Genesis P-Orridge

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Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Genesis P-Orridge with Throbbing Gristle.jpg
P-Orridge performing with Throbbing Gristle in 2009
Background information
Birth name Neil Andrew Megson
Also known as DJ Doktor Megatrip, Megs'on, P. Ornot, PT001, Vernon Castle, Shirley Ghostman
Born (1950-02-22) 22 February 1950 (age 64)
Origin Victoria Park, Longsight, Manchester
Genres Experimental, industrial, psychedelic
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, poet, writer, performance artist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, clarinet, synthesizer, violin, vibraphone
Years active 1965-present
Labels Industrial, Temple Records, Wax Trax!
Associated acts COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Thee Majesty, Splinter Test, Pigface
Website www.genesisbreyerporridge.com

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (born Neil Andrew Megson; 22 February 1950)[a] is an English singer-songwriter, musician, poet, performance artist, and occultist. P-Orridge rose to notability as founder of the COUM Transmissions artistic collective, which operated in Britain from 1969 to 1975. S/he (at that time still a biological male) fronted the pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle between 1975 and 1981 and the experimental band Psychic TV from 1981 to 1999. P-Orridge is also a founding member of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, an informal occult order s/he established in 1981.

Born in Manchester, P-Orridge developed an early interest in art, occultism, and the avant-garde while at Solihull School. After dropping out of studies at the University of Hull, P-Orridge moved into a counter-cultural commune and adopted their nom-de-guerre. On returning to Hull, P-Orridge founded COUM Transmissions, whose activities attracted the attention of the national press; their confrontational performance work dealt with such subjects as sex work, pornography, serial killers, and occultism, representing a concerted attempt to challenge societal norms. Their 1976 Prostitution show at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts was particularly vilified by the tabloid press, gaining them the moniker of the "wreckers of civilization."

P-Orridge received widespread press criticism and police harassment after being falsely accused of ritual sexual abuse in 1992. In response, they left the United Kingdom and moved to New York City in the United States. There, P-Orridge married Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge in 1993, and together they embarked on the Pandrogeny Project, an attempt to unite as a pandrogyne, or single entity, through the use of surgical body modification to physically resemble one another. P-Orridge continued with this project of body modification after Lady Jaye's 2007 death. Although P-Orridge was involved in reunions of both Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV in the 2000s, s/he retired from music to focus on other artistic mediums in 2009.

P-Orridge is credited on over 200 releases, throughout which s/he has focused on an anti-establishment stance.

Early life[edit]

Childhood: 1950–1964[edit]

"Epping Forest was still untouched across the other side of the street, rabbits, squirrels and deer were always around. In the morning my mother would walk me to school. It took me about ten minutes through the forest along a trail worn by footsteps and deer. There were pools, frog ponds, deep shadows. It was a magickal place, and a favourite haunt, I learned later, for rapes, flashing, and the dumping of corpses."

Genesis P-Orridge.[6]

Neil Andrew Megson was born on 22 February 1950 in Victoria Park, Longsight, part of the northern English city of Manchester. Neil's father, Ronald Megson, was a travelling salesman who had worked in repertory theatre and who played the drums in local jazz and dance bands. Neil's mother, Muriel, was from Salford and first met Ronald after he had returned to England after being injured with the British Army at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940.[6] Throughout his childhood, Neil had a good relationship with his parents, who did not interfere with his artistic interests.[6]

Due to his father's job, the family moved to Essex, Eastern England, where Neil attended Staples Road Infant School in Loughton, and for a time lived in a caravan near to Epping Forest while the family house was being completed.[6] The family then moved from Essex to Cheshire, North West England, where Neil attended Gatley Primary School. Passing his Eleven Plus exam, Megson won a scholarship to attend Stockport Grammar School, doing so between 1961 and 1964.[7]

Solihull School and Worm: 1964–1968[edit]

After his father gained employment as the Midlands area manager of a cleaning and maintenance business, Neil was sent to the privately run Solihull School in Warwickshire from 1964 through to 1968; a period he would refer to as "basically four years of being mentally and physically tortured", but also a time when he developed an interest in art, occultism and the avant-garde.[7] Unpopular with other students, Megson was bullied at the school, finding comfort in the art department at lunch-time and in the evenings. He befriended Ian "Spydee" Evetts, Barry "Little Baz" Hermon and Paul Wolfson, three fellow students who shared his interest in art, literature and poetry. At weekends they would meet up to discuss books and music, developing an interest in the writings of Aleister Crowley and Allen Ginsberg and the music of Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground.[7] In doing so, Megson became interested in occultism,[8] and has also asserted that their grandmother was a medium.[9]

In 1965, Megson founded his first band, Worm, with school friends Peter Winstanley, Ian Evetts and his girlfriend Jane Ray, in doing so being influenced by John Cage's 1961 book Silence: Lectures and Writings.[10] With Evetts, Hermon, Wolfson and Winstanley, he began production of an underground magazine, entitled Conscience, in 1966. Forbidden from selling it on school grounds, they sold copies outside the school gates. Included in Conscience were various articles criticising the school's administration, leading to several changes regarding such issues as school uniforms and benchers' privileges.[11] That same year, influenced by newspaper accounts of "Swinging London", Megson organised the first happening at the school, doing so under the auspices of organising a school dance.[11]

Megson despised his studies at Solihull School (pictured)

Brought up in the Anglican denomination of Christianity, Megson became secretary of the school sixth form's Christian Discussion Circle, in this position inviting members of other ideological positions – including a Marxist from the British Communist Party – to speak to the group.[11] Aged 18, Megson began helping to run the local Sunday School classes, but came to reject organised Christianity.[11] Afflicted with asthma, throughout childhood Megson had to take cortisone and prednisone steroids to control the attacks. The latter of these drugs caused his adrenal glands to atrophy as a side-effect, and so the doctor advised Megson to stop taking them. As a result, aged 17 Megson suffered from a serious blackout; while in hospital recovering he decided to devote their life to art and writing.[12]

With Hermon and Wolfson, Megson founded a pseudo-society, the Knights of the Pentecostal Flame,[13] who undertook a happening on 1 June 1968 which they entitled Beautiful Litter. Taking place in Mell Square, Solihull, it involved the three students handing out cards to passersby that had a series of words written onto them; "fleece", "rainbow", "silken", "white", "flower" and "dewdrops". Ensuring that the local Solihull News was informed of the event, Megson told reporters that the Knights wanted to ignite "an artistic revolution in Solihull, by making people aware of the life around them, its essential beauty and tranquility."[14] In the summer of 1968, Worm recorded their first and only album, entitled Early Worm, in Megson's parents attic in Solihull. It was pressed onto vinyl in November at Deroy Sound Services in Manchester, but only one copy was ever produced. A second album, Catching the Bird, was recorded but never pressed.[15]

Hull University and Transmedia Explorations: 1968–69[edit]

In September 1968, Megson began studying for a degree in Social Administration and Philosophy at the University of Hull. He had chosen Hull in an attempt to study at "the most ordinary non-elitist, working-class, red brick university", but disliked the course and unsuccessfully tried to transfer to study English.[16] With a group of friends he founded a 'free-form' student magazine entitled Worm which waived all editorial control, publishing everything placed into the magazine's pigeonhole, including instructions on how to build a molotov cocktail. Three issues were published between 1968 and 1970 before the Hull Student's Union banned the publication, considering it legally obscene and fearing prosecution.[16] Developing a keen interest in poetry, Megson won the 1969 Hull University Needler Poetry Competition, judged by Compton lecturer Richard Murphy and the poet Philip Larkin, who was then Chief Librarian at the university.[17] Megson became involved in radical student politics through his friendship with Tom Fawthrop, a member of the Radical Student Alliance who had led a student occupation of the university's administrative buildings as a part of the worldwide student protests of 1968. In 1969, Megson attempted to reconstruct the occupation for a film, in the hopes that it would itself become a genuine protest occupation, but this venture failed due to a lack of participants.[18]

In 1969, Megson dropped out of university and moved to London,[19][20] where he joined the Transmedia Explorations commune, who were then living in a large run-down house in Islington Park Street. The group, initiated by the artist David Medalla and initially named the Exploding Galaxy, had been at the forefront of the London hippy scene since 1967, but had partially disbanded after a series of police raids and a damaging court case. Moving into their commune, Megson was particularly influenced by one of the founding members of the group, Gerald Fitzgerald, a kinetic artist, and would recognise Fitzgerald's formative influence in their later work. The commune members adhered to a strict regime with the intention of deconditioning its members out of their routines and conventional behaviour; they were forbidden from sleeping in the same place on consecutive nights, food was cooked at irregular times of the day and all clothing was kept in a communal chest, with its members wearing something different on each day. Megson stayed there for three months, until late October 1969, when he decided to leave; he was angered that the commune's leaders were given more rights than the other members, and believed that the group ignored the counter-cultural use of music, something he took a great interest in.[21]

COUM Transmissions[edit]

Founding COUM Transmissions: 1969–70[edit]

Leaving London, Megson hitch-hiked across Britain before settling down in their parents' new home in Shrewsbury. Here he volunteered as an office clerk in his father's new business.[22] On one family trip to Wales, Megson was sitting in the back of the car when he "became disembodied and heard voices and saw the COUM symbol and heard the words 'COUM Transmissions'." Returning home that evening, he filled three notebooks with artistic thoughts and ideas, influenced by his time with Transmedia Explorations.[22] In December 1969 Megson returned to Hull to meet up with friend John Shappero, with whom he would turn COUM Transmissions into an avant-garde artistic and musical troupe. They initially debated as to how to define "COUM", later deciding that like the name "dada" it should remain open to interpretation. Megson designed a logo for the group, consisting of a semi-erect penis formed out of the word COUM with a drip of semen coming out of the end, while the motto "YOUR LOCAL DIRTY BANNED" was emblazoned underneath. Another logo designed by Megson consisted of a hand-drawn seal accompanied by the statement "COUM guarantee disappointment"; from their early foundation, the group made use of wordplay in their artworks and adverts.[23]

COUM's earliest public events were impromptu musical gigs performed at various pubs around Hull; titles for these events included Thee Fabulous Mutations, Space Between the Violins, Dead Violins and Degradation, and Clockwork Hot Spoiled Acid Test. The latter combined the names of Anthony Burgess' dystopian science-fiction novel A Clockwork Orange (1962) with Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), a work of literary journalism devoted to the Merry Pranksters, a U.S. communal counter-cultural group who advocated the use of psychedelic drugs.[23] COUM's music was anarchic and improvised, making use of such instruments as broken violins, prepared pianos, guitars, bongos and talking drums. As time went on, they would add further theatrics to their performances, in one instance making the audience crawl through a polythene tunnel in order to enter the venue.[24]

In December 1969, Megson and Shapeero moved out of their flat and into a former fruit warehouse in Hull's docking area, overlooking the Humber. Named the Ho-Ho Funhouse by Megson, the warehouse became the communal home to an assortment of counter-cultural figures, including artists, musicians, fashion designers and underground magazine producers.[25] At Christmas 1969, a woman named Christine Carol Newby (1951–) moved into the Funhouse after being thrown out of her home by her father. Having earlier befriended him at an acid test party, Newby became Megson's roommate at the Funhouse, first taking the name "Cosmosis", but latterly adopting the nom-de-guerre Cosey Fanni Tutti after the title of Amadeus Mozart's 1790 opera Così fan tutte.[26] Joining COUM, Tutti initially helped in building props and designing costumes, and was there when the group began changing its focus from music to performance art and more theatrical happenings; one of these involved the group turning up to play a gig but intentionally not bringing any instruments, something Megson considered "much more theatrical, farcical and light-hearted" than their earlier performances.[24]

Activities in Hull: 1971–73[edit]

"Yes COUM are fab and kinky" (1971), an example of the artwork which P-Orridge produced to advertise COUM; it features a childhood image of Megson

On 5 January 1971, Megson officially changed his name to Genesis P-Orridge by deed poll, combining the school nickname of "Genesis" with a misspelling of "porridge", the foodstuff which he had lived off as a student. The nom-de-guerre was intentionally un-glamorous, and P-Orridge hoped that it would trigger his own "genius factor".[27] In February, COUM cought the attention of the Yorkshire Post, who featured an article on them which led to further media attention from national newspapers.[27] They also featured in an article in Torch, the publication of the University of Hull's student union, entitled "God Sucks Mary's Hairy Nipple"; the article's author, Haydn Robb, subsequently joined COUM,[28] as did maths lecturer Tim Poston.[29] In April 1971, COUM broadcast their first live radio session, for the On Cue programme for Radio Humberside.[30] Following up the press attention they received, they performed further happenings, including their first street action, Absolute Everywhere, which brought problems with the police.[30]

After performing another set, Riot Control, at Hull's Gondola Club, the premises was raided by police and closed soon after; most local clubs blamed COUM and unofficially banned them. COUM drew up a petition to gain support for the group, attaining a booking at the local Brickhouse; their first performance in which the audience applauded and called for an encore. The petition had contained their phallic logo, and the police charged P-Orridge and Nobb with publishing an obscene advert, although the charges were later dropped.[31] As they gained coverage in the music press, interest in the band grew, and they supported Hawkwind at St. George's Hall in Bradford in October 1971, where they performed a piece called Edna and the Great Surfers, where they led the crowd in shouting "Off, Off, Off".[31] The following month, the band attracted the interest of music journalist John Peel, who publicly remarked that "[s]ome might say that Coum were madmen but constant exposure to mankind forces me to believe that we need more madmen like them."[32]

Gaining an Experimental Arts Grant from the publicly funded Yorkshire Arts Association,[33] COUM described themselves as performance artists, being inspired by the Dadaists and emphasising the amateur quality of their work.[34] They entered the National Rock/Folk Contest at Hull's New Grange Club with a set titled This Machine Kills Music,[35] and organised events for Hull City Council's celebrations to mark the U.K.'s entry into the European Economic Community in 1973.[36] P-Orridge had also worked on solo projects, generating controversy in the local press over a conceptual artwork he entered at a local art exhibition.[36] Taking an increasing interest in infantilism, P-Orridge founded the fictitious L'ecole de l'art infantile, through which they co-organised the "Baby's Coumpetition" at Oxford University's 1973 May Festival, also developing the fictitious Ministry of Antisocial Insecurity, a parody of the Ministry of Social Security.[37] Meanwhile, P-Orridge created the character of Alien Brain, and in July 1972 performed the World Premiere of The Alien Brain at Hull Arts Centre.[38] COUM also began publishing books; in 1972, they brought out the first volume of The Million and One Names of COUM, part of a proposed project to release 1001 slogans (such as "A thousand and one ways to COUM" and "COUM are Fab and Kinky"),[39] while in 1973 P-Orridge published Copyright Breeches, which explored his ongoing fascination with the copyright symbol and its implications for art and society.[40]

London and the Prostitution show: 1973–76[edit]

Following continual police harassment, P-Orridge and Tutti relocated to London, moving into a squat and obtaining a basement studio in Hackney which they named the "Death Factory".[41] After a brief correspondence, here P-Orridge met American novelist and poet William S. Burroughs, who later introduced him to the English poet and performance artist Dick Emery.[42][43] Gysin would become a major influence upon P-Orridge's ideas and works and was h/er primary tutor in magic.[44] 1973 saw COUM take part in the Fluxshoe retrospective that toured Britain exhibiting the work of the Fluxus artists; it was organised by David Mayor, who befriended P-Orridge.[45] At that year's Edinburgh Festival, they undertook their Marcel Duchamp-inspired Art Vandals piece at the Richard Demarco Gallery, in which they engaged guests in unconventional conversation, and spilled their food and drink on the floor. Exhibiting alongside the Viennese Actionists, they came under increasing influence from these Austrian performance artists, adopting their emphasis on using shock tactics to combat conventional morality.[46] September 1973 saw them produce their first film, Wundatrek Tours, which documented a day out to Brighton, while throughout the year they sent postcards that they had designed to mail-art shows across the world.[47]

In 1973 they were joined by Hipgnosis' Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson. COUM employed confrontational imagery, including Nazi-influenced elements and the occult.[48] They were prosecuted in 1975 for making collages combining postcards of Queen Elizabeth with soft-core porn, but the jail term and fines were suspended on condition they did not continue.[49]

Their Prostitution show, in 1976 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, included displays of Tutti's pornographic images from magazines as well as erotic nude photographs;[50] the show featured a stripper, used tampons in glass,[50] and transvestite guards. Prostitutes, punks, and people in costumes were among those hired to mingle with the gallery audience. The show caused debate in Parliament about the public funding of such events. In the House of Commons, Scottish Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn demanded an explanation from Arts Minister Harold Lever and proclaimed P-Orridge and Tutti as "wreckers of civilisation".[51] Fleet Street was not slow to pick up the story. The reviews were cut up, framed and put on display for the remainder of the exhibition.[50] This was also reported in newspapers, so cut-ups about the cut-ups were also put on display.[50] COUM was found so offensive that it lost its government grant,[52] and went on to become the private company Industrial Records.[53] Toward the end of COUM, performances would often consist of only P-Orridge, Cosey and Sleazy, the core group who went on to form Throbbing Gristle.[54]

Throbbing Gristle[edit]

"I've been involved in a total war with culture since the day I started ... I am at war with the status quo of society and I am at war with those in control and power. I'm at war with hypocrisy and lies, I'm at war with the mass media. Then I'm at war with every bastard who tries to hurt someone else for its own sake. And I'm at war with privilege and I'm at war with all the things that one should be at war with basically. As my mentor used to say: "I feel your pain, I feel your shame but you're not to blame"."

Genesis P-Orridge, 1989[55]

Throbbing Gristle was formed in the autumn of 1975[56] as a four-piece band, consisting of P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Chris Carter.[56] The name "Throbbing Gristle" was adopted after a Northern English slang term for an erect penis.[57]

The first Throbbing Gristle performance was held at the Air Gallery in London in July 1976.[53] At that point, Throbbing Gristle's headquarters was located at 10 Martello Street, Hackney, East London, the address of an artist collective. P-Orridge and Tutti's living and work space was the mailing address of Industrial Records (IR). Throbbing Gristle released "Discipline" in 1981.[citation needed] TG came to be identified as the founders of industrial music,[58] although at the same time the academic Drew Daniel asserted that as a result of its eclecticism, their music resists clear analysis.[59]

Throbbing Gristle's bestselling single was "Zyklon B Zombie" (1978), the title being a reference to the Zyklon B poison gas used at Auschwitz extermination camp.[60] With their album 20 Jazz Funk Greats they attempted to move away from their industrial sound, and produced songs in a variety of different musical genres.[58] P-Orridge received a number of threatenign phone calls, proceeding to record them and use them as a backing track for the TG song "Death threats".[61]

The final IR release was called Nothing Here Now But the Recordings, a best-of album taken from the archives of William S. Burroughs, who provided P-Orridge and Christopherson with access to his reel-to-reel tape archive.[62]

The final Throbbing Gristle live event, Mission of Dead Souls, occurred in May 1981 at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, US.[63] Shortly after the San Francisco event, P-Orridge and Paula P-Orridge (née Alaura O'Dell) were married.[citation needed]

During this period, P-Orridge befriended an English musician named David Bunting; because P-Orridge already knew another man named David, he gave his new friend the moniker of "David Tibet".[64] Through an introduction provided by Burroughs, P-Orridge met Brion Gysin in Paris, probably in 1980, coming to be deeply influenced by Gysin's cup-up method; P-Orridge understood this to be a revolutionary method of escaping current patterns of thought and developing something new.[65]

Psychic TV and Thee Temple Ov Psychic Youth[edit]

Genesis P-Orridge posing in Japan

Following the breakup of Throbbing Gristle, in 1981 P-Orridge founded a band with Peter Christopherson and Alex Fergusson that they named Psychic TV.[66] Involved in video art, they also performed psychedelic, punk, electronic and experimental music.[67] The decision to name the band "Psychic TV" stemmed from P-Orridge's belief that while mainstream television was a form of mass indoctrination and mind control, it could be used as an "esoterrorist" form of magick to combat the establishment's control.[68] Historian Dave Evans described Psychic TV as "a band dedicated to musical eclecticism and magical experiment, their performances being in part ritual (ab)use of sound samples, the creation of 'auditory magical sigils' and the destruction of consensus language in order to find meaning."[57]

The band's first song, "Just Drifting", was based on a poem by P-Orridge.[69] For their first album, Force the Hand of Chance (1982), P-Orridge utilised a kangling, or Tibetan trumpet made out of a human thigh-bone; the instrument had been introduced to P-Orridge by David Tibet, and attracted attention to their music.[68]

At the same time P-Orridge also founded a loosely organised network of occultists named Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY), with the aid of Balance, Tibet, and a number of members of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, a group which had exerted an influence on P-Orridge's occult thought.[66][70] TOPY was conceived not as an occult order of teaching, but a forum to facilitate discussions on occult ideas by like-minded people, and from its beginnings was understood by its founders to be a successor to the late 19th and early 20th century Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), especially as it was run under Crowley's leadership.[71] Evans described TOPY as "a 'fusion' organisation, creating a crossover of punk/experimental music with chaos magical thinking and practice", making particular use of the sigilisation practices of occult artist Austin Osman Spare.[72] Having never wanted to be seen as the leader of an occult order, P-Orridge separated from TOPY in 1991, although it continued as a fan community after the departure.[73]

Psychic TV made its debut in 1982 at an event organised by P-Orridge, David Dawson, and Roger Ely, called The Final Academy. It was a 4-day multimedia celebratory rally held in Manchester and at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, South London. It brought performers and audience together with literature, performance, film and music. PTV, Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Z'EV, John Giorno, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Terry Wilson, Jeff Nuttall, and The Last Few Days participated to honour the cut-up techniques and theories of William S. Burroughs, Ian Sommerville, Anthony Balch and Gysin. Video projection and early sampling were used here, as well as whispered utterances by P-Orridge reprocessed as a soundtrack to Gysin's Dreammachine by the Hafler Trio.[74] In the mid-eighties, Psychic TV aimed to release a live album on the 23rd of each month for 23 months[67] in recognition of the 23 enigma. The group didn't reach its goal but still managed fourteen albums in eighteen months, thus earning them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.[67] Following the culmination of Psychic TV but before embarking on Thee Majesty, P-Orridge and several Psychic TV musicians formed Splinter Test, a name adopted from one of P-Orridge's essays on sampling.[75]

In 1992, the Channel 4 documentary show Dispatches claimed to have discovered videotapes depicting P-Orridge performing the ritual sexual abuse of children.[76] Police subsequently raided his home, and confiscated several tons of art work.[77] At the time, P-Orridge was in the far east undertaking famine relief work, and fearing that they would be arrested on his return to the UK, they stayed out of the country for several years.[77] P-Orridge believed that the press and police attacks on him were as a result of a vendetta conceived by a right-wing fundamentalist Christian group.[77] It was subsequently revealed that the footage obtained did not depict child abuse. Instead, it was a video artwork titled First Transmissions that had been made in the early 1980s, part-funded by Channel 4 themselves; the footage depicted sex-magical rites between adults, blood-letting performances, and scenes of Derek Jarman reading passages from the work of Geoffrey Chaucer. Embarrassed by these revelations, Channel 4 retracted their initial accusations.[77]

Later life[edit]

The Pandrogyne Project: 1996–09[edit]

"[W]e arrived [in Ridgewood] as husband and wife, me still dressing and technically behaving male, and all the local shopkeepers who knew Jaye from being a kid, all the neighbors ... And then over the years, we transformed more and more until we were both running around in miniskirts, dressed the same, and none of them said anything! Except in the pharmacy, where very politely, one of the Pakistani guys we knew very well there ... he says one day, "Hope you don't mind me asking, but you probably want us to say 'Miss P-Orridge' now, don't you?" We said, "That would be good!" And that was the one time anyone even mentioned that anything had happened."

Genesis P-Orridge, 2011[5]

In January 1996, Genesis and their second wife, Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer), relocated to Ridgewood, Queens in New York City.[5] It was here that the couple embarked on what they termed the "Pandrogeny Project"; influenced by the cut-up technique, the duo underwent body modification in order to resemble one another, thus coming to identify themselves as a single pandrogynous being named "Breyer P-Orridge".[78][79] In doing so, the pair underwent $200,000 worth of surgical alteration, receiving breast implants, cheek and chin implants, lip plumping, eye and nose jobs, tattooing, and hormone therapy, while also adopting gender neutral and alternating pronouns.[78][2][80] With this project, P-Orridge's intent was to express a belief that the self is pure consciousness trapped within the DNA-governed body.[78] The couple adopted the term "pandrogyne" because – in their words – "we wanted a word without any history or any connections with things—a word with its own story and its own information."[81] They also stated that:

We started out, because we were so crazy in love, just wanting to eat each other up, to become each other and become one. And as we did that, we started to see that it was affecting us in ways that we didn't expect. Really, we were just two parts of one whole; the pandrogyne was the whole and we were each other's other half.[82]

During this era, a book was published of Breyer P-Orridge's writings, poems, and observations, called Ooh, You Are Awful ... But I Like You!.[83] In the mid-1990s, Breyer P-Orridge collaborated with different people in music, including Pigface, Skinny Puppy, and Download. Breyer P-Orridge also performed with Nik Turner and other former members of Hawkwind.[84]

PTV3 live in Germany 2004: Alice Genese, G. P-Orridge, Markus Persson

In June 1998, Breyer P-Orridge won a $1.5 million lawsuit against producer Rick Rubin and his American Recordings label for injuries sustained while trying to escape a fire at Rubin's home in April 1995.[85] According to Breyer P-Orridge's attorney, David D. Stein, Breyer P-Orridge was staying at Rubin's home, as a guest of Love and Rockets, when the fire broke out. Breyer P-Orridge tried to escape the house by crawling through a second-story window and fell onto concrete stairs. Breyer P-Orridge suffered a broken wrist, broken ribs, and a pulmonary embolism, as well as a shattered left elbow that, according to Stein, has prevented P-Orridge from playing bass or keyboards—Breyer P-Orridge remained in hospital for a total of ten days.[85] The jury found that the liability for the fire rested with Rubin and American Recordings, and awarded Breyer P-Orridge US$1,572,000 in compensation.[86]

In 1999, Breyer P-Orridge performed with the briefly reunited late-1980s version of Psychic TV for an event at London's Royal Festival Hall, called Time's Up. The MC for the event, via pre-recorded video, was Quentin Crisp, it was recorded and released as a DVD.[87] Time's Up is also the title of the first CD by Thee Majesty, Breyer P-Orridge's spoken-word project with "noise" guitarist, Bryin Dall.

In December 2003, Breyer P-Orridge, using the alias Djinn, unveiled PTV3, a new act drawing upon the early "Hyperdelic" work of Psychic TV with media theorist Douglas Rushkoff among its members.[88] On 16 May 2004 all four former members of Throbbing Gristle performed at the London Astoria for the first time in 23 years.

Breyer P-Orridge appears in the 1998 film and 2000 book versions of Modulations, in the 1999 film Better Living Through Circuitry, in the 2004 film DiG!, the 2006 documentary Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback, in Nik Sheehan's 2007 feature documentary on the Dreamachine entitled 'FLicKeR', and the 2010 documentary "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within."[citation needed] In January 2006, the new PTV album was announced on P-Orridge's website. Hell Is Invisible... Heaven Is Her/e was recorded in NYC and features Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) guesting on some tracks. To inaugurate the release of Hell Is Invisible ... Heaven Is Her/e, PTV3 hosted a five night residency in September 2006 at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.[89] Mr. Alien Brain Vs. the Skinwalkers was released on Sweet Nothing Records on 8 December 2008.[2][90]

Genesis P-Orridge in 2007

On 9 October 2007, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge died.[91] The cause of death was a heart condition that was possibly related to stomach cancer. Psychic TV cancelled its North American tour dates in the aftermath of Lady Jaye's death. A memorial was held at the PARTICIPANT INC. Gallery in New York City on 8 March 2008 .[92][93] As of January 2013, P-Orridge's official website says, "Since that time Genesis continues to represent the amalgam Breyer P-Orridge in the material 'world' and Lady Jaye represents the amalgam Breyer P-Orridge in the immaterial 'world' creating an ongoing interdimensional collaboration."[1] Thus, P-Orridge continued the Pandrogyne Project, having further surgical operations to alter their body and using "we" when in reference to themself; however, to a reporter P-Orridge admitted that without Lady Jaye, "It's very hard. The bottom line is that we know she would continue. She wouldn't stop because it was complicated."[2]

Retirement from music: 2009–present[edit]

In September 2009, a retrospective of P-Orridge's collages, entitled "30 Years of Being Cut Up", opened at Invisible-Exports.[2] On 4 November 2009 it was announced that Breyer P-Orridge would retire from touring in any and all bands (including Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV) to concentrate on art, writing and music.[citation needed]

In June 2010, P-Orridge sold their Ridgewood property, holding a "garage sale" in the basement of a local art gallery to sell off a range of personal items, such as "punk-rock dresses with safety-pinned seams, a volcanic-rock-shaped mirror-ball blob, and a pink glass perfume bottle", in addition to an array of dildos. This accomplished, they moved to a one-bedroom apartment in New York's Lower East Side.[5]

Work[edit]

"Fusing esoteric ideas with the subversive methods of people like Burroughs and Gysin, P-Orridge and other musicians explored taboo areas and forbidden knowledge in an attempt to create a free-thinking occult culture in which individuals were the resources with which they might be able to carve out their own future[...] What they tried to do with music was wreck the civilization that had rejected and oppressed them. This was occultural direct action – esoterrorism!"

Christopher Partridge, 2013.[94]

P-Orridge's work sought to force their audience to think in ways that are alien to mainstream, Christian-dominated Western society; in doing so, it was heavily influenced by concepts from both Western esotericism and contemporary Paganism.[95] The religious studies scholar Christopher Partridge characterised P-Orridge's work as being a "confluence of pornography, violence, death, degradation, the confrontation of taboo subjects, noise and Paganism", in doing so deliberately courting controversy and expressing an anti-establishment stance.[96] Partridge suggested that this intent to shock emerged both out of a serious attempt to highlight the mechanisms of social control in Western society and also out of "a juvenile delight gained from extreme behaviour and the offence caused".[95]

P-Orridge's work was particularly influenced by the early 20th-century English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare, who shared P-Orridge's disdain for mainstream morality and fascination with sexuality and the human body.[97] P-Orridge adopted Spare's views on sigils, coming to see their own work as a form of sigil magic. Spare's sigilization process entailed writing down one's desires, before crossing out any letters that are repeated and then combining the remaining letters into an abstract design, or sigil; the magician must then focus on that sigil and mentally absorb it, and – according to Spare's claims – psychic energies operating on the subconscious ensure that the original desire is manifested in reality. P-Orridge adopts this theory, and believes that their own work operates according to it.[98]

A further element of P-Orridge's work is their common use of idiosyncratically use of grammar and spelling, such as "Thee" in place of "the". The purpose of this is to challenge thought and established ways of reading.[75]

Personal life[edit]

"I'm 38 and for all my faults I have spent most of those 38 years searching determinedly for ideas that work and ideas that help. Not everyone maybe, but some people. If they work and if they make any kind of sense, the only way to check is to give them to other people and see if it works. If it helps one or two or ten or fifteen, that's a massive improvement on what most human beings do in their life to help anyone. If it helps a few hundred or a few thousand, that's incredible"

Genesis P-Orridge, 1989.[99]

P-Orridge has two daughters, Caresse and Genesse, with former wife Paula P-Orridge (born Paula Brooking). A nude portrait of P-Orridge and Paula appeared in the Icelandic publication Eintak in 1994.[100]

On a religious or spiritual level, Partridge described P-Orridge as representing "a particularly interesting, influential and subversive example of contemporary Paganism."[95] Asserting that P-Orridge's "Industrial Paganism" was different from most forms of contemporary Paganism, Partridge described it as "confrontational, subversive, experimental and, to a large extent, dystopian", with it serving as "an ideological tool" with which to analyse society "from its underbelly; an immersion in the dark side; the subversion of Christian hegemony, conservative politics and what nowadays might be described as neoliberalism."[101] P-Orridge is devoted to the deity Eshu Elegguá, an entity from the Afro-Caribbean syncretic religion of Santeria.[102] However, they have also insisted that they do not believe in the literal existence of gods, deeming such entities to instead be "early attempts at psychology, trying to understand the light and dark side of human nature".[99]

P-Orridge has vociferously criticised contemporary Christianity, describing it as "an incredibly sick social pseudo-religion", and arguing that it was based upon the tenet of "Be good now, agree, or else we will punish you forever and ever when you're dead. And we may punish you while you're alive ...". They maintain that such an attitude was established in Christianity by St. Paul and the early Roman Catholic Church, and that it differed from the "ecstatic mysticism of the original Christianity, the Gnostic Christianity."[99]

Discography[edit]

Note: this is for releases specifically credited to Genesis P-Orridge, for work with PTV see Psychic TV discography, for work with Throbbing Gristle see Throbbing Gristle discography.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In accordance with their work on the Pandrogyne Project, P-Orridge now identifies using the pronouns "s/he", "h/er", and "h/erself".[1] However, they are still referred to using male pronouns by individuals such as journalist Erica Orden,[2] the historian Dave Evans,[3] and religious studies scholar Christopher Partidge.[4] Alternately, the journalist Camille Dodero has used female pronouns when referring to P-Orridge.[5]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Home". Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Erica Orden (6 September 2009). "I Am My Own Wife". New York Magazine. New York Media LLC. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Evans 2007, p. 98–102.
  4. ^ Partridge 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Camille Dodero (16 February 2011). "Artist Provocateur Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Lives By the Last Exit To Brooklyn". The Village Voice. Village Voice, LLC. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Ford 1999, p. 1.4.
  7. ^ a b c Ford 1999, p. 1.5.
  8. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 193.
  9. ^ Forish, E. Jayne (29 March 2007). "The Life of Genesis P-Orridge: Father of Industrial Music". Associated Content. 
  10. ^ Ford 1999, p. 1.7.
  11. ^ a b c d Ford 1999, p. 1.6.
  12. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 1.6–1.7; Wilson 2002, pp. 51–52.
  13. ^ Wolfson, Richard (19 December 2002). "Naughty but Nice". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  14. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 1.8–1.9.
  15. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 1.7–1.8.
  16. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 1.10.
  17. ^ Ford 1999, p. 1.11.
  18. ^ Ford 1999, p. 1.12.
  19. ^ Wilson 2002, p. 58.
  20. ^ Signal to Noise: Issues 28–31 (Signal to Noise): 134. 2003. 
  21. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 1.12–1.15; Wilson 2002, p. 58.
  22. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 1.15.
  23. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 1.16.
  24. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 1.20.
  25. ^ Ford 1999, p. 1.17.
  26. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 1.17–1.19.
  27. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 2.4.
  28. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.8.
  29. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.11.
  30. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 2.6.
  31. ^ a b Ford 1999, p. 2.7.
  32. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.8; Partridge 2013, p. 190.
  33. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.9; Wilson 2002, p. 60.
  34. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 2.10–2.11.
  35. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.22.
  36. ^ a b Ford 1999, pp. 3.3–3.6.
  37. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 2.13–2.14.
  38. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.18.
  39. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.19.
  40. ^ Ford 1999, p. 2.21.
  41. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 3.7–3.9.
  42. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 3.9–3.10; Wilson 2002, pp. 60–61.
  43. ^ Metzger, Richard (31 December 2009). Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Thee Psychick Bible. Dangerous Minds
  44. ^ P-Orridge, Genesis. "Magick Squares and Future Beats." Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. The Disinformation Company, 2003: 103–118 ISBN 0-9713942-7-X
  45. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 3.11–3.14.
  46. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 3.14–3.17.
  47. ^ Ford 1999, pp. 3.17–3.18.
  48. ^ Ford, Simon. Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle. Black Dog Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-901033-60-0
  49. ^ House D. (4 April 2009). Genesis P-Orridge Interview, Part I and Part II. RocknRollDating
  50. ^ a b c d Metzger 2002 p. 150
  51. ^ Williams, Sheldon. "Genesis P-Orridge". pp. 770–772 in Naylor, Colin & Genesis P-Orridge (editors). Contemporary Artists. Macmillan Press/St Martin's Press, 1977. ISBN 0-333-22672-0
  52. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 685. ISBN 978-0-87930-607-6. 
  53. ^ a b Mulholland, Neil (2003). The Cultural Devolution: Art in Britain in the Late Twentieth Century. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-7546-0392-4. 
  54. ^ Sladen, Mark; Yedgar, Ariella (2007). Panic Attack!: Art in the Punk Years. Merrell. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-85894-403-6. 
  55. ^ P-Orridge in Abrahamsson 2011 [1989]. p. 42.
  56. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. Throbbing Gristle Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  57. ^ a b Evans 2007, p. 99.
  58. ^ a b Daniel 2008, p. 2.
  59. ^ Daniel 2008, pp. 1–2.
  60. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 208.
  61. ^ Evans 2007, p. 100.
  62. ^ Kansa, Spencer (July 2010). "William S. Burroughs: Rock God". Beatdown (7). 
  63. ^ Gimarc, George (July 2005). Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide To Underground Rock, 1970–1982. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 577. 
  64. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 210.
  65. ^ Partridge 2013, pp. 198–199.
  66. ^ a b Partridge 2013, p. 202.
  67. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. Psychic TV Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  68. ^ a b Partridge 2013, p. 203.
  69. ^ P-Orridge, Genesis, Douglas Rushkoff (foreword), and Carl Abrahamsson (introduction). Painful but Fabulous: The Life and Art of Genesis P-Orridge. Soft Skull Press, 2002. ISBN 1-887128-88-3
  70. ^ Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 474. ISBN 978-1-56718-336-8. 
  71. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 204.
  72. ^ Evans 2007, p. 358.
  73. ^ Evans 2007, p. 358; Partridge 2013, p. 202.
  74. ^ Klarion (October 2003). Dream On. Headpress 25 (Headpress). 
  75. ^ a b Partridge 2013, p. 201.
  76. ^ Evans 2007, pp. 100–101.
  77. ^ a b c d Evans 2007, p. 101.
  78. ^ a b c Partridge 2013, p. 200.
  79. ^ Doorne, James (January 2008). "Genesis P Orridge". Bizarre. Photos: Neville Elder; Breyer P. Orridge. Dennis Publishing Limited. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  80. ^ Tony Oursler (1997–2001). "Tony Oursler (b. 1957)". UbuWeb Film. UbuWeb. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  81. ^ Michael Musto (7 March 2012). "Genesis P-Orridge On Pandrogyny and Surgery". The Village Voice. Village Voice, LLC. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  82. ^ Tamara Palmer (29 December 2008). "Genesis P-Orridge: The Body Politic". Suicide Girls. SuicideGirls. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  83. ^ Arvo Zylo (7 December 2011). "Cut Ups: The post-gender Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's Psychic TV lands at Reggies Rock Club". Newcity Music. Newcity Communications, Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  84. ^ Starfarer (6 October 2004). "Nik Turner's Space Ritual 1994 video review". Starfarer's Hawkwind Page. Starfarer. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  85. ^ a b SPIN Media LLC (May 2006). SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. pp. 9–. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  86. ^ "Psychic TV Founder Awarded Damages Against Rick Rubin, American Recordings". MTV.com. Viacom. 17 June 1998. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  87. ^ "Psychic TV: Time's Up Live (1999)". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  88. ^ Tom Gilbert (31 August 2007). "Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: an interview". soundsect.com. soundsect.com. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  89. ^ "Galapagos Art Space Presents Psychic TV". Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  90. ^ "Mr. Alien Brain Vs. the Skinwalkers Overview". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  91. ^ Visco, Gerry (8 March 2008). "S/HE IS (STILL) HER/E: Memorial for Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge". New York Press. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  92. ^ "Genesis P. Orridge announces Lady Jaye Memorial 3/8". Brooklyn Vegan. Brooklyn Vegan. 19 February 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  93. ^ Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (8 March 2008). "Lady Jaye Memorial by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge" (Photo upload). flickr. Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  94. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 206.
  95. ^ a b c Partridge 2013, p. 190.
  96. ^ Partridge 2013, pp. 189–190.
  97. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 195.
  98. ^ Partridge 2013, pp. 196–197.
  99. ^ a b c P-Orridge in Abrahamsson 2011 [1989]. p. 37.
  100. ^ Wim Van Hooste (21 January 2012). "# 65: Psychic TV in Iceland". Icelandic Music Museum. Wim Van Hooste. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  101. ^ Partridge 2013, pp. 192–193.
  102. ^ Partridge 2013, p. 189.

Sources[edit]

Abrahamsson, Carl (2011) [1989]. "An Interview with Genesis P-Orridge". The Fenris Wolf I–3 (Stockholm: Edda). pp. 32–50. ISBN 978-91-979534-1-2. 
Bengala (2002). "The Intuitive Lure of Flesh: Genesis P-Orridge's Erotic Mailart". Painful But Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge. Genesis P-Orridge (ed.). Brooklyn, New York City: Soft Skull Shortwave. pp. 111–117. ISBN 978-1887128889. 
Cecil, Paul (2002). "Even Further: The Metaphysics of Sigils". Painful But Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge. Genesis P-Orridge (ed.). Brooklyn, New York City: Soft Skull Shortwave. pp. 121–130. ISBN 978-1887128889. 
Cogan, Brian (2008). ""Do They Owe Us a Living? Of Course They Do!" Crass, Throbbing Gristle, and Anarchy and Radicalism in Early English Punk Rock". Journal for the Study of Radicalism 1 (2): 77–90. 
Cusack, Carole M. (2011). "Discordian Magic: Paganism, the Chaos Paradigm and the Power of Imagination". International Journal for the Study of New Religions 2 (1). 
Evans, Dave (2007). The History of British Magick After Crowley. n.p.: Hidden Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9555237-0-0. 
Daniel, Drew (2008). Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-1-4411-1325-2. 
Ford, Simon (1999). Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle. Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 978-1-901033-60-1. 
Keenan, David (2003). England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground. London: SAF. 
Metzger, Richard (2002). Disinformation: The Interviews. The Disinformation Company Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9713942-1-6. 
Partridge, Christopher (2013). "Esoterrorism and the Wrecking of Civilization: Genesis P-Orridge and the Rise of Industrial Paganism". Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music. Donna Weston and Andy Bennett (eds). Durham: Acumen. pp. 189–212. ISBN 978-1844656479. 
Wilson, Julie (2002). "As It Is". Painful But Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge. Genesis P-Orridge (ed.). Brooklyn, New York City: Soft Skull Shortwave. pp. 51–110. ISBN 978-1887128889. 

External links[edit]