Throbbing Gristle

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Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle performing in 2009. From left to right: Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter Christopherson, Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge.
Throbbing Gristle performing in 2009. From left to right: Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter Christopherson, Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge.
Background information
Also known asX-TG
OriginKingston upon Hull, England
Years active1975 (1975)–1981, 2004–2010 (2010)
Past membersPeter Christopherson
Cosey Fanni Tutti
Chris Carter
Genesis P-Orridge

Throbbing Gristle were an English music and visual arts group formed in Kingston upon Hull by Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, later joined by Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Chris Carter. They are widely regarded as pioneers of industrial music. Evolving from the experimental performance art group COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle made their public debut in October 1976 in the COUM exhibition Prostitution, and released their debut single "United/Zyklon B Zombie" and debut album The Second Annual Report the following year. P-Orridge's lyrics mainly revolved around mysticism, extremist political ideologies, sexuality, dark or underground aspects of society, and idiosyncratic manipulation of language inspired by the techniques of William S. Burroughs.

The band released several subsequent studio and live albums—including D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (1978), 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979), and Heathen Earth (1980)—on their own record label Industrial Records, building a reputation with their transgressive and confrontational aesthetics; they included the extensive use of disturbing visual imagery, such as ironic fascist and Nazi symbolism and pornography, as well as that of noise and sound manipulation influenced by the works of Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

Throbbing Gristle dissolved in 1981 due to interpersonal differences; the individual members went on to participate in other projects, such as Psychic TV, Coil, and Chris & Cosey. The band was reformed in 2004, and released three more studio albums—TG Now (2004), Part Two (2007), and The Third Mind Movements (2009)—before disbanding again after P-Orridge's departure in October 2010 and Christopherson's death the following month. The band's final studio project, a cover version of the 1970 Nico album Desertshore entitled The Desertshore Installation, was released in 2012 under the moniker X-TG.


First era: 1976–1981[edit]

Throbbing Gristle evolved from the performance art group COUM Transmissions, formed in Kingston upon Hull by a group of performers including Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. In 1973 COUM moved from Hull to Hackney, London, where P-Orridge and Tutti met Chris Carter, then working as a sound recordist in television, and Peter Christopherson, then a member of the graphic design collective Hipgnosis; the four built a recording studio in Hackney which they dubbed "The Death Factory" and began performing music together.[7] The last known performance of COUM Transmissions—Prostitution, an exhibition held in October 1976 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London—was also the public debut of Throbbing Gristle.[8] The provocative sexual content of the exhibition led Conservative Member of Parliament Nicholas Fairbairn to dub the group "wreckers of civilisation" during a speech in Parliament.[9][10]

Throbbing Gristle's confrontational live performances and use of often disturbing imagery, including pornography and photographs of Nazi concentration camps, earned the group a notorious reputation, but they maintained that their mission was to challenge and explore the darker and obsessive sides of the human condition rather than to make attractive music. Throbbing Gristle made extensive use of pre-recorded tape samples[11] and effects units, some of which they had designed themselves, to produce a distinctive, highly distorted sound, usually accompanied by lyrics or spoken-word performances by Tutti or P-Orridge.[7] Though they asserted that they wanted to provoke their audience into thinking for themselves rather than promote any specific political agenda, Throbbing Gristle frequently associated with the anarcho-punk scene. They appeared in the fanzine Toxic Grafity with a condensation of their own propaganda parody series, Industrial News.[12]

In 1977, they released their debut single "United / Zyklon B Zombie", followed by the hybrid live/studio album The Second Annual Report. First pressed in a limited run of 786 copies on the band's Industrial Records label, it was rereleased on Mute Records following high demand; however, this later release was reversed, with all tracks playing backwards and in reverse order. This was followed by the albums D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (1978), 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979), and Heathen Earth (1980), along with a number of non-album singles.

In 1981, Michael Sheppard, concert promoter and founder of Transparency Records, brought Throbbing Gristle to Los Angeles.[13] On 29 May 1981, Throbbing Gristle performed at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco in what would be the group's final performance until 2004. Throbbing Gristle announced their dissolution on 23 June 1981, mailing out postcards declaring that their "mission is terminated."[14][15] In a 1987 interview, Tutti attributed the band's split to her own breakup with P-Orridge, saying, "TG broke up because me and Gen broke up."[16]

P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson went on to form Psychic TV, and Tutti and Chris Carter continued to record together under the names of Chris & Cosey, Carter Tutti and Creative Technology Institute. Christopherson later joined John Balance in Coil; P-Orridge subsequently formed Thee Majesty and PTV3 with the help of their wife Jacqueline "Jaye" Breyer.

Reunion: 2004–2010[edit]

In 2004, Throbbing Gristle briefly reunited to record and release the limited album TG Now. On 2 April 2007, TG released the album Part Two: The Endless Not, which the group had finished recording in Berlin. It was originally set to be released by Mute Records in September 2006 but was delayed for unknown reasons.

In March 2007, Side-Line announced Part Two's final release date, adding that a string of special live events would take place in 2007.[17]

A seven-disc DVD set titled TGV was issued in 2007.[18] The set contains old and new footage of the band. TGV came packaged in a deluxe box with a 64-page book, all designed by Christopherson.[19]

The group performed a reinterpretation of their debut album The Second Annual Report twice in 2008 to mark 30 years since its original release.[20] The performance in Paris on 6 June was issued as a limited-edition framed vinyl set titled The Thirty-Second Annual Report, limited to 777 copies (though some sources claim that there were 785).[21]

Throbbing Gristle worked to record an album based on their interpretation of Nico's 1970 album Desertshore.[22] The group issued the entirety of the recording sessions for the album as a limited edition 12-CD set packaged in a custom CD wallet, The Desertshore Installation, which sold via mail order from the group's website.[23]

In April 2009, Throbbing Gristle toured the United States, appearing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Chicago. The Third Mind Movements, a new release, was made available at these shows, which was edited from jams recorded during the Desertshore sessions.

A collaboration with Cerith Wyn Evans titled A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N was displayed at Tramway in Glasgow from 7 August to 27 September 2009. Throbbing Gristle contributed a multi-channel soundtrack that was played through 16 hanging Audio Spotlight sound panels that Evans had incorporated into his sculpture.[24]

In November 2009, Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records released their version of the Buddha Machine, titled Gristleism. It was designed by Throbbing Gristle and Christiaan Virant based on FM3's design. Gristleism offers more loops and almost twice the frequency range of the Buddha Machine. The player comes in three colours: black, chrome and red.[25]

On 29 October 2010, Throbbing Gristle announced on their website that P-Orridge had informed them that they were no longer willing to perform with Throbbing Gristle and would be returning to their home in New York. Carter, Cosey and Christopherson finished the tour under the name X-TG.[citation needed]

P-Orridge's website stated that they had not quit Throbbing Gristle and had merely stopped participating in the current tour. However, on 24 November 2010, Christopherson died in his sleep at the age of 55, and the band subsequently dissolved.[26][better source needed]

After dissolution: 2011–present[edit]

In 2011, Industrial Records had an official "re-activation", as TG's contract with Mute Records had expired. Because TG has disbanded following the death of Christopherson, the label's plan is to re-release the original TG albums (The Second Annual Report, D.o.A: The Third and Final Report, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Heathen Earth and Greatest Hits) on the label. Originally intended to be released on 26 September 2011, they had to delay due to a Sony DADC warehouse fire in London. The plan changed to issue each album chronologically once per week starting on Halloween 2011 with The Second Annual Report and ending 28 November with Greatest Hits.[27]

Industrial Records announced that a double album, titled Desertshore/The Final Report, would be released on 26 November 2012. Chris and Cosey produced the album, with the participation of film director Gaspar Noé, former pornographic actress Sasha Grey, and guest vocalists Anohni, Blixa Bargeld, and Marc Almond.[28]

The group decided before Christopherson's death to re-record the album because they were not satisfied with the ICA recordings. Christopherson had been the driving force behind the project and had been working on the record in Bangkok with Danny Hyde. "It was Sleazy's project, then Cosey and Sleazy's, then I came in on it", Carter said in an interview with The Quietus.[29] After Christopherson died, custom instruments built for the project by Christopherson were given to Carter and Tutti, and they began combining his recordings with the work they had done themselves.[30] They announced plans to debut the album live at AV Festival on 17 March 2012 accompanied by a screening of Philippe Garrel's film The Inner Scar "for which Desertshore was the soundtrack and inspiration".[31][clarification needed]

P-Orridge died from leukaemia on 14 March 2020, at the age of 70.[32]


The band is widely viewed as having created the industrial music genre, along with contemporaries Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten.[33] The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by Genesis P-Orridge and Monte Cazazza; on Throbbing Gristle's debut album The Second Annual Report, they coined the slogan "industrial music for industrial people".[34] The first wave of this music appeared with Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire.[35]

Alternative Press included Throbbing Gristle in their 1996 list of "100 underground inspirations of the past 20 years."[36]

Wreckers of Civilization, a survey on COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle's original run written by Simon Ford, was published in 1999.[37] A book in the 33⅓ series on 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Drew Daniel of Matmos was released in 2007.[38]

Other, Like Me: The Oral History of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle, a documentary on both projects consisting of archival footage and photos and interviews with their members, was co-produced by BBC Television and aired on BBC Four in December 2021.



During Throbbing Gristle's extensive career, they released numerous volumes of music, including studio albums, live releases, and box sets.

Studio albums


  1. ^ Gimarc 1994, p. 124; Reynolds 2005, pp. XVII, XXI.
  2. ^ Ingram. Matt (31 October 2010). "20 Best: Post-punk 7"'s ever made". Fact. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
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  4. ^ Singh, Anita (2 February 2017). "Full-frontal nudes, pornographic videos and bondage equipment: The X-rated exhibition to celebrate Hull's City of Culture status". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
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  12. ^ "Crass Discography (Toxic Graffiti)". Transmissions from Southern. Archived from the original on 6 May 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
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  19. ^ "7DVD Box Set for Throbbing Gristle – Throbbing Gristle News at". Side-Line. 19 November 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
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  30. ^ Becu, Didier (18 June 2011). "Chris & Cosey • Interview • Music Can Be Regarded as Art. | Art Can Be Regarded as Music. • Peek-a-Boo Music Magazine". Peek-a-Boo Music Magazine. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
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  34. ^ Kilpatrick, Nancy (2004). The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 86. ISBN 0-312-30696-2.
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  38. ^ "33 1/3 - Throbbing Gristle - Twenty Jazz Funk Greats". Heartworm Press. Retrieved 11 August 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]