INTERVIEW WITH GENESIS P-ORRIDGE + EDLEY ODOWD OF PSYCHIC TV

psychictvwierd
psychictvwierd
Psychic TV @ Wierd Night (RIP), 2011. Taken by myself.

It would be far too daunting to do a proper introduction to Psychic TV or Genesis P-Orridge. The originator of industrial music as we know it, pure magic, mentor, thinker and speaker, pandrogyne, visual artist and humbling humorist who often challenges people to re/think the world around them and the possibilities that lay therein. I was pretty beside myself when I was given the opportunity to go to their apartment to sit down and talk to both Genesis and Edley Odowd (long time collaborator, drummer of psychic TV and art director for Psychic TV for over a decade) prior to their apperance at the Bezerktown festival in L.A., where they are set to perform Psychic TV’s first record Force the Hand of Chance in it’s entirety.

This conversation sort of starts in the middle. I plopped myself on their couch and pet their dog, and we started to converse immediately. I began recording before the interview was even formally addressed. Genesis was telling me that a piece from her most recent art exhibit at the Ruben museum was going to be displayed at St. John’s Cathedral. We exchanged some formal questions and before too long, I felt like I was in a therapy session. In a good way. Genesis and Edley were able to pick up whatever wounded vibrations I was sending out into the world. I left feeling high. I was given glorious guidance by two people who I respect immensely and I planned on putting it to work. It has only been a week and this interview has already changed my life. I have started to ‘do the opposite’ and think about myself differently. So, fair warning, this gets a little personal. The questions veer from the plan. But I believe there is a great deal of wisdom, possibility and love within.

JANE PAIN: So “Try to Alter Everything” at the Rubin museum ended today, how does that feel for you?

GENESIS: A little bit weird, I kind of got used to going there three times a week.I have to write something for you next (points towards Edley)

J: What will you be writing for Edley?

G: He’s got an art exhibition coming up in Los Angeles.

Edley: Yes, with a book. September 1 at lethal amounts gallery.

J: What will the book be composed of?

E: It’s the art of Psychic TV for the past twelve years. I have pretty much been the exclusive graphic designer, but the show is about iconography translates to everything, so it won’t just be a bunch of flat pictures on the wall, there will be a lot of objects and textiles and why not make a bed spread out of it? Why not make curtains out of it? So, you know the reason we are playing Berzerktown, right?

J: I don’t, in fact that was going to be my first question! I guess not so much why you are playing, but why you chose to play Force the Hand of Chance in it’s entirety. 

E: We are going to perform Psychic Tv’s first album, because we want to but also because I spent four years going up against Warner Brothers to license the rights back, and they have finally decided to work with us. So, we will also have a special limited edition of the records that will be sold at the concert.

J: I will absolutely be picking one of those up, there are a lot of goodies in there!

E: A lot of goodies, an alternate cover from the shoot of the head that Gen made back in 1982. So Berzerktown is happening at the same time as this is being released.

G: And we will be performing with some very interesting guests.

J: Do the guests have to be secret until the show?

G+E: I don’t think so…

J: Then I have to ask, who will be performing with you guys?

E: Well, Margaret Cho…

J: I didn’t expect that. Have you seen the video of her talking with Jerry Seinfeld about Genesis?

G: Yes, it turns out she is a fan. You never know who is a fan. We didn’t know Marc Jacobs was either.

E: We are going to have her as well as Ron Athey, who we are both really excited about. He is not a musician, he is a performance artist.

G: Do you know about Ron Athey?

J: I don’t, I plan on googling him as soon as I leave.

G: Google him! He is famous for doing very, very intense ritual performances about being HIV positive. He has been dong more conceptual things, but he is a nice guy who does very pure stuff. What he is doing is the real thing, not fake performance art.

E: The closing track of the record was originally spoken by Mister Sebastian, who is no longer alive, so we needed a new groundbreaking person.

G: He [Sebastian] used to do body piercing and tattoos and at that time he was the only person in Britain who did body art and tattoos.

E: We will also be having Sean from Cult of Youth performing with us.

J: Ah, my friend! Gen, I actually saw you conduct his wedding service!

G: I Married him. It was a nice ceremony, wasn’t it? You got lucky Misses, they are not normally like that.

J: I have only been to a couple weddings, but that one seemed unusual… I would like to revisit your show at the Ruben. I was really interested in your decision to invite guests to make offerings to the show [many of which were exhibited] and know that you interacted with people though the exhibition via performance, curating events and even answering the telephone periodically. Why did you decide to engage with the gallery audience in this way and in retrospect, how do you feel about the offerings made and their interaction with your exhibit.

G: Well, we got more than 1,200 gifts or offerings, which is pretty good. Filled every single space we had designated with some left over which were stored. We don’t go to art exhibitions that much any more… We used to go a lot more with Jaye. We felt that galleries are usually so elitist and sterile and removed from people’s experience that there is no warmth, embracing or welcoming into the art and into the stories… and that is because most of the art you see doesn’t have a story. It’s all just ‘look at me, I’ve got a formula and I can do it twenty times and sell it all’. That is of no interest to us.

The point of the show is that everything can be sacred and that everything is potentially special and every person is too. Having people bring gifts was one way that we thought we could express that, and make it simple and not too intimidating to people off the street who didn’t know anything about me or it. It really resonated with people, even people not far off from my age but people from high school to people in their seventies came and talked to me about giving things.

A couple of people said ‘well that section just has a bus ticket in it’, but how would you know what the significance is of that bus ticket? That might be the ticket that they got to go to the funeral of their mother. Or the one that took them to the person that they are in love with. Or it could be the one that took them to the hospital when they discovered they had cancer. You don’t know what the significance is, and that is the whole point, that everything is potentially significant and that everything has a story.

We used to work with a Shaman who would tell us to go out, come back in a half an hour and tell him what the streets told us. Let him know what you learned from what you saw. You would look at the world so different straight away.

In the eighties, we used to go on tour in a school bus, and it broke down in the middle of the salt flats in Utah, miles and miles from anything and it was 110 degrees. We had the kids. Tom was our driver. We had stopped right before we hit the desert to fill the tank with gas.

So we said, it should work. Why has it stopped? Our first question to him was, ‘Did you definitely fill the tank up?’ and he said ‘yes, yes, of course I did’ I said that it didn’t make sense, and he said that it was a piece of shit bus, and that we should just get rid of the bus.

We got someone to hitchhike to the nearest town with the kids so the kids could be safe at a diner. While he was gone and looking for a mechanic, we walked out to the desert and squatted in the desert trying to descend into my head. As we were squatting, looking at the salt flats, we see ants. There are littles holes that are their nest, they are going off and coming back with bits of food. Going back out, coming back with bits of food. We thought ‘that is their fuel. He was lying. He didn’t put the petrol in, that is what is wrong with the bus. No fuel.’

By the time we walked back to the bus, he had reappeared. I asked him again if he had out the petrol in and he stuttered and said ’no, I was scared to tell you.’

I asked him if he realized he suggested throwing the bus away and breaking the engine down. I made him hitchhike away again to get some petrol. But that was an example of when that excersise worked for me in a particular way.

E: And you have used this excersise in your classes.

G: Yes, we use this when we do workshops with people. It makes people stop and think, which is always a good thing. To hesitate. What have I got in my purse? This is what a lot of people did, [when they attended “Try to Alter Everything” at the Rubin] they looked at what they had and thought ‘what do I have that means something to me?’. Instead of thinking about how they only have six dollars left and one ride on the subway. Just on that level alone, it is a great way to reprogram people into looking, perception. We have this saying ‘Change the way to perceive’, if you can change your memory you can change the past by perceiving things differently. That is what all art should be doing, encouraging people to perceive the world differently, more completely, more meticulously. There are always ways to rethink our senses and the information that we receive.

J: What do you mean about reevaluating the past and interpreting something differently, do you think that is it healthy to look back at something negative and grab something positive?

G: Well, that’s not really how it works. What happens is that you develop wisdom, and knowledge, and as your way of living life changes you’ll look back and realize the flaws in what you have done and maybe why it failed. And then, when something becomes a crisis again, you can do things differently.

J: That is happening to me right now.

G: There you go. If you don’t remember the past, you are doomed to repeat it. There are a lot of different ways that you can take that phrase, and again, it can be taken as a way to remind you but the literally re/mind you, to give you another mind. Look back and re/think how you are looking at the world, how you are reacting to the world, what you are giving to the world, what you are receiving from the world around you. Constantly analyze are you doing something out of habit? Are you doing something because it is what is expected of you? Am I doing this because I am afraid? Why am I doing this? Why am I choosing to do things in this particular way in this particular time. All those things can be rearranged once you start making little maps to your past to keep alert.

J: What if you are super scared of making the same mistake that at sometimes feels out of your power? 

G: There is a really easy excersize for that, which we have used. We had one long relationship with Cosey Fanni Tutti, then we had one long relationship to the children’s Mother and both times when it started to fall apart, we tried to rescue it. It was just more miserable that the painful part lasted longer. So when it happened again, we just thought, well, whatever it was that happened the last time, we will just do the exact opposite, because it didn’t work the way we were doing it the last three times.

So if we rang up and said ‘please, please’, we won’t ring. If we tried to justify why they should love me, we won’t say anything. And it was like math. What did we do before? We will do the opposite. And not only did it end the pain really quickly,  it saved the relationship.

J: That’s good to hear.

G: But you have to be really strict with yourself, because it is in your nature to do your mistakes again. And sometimes we would sit there, fidgeting.

E:  I think it is also helpful to take the stance of having nothing to lose. Then, nothing can harm you. I was single for twelve years. I would never take that leap, and just not give a shit, and just do it. A year ago somebody walked up to me and said ‘will you go on a date with me?’ and I said yes, and we are engaged to be married now. There you go. Do things differently.

G: Do things differently and consciously.

J: Things are really hard for me because I keep making the same mistakes, I am stuck in a loop. My mistakes keep rippling into my relationships with the people who are closest to me and worsening my relationship with myself. For me, right now, it isn’t about not calling someone, it is about calling someone when I need them.

E: Gen used to say that I was stuck in a loop. I would do the same thing over and over again.

G: The other thing is, as Lady Jaye would say ‘be fearless’. Edly just said yes. He jumped off. Not ask ‘what if’.

E: After I said yes, we were living on separate coasts. I realized I had nothing to lose. I asked them if they wanted to get a job transfer, if they wanted to live with me. And they said yes. There is nothing to lose by seeing what happens.

G: Unconditional surrender. Once you’ve done the unconditional surrender, you can’t fail. There is nothing complex. There are no games, no secrets. One hundred percent unconditional surrender is the only way anything can work in the long term. After people watch the film The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye a lot of people have told me that they have always been scared of being hurt so they have held back a bit, but they have still gotten hurt. We say, of course you do, because you hold back a bit! You’re probably going to get hurt any way, so why not just say fuck it and jump. A lot of relationships can’t work in a really long term way, but there can be so much joy from a fully committed unconditional love.

E: Nothing is guaranteed. You know what is really interesting about Jane? When I was working at Trans-Pecos and you and I were texting during that noise fest… There were people everywhere, hot and sweaty. When she walks into a room, she really shines. I instantly noticed her in this room of people. I made a point to connect to you at the bar. Asked you ‘did you get your synth fixed?’

J: I couldn’t even fanthom why you remembered or cared.

E: I felt compelled because of the energy that you gave.

J: That makes me feel really nice. Especially as circumstances of that fest had me feeling on and off again rotten.

E: You should know that about yourself. You are putting compelling energy out there.

G: We remembered you straight away.

J: This is so flattering.

G: There you go. Start looking at yourself differently.

J: This is so interesting also, because of how I need to absolutely surrender/ jump off the cliff right now is to learn to love myself and to commit to living my life without alcohol.

G: How old are you?

J: 28, turning 29 next month.

G: Oh wow, you look much younger.

E: You do… Yeah… I know this sounds so old manish to say, with a cigar hanging out of the side of my mouth but… You’re young. Wisdom takes time and experience. That is why it is even more important to embrace and to let things happen when you are young. It will help you achieve and akrew wisdom. I’ve noticed that everything changes every ten years, in a major way.

J: Since I am looking at 29, I hope that this year brings on a very positive change in myself.

G: Well, you are going through your saturn return, aren’t you? 27 is very hard, that is why so many people die at 27.

J: I am thankful that I didn’t, now. I flirted with it.

G: New York is very easy to get sucked into. We’ve all been there. All of us have, in different ways. Do you have any more questions, my dear? Otherwise it is going to cost you a hundred dollars.

J: I feel like I am getting a full therapy session here!

E: You’ll put out a very thick zine with your psychologists, Genesis and Edley.

J: Well, there is evidence in our conversation. You have a lot of people who look to you for answers. How does this feel and do you feel good about giving people answers. Both as Psychic TV and as individuals. 

G: In all honestly, with the phones at the museum… People rang up and said that we got them through the worst part of their life or changed their life or inspired them or they wouldn’t be who they are without what we have done… This happens, there is no way to deny that. In my case, it just gives me an ever deeper sense of responsibility to be more truthful and to keep on giving back however we can. Sharing what we have found or what we have experienced. It used to make me feel embarrassed. Why are they saying that to me? I know nothing. We still don’t think that we know anything particularly important, but at least we have a bank of experiences. A lot of these experiences are more extreme, intimate and scathing. That is what we have as a currency that we can share, and so we share it as much as we can and as clearly as we can. Trying to say things more clearly each time is the difficult part.

It’s hard not to say things the same exact way every single time. Sometimes we fall into that. We get asked the same questions ‘when did you name it industrial music?’. We have been asked this seven thousand times. In any way, it is good to know that we have been helpful to people.

E: Gen can tell you that I have spent most of my adult life mentoring people. Particularly younger people, and that is how I intend to spend my sage years.

J: And do you think that Psychic TV has helped to facilitate this mentoring?

E: Yes. Gen and I both share a sense of compassion. Mine might be a bit more extreme. I’ll go too far to try and help another person, and Gen will say ‘I’m going to bed’. But s/he has earned that

J: Sometimes you do just need to go to bed. You can’t help someone if you’re too tired.

G: Jaye did help me to become more compassionate. And vice versa, really. We were really good for each other in that way, and it got more positive as time went by, which is unusual and wonderful. We feel it is a responsibility to share anything that can be helpful and that all bands should be thinking that way, as well as all artists and writers. ‘How can what I do make this world a better place?’

Psychic TV is unusual in that way, I am sure you have noticed. A majority of our fans are really nice people, really caring people who really think about what it is to be alive and existing in this world, and what was it can both be bearable for them and hopefully more rewarding. So their is a spiritual and familial side to Psychic TV. The band it’s self, we get along so well. We are like a little family. It sounds corny but it’s true. Not like a family of little boys who get drunk every night and try to find girls but an actual family that loves and cares for each other.

E: We look forward to going on the road together and doing things together. It’s hardly a job in that way.

G: When things happen to any of us… Negative, awful… We’ve got each other to support us through it. When Lady Jaye dropped her body, everyone rallied around immediately with full love and compassion. When Alice lost her son… We have had tragedies happen to our band, but we take care of each other. We try to look after each others emotions as much as we can. I wish everyone were that way, instead of trying to be famous and rich. That is not on our agenda. At all.

The important stuff is to try and make the world a better place and help people to be less afraid. Less afraid of being generous with each other, sharing with each other, loving each other. All those things people hesitate over. I want to leave a legacy of less fear.