My new band Safe Word released our first self titled EP. Written in the summer of 2018 in Los Angeles. Simple, raw and wrong. Drums, bass and me on vocals.
I was first introduced to Boyharsher through my best friend and bandmate Ciarra Black. She was putting together an impeccable comp for her new label No-Tech. When she told me she had stumbled across this band called Boy Harsher and thought they would be my new favorite band, I took serious heed. The girl knows me pretty well and she was damn straight. At this point, there need not be much on an introduction of the duo to most fans of dark minimal electronic music. The pair have sold out releases and shows around the world and were on the road supporting Soft Moon when I had a chance to sit down with them in an undisclosed location in Highland Park, Los Angeles .
I’ve fallen for the bands sinister sincerity. There is almost a sense that you are listening to something that you shouldn’t be, like this couple hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts never really intended for their music to fall on the publics ears. Their songs have a sense of urgent intimacy, like a kiss that is too hard. Their albums help me harness an adolescent desire to dance alone behind a closed door. My admiration for Boy Harsher was certainly cemented when I first had a chance to catch the band live at the Silent Barn. I was shooting a DIY fashion week event and they were providing the tunes. I had a chance to sit in the backyard with Jae and smoke ten thousand cigarettes and speak as though I had known her forever.
Our conversation came with ease and I decided to press play on my recorder right in the middle, the interview had begun by accident. We were talking about the weather and got on the topic of a band overseas co-opting their album artwork as their own. Once we got going it felt like I was the one being interviewed at times and we treaded some dangerous territory.
I experience this a lot with people repurposing my photos without asking. Sometimes it is chill if it is one of my friends or for a flyer or something but, how does it feel to have something taken from you that is so personal?
Jae: You’re already putting it out there, so you are already
stripping some of the intimacy out of it. Sometimes I feel super
guilty, because I did a lot of these videos without the intention of
putting them out there in the world as publicly as they are now. The
video that the album artwork [Your Body is Nothing] is from started as
a really small experimental project with my friend Adelin. I was like
‘can you just dance in this warehouse and let me film you?’
Gus: Album art is like an icon. We didn’t ask ‘do you want to become an icon?’.
Jae: Her image now represents something that is different than the
initial intention. She’s cool, a relaxed person, I know that she is
okay with it. But, there still is a weird guilt complex.
But is could tread some strange territory if it was a different person, or a different circumstance.
Gus: Do you feel that way about photography? Do you ever take a picture of a person and then the image becomes very popular and it gets used for something else?
Gus: Your art is also their body, or their image?
Yeah. The problem with being a photographer is that I try to think of every photo as a collaboration. Not so much at the moment, because my life is changing so much, but a lot of my photos are of people partying and wasted and taken at an intimate time and I was just their friend taking a photo, which people are so accustomed to now-a-days. When certain photos are repurposed I try to check in with people. Some friends have asked me to take photos down for different reasons. I most recently really wanted to make a tee shirt of a photo that I took a number of years ago of a couple that have long since broken up. I reached out to both of them to see if they were cool with it, and one of them was’t. I was super stoked on the tee shirt, people had asked me to put the photo on a tee shirt and I have mocked everything up and contacted a screen printer … I was disappointed and the image is out there in the world, but it was never intended to be used for a tee shirt when I asked the couple to pose. That changes a lot. I totally understood.
It’s weird being a photographer… There are cultures who think that a photo steals part of your soul, and I agree, but not always in a negative sense. I think photography is vampiric. Sometimes I also feel a little predatory.
Even when I see someone who I think looks cool on the street and I ask to take their picture and they consent… The person isn’t completely aware of why I took the photo or who I am or what my deal is. Sometimes it is something simple like really liking someones outfit. , or they look interesting or whatever. But once is a while I feel like my intentions are a bit twisted.
Jae: Like exploitative?
Exactly, and I don’t want to put those pictures out in the world. I am still compelled to take some photos that are like that, but I won’t post them or anything.
Jae: Do you know the black and white photographer “Weegee” [Arthur Fellig]? His whole thing was that he was a crime scene photographer…
Yeah! I watched a good documentary about him!
Jae: The way that he related to photography changed… He was
documenting really horrific, gory things and then he started taking
pictures of nightlife. He brought the same attitude from his crime
scene photos to his nightlife photos. Very straight forward, certainly
exploitative. The subject was not presented in a necessarily
I’ve defiantly gotten myself into some weird situations because I revel in being at the right place at the right time. I once found myself at a satanic ritual orgy… just so I could take some pictures of the experience just because I was invited.
Once I got there I felt bad because I just went to take pictures, which they consented to, but I thought I should at least take off my clothes. Anyway, it ended up being a very strange experience and I’ve never shown those pictures to anyone. I regretted it so badly afterwards for a bunch of reasons but the whole thing could have been avoided if I didn’t end up where I didn’t belong just to take some pictures. Just because I was at some noise show and there was a naked couple there and they invited me back to play at their apartment and I had my camera and they didn’t mind if I took their picture.
Next thing you know…
Jae: Wait… so they were naked at the noise show?
Yeah… It was a Crank Sturgeon show.
Jae: Wowa, where?
At this warehouse show in Brooklyn. So yeah. I was at the show and there was a naked woman who was restrained to the ceiling…
Gus: Were they part of the set?
Nope. Just people who were there and enjoying being naked and performing sexual acts in public and trying to recruit people to come back to their apartment. I initially approached the couple and asked if I could take a picture, and they were really into it. As the night progressed they had convinced a bunch of people back to their place. They mentioned that there would be an orgy, I could take my camera and that they had many bottles of liquor.
I was at the show with my friend Miles, who is a filmmaker and also intrigued by being in the wrong place at the right time and we went together with his girlfriend at the time to check it out… But I do remember that moment where I was completely naked and made eye contact with him, fully clothed and in horror… we were both wondering what the fuck was happening.
Gus: Did you get some good photos?
I got some really good photos.
Gus: I’m surprised I have never seen these photos.
They are in the vault for a lot of reasons. Aside from what we were talking about, that night ended up harboring some really terrible associations for me as well. The whole thing has such bad juju. Anyway, so aside from Boyharsher, do you guys have any other projects going on?
Gus: We made a couple of music videos this year. And Jae writes.
Jae: I used to write more. I used to work on really horrible indie
films. It is a lot more fulfilling to do this, even if it is really
challenging and sometimes feel like a total imposter. On films there
is a loaded sense of ego, everyone feels like they deserve to be
there… Whereas creative pursuits, like music, you have to be your own
cheerleader and make yourself believe that you deserve to be there.
I do miss working on films, but I want to work on my own films. Write
my own film and have it go into production. That would be the
Sooooo then you would move to LA right?
Jae: We always talk about moving to LA.
Gus: One reason to do that would be because of film, and to expand our
creative side. One of the things about music is that you get to be so
introverted and you can really do that wherever, but we are really
interested in exploring what else Boy Harsher could do or could offer.
Jae: Gus is kind of beating around the bush but Gus really wants to score, which I think would be perfect.
Would you want to compose your own videos or score for other directors and artists?
Gus: I’ve always been interested in standard composing for film but I
would be really interested in multimedia things too.
Jae: Installations would be amazing. To work with someone doing large scale installation pieces who is interested in adding a sonic element.
I wanted to just touch a bit more on your writing and lyric writing. In electronic music, lyrics and vocals tend to be less important and more about the way that words fit into a song more than what the song is saying. How do you approach your lyrics? Are they an extension of your prose or do you find them to be less personal?
Jae: When we first started I was trying to take prose that I had
written and cram it into an ambient structure. At the time, Boy
Harsher was mostly ambient. After you perform a bunch of times you
learn more about the vocal performance. Lyrics became more reliant on
delivery than on content. There are some songs that are a little more
heady than others. But, I think most of my songs are a study in
repetition, how I can perform a word more than the meaning of the
Are there any songs that are particularly intimate or closer to your prose?
Jae: Many songs that we don’t play live. Our live set is a very
dedicated – cultivated energy. Certain songs I remember writing and
then feeling so struck by them. There is a song called “A Realness”
that was written at a point where I didn’t know if we were going to
stay together, we were struggling to make this work. When I hear the
song that uncertainly, that feeling, it comes back.
And then there are some songs that are not that dedicated in terms of
Gus: We don’t have to expose those though.
Jae: The first couple of albums came out of a certain ‘chaos of us’
and now writing I’m in a more stable, but solemn place. My mother was
just diagnosed with alcoholic dementia. So when I write now, I write
about losing someone who is still alive, it’s tough. I can’t shake it.
Not sure if the songs will fly, just ’cause they are so sad.
But there is a need to get it out to some capacity, you are just
finding out how to do it and not break down every time that you play.
A big thing for the both of us is that we want the music to be
universal. I don’t need the person listening to be going through the
same thing, yet the experience of losing someone is already ubiquitous
it’s a connection. We are at the stage of trying to utilize the
intimacy or these sad things, but project it in a way that is global.
How has playing bigger shows effected your live performance? Has it
been an organic progression, or very difficult?
Jae: It’s tough. I think about the shows that we were doing last year,
like we’ll never top this. These really small zones where I could jump
into the audience, so ready, just a part of it. It felt like the peak
for me, important and relevant. Now we are playing stages and there is
usually a fucking barricade and the stage is huge. Granted, big spaces
sound amazing and have big systems, but for me it’s a challenge to
find that visceral connection with the audience. Our music, I think,
can smack people in the face – which is good, but I also want to be
there. I’m still figuring out how to interact physically with big
spaces. Gus hasn’t changed one bit, I don’t think. He does pretty much
does the same thing he has always done.
It must be so hard to be as intertwined as you guys are, as partners
and bandmates constantly on tour. Other than ‘ I love you’, what is
something that you feel that you don’t express to each other that you
don’t communicate as often as you would like to? Are there sentiments
that get lost?
Gus: We talk about this all of the time. It is definitely voicing
appreciation. When you are with someone all day there are little
things that Jae does that I rely on so much and I don’t say thank you
each time. We are always trying to find ways to communicate that we do
appreciate each other.
Jae: It’s appreciation, for sure. We spend so much time together that
I definitely take it for granted. I’m often manic and neurotic, I
don’t think there are a lot of people who can put up with me for so
many hours of the day. Even sleeping. Basically every hour.
Gus: Really good pitch here for Jae Matthews as a partner.
Jae: Yeah I think it is just voicing appreciation that we need to get better at.
When touring you take people’s strengths for granted. There is always one person who is better at making the business calls or managing navigation or driving. I tend to just float and when you are not saying “thank you” or acknowledging that it is work even if they are good at it. Roles just sort of develop and you begin to assume that someone will do something and become reliant on it. Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean that it is not stressful. I don’t even drive and don’t even think about it.
Jae: I’m a micromanager, so I do all of that shit. I also can’t drive
as much as I used to be able to. I’ve noticed that Gus is doing all of
the driving and we’re doing a lot of nighttime, driving ahead. After a
show, late, we drive for a couple hours, through the mountains… I
would never be able to do that, so thank you for driving around scary
I get to travel a lot for someone who doesn’t have a driver license. I don’t even know how annoying that must be.
Jae: You’re just sitting in the back eating corn nuts.
Literally. The entire time. The new Cheddar Jalapeño ones are really good.
Jae: We just had the chile limon ones and they were really good.
I’m into them. This is a good time to open up the gummy bears. Speaking of snacks. So, touring. Shit happens. What is the biggest misadventure that you guys have come across on tour? They are usually funny in retrospect, but not at the time.
Jae: We were thinking about this the other day. There have been a lot
of little weird things, but there are enough of them that they lose
Gus: We were driving one time and a manhole cover flew off the road
and hit our car and ended up totaling our engine so we were stuck in
Charleston for days. Three days. We had to get a whole new engine.
Jae: That is more of a sad story though.
What did you guys do in Charleston?
Jae: We stayed on the outskirts. Off the highway. So no gumbo or
whatever. We had to walk down this highway strip to get food. It was
the pits. But an adventure.
I did get food poisoning in London, which is hilarious… We played a
Doc Marten showcase… Cheesy but funny… An early show, super easy, only
30 people could go and it was all done by 10pm. I was stoked, because
we could go and sleep! We weren’t sleeping at all on this tour. So I
eat this salad and go to bed and I am so happy: ate a salad, getting a
full nights sleep, the next day I would explore London and get some
I wake up at 4 AM feeling like there is a monster in me and projectile
vomit. I puked once an hour until noon. There was some pressure not to
cancel the show that night, because it was sold out, people were
looking forward. We get to the club, no one has ever heard of
Gatorade, but I get Powerade and proceed to puke blue into urinals,
because can never make it to a toilet. So I’m puking blue, rip a set
and then puke some more into urinals. That was our latest debacle.
Blue vomit and food poisoning from a salad. Just cruel. I guess it’s
I should start washing my vegetables.
Jae: Lettuce, dude. On this tour we have had a pretty easy tour because we are a support band – we are just riding the wave.
Gus: Nothing horrible has really happened.
Jae: Yeah, you hear of bands getting robbed or things that are scary
and would make you want to give up. Even though I bought my vocal rack
on craigslist for thirty bucks if someone stole it I wouldn’t want to
do this anymore. I wouldn’t be able to manage the feelings.
What physical object besides music gear do you feel the most attached to?
Jae: Do dogs count? I got a dog named Bear and he is my number one. He
is staying with Gus’s Mom but I am super scared that he is going to
get eaten by a bear or get hit by a car. I am just freaked out. But I
am more attached to Bear than anything else.
My Mom has my cat right now and it’s really hard. I know that he is being taken care of, but I can’t wait until I am in a place to have Calvin back. He needs to be a California cat. I have had him my entire adult life. He has been there with me through everything. I knew how much I loved him but I didn’t realize what a source of emotional support he was.
Jae: They are just there for you. They love you.
He is a really special, sensitive, loving and unique kitty.
Jae: When is he going to come out here?
I don’t know. I don’t even know how I would get him out here at this point.
Jae: And you plan to stay out here in LA?
I think for a while. It would be too difficult for me to go back to New York right now. I don’t feel strong enough to face it and additionally my entire sober life was constructed here… The people I have met, the meetings that I go to, my sponsor, the people I’ve called on the phone when I have had a hard time… They are all here in LA. So it is a double whammy. Going back to New York is going to be really, really fucking hard and then I wouldn’t be close to my recovery.
It sucks because I am so incredibly homesick. I miss my friends and family so much. If I had not relapsed, it might be a little different but because I did it’s not going to be the same. Everyone was rooting for me and I think we all thought that it was over. I don’t think anyone was prepared for it not to work. We all had high hopes.
I thought I understood addiction and I thought I had a grasp on what I had to do in recovery but I was only starting to scratch the surface.
Jae: When my Mom relapsed I was so pissed, just ready to abandon her.
I was like ‘fuck you, you clearly don’t care about me’. Talking to a
therapist helped me pump the breaks. To your supporters, you are
really battling a disease right now. With my Mom I internalized that
she was being malicious to me or she didn’t care about me or she was
chasing something else over me. The stakes with her are different,
drinking worsens her dementia. I totally understand what you are
saying and the feelings of knowing that you let someone down.
Mom and I are trying to reconcile. She knows that she let me down, but
I’m also trying to be strong and not trying to be a total bitch. It’s
her struggle and not necessarily mine.
It’s really difficult because I am not in contact with the person who is closest to me. She set a really hard boundary and I totally respect it despite it being so difficult. She was too intertwined in my recovery. She was the person who got me into my first rehab and she was the person who encouraged me to go to sober living and decided where I would go and encouraged me to go to California and stay. When I got on a plane to go to rehab in May I thought I would just be gone for a couple weeks, take care of my alcoholism and go back to New York and just be fixed and sober for the rest of my life and everything would be better. I think we both thought all of the bad stuff was over. She was so invested in my recovery. When I relapsed I felt like I had betrayed her and it took me a while to understand that I betrayed myself. I think we are learning how to ‘detach with love’.
But this recovery is mine. I decided I would go to treatment and where. I worked with music cares because I didn’t have the money. I think she is happy about that, but she needs some time. I hurt her and scared her.
In any case she is pretty much friends with all of my friends and we are not on normal speaking terms. I don’t know who fucks with me anymore, in general. I don’t feel like I could return to New York and go to shows or do anything normally and everything there is extremely loaded and I am not equipped to handle it right now. I am also not sure that a lot of the people that I would want to see would even want to see me right now. Maybe in a year.
Jae: That’s a mature way to handle it. Not to say that you are cured,
but you are accepting this more than a lot of people do, believe me.
My Mom is not on the level. She is just bummed because my feelings got
hurt. She is not bummed because she is an alcoholic and she needs to
get better. A doctor told her that her brain is failing and that she
needs to quit drinking – but it means nothing. It is amazing to hear
that readiness to accept that ‘recovery right now is for me’. It’s
It has to be, and that was an important shift in my perspective. I wanted to stop drinking because I wanted to consequences to stop but there was still a mourning. I wished so badly that drinking was still a tool that I could use to shut myself off. That is how I relapsed. I got to a point where I felt unable to bear life and I just went to my only coping mechanism because I didn’t know what else to reach for when I was that desperate for relief. It is difficult to explain that mindset and feeling to someone who isn’t an alcoholic. It defies all logic. It doesn’t matter how much you love people or what could happen if you drink.
Jae: Even though you know that it will fuck everything up, it is not
like it is part of the equation. But LA is such a cool place to do
this, man. Imagine going to a treatment center in cold ass upstate New
York or something…
The first treatment center I went to was in Michigan between a shooting range and a shit processing plant and was a hospital like environment. People with certain PTSD couldn’t go outside because the sound of the guns would set them off. It was life saving though, and a good program. I don’t think I would be alive if i hadn’t gone when I did.
Right now I live in a recovery house with only two other residents who are both in their sixties. It is cool. Homey, we all do chores and cook for each other and it is sweet. It is a huge lesson in getting sober now though. I protected my drinking for so long and hid so much from people. Right now I am looking the consequences of what I have in store if I continue to do that or relapse. What it looks like and feels like to drink for thirty more years. It’s an eye opener. I want to live a full life!
I was so depressed and anxious for so long and the only thing I could do about it was drink and so my life got so small and meaningless and fucked up and sad but for some reason I felt like I had this obligation to go on even though it would have been more logical to just kill myself.
When we were younger, my sister and I both made a pact to each other that we would never commit suicide. But every time that I drank it was a small death. A weird temporary death and also a trot towards death.
Jae: Suicidal tendencies
Yeah. The way that I drank was life deliberate self harm. Now I have the most stability that I have had in a year and I am starting to feel like if I stay sober that my life can get bigger again. It’s not like my life will get better because I am sober, like I thought that it would. But in order to have the possibility of having a bigger life, a prerequisite is staying sober. But I am a human being and shit happens, I just have to learn how to deal with it.
Jae: I was thinking the same thing with my Mom. I thought that because
she was sober, she was going to be my Mom again. I was putting so much
pressure on her situation. It is fascinating how AA and Al Anon have
the same message for each end of the spectrum. As the loved one of an
addict, you begin to act like an addict. You become obsessed with ‘the
cure’ and how you can control someone, but that’s not how it works.
Many people need distance from me right now. They realize that no matter how much they love me or do for me, they can not cure me. I will never be ‘cured’. I have to learn how to maintain and live with it. I think some people need to wait for me to be in a space that is healthy enough that they feel that it is safe to engage because they have been let down and feel betrayed on such a deep level because they did everything that she could for me. They need to know that talking to me won’t just randomly throw a grenade into their life.
Jae: Thanks for being so open, it’s fascinating to talk to you about this for sure.
I feel like I have to be for a lot of reasons, especially because my recovery was made so public because there was a gofundme to help get me into treatment. The fact that I got sober was really public. I felt sort of obligated to show people that I was doing it the first time. I was posting pictures of my chips and stuff like that. I am open but I am not doing things like that now because I don’t feel the need to prove myself in that way. But I am an open person and maybe the fact that I am so open could help someone one day. I think it helps me, anyway. I feel compelled to be open with my experience because I always have. My life has been so blown open and documented and I have had so many things about me revealed publicly including my bottom. There have been public consequences out of my control, so being open about doing better doesn’t bother me but I don’t feel like it is my position to prove anything or try and manipulate people or their opinions of me in any way.
Jae: People feel like they deserve communication or attention. I love
messages from fans, but I get some communication that is kinda scary.
I don’t know you and don’t know why you are acting like you know me
and deserve a reaction. Did that exist 40 years ago when people were
starting up a teeny little band? Probably not.
Gus: Teeny band…
Jae: We are teeny! Imagine what Rhianna has to deal with. It’s so
uncomfortable. I would say that generally our fans are very cool
people and I aways take joy in meeting / talking. Most are chill,
inquisitive and if I lived in that city I imagine that we could be
friends. Then there are weird outliers who do everything they can to
make me feel shaken.
It is so rude when people touch your gear, or heckle and don’t think that it’s a problem. It’s not that I ‘can’t take it’. They want to be part of the show and be noticed. I hate it when people are mad you didn’t play long enough or play the set that they wanted to see.
Jae: In Poland we had people physically pushing us back on stage
asking us to play longer when we played an hour set. When we told them
that was our set they told us to play the set again. It’s like, no! We
Gus: We are not Weird Al in the early 2000’s.
Think he had more of a mid 90’s peak. Ugh, he came into my job at Hauser and Wirth recently. He was trying to enter a sculpture. He was really weird.
Gus: He’s on tour right now.
So he is not at Hauser and Witrh trying to climb into a Mike Kelley sculpture right now?
Gus: Wait, wait wait. So he must deal with the most annoying people in the world but he in turn is more annoying than all of the annoying fans that he has?
He was legit bizarre. Like even the way that he moves his body is weird. And he was really incensed that I wouldn’t let him walk on art. He had a fucked up chaotic energy, seriously. I had to reprimand him for touching art and trying to stand on it and he was with who I think was his daughter and she looked like she wanted to kill herself. Because her Dad is Weird Al.
Gus: Well, he is a professional.
Maybe it was a character or something?
Gus: Maybe it was promo for his new album
If you could go back in time one year and give yourself a piece of advice that you would actually follow, what would that advice be?
Gus: I would maybe snip a couple tours. Tell myself I could play 60 less shows in 365 days. You’ll really appreciate it.
Jae: I love touring so I probably wouldn’t do that, but back then I was really scared…
Gus: Oh, bitcoin!
Jae: Oh yeah! Actually a year ago I went into the bank because I had a
teeny amount of savings and was like ‘I have been hearing about these
investments’ AKA Bitcoin and asked if they thought I should invest and
they told me not to because it was too risky. A month later Bitcoin
blew up and if I had dropped a thousand bucks I would have made like
20,000 or something, ugh.
Gus: But that was a joke weren’t you going to say something meaningful?
Jae: I still get nervous, but last year I was really scared to
perform. When you operate out of fear you prevent yourself from having
fun and really getting into the moment. I’ve learned that it’s not
because I am singing any better or dancing any better or whatever that
makes a show better. The best shows are the ones where we’re having
fun, not scared. We played at Echoplex this January. I was so fucking
freaked out, because the show was supposed to be small and it ended up
being in the bigger space and selling out and it felt like too much.
Then late in the game that night I was like ‘I have to have fun or I
am just going to be crying all night’ and it ended up being great!
(At Echoplex) We are up there playing and outta nowhere in the midst
of our first song, no sound. That place has such giant subs, the bass
knocked out the power cord. But, I was able to embrace the insanity
and I remember just laughing. How fucking crazy. Last year I wish I
was experiencing shows that way.
What if instead of one year ago, you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing as an 8-year-old child?
Gus: I was pretty caught up superficial things and trying to be cool
and I would have told myself to avoid that and not to grow up and
smoke so much pot. It’s not that cool.
Jae: At 8 I was very lost. My parents had just gotten divorced and it
was confusing. I was introverted. A quiet little dork. My high school
advice would be different. When we’re not touring, I pick up shifts
sometimes as a catering waitress and I work with high schoolers.
Strangely enough they always ask me for advice and I think ‘why would
you ask me for advice? I am a catering waitress, with you, a 16 year
High School is the last time in your life when there is no pressure and I wish I had taken that time to really cultivate my art. When you wait until College there is insane external shit clouding your judgement. It is not that I would have been some genius artist but I just wish that I had taken my art a little more seriously and learned to craft. Now everything feels fleeting and there isn’t enough time and I am stressed about family and jobs and work and if I did’t have that stuff in my life and didn’t have the insecurity that things were lame or stupid… In High School you are still into what you are creating. But instead of taking my art more seriously I just smoked too much weed.
Since you mentioned working as a waitress with teenagers and I am currently working at an ice cream shop with teenagers, what is the most shitty job you guys have ever had?
Gus: Mine was that I thought I was going to break into the service
industry, but it turns out I am way too awkward to do that and I can’t
multi task but I got a job as a bus boy at a really fancy steak house.
I would dump a whole stack of plates on millionaires and Chris Farley
every chance that I got. And I got fired.
Jae: I’ve worked on several films that brought me to the edge of
annihilation and desperation. I am tempted to say that the worst movie
I ever worked on was a (redacted) movie, because he is just mean. A
mean old man. And, I have worked on a lot of bad movies. That being
said, being out in Marfa was amazing. Amazing town. I’m glad I don’t
feel pressured to work on movies anymore.
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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.
The fifth and final installation of Summer Scum took place at Trans-Pecos July 9th and 10th, yielding over 50 15 minute sets from some of the world’s best noise artists. Summer Scum was curated and organized by Justin Lakes (Shredded Nerve) and Christopher Hansell (Ligature/ Warthog).