acid logicpresents...

An Interview with JG Thirlwell

Part III

JG Thirwell


By Sandra Kay
January 16th, 2003

Photographs- Beatrice Neuman

Go Back to Part Two of the JG Thirlwell Interview

SM:  What about the artwork?  Ever buy a record strictly based on the artwork?  I only mention that because that's the only reason I ever discovered you.

JGT:  Well, sometimes when you look at old vinyl and you see something with an amazing cover for a dollar I'll buy it, but there's so many with old records with good covers and you just put them on the shelf and file them away. I'm more interested in the music.

SM:  Well, you have a show out right now, Exit Art?

JGT:  Exit Art put on this show the LP art show curated by Carlo McCormick and it traveled a couple places, it went to the Experience Music Project in Seattle and it went to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and now it's back, the show is back here (NY).  I had my own little wall, there was about 20 to 25 covers up.

SM:  You mean you had done all of that artwork yourself?

JGT:  Yeah.

SM:  Do you miss the days of vinyl, just for the physical space for the artwork?

JGT:  Yeah, for the artwork, yeah but I mean, I still do the occasional vinyl.

SM: Yeah I heard that you did limited releases on vinyl.

JGT:  Baby Zizanie is coming out on vinyl, but we don't really need it.  It's just generic, so the artwork I designed for it is only about that big (he holds up his hands to the size of about a credit card.)

SM:  But that doesn't bother you so much I mean, it's not like you miss it.

JGT:  Vinyl is you know, the idea of being able to present something in the form of an album is like a whole different art form in itself, and it's like a whole different fetish object itself, people really enjoy that.  And things being reduced to CD, you just deal with it.  You can't be crying over it forever, you can't be crying over the wistful days of silent movies, and now in 10 years time, everyone is going to be shooting on digital, everything will be screened digitally and stuff.  There still will be nice warm analog music in movie houses and they'll still be people putting out vinyl.  And there are still hundreds of millions of records out there to snuggle up to and feel comfortable and nostalgic about.  I'm more interested in putting out the next thing.

SM:  Yeah, not necessarily how it gets out there, but that it does. 

JGT:  It's good that it gets out there.  There are many mediums out there, and they all have different qualities. 

SM:  Yeah, how do you feel about BearShare, Napster?  Has your stuff ended up there?  Do you have a problem with that?

JGT:  I don't really have an opinion about it to be honest.  You know I see it all happening, but you know, it's kind of like walking down to the ocean and yelling and asking the tide not to come in, because the genie's out of the bottle.  Nothing that I can do or say is going to change it.  There are people who are devoting their lives to it full time and I don't know what my voice contributed to the argument has to with anything.  But I do think it's dangerous that a whole generation thinks that they deserve to get music exclusively for free, and what the musicians are a free ride-along?  I mean this is a fucking hell of a lot of work, this is not just something like puttering around and I have a day job at a dot-com or something.  I think that I should be allowed to be in control of that and the way the whole Napster thing blew up, the whole Metallica business. Napster  blew up really because someone took an unfinished song from their studio and put it out through Napster, and that's the point where someone is saying I'm a Metallica fan, therefore I think that it's democratically right for everyone to have access to this.  And it's not their right at all, Metallica should have the final say over what of theirs is distributed, there's the argument.   Is it going to be the death of copyright?  There are not enough people going to concerts, where everyone can make a living doing music, because there's too many people making music now anyway.  You know I think the whole process has been too democratized and I think that the availabilities of the means has made it, has devalued music, and instead of a lot of quality music out there, there's a lot of content, and content is different. And I think that has devalued it.  And I also think that maybe there use to be generations of people where music was the central core of what they did of their life, and their lifestyle, it's really important.  And it really mattered to them, and now it's like for an ADD generation it's just another piece of upholstery, it's another piece of furniture, it's a decoration, and, none of those words are right.maybe it's an accessory to a lot of other things, you know, the Internet, video games, and DVD's and so on.  And I think (ponders), depends, it's changed a lot.  There are many different layers to that cake.  There's the real underground, then there's the fake underground, then there is the mainstream, all sorts of shit. 

SM:  Do you find that younger people know are aware of who you are and what you did?

JGT:  Some are, some aren't, same as always. 

SM:  Do you find that frustrating.well, I guess you don't find anything frustrating, it just is what it is. 

JGT:  It just is what it is, I do my fucking best to get it out there without making myself nuts.

SM:  I was just going to ask you what the most frustrating part and I think you just answered it.  Distribution?

JGT:  You know the business side of things can be really frustrating.  I began this because I wanted to put out records and pieces of art and everyone owns an original, and I came into it from a post-modern perspective in the first place, in a post Andy Warhol world, and by an independent means of distribution, but as a non-musician too.  I started from the get go as the record company guy, the promotions guy, the artwork, the chief cook, and bottle washer, and the artist, and I still am.

SM:  So you have absolute control over everything.  You don't farm anything out?

JGT:  Well, of course I do.  What I'm trying to say, is that each part of the process, in the way that engineering and production and composition are inextricably linked you know, in the songwriting process as opposed to picking up a guitar and knocking out three chords, I think the production to me is part of the composition process.  But then, so is the identity that I have control over, and the design and probably. You wouldn't believe how many times I've shot myself in the foot.

SM:  Because of your identity changing you mean?

JGT:  Either that or because every time I look like I'm going to be successful, I do a little twist or a turn or a little bit of suicide.

SM:  Really?  A little self-destructive you mean?

JGT:  I don't even try to do that, that's just something someone observed once. 

SM:  Steroid Maximus, I can't wait!  Your going to be in LA, 19 piece orchestra, big number.  It's debuting in LA, right?

JGT:  Palace Theatre

SM:  Who's sponsoring it?


SM:  It's interesting, you played Yale, your being sponsored by UCLA, I mean, it seems that academia is all over you?  Why now?

JGT:  I hardly think that one show at Yale is academia being all over you.

SM:  Well, UCLA too though, no.I'm sorry, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.  They know who you are, right?

JGT: " They" is one person in one institution.  I definitely want to pursue that further.  Those are the sort of places that I want to play, anything to not do a fucking USA tour of rock clubs.  Those are the sort of avenues I want to explore, but also concurrent to other things too, like Baby Zinzanie we can take to a lot of different spaces.  Foetus I don't think is right for playing at a lecture theatre.  Where I did the JG Thirwell thing at Yale, but that was perfect for that lecture theater

SM:  Should I even attempt to ask what "Gall's Theory of Revulsion and Convergence.." (I trail off, confused. Jim tells me shut the recorder down for a sec while he finds a record he wants to show me.)

JGT:  Well, the name of the piece that I performed was "A Meditation on "Galls Theory of Revulsion and Convergence."  The Gall referred to is France Gall, a French Pop singer from the 60's through the 80's.  But she sang this song which was written by Serge Gainsbourg "Lucette" which means Lollipop and she was singing it when she was 16 or something like that, it has a double entendre about sucking on a lollipop and sexual innuendo which she wasn't aware of and then when she became aware of it, she became so horrified she locked herself in her room for two weeks, she was so embarrassed.  Serge knew all along of course and he has her singing in this breathy voice, a little too high in the register, a little too high for her.  So that's what I'm taking is a snapshot of that, embarrassment, that incident, and the fact that I'm obsessed with France Gall and his (Serge's) music and the idea of France Gall in the 60's and I love Serge Gainbourg, so it's kind of like taking that song, that incident everything about it, it's like taking a crystal and holding it up into the light and letting these prisms fly off it, and sort of capturing a snapshot of those prisms.  So what I used as a source material was first of all I played her version of the song, the girl, who's photo you commented on over there (I had asked earlier while puttering around if a picture was one of his old girlfriends that I knew, it wasn't).  Jennifer Charles, I had her come over and sing that song I took her vocal and manipulated it, I stretched it out really long so each word was almost three times as long as it was originally in a breathy way, then I played that over a piece of music forwards and backwards, than I had a version of Lucette sung by Gainsbourg, except the CD's all scratched up, so it repeats itself. So I recorded a lot of the CD skipping stuff and then digitally edited that into another serial piece, book ended that piece, and then ended it with a serial phase piece which is getting three or four syllables of Jennifer saying, "Lucette.lucette " (Jim's singing this), and then it slowly went out of phase itself over the course of five minutes in one cycle, then came back into phase.  That's a kind of trick that was explored and invented by Steve Reich in the early 60's.  So, I was harkening back to my early days, because when I started out, I was heavily influenced by like the theories of John Cage and Steve Reich, Philip Glass, which I then transposed into my music, you know because I was using numerical systems and other weird shit.  When I was in London recently I left a lot of my stuff behind at a friend's place, among them was a record collection, and the only stuff that was left was my contemporary classical stuff, and there was this big pile which I carried back, and there must be a reason why those are the only one's that are left, all my John Cage and that stuff.

SM: There's 6 years that sort of went missing.I don't know if you want to get into that or not.

JGT:  That's been documented a lot elsewhere. I mean, I was going to say that I'm working at a pace right now which is the hardest I've ever worked in my life.  I think that part of it is playing catch-up, I want my legacy to be now. I feel like I've wasted a lot of time.  And I think there will be a point to where I will be satisfied with this little mattress of work that I've created, since the dark years, you know.which is coming up soon.  Once this album, and the Baby Zizanie album come out, that's like 6 albums in 18 months.  That's a lot of material. 

SM: That's almost manic, do you sleep?

JGT: Just a little bit. And right now I've got a new Foetus album, I've got about five new songs for that. One of the songs is in French, I hope to do another song in French, there's also going to be a duet with Jennifer Charles on there.  And I probably will finish that by early spring next year but it won't come out until next fall.  Foetus album in fall of 2003, there will be another Manorexia album about the same time and hopefully 2004 I will do a performance of Manorexia with an orchestra, and that will possibly coincide with the triple Manorexia release. 

SM:  Is there anything that I haven't brought up that you'd like to say?

JGT:  No, I think that's all.

Alright, if he doesn't say it, I will, go to WWW.FOETUS.ORG, buy his Manorexia CD's, they're brilliant, you won't be sorry.  Somebody said jokingly to me OTEFSU meant  "redheaded prince" in some secret language. I'm inclined to believe that now.

Don't forget to check out these Acid Logic Interviews that delve deep into the inner psyches of American celebrities and expose them as the senstive artists they truly are:

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Rikki Rockett of Poison
The Great Kat - female speed metal guitarist
Gerald V. Casale of Devo
Teller, stage magician from "Penn and Teller"

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