Genesis P-Orridge, founding member of the pioneering industrial music group Throbbing Gristle and experimental unit Psychic TV, has died at the age of 70, P-Orridge’s manager Ryan Martin confirmed to Rolling Stone.
P-Orridge, who identified as “s/he” and “he/r,” died early Saturday after battling leukemia for over two years, he/r daughters said in a statement; in October 2017, P-Orridge revealed a chronic myelomonocytic leukemia diagnosis that forced the cancellation a planned European tour.
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“It is with very heavy hearts that we announce thee passing of our beloved father, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge,” Caresse and Genesse P-Orridge wrote in a statement. “S/he will be laid to rest h/er other half, Jaqueline “Lady Jaye” Breyer who left us in 2017, where they will be re-united.”
Dais Records, which released and reissued P-Orridge’s music in recent years, confirmed he/r death on Twitter, “Rest in peace Genesis. For Dais, you really were the start of it all. Friend, inspiration, and legend. Love you forever.”
Born Neil Megson in Manchester, England on February 22nd, 1950, the pseudonym Genesis P-Orridge was developed after Megson dropped out of college to focus on avant-garde and performance art. In 1969, P-Orridge formed the controversial art collective COUM Transmissions alongside future band mate Cossy Fanni Tutti. That collective would morph into Throbbing Gristle six years later following the arrival of fellow COUM members Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Chris Carter.
“The punk rockers said, ‘Learn three chords and form a band,'” P-Orridge told the New Yorker in 2012. “And we thought, Why learn any chords? We wanted to make music like Ford made cars on the industrial belt. Industrial music for industrial people.”
After establishing their own label Industrial Records — “Industrial Music for Industrial People” stated the label’s slogan — Throbbing Gristle released their debut 1977 LP The Second Annual Report, hailed as one of the first industrial music records.
Citing influences ranging from minimalist John Cage and author William S. Burroughs to Dadaists and cut-up technique pioneer Brion Gysin, the lo-fi and dreary The Second Annual Report — recorded onto a cassette tape recorder recommended by Burroughs — was the first taste of the “Entertainment Through Pain” mantra that would later accompany the band’s spoof Greatest Hits in 1981: P-Orridge, as bassist and singer, presenting songs about uncomfortable topics like infanticide and cannibalism, the occult, castration and more.
Following the 1978 single “United”/”Zyklon B Zombie” (the latter named after the gas used in the Auschwitz concentration camp), Throbbing Gristle would next release 1978’s D.o.A.: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle and 1979’s tongue-in-cheek 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which found the band, under their own untraditional terms, applying a more traditional form of songwriting.
“The strategy should always be: what did you do last time? Do the opposite. When in doubt, do the opposite,” Porridge told Pop Matters in 2017.
“We did what we did in the beginning, Second Annual Report and D.O.A., and everybody started to get that. And then we did 20 Jazz Funk Greats and fucked with their heads and got lots of abuse for it. Now, everybody says it’s a classic album. But when we did it, it was like saying: don’t relax, keep awake, don’t just do things because that’s what you did last time and it worked last time. Look for new solutions, new answers, new ways to say something. Don’t stay in one formula. Don’t get a fucking brand!”
Throbbing Gristle first disbanded in 1981, with P-Orridge next forming the prolific experimental outfit Psychic TV in 1982. Over the next 38 years, P-Orridge and a revolving door lineup — which has included founding guitarist Alex Fergusson, Throbbing Gristle’s Christopherson and Larry Thrasher and collaborators like Monte Cazazza, Marc Almond and Coil — released over 100 albums, from experimental LPs (1982’s Force the Hand of Chance) to acid house explorations (1988’s Jack The Tab – Acid Tablets Volume One) to psychedelic rock (1996’s Trip Reset). Psychic TV also spawned dozens of spinoff projects, like Psychick Television and PT3, and its own chaos magic collective, dubbed Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.
Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, who helped usher industrial music into the mainstream, has long been vocal about Throbbing Gristle’s influence; his side project How to Destroy Angels is named after an EP by the industrial band Coil, led by then-former Throbbing Gristle member Christopherson.
“It just blew my mind. I was very into the idea of sound design. And sound design as music. Noise can be music. Found sounds can be music,” Reznor told the Quietus of Throbbing Gristle’s influence in 2014.
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