A Quietus Interview – Psychic Hi-Fi: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Favourite Albums (January 23rd, 2014)

Neil Megson, now known as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, stands tall as an almost unique individual who has dedicated h/er entire adult life to h/er art. Best known, perhaps, as the intimidating and provocative lead vocalist in seminal, genre-founding industrial giants Throbbing Gristle, who evolved out of performance art group COUM Transmissions, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge became a key figure in the UK underground, with TG paving the way for the likes of Whitehouse, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry.

However, as interviews with, and articles about, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge have consistently proved, there is more to Gen than h/er position as the first leading light of British sonic terrorism. Through h/er work with his post-TG band Psychic TV, and as an artist, s/he has consistently transformed the idea of how an artist can work and live through creativity, culminating in h/er collaborative work with h/er late wife Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, in which their all-consuming love led them to transcend the barriers of gender and identity, until they existed as two halves of one romantic and artistic creation, The Pandrogyne. Since Lady Jaye’s tragic passing in 2007, Genesis has dedicated h/erself to pursuing their shared vision, via the latest, righteously psychedelic incarnation of Psychic TV, and by continuing to share h/er and Jaye’s work, most recently in a lusciously-presented book compiling photos, artworks and writings.

Head to First Third’s website to get hold of the book.

Hapshash_and_the_coloured_coat_1390411452_resize_460x400Hapshash And The Coloured Coat – Featuring The Human Host And The Heavy Metal Kids

Do you think it’s an unusual list?

Sort of, but I remember when we last spoke, I said that, contrary to what I’d imagined, you do come across as a bit of a hippie! Or at least deeply psychedelic.

Well, I grew up in the sixties. In 1962, I bought the first Rolling Stones single, and I still have it. I still have every single they released, in order, right up until Brian Jones was murdered. I saw Pink Floyd god knows how many times, and even did a couple of light shows for them…

We started listening to pirate radio and John Peel’s Perfumed Garden, and had a friend at school called Spidey who was very good at spotting interesting new music. John Peel was the first person to play The Velvet Underground, and Spidey said, “Listen to this, you’re gonna love this!”. That’s when we got the first violin.

We used to go to Birmingham, to this tiny little record shop that had nothing of interest except some Albert Ayler and free jazz. There was a record in there, and we recognised the artwork from Oz magazine so we knew it was by Hapshash and The Coloured Coat, because they used to do psychedelic posters and Oz. So we bought it just because of that. It was on Magnet Records. When we pulled out [the disc], we were shocked to see that it was on red vinyl, which we’d never seen before. We later discovered that all these people on the scene in London wanted to raise money for the legals fees of John “Hoppy” Hopkins, the first person who’d been busted for drugs and who co-founded the International Times. He was a real mover and shaker of the times. It’s like twenty to a hundred people high on acid jamming! We fell in love with it and still listen to it all the time. When we DJ, people come up to us and ask, “What was that with that great riff?” Guess what one of them ended up doing? Writing “We Are The Wombles”! That really got me in the head, that was worse than a bad acid trip!

Mike Batt! He also wrote the music for William Hague’s campaign…

Oh no! How could he go from Hapshash to that! That’s disappointing to say the least. Michael Batt, what a twat! I didn’t even like The Wombles…

Acid_mothers_temple_1390411485_resize_460x400Acid Mother’s Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – Lord Of The Underground: Vishnu And The Magic Elixir

It was my manager, Ryan Martin, who also does Dais Records, who said, “You don’t know who Acid Mothers Temple are?!” I knew the name, but had never listened to them, so he immediately burned about 30 CDs! We loved it, and then he rang me to tell me they were playing live at The Knitting Factory the following week. He took me, and I was absolutely entranced. The guy at the front, with hair longer than mine that had gone grey, and he was swaying off the rhythm of the music, in perfect time to something in his head. It just blows you away. And then, what’s his name with the guitar, begins with an M…

Makoto Kawabata?

That’s it. He then freaks out, and does the opposite to this Zen thing. He’s everywhere, with his big afro. And you just think: “Fucking hell! That’s what music’s supposed to be like!” Psychedelic, free-form, and when you feel like going nuts, you go nuts. And then at the end the one who was so zen suddenly got his guitar and hung it from a pipe in the ceiling and started swinging it so it started to feedback. And then they just walked off. And we just thought: “After my own heart!” [laughs]. Afterwards, Makoto came up to us and said, “We’re such huge fans of yours, we can’t believe you came to see us. Here’s my guitar!”, and he signed and gave me his guitar neck, which he’d snapped off! He had a t-shirt of Che Guevara that he’d turned into himself, and he wrote lots of stuff in Japanese in a silver pen and gave it to me. We were so proud of that t-shirt. And then my fucking cleaner came in and laundered it! All the writing came off, all I had was the Che.

And everyone’s got a Che t-shirt! It’s interesting because a lot of the bands on your list, including AMT, are ones I discovered through Julian Cope.

Oh yes, of course. He loves all our new stuff too. He’s the same: it’s acid jamming. And it’s my roots. My roots aren’t rhythm & blues, it’s this. And a day comes when you think, “Fuck what the world thinks, I wanna hear what I like to hear, and there’s no-one around me doing it so let’s play our music”. And strangely enough, we’re more successful as a result of having just let go of all preconceptions and deciding to go back to this era. The audiences just go nuts. There you go. Be true to yourself.

Church_universal_and_triumphant__incChurch Universal And Triumphant, Inc. Featuring Elizabeth Clare Prophet – The Sounds Of American Doomsday Cults

This was the hardest one to track down and gather information about. I found a video of some chanting on YouTube.

Isn’t it weird? How do they do that with their voices [ululates manically]? There’s a really good documentary called Death Cults or something, and it shows you them digging this enormous bunker, and [Elizabeth Clare Prophet] says: “The world is going to end on this date with a nuclear war”. The bunker’s not finished on time, but they go down anyway, come back out about a week later and the world hasn’t changed [laughs]. She says the master’s order wasn’t right, and that the world will actually be in four or five months. So they all go back down, and it doesn’t happen. It turns out she has brain tumours, which probably explains the entire cult, and then she dies. But it’s still going! They interviewed them a few years later. The women all look like Elizabeth Clare, with their suburban haircuts and clothes, and big smiles! There’s one piece on the album where they’re cursing pop music, and it’s just stunning. Hilarious. We play them at the beginning when we DJ!

Hawkwind_1390411557_resize_460x400Hawkwind – Hawkwind

I just saw Nik Turner on Sunday night. He’s doing good. We have a strange history with him and Hawkwind. In 1971, in COUM Transmissions, we somehow managed to con this benefit concert for a commune that had been busted for drugs that Hawkwind were headlining, and got the second slot on the bill. None of us had ever played anything, except me on drums, and it was the era when everyone was trying to have the biggest drum kit, so we borrowed drum kits from some of the other bands involved. We got a dwarf on guitar who’d never even seen a guitar before. We had someone from Bridlington on a surfboard on a bucket of water as the vocalist, who just told jokes because he was actually a comedian. Cosey was dressed as an English schoolgirl with a starting pistol, firing in the air, and her own whips. Nik Turner and Lemmy and everyone remember Cosey!

Then in ‘92 or ‘93, Hawkwind came to tour the West Coast, and Nik called me up and asked if I wanted to play keyboards for Hawkwind. I said “of course!”. We got to San Francisco and Jello Biafra was there and he came running into my dressing room and said, “Gen! I love Hawkwind!” I thought he was kidding, but he was serious and said it was his dream to sing ‘Silver Machine’ with Hawkwind. So we got him to join in on backing vocals on ‘Silver Machine’. He was thrilled.

HH.P. Lovecraft – H.P. Lovecraft

Wonderful! Brilliant! It’s very different to everybody else, and it’s all men singing who sound like women. It sounds like Jefferson Airplane at times, and you think, “Who’s that woman?” and then you realise it’s a man. And now that singer does TV commercials and plays accordion in coffee shops.

They were quite big. In England, quite a lot of people bought their records. We DJ-ed a lot with our original one, and somebody stole it from a club. We’ll find one again! H.P. Lovecraft were really underrated in terms of the sixties bands from the West Coast.

I suppose they were quite different.

They were! They were all classically-trained, and refreshing because of that. They weren’t just following everyone else.

The_incredible_string_band_1390411608_resize_460x400The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter

I’ve got everything they ever did, and it’s hard to pick one, really. We like ‘A Very Cellular Song’ – who else could write a song about an amoeba and make it sound great? That was Jaye’s favourite Incredible String Band song, so that’s why we picked that album. You can see the connections growing here, can’t you?

DrDr. Strangely Strange – Kip Of The Serenes

We came across the song ‘Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal’ on a psychedelic compilation and fell in love with it. I just thought, “Who could write a chorus of, ‘Strangely strange but oddly normal’, and make it a really catchy song?” The whole thing was sort of irrationally brilliant, and later we found out that one of them went off to Japan and tried to become a Zen priest. Of course, when we considered the history of literature in Ireland, with James Joyce and everyone, it started to all gel. And then we found out Joe Boyd was involved. They did the first one in one afternoon, because he didn’t think it would sell. We’re not sure which, who and when, but there was some exchange of personnel with the Incredible String Band at certain times.

DrDr. Strangely Strange – Heavy Petting And Other Stories

The second album has the guitarist from Phil Lynott’s wonderful band.

Thin Lizzy? Really?

Yes! He does the guitar on my favourite track on there. It’s very different to the first, it’s a little bit more rocky. There’s a drum kit in there, but they also sing some church hymns. That whole thing that the ISB and Dr. Strangely Strange did, with sudden shifts. You’d think you’d know where [a song was] going and then it would stop dead and something completely different would happen. We always loved surprises and novelty and chaos happening that reprograms the brain to stop assuming things.

Joe_byrd_and_the_field_hippies_1390411691_resize_460x400Joe Byrd And The Field Hippies – The American Metaphysical Circus

This has a bit of an H.P. Lovecraft feel to it. We were stuck, because there were two albums, the other one being by his band, The United States of America. That one’s much more weird, and we like it a lot, but this one we always found harder to listen to, so for that reason we chose it. Because if it’s still hard to listen to, there must be something in it that’s playing with my expectations, whereas The United States of America is fairly funky. So, it was a struggle to choose one, but in the end we picked that one for the singing.

There are more people on it…

Yeah. It was done as a project for his college!

The_13th_floor_elevators_1390411726_resize_460x400The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators

Well, I had to have this on it! We’d like to have it on vinyl. Did you watch the documentary about Roky Erickson’s life? There’s this moment when you first come across him in the documentary. He’s sitting in this room that’s filled with junk. He has about ten or more television sets. Some are black and white, some are colour, some have no picture, just zigzags, but they’re all on full. And he’s got radios on full. And he’s sitting in the armchair and says, “This is the only way I can go to sleep! It drowns out the noises in my head.” And you’re thinking those are the noises in your head! [laughs] But he’s playing again! He’s back, it’s incredible.

I know. It’s hard to believe, because I’ve read interviews with him from years ago where he’s barely coherent. But on that album, vocally he sounds like Mick Jagger, but with screeching!

“Aaaaaahhh!!” And then there’s that jug sound, which is just incredible! I don’t know how they did that!

Blossom_toes_1390411755_resize_460x400Blossom Toes – The Psychedelic Sound Of Blossom Toes, Vol. 1

From what I’ve read, this is a bootleg…

You’d have to ask Giorgio Gomelsky. It’s probably a bootleg by Giorgio Gomelsky. Do you know the story about him? He was the guy who first managed the Stones and put them on at the Station Hotel. He was right that he thought the only way to get the Stones publicity, as the house band, was to get the Beatles down to hear them, and they loved the Stones. And then he got Andrew Loog Oldham down to see them, and Brian Jones secretly did a commercial deal with Andrew, because they’d never written anything down with Giorgio, he just trusted them to stay with him. He then went and got The Yardbirds.

Good ear!

A very good ear! Which he still has to this day, because – he lives in New York – he has hundreds of thousands of amazing tapes. But they left him, and he found the Blossom Toes, whom he thought would be the next of his successes, but they weren’t because they were so fucking quirky. There’s one song which goes, [sings] “You should have come home you little frozen dog/ You stupid little frozen dog”, and that’s the chorus. They were trying to do a sort of Sgt. Pepper’s based on Giorgio’s Eastern European understanding, and so it’s just really odd. Very English, and very quirky, and fun, with lots of funny effects and brass bands – the whole thing that everyone was trying to do. And it didn’t sell at all. So he decided, after The Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin, that Blossom Toes should be like Led Zeppelin. So he tried to do a Led Zeppelin album, which is absolutely terrible! Sorry Giorgio, we’re friends, but it’s terrible. So that’s them, the one thing they did, in my opinion, that is worthy of discovery because it’s odd. He should have just let them do their thing.

The_zombies_1390411840_resize_460x400The Zombies – Odessey And Oracle

That was the first record that Jaye ever played to me when we met. It was surprise. This is a girl who ran away from home at age 14 to Alphabet City in the eighties, lived in a squat there, was into the hardcore scene so went out with one of the biggest hardcore guys in a band so no-one would beat her up or touch her, and yet she loved sixties psychedelic music. The Electric Prunes, The Zombies… Eventually The Zombies reformed to do one gig in New York, in this little club, so I got tickets, and they were spot-on. They did Odessey And Oracle, and afterwards I introduced her to The Zombies and they signed her album. It’s an excellent album. The harmonies and Colin Blunstone’s voice are stunning. That voice with the hissing in it. We had this friend, who did a lot of co-production on early Psychic TV, and he said my voice took to tape really well because it had this hiss in it. Apparently, it gave more resonance, so I accidentally have the same sort of resonances as Blunstone. Sadly, not the same voice or skill!

Syd_barrett_1390411875_resize_460x400Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs

I had to. I mean, how do you pick one? Syd Barrett, brilliant. One thing he did which just knocked me out, at a very early gig – and we thought we’d imagined it because we were stoned but we read about it in a magazine – in those days a lot of the bands would do an hour set, and then maybe the drummer would do a half-hour drum solo while the others went off to do drugs, or they’d all go off and we’d all be sitting around for half an hour because we’d do drugs. And then they’d come back. So, anyway, they went off, and we thought, “Oh no, drum solo, I guess it’s time to do drugs”. And they changed into workman’s outfits and old macs and one by one they all came back. One of them brought some wood, another one had a toolbox, another one had a flask and tea-cups, and the floor of the stage was miked. They made themselves things to sit on, and it was all done rhythmically, creating this piece of musique concrète. They made a table and sets of chairs, then sat down, turned on a transistor radio and drank cups of tea! Then they left and came back on as Pink Floyd! I was thinking, “Did I really just see that?”, and for years thought we’d imagined it. And we didn’t, it really happened.

Kind of sums up Syd Barrett in one anecdote!

[laughs] People used to say his solo stuff was all crap, that he couldn’t do it anymore, but as time has gone by, I think anyone with any brains has realised just what a genius he was. My two children grew up with his music and would say that ‘Baby Lemonade’ was their favourite song of his. So, every birthday we’d have to play ‘Baby Lemonade’. Pretty good taste, no?

A Quietus Interview – Love & Art: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed (October 8th, 2012)

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s definition of a quiet week differs very much from most people’s. After a couple of delays, we finally catch up on the phone, and apparently this is down time for the former Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV singer. “I’ve been so busy all year that I actually have a couple of weeks doing very little,” he explains. “Just chilling out, which for me will involve two DJ gigs, a talk, a poetry reading, etc. But for me that’s quiet!” For most people, that would constitute a busy schedule, but if P-Orridge was in anyway put out by having to add an interview to the to-do list, it didn’t show, and the supposedly prickly singer was friendly and outgoing throughout.

It’s easy to imagine how the above would constitute an easy-going time for P-Orridge, given he’s spent most of the last year working on his writing, performing with the latest incarnation of PTV and travelling the world promoting the wonderful documentary The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye, directed by Marie Losier, a surprisingly intimate glimpse into the world of this most controversial of icons. “I had to bail after four months of doing [the promotions] every week, because it was making me sick, actually sick. Every night, we were reliving losing Jaye and even the dog in the film died of cancer a year later, and I lost the house because we couldn’t pay the mortgage without Jaye’s income. So it was like, you lose the house again and again, you lose Jaye everyday and I just got really worn out, emotionally worn out.”

The death of Genesis’ wife, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, forms a central and tragic part of The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye, and, after going through such a trauma, it’s only natural he would find revisiting it so difficult, especially given the nature of their uniquely symbiotic love. I refer to Pandrogyny, where the couple famously underwent extensive plastic surgery to resemble each other, becoming, in a way, one soul in two bodies (as well as a living work of art), and which was the initial focus of the movie. “2003 was the year Lady Jaye and I decided to get breast implants,” he says, explaining how the film came about, “and make the Pandrogyny project a public project. Jaye said to me ‘It would be really great if we had someone around who filmed everything, like Warhol at the Factory, and just documented all the process we’re going to go through’. There was no idea of it becoming a film at all, it was documentation, mainly for ourselves. Within a week, we were playing a show at The Knitting Factory, and Marie was in the audience and was really touched by my poetry. She didn’t know us at all, but she said she was a filmmaker and Jaye offered for her to come on tour with Psychic TV for two weeks. She filmed the entire tour and became a really special friend, and [from there] it just kept on going. She just started documenting our lives. At some point, just before Jaye dropped her body, it started to be a case of making it into a documentary, something we decided much more earnestly after Jaye dropped her body. Primarily in honour of Lady Jaye, to maintain her memory”.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, beyond its welcome – for TG or PTV fans – footage of Genesis, acts as an elegy to Lady Jaye, who is probably less well-known than her other half, but who subtly becomes the focus of the film. This was clearly P-Orridge’s intention. “When it comes out on DVD there’s going to be a bonus disc with a lot more of Lady Jaye. There’s a part in the film where she looks at the camera and says ‘I’ve got everything I need to be happy because I’ve got Gen.’ Well, we’ve got the whole 14-minute talk, the speech she was making about Pandrogyny, ethics and what we were doing, and why we were so in love. That unedited speech will be on the bonus DVD, as well as Sleazy [the late, great Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, who founded both Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV with Genesis] talking about us too.

“Those bits weren’t in the original film because we didn’t have anything to do with the editing, we left it to Marie and didn’t want to interfere. We wanted it to be what she saw, and the editing job she did – which she spent a whole year on – is amazing. But at some point in the editing process, she decided to not have any talking heads. She approached it as a collage, an ‘elegy collage’, as you said. And it worked – she made an amazing film! One of the things that’s happened with the film is that the media has become much more friendly towards me. In some ways, it’s humanised me where in the past the media has tended to demonise me. People see my mischievous side, as when I’m sitting on the keyboard, and they see how much Jaye and I loved each other.”

Given Breyer P-Orridge’s past interest in “extreme” art and music, perhaps such a personal project should come as little surprise, but it’s still remarkable that he would allow such close access to what must have been a harrowing period after Lady Jaye passed away. “Like we said, the level of intimacy is gruelling, emotionally, for me. Jaye’s way of explaining life and experience is that it’s consciousness of who we are, and the body is just a cheap suitcase that we carry around. It’s a philosophical way of dealing with the human body – she was always dissatisfied with the human body, and felt trapped in her body, in fact, [she felt this way] from being a child.

“It was difficult to allow someone that much access after Lady Jaye dropped her body. We don’t remember the first year after the funeral, we don’t remember doing anything, or seeing anyone. Luckily for me, our extended family took care of me. We were catatonic, basically, it was a trauma. The way it happened, out of the blue, with her breathing her last breath into me, was traumatic. It took maybe 18 months, and we were with Marie and we said ‘Let’s finish it’. It was really important to finish it, because it was Lady Jaye’s idea. We had to finish it, as a matter of pride and respect of Lady Jaye’s wishes.”

Despite all the aforementioned sadness, The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye remains an uplifting experience, and you come out of it aware that you’ve experienced a celebration of love, something P-Orridge is keen to underline. “When we’ve been at screenings and Q&As, the most common reaction of people who’ve come up to speak to me is almost always, even if they’re crying, ‘I’ve always been afraid to really commit myself 100% to a relationship because I’ve been scared of being hurt. But now I’ve seen this film, I’m not afraid anymore. I realise how much love I’ve wasted that I could have had.’ Isn’t that a great thing to have happen from a movie? That people would not be afraid to be in love, and to be different?”

‘Not afraid to be different’… I saw The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and was initially surprised at the choice because, for all his idiosyncrasies, P-Orridge never struck me as being an LGBT figure, even with the Pandrogyny. In that respect, it was a real eye-opener, not just about him, but about the ways in which “alternative” sexual identities can be expressed, by anyone. It felt like a true work of “queer” art.

“We’re not traditional LGBT people, are we?,” says Breyer P-Orridge. “Derek Jarman, for me, is a queer filmmaker. ‘Queer’, to me, includes eccentric and being prepared to push through any stereotypes, even gay stereotypes. The people who have been the most puzzled by us have actually been the more ‘traditional’, neo-conservative gay people, who – and this is not in any way a criticism – really want to be accepted as normal and treated just like everyone else, as they absolutely should be. But sometimes they maybe become stereotypes of everything they were rejecting and, for us, we don’t want to become just another stereotype. It’s not about me becoming a woman, or Jaye becoming a man, it’s about the divine hermaphrodite, and the potential of the human species to evolve in the most amazing ways, having no limit on what their body can be or what they imagine is a way of being. It’s much more philosophical, magickal and evolutionary. We did an interview for ABC over here, because we’d been banned from Phoenix on account of me being transgender, and we knew they wanted ‘bumper stickers’, you know? So we said ‘Transsexuals are the stormtroopers of the future!’ [laughs]. In a way, we do believe that. Certain people in our species are waking up to the potential to have a different future to the one we’ve been offered.”

In this context, the Pandrogyny is crucial, and in the way it bridges art and life, it seems unique. In the wake of Lady Jaye’s passing, one could assume that Genesis would put the experience on hold, but that seems to be far from his mind. “It’s our ultimate project,” he says. “It’s a process and a project. With everything that we decide to make public, that’s when it becomes a project. On the very first day we met Lady Jaye, she took me to her apartment and dressed me in her clothes. She intuitively knew the trajectory of our relationship, and we kept on exploring that, privately, together – becoming two halves of the same whole. We wanted to blur together; if it had been medically possible, we would have had a vagina and a penis each. That would have been our maximum choice. Why should we submit to the programme [of DNA]? That’s how we got back to the Burroughs/Gysin cut-up, and thought about cutting up DNA like literature or music. Can you edit biology and generate the third being? That’s how we got to the revolutionary part: DNA has come to symbolise a deep sense of control; it’s something most people just accept. It got more complex as the years went by, but we’re still doing exhibitions and creating sculptures. We’ve been commissioned to do a book called Creating Sex and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh have confirmed that they’re going to do a retrospective of Breyer P-Orridge and Pandrogyny next summer.”

In an era when so much art is being commodified, P-Orridge’s commitment to the ultimate realisation of this unique project is refreshing.

Genesis makes it clear that recognition by the Andy Warhol Museum is a source of personal pride and gratification, and he is quick to reference his debt of influence to The Factory and Warhol stars like Candy Darling. As someone so notorious for his musical performances, notably with Throbbing Gristle, you get the feeling that it’s been an uphill struggle for him to be recognised also as a major visual artist – he uses the word “vindication”.

“Certainly in America, we’re getting a lot more serious attention to our ideas,” he says. “The word ‘Pandrogyny’, which we created – ‘positive androgyny’- has started to filter into the language, as a new word with a lot less baggage. We can all define what this word might be, it’s not meant to have a fixed definition. It’s a form of freedom from the past. The art world started to accept COUM Transmissions towards the end, in ’75-76, when we started doing museum shows, but the art world didn’t want us to do music [as Throbbing Gristle]! They didn’t think we were doing art, because we were doing music. We were always in the wrong camp, but we always wanted to do everything. We’ve never stopped making art, or writing essays [even during TG and PTV]. In the last two or three years, things have really changed. Lady Jaye and I started doing exhibitions together, and we were surprised that people loved our approach and were listening to what we were saying. The Tate recently bought our archives, so the art world has really started to take us seriously as the whole package. Life and art can be the same thing. Artists have been saying this for 100-odd years!”

After so many years of struggling against the establishment, touring, exploring every facet of art and life, you could forgive Breyer P-Orridge for being jaded, but far from it, and the supreme energy that inhabits him remains anchored in his relationship with Lady Jaye, something that comes up when I mention Yoko Ono’s own struggles with the public and the establishment’s perceptions: “The reason that we adopted Breyer P-Orridge was to say ‘Jaye is equally as important. She’s not doing this just because she’s with me, she was already doing stuff before we met and a lot of the ideas are her ideas.’ We’re insistent: don’t dismiss her because she’s female! And don’t dismiss this because her body’s not here anymore. She’s still vital to the project”. It seems clear, then, that Pandrogyny may be one of the major artistic expressions of feminism in the last few years.

But, of course, it’s impossible to interview Genesis P-Orridge without honing in on the music, and a chat about a DJ set where he spun Amon Duul II and Hawkwind records emphasises that, for all the ‘industrial’ reputation of TG, Genesis at heart is a bit of a psychedelic hippy. “Oh, absolutely. And it’s been missed. The new line-up of Psychic TV that we have are the best musicians we’ve ever played with. We’ve done some singles: the first was Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’ b/w ‘Alien Brain’, the second was ‘Mother Sky’ by Can, and the B-side was ‘Alien Sky’. Next will be a Hawkwind cover! We take the structures of the songs and rework them [on the B-sides], so the ‘Alien Brain’ features vocal, and lasts 15 minutes. It was done in one take, with the whole band in the studio. We don’t rehearse, we just go straight into the studio and lay it down. It’s a fascinating project. We’re trying to tell people not to dismiss this era just because there’s been so much propaganda about hippies. Never be biased or prejudiced, and then you can make it your own. There are always more doors you can go through”

This ethos of constant exploration even extends to language, and throughout the interview Genesis substitutes “I” for “We”.

“When we first met Burroughs back in 1971,” he says, “we were hanging out in his apartment, somewhat in awe of him, we said to him, ‘Do you still do cut-ups?’. He said, ‘No, I don’t really have to any more, because my brain has been rewired so it does them automatically!’ That’s kind of what’s happened to me. Burroughs told me to always write every day, so that when you have a sudden revelation of meaning, in language, you’re ready to document it and expand it. At this point, after 50 years of writing, it’s become second nature to see words and break them down and reassemble them automatically. It’s why I can improvise vocals on the spot. With ‘we’, it obviously means me and Jaye, but then, can we use ‘we’ when talking about before we met? In 1968, we started using ‘E’ for ‘I’. Should we use that? Someone suggested we should just use ‘they’!”

I’m uneasy to approach the subject of Throbbing Gristle, given everything that’s been written about them, not to mention their various break-ups and Sleazy’s tragic passing, but Genesis welcomes the chance to go over the band’s legacy, especially when we start discussing the lyrics he wrote for the band, which he showcased marvelously at their last-ever concert in London.

“Most of the TG songs were originally improvised on stage,” he reveals. “‘Persuasion’ was improvised on stage, ‘Convincing People’ was improvised on stage… On the other hand, ‘Hamburger Lady’, for example, was improvised in the studio. ‘Discipline’ was made up on the stage in Berlin, when Sleazy and Chris [Carter] came up with that amazing rhythm. We said to Sleazy, ‘What shall we sing about tonight?’ and he said, ‘Discipline!’. And it became a classic! It varies… We’re just doing the first Thee Majesty album in eleven years, and we go in with poems we’ve written at home. It’s about looking at which words fit the span of the music and then seeing what happens. We’re always looking not to simplify the words for the music, but to fit the words into the music.”

Unlike some early industrial artists, Genesis is more than happy to talk about the genre TG helped name, never mind initiate, and he talks enthusiastically about more recent artists, such as Prurient, who are clearly indebted to Throbbing Gristle’s legacy. “We didn’t know [the industrial scene] was going to happen, we just knew that we wanted what we were doing to have a very clear separation from everything else,” he explains. “The birth of something new, a new approach, something that was more contemporary and more modern. You can’t plan those things, but then sometimes you can feel the zeitgeist. TG was four very exceptional people. You couldn’t take any of those four out. Sometimes those things happen, and the right people are in the right place at the right time together.”

As much as talking about writing inspires him, it’s clear that TG’s reputation for controversy is a wearisome subject. “It’s been something that always frustrated me: people didn’t even ask about the lyrics and take the songs in as being songs. They just focused on one or two that were more abrasive, and the shock value, and ignored the rest. It’s one of the downsides of notoriety: the powers that be utilise anything like that as an excuse to dismiss what you do. But you just have to believe in what you do and, in my case, be patient.”

Does he feel more satisfied now? “Actually, yes! PTV3 is far and away the most exciting group of musicians that we’ve ever worked with. They’re all capable of playing technically but also of experimenting and improvising. Our live shows are never less than two hours and we have videos, light shows. Everyone’s hyper-aware of each others’ body language, and they can all tell the timbre of my voice. No matter how odd it is, the band is always there, totally with me.” It’s an osmosis that at times evokes Neil Young & Crazy Horse (a comparison that pleases Breyer P-Orridge no end), and listening to recent PTV3 releases certainly contains the mixture of beauty and chaos that defines The Horse at their best.

Through all the tumult of the last few years, from personal tragedies to his numerous artistic and musical heights, including recent performances, an album with Tony Conrad and a book of his life in pictures he’ll be supplying texts for, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge remains a strong and unique person who constantly looks to follow his boundlessly creative impulses as far as he can. “We’ve always had a very long-term view of everything, and kept in mind the perspective of looking back at things from our death bed. Will we have achieved everything we hoped for by then or, at least, will it be as pure as we hoped it to be?”

The DVD and CD soundtrack of The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye are both out now