In 2012, I found myself living in an isolated yet rural area, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – which also oddly happened to be historically rich in arts & culture, largely thanks to Gerry Niel Kenndy’s presidency at NSCAD in the 1970’s. I was doing just well enough with my label at the time, Electric Voice – under which imprint I was releasing a compilation titled Electric Voice II, which featured Thee Majesty which was a recording with my dear friend Edley ODowd, Byrin Dall and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. For those unaware – Genesis had been involved in subversive art in their beginnings as COUM Transmissions, onto coining the term Industrial in their group Throbbing Gristle. I was about 13-14 ages old when I first heard TG and the song “Weeping” in particular really stuck with me – forever changing my perspective on sonics, music and art at large. Needless to say by the time I was 19, it was an honor to be working with such influential figures. In promotional attempts for the compilation record – interview Genesis for the website. I knew her manager, and just like that I had a planned phone call with Gen, that would last over 3 hours. My preparations did not matter. All you had to do was mention a topic and Genesis would go on into the most interesting details having the conversation end up in a completely different place. My partner at the time transcribed it into the interview that was published for a couple years on the Electric Voice website which dissolved in 2015, and it will remain here as it’s ever so fitting for DISCIPLINE MAG.
The Lost Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interview
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.
Matthew: 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 Cazazza 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.
Matthew: You mentioned the “Industrial Revolution” earlier – 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.
Matthew: Well then, what have you been listening 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.
Matthew: I get the sense you don’t feel like there are many contemporary artists’….
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, my right hand collaborator.
The only people we see that could be called contemporary even though they have been active for quite sometime, is Acid Mothers Temple.
Matthew: 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 it’s a perfect synchronization. He is completely expressionless.
Matthew: 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.
Matthew: 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.
Matthew: Oh yeah, in 1998 – I’ve heard all about it and that OG PTV member Alex Ferguson was there. Also I hear Psychic TV3 is going on a small 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.
Matthew: Tell us about the new record…
Genesis: The new record by PTV3 is one sided ‘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’.
Matthew: 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.
Matthew: 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.
Matthew: 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.
Matthew: So tell us about the birth of Thee Majesty.
Genesis: 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. We decided to work with Larry Thrasher and there has since been a rotating case of musicians, including Edley who is the percussionist for PTV3/ our graphic designer, and much more..
Matthew: What are your thoughts on the way music changes hands now? RE the digital interaction and contrast of being presented as a tangible product, where 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 devil’s 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 and distributed by someone we’ve never met, and we lose deals. It’s just lost.
Matthew: 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.”.
Matthew: 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, it’s not just always a gift.
Matthew: Do you think that idea should 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 it’s a side effect of the Internet and the explosion of superficial celebrity culture.
RIP GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE
GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
🙏 🕯️ 🙏
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