Nah, we stopped when we got kicked out of England.
BC: So all of these events with you are major [laughter]. I’m more like, “I got dumped.” Less eventful events, is all. [Turning to Genesis’ dog] I’ve gotta say, you picked a winner here with this little guy.
GPO: Isn’t he wonderful? What happened was, it was Christmas Eve, and Jaye’s sister was out shopping, and she teaches special needs children. And she saw these two young kids crying, with a little dog, talking to a cop. So she went over and said, “What’s wrong?” And they said, “Our father said we can’t go home ’til we get rid of the dog, so we’ve got to either give him to somebody or tie him to a fence.” So they tied him to a fence, and the cop said, “You can’t do that.” So she said, “I’ll find him a home,” and she brought him here. And [the dog] said, â€œOh, I love you so much! I’m going to stay!” That’s how he got here. Can you imagine–two young kids being told to get rid of their own dog on Christmas Eve? Their father is definitely on the list of evil men [laughter].