The first in a series of five posts based on topics suggested by our beloved readership...
Once upon a time, in a little town called Victoria Park, in the bleakest and most haunted corner of Manchester, a little boy was born to the Megson family. The Megsons were theater folk, father Ron being a jazz musician, and the boy (who was named Neil Andrew) grew up in a house full of music, art, and just a touch of the occult (Neil's grandma was a medium).
Neil was born in 1950, but despite growing up in an era of button-down conservatism he managed to form a deep personal relationship with the arts and by 1968 had recorded his first solo album. He called this record Early Worm, produced it under the moniker GENESIS P-ORRIDGE, and limited its release to one (1) copy. John Cage himself later located the record and re-released it in a limited batch of 500. Want one?
Neil planned a second album (entitled Catching The Bird, get it?), but quickly scrapped the plans when bigger things appeared upon his horizon. Neil had a calling to make art: not just plain old acrylic-on-canvas art but FREAKY art. WEIRD art. DISTURBING art. In 1971, Neil Andrew Megson officially changed his name to Genesis P-Orridge, committing to a life in pursuit of his muse and thus beginning a voyage that has now spanned four decades.
Another Genesis from 1971.
Around 1969-1974, Genesis became involved with several questionable "artistic" elements, including the unholy union of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, the Exploding Galaxy commune, and the artists' collective known as COUM Transmissions. Hoity-toity costume play, confrontational performance art, forays into drug use, and discussions on the quantum nature of magic and reality became the cornerstones of P-Orridge's existence, as he soon gained a reputation for work involving prostitution, taboos, pornography, and the occult through a series of exhibits at England's Institue for Contemporary Arts. But he was still just getting warmed up.
In 1975, Genesis P-Orridge formed the first incarnation of his best known (to date) musical project, Throbbing Gristle, with fellow COUM artists Cosey Fanni Tutti (a stripper/conceptual artist whom Gen was dating at the time), Chris Carter, and Sleazy Christopherson (from the legendary Hipgnosis cover-art company). Throbbing Gristle (despite their awesome and VERY METAL name) aren't really my cup of tea, but they were essential in forming the foundations of the "industrial music" genre, blending the cold sterility of Kraftwerk, the snarl of early punk, and the high-art sensibilities of the avant-garde. Hey look! A discography!
"Life, in its glory and in its horror. Death in its escape from understanding. The complex nature of being lost and of knowing oneself no matter how strange or unpredictable that self may be. That is what I have gleaned from their 'music'. You?"
- some YouTube user
THROBBING GRISTLE 1979
Throbbing Gristle broke up in 1981, after a show at SF's Kezar Stadium. The band's split was also, ultimately, the breakup of Genesis and Cosey Fanni-Tutti, who went on to form the groups Chris and Cosey, Carter Tutti, and Creative Technology Institute with former bandmate Chris Carter. Genesis moved forward with Sleazy Christopherson to form the slightly-more-user-friendly Psychic TV, although Gristle re-united in 2004 for a new album and tour.
Richard Metzger interviews Genesis P-Orridge and Robert Anton Wilson on Infinity Factory, mid/late 90's. PURE GOLD:
2, 3, 4, 5, 6
"The engrained instinctive, genetic behavior code, those ultimately are where real control resides, those patterns that basically we inherit through DNA and through repetition throughout cultural history. So for example, one of the things we really isolated and looked at was in what we could call prehistoric time, barbarian time, very early on when humans were in small clans, moving from cave to cave, and just getting food and surviving the climate was the only real imperative. Then, the males of the clan were strong, violent, and capable of scavenging and killing for food, and it was appropriate for us to have a gene or a genetic code that said the male could be strong and violent and would protect its group by fighting and trying to kill anything different, anything that appeared to be a threat, including other clans. That’s what helped the human species survive through the earliest ages against all the odds when we didn’t even know why there was daylight or night time and we didn’t know where fire came from except that it came from the sky sometimes. That’s how we survived, and you could call at that time, in the early days, a ‘friendly’ gene or program.
But of course it was a program that absolutely intrinsically related to its environment. It allowed us to survive in the environment of prehistoric times, where almost everything was a threat. Now, what’s happened over thousands of years is that we have, by the use of tools and problem-solving, changed the environment, manipulated it like a sculptor with clay. This has been done to such an extent that we can divert rivers, create electricity, live in space, and talk to people anywhere in the world with tiny boxes by our ears. We have video and computers and all this amazing stuff, which is our current technological, post-industrial, miraculous tool-based environment, but we’ve done nothing to change our behavior patterns to be equal and relevant to the environment we’ve created. We’re still basically at the mercy of those ancient, prehistoric, vicious genetic codes and routines."
- Genesis Breyer P-Orridge breaks it down
After the split with Throbbing Gristle, Genesis married Alaura O'Dell in Tijuana, who later changed her name to Paula P-Orridge. The union brought two daughters, Caresse and Genesse.
But Genesis still had the hunger for experimental music, which led to the formation of his next long-term project, Psychic TV. From Mutant Sounds: "Psychic TV (sometimes spelt Psychick TV) or PTV, is primarily an electronic music group that occasionally forays into psychedelic, punk and experimental music. The band was formed by performance artist Genesis P-Orridge and video director Peter Christopherson (after the break up of Throbbing Gristle) with Alex Fergusson, musician and producer (a key member of Alternative TV for whom Genesis had played percussion).
The band began publishing a monthly series of 23 live albums in 1986, but stopped without explanation after only 17. The tenth, a picture disk most commonly referred to as Album 10, could only be obtained by submitting tokens contained in each of the previous nine releases. The band subsequently earned an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records."
It was during the Psychic TV years that P-Orridge split with his wife and began a relationship with a young woman named Jacqueline Breyer (aka Lady Jaye). Genesis P-Orridge became Genesis Breyer P-Orridge as their relationship quicky became an experiment in body modification, gender reassignment, and pandrogeny. Genesis and Lady Jaye wanted to become one, LITERALLY, and soon both began a regimen of plastic surgery and medical procedures to do so. LITERALLY.
Psychic TV, "Good Vibrations". AWESOME:
Genesis remained active in both the world of art and of music, forming the post-Psychic TV groups Thee Majesty and PTV3 (a "hyperdelic" re-imagining of Psychic TV that Lady Jaye often contributed to). But it was his obsession with Lady Jaye and their pandrogenous transformation that occupied his mind and actions in the late 90's and early 00's. His countenance and body rapidly changed appearance, and Genesis began referring to himself as "s/he". Gen and Lady Jaye saw themselves on some sort of gender frontier, creating something of a "third sex" as they fused into one another. Things were getting pretty trippy around the P-Orridge household.
IMPORTANT VIEWING: Gen and Jaye's 2005 doc PANDROGENY MANIFESTO, PART 1. PART 2.
On October 11, 2007, Genesis P-Orridge's website ran the following announcement:
"Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her reactivated Psychic TV aka PTV3 are terribly sad to announce the cancellation of their November North American tour dates. This decision is entirely due to the unexpected passing of band member Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. Lady Jaye died suddenly on Tuesday 9 October 2007 at home in Brooklyn, New York from a previously undiagnosed heart condition which is thought to have been connected with her long-term battle with stomach cancer. Lady Jaye collapsed and died in the arms of her heartbroken "other half" Genesis Breyer P-Orridge."
Genesis was, of coure, devastated, but has continued his/her transformation into his/her deceased lover, believing Lady Jaye's spirit is still 100% alive. S/he has said of Lady Jaye: "... she proposed that after death, the final result is that, post mortem, we both evolve, after death, the two merge consciousness, absorbed into a new spiritual unit; each other's half. She always hated titles like wife, girlfriend, even partner. She preferred to call me her "other half.
She's already gone into the next phase. We had worked it out to be able to contact in case of death, and she's contacted me already." (courtesy of an interview from Blurt online)
So the evolution has continued. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has followed a very strange life path, to say the least, a path that only gets stranger and stranger as the years progress. But s/he can be easily recognized as nothing short of a total visionary, an artist in the purest and most visceral sense of the word.
From the home page of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's offcial website:
"ART AND LIFE REALLY ARE THE SAME, AND BOTH CAN ONLY BE ABOUT A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, A PATH TOWARDS A RE-UNION WITH A SUPREME CREATOR, WITH GOD, WITH THE DIVINE; AND THIS IS TRUE NO MATTER HOW UNLIKELY, STRANGE OR UNORTHODOX, ONE'S PARTICULAR LIFE PATH MIGHT APPEAR TO ONE'S SELF OR OTHERS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT."
Genesis turned 60 in February of this year.
Thanks to Drawhla for the request (and to abdul for seconding).