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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
SM: Hmmm.that sucks. Now, you were the MTV Sports
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
JGT: Yeah, I somehow got lumped into this Industrial
category, which is a ghetto.
SM: What does the term "Industrial Music"
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
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
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.