Conversation With Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

05/11/2015 11:02 am ET | Updated May 11, 2016

Conducted by phone on April 28, 2015


(photo Marie Losier)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle has been an influence on me for decades. I first heard "Lady Maybe" emanating out of a painting studio in the mid 1990's. I've been following his ideas ever since.

Genesis will be playing his classic Psychic TV record Electronic Newspapers with Wolf Eyes (aka: Aaron Dilloway) at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival on Wednesday May 13, 2015. Tickets may be sold out I don't know (who you may need to blow someone. Not me).

Speaking with Genesis was too interesting an opportunity to pass up. Our conversation ran long so I present to you an abridged version exclusively for Huffington Post Readers.

*To the uninitiated: Genesis uses the pronoun "we" when referring to himself in a sense of union with his wife Lady Jaye Breyer who passed through this life in 2007, yet is still with us through Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

MN: Excuse me my allergies are terrible.

GBPO: Me too listen (makes loud sound)

MN: Sounds like one of your records.

GBPO: (laughs) Now you know the secret. Get a fit of allergies. Actually Aaron Dilloway swallows the microphone.

MN: Speaking of Dilloway, I understand at Red Bull Music Academy's Nothing Changes show. Electric Newspapers will be performed and it is an incredibly interesting choice to do in its entirety. It's so out there man. I listened to it the other day and thought how could this be done?

GBPO: Which ones did you listen to?

MN: 1 through 4. I think that's all you can get.

GBPO: at some point you will have to come over and I can copy you the CD (Electric Newspapers 5-8) I have a few here. We never released them.

MN: OK, so I'm familiar with some Aaron Dilloway/Wolf Eyes records and find it usually impenetrable which is why I like it. So why are you going to perform Electronic Newspapers? And why now?

GBPO: Why now? Hmmm.. Back in the 80's we were in Detroit. We were to do a show on one of the local college stations. So we did 3 hours and we had Don Bolles of the Germs. They asked us to DJ. We said, we don't want to DJ. We asked how many cassette recorders do you have and how many run live? And there were 3, we asked for a CD player, microphones. So we spent 3 hours mixing all kinds of found tapes, just totally cutting up everything random and then these real "in the hood ghetto guys" turn up and say "who the fuck is doing this stuff on the radio?" They thought it was brilliant. It was Derek Carter (legendary acid house DJ) and his posse. At the time we didn't know who he was. He said this is what should be happening everywhere! They put us in a car and took us deep into Detroit to a tiny record shop. Everything had white labels. Listen! Listen! Really, really, really early acid house. We heard it and thought, "this is it!" This is the solution to what we've been looking for! (laughs)

MN: (laughs) So then what?

GBPO: When Brian Jones died he had posthumously released The Master Musicians of the Jajouka. We just thought it was brilliant. We were working with Dave Ball at that point from Soft Cell. Saying to each other there needs to be a contemporary equivalent of this- Trance music. Not dance music but trance music. New post-industrial, psychedelic, trance music. Now we got all these tools where we can loop things, stop things and assemble things, without razor blades. There has got to be a formula we can come up with, some kind of structure that will be the JaJouka of modern times. That's what we were looking for. When we got back to London we put them in my car sound system and drove around Dave Ball and said listen- this is the solution. This is the rhythm of the music we want to do and from that we decided to do an album, which was Jack the Tab. We all knew at the time that the certain critics hated me. So we decided to make it fake Nuggets from the vaults and pretend it would be really obscure garage tracks from the 60's that we found.

MN: (laughs) So Jack the Tab was supposed to be like all these Nuggets style groups?

GBPO: It was a way of saying here's another way to do music. It's kind of like the Electric Newspaper meets rhythm. But the rhythms were using weren't like DJ rhythms. They were really bizarre. Much more like Aaron Dilloway. So we released it as "fake from the vaults". We got great reviews everywhere. NME gave it a four-page review. "It's amazing, fantastic. How did they find all this stuff?" (Laughs). So that was sort of parallel with Electric Newspaper.

MN: I love this story Gen, but you still haven't answered the question. Which is how the fuck are you and Dilloway going to recreate this?

GBPO: Well, we don't recreate anything, c'mon. You don't recreate you extend.

MN: You will take the spirit of Electric Newspaper or move it into the 21st Century or whatever.

GBPO: Exactly
(photo by Perou)

GBO: I turned 65 in February. My eldest daughter Caresse is going to be 33 in august. You are old enough to be my child. (laughs). Isn't that weird?

MN: It is weird. You someone I wanted to be like when I was in my 20's. I thought, "Here's somebody who was himself."

GBO: Well thank you. That's what I used to think about Burroughs and Gysin. I want to be a bohemian, poet, artist, freak, (laughs) and managed to. I got very fortunate to be meeting and working with them as well.

MN: It's great to be at a place where you can meet the people you admired and hope you can do the same for the next generation.

GBPO: God, I hope so.

GBPO: That's good to know, it's arid out there at the moment. I think the jury's out but the whole Internet had disconnected people. It was supposed to connect everyone, but it's disconnecting them in terms of communication.

MN: It's weird. It's given people a smokescreen. People usually don't look into one another's eyes. They can't really connect with you. That seems to be the unintended consequence.
GBPO: When I was trying to find out how to contact Burroughs as a teenager, I ended up getting a hold of a mail art magazine. People were sending each other handmade collages in the post and it was so much fun and one of these magazines turned up (called) File. It had something called an Artist Request list and it said "William S. Bourroughs- camouflage for 1984" I looked and there was an address: Duke St. St James, London. We thought, 'He's living in London? Wow, that can't be his real address? Why not write to him anyway?" So we did and he wrote back and said "come and see me next time you are in London. Just ring up and I will pay for a taxi" and that was it.

MN: That's a beautiful story.

GBPO: Now that would never happen because how could it happen? It's all in text, needs to be instant.

MN: I'd funny how these things work. You're familiar with Foetus, JG Thirwell.

GBPO: Oh yeah.

MN: I met him at a party recently. I do documentaries and they are out there in the world. I spoke to him and said look, can I hire you to do the soundtrack on the next film and he agreed. Next week I find myself in his loft. It's a wonderful thing that sometimes you end up being part of a chain. I think New York miraculously has a chain.

GBPO: Exactly Byon Gysin had an expression he taught me early on when we first met. "With my hand, wisdom can only be taught by the touching of hands". It was so profound because yeah, you've got to meet each other. You become friends, acquaintances and you talk. You share and things happen, you know. How is that going to happen with texting?

GBPO: We've been commissioned to do a public sculpture. In Providence, Rhode Island. And so it's not finished, but we've begun it. It's a cast of my right arm from the elbow down in position of shaking hands. It will be cast in bronze, sticking out of the wall above it a placard that says something like, "wisdom is passed on through the touching of hands."- Bryan Gysin, or something like that. Then people coming in and out of the building can shake hands with me. You know how the foot is in Thailand and in different temples getting worn smooth by people touching them and praying and so on? I hope this sculpture will get smooth and shiny from people touching it through the ages.

MN: I think this is a beautiful idea. I see it as a spiritual lineage. Like the Apollo.

GBPO: Yes it is! It's an alchemical, mystical, spiritual lineage and it's for the true seekers. In any age there are always some. We just touched hands through our voices in a way and that's wonderful.

MN: It is. How's your health?

GBPO: You know what, it's not so bad. Depends how you measure it. I have Addison's disease that means my adrenal glands don't work properly. So I have to take pills every day to stay alive. I live day to day. I choose each day to stay alive. I'm borderline diabetic. A bit of arthritis from falling out of a burning building.

GBPO: (laughs) yeah.

MN: I know lots about your myth. Never mind, go ahead.

GBPO: All said and done I just did a tour where I'm in different countries every other day. Flying all over. We did a concert for peace in Kiev in the Ukraine. We did a concert for peace in Tel Aviv the next day. My doctor looked at me when he last gave me a checkup and says, "Genesis, I don't know how you are still alive. You do so much and you are always traveling. I said because we love what we do.

MN: Do you think it's possible no matter how many drugs you or I have done and that health fails at times, that love will prevail somehow?

GBPO: Fuck I hope so, because I do believe that. Have you seen the film, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye?

MN: Yes, of course. That is the ultimate love poem.

GBPO: Jaye said to me. "All I want to be remembered for is this great love story." She is. We played in Kiev. During the light show, the people cheered when she came on the screen. In Kiev! It happens everywhere we go. Isn't that fantastic!

MN: That is fantastic. Do you think they have a context for Lady Jaye in Kiev or do you think they sense spirituality coming out of the screen?

GBPO: One of the up ticks of the Internet is that they seen the film. They found it online some way or another and they responded to it. People do want to find their own half. They do want the world to change for the better. They do want to be left alone to evolve and grow as beings and that resonates.

MN: You and I can bitch about the Internet and the physical dissociation that occurs, and how had we shaken hands now this interview would be deeper. However, I learned a ton from the Internet. People are going to read this on the Internet. I know we can teach them something.

GBPO: It's great as a library. It's an unexpected benefit that people know who Jaye is and so on. That's the upside of it. The downside is when 6 friends walk into a restaurant and what do they do first? Do they look at the menu, no? They get out their phones and start checking. Isn't it sad, but it does happen an awful lot.

MN: I'm guilty of that. You often will see people hooked, who have great minds but they are misusing them. It's willful brainwashing.

GBPO: Being honest, we barely speak to people on the phone anymore. We text and text back It bothers me. We even made a new year's resolution of sorts. To try to start having phone calls. (laughs). Often text messages don't have tone or nuance. The number of times my Manchester humor is missed in a text. (laughs) People get so offended, that's not what we meant at all!

MN: That's funny, It's good for some things but not for everything.

GBPO: We should be more aware of these aspects.

MN: I have two questions left. The first one is about the documentary you are making around Vodun, the piece you are doing in Africa?

GBPO: Oh yes, Vodun. We are doing a documentary about Voodoo.

MN: And going right to the source.

MN: I saw a video of you with some snakes.

GBPO: Yeah we love snakes. It's just like the last Psychic TV record to come out. It's called Snakes in honor of that experience.

MN: So you traveled several different countries to shoot it?

GBPO: We just went into Benin, which is the only country in the whole world where Voodoo is the state religion.

MN: Interesting.

GBPO: It happens the way it does in my life. The way Lady Jaye called my weirding module. She would say, "Here we go your weirding module is in process again." My friend Hazel who designed Thee Psychic Bible. She said, "Gen I found these images online of these incredible costumes of Africa. "So I looked at them." She called them up and it's the outfits that are worn once every 7 years in a festival of voodoo in Benin and the priests that wear them aren't even called priests, they are called Ghosts. You don't see their faces, a veil of shells and gloves on their hands. Caps over their feet so none of them are showing. And they are like Leigh Bowery designed a Punch and Judy show. (laughs)

MN: (laughs)


MN: even better. (laughs)

GBPO: Wild and psychedelic. Odd. We just fell in love with the images. Going on and on about them. We got all excited and Hazel says, "It says here that that 7th year is this year." So that would have been the end of 2013. She said "why don't we go?" wouldn't it be good to go and see it? OK, let's go. I said I don't have any money, she said that's all right. You pay for me to go to Katmandu; I will pay for you to go to Africa. Deal. And we went! It was Hazel, and Douglas who was the singer of Nitzer Ebb, a couple of friends of theirs. Hazel said if we all go we need to bring cameras obviously. It was really that loose, we just went. We got there and the first night we are there, we are in this little town square.. Which is on the coast, it was one of the slave ports where all the slaves were sent. It's a very small town you can walk across it in about 15-20 minutes. We sat in this town square drinking this beer; we knew the water wouldn't be good. Out of the corner of my eye we see this singer. Walking along in the distance, really tall and slim in blue robes. He appears to be floating rather than walking. There appears to be no other movement. He just seems to float across. And we just blurted out, that must be a high priest! Everyone looked at me like I had too many beers.

MN: You just knew right?

GBPO: I just couldn't help saying it. The next day our plans laid by Emmanuelle who is a young boy about 21. He came to see us in the house we were in. Very minimal but OK. He came by in the afternoon and said, I would like you to meet my family. We said ok. So we went with him and his family lived in a tiny compound off the town square and we are walking. Then there's that person we seen the night before standing 6'8" tall, really slim and he Is the high priest of voodoo.

MN: Wow, man.

GBPO: The words he spoke in Fon. He goes to me, you had a twin but she died and she wore those gold earrings you are wearing. You need to have a Jumea.

MN: What's a Jumea?

GBPO: A Jumea is a little wooden doll. My reaction was like "yeah-ok!" (laughs). So we were pretty staggered that he didn't know how any of us were, we'd never been there before. This guy in his 70's just instantly spotted me like that. Bam! At my second night we are doing the ceremony to create the Jumea, which is a little wooden doll about 9 inches tall, made out of the bow-wow tree which is a harsh wood and it represents a twin that's died. He immediately saw Lady Jaye as my twin without knowing who we were or anything.

MN: I'm Puerto Rican. I totally get it.

GBPO: OK, that's good so you know all that stuff. So there we are second night. Initiating and doing these sacrifices and this little doll represents Lady Jaye now. We have various African outfits we had made there. She has one from the same material. We have matching outfits for special occasions. We started to get interested in this whole twin thing. Hazel especially What's this twin thing? There's a whole subculture of twins.

MN: Wow.

GBPO: You don't have to be born together to be twins. Which is even more interesting. It turned out that after we went the first time and shot everything we could. The twin thing was beginning to rise through all of the information towards it; Hazel started to get emails from anthropologists and professors at Cambridge England and so on. One of them said to her, "Did you know about the incidence of twins in Benin?" "She said no." It turns out the proper university professor did a statistical survey on births. Worldwide the average is 4 twins per every 1000 average births. But in Benin its 20 sets to 30 sets to every thousand births.

MN: We can talk more extensively about this. I just set you down a path that's impossible to cover.

GBPO: It keeps going, but that's the "weirding module" as Jaye would call it.

MN: The "Weirding Module"?

GBPO: It's from David Lynch Dune. There was a line Jaye loves, "methinks the lord has found his weirding module."

MN: (laughs)

GBPO: That's the "of course" factor. Of course we met The High Preist, Of course he recognized Jaye, Of course we had an initiation, of course the film was about twins me and Jaye in the context of Voodoo in Africa.

MN: Thank you much for chatting with me.

GBPO: this Friday the 1st of May.

MN: That's where will be face to face. My last question to you is a far out one.

GBPO: I feel like you may do something that would surprise me.

MN: I've always loved this statement, but you once said you were "at total war with culture." How do you feel now decades later?

GBPO: (laughs) Yes. We would have to define what the subset of culture is, yes of course.

MN: Good.

GBPO: All you have to look at popular culture and you see how insidious it is. They are just strangling the intelligence of every child it can get to go along. And how war has become a hobby for anyone with a grudge. Yeah-we're at war with culture.

MN: You made me a happy man Gen. I'm 37 and still kicking against the pricks.

GBPO: It's a fucked up world, but it's a wonderful place. The Process Church used say, "Humanity is the virus." It just requires a total change of behavior of the human species. That may have passed.
(photo by Jason Rodgers)
MN: I always loved your cover of Good Vibrations, where you tried to make it resemble the original.

GBPO: We discovered they go out of tune at one point.

MN: Of course, isn't that beautiful?

GBPO: Yeah! We wanted to meet in the middle. We wanted it to be about Sex Magick. I will see you Friday night yes?

MN: You bet.

GBPO: Let me get you my real home number and email address.