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