Throbbing Gristle - Career Part Two

An interview with Chris Carter of Industrial legend Throbbing Gristle by Arne Löffel


This summer your new album "Part Two" is being released. What is your motivation to produce a new TG-Album after 25 years of absence?

The journey to this album has taken TG two or three years since we decided to re-group in 2003. Primarily we only envisaged being together for the launch of the TG24 boxed set, the TG24 exhibition in London and to play a few performances. It wasn't until we started rehearsing again that we realised when the four of us played together as TG the whole is greater than the sum of the (ITS) parts. We still have something 'relevant' to say, in a creative sense. So for us the logical and inevitable conclusion was to fully mark our regrouping with a completely new album.

Are the band-members still the same (Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson)?

Well we are all older, and in most cases wiser, than we were when the mission was first terminated. But ultimately no matter what we may look like now we are basically the same people.

Have all of you stayed in close contact during those years?

Of course Cosey and myself have lived and worked together since 1981(when TG first split up), we have also kept friends with and worked with Sleazy for many years. However, we three did not keep in touch with Genesis through those 20 years as there were a lot of deep rooted 'issues' between us. Since the re-grouping of TG we keep in touch, although it is difficult as we all live on different continents.

In the early 80ies Genisis said in an interview, that TG always takes care about the fact, that the next release will tear everything apart that was built up with the previous release. So what kind of album is it going to be? Pop? Oldschool Industrial..? Or as usual something completely different? (How) do you plan to dissapoint the expectations of your audience this time?

As with most TG albums the new PART TWO is fantastically diverse and is sure to both enthrall and alienate listeners. PART TWO is neither Oldschool Industrial, Neo Industrial, Folk Industrial or Jazz Industrial. It is Throbbing Gristle music. It follows no genre.

Each of the initial CD-pressing(s) of your new album is going to include one of four totemic gifts. Tell us more about and the idea behind it.

The Totemic Gifts given away with PART TWO act as a symbolic form of non-verbal communication as well as 'gift' objects. But they primarily function in conjunction with the symbolism of the albums Endless Knot logo. The knot is an adaptation of a Tibetan Buddhist symbol. Its use on 'gifts' is seen not only as a good omen but also as making a connection between the giver and receiver. It is also a reminder of cause and effect and thus the concept of karma. This approach is nothing new for TG, the notion of harmony and cause and effect have always been there but it seemed appropriate to place it in an artwork at this time and this TG context.

Do you see your recent release TG NOW (2004) as an official album? Or is it just a musical goodie for the big Industrial-Meeting "A Celebration Of Industrial Music In The 21st Century" last summer?

TG NOW is an album of recordings made during our first 're-grouping sessions' together. It was recorded over two weeks at Mute's studio in London and was compiled from many hours of 'jam sessions' and musical 'ideas'. It is a bonus TG studio album, but is not our 'official re-grouping' album.

Do you still use your old sounds and modified instruments for producing your new album?

Music technology has changed in so many ways but ironically the way we play and compose has both remained the same and changed dramatically. In TG Cosey still plays electric guitar and cornet but also now uses a laptop, Genesis still plays bass guitar and violin. But Sleazy and myself now use laptops and software as our primary sound sources and compositional tools. I also use a drum machine, a couple of small synths and some effects units. Some of the sounds I use now are sampled from my original TG rhythm loops and tapes.


How did you record the album? In the early 80ies you just taped improvised sessions and live-gigs. Did (you also) rehearse and (write songs) at this time?

Our later TG studio albums in the 80s' were not 'just' taped improvised sessions and live-gigs'. They were recorded at our own Industrial Records studios on multi-track machines and were written, composed and played using TG-adapted studio conventions and equipment.

The material for PART TWO came together using many disparate, diverse and unconventional means. However, as always the starting point for any TG song begins (with) me playing the rest of TG a basic song idea, a rhythm, or a series of loops and beats. Because we all live in different countries whenever we perform together we book studio time in the city we are playing in for 'listening and rehearsing'. At these 'listening and rehearsing' sessions I play the rest of TG my ideas. We then brainstorm and expand on these ideas and suggest themes and lyrics for Genesis. Since the re-grouping of TG I have been working on a lot of new material, ideas and starting points for possible Throbbing Gristle songs, for both live performances and studio sessions.
The basis of a couple of tracks on PART TWO came from ideas during the first TG NOW recording sessions at Mute in 2003, some material was recorded at a studio in Turin in 2005 and some parts were recorded at Camber Sands in the UK in 2004. There is even some material on there recorded at Coil's old studio in the UK. Sleazy, Cosey and myself took all this material to our (Carter Tutti) studio in the UK and spent a month recording extra parts and arrangements. We all also recorded solo tracks (an old TG tradition) in various studios, (UK, New York, Bankok etc.). After that I spent another month producing and mixing it and mastering it.

Is Genesis still going to be the singer on the album?


Is there going to be a live concept for your new album? How often do you plan to play live?

We played some adapted versions of PART TWO during the Berlin performances in 2005. We will probably play them a few more times, but TG being TG anything could happen.

What do you think about the fact,that Genisis has turned into a woman? Does it influence his output?

It is a fact that Genesis is what he is, it doesn't matter at all what I think about it. But yes I think it does affect his output.

Why did the British Parliament call you “wreckers of civilization” and what did they intend (to achieve by that /or/ mean by that)?

We were called the "Wreckers of civilisation" by a Conservative member of Parliament named Nicholas Fairburn. He considered our music, political views and behavior (to be) a danger to society. He was just another politician with an inflated ego who thought he stood on a high moral ground. He later died after being 'disgraced' in the press. Karma will always bite you in the arse if you abuse it.

Today Industrial still exists as a vital scene. Some bands even continue your information-war, which you declared (on) society. How do you comment today's activities?

Pretty much EVERYONE who pertains to be 'Industrial' has completely missed the point and take the term 'Industrial' far too literally. For us in the 70s'-80s' it was a way of life, a certain mindset and attitude of non-conformity. We were anti-facists, anti-communist, anti-music industry and anti-government. We still are. Industrial Music as a genre has become a Frankenstein's monster and bears no relationship to what we started in the 1970s'. It has become just another metal bashing sub-genre of goth, punk and rock.

Who (is winning) the information war so far?

Internet users.

Give a comment on the term"Industrial" as used in the US and it's history there.

Why restrict it to the USA? The term Industrial and Industrialism in general is a global phenomenon. No matter how much we may disagree with the scale of its domination and pollution of our lives it is an inevitable evolution of human civilization. Of course the USA is one of the most 'industrialised' nations in the world, but are they any worse than Japan, Korea, China or Europe?

Going back to the old days: I always wondered, if the logo of Industrial Rec. really was a photo of the Auschwitz' chimneys. Or if it's just a picture of an ordinary factory? What is the idea behind it and how do you comment it today?

I cannot say for sure what the photo is, maybe it is real, maybe not. But the point is that it was designed to make people aware of our (the human race’s) lack of humanity. We could have told people it was a picture of a KGB building, or where Pohl Pot executed people. The logo was very much of its time, and generally people in the 70s' had a tendency to bury their heads in the sand. There was a lot of denial then and part of our intention was to evoke some kind of a reaction as to the extraordinarily awful things some people would do to others. For whatever misguided reasoning.

In Berlin you presented your new soundtrack for the 80ies-movie "Shadow of the Sun" directed by Derek Jarman, who died in the early 90ies. How come, you're making new music for this film? (were you) in contact all the time until (up to) his death? Was it planned for a long time? Do you think, that it would be his intention to re-define the soundtrack? Do you own the Copyrights on the movie, or something like that?

TG had known Derek for a long time before his death and he had also made a short film of TG (Live at Heaven) and we had made the soundtrack to 'In The Shadow of The Sun' in the 1980s'. There had been talks for some time that 'In The Shadow of The Sun' could be re-released on DVD and it was suggested to us that TG may like to compose a new soundtrack. The soundtrack for 'In The Shadow of The Sun' has had a few live re-interpretations over the years and we suggested that it would be good for TG to actually play a new soundtrack in a live performance situation. So a new 35mm print was made from the original for us to perform with in Berlin. All this was done in conjunction with Derek Jarman's estate, we have the copyright on the old and new soundtracks and they have copyright on the visuals. It will be re-released by Mute on DVD in 2007 with both old and new soundtracks.

What about the death of John Balance and the decay of Coil? Did it have anything to do with the reunion of TG? Is the reunion of TG continuing in your side-projects?

Geoff's (Jhon Balance) death was an unbelievably sad and coincidental accident. Of course it had a tremendous affect on all of us who knew him and particularly on Sleazy. But the fact is Sleazy and I had been recording new TG material at Coil's studio a couple of months before Geoff's death and our re-grouping was already established and a basic TG timeline already mapped out.

We all still have our own successful solo careers: Cosey and I have our Carter Tutti project and have both had much success in getting our music placed in Hollywood films in the last couple of years. Cosey has also a flourishing art career and is exhibiting at Tate Britain this year and of course Sleazy has his new post-Coil project in the pipeline.

Do you see TG as a kind of starter for Techno/Elektro-Movement?

Possibly, but I think our work as Chris & Cosey in the very early 1980s' had more influence. Our second Rough Trade album 'Trance' is often referenced and mentioned by producers, remixers and DJs.

What do you think about the development of electronic music since the early 80ies?

As with much music it has its fair share of highs & lows, ups & downs. For me the 'golden years' of electronic music were during the 1970s' and 1980s', pre the widespread use of home computers. Which I guess is ironic considering how much I rely on computers to make music now, hah!

I hate to generalise but it seems to me that there is (much) more crappy electronic music being produced now than ever before. Part of the problem is the availability of cheap, easy to use music software. Programs like Acid make it possible for anyone who can click a mouse to bang out an 'electronic' tune with very, very little effort. It's like those home organs that were so popular a few years ago, they had banks of preset chords and rhythms and you could play a whole song using one finger. Impress you friends and family crap. Shit is shit, no matter how you present it.
Most current so called 'electronic musicians' have little or no imagination outside the protected sphere of their computer screen or bedroom. Where has the experimentation gone? Everyone sounds like everyone else. Actually one of the best performances I went to last year was when Stockhausen played in London. It was fucking amazing!

Do you think that TG can regain the cultural importance you had in 1980?

Not to the same scale, no, I don't think so. The world is such a different place and so much has changed culturally. But then again I don't really care. I didn't care then and I don't think about it now either.

Can TG be as provocative as it was in those days?

This has to be a similar answer to the previous question. Although I do think that TG as a group of musicians (as opposed to artists or cultural commentators) are completely unique. Love it or hate it, there is nothing on Earth quite like the experience of a TG live performance.

...or is it all just about the girls, the fame and the money?

Well Sleazy and Genesis are definitely not doing it for the girls. But speaking for myself the fame and money are not the primary reasons I am in TG, and as Cosey is my partner I'm pretty well OK with the 'girls' aspect of it too. I'm in TG right now because I really enjoy what we're doing and think what we do is pretty amazing.
Thank you.

Thank you too...

This version was re-worked by Dave Bucknell.

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