Unedited Transcript of his Invisible Jukebox tested by Alan Licht in September 2006

MARK PERRY "Death Looks Down" from Snappy Turns (Deptford Fun City)

GPO: (laughs) I haven't heard Mark Perry's voice for a long time.

A: This is from his first solo album. How did you get acquainted with him and Alex Fergusson?

G: I'm pretty sure what happened was I met Sandy Robertson, he was working at Sounds writing things, and he also had a fanzine called Piss Factory about Patti Smith. They [he and Alex] both moved to London from Glasgow at the same time, and were living in the same squat. So I met Mark P through Sandy Robertson and Alex Fergusson. Mark at that time was going out with the original Sue Catwoman, who's on the front of the No Future newspaper. I got to know Mark P quite well and I even wrote a page for an issue of Sniffing Glue and got involved in that. And then Sue Catwoman got really ill with appendicitis. I went to see Sue Catwoman in hospital and I gave her a great, big, giant latex pool of vomit with "Get Well Soon" written on it. And she was quite taken with that and actually ended up being my girlfriend after that. So I ended up, through her and Mark P, going around all the early punk gigs, the Roxy and various places, and seeing The Jam when they first played and Eater, all those early punk bands. And then Mark P decided that he would like to have his own band. Alex Fergusson and Sandy Robertson had originally had a band which they called the Nobodies in Glasgow, and the Nobodies played only one song which was "European Son" and they would play that for as long as they could, about an hour, and that was the entire set.

Throbbing Gristle was already in existence, and we had our rehearsal space at the Death Factory, so I invited Mark P and Alex to come down there and rehearse and jam and come up with ideas for how the band would be. I had a drum kit, and actually began-strangely enough, not many people realize I began as a drummer, my father was a drummer in big bands. So I was the drummer, for a while, until Alternative TV were invited to play at the first punk rock festival in Birmingham, and I said I can't be in two bands at the same time. When I started my own band after Throbbing Gristle, Alternative TV were in a hiatus at that point, so I took Alex Fergusson and formed Psychic TV.

A: How long was Alex involved in Psychic TV?

G: Alex was the original co-founder of Psychic TV, before anyone else it was just me and Alex, and that would have been 1981, and he stayed in Psychic TV right up until after Godstar, 1986. Alex and I wrote that wonderful song, Godstar, which was number one in the indie charts for fifteen or sixteen weeks and got to number 29 in the national charts. And we had experimented with getting a manager, this guy Terry McLellan. While we were in California filming the video for the follow-up single, "Roman P", he went into Rough Trade and said he was collected the money on our behalf from the record (Godstar) and he disappeared with all the money. It was the last straw for Alex. He'd been in ATV and got critical acclaim and written amazing songs, like "Love Lies Limp", all these really really great, memorable riffs; and then he'd done the Psychic TV thing, with all these seminal ideas, holophonic sound right through to the hyperdelic pop songs, and he never made a cent. Likewise, neither had I, but for Alex, it was just too much, he was just disgusted with the whole music scene, and being ripped off. And he made a decision that that was enough, enough is enough. So he didn't just quit PTV, he quit music.

Once in a while I tempted him back to co-write songs with me, and he performed at Royal Festival Hall with Psychic TV in 1999. And just recently he sent me a solo CD that he'd done on a very small indie label in Germany, which was lots of really catchy little songs, and he's now living in Germany with his girlfriend in a small town. He came to see Throbbing Gristle play in Berlin, in January. So we're still friends, it was amicable.
He's a genius. You can sit him down with any lyric and he'll come up with a really catchy riff, he's like a computer, just endless classic pop tunes. It's a tragedy, really.
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A: The other reason I picked this track is because Mark is playing violin and I know that you played violin way back when you did that one record in a high school project and throughout these other bands. It's not an instrument you studied, so I'm wondering how playing the violin came about or how you picked it.

G: Oh that's easy. In 1966 in England I was doing my O Levels and I also was going out with this girl called Jane Ray, and she played violin at school. My other friend, Spidey, rang me up, having listened to John Peel on pirate radio, and said "You've got to hear this band called the Velvet Underground. They've just released a record in America, and you're gonna love it, you've got to hear it, you've got to hear it." I went to school one morning, I had a Vespa scooter, did some O Levels, and at lunchtime I got on my scooter and went to The Boots. And I'd already pre-ordered this record on import, from America, it had just come in that very day so it was the first day it was available In England. They still let you listen to the records in the booths in those days, and they put on "Black Angel's Death Song." I listened to that on my lunch hour, and I got so engrossed in that that I was late for whatever O Level was next, missed an exam. I bought it there and then, and I used to put it on my record player, and I played it and played it and played it until I wore it out-I've had three copies now that I've worn out. And that was it, that was my epiphany, which was the violin could be electrified and put through effects. It touched me in a very special way. I felt that was something that had been the missing link in terms of my being able to visualize an electric form of modern music. I didn't ever want to be the guitarist in a band, I had no particular interest in being a vocalist, I didn't know what I wanted to do, maybe drum-but once I heard that I wanted to play electric violin in some way or another. So I developed my own style, hours a day I would play.

After I dropped out of university in 1969 and moved to Islington to be in the Exploding Galaxy, around the corner were the Third Ear Band. I used to hang out with them and play violin with them too, just sort of jam. Later on I heard Jean-Luc Ponty with Frank Zappa. I still often take the violin with me on tour, in case I want to play it, it's kind of a talisman for me. I can't imagine not having a violin there... I still play it with Throbbing Gristle.

A: Bill Breeze also played violin with Psychic TV at one point, right?

G: That's right, yeah-he plays viola. Bill Breeze is a really remarkable viola player, he went to Juilliard and studied viola and composition and Indian tonalities, which is how he ended up meeting Angus Maclise. He played on the album Trip Reset, which I still consider the lost classic PTV album. It was meant to be promoted and toured with in 1995 before the fire, so it was lost because I was busy being... injured. He improvised parts, and we built the tracks around what he played.

People think that improvisation is an easy option but my experience is it's actually one of the most difficult things to make convincing and potent, because it requires listening almost in advance of hearing. And that requires a sublimation of ego, really, in a very particular way. It's almost prophecy as well, if you understand the way each other emotionally and intellectually operate then you can guess and imagine what the other people involved will most likely do in response to the other things happening. So there's a great degree of empathy and prophecy as well as reaction. That's why there's a spiritual sense, often, with Coltrane or people like that, the spirituality one feels I think is because of that need to empathize, like a seer imagining a future before it happens.

Was that enough for one song? (laughs)

TERRY FOX: "5" from Echo: The Images of Sound II (Het Apollohuis)

G: I was going to guess it was La Monte Young, but it has a more electric almost pre-Velvets, early 66 sound to it too.

A: It's Terry Fox.

G: Terry Fox, remind me who Terry Fox is.

A: He was a body artist in the early 70s and he did a lot of sound installations like this with piano wires, stretching piano wires.

G: Ah, okay, okay... that makes sense with why there's a certain quality in sound of the strings that I wasn't quite getting, wasn't sure what it was. There was a German artist named Albrecht D, who was sort of a minor Fluxus artist, somebody I met through mail art, and was also an associate of Joseph Beuys, and he made installations in parks because of that whole socialist approach to art, that art should be brought to people and with the people, in the streets. But his installations were with piano wires.
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A: I was wondering to what extent, in the transition from COUM Transmissions to Throbbing Gristle, if you were aware of people like Terry Fox or Charlemagne Palestine who were doing both music and body art in the same period.

G: I heard of Palestine, and I heard about Albrecht D; I was aware of Fluxus, which obviously was performance that involved radical ideas of a concert, nailing down the keys of a piano as a piano piece and so on, so those theories and the anecdotes that I read about those movements certainly helped break down what few barriers I had to complete freedom, if there were any. When we lived still in the north of England in a semi-commune, with COUM, we had two semi-derelict houses, and between 1970 and 973 we'd collect any old tape recorders we could find, take out the speakers from radios and so on, and we gradually wired the entire house so that there were speakers and microphones in all the rooms, and speakers hidden outside, and it was a shortcut to the open market which was open on the weekends. We had a room just with drums in it, so the whole house could be played, in a sense. And on the weekend we would also have a microphone outside the house hidden so that people were walking along, the sounds of them talking in the street would be picked up, amplified, manipulated and played back out into the street, plus we would also be saying things about people's clothing... so we were inevitably involving sound as part of the performance ideas. In fact, the main reason I eventually quit the last remants of the Exploding Galaxy was because they wouldn't include sound, they were very prissy about the idea of including sound and they thought that was somehow was going to lead to "entertainment" in some sort of demeaning form.

After 73 COUM moved to London and started to be more art gallery oriented, starting to be given grants and taken more seriously, if you like. We began to create sound collages on tape that we would include in performances as well as noises that were made either by us or by the audience, we saw those as being part of the performance. We even wrote a piece called "Marcel Duchamp's Next work" where we had 12 bicycle wheels/sculptures, and the score was a circle that looked like a bicycle, and each spoke was an instruction of different ways to play the wheels, stroking them, and so on. It's hard to explain in a short way, but by 1975/76 COUM was becoming so integrated with the art world and the art avant garde and included in retrospectives of modern British art with Gilbert and George and things like that, that we, in a typically perverse way, shied away from that moment of potential success, and decided to revert to something that was more potentially chaotic and anarchic which was music. We rejected the art world in favor of exploring what became Throbbing Gristle. But we had learned so much from our art world explorations, and by meeting people. There was a German sound poet, Ernst Jandl, who played me a lot of sound poetry tapes, and they were very influential on my approach to vocals with Throbbing Gristle, in terms of freeing up the idea of what it could be. It didn't need to be literal sense, and it didn't need to be melodic in any traditional rock and roll way. And also John Giorno, is another person whose experiments with delays and loops and so on I definitely utilized, especially in "Hamburger Lady." I was distinctly thinking of him as one of the ways I wanted to resolve what I wanted to do with that piece.

A: What about Hermann Nitsch? The noise orchestra was part of the actions.

G: Well I knew about Hermann Nitsch and the Viennese actionists but I hadn't actually heard any of the sound or seen any of the videos until later so that didn't have any direct effect. With Hermann Nitsch, he was in a difficult situation which was, first kill one sheep and drink its blood and then next time kill three sheep and then kill thirty sheep and then kill a hundred sheep, and then where does that take you? He was confronting excess for its own sake, almost, and that struck me as problematic in the long term.

MIKE HERON "Spirit Beautiful" from Smiling Men With Bad Reputations (Elektra)

G: Guess who this is... Incredible String Band?

A: It's Mike Heron-

G: Yeah-

A: From the solo record.

G: Which one?

A: Smiling Men with Bad Reputations. And this is the track with Dr. Strangely Strange on backing vocals.

G: ooh, you're crafty. God I love his voice so much.

A: What do you think about the current rediscovery, or interest in, this scene?

G: (laughs) It's strange how quickly it happened. When I did that piece for ARTHUR ("My Ten Favorite Psychedelic Folk Songs" November 2004 issue) most people looked at me with a completely blank face... and yet within six months most people looked at me like "Oh yeah! I've got one of those... " Devendra Banhart obviously has something to do with that too. I always think these things are inevitable, you know, there's a kind of reactive cause and effect with music, almost like hopscotch, or leapfrog. And when you've had something like grunge, and then that died very slowly as it merged into (whispers) "boy bands", and superficiality beyond anything you might have imagined, not that long ago. And there's obviously gonna come a point where a new generation want to hear a radically different sound, and it often goes very simply-whatever you did last time, do the exact opposite. You get this bouncing, between loud, noisy things and soft, gentle things. It's part of that biological... flow, that happens through culture generally. Then a few people who are really enthusiastic, if they have a voice that's heard, can have quite an effect. David Tibet, who's an old friend of mine, we're still in touch almost every other day, he got turned on to a lot of this through my collection, and I got turned on to some of it through his. I've still got my Jan Dukes du Grey albums, I actually saw them play, and sit and talk with them when they used to play in Hull.

I remember a lot of this from the first time around, in fact some of the Exploding Galaxy left to become Stone Monkey, who were this dancing performance group that worked with Incredible String Band.
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A: The influence is a little more evident in a lot of David Tibet's music than it is in your own.

G: Yeah, people were always really surprised when they looked at my record collection and almost all of it is psychedelic folk music and there's hardly anything recorded after '69. It was my private world, it was the one thing I had which was my secret. Nick Drake's voice... I think it's the voices as well, Mike Heron's voice, Nick Drake's voice, Strangely Strange, they have this beautiful, multiple tone in their voices that goes to tape so well. That particular of singing to tape-and I do think that it's important that it's on tape and it's not digital. It's like a violin-it contains more emotions per square inch than anything else can. I don't care what nick Drake sings, I just listen to the sound of his voice. It's warmth, and melancholy, a million experiences, and dreams, and lifetimes, and love affairs go by in a couple of minutes. Some people have that capacity, and there's no need for any bombast in order for that to occur. Whereas those who are less gifted tend to have to use theatrical tricks, noise, and surprising sculptural, symphonic structures to make the same sort of thing happen.

I think we're in a moment in time, in social and cultural history, where there's so much noise and bombast and crudeness and violence; people are being inflicted with negative, bigoted, apocalyptic tornadoes of media overload-you're going to want somewhere to sit back and be touched in a different way. You want a safe place to remember kindness and simplicity and the connection between people and nature and... subtleties. So it somehow makes sense to me that in an age where we have this ugly culture that there would be an urge and an appetite to move towards simple, gentle, poetic music and forms of expression that give hope and healing, and have at least in some way a sense of optimism. Why do you think it's become popular again?

A: Especially with people like Devendra it seems like people really focus in on his voice, and there's people like CocoRosie or Antony who are singing in roughly the same style-and that becomes the voice of the moment. Even if you go back to the 70s punk era there's a lot of similarities in the singing styles of David Byrne, David Thomas, Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell. There's something in the vocalization, not necessarily the words, that speaks to and for a certain moment in time. I think also there was so much laptop and electronica at the end of the 90s and people wanted to unplug from that, that's where the interest in acoustic music comes from.

G: Yeah, exactly, that's what I meant when I said leapfrog or hopscotch.

A: When you mentioned grunge before, even that was a reaction to the much more polished music of the 80s.

G: Punk claimed to be a reaction against prog rock and disco... and Industrial was a reaction against all of it (laughs). But also in a way it was nostalgia, TG for example, was trying to find a continuation point for what the Velvet Underground had been doing, not to copy it, but to explore what could be lyrics, and what you could talk about lyrically above and beyond the "I love you, oh you've left me", what else is there. And what could be excluded in terms of instrumentation, if you take out the elements which are most recognizable of a previous era then you are inevitably going to develop something that's different, and often that's a useful exercise, even if it's only an exercise, and sometimes it becomes an epiphany or a revelation.

PATTI SMITH "Birdland" from Teenage Perversity And Ships in the Night (bootleg)

G: (after listening intently for several minutes) Amazing.

A: You know who it is?

G: Surely it's Patti Smith? (laughs) Hope so, otherwise it's a very good impersonation (laughs). I just wanted to hear as much as I could for a change (laughs). Very nice. And the band is just totally following everything...

A: What I love about this in particular is the improvisation she does, that monologue in the beginning, and you used to improvise a lot of vocals on stage.

G: I still do. We saw Patti Smith at Warsaw and it was amazing. The previous time I saw her was at Wembly Stadium, when she had that big hit ["Because the Night"], and the majority of people who were there were there because of this pop song. And they kind of tolerated the first section, and the rest of the band wandered off and she stayed on stayed on stage with a clarinet and did a seventeen minute clarinet solo. And slowly but surely I saw the entire audience's mood shift, from anger to alienation to confusion to dislocation. There's this fabulous moment with great art where there's dislocation between conscious thought and expectation and the actuality of what are the sensations of that? And that's the same as an orgasm, it's that secret moment when the conscious and the subconscious are all opened up. All the pores open simultaneously and they all line up, so that the messages slip through into the nervous system in a way that can't happen any other way. And that's the joy of improvising and allowing random chance and surprise and novelty to be part of the formula of what you do. If you don't pay homage to the spirit of the fool or the shapeshifter or the joker then you're never going to reach... inspiration. And all music, all art, all writing, all performing, all conversing, all loving is about inspiration.

A: Uh, right.

G: (laughs) I feel very strongly about it, as you can tell (laughs).

A: When you were conceptualizing TG was improvising vocals something you had in mind from the outset?

G: At the outset, I didn't expect to be doing vocals. I expected it to be more like the Sonic Arts Union, something like that, a kind of post-Fluxus rock band. But it soon became obvious that for it to be convincing enough to get people's attention or even to allow us to perform in public spaces that were not art-oriented, pubs and rock venues and so on-we wanted to slip into these places as a surprise. So we had to compromise, as we thought, at the beginning, by having vocals sometimes. And it fell to me just because I protested the least. I did sing when I was younger, I was in a cathedral choir, I had four or five years of proper vocal training and did medieval plain chant. But with TG the music was so different that I had to look for voices that sat in this new sound. So that was a whole extra experiment, and that could only happen by experimenting and improvising and letting go and not feeling intimidated or embarrassed, just making noises with my throat and how it interacted with the other noises.

I've done some work with gestalt and also some with Gurdjieff techniques and the Tibetan tecnique of finding your true voice by getting stones to resonate with your voice. So I started to incorporate those ideas into the microphone and I got to make friends with the microphone, and I discovered that it was possible to make the microphone vibrate and resonate the same way stones or metal did. And once that happened I realized there were no limitations at all except... inhibitions. There was a whole new landscape available, populated with different characters. And each character would sing it's own separate songs. Even now I experiment with a song lyric or an idea for a song until I get a voice that goes with it. So in a way each one of them has a person that talks. None of them have to be me. And none of them have to be the voice I usually speak with. They can be all kinds of people. And on the new (PTV3) album, you'll hear that very clearly. Sometimes I tease the band and say there are dozens of people living here (points to head) and they all want a turn to say something. I always found it odd that people would sing every song, no matter what the subject, with more or less the same voice. The song is a story, and it's a compact message and hopefully it's a communication that will be recognized or will have some kind of resonance and empathy with other people you've never met. They each have a storyteller... that's why I'm so fascinated with troubadours, as time goes by, I've got more and more interested in troubadours in France, and how they would travel ¡®round and they were responsible for what became history. Whoever records the songs is the one who tells the story that is going to be accepted as what happened. So it's a huge responsibility as well as being a fascinating thing.

A: And it's an oral history.

G: An oral history, exactly. I think the reason that music is still so profoundly important, especially in adolescence, is because people still sense that somehow, the truest story of what is happening, and what has gone before, is contained in songs.
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A: Patti Smith is someone who people associate with the Beats, as a descendant of that, in particular William Burroughs, and I know you had a long personal association with Burroughs. The underground music of the 70s brought Burroughs an audience he didn't necessarily have before, and I was wondering how you felt about other people at the time who were extolling the virtues of Burroughs.

G: You mean David Bowie? (laughs) Ever since I met William Burroughs and then later Brion Gysin, my entire body of work in every media is without any doubt influenced by them. And I'm a great believer in telling people who your influences are, not pretending that everything is divine inspiration and unique, and your own personal prophecies... you're just part of an ongoing formula that's all integrated, it's a tapestry, it's woven together into this fantastic fabric. So I think anyone who makes sure that the importance of their proselytizing of cut-up, of random chance, the whole depth of the third mind, but most of all the cut-up, the idea that linear thinking and linear time and linear explanations and linear existence are both a fraud and pointless way of envisioning our experience of being alive. Anything that keeps their message alive or expands on it is a good thing.

It's often easy to forget that we're often talking about a limited territory in the West, and there are great sections of the planet who have no interest whatsoever the unfolding of so-called rock and roll... it's irrelevant to them, they just want to eat. It's important to get things in perspective and remember that we're very privileged to debate how we decide to talk about what interests us, and that's one of the things that Patti Smith includes in the sound of her voice. A modesty, and an anguish, and a humility all simultaneously with messages, and that's a very noble and difficult thing to do.

IRA COHEN "Kathmandu Dream Piece" from The Majoon Traveller (SubRosa)

G: Ira Cohen.

A: You issued a book of poetry by Ira, and Angus MacLise, who did the music on this track, in 1991 had you known them or their poetry before that time?

G: Only Ira. I had met Hetty MacLise. But I was always fascinated with the whole Factory scenario, so it seemed appropriate to have the three of them together. I'm very proud of putting that book out actually, it's not that well known.

A: Is poetry something you've a long interest in? I'm bringing this up in relation to Thee Majesty, where you recite poetry with musical backing.

G: yeah, I've been writing poetry, seems like forever... It was a great way of learning how words work with each other so that when it came to me doing improvised vocals and music I had a really deep relationship to the structure of the words themselves. I started writing poetry when I was 12. From then on I started sending poetry to poetry magazines, when I was 13 or 14, and got things published occasionally from then on. I guess I was very determined to try every style and read every book of poetry I could find and then strip it down and try and find out how it worked and why it worked, or why certain things were very touching and other things weren't. I write something every day. That's the thing that I've spent the most consistent and serious attention to, poetry and words. Everything else sort of flowed around that. If I have anything that's sacred it's that. Which is one reason I love the Incredible String Band; the lyrics still blow my mind, and Syd Barrett's do too.

To talk about Thee Majesty, what happened was after I was hurt in the fire in 1995, for various reasons I felt betrayed by people that I knew in the music business and let down by them. Once I was a damaged and hurt animal, like a bird with a broken wing, they couldn't be bothered. They only wanted me when I had pretty feathers that I could display. After one or two years of being convinced I would never, ever have anything to do with music again, it was Lady Jaye who said, "sit down, and think what is it you love? You never have to do anything again, you have no obliagation to do music again." I realized it was words, the incredible magic of putting words next to each other in ways that surprise and reveal something you never expected from the simplest interactions, in the same way you can do that collage, you can create worlds that don't exist, but you can illustrate them, and you can do that with words too.
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A: Have you done poetry readings without musical backing?

G: Sure, oh yeah, since the 60s. The earliest ones were probably '64, '65. When I was in University in '69 I was doing more Fluxus type things, and there was a poetry reading and I took an orange, and a knife, and it was my turn to read a poem, and I just waited and waited, would let the tension build up, and then I took the knife very fast and slammed it down and split the orange in two. And that was it (claps hands).

Lady Jaye thinks that the less music there is the more she likes Thee Majesty. And there is definitely a sense that sound is a crutch, you know? That by having sound you're saying the words don't work enough.

MASTER MUSICIANS OF JAJOUKA "Festival Part 2" from MmoJ: Tribe Al Serif (Musical Heritage Society 2xLP)

G: (immediately) Jajouka.

A: When did you first hear of MMoJ, was it the Brian Jones LP?

G: Yeah, Brian Jones, pretty sure that was it. It could have been before, it could have been through Burroughs, or Gysin. I don't think I would have bought the record, in all honesty, if it hadn't been Brian Jones. Somewhere I've got a tape of Brion Gysin talking about how the Stones dumped Brian Jones in Morocco. It's very sad. They drove to Tangier, Brian got really ill and got left behind in the hospital in Spain and during that time Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg started having an affair, so by the time Brian jones got there he was in the way, so the rest of the Stones were encouraging Brian to go off to Jajouka with Brion Gysin and record this music. And it was while he was doing that that they all went back to England; he got back to the hotel and the rest of the Stones and Anita were gone. And didn't even leave him any money to pay the hotel.

In 1980 I saw that MMoJ were performaning at the Commonwealth Institute in London, so I went and got tickets for the front row of the two days that they played. At that time I think there were about 30 musicians still, plus dancers. They did do some of the rites of Pan and had the boy in the goatskin dancing. It was fantastic, Bachir Attar's father was still a Master Musician, and Bachir was just a teenager. I recorded that with their permission, and it's lucky because that's the only recording of that performance, and since then the musicians have been dying of old age, and the young people of the village don't want to be musicians, they don't want to spend their life learning this oral tradition of music with thousands of different permutations, they want Nikes and hip hop, so they're all leaving the village and living in different towns, a lot of them are taxi drivers in Paris. So the music is literally dying out, there's only about 5 left. And legend has it that when the music stops being played that's when time stops. So, combined with the Mayan calendar saying 2012 is when time stops, the two things are gonna intersect-which is kind of spooky, isn't it?

I used to go see Brion Gysin in Paris, and on one of my visits he said, "Oh, Gen, there's a couple of people staying with me at the moment from Jajouka, Bachir and Mustapha," so I got to meet them and they cooked me a special meal with Moroccan lamb and played sacred, secret flute music while I was eating a meal with Brion Gysin, and then we all took the Dreamachine listening to side two of Heathen Earth (Throbbing Gristle). I remember thinking you couldn't buy this evening if you were a millionaire, you know? It's about as good as it gets. We stayed in touch with Bachir after that. In fact, Thee Majesty grew from conversations between Bachir and myself and Lady Jaye. Bachir performed in the first two or three performances of Thee Majesty.

A: Was your interest in Tibetan singing bowls and thighbone trumpet related to your interest in Jajouka?

G: I was actually interested in Tibetan music and Tibetan culture from the age of 10. I was ill, as I often was when I was younger, asthma and so on, and my father gave me this book, Seven Years in Tibet. I heard about the music and how it was completely functional, it was for healing and for interdimensional travel. I tend now to think that all these functions are included in the interesting music that's made in Western culture, but its done sometimes in ignorance, so sometimes it can backfire and music can do lots of damage.

JOEY BELTRAM "Energy Flash" from Simon Reynolds' Energy Flash book companion CD

G: We're in the acid house era here.

A: Yeah, this is maybe a little late for that by a year or two.

G: It's not as squishy, is it? I don't recognize it, specifically.

A: It's a track by Joey Beltram. You had done dance oriented tracks all along, like "United" with TG, but what was the particular attraction of acid house?

G: Well... TG had experimented with rhythms, "Discipline" funnily enough has turned out to be our classic dance track; since we reformed, as soon as that begins the audience all start going crazy, bouncing up and down. There was always a rhythmic sense and as a drummer I grew up being fascinated with rhythm. And I was listening to Tibetan music more seriously, and I was realizing that high frequencies release certain endorphins and learning about the metabolic side of music, that low frequencies affect the stomach... I started a conversation with Dave Ball from Soft Cell and Richard Norris from Bam Caruso, Andy Weatherall, which became, the title Towards Thee Infinite Beat, saying what we were looking for was... I had two big enthusiasms in music at the time, one was psychedelic music, garage psychedelic music and the other was rhythmic music, ethnic music, trance music that actually had a function, so functional trance music. It was a discussion group, almost... there must be a way to create a sort of rhythmic trance/dance music that's also psychedelic. Then on a tour of America with Psychic TV in mid-80s I'd already started experimenting with radio shows, instead of doing interviews I would do mixes, and I would have this box of tape decks so I could play six cassettes, mixing them all together and start doing these live, long rhythmic mixes that would have one basic beat, then fly all the other stuff in and change it. When I got to Detroit I went on the radio doing this for about an hour and a half, and at the end of it was Derek Carter there and they said we really liked what you were doing on the radio you should come and hear some of the stuff people are doing in Chicago and Detroit. So they took me to this tiny record shop in the ghetto and Derek Carter was playing records, this really early white label acid house thing. I said what's that and they said oh that's acid house. I said "acid house? Wow, what is it?" I said I'll buy every single thing you've got, and it was only 4 records, but I bought all four. That was it really, I took them back to England, made a cassette, and put it in the stereo in my car, got Dave Ball and said "this is it, this is the solution to what we've been trying to do" and drove around London playing it really loud.

Then we did Jack the Tab. I knew that if we did it as Psychic TV or Soft Cell there would be prejudice, so we pretended that it was early tapes that we'd found like those compilations on Rhino or Bam Caruso, Pebbles, Nuggets, and we'll make up names for these different bands, so we'll see what happens. And it got rave reviews. I started to DJ as Jack the Tab and Dave Ball started to do remixes. Already the Psychic TV gigs, we were calling those raves, and there was Towards thee infinite beat and Beyond the Infinite Beat, and we used to be really good friends with the E dealers, when you came to our gigs there were free tabs of E, our things became like parties, so it was a big crossover for a while, all the different threads-Andy Weatherall was a big PTV fan, with a psychic cross tattoo and everything. It was an exciting time. Then I worked on this single "Turn On, Tune in to the Acid House", which for what it's worth was the first record to actually have acid house in the title, although the phrase came from America. And it got banned, not because of the acid house bit, but I used a picture of Superman as the label, and Warner Brothers sent a really heavy letter saying "We own Superman-you've got to destroy all the copies, and give us the masters and apologize." They sent someone around on a motorbike, got the tapes, then went to the warehouse and got all the copies they could find of the record. What they didn't realize was that 5,000 had been already shipped to America (laughs).

I was really disappointed with the way it (acid house) unfolded, it became very conservative, formularized, the DJs became stars just like the singers in bands. There were less and less surprises every time the records came out and then there were experts, all of a sudden, and then there were subgroups, or cliques. And then the raves weren't these secret parties anymore, 20,000 people paying thirty dollars to get in-and it's not what we were thinking at all.
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A: Do you think it's partially because it's tied in to a physical experience, not only dancing but drugs, that people aren't listening to what the actual music is-that it's more about a beat than a music listening experience?

G: Yeah, probably. We miscalculated, in a way we were elitist, we were thinking conceptually, it didn't cross our minds that it would just be like going to the pub and getting drunk. Same thing that happened with acid in the 60s, I should have known, at first acid was setting, and trying to travel and change one's programming and then it was "let's go out and drop a couple of tabs and have a good time and feel weird." And then people would go out, drop two tabs and go out to the pub! So I guess there's a whole resilience in people to just enjoy the novelty of weird sensations without trying to think about what they imply. But certainly I very quickly lost interest in it and moved on; it was obvious that it had been co-opted, and also the drug thing was so big so fast, there were huge amounts of money to be made. There was one point where the police themselves estimated that 2 to 3 million people were taking ecstasy every weekend in England. So promoters, and gangsters, and dealers were all having to work together and making these massive events because it was the best way to make a profit. And so it all became about... money. I don't know if the West is ready to have a spiritual experience with music. I think our culture is so corrupted by commerce and so homogenized at this point that its going to be very hard for anything except small, autonomous, private groups, clans, and tribes having their own little scenes.

SWAMP RATS "Psycho" from Back to the Grave Vol 1 (Crypt)

G: (chuckling) Listen to that guitar sound. I don't know who this is. It's a fantastic sound. I like the way they go off rhythm too. Wow.

FLOWER POWER "Mt Olympus" from Beyond the Calico Wall (Voxx)

G: (laughing, and clapping his hands) What the hell were they all thinking? There's that freedom we were talking about earlier. What was that bit there, was that a guitar sound, like a strangled cat bit? (chuckling) Where did you find these? I've got quite a lot of compilations but these I've not heard before. (listening back to the track) The freakout doesn't go with the little kind of cutesy, nice song at all-

A: Yeah, it's still the same tune.

G: Fabulous. (track ends, Genesis laughs and applauds). Wonderful.

A: So the moral of the story is, rock music was pretty radical in the 60s (laughs).

G: I think so. When everything got amplified and there were very few effects, people had to push limited equipment to its limits. It brought out the best in people in terms of exploring, looking for something that was surprising even to them. I remember the progression; it got so that you would literally hear something, almost every week, that you'd never heard before. And that's a really fantastic landscape to be in. The first time you hear Strictly Personal by Beefheart, with all the phasing on it, first time you hear the Velvet Underground with the viola... logic seemed to become irrelevant, which I thought was wonderful. It was almost as if there was a competition to become as irrational as possible. It gave a lot of people the sense, just like punk did, that they could have a go, and opening for them to experiment and have a look at what could happen. The really early Pink Floyd, if you look at those films of them, they're slicker, but they're not that far removed from what's happening there, they just figured out a way to arrange it and place things so it just was more convincing. Syd Barrett was fascinating with sound in and of itself. Rolling ball bearings up and down the strings of the guitar... he actually converted the echoplex from the ones that the telephone company used for the automatic clock when you rang up.

Brion Gysin used to call those "hot spots"; there were certain moments in culture where there was a hot spot and all of a sudden for 2 or 3 years, usually not much more, there was this incredibly overwhelming explosion of possibilities and experiments because of a piece of technology, or a theory like the cut-ups. Often technology and/or a drug combined, for some reason those two things together often trigger the hot spots.

One of the things that I really find with records like that is somewhere amongst those 3 to 5 minutes there's one sound that's genius. So that's when we started to do the Electric Newspaper, just started to collect all our favorite moments from those. One weird guitar or bass line, or somebody screaming something, just collaging them together.

A: The other interesting thing about that era is the imposed time limit, where everything had to be under 3 minutes to be played on the radio, so people started to pack as much information into those 3 minutes as they possibly could. A band like the Music Machine, all those songs are very, very sophisticated in the way they're structured; "Talk Talk" is two minutes exactly, but it seems like there's a dozen different sections.

G: Yeah, yeah, there's a lot to be learned from how they can tell such a complex story in such a short time. I'm still endlessly studying how they do that, cause I find it really hard to make songs short. It's a skill; that's another example of limitations creating something very special.

Today it's almost a reflection of that inertia I was talking about in the culture, the equipment is built to impose a sort of mean average, it can't be overdriven or bent or twisted to do unexpected things it wasn't supposed to do. I'm surprised that it's inspiring, really, I don't know why people think the expected is exciting. I'm not surprised that more and more musicians I run into are collecting old equipment. Remember those circular fuzz faces? I used to have one of those in Throbbing Gristle, to go with my violin. I could just hit the button and it would go (makes noise) and I could do a rhythm with it, just amazing, completely over the top feedback but with a note in it. Then they decided to make them again because people were collecting them, so I bought one of the new ones and it didn't do that at all. You can't get all the little electrical parts, they don't make them anymore, and if you do get them they're not the same because they're so good at making stuff now, electronically, that it doesn't have any built in flaws. Makes me wonder what happens to the minds of young people growing up in a culture where everything is condensed and limited and compressed, what happens to the way they hear things and what happens to the way they see things. When I see modern movies now, it's the same software for all the special effects, and I find it tedious and irritating.
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One reason I started PTV again was I think there's really room for people to remind the younger generation of the whole visceral, out of control live experience, a real live gig, a five minute song becomes 15 minutes and the lyrics are different, and there's all this visual stuff happening. We've played 20 countries already and the most common response is "Wow, I didn't know gigs could be like that."

We're in a very strange place now with culture becoming more global, MTV, VH1, satellite TV and the internet... there's less and less room for authentic experience, in terms of collective musical experience. Bands in the 60s, in the first explosion of electric groups, if you read the stories of the Beatles and the Stones, they're playing two or three times a night, and each gig was two sets, and then they'd be playing somewhere else the next night, and the next night, and some of them were doing 300 or more nights a year.

A: I remember seeing a schedule for an early Stones tour in the U.S. and they would play a show in Philadelphia in the afternoon and then a show in New York the same night.

G: What was exciting was the only way to experience the Stones, or whoever, was to go and see them. A live event is always a completely different experience to listening at home. And I've always felt very strongly that recordings, whether they be records or CDs, that those should be viewed as a completely separate project to playing live. You shouldn't be trying to play an exact replica of the record when you play live, that's pointless. I've always thought that a live experience should be as immersive and multisensory as possible.

A: I think people's listening, before the advent of records, was much more intense, cause they knew they wouldn't have a chance to hear an orchestral piece, or something like that, very often.

G: That's very true.

A: And even sheet music or a home piano was the idea of trying to re-create a live experience in the home, but a tinker-toy reproduction of it.

G: My father and my uncles would get together on a Saturday and they all played different instruments.

A: So much of performance is about image, that when you divorce the sound from that it's just harder to be sold on it; I find that I really have to see a band live to feel like I've gotten the full idea of what they're trying to do.

G: Sometimes it takes a long time. I've always liked the Pretty Things, they started to do gigs again a few years ago, and they were amazing. Everything that I'd liked was five times better, and they were fun to watch. It made me fall in love with them all over again on a much deeper level.

A: I saw ? and the Mysterians about 10 years ago at Maxwell's-

G: YEAAHH! Aren't they great?

A:--and they came out and they had Roland keyboards and I'm thinking "oh no, I hope this isn't some updated version of this." But they started playing and it sounded exactly (snaps fingers) like 1966, unbelievable. The way they built the set up, it got more and more and more intense, and they finally played "96 Tears", which was completely over the top.

G: We took him to England when we did Royal Festival Hall, we had ? and the Mysterians, and Billy childish and the Headcoatees, and MMoJ, Quentin Crisp introducing everything, and then Thee Majesty, and then the Alex Fergusson lineup of PTV. ? was fabulous. He was so excited, he got to play in front of 4,000 people.

A lot of bands are very lazy in terms of the way they perform these days. That's one reason I like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is that Karen O puts herself in 100%. Whether it looks ridiculous or not doesn't matter, she'll wear ridiculous things, deliberately trip up, it's great. In fact Nick Zinner plays on our new album. I remixed one of their songs from their last album, "Y Control". The other person who's guesting on our new album is Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers.

CHARLES MANSON "ego" from Lie (ESP)

G: Charlie.

A: I hadn't heard this record in about 20 years, and I was really amazed at how much he sounds like Van Morrison in Them, and there's some songs that reminded me of Arthur Lee.

G: It would have been interesting if they'd given him an actual band to work with. I mean, Squeaky and everybody trying to keep the rhythm on bongos in the background didn't really help very much (laughs). There's no question he had some talent.

A: I kind of listened to it again wondering if he was a kind of original freak-folk character, but it really just sounds like he's another aspiring, California singer-songwriter, he must have heard Arthur Lee since Bobby Beausoleil was playing in one of Arthur Lee's pre-Love bands.

G: Yeah, and Love were playing constantly on the Sunset Strip. Did you read that book about Love that came out?

A: I actually played with Arthur Lee about 10, 12 years ago.

G: You did?! Is he as crazy as he sounds in the book?

A: He's a complex person, let's put it that way. You could almost see him changing gears, sometimes he would be really on the ball, saying "I should be making a cut of the bar at this gig, I've been in this business for thirty years, I know how it's supposed to work", and then you could see him slip out of that and be the kind of free-spirited, head-in-the-clouds guy most of his fans might imagine him to be. To some extent, he's crazy like a fox, but on the other hand, that over-complexity is exacerbated by the drugs and alcohol. One of his friends told me that he once saw Arthur drink two bottles of tequila in an hour.

G: (gasps) How's he still alive?

A: Good question (laughs).

A: I know you were interested in Manson's philosophy is that something you still reflect on?

G: No, no, that was a long time ago. It seemed more relevant when I lived in England and I had a very biased view of American culture, as did most Europeans. And having lived here now for 12 or 13 years I've moderated my disgust (laughs). I used to think that he was the classic thing in the 60s, when it first all came out. That he was the inevitable ghost in the closet of culture here. Someone had to end up being Charlie Manson because of the hypocrisy. He transcended his own limitations and lack of education and had sort of an epiphany through being given so much media attention, that he actually made some very astute criticisms of the corruption going on in American media and politics that were just being ignored. It was a very relevant critique, the reasons that American culture was losing its creativity and inspiration and becoming more paranoid and fear driven. Kind of ironic that something that created fear exposed a fear-driven society. I suppose like many people who live on the fringes of society, marginalized people, I initially would tend to root for the underdog. Nowadays I think there's also a side that one has to confess to which is that he was also a thug. Also there's no question in my mind that he didn't get a fair trial.

A: People tended to look at the Family as a kind of evil twin to hippie culture and the flower children.

G: I think that was exploited, though. I don't think it was the evil twin of the flower child at all, because there was Mel Lyman, there were lots of nasty cults. I think the LSD amplified that in ways that no one expected. That was one of the things that was revealed, all drugs are amplifiers in one way or another, and LSD was an amplifier of the crevices and cracks of the mind. It was the equivalent of splitting the atom with the mind, you don't always know what you're gonna get when you do that. I was friends with Timothy Leary but his gung ho, "everybody should take acid" was a flawed idea. It's not that straightforward. If you're going to tinker with the mind on that level, you've got to have an awful lot of safety measures in place. I think things became very irresponsible and thoughtless in terms of the accessorizing of alternative culture, until it reached the point that we were talking about earlier, of "let's take two tabs of acid and go to the pub, and maybe end up having a fight, like we always did." It wasn't the perfect pill to change people's personalities.

A: It's also interesting, all the nicknames that people in the Family had, and in the Factory too, and going into the punk era people were changing their last names.

G: I'm reading this book of Bob Dylan interviews, and a couple of times people asked him why he changed his name, and he said "we're born as nothing, a name is what you make of it, and Bob Dylan is a name I wanted to grow into." It's an old tried and tested technique which obviously I've used in my own life, the name you get given at birth I think should be seen as a temporary tag, and it goes with the families and the social groups and the expectations of what we're supposed to become, and if that tag doesn't fit what you imagine you want to become it should be discarded, changing names is a really potent form of magic. It's also well-known in any study of cults, that another way of controlling people is to remove their previous name and give them one of their own. Because when you do that you become parental, you're taking control of who they might become. When you join the Freemasons you get a secret name, and so on.

A: But criminals also use aliases as a way to elude identification, and to me being a musician, especially on an underground level, is a lot like being an outlaw. I remember looking at the back cover of No New York and thinking the pictures all looked like mug shots. (G chuckles)

G: I hadn't thought of that but it's true. I've actually been an outlaw, literally, as well. And since I changed my name legally it's kind of ironic, it starts as a statement of separation from traditional society, that I'm going to be this other character, that I'm building, but then it labeled me with this name that was really easy to spot when going through customs and so on. It makes moving around invisibly more difficult, there's pros and cons depending on how well known the alias becomes.

A: So much of songwriting is stealing, too. To go back to Dylan, a lot of the songs on his first records are appropriated from other people or are traditional melodies. Which is part of the folk tradition, but if you know that book Positively 4th Street, there's a story in there about how Joan Baez stole her entire early stage show--songs, singing style, everything--from this other folksinger in Cambridge, Debbie Green. She started off mimicking this person.

G: That's almost like voodoo or something, isn't it? I always liked that band name Pop Will Eat Itself, I always thought that was very true... it is an organic process. For example, with Throbbing Gristle, "Zyklon B Zombie" is exactly the same structure as "I Heard Her Call My Name", and because it was so apparent, to me, I sang "and then my mind split open" to make it clear that I knew that it was the same structure. And then I found out years later that the other members of TG didn't realize.

YA HO WA "Journey Thru An Elemental Kingdom" from Penetration (Higher Key)

G: Sort of sounds like Can.

A: It's Ya Ho Wa, they were a rock band in the 70s but also sort of a cult centered around this guy named Father Yod in California. With Psychic TV you had the Temple of Psychic Youth, a kind of cult, to go along with it; what was the beginning of that idea, how did you feel it turned out?

G: (Laughs) That's a big question isn't it. Funnily enough I hadn't thought of it, but there was actually a TOPY event where we sounded a bit like that (the track), going into this heavy drumming thing, with Alex Fergusson doing guitar over it. It was in an abandoned synagogue, the sound was amazing. If you whispered on one side you could hear everything on the other side. The TOPY idea grew from conversations with Monte Cazazza, we were throwing ideas back and forth. What would happen if a band actually accepted the adulation that happens, instead of seeing the fans as either the commoners, or maintaining a distance from them, seeing them as kind of a necessary but irritating part of what happens; what happens if you designed them, or took that energy and worked with it? There'd been an article about David Bowie where he'd come from the station and was driven in a car and done this kind of pastiche of being a German officer in an open-top car, there were all these scandalous bits in the paper about what if one of these people with all of their fans was a Nazi, or had a cult, and we picked up on that and said, yeah, what if? What if something took that and deliberately embraced it to see what would happen? That was the original premise.

So we thought of the idea of the uniform, even if you wear the same grey uniform it's the details that make you unique. That it's impossible to all look the same, it's a contradiction in terms.
Being a paramilitary occult organization sort of needed some content. I'd been getting more and more interested in the side effects of some of these shamanic rituals that I'd been exploring, basically designed it to be an open-ended exploration of if there was information and content beyond just music, why should the back of the record just be stuff about the band, why not have it be an essay about something that concerns you about what's going on in the world, or whatever. Much to our surprise, lots and lots of people wrote to us, we put some information on our first album, gave it this clear image and look, the shaved head and everything, and it worked, people wanted to know more. We did it as an anti-cult, really. We said ok, you have to send 23 pounds and we'll send you the grey book and it will tell you what you need to know. It said how to do a sort of simple sex magic ritual, and essay about fear controlled societies, and some propanganda about what we were thinking, and lo and behold, all of a sudden, there were 10,000 people involved worldwide. And the government of England got really scared by it (laughs). It was very effective. We had stations and autonomous groups that looked after different geographical areas, and we kept having to split it up because there were more and more people. People would organize events, and concerts, and do books, and records, start labels, all kinds of things-we had 2 or 3 book publishing companies, about 5 labels. Once a year people who were more active would come from all over the world and we'd go off to a farm up north, there was a big stone circle there, the farmer gave us permission to camp out. You could run around naked and take magic mushrooms and talk about what we thought was right with the world and wrong with the world... basically, we came to the conclusion that nothing would improve except by changing human behavior. And how do you do that? We realized that the rituals and all the things we were doing were cut ups, we were doing cut ups with behavior, the same way that you break up the linearity of literature with cut ups or the linearity of music with sampling. And it backfired, the wonderful design that was paramilitary made it very easy for the media to paint us as neo-Nazi. And then of course the sex part freaked them out, anything that pro-sexual is a threat... and the basic fact that we were trying, truly, to attempt to affect the evolution of the human species in a small way was seen as extremely threatening. Because we were a very active organization and very self-motivating, we were involved in closing the dolphin area, in Brighton where I lived, which was a 1 and a half million dollar a year business. We worked with the anti-apartheid movement, we worked with gay liberation... my way of explaining it is, if you think of one of those one-armed bandits in Las Vegas with the circles that go round, eventually Scotland Yard pulled the lever and my name popped up on all of them. Everything that they didn't like, all the activities that they were against, I was involved in some way. That's how it looked to them. Of course we were also involved with raves and acid house, so everywhere they turned, everything they were threatened by or scared of, or trying to stop, we were encouraging (laughs). There was bound to be a clash at some point.

It was always meant to be an anarchic organization with no one in charge, but I miscalculated how much people want someone to tell them what to do. We spent more time, in the end, trying to think of more ways to avoid there being any hint of hierarchy than we did doing anything useful. It got just ludicrous; and then, of course, the people who were at the center of it, doing the most work, who were also financing it-Psychic TV and everyone else involved was spending their own money to do it-were losing money as well. We just decided there was no way around it, we'd just have to quit, to stop it. We were driving along one day and there was a sign up by some roadwork that said "changed priorities ahead." And I said, that's it, that's what has to happen next (laughs). So we printed all these nice postcards that said "Changed Priorities Ahead" and then sent them to everybody, and that was it (claps hands), the end, they had to figure it out for themselves. We never figured out how to change behavior, it seems pretty obvious it's down to each person. It worked rather well but it caused me an awful lot of aggravation in the end.
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WOLF EYES: from Live Scum (Hanson)

G: I don't know what that is.

A: It's Wolf Eyes.

G: Oh, Wolf Eyes, they played with us a couple of times. They didn't sound like that, maybe cause live it's much louder.

A: Olson is playing sax on that, which he doesn't always play. Those guys each have their own labels, and they release what seems like every single show they play (laughs), which is something TG did with the 24 Hours box on Industrial. Is this something you've taken notice of over the years? And what was the thinking in making that statement of releasing every live show at the time?

G: well, one thing was because none of us could play traditionally, certainly couldn't then, the only way to remember what we'd done was to tape it. Early on when I'd been going to hang out with Burroughs in London, I asked him what was the best tape recorder to get. And he told me to get this Sony tape recorder that had a nice condenser mic in it. The first TG album was recorded on that tape recorder in our space. From the very beginning when we started experimenting with sound in a band format, I just recorded everything, based on Burroughs' advice, thinking at the very least it would be raw material that something could be made out of. The first release we did was a cassette, The Best of Throbbing Gristle Vol. 1, and that was just bits that we thought worked the best, edited together. We used that as a template to see if we could reproduce any of those sounds. Our way of learning to play was creating bits of tape and each week we'd meet Friday, Saturday, Sunday and play hours and hours and record stuff and then listen to it, and then over the period of a whole year, we developed a sound, and enough proficiency to be able to do something for an hour. But it was loose enough that it was still worth recording to see how it sounded afterwards. So that just slipped from learning how to be TG to recording what TG was. We recorded the gigs so that eventually we could edit our favorite bits and that became the first album. One side was bits from gigs, and the other side was just playing in the space.
TG did, altogether, about 30 gigs, and I just came up with the title one day, 24 Hours of Throbbing Gristle. That worked... the others also thought that was witty and interesting, and what better way to show the development of the band from stage one right through, lay it out and just say there it is. There's every gig. Seemed like a good idea (laughs). We decided to do it on cassette tapes, Chris and Sleazy found these high-speed cassette duplicators so we could make 5 copies at a time. We rang up Virgin Megastore and said we've got this project, do you think you'd be interested in buying one or two to sell, and they said "we'll buy 120." I think we made about 118 and just couldn't stand it anymore.
We did our Industrial newsletters people started to send us cassettes of their music, so we would print all the addresses of people who'd sent us their music, so they started to swap them, so we did encourage people to start setting up networks and exchanging cassettes. So I think we played so

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