EVII & Interview with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Artwork by Juan Mendez
On this deluxe compilation, Electric Voice Records offers another exploration of historical and contemporary underground music. Whereas last year’s Electric Voice V/A release focused on alternative approaches to electronic pop music, this new album mines a darker spectrum of genres, one that spans more than three decades of minimalist synth and industrial work. Here, new generation artists like Tropic of Cancer and Martial Canterel (Xeno & Oaklander) are seen to extend rather than revive the music of their influences. Electric Voice II marries these young artists with pioneers from the beginning days of this music, truly groundbreaking acts like Ike Yard, the first America band to sign with Factory Records, and Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV’s enigmatic Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, now performing some of her most poignant material to date as Thee Majesty. Other featured artists include Das Ding and French group Martin Dupont, who both offer cuts from their respective early 80’s archives. There are also exclusive tracks by ADN’ Ckrystall, Frank (Just Frank), Vita Noctis, and Nine Circles. Taken together, the seamless flow of these tracks, despite the span of generations, makes clear the continued relevance of these practices and pure electronic sounds. To celebrate this collection, acclaimed artist Juan Mendez (Silent Servant) provides cover artwork, with additional design by Dmytrij Wulffius. Brandon Hocura at Polyphasic Studios offers the meticulous final master.
Electric Voice II is scheduled for release in both a digital format and as an edition of 500 LPs on April 1/2013.
A1 Real Eyes – Thee Majesty
A2 Who Will Remain – Martial Canterel
A3 Der Stasi Palace – ADN’ Ckrystall
A4 Bit of Smile – Martin Dupont
A5 Fall Apart – Tropic Of Cancer
B1 Traversez le Pont – Frank (Just Frank)
B2 Elysians – Ike Yard
B3 Serial Killer – Vita Noctis
B4 Mercy – Nine Circles
B5 End Credits Roll – Das Ding
In light of Electric Voice II, Matthew had a chance to speak on the phone with cultural engineer, poet, musician Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Thee Majesty about her prolific work in groups Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, music pirating, free jazz, and much more.
EV: You are credited as the inventor of what is known as Industrial music. Can you tell me how that came about?
Genesis: Actually it’s really specific, September the 3rd 1975 I was talking to Monte Gra in London, and we had started the project Throbbing Gristle. I thought of the name and the idea back in 1973, but we were still doing COUM then. So, once that ended the plan was to switch to TG. We developed over a year by just jamming every weekend and taping everything we did. We had an idea with wearing camo and we had the logo, but we needed a name for the music – you know it’s not rock n roll it was quite the opposite. There was no drummer, there was no skillful playing, etc. – Monte had suggested “Factory Music” because of Andy Warhol, you know? We thought, no that’s too obvious (laughs) and then we kept thinking. Monte suddenly said “Gen, you keep using the word ‘Industrial’ and I went “I do?” – He goes “Yeah, every time you talk about it you say it’s like an industry, like an industrial factory. There was no such thing before that which is a funny thought. We weren’t thinking of it as being a movement, just what we called TG music. Then we met Cabaret Voltaire and SPK and these other people and even though they sounded different they had the similar attitude. It just caught on.
EV: What are your thoughts on the evolution of Industrial and its current state?
Genesis: It’s like having started jazz, at the very beginning there are hardly any practitioners so it’s whatever they play. But as time goes by, other people listen to what you’re doing and they will pick out a track that is their favorite sound and they will start emulating, developing and exploring that sound and suddenly there is a branch, and it’s jazz, but it’s totally different! That’s been happening for generations now. So it’s styles within styles, and cross pollination and resurgences of a certain type of rock like Ministry and NIN. It’s like a virus that is constantly mutating. Even if it’s not something I want to listen to, it’s all valid in my opinion. But I don’t even listen to any industrial music per say.
EV: What do you listen to?
Genesis: We listen to early Coltrane, Albert Ayler, early free form jazz and mainly 60s music. One of my favorite bands is The Incredible String Band, The Monks.. Basically bands that did the same thing TG did and what we’ve been doing with Thee Majesty. It’s about finding your own sound and voice and believing in it regardless of its commercial value. That’s the kind of music that excites me.
Photo by Perou
EV: Do you feel like there are any contemporary musicians reflecting that idea now?
Genesis: Not really (laughs)
It’s not so much that there is anything wrong with it, we just don’t listen to it. My computer is full of all these LPs and CDs we had.. We have such a comprehensive and obscure 60s music library that we DJ now. Sometimes with Edley, the percussionist in Thee Majesty.
The only people we see that could be called contemporary even though they have been active for quite sometime, is Acid Mothers Temple.
EV: I am not familiar with them.
Genesis: Me either, but I’ve seen them a few times and they are quite incredible. It’s very hypnotic.. The guitar player looks like a wizard. He has this long, grey hair. The way he sways.. He sways off beat! But its a perfect synchronization. He is completely expressionless.
EV: Have you ever seen Swans? The guitar player does the same thing.
Genesis: No, but Thee Majesty toured Europe with Michael Gira. It was basically us, and him doing acoustic songs.
EV: I could be mistaken, but wasn’t that one of the first Thee Majesty shows?
Genesis: Hmm, maybe.. No, the first Thee Majesty show, interestingly, was at the spoken word festival in Stockholm sometime in the mid 90s. Not sure which year.
EV: And I hear Psychic TV3 is going on tour again?
Genesis: Yes! We’re doing a mini tour. Playing in Portland and Seattle next month. But then we’re going to Oakland and playing 2 nights out there. We will be playing New York on the December 7th. We do it every year for all of the fans we have here. It’s always a huge party.
EV: There is a new record as well?
The new record by PTV3 is one side ‘Silver Sun Down Machine’, which is a medley of ‘Silver Machine’ and ‘Hurry On Sundown’ by Hawkwind. The other side is ‘Alien Lightning Meat Machine’, a 15 minute song about Nikola Tesla.
Myself and Edley have inaugurated our own record label, called Angry Love Records (laughs). There will also be a studio album for Thee Majesty. The first one in 11 years.Then we plan on more of the series of 12 inch singles with the version of a classic 60s-70s track combined with another song that begins with the word Alien every time. We first had ‘Maggot Brain’ by Funkadelic with a B-side of ‘Alien Brain’. Then ‘Mother Sky’ by Can with a b-side called ‘Alien Sky’.
EV: Ha ha, that’s amazing.
Genesis: Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun again, making recordings and releasing things. Eddie O’Dowd, Tony Conrad and I have a live album coming out on Angry Love Records; Live in Berlin. It’s an amazing recording. They asked us to do a concert there at the premiere of The Ballad of Genesis P. Orridge and Lady Jaye. Everything went right, and It was beautiful. We just played, unprepared. Special magic happens. It was just violins and percussion.
EV: And of course your voice.
Genesis: Yes, and my voice.. mainly music and violins though. If I do use my voice, it will just be in one section. Its nice for me to project myself and play the violin, it’s my favorite instrument next to the piano. Actually, in Montreal we played the piano live for the first time.
EV: What? Did you bring your own piano or use the house piano?
Genesis: (laughs) No! We just went to set up and saw this big grand piano and thought, “YES!”. So the gig began and ended with me playing the piano.
And of course Bryin Dall is the 3rd member of Thee Majesty. He’s such an amazing and unusual guitarist. He has guitars with kitchen implements on them, and guitars so old they don’t have names. He’s a very interesting and avant-garde type of guitarist.
EV: So tell me a bit about the end of PTV3 and the birth of Thee Majesty.
It was actually Lady Jaye that triggered the creation of Thee Majesty.
When we were in LA working with Love and Rockets on one of their albums, there was a huge fire, and yours truly got terribly injured and my left arm was in a cast for over a year. We were suffering from PTSD and couldn’t tour. While we were sitting around in North California trying to recover, Lady Jaye said to me, “You don’t have to do anything ever again – You’ve already had an impact on things. Don’t feel so obliged to play, just think about what you really love. Is there anything you want to do regardless of the world?”
We decided that we love the voice, the words, and poetry. She told me “Then do that. That’s what you should do. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, just do something just for you.” And that’s how Thee Majesty began. It’s the majesty of words, the majesty of exploring unusual options, being inspired by the unexpected.
There was actually a brief moment of wanting to call it ‘Her Majesty’. But we thought it was too closely linked to the Queen of England, who we despise. So we decided on Thee Majesty, it has much more of an all inclusive feel to it.
EV: What are your thoughts on the way music changes hands now? How it used to be presented as a tangible product, and now it’s just a matter of clicking and downloading.
Genesis: Oooh, That could go on for hours. There is no question in my mind that the deluge of pirated music and information destroyed an entire area of music in terms of potential.. There are small venues for artists who have just started, and big venues for those who have made a name. The in between is just gone. Its impossible to do a long tour, to make enough money, to sell enough records to make a living. Musicians are forced to think of their music as a hobby. If it does take off, it is immediately consumed, absorbed, spat out, and then it’s lost. I don’t think the great majority of people who steal and download music realize what they are doing, and how much of an impact it does have to record labels, magazines and musicians.. Everything gets wiped out. No damage done to big labels – well, a little – but they will go on. The middle range loses the chance to be professional musicians. I mean, you’ve got people like Justin Bieber who are the devils advocate of the internet music scene. They pollute everything, all of it with a horrible, horrible Hollywood story attached to it.
There is this crippling effect that happens, when you make an album & give a label a test pressing.. Almost immediately it is uploaded online, and you no longer have anything to sell. We have had albums be bootlegged online – so we’ve lost record deals. Our music is snatched up an distributed by someone we’ve never met, and we lose deals. It’s just lost.
EV: That must be even worse for people with less of a long term involvement with music.
Genesis: What is happening, which is great, is vinyl being back. People are more creative with packaging and the conception of products to make them beautiful objects to own. But that can’t go into big numbers, like you said, since there is only a small number of people who are going to care about owning it. It’s like the same people who would care about owning a Jackson Pollock or Rothko or something. So it’s difficult, it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of opportunity for change. Unless the big labels and conglomerates disintegrate. And they are trying desperately not to, but they are losing huge amounts of money.
We have gone to some of these official pirating websites and asked to register songs off our album and they tell us someone else has done it already. And it’s like, “But how? We own this” and they basically just say, “Well, tough shit.”.
EV: That is tragic.
Genesis: Yeah! (laughs) Someone who we’ve never met is receiving the royalties for our work. It’s a mess! So many people have grown up and think they are entitled to and deserve everything for free. They don’t seem to seek cause and effect, or think that the people that make the things they like run out of the capital to create these things, and they vanish. They don’t seem to get it, or they don’t want to admit it. They just want everything for free. It’s bad economics.
You’ve really got to want to make it. It would be good if the consumer realized its partnership, its not just always a gift.
EV: Do you think that idea should that be a deterrent for younger artists?
Genesis: I just believe that they have to be really passionate about it – they have to not give a fuck. But they can’t go into it with the illusions of being the new Swans, the odds are so incredibly small.
The other thing is that there is a weird jealousy of success in the industry. It’s a terrible place for true creation. I think its a side effect of the Internet and the explosion of superficial celebrity culture.