Nardwuar the Human Serviette vs. Psychic TV
From his involvement and formation of COUM Transmissions in Britain in the late 60s, to Throbbing Gristle, to Psychic TV, Genesis P-Orridge has inspired many people to simply start making art. The first time I saw Genesis was on a Target Video VHS where he was sucking face with an audience member all while playing bass. With Genesis anything was possible! Genesis uses the word “we” when he refers to himself . A true superhero of the modern era, it was very exciting to talk to him and his longtime collaborator Edley ODowd.
Nardwuar the Human Serviette: Who are you?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, hello! Yes, hello!
Nardwuar: You are Genesis?
Genesis P-Orridge: That’s true. You want to know who we are? Yes, Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV and many other projects.
Nardwuar: And Gen, who do you have beside you?
Genesis P-Orridge: Good question, really. [Laughs] It’s Edley ODowd.
Edley ODowd: It’s Edley ODowd, that’s me.
Nardwuar: Welcome to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Genesis P-Orridge: Thank you.
Nardwuar: Right off the bat, Genesis, I have a gift for you. Brian, come back, you-
[Nardwuar hands a Rolling Stones Bootleg “Brian come back you Bastard!” 7inch to Genesis P-Orridge]
Genesis P-Orridge: All forgiven.
Genesis P-Orridge: Don’t call me a bastard!
Nardwuar: No, that’s what that 7inch is !
Genesis P-Orridge: Is that right?
Nardwuar: Yes, Brian Jones, your idol.
Genesis P-Orridge: I would never call him a bastard because he was legitimate.
Nardwuar: You actually met him because your dad cleaned ABC studios?
Genesis P-Orridge: That’s true, yes. I also met his two bastards, Julian and Julian. Julian to Pat Andrews and Julian to Linda who married Donovan. I’ve met both of those sons and they were bastards.
Nardwuar: And as well, you have his jacket too.
Genesis P-Orridge: You do talk weird, don’t you? Is that part of the shtick?
Nardwuar: Well you have his jacket.
Genesis P-Orridge: Shouting at people! [Laughs]
Nardwuar: Well, it’s Genesis, I mean-
Genesis P-Orridge: What is it, Aardvark?
Edley ODowd: Nardwuar.
Genesis P-Orridge: Nardwuar.
Edley ODowd: Nardwuar, the Human Serviette.
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, okay. Actually we were just reading something today, online, about Brian Jones. There’s a new book just come out and we’ve had this theory for a while, you’re aware that Brian Jones, John Lennon and Jimmy Hendrix were about to form a group together. And they made several demo tapes at Olympic studios, of which we have some, some copies.
Nardwuar: And I was really confused by this. What is going on here exactly? Force it, UFO.
[Nardwuar gives UFO’s “Force It” LP to Genesis P-Orridge]
Genesis P-Orridge: That’s the name of a sort of early heavy metal type band, UFO, and the picture is myself and Cosey Fanni Tutti, and as it’s called Force it, which in United States-ian language means bathroom, not a toilet, a bathroom, hence the set, they thought it would be funny if we were forcing it in some kind of sexual innuendo and they wanted ambiguous people, they wanted it to look like it could be two women, it could be whatever, ambiguous gender. Even then, way, way back, ’76.
Nardwuar: So how did you hook up with UFO in ’75 and this is the German issue?
Genesis P-Orridge: Is it? Oh, right. Well Sleazy, Peter Christopherson who was in TG, Throbbing Gristle, also was a partner in Hypnosis and they were commissioned to do this cover and he said he didn’t know many people who didn’t mind getting naked on camera, but we wouldn’t mind. So he said do you want to get paid to get naked in a bathroom? And we said yes. And that’s how it happened.
Edley ODowd: Tell him how cold it was.
Genesis P-Orridge: Freezing. It was so cold. It was in the winter, in London, in a house that was derelict and they built this set in the house, there was no heat, no hot water, so it was cold water they were spraying over us. It doesn’t even show in the picture. It was miserable, what a long day!
Nardwuar: And Genesis, Sleazy took promo pics of the Sex Pistols that Malcolm McLaren called shocking, too shocking?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, he did. [Changes his tone, imitating Nardwuar] Yes, he did! He took photos of the Sex Pistols and it was too shocking! Aardvark.
Nardwuar: Nardwuar, the Human Servi-
Edley ODowd: -Ette.
Genesis P-Orridge: Tu, Brutus.
Nardwuar: Acme Attractions, are you into punk, Acme Attractions?
Genesis P-Orridge: We’ve never been into punk, it’s too traditional.
Nardwuar: Well that exposed you to punk, Acme Attractions?
Genesis P-Orridge: No, it didn’t, no, sorry, you’re wrong. Myself and Sleazy were commissioned to redesign Acme Attractions and we called it Boy and to this day, Boy the brand is still going. We got paid £60 to design the shop, come up with the logo and the name and the brand and everything. But the person who exposed me to punk was Sue Cat Woman.
Nardwuar: She was your girlfriend, right?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, for three years officially and a couple more after that. And an amazing woman.
Nardwuar: She knew everybody.
Genesis P-Orridge: She knew everybody and she’d take me around to all the pubs and we’d see The Damned and we saw The Jam when they’d not made any records, all of them before that, Eater, everyone. It was a pretty interesting time.
Nardwuar: Did you audition Billy Idol?
Genesis P-Orridge: [Laughs] Yes, yes, yes we did. What a terrible thing we’ve done.
Nardwuar: Genesis is responsible for Billy Idol?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes. At that time, my friend at university was trying to have a band, the guy who had Acme Attractions that we chanced it to Boy, John Craven, he wanted to have a band to rival the Sex Pistols. He goes ‘Malcolm has the Sex Pistols so I want a band for my shop and I’m going to call it Chelsea. Could you audition people to be in my band?’ So that’s what we did. We went down to a warehouse where he stored old jukeboxes and various young guys came up playing and one of them got up and said ‘I’m Bill Broad and I want to play rhythm guitar’ and we turned to John and said ‘he’s a natural, pick him’ and so we picked out the band which then became Generation X. And in their first official biography they credit me with having pulled them together.
Nardwuar: Genesis, you liked The Nipple Erectors more than Crass?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, yes, this is true. Well wouldn’t you? I mean crass means boring and stupid and nipple erectors means exciting and sensual. Aardvark pit, pit viper.
Nardwuar: Genesis, did you make a minefield?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes. [Laughs] You mean a real minefield that exploded? Yes, yes we did, yes. Way back in the 70s with CUOM Transmissions. At the Bradford Arts Festival in a field. Nobody thought it was real. We got all this barbed wire and we put a fence of barbed wire around it, but I’d made all these home made bombs. It was in the days when you could still buy the ingredients legally, before all the IRA thing. And I’d find out how to mix fertiliser and sugar and things and make explosions. And so it said danger, mine field, do not enter, etc. And of course, people just can’t resist and they think ‘Oh, it can’t be a minefield! Surely not.’ So people would climb in and then they would trip these wires and off would go these big, huge flash bangs around them. It was fun.
Nardwuar: Psychic TV, quote ‘I’m looking for you’. And I was really curious, you have that song, I’m Looking For You. What can you say about Anton LaVey?
Genesis P-Orridge: There’s a connection?
Nardwuar: He played on one of your records, Joy, Psychic TV.
Genesis P-Orridge: Well, he didn’t play. He’s on it, we sampled him. [Laughs] But we did reproduce his Satanic Mass. He gave me the old tapes and we took it in the studio and cleaned it up so it could be re-released as a CD and- He’s an interesting man, fun, very funny. The doctor, doctor LaVey.
Nardwuar: He did play keyboards. Did you think about getting him to play keyboards?
Genesis P-Orridge: Have you ever heard him play fucking keyboards?
Nardwuar: On his record he does an okay job.
Genesis P-Orridge: It was torment! That was what we all dreaded when we went to the black house, is that at about 11 o’clock at night he’d get a little bit tipsy and happy and he’d suddenly say ‘let’s go in the kitchen!’ and we’d be like ‘oh, no, that’s where all his keyboards are’. And about twenty cats. And then he would sit down and there’s be this stink of cat piss and he would start playing bombastic music. He had this thing that the next music after industrial and punk would be bombastic. And he was ahead of the curve with his bombastic keyboards. I mean it was sweet for about a half hour, but after four hours it started to get really difficult to put up with it.
Nardwuar: I have another gift for you, Genesis. A laserdisc, Poetry in Motion, and it features William Burroughs who you met through a Canadian magazine, is that true? Through a Canadian magazine you met William Burroughs?
[Nardwuar gives Genesis a laserdisc]
Genesis P-Orridge: In a sort meandering way yes, in a meandering way. So anyway, we got this magazine, File, and in it was something called The Image Bank Request List, which was based in Vancouver, how about that?
Edley ODowd: A Canadian connection!
Genesis P-Orridge: And the place was a sort of art centre, an ad-hoc independent art centre called Western Front and they also were friends with General Idea who were another ad-hoc group of artists in Toronto. And General Idea did File magazine which was a sort of pastiche of life and then the Western Front did The Image Bank Request List where you wrote your name, your address and anything you wanted people to send you that you needed for projects. And so, for example, Ana Banana who is Canadian wanted anything to do with bananas, what a surprise. And William Burroughs put “Camouflage for 1984” and we thought hey, that’s a really smart thing to put, because it was in ’72 or something. It seemed a long way off then, ’84. But also, we thought surely he hasn’t put his real address. Why would he put his real address? But we thought well maybe, you never know. So we wrote to him and he wrote back and said ‘whenever you’re in London, come and see me. Get in a taxi, I’ll pay for it’.
Nardwuar: Thank you The Western Front in Vancouver for getting together-
Genesis P-Orridge: Burroughs and me! Me!
Nardwuar: Now, I was curious, Edley, what did you invent with The Toilet Boys?
[Nardwuar hands a Toilet Boys CD to Edley ODowd]
Genesis P-Orridge: It’s your turn now!
Edley ODowd: The New York Dolls meet The Runaways.
Nardwuar: I was fascinated by The Toilet Böys. Miss Guy, did she/he date Tracey Lords?
Edley ODowd: No, that’s not true. Sean Pierce who’s next to Miss Guy, we were all on our first trip to LA trying to make the scene there and we went to a gay club where Sean, who’s not gay at all, met Tracey Lords.
Genesis P-Orridge: He’s not gay at all.
Edley ODowd: He’s not gay at all. And we proceeded to have kind of a party with her, but I do believe that Sean and Tracey went off and slept elsewhere that evening.
Nardwuar: What have you told Genesis about The Toilet Böys?
Edley ODowd: Genesis has actually seen The Toilet Böys.
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, we threw sweets at you once, didn’t we? [Laughs]
Edley ODowd: That is a good story! They weren’t sweets. They were-
Edley ODowd: No, they were pharmaceutical-
Genesis P-Orridge: Pills. Well, they were pills.
Nardwuar: Where was this?
Edley ODowd: This was at- There was an opening of a hair salon at a sort of … shopping place in, where is that, Chelsea?
Genesis P-Orridge: Manhattan, yes.
Edley ODowd: Manhattan somewhere. And they asked The Toilet Böys to perform a short set. So Genesis and Lady J came, stood in the front row and they were pelting Miss Guy with pharmaceutical pills until she became visibly annoyed, which was kind of hilarious.
Genesis P-Orridge: I don’t even know why we did that. Something got us in the mood, but I don’t know what it was.
Edley ODowd: Guy said to me after the fact, you know, ‘Jen and Jacky, like what was that about?!’
Nardwuar: Did you spit on John Peel?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, yes, we did do that. [Laughs] He wrote about that, yes. The first time we met him, yes. That was long before punk too, that was ’72, ’71. John Peel came into a hall in Yorkshire where we were at the time and we thought how do we get him to talk to us without just saying ‘we like what you do’. So we went up and said ‘we really like what you do’ and we spat on him, and said ‘don’t worry, that’s the way we show our love’.
Edley ODowd: I didn’t know that. I did not know that story. [Laughs]
Genesis P-Orridge: So he nicknamed us Goz Rock, because goz means spit in England.
Nardwuar: Ian Curtis of Joy Division, he talked you out of suicide? Ian Curtis talked you out of suicide.
Genesis P-Orridge: No, no, no, no, that’s not true. I don’t know where you got that one from. He was the- I was the last person he spoke to before he died. But he did have my song about trying to commit suicide memorised and in that last phone call he sang it to me word perfect and we thought he’s going to try and kill himself. And so we- This is the day before cell phones, before most people even had answer machines in Britain, so we started ringing anyone we could think of in Manchester saying you’ve got to get around to Ian’s house, he’s going to try and kill himself. And the ones we got through to went ‘nah, he’s just being dramatic’. We went no, we think he’s really going to try and do it, and no one would go and check. And that’s why we’re still angry at certain people.
Nardwuar: Did Sleazy’s parents really know the queen?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes, they were good friends. Lord and Lady Derman Christpherson were such good friends of the queen that they would go there for tea and dinner and hang out and chat over dinner and just like any other couple out with friends. That always made me a little worried, a bit concerned. But it did confirm that she knew who we were and she did not like me.
Nardwuar: So you actually came up.
Genesis P-Orridge: Oh, yes. Yes, we did. They were sitting there and the queen turned to Sleazy’s mother and said ‘so, what’s Peter doing these days?’ And she said ‘oh, he’s working with this artist called Genesis P-Orridge’ and the queen, apparently, sort of went backwards slightly and went ‘oh, oh dear, oh’ and then she turned to the head of MI5 and said ‘we know all about this person, don’t we?’ and then he told them ‘you should get your son away from this person, Genesis, he’s a very bad influence, he’s trouble, get him away’, but it just made Sleazy want to be nearer.
Nardwuar: Were your kids mad, Genesis, that you got breasts instead of a car?
Genesis P-Orridge: Where does he get this stuff?
Edley ODowd: That’s not even like ever been in an interview.
Genesis P-Orridge: It might, it might have, it might have. That was my younger daughter, Janesse, she’s 31 and we thought we should ring them up and say, you know, papa’s got breasts, because someone would be bound to tell them and all she said was ‘are you serious?’ and we thought ‘oh, she doesn’t like this’. ‘You got breasts when you could have spent that money on getting me a new car?!’ She was outraged that we wasted money when we could have given it to her. But she got over it within minutes. But otherwise they weren’t bothered at all, didn’t care.
Nardwuar: How much money would it take to look like you, Genesis?
Genesis P-Orridge: Haha, 66 years of stress. [Laughs]
Nardwuar: Like for instance Edley, what would it take for Edley to look like you?
Genesis P-Orridge: Oh, about 300,000.
Nardwuar: Did you, Genesis, tell Zodiac Mindwarp to get a cock ring?
Genesis P-Orridge: Yes! [Laughs] I’ve told a lot of people to do that. [Laughs] Yes, you’ve got good memory.
Nardwuar: Why should people care about Psychic TV? Why should people care?
Genesis P-Orridge: Why should they care about Psychic TV? Well hopefully they care about what we say. I mean that’s more important, always. And what we stand for, what we represent. And that’s what’s been happening, we’re selling out nearly everywhere we play now. And that’s all over the world. I mean to think that there are enough people in every country we get invited to to fill venues, people who come and they know about us and they’ve read the Psychic Bible and they’ve read things that we’ve said and they’ve even probably watched your strange thing, because we don’t know what to call it. They believe that we’re the few- one of the few lots of people who are telling them an authentic truth, that we don’t sugar-coat things, we tell them what we really feel is happening at any given moment. And that’s rare, most people are trying to succeed, we’re not. We’re trying to talk to everyone and make their lives a little better and the idea of change a little easier.
Nardwuar: Well, thanks very much! Psychic TV, keep on rocking in the free world and doot doola doot doo…
Edley ODowd: Doot doo!
Genesis P-Orridge: Pit Viper !