News / / 06.12.13


We speak to the throbbing gristle founder(s) as they attempt to assemble their life within the confines of a coffee table book that’ll make you spill your coffee

Neil Megson was, at some point, born a baby boy to proud parents. Neil Megson has not died, at least not in the traditional sense. Neil Megson simply stopped existing.

We’re told that “Genesis has basically assimilated and erased Neil from existence”. Every word Genesis Breyer P-Orridge – electronic music luminary and voice of the disenfranchised – speaks is drenched in sighs of conviction, and perhaps exhaustion, from a life lived so far off the beaten track that s/he doesn’t even know where to begin. Good thing the fine people at First Third Books have put together a visceral, soul searching, life-spanning book of portraiture to help us better understand the meaning of Gen’s life and, in turn, help us to examine the banality of our own.

16 © Laure Leber

Confronting his/er own identity his/erself has always been at the heart of Genesis’s being. In the mid 90s s/he began a personal transformation along with his partner and bandmate in the third incarnation of Psychic TV – known as PTV3 – Lady Jaye Breyer P-orridge. The pair decided to assimilate themselves into one being that was neither Lady Jaye nor Genesis, but a single entity named Breyer. The Pandrogyne project, as they called it, was their attempt to build a new gender through a series of surgical procedures. Tragedy befell the pair in 2007 when Lady Jaye sadly passed away due to stomach cancer. Genesis refers to Lady Jaye’s passing as her dropping of her body. As an extremely, overtly spiritual person s/ he firmly believes in the soul carrying on beyond the body’s confines. The events surrounding the forced dissolution of their project has clearly devastated Genesis.

3 © Marti Wilkerson

If it sounds like a trip, well heck have it, maybe that’s because it is.

Most will know Genesis P-Orridge as one of the founders of electronic noise pioneers Throbbing Gristle, however that’s something s/he’d rather not discuss these days. In fact, when the matter of the band or Industrial Records (the seminal label started by P-Orridge which gave its name to industrial music) is raised, we’re met with no more than a roll of the eyes and the wearily exhaled words “the albatross around my neck.” Nothing more is said. It’s clear Genesis would rather project their vision through art and aesthetic than be remembered or revered for past musical impact.

Genesis P-Orridge is in no way similar to 99% of the earth’s population. S/he’s so confrontational and unique that it’s impossible to know what aspect to probe first. Fortunately for us, Genesis themselves – that’s one vessel, two souls, got it? – take the lead. “How do people learn anything?” they muse. They pause to reflect on their own question. “By example”, they conclude. “So we were prepared to sacrifice a normal life to make the point that everyone can have a more satisfying, creation-based existence where they maximise their potential. Where they’re not afraid to go against the status quo.”

There’s something pleasing about the way Genesis phrase their thoughts, an almost hypnotic gaze, as if speaking from another dimension, one of invented vocabulary and mystical thinking. “My parents wanted me to go into advertising”, they say. “We answered ‘We did, we just advertise ourselves.” So is Gen a human link between ideas? In a sense. “With very little finance, with very little support, we can actually make things happen. We can actually have an influence on culture itself. That’s why we came up with that phrase: ‘cultural engineering’”.

23 © Carl Abrahamsson

The conversation drifts, somewhat morbidly, to the matter of self-doubt. Without hesitation Genesis smile, recalling a recent experience giving a lecture at the Andy Warhol Museum in New York where a nine-year-old girl told how she’d been waiting her whole life to meet him/her/them.

“People are hungry for new ways of looking at the world.” Their face lights up. “The book is another way of doing that which people can access even without coming to a lecture. If they read it and really think about the implications, then they can say ‘there are other ways to live that can be very satisfying and have a positive effect on society’. I’ve turned into some weird, wild prophet, wandering the desert of society”. From an outsider’s perspective, we get that this could all seem a little, dare we say, cultish. But dig deep and what you discover is a human being seeking to reintegrate and unify the disenfranchised among us, to help society as a whole come to terms with its collective goodness. “For 10 years”, Gen tell us “we did rituals and experiments with out-of-body experiences and so on. Something about that process of being absolutely intimate and vulnerable, it seems to resonate beyond language. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is really just a concept and that allows me to explore the mysteries of society. Bigotry, violence and so on – but also to look for a more spiritual, mystical way of trying to make sense of this weird thing called existence”.

15 © Laure Leber

P-Orridge’s new book contains photographs from a wide variety of time periods, ranging from their childhood through to their days in the feminist activist collective COUM and later their time in Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, as well as their process of physical transformation in unapologetically vivid detail. It was while collaborating with COUM that Genesis met continual police harassment and raids which were conducted on several of the homes and communes where they lived through the 60s and 70s. “Scotland Yard took every photograph they could find but they obviously missed some nooks and crannies,” Genesis tells us. So what about the rest of the photos? “After Lady Jay arrived in my life we took photographs every day. And then people we knew who had pictures sent them to reconstitute the archive. My mother, before she died, gave me all the family photos.”


You can call it a cult of personality, you can call it genius or idiocy; there are many words you could use to describe the concept of Genesis P-Orridge – “a neurosis” being one which they coyly suggest themselves. The fact remains, whether you choose to gaze from a distance, follow closely with ear pressed against glass, or decry the whole concept as an abomination, Genesis P-Orridge will always stand for individuality, and as we part ways we’re left with more wise, if somewhat far out, words. “We know this is a dream and none of this is real, so having doubts is neither here nor there. If it feels likes something we believe should be done then we’ll do it. Whether anyone will get it, however…” She and he laugh to themselves, perhaps contemplating humanity’s uncanny ability to connect unconsciously. “We’re always surprised when they do.”

Genesis Breyer P-orridge: Intimate is out now through First Third Books and available here.


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Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is available now via First Third Books

Words: Billy Black