The Wire

In Writing

Sleazy Peter Christopherson unedited

Read the unedited transcript from Sleazy Peter Christopherson's Jukebox interview with Mike Barnes

Sleazy Peter Christopherson Jukebox transcript


Is this Nico and John Cale maybe? “Borderline” [“Frozen Warnings”], one of those?

I think this is about my favourite track on that album. (Vocals come in) Yeah, it’s great isn’t it? As you may know, when Throbbing Gristle were playing Tate Modern a few years ago, it came to us as a possibility that we could make an installation at the ICA, but no one really knew what that would be and how that could work. I was on the train from Weston-Super-Mare, where I lived at that time, to a meeting with the other members of TG and it struck me that one of the things that we could do that would confound people’s expectations — because TG was always about confounding even the expectations of people who were into what we did — would be to cover someone else’s album.

The one that seemed to lend itself the most to that was (Nico’s) Desertshore. I mean I love this album, but to me this is by far the best song on it, but Desertshore was a kind of a complete work. I believe it was soundtrack to the Philippe Garrel film called La Cicatrice intérieure. It’s fairly experimental and features Philippe himself wandering around Iceland naked. Nico appears on a white horse and Nico’s son [Ari] appears as a baby being set adrift on a stork’s nest onto some passing river. [Distracted by Cale’s piano] Great chords.

And it was just mad enough an idea to appeal to the other TG guys. So we duly set up a recording studio installation in the theatre at the ICA and for three days recorded Genesis [P-Orridge] singing vocals to basic backing tracks that I and Chris Carter had prepared, as well as all four of us doing some great jams that formed the basis of the recent tour CD, The Third Mind Movements, all in front of a live audience who were being extremely patient and dedicated ‘flies on the wall’.

Considering most vocalists throw the rest of their band members out of the studio when their turn comes to perform, Genesis was amazingly brave to sing unfamiliar material — some in a foreign language — unrehearsed and for the first time in front of a live audience, and she did a greater job than anyone could have imagined.

We released a limited wallet of 12 CD-Rs of the whole weekend installation for purists and collectors who couldn't make it, but the Nico album itself remains to be properly finished, orchestrated or arranged using that raw material. This autumn is already busy for the four of us, so we will hopefully finish the album off next year, in time for a big launch on our new Industrial Records label towards the end of 2010.

The Marble Index is often cited as difficult and depressing, but there’s something about Nico’s songs that’s deeply melancholic and very moving.

I didn’t know how much that was Nico’s personality. I regret to say that I never met, but I think she always was that way from day one. John Cale I think made some wonderful records at that time.

Cale’s arrangements at times almost dominate the vocals, as on this track.

But to me it compliments her vision. There was also that Cale record with all of the Kodachrome slides on it. What was it called?

Yeah, I thought that was a great record. Just then, for whatever reason, he seemed to have encapsulated that bleak view of the world — which in a way spiritually was taken up by TG in the late 70s — with the garbage removal strikes, the Labour party problems, and the way that TV was pretty much feeding up a diet of Prog Rock, Mud, The Sweet and stuff like that. It definitely felt to us when we started TG as though there was no cultural support system. The culture didn’t reflect the world that we saw every day walking down Mare Street [in Hackney] and into the studio in Martello Street. At the time the word “yuppie” hadn’t been invented and there were no flats. It was just a wasteland, really. And so these kind of records were definitely a kind of progenitor. Not musically an influence, but spiritually.
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Do you think that those were more naïve times, perhaps?

I think possibly that’s true, but I don’t necessarily know if that was a bad thing. I think if anything we’ve gone too far the other way, as everybody is so cynical and so jaded about more or less everything, especially in London and in the West. Everything’s done. Been there. How can you amuse me now?

At the time Throbbing Gristle were confrontational and provocative in a way that most people hadn’t encountered from a group before. But people have seen so much in art and music in the last 30 years, do you think it’more diffto provoke any sort of reaction now.

I think that’s true, but although the provocation was a side effect of what we were doing, I never for a moment really thought that the provocation was the most important element. I was always a bit surprised when people said “Shock Rock” or whatever, because to me, all we were doing was telling the truth. What I have always done with TG, with Coil, with the stuff that I do now is to try and tell it like it is, the way that I see it. That’s often at fairly extreme odds with the prevailing point of view and if that means that it’s shocking as a consequence, so be it.

To answer your question, I think if somebody started out to shock now they wouldn’t be able to, as people are more blasé about transgressional things. But also there would be no point. A lot of people went on to use shocking imagery or similar imagery to what Throbbing Gristle started out using — references to concentration camps or whatever – but for totally the wrong reason: not because they wanted to make a comment on the political situation in the world now, but just because they wanted to be, ‘How naughty is that?’

And even sexually with Coil, obviously Jhonn (Balance) and I were both gay and were in a relationship and we went into our sexual obsessions, interests and deviations, but I think everything like that has been done and so it’s not really interesting. More importantly it doesn’t particularly interest me and I would much rather be making music about things that do interest me.

The whole of my show yesterday was about belief in a fairly light-hearted way. I was showing films of people who believe that their tattoos can protect them from the speeding bullet or the slashing knife, or whatever and asking whether we would believe that same thing or whether we would be cynical about it, and also how beliefs can make us feel better on some occasions and on other occasions make us feel worse. Those are the kind of things that interest me now.


It’s really a long time since I heard this, but is this Stockhausen’s Gesang Der Jünglinge?

I originally bought Stimmung. I hadn’t listened to that for a long time, but by accident I found it in the iTunes store. I was lucky that more or less at the last minute before I was sent to the same public school that Prince Charles went to, I didn’t go, because I showed some indication of being a bit weird and deviant to my parents. So they sent me to a Quaker co-educational boarding school in Yorkshire called Ackworth. It was the greatest thing they could have ever done because the school had a very liberal arts policy.

I helped run the school radio, which wasn’t broadcast but was close circuit with speakers to all the common rooms and I think that the third formers were a bit perplexed to be greeted by Stockhausen’s Gesang Der Jünglinge (laughs). They were expecting Mud’s “Tiger Feet” or something. This was one of the first electronic records I ever bought.

I guess the school music department was sufficiently open to have a few electronic records like Messiaen. And from there I was sufficiently interested to go into W H Smith’s in Pontefract, into the record section and stop for a moment looking at Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, and wander over to the electronic music section. As you start leafing through the covers, some catch your eye just as my eye was caught by a copy of a book called The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs at the age of 14. I stood in the back of the shop for two hours unable to stop reading. It’s just fantastic when people by chance come across some book or work that suddenly opens doors in their perception and quite possibly this [music] and books like that changed my life. If I hadn’t got the bus or been able to go to Smith’s that day, who knows what might have happened.

I think the fact that you could get Stockhausen in W H Smith proves that it was a different age.


This is over 50 years old and was seen as a groundbreaking piece of work. How do you think it stands up now?

I think it sounds out of time in a good way: it doesn’t feel dated to me. To be honest with you I don’t really know much about contemporary electronic music in a classical sense, but to me a lot of these electronic sounds still sound fresh in the same way as the Clockwork Orange soundtrack still sounds as fresh as the day it was made.

This feels very much a precursor to some of the Radiophonic Workshop and White Noise music.

The old Delia Derbyshire set-up, if you’ve got loads and loads of money, loads of time and a lot of patch cords, you can actually make those sounds the same way that she did, but more or less nobody ever does. I confess that when you first put the record on the very first few trills, my first reaction was wondering whether it was something from the Coil Worship The Glitch period (c.1995), because some of those sounds are a bit similar.

We thought that Stockhausen’s approach of using voices and electronics on this piece had parallels to Coil’s use of instrumental sounds and voices, where it’s not always easy to identify the sound source.

That’s been a key point of lots of the stuff that I’ve done. Even now with the new incarnation of TG shows, four or five times in every show we get to a point where the four of us actually don’t know who made some particularly good sound that just came out. Even though we are all using completely different technology, Genesis plays her bass in more or less the same way she did when she was a he. And Cosey has some new effects and also plays laptop as well, but it’s sometimes very difficult to tell what the source of the sound is. And to me that’s exciting. For example, that very high scrapey sound we’re just listening to is a voice, but you wouldn’t necessarily know.

I think the technology of voice manipulation is reaching the point that with my other projects, SoiSong and the Threshold HouseBoys Choir, I use a lot of vocal manipulation from scratch. For example, on the new SoiSong album, the vocalist is as much of an important part of the palette of sounds as the instruments, but there is no human vocalist on the record. It’s all from elsewhere.

You say from elsewhere. What do you mean exactly?

Well, we’re having quite a lot of fun right now with a teaser campaign, which purports to show that the vocalist is an alien child that we have abducted (laughs). But between you and me — obviously — the vocals are all made in the computer; I made everything artificially.

The advances in technology up to now – I mean, before you could retune, but now you can make Bill into Ben into Barbara and their bastard offspring as well. Which is great fun and fantastic because I think the human voice is such an emotive instrument. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of listening to Bulgarian singers or Irish folk singers or Goran Bregovic pieces, where you hear a voice and immediately chills run up your spine just because there is something about the frequency, the range, the emotion that’s built into that one would never really get from any amount of bleeps and boosters. I’m pleased you played this to me; I probably will download it again.


I don’t know this particular piece. It sounds very Tuvan to me, but the wind instrument sounds really like a Thai khaen.

It’s a ritual music from Northern Thailand near the Laos border. It’s apparently an animistic practice that is undertaken when a person is convalescing from a serious illness. Have you come across much ritualistic music in Thailand?

Sure. The most experience I have is of music from the North East, from the area called E-San, where they have a long tradition of folk music, not only for entertainment, but as healing and stuff like that.

But if you go directly north to Laos and Burma, you go towards the Golden Triangle. Whether or not it’s the history of all the heroin that comes from that area, the Northern people tend to be much more spooky, more fixed in these kind of traditions, using music for spiritual purposes.

The North Easterners have a kind of country music, which to some westerners is very discordant, but the songs are more or less the same as American Country music, so you get lots of popular songs about, ‘My dog’s been run over by a truck, my mother-in-law’s got piles, and my wife’s left me for a ten year-old girl’ or something like that. The way I relate to it is it’s like Dolly Parton coming out of a K-hole.

Coming out of a Ketamine experience. I’m not an Anglophile, I’m a Thaiophile, I unequivocally love the culture of that area, so I’m gradually becoming more familiar with a particular artists and particular genres and uses of music.

You filmed some Thai rituals that came as a DVD with the Threshold HouseBoys Choir album, Form Grows Rampant, but that is far more violent and involves cutting their tongues and skewering their cheeks.

Those rituals are all from one small area to the south of Thailand, quite a long way from this particular track. In their defence — not really in my defence — they are all done for the benefit of the local community. If they are cutting their tongues with razors or something, they are doing it at a traffic crossroads or an intersection where there have been bad traffic accidents in the past year. Their intention is to scare away the demons or the bad spirits that cause the drivers to have the accidents.

The Thai rituals have some immediate connection with famous Hindu and Indonesian rituals where they hang lemons from hooks, and do the suspension from hooks thing, but to me those particular rituals seem more about the ego of the person who is doing it. But Thai people have a more holistic and caring philosophy and point of view. No matter how bloody they might look on a DVD, in fact it’s all done with the best of intentions.

As I said yesterday in the Threshold HouseBoys Choir show, for me there is something irresistible about witnessing normal salt of the earth delivery boys, and local ruffians and gangsters going through those kind of experiences on my behalf because what they are doing is trying to make their community, me included, a better place.

When the Tsunami happened — which was really a big deal in Thailand because 4,000 people were killed in ten minutes — that very night all of the bar girls and the bar boys went to the local temple to pray, to make offerings and donate money to the relief. When you see that kind of devotion and love from people who have nothing wanting to help and knowing they won’t receive anything in return, to me it was an epiphany, because it’s the opposite of what you would expect to happen in the west.
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I’ve always felt that the tissue that separates this reality from any of the many others in Thailand is much thinner and more easily penetrated or even crossed without being aware. All Thais believe in ghosts just as a given. In the three months after the Tsunami happened it became a common occurrence that taxi drivers who are normally pretty even-headed guys reported picking up Westerners from hotels in Bangkok who were going home and taking them to the airport and arriving at the airport, and turning around and finding their cab was empty. This didn’t just happen once, it happened 100, 200 times. And they all to a man knew it was the spirits of the Western tourists who had been killed trying to get home.

Has it affected your music making being based there?

Yes, I think it has. It’s certainly affected the shows I do now. I’m no longer interested in standing behind a laptop and making out that I’m doing something interesting when it’s all been programmed months ago. I’d rather play some music and show some interesting films and actually explain why I find them interesting and what I think is important. So the solo shows I do now are like a weird uneasy evening with Uncle Sleazy.


OK, I didn’t know which album this was from, but then when it got to the chorus I vaguely remember that from one of the albums from when I was hanging out with those guys. To me this is the nicest of all the various Nine Inch Nails styles, because it seems somehow more musically intelligent than all the rock stuff. I love Trent (Reznor) as a person and I think his approach to the music business is incredibly astute, and I wish him the very best, but I don’t play his records very much because to me although he has a good formula the records are quite formulaic. I guess this was from the mid 90s.

This was from the Broken mini-album, from 92.

It was from Broken? Then I’m showing myself up because I directed the notorious compilation. I should know that but this wasn’t one that I did the video for.

What was the story behind the video for Broken? I heard that Reznor asked you to ‘do your worst’, so to speak.

After I’d made a couple of videos for them that were relatively conventional in the early 90s, Trent phoned me and said, Would I make the heaviest video ever made? So stupidly, of course, I said, “Yes I’d be delighted” and proceeded to do just that.

Coil had already done some remixes of Nine Inch Nails and they’d been used in Seven, the famous horror movie. So I was on pretty good terms with the guys and we put together a compilation for the Broken album of which the culmination was a track called “Gave Up”. Basically the video was what I intended to be a comment on the existence of snuff movies and people’s obsession with them.

And I did it without regard for MTV and what was showable and not showable, because that’s what he asked me to do. But when the video was finally assembled, the record company thought they would get into all sorts of shit if they actually released it, but Trent leaked a couple of copies to a video shop in Ventura Boulevard or somewhere, who subsequently made what I understand to be in excess of $20-30,000 bootlegging and selling copies of copies. So because Nine Inch Nails were in the charts with no video, it became one of the first viral distribution products, so loads and load of Nine Inch Nails fans copied their copies and distributed them, because the net wasn’t really working for video then.

Because everyone was making bad dubs of bad dubs, what I considered at the time to be pretty obvious clues that this was a fake and actually making a comment about those things, were lost by the bad quality. So unfortunately a lot of people, especially kids, started to believe that it was a real snuff movie. By the time a VHS has been copied ten times you are hard pressed to make out any detail at all. You can just about see that there is a guy with a rubber mask and a chainsaw appearing to cut someone’s legs off, but you can’t really see anything else: you can’t see all of those clues that would actually tell you it was no more real than Saw 2 or Hostel 28.

So in a way I regret… it was never my intention to bring harm to people. I do think people can be harmed seeing things, especially unexpectedly, that put them in the position of empathising with someone being tortured and murdered. That’s a hard thing to watch. I guess it’s interesting that it’s achieved a certain notoriety. But to me, because truth has always been pretty important to me, I think that the way Hollywood presents horror as a Grand Guignol a sort of Theatre Of The Absurd, actually encourages kids to go, “Yeah, that was fucking awesome man, you could see their eyes popping out”, and whatever.

I think that does humanity a disservice because that suggests that you can be horrible and it’s a joke, whereas with what I’m trying to do, if it’s addressing the issue of man’s cruelty to man, there’s no doubt that my intention is to point out how appalling those things are, and what they look like for real. I don’t know what the statistic is of how many people get killed on American TV every second but it’s something horrendous. But because all of those deaths are shown in a plastic way, they don’t prepare people for what death is really like. Really, people in the West have no clue about the reality of death.

When you did your more mainstream videos, did you feel you were basically making something disposable?

I directed between 1986 and 2001, and although I won some awards from the profession and within the industry, I never received a single e-mail or letter from anybody that said that the video meant anything to them. By contrast, every day I get four or five e-mails. People write things like, “I was immensely moved by this” or “You really helped me when my Dad was dying,” or “My friend got HIV and your songs made that somehow bearable”. Every day.

I’m glad that I got out of the profession when I did. There was literally a five second moment that I had in 2001 when I was making a video for Virgin. The wife of the head of the record company at the time said to me, “You’ve got to make this video again, it’s not good enough”. And if I had done what she asked it would have meant that I wouldn’t have been able to play with Coil at the Royal Festival Hall. It was a no-brainer. And she said, “You’ll never work in this city again”. She actually said that to me (laughs). And I’m glad to say that I haven’t.

I’m interested to know what you think about groups like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry being part of so-called Industrial Rock. Do you think there is any linkage between that phenomenon and Throbbing Gristle.

The first time I met Trent, he was kind enough to say how much TG had influenced his desires for a career and for a way of life, so I guess philosophically we might have inspired them. I didn’t think there’s a particular through line of the actual style of music, but in a way TG sort of wasn’t about the music. It was about the fact that it was possible for someone to stand up and do something without any knowledge of the music business, without any knowledge of how to play. But because we had a sufficiently strong will it was possible to achieve something and to me that was more important than if you had heavy drums or swiping guitar noises, or whatever.

I think the independence thing was important for a lot of people. Because even when Ministry and Nine Inch Nails were starting up, it was separated by time and space from punk and from George Michael and the other things that were happening in the mainstream. I don’t listen to the Industrial we have now because it just doesn’t interest me. But having said that I do have a tremendous amount of respect for Trent and I like his instrumental album, Ghosts I-V. I thought that was really nice – much more so than the stuff he does to tour around stadiums every year to pay the bills.
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In the Invisible Jukebox last month, Ariel Pink, who was on the same bill as you at Coachella, said he enjoyed seeing Throbbing Gristle play to lots of dancing, sweaty kids rather than in an art space.

We did exactly the same thing at Coachella as we would do in an art gallery: tomorrow we are going to play in an art gallery, the Tramway in Glasgow and then the Royal Art Gallery in Copenhagen. But it is fantastic that the TG style or genre or whatever is so separate from 99.9% of what the people who come to see us have ever experienced before that it doesn’t seem to be fixed in the 70s. It’s not like a reunion tour where we are doing all the old hits – although we do some of those songs – but it seems to appeal to 17 and 20 year olds just as much as 57 and even 67 year olds. There is something visceral and a lack of association with a period or any other genre. People don’t care that we are all old and weird looking, they just get the energy of the music, and there is a certain kind of person for whom suddenly that clicks.


I don’t know who this is and I would say in my defence that the period that Jhonn and I were listening to these records we don’t really remember very much of at all. I would guess it was 87, but it could be more recent.

It’s from 1990, it’s the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia from Holland, who had some affiliations with the Temple Ov Psychick Youth.

There were so many. Coil flirted with this type of music pretty much at the same time, largely with the help of the engineer we were working with at that time, Danny Hyde, who had produced loads of rave stuff.

It was entirely a reflection of the amount of time that Jhonn and I spent jumping up and down and getting out of it, really, because it wasn’t possible to put that energy into having sex. In the 80s there was the beginning of the HIV explosion and for our generation, going out to a club and dancing – on drugs, obviously — was a substitute for going out and having promiscuous sex, because it wasn’t possible to do that.

I don’t regret it and it’s funny when you tell people stories of Jhonn videoing entire nights of revelry with the camera the wrong way round so he had his eye to the lens. But if you hammer your synapses too much it has a knock-on effect, that you have to be prepared to take with the enjoyment.

Did you make music in that state or was it inspired from those experiences?

Do you mean did we take drugs in the studio? Yes (laughs). Love’s Secret Domain, I think we did quite a lot of coke and ‘E’s and things, mostly produced by the other pop bands that were in the studio at the same time. I don’t know that drugs necessarily helped the creative process. Generally speaking it just got progressively harder, and meant that instead of leaving the studio at 1am, we would leave at 7am, because by 5am you didn’t really know which were black keys and which were white.

I don’t think it was so much the drugs that made it an obstacle. What happened in Coil was that, generally speaking, Jhonn took a lot more than I did, with the consequence that he would find that he needed something to recover, to ease himself back to normality. In his case that was alcohol, and unfortunately his addiction to alcohol became a serious problem in his life and ultimately killed him. He could cope with the drugs – if we had them he'd take them if we didn’t he wouldn’t — but after a while he couldn’t cope without a bottle of wine for breakfast.

To me any kind of psychedelic can be a really amazing way of opening a door and showing views that you’ve never seen before, but once you’ve had a really good look, I don’t think that you need to continue seeing if its still there by opening the door again. It’s not a necessity for your life.

Worship The Glitch [credited as ElpH Vs. Coil] came as a response or reaction against this. Coil were always very conscious that we didn’t want to be seen as jumping on any kind of rave bandwagon. The most ravey we got were on some of the Love’s Secret Domain tracks and they were pretty out there and not even in 4/4.

I remember a couple of momentous occasions coming up to 94/95, when the horrific, bad-trip element was stronger than the euphoric, dance-your-head-off kind of thing. Consequently, we were looking for new types of music that would still have the same interest and excitement and psychedelic point of view, but without the repetitive need for the jiggly, jumpy-up-and down elements.

So both ELpH and Time Machines were intending to recreate or give an impression of the experience that one had on different types of drugs. Time Machines had five tracks on it that were all drones, interesting ones that actually make you feel different if you played them loud and in a really good way. I think it was the purest drone piece that I’ve ever heard, actually, and to me paved the way for Earth and all those bands.

The titles were all taken from the [Alexander] Shulgin books and pretty much all of them were drugs that we had taken at one time or other. We had connections with the whole American Chemical Underground at the time so we would get these weird little bags of experimental things that never became as popular or famous as, say, MDMA. These were coming from proper white-haired old chemists who really knew their stuff. Shulgin is the godfather of that whole field of chemistry.

I’ve been reading in the papers about various new drugs that are coming onto the market, Mefame and things like that, but it sounds like they are coming from some gangster warehouse in Amsterdam or something, and you wouldn’t find me taking them in a million years.


Well, I’m not familiar with this actual record. On one end of the spectrum it could be John Zorn, on another it could be Psychick TV. I honestly don’t know.

It’s with Gus van Sant who directed Drugstore Cowboy, in which Burroughs had a cameo role. Do you think that this is a good use of Burroughs’ voice? Some musicians seem to stick his voice on their music like a sort of badge of hipness.

I would say a badge. Although Gus Van Sant is famous already for being an interesting filmmaker, so I don’t think he’d necessarily want anything except a good time when he made this record.

To me, what’s fantastic about William’s work and voice and his performance, comes from the whole body of work and his whole view of life and sexuality and perversion and corruption, and all that stuff. So just to sample a few words is rather meaningless and not very interesting.

I’ve had recordings of William’s voice in my archive for 30 years now. One of the first recordings of William’s voice was on Industrial Records, Nothing Here Now But The Recordings, which Genesis and I complied in 79 or 80. We actually went to Kansas to record. We made some fresh recordings but also William had a shoebox full of reel-to-reel tapes that he had made with Ian Sommerville and Brion Gysin, and all those guys back in the 60s. We went through and took out some pieces but generally it wasn’t samples of words, it was whole sections. There were famous experiments where they would try to kind of curse or spook particular restaurants that they had a grudge against, by playing recordings of police riots subliminally in the background.

There’s a famous piece where he is reading the [Declaration Of Independence], about how everyone has the right to bear arms. It’s a beautiful performance and there is a fantastic video that pointed out in an ironic way how the great tenets of the American nation actually could be seen as hollow, and not quite as good for mankind as they had thought. But I agree that a lot of people jump on the bandwagon. I don’t generally get off on the voice being used in a very repetitive way, it doesn’t seem a very inspired use of anybody’s voice.

Did you work with Burroughs when you were in Coil?

We met William four or five times when we were together. Jhonn actually wrote a treatment for a Ministry video – “Just One Fix”, maybe, that I directed, so we both went with Al Jorgensen to Kansas and filmed William shooting and reading some pieces that they subsequently sampled for the song, which was kind of interesting. But we never asked William to read for a Coil record. It was too obvious really. I didn’t feel right to want to exploit him in this way.
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To be honest, I was always a bit starstruck in his presence. He did get me very drunk one night in The Bunker in New York, but since he was not my type that’s as far as it went.

I’m afraid I have no clue what it is.

The track is “Rise” and it’s by Non aka Boyd Rice.

Boyd was kind of a pal of Jhonn and we collaborated quite early on with Coil [as Sickness Of Snakes] on an album called Nightmare Culture. And then Boyd became, as I understand it, more forthright in his right wing ideas in the press, and so consequently we rather drifted apart. Jhonn and I and Boyd met up a few times in the early part of the century. I think he’s interesting in the sense of being a maverick and actually not caring too much what people think, but with most people who make a public statement of their fascist views, it seems to me silly and unnecessary and distasteful.

You have said that you like to tell it like it is, but you also push boundaries.

I’m afraid truth often takes you outside boundaries, and that can cause embarrassment, which as we all know is more painful for us Englishmen than the worst torture. A long time after Coil and Boyd worked together, we fell out because of Boyd’s increasingly racist public image. It wasn’t because of political or social correctness. For us it was just common sense. Anyone who singles out a particular portion of any population for criticism just because they fit into a certain category, whether it be gay or black or Jewish or even female, to us was, and is, simply moronic. Clearly all humanity is filled with good people and bad people, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with what colour shirt, or skin you’ve got on Đ or even your aftershave. Back in 1982 or 83, Jhonn, Marc Almond and I were barred from a heavy gay New York fetish club late one night, because of the brand of aftershave one of us had used, which was a real drag because a group of horny Puerto Ricans had just gone in... [laughs]. That’s not racist is it? Those guys were hot! All too often you can judge a book by its cover, but as for people, no chance.

There are a lot of those Death In June derivative, new fascist kind of bands, who just think if they bang a bass drum and intone some kind of rhetoric and play some horns and stuff... it’s just so boring. My politics now are more or less completely the opposite of that, so I wouldn’t be interested anyway, but musically there seem to be a lot of people now who think there is something clever about putting on a little moustache and wearing a grey mac.


I don’t know what this is.

It’s made by two people that you know, one doing the voice, one manipulating it and making the music.

Oh! Fuck! Now I know who it is. Shit, how embarrassing for me not to recognise that straight away (laughs). OK, you fooled me by playing one of the tracks with the softer opening. Obviously this is Ivan’s record with Cosey and as soon as we got to the scream it became totally clear. Oh God, how embarrassing. Sorry Ivan!

It’s a funny collaboration this because the two of them are as different as chalk and cheese, really, and it’s to both of their credit that they were able to meet in the middle and produce a great record. Ivan does a fantastic live show using Cosey’s material. It’s really powerful… for a laptop show.

How does this differ from the music that you do with him in SoiSong?

This is completely different. I wasn’t at the recording so I don’t know to what extent Ivan directed Cosey’s words, but my understanding is that Cosey provided the raw material under his guidance then the work as such was made completely in the computer. I don’t think that what she sang was recognisable in the finished work, just the sounds. So it was the recording process, but then the writing process came later.

But with what I do with Ivan it’s much more collaborative. I might do rough sketches of melodies and he’ll add to it and maybe come up with an instrumental bed, and then I’ll send him raw materials of vocals and he’ll manipulate that and sometimes fit them where I intended, sometimes will turn them upside down, twist them around, and put them somewhere else.

Although this track is a flip-flop, A and B process, what Ivan and I do is much more like one of those things where kids draw a face and then fold it over and draw a body, then fold it over again. So in SoiSong there are more stages of backwards and forwards.

It can be frustrating because we live on opposite sides of the planet so we are dependent on the internet to transfer files and e-mails can be open to misinterpretation, so that can be frustrating, but I have the greatest respect for Ivan’s talent and taste. It’s worth the extra complication of being so far apart to work with each other.
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He’s had a fairly chequered past, He was born in Gorky and his studies were interrupted by a three year stint in the Russian army. He was became a guard on the prison trains that take people to the gulag. As soon as he left the army he went into one of those Russian science towns, where they have universities that study fields of science that aren’t even recognised in America. He was doing some weird underwater acoustics – Hunt For Red October or something like that – and then, in the mid-80s, he went on a scientific seminar to Stockholm, where he met the person he now works for, who was able to get him and his wife out of the USSR.

He has a very different perspective and his knowledge of Coil or any kind of underground western music is limited to the records he was able to bribe the customs people to let into the country. But he has an incredible collection of Russian electronic music of the 70s on flexi disc and stuff like that.

I gather that you have made some of the COH releases relatively difficult to acquire. Why is that?

In the beginning, Ivan was very firm that he didn’t want SoiSong to be as easy and accessible as everybody else is now. And so for the first year, if you wanted to get into the SoiSong website, you had to put in a password and only people who had been to the shows or had purchased something from us had received a business card with the password on it. The uninitiated couldn’t get in. We have slightly softened that. But having said that, all the SoiSong CDs so far have been octagonal so they won’t play in a computer or any CD player with a slot drive. That makes the CD into something special. I think that generally people value what they have to struggle to get or try harder or pay for rather than getting an mp3 for nothing. For example, if I get software, nine times out of ten I’ll buy it, because it means I’ll work harder to learn how to use it properly. One’s appreciation of a thing is in direct proportion to how hard it was to get.


I expect it’s probably worse if you know what it is, because it’s quite light on first hearing. It sounds very dental to me, or the sound of the operating theatre.

It’s all made from people having cosmetic surgery. Do you know the group, Matmos?

Oh yes, I know Matmos well, but I’m not familiar with this album. I played with them at the Brainwaves Festival last October and all of the gadgets they had were identical to mine and we share a large common interest. They are sweethearts, really nice guys. I must have a listen to this record; I’ll check it out.

It reminds me in a way of a record that TG did back in the day for RAI, the Italian radio network, called Journey Through A Body and basically used similar kind of things, although I have to say that this record is inn a way much more cheerful and tongue in cheek than the TG one, because they are both such happy-go-lucky and funny guys that even taking relatively gory raw material they end up with these happy tunes.

Was Journey Through A Body a recording of body noises?

There were recordings of noises of our bodies, but also iron lungs, and the bleeping of heart monitors and horrible sucking machines of various kinds (laughs). If one tries too hard to put oneself in the position of someone having their nose broken, obviously it’s horrible, but if one has a certain tongue-in-cheek enjoyment of the macabre… although we were both wincing then, we were also both laughing. So it fits in with my worldview: that the bleakest and blackest of things can be funny, and an acceptance that no matter how horrible things get there’s always a different side to it.

When I moved away from England and what was a difficult time with Coil, when Jhonn became very alcoholic and very sick, back then all of my iPod was filled with sad music the most melancholy of Turkish duduk type pieces, and every one reinforced the melancholy and bleakness of humanity and of life. Since I’ve moved away from that my iPod is filled with… not necessarily happy sounds, most of them are in a minor key, but at the same time I do feel that life is to be enjoyed. And whatever can do to make ourselves feel better and if possible help other people feel better too, that’s got to be a good thing.

Did that sound like the last word (laughs).

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