J. G. Thirlwell

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J. G. Thirlwell
JG Thirlwell, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.jpg
JG Thirlwell at Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
Background information
Birth name James George Thirlwell
Born (1960-01-29) 29 January 1960 (age 54)
Melbourne, Australia
Genres Experimental, post-punk, industrial, electronic, no wave, contemporary classical, avant-garde
Occupations Composer, songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, other instruments
Years active 1980–present
Labels Self Immolation
Big Cat
Ectopic Ents
Ipecac Recordings
Williams Street
Tzadik
Associated acts Foetus
Manorexia
Wiseblood
Steroid Maximus
Flesh Volcano
The Immaculate Consumptive
Garage Monsters
Baby Zizanie
Hydroze Plus
Coil
Zola Jesus
Website foetus.org

James George Thirlwell (born 29 January 1960) – also known as Clint Ruin, Frank Want, Foetus among other names – is an Australian singer, composer, and record producer. Because of his musical diversity he is known for juxtaposing a variety of different styles.

Life and career[edit]

Thirlwell was born in Melbourne, Australia. He briefly studied Fine Art at Melbourne State College (now part of the University of Melbourne) before moving to London, England in 1978, where he played with the post-punk band prag VEC and formed the first of his numerous musical projects, Foetus. In the 1980s, under the pseudonyms Clint Ruin and Frank Want, he contributed to various releases by Nurse With Wound, Marc Almond, The The and Nick Cave. He released his first 7" single, OKFM/Spite Your Face, in 1981, on his own Self-Immolation record label in his first incarnation as Foetus. Over the next few years, he would release two more singles, a 12" EP, and four full-length albums, Deaf, Ache, Hole (his first release on Some Bizzare Records) and perhaps his most seminal album from that period: Nail released in 1985. After visiting the United States during a live stint with the Immaculate Consumptive (Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave and Marc Almond) Thirlwell settled in New York, where he is still based. Since his move he has released several singles, fourteen EPs (including Stinkfist, with fellow New York artist Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore), and seventeen full-length albums.

In addition to being a prolific artist in his own right, Thirlwell has remixed and produced numerous pieces for artists including Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The The, Zola Jesus and Swans. He has also done voice-over work for MTV and other entities.

Since 2000 Thirlwell has become more active as a composer, having written commissions for Bang on a Can, League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots and Kronos Quartet, and scoring the Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. He also revived his primary instrumental project, Steroid Maximus, and initiated a more experimental instrumental project in Manorexia. He continues to write and perform regularly as a solo artist and with various ensembles. He is also a member of the freq_out sound art collective, and has created solo sound installations in Kaliningrad, Santarcangelo and Vienna.

Jim Thirlwell of the band Foetus singing on stage at the Rathskeller in Boston.
Jim Thirlwell singing on stage at the Rathskeller in Boston. —photo by David Henry

Aliases[edit]

Throughout the span of his career, Thirlwell has toyed with his own identity by releasing music in the guise of numerous alter egos. During the earliest phases of his recording, Thirlwell's "groups" were composed of a plethora of fictional characters: Foetus Under Glass supposedly consisted of Frank Want, Phillip Toss and two Brazilian statistics collectors; Scraping Foetus off the Wheel was claimed to be the work of Want and Clint Ruin. Furthering the confusion, Thirlwell adopted these personas outside of his own recordings; for example, Frank Want can be found on The The's Soul Mining and on releases by Orange Juice, with whom he appeared on Top of the Pops.

Thirlwell's persona of Clint Ruin was particularly notable. During the mid-1980s and early-1990s Thirlwell exclusively went by this pseudonym, even conducting interviews as Ruin. As Ruin, Thirlwell was a member of Wiseblood with Roli Mosimann and Flesh Volcano with Marc Almond. He also recorded two collaborative EPs with Lydia Lunch, and starred in and scored films of Richard Kern under the Ruin alias. Ruin is also credited on numerous releases for a variety of roles with Boss Hog, Coil, Fur Bible, Annie Hogan, Nurse With Wound, Pigface, Sonic Youth, Workdogs and others.

This practice seems to have been discontinued since 1995, and "JG Thirlwell" is credited on all subsequent musical recordings.

Music[edit]

Thirlwell's music—released under his various project names of Foetus, Wiseblood, Steroid Maximus, Baby Zizanie, Manorexia and others—includes elements of 20th century classical music, noise, big band, Americana, jazz, punk rock, African and Cuban percussion, and epic/horror film soundtracks. Much of Thirlwell's aural output is built on a percussive, rock music-type structure, though to call it rock music would be inaccurate. His music employs elements of many genres: with an often frenzied aesthetic, Thirlwell's music combines percussion, strings, distortion, brass, electric guitars, electronic sounds and voice. Recurring lyrical themes include destruction, persecution, anxiety, abuse, incest, masochism, angst, self-destruction, self-abuse, lust, prejudice, murder, failure and machismo, often expressed using American colloquialism and black humour.

Musical projects[edit]

  • Foetus: Thirlwell's main project. From 1990 until 2010's 'Hide', most Foetus songs featured lead vocals. Though popularly known as simply "Foetus", Thirlwell released albums under diverse variations of the name, including: Foetus Art Terrorism; Foetus Über Frisco; Foetus Corruptus; Foetus In Excelsis Corruptus Deluxe; Foetus Inc.; Foetus Interruptus; Foetus Over Frisco; Foetus Under Glass; Philip and His Foetus Vibrations; Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel; The Foetus All-Nude Revue; The Foetus of Excellence; The Foetus Symphony Orchestra; and You've Got Foetus On Your Breath.

Partial discography[edit]

For full discographies of Foetus, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia, Wiseblood, Flesh Volcano and Baby Zizanie, see respective articles.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]