acid logicpresents...

An Interview with JG Thirlwell

Part II

JG Thirwell


By Sandra Kay
January 16th, 2003

Photographs- Beatrice Neuman

Go Back to Part One of the JG Thirlwell Interview

SM:  Do you find yourself having to keep up with technology, or is it having to keep up with you?  Do you have to really study it, or is it a totally intuitive thing?

JGT:  You don't study it; I have no interest in it anyway. You exchange ideas with people who tell you about things, you find out about things and you say; I want to try that out. I think that you start to do this, this ends, and sometimes I'll have an idea of something I want to do and I'll find out if something exists to make that happen. Or that can do that in an expedient way, or find some application that does one thing that you can use this thing it does to make it do something else. 

SM:  So you're actually kinda ahead of the curve.

JGT:  I wouldn't say I'm ahead of the curve, I mean.                            

SM:  Well, what I mean sometimes you want something that's not there.

JGT:  Ah yeah, that's true.  There are things that I would like to have, especially for live performances that haven't been invented yet.  And they probably will because there are people like myself who discover there is a need for such and such a thing, like you know, like a maybe a digital audio interface that's the size of a matchbook and (laughs). something like that.  Two in and two out, maybe it does exist.  I'm inclined to try and make Baby Zizanie really miniaturized because that's the nature of the tune, cause what contributes to it's fluidity is it's mobility, and that's a mobility of ideas too, physical mobility, because we can talk about what happened at the show the night before and say well, because of that reaction, I think we should write something a bit like this, and we're on the train on the computer writing to play that night.

SM:  And you're with "Cop Shoot Cop?" 

JGT:  Jim Coleman, ex-keyboard player from "Cop Shoot Cop."

SM: And it's just you two?

JGT:  Yeah, and a third person doing visuals.  The first tour was this guy Owen Bush who's from here (NY,) and when we did the London shows I couldn't afford to bring over Owen, but I had worked with Vicki Bennett from "People Like Us," a project which is very interesting too. She does video sampling and manipulation, manipulation of sound and stuff like that, after effects.  I approached her about visual arts and ended up asking her to do it and you know, we had played shows together and were friendly anyway and then I proposed we do a tour where she does a "People Like Us" set and our visuals for Baby Zinzane, so it's like the three of us with the two acts and then you add additional people along the way.

SM:  Now, do you have creative control over the visuals, or is that something you totally give off to Vicki?

JGT:  Well with Vicki I threw the idea out, you know, the sub-aquatic thing.  With Owen, we just sat down and did stuff and then I worked last week with this girl Luciana at Yale, and she did visuals for that.  And she came over here one night and we talked about some things and I played her the germs of what I was working on musically, because I hadn't finished yet, explained the intention behind it and what it was all about, what the story was behind it and what I wanted to bring to it, it was this sort of like sub-hypnotic serial type thing and she showed me some things she was messing around with.  I gave her a little bit of source material which was a video  interview with Serge Gainsbourg  and France Gall and she tweaked that out and then she decided on her way up that she was using a different application, so I wasn't sure what she was going to do at all, and since I had my back to the screen and I'm like watching what I'm doing, I didn't actually see what she was doing. But I think working with a visual artist your sort of jamming, because they're jamming to what your doing and I told her this goes on, this has this sort of spirit for 5 minutes, and then 12 minutes of this and then it goes to this test skipping thing for 5 minutes, and then for the last minute serial phase piece, so she knows that, and so she knows when she has to change, this sort of thing is going to happen and works accordingly, so it is interactive between us.

SM:  Ever-evolving

JGT:  Yeah, but it's different each time, and of course you're going to have accidental synchronicity.

SM:  Well, yeah, you're dealing with three different elements.

JGT:  Yeah, so like people say "Wow, how did synchronize that little voice coming in with that little girl skipping through the woods and stuff", and I have to tell them, well it was just by accident. 

SM: (Laughs) 

JGT:  It just so happens that it happened there because whatever happens, people are going to be transfixed by the pretty flashing lights, that's what I've noticed, and so whenever you put a soundtrack to it they're going to make their own story out of it. 

SM:  I'm curious, mentioning soundtracks, it's been said over and over again that Manorexia is reminiscent of a soundtrack.  Is that something that you'd be interested in doing, or, have your already done some?

JGT:  I've done a little bit of soundtrack work.  I did some work for Richard Kern on the "Death Trip," films, I worked on music supervising and a little bit of score for this film version of JG Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition which didn't get a distribution deal, but I think now it is coming out on DVD with commentary by JG Ballard .. and that 's about it.  And for me, I am a coordinator for soundtracks, but the films haven't been made yet.  For me to pursue soundtracks, that's a full-time job by itself but it's also a committee.

SM:  Yeah, because you have to follow somebody else's vision.

JGT:   I've had experiences working with directors who haven't been able to articulate what they want and I'm not going to make 40 minutes of music that gets chopped and lost and then they use 5.  I figure that if I just keep creating this music that I am, it will just fall into somebody's hands that will let me do something carte blanche with what I want to do.  And know what I do, and say yes, "What you do is what we want," not, "Okay, you do good work, now can you make a little piece that sounds like the Beastie Boys, and then can you do a piece that sounds like Radiohead and then maybe a bit of your orchestral thing?" Fuck that, fuck that shit.

SM:  Well, it seems you've re-mixed for everybody, everybody seems to go through you.

JGT:  No, it's not true.  I was hot for a while.  And I still like doing re-mixes, but now I'm just concentrating on my own stuff, but I haven't done a re-mix for a while.  The whole re-mix landscape has changed a lot during the last five years or so because everyone has their own studio, everyone is doing re-mixes, and I think I kind of got ghettoized and painted into a corner when what was the break for me was the "Prong" re-mix that was suddenly a hit, and I became the metal re-mix guy, and I think that that ghettoized me.  I also think towards the end of my re-mix run, when my re-mix style was shining, that became a really bad bad part of my life and some of the re-mixes towards the end really sucked.  I really blew it big time.

SM:  Now did they feel that way, or was it just you that felt that?

JGT:  I knew it, I knew it, and they knew it too.  And I think I stayed with the formula for a couple of years and I didn't change it, and then by the time I got up to do re-mixes again, I mean, those things are cyclical, you know.  You can be hot in one little area for a little while, and than your not hot.  You know, I was like a hot voice-over guy for a while.  Stuff like that you know I can look back and go would have should have could have a lot of things, but I should have got an agent back then for re-mixing and I should have got an agent for voice-overs and I didn't do either. In voice-over, it was ah, it's just free money it's just pocket money, it's not something I want to pursue.  Fuck it, I should have pursued it so much.

SM:  What happened with White Zombie?

JGT:  Well, I was a fan of theirs to start with, then friends with them, and they asked me to produce them the demos for Geffen, which I did. They're fucking amazing, the demos.  And then I was supposed to produce their first album and as a matter of breakdown I didn't do it.  It's a big regret of mine, I have a feeling that I had that fucking stupid attitude again, like I've done what I've come here to do.  And Rob Zombie will concur, I mean, he's said in interviews that I was supposed to produce that album.

SM:  Why?  Any reason?

JGT:  Missed phone calls or something, whatever.  I think it was any number of circumstances, it was a long time ago.    

SM:  Hmmm.that sucks.  Now, you were the MTV Sports guy, right?

JGT:  Well I did the MTV Sports thing, and then everyone wanted that MTV Sports guy, people started to do the MTV sports voice.  In fact, I probably got passed over for people who did the MTV Sports voice. 

SM:  Oh God, so people were copying you then? 

JGT:  Well, for example, I did an audition for the NHL and they wanted the MTV Sports guy sound, and I went in, they didn't have a director, they didn't have a producer there, so you know I wasn't getting any direction and I got a script, and I didn't get the job.  And I am that guy, you know.

SM:  How do you feel about being called the Godfather of Industrial?

JGT:  Yeah, I somehow got lumped into this Industrial category, which is a ghetto.

SM:  What does the term "Industrial Music" mean?

JGT:  I don't know what that means, I know what it meant back then, Industrial Music for Industrial People, which is a term coined by Throbbing Gristle. They had a label called Industrial Records, and that's where it came from. But then Industrial then became Einsturzende Neubaten, and I sort of came under the umbrella of Industrial because I used unconventional instrumentation, such as hitting on objects to get the custom sounds, metal, or maybe vacuum cleaner sounds, or maybe other weird things.  And I challenged, like I was using a lot of tape loops and studio manipulation to achieve what I did, so I don't know where the Industrial thing came in.

SM:  I heard that you basically financed Einsturzende Neubaten's first record.  Is that true?

JGT:  No, that's not true.

SM:  There are a lot of not true things printed about you I've discovered. 

JGT:  They had put out, you know, a couple of singles and stuff and maybe even their first album or 12" I think and I had their records, and I saw them play in Berlin and I loved them. They were an amazing experience.  I approached them and said, Do you want your record to come out in England?"  You know, they were unknown there, and they had said, "Of course."  I had just by then put out my second album under Self-Immolation "Ache", and I had a deal through Rough Trade, um, just a manufacturing, distribution deal then and so I formed this label with Rough Trade as a part of Hardt Records.  (I was just in London recently and found the old Hardt Records letterhead stationary.)  The first release on Hardt Records was to be "Strategies Against Architecture", and so I basically said, "Okay, what do you want to do?"  And they started putting this compilation together which was "Strategies Against Architecture" and then I started being courted by Some Bizarre. I had this thing where I stared putting my royalties from my album "Ache" to the production of "Strategies Against Architecture" and I talked to Neubaten and said, look, I'm doing this deal are you interested in signing with Some Bizarre too?  They said yeah.  And I said to Stevo, one of the provisions of signing me is to sign Neubaten as well, and of course, years later, much to everyone's dismay we are stuck on Some Bizarre, which turned out to be not such a good thing. However it did at the time raise our profiles quite considerably.  And I think it enabled me to get an influx of money to get into a 24-track studio where I was able to do more than 8 tracks and it was the first time I had a decent recording budget.  So then Stevo decided he didn't want to put out "Strategies Against Architecture." So then we took "Strategies of Architecture" to Daniel Miller of Mute and said, "Are you interested in releasing this?" and he said "Oh yes, definitely, but do you want to keep your company logo on there, Hardt Records? You know, keep your imprint?"  Stupidly, I said no, I've done what I've wanted to achieve, which was to get them recognition in this country. 

SM:  Everything I've read about you, is that you've been very generous about promoting other artists, you've done compilations of people you just like and put out, where is your motivation for doing that?

JGT:  The days of that are long gone.  I put out one compilation of bands and I just found it to be too thankless a task and I abandoned it.  I was thinking about doing a series of 10" records and I felt that I was really spreading myself too thin by doing this, you know, these people can fend for themselves.  It's an uphill battle for me, let alone being an entrepreneur.  I am my own stable of acts, and I'm only one person.  I've got five acts myself.

SM:  Okay, so you have Manorexia, Foetus, Baby Zizane, Steroid Maximus, DJ Otefsu, right?   DJ Otefsu.  Now I saw that, I'm looking at your records, where in the hell do you find your records at, and how do you know what to get?

JGT:  People who collect records just know. 

SM:  Okay, it's a record collector thing.

JGT:  Yeah, I mean you get deep into it, you find out about things, it's a treasure hunt, it's fun.  Especially with sound trackie stuff and that whole middle row are soundtracks, and I can tell by picking up a record. I can sometimes look at the song titles and go okay, there's a chase scene, a party scene, maybe there's going to be something useful there, but that also forms my own music, it always has.


Continue to Part Three of the JG Thirlwell Interview


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