Eighteen months after the passing of Lady
Jaye, the Psychic TV founder talks about her, about pandrogeny, and about the future of PTV3.
BY BRIAN STAKER
& RANDY HARWARD
In August 2007, we interviewed Genesis
P-Orridge for Harp about the
Pandrogeny Project, for which P-Orridge underwent gender reassignment surgery.
As with everything P-Orridge has done in the past four decades with visual and
performance art in Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, and music with Throbbing
Gristle and Psychic TV, the Project is many-sided, a complex construct as
detached and analytical as it is intimate and emotional. And it transcends mere
“With pandrogeny,” said P-Orridge, “we’re
trying to strip away all the masks and reveal the inner self, the original
person which is, of course, a designed hermaphrodite. It’s much more about
neutralizing gender and glamour to reveal what’s underneath, the internal
Pandrogeny goes deeper than that. It’s no
simple tit job. Nor is it gender reassignment, a correction of some genetic
glitch in which the physical and sexual self was mismatched. “One of the great
delusions of Western consumer society is if we somehow create stereotypical
beauty for ourselves, that we are dealing with the self,” says P-Orridge, who
now identifies by the pronoun â€˜s/he.’ Behavior, s/he says, is “the key to
everything” and “the most difficult thing to change of all.” To find purity
inside oneself, he furthers, one must go back to DNA, and consider “the
different ways that your imagination has been suppressed or distracted from
becoming individual and unique.”
Usually, as with everything Genesis P-Orridge
has done, there is a mischievous through-line, a devious tripwire lying hidden
and taut beneath the leaves, ready to invert or subvert or plain eviscerate
societal mores. Pandrogeny practically screams this. In fact, P-Orridge followed
up that last quote with this deliciously typical line: “And, when in doubt, be
extreme.” Considering the lengths to which P-Orridge has gone in the past, such
as using bloody tampons and maggots as an artistic statement, pandrogeny could
be another obvious ploy. Or the devil’s greatest trick.
If there is a booby trap beneath all the
weighty sociological, sexual, political, scientific implications P-Orridge would
like us to consider, it’s that as the Pandrogeny Project thumbs its nose at
convention, it has a root in what we might think rebels like P-Orridge have
neither the capacity nor need for: romantic love. P-Orridge’s motivation for his
surgery was to become one with his wife, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. One idea
behind it was that, via physical resemblance, a higher rapport is achieved. Over
time, Genesis and Lady Jay both were modified, each choosing some of the other’s
features to assume until they truly did look like each other’s doppelganger.
It was as sweet, though not nearly as
cloying, as a Hollywood love story. Sadly, two months after our enlightening
conversation with Genesis, s/he had to make an announcement regarding Lady Jaye,
his “other half” of fifteen years:
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her reactivated
Psychic TV a/k/a TV are terribly sad to announce the cancellation of their
November North American tour dates. This decision is entirely due to the
unexpected passing of band member Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. Lady Jaye died
suddenly on Tuesday 9th October 2007 at home in Brooklyn, New York from a
previously undiagnosed heart condition which is thought to have been connected
with her long-term battle with stomach cancer. Lady Jaye collapsed and died in
the arms of her heartbroken “other half” Genesis Breyer
It was a tragic end to one of the greatest
loves in history. To know it is to share P-Orridge’s grief. As s/he said at the
time, they were “two parts of one whole… each other’s half.” Yet like the
Project rises above simple physical existence, so too does their love. Since
Genesis and Lady Jaye conceived the Pandrogeny Project in order to experience
each other in the most powerful way possible, the connection achieved in life
should continue beyond this mortal coil.
And, as Genesis tells it in a new interview a
few weeks ago, Lady Jaye saw fit to make it clear that Psychic TV (or PTV3, as
they called it) carry on with their music. Mr. Alien Brain vs. The Skinwalkers (Sweet Nothing/Cargo), album number 31 for the band, reprises the career of
PTV by re-iterating all of the band’s stylistic phases, from the psychedelicism
of “Thin Garden” to the techno sound of “The Alien Brain” to the influence of
their predecessors, with Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett covers. All these
periods were landmarks, and the group’s work at every point has been incredibly
influential themselves on other (especially British) bands. But Mr. Alien Brain is much more than a
synopsis of their career; it’s one of the strongest sets in an impressive
discography, as well as a loving tribute to Lady Jaye.
Genesis P-Orridge: Where are you?
BLURT: Salt Lake City.
GP: Right, I remember it!
It’s a nice place, with lots of creative people.
I think so, because we
have a heavy hand of authority, so that just causes a reaction.
GP: It was the same thing
with my public (English private) school education. From the upper class I got a
covert knowledge of the way authority works. We only appear to live in a
democracy. For instance, in Spain once PTV was playing a concert, in Madrid,
and the rest of the band were surprised at how famous we’ve been. In 1984 or -5
we were commissioned to do live music for a TV program (filmmaker) Derek Jarman
directed. It was the story of the Catalan flag.
The designer of the flag took four
fingers in blood to make the four red stripes on the flag. Before World War II
Franco was the fascist ruler of Spain, and people forget that after the war he
remained in power until the 80s. He had banned the Catalan flag, and thousands
of people waved the flag at his funeral.
The TV show in Spain was to show one film, then an
interview, then a music mix live for 90 minutes. We were in the dressing room
and were all of a sudden told not to leave. The Spanish national TV network
went black. The Catholic women’s league had taken out an injunction, because
they were afraid of sacrilege in the program. There was a lengthy debate, and
we were finally allowed to play. No one could see, but behind the stage were
Franco’s armed guards. They still had some power after he was gone. The
following morning, just before breakfast, we were grabbed by security and told
there had been death threats against us. We had to stay under house arrest.
Every Spanish newspaper had it on the front page, in outrage and support. Some
people remember that, when there was a population involved in politics.
That’s an amazing story.
GP: The implications are that
you’ve had a remarkable life if you are able to say you’ve been a part of
something like that. It’s not often that art can do something like that; but
art is about change. Well thanks for listening to me go on with that story.
Oh, thank you. That’s an
amazing story; I’m so glad that I was able to hear it. I mean, that’s
surprising, the power of art, that they felt threatened. You’re not trying to
overthrow the government; you’re just showing a TV program, and the powers that
be felt so threatened by you, that’s what is amazing about it.
GP: Everyone’s talking about
change in America now, but you should still be wary. My position is the 1960’s
position, that no matter who you elect, a politician’s gonna get in. The huge
bureaucracy is the real power. There is a basic inertia.
Right. I went to see Ralph
Nader, and he really captivated me. He seemed to have some ideas that hopefully
could change things, but he’s left out of the conversation largely.
GP: Yes, and people like that
are kept out. We need a complete rethinking of how we view the species in
relation to the planet. Nations are archaic. We are a human species trying to
survive, but we are going to destroy ourselves.
And there I really agree
with that, there are certain groups that are threatened by the idea that
there’s a possibility of evolving into something more progressive. There are
groups that are really threatened by that, like fundamentalist religious
groups, like the Mormon church here…
GP: The Catholic church…
The things that the Mormon
church did for Proposition 8 in California…
GP: Is that the gay marriage
Yeah, that’s the gay
marriage one, the Mormons were really outspoken in taking the point of view
against gay marriage.
GP: Why are they threatened
Well, they’re threatened
by anything except the traditional male-female union.
GP: William S. Burroughs, who
I met, said “whenever you are thinking about some sociopolitical situation,
look to the vested interest.” Religions are using the ideal of the 1950’s
suburban family, the image that comes from advertising, but the housewives were
on tranquilizers and speed, the children turned into the rebellious 60’s, and
the men were repressing their sexual urges. It was a miserable time, and that’s
why the 1960’s exploded as a reaction against so much pressure. It didn’t just
happen gradually, little by little; it was a real explosion.
What is the fear of gay marriage
about? Over 50% of marriages end in divorce; their ideal is fabricated, not
reality. The LDS Church, what is their interest? Well, they want to feel
protected and secure, and it gives them power and a feeling of importance to
have control over others. They are afraid of losing their control, money, and
power over other people.
I wanted to ask you about
Lady Jaye, and I wanted to tell you that I’m really sorry to hear about her
GP: If it’s all right I’d
like to save that for the end, in case I get broken up about it, and then at
the end at least the whole interview won’t be ruined.
Ok, sure. I wanted to ask
you about the new album…
GP: Did you like it?
Yes, I enjoyed it quite a
lot. How does the album relate to the Pandrogeny Project?
GP: Well there’s the CD
version on Cargo, and the vinyl double album on Dais Records, to get the
complete story. The vinyl includes three extra tracks: “Jumping Jack Flash”
live, our song “Roman P” live, and a cover of a song by 60’s garage band the
Monks. Theirs was “Boys Are Boys” but we changed it to “Boys Are Girls and
Girls Are Boys.” The CD and vinyl together make the full manifesto.
GP: Alien Brain is not as much about the concept of pandrogeny as Hell is Invisible, Heaven is Her/e was. Alien Brain is more relating to (Lady
Jaye) Breyer P-Orridge. Intimate aspects had come out in the recording. The
album is evidence of pandrogeny, rather than â€˜about’ pandrogeny. Bryan Doll did
the studio mastering, and as I was walking out the door to go to the studio I
dropped a stack of CDs, and noticed one I’d never seen before, labeled “Jaye’s
Samples.” It was as though she was talking to us.
We were rendering tracks and had a
half hour free, so we listened to the samples. They were a bunch of rhythmic
loops, backing tracks, but the last one had a really alien and electronic
rhythm, and strange syncopation. We thought it would work to put on the track
at the end of the album. While recording, I was unconsciously banging on a wine
bottle with a ring, and that ring was the first gift Lady Jaye had ever given
me. So we recorded it. Alice Genesse added the bass line. We had thought at the
end of the song would be a sample of Lady Jaye saying “I love you,” because the
rhythm of her speech fit the song. But then Bryan told me to say “I know” in response, as
though I’m answering her.
About pandrogeny, keep in mind how
it began. Lady Jaye and I were crazy in love. We’d say things like, “I wish I
could eat you up,” and literally wanted to blend into one. As we explored it,
we found more wide-ranging implications. Love is the infinite, unconditional
surrender. But it’s also an evolutionary imperative for the human species to
live as one. We need to evolve, and move from mastery over survival and use our
knowledge to become one forward-thinking species.
We need an end to the binary, greedy way of life.
This is a cry for common sense, and inclusivity. Human beings are really
amazing, the way we’ve survived; it’s something to be proud of. On the album,
Mr. Alien Brain is a visitor from outer space with no agenda, just to observe
and understand what the humans are trying to do. The Skinwalkers on the album
are corrupted leaders, shaman and sorcerers from the Four Corners area. Their
initiation includes human sacrifice. The werewolf grows another skin to have its
powers. It’s animalistic and cruel, self-centered and power-hungry.
So where did that concept
come from? Is that from Native American mythology?
GP: I have to apologize to
the Native Americans that it’s not meant to be anthropologically accurate, the
mythology comes from several different sources. We’re not taking sides; we have
an interest in magic. It’s about balance. Pandrogeny in the album means
blending a little of everything.
Yeah, and all the songs on
the album, it’s almost in a way a retrospective of Psychic TV, its history,
stylistically, it has from psychedelic through the more dance-oriented. It
really includes a little bit of everything that makes up Psychic TV. Even the
covers-the Syd Barrett and the Velvet Underground [songs] show where your
impulses come from.
GP: The Syd and Velvets
covers show where our heart is. Since the Internet, and downloading, more young
people have less connection with the historical story of music, and things that
aren’t on MTV. Captain Beefheart and Velvet Underground didn’t have a Behind the Music. Just as with TOPY
[Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth], we give hints; don’t think this is happening
in a void. Part of the ever-evolving kaleidoscope is to look at sources. Then
you get a much more satisfying view of music.
We met some young people recently,
and when they asked us we told them our music was industrial, and they said
“Like NIN?” Then we said some of our music was psychedelic and they asked,
“like Modest Mouse?” The youth are isolated and separated. Rock after the 60’s
became a totemic call to rebellion, but now it’s just a business.
Music should be about joy and pleasure. This
version of PTV, all the band now, for the first time in my life, that we’ve
just let go, that every second has to celebratory and joyful. Now I enjoy
singing just for the sake of singing; it’s been really liberating. It’s all
done with joy.
The album is also a statement of
relaxation of the serious tone. We live in such dark times that joyful equals potent.
Pleasure is a weapon. People are so concerned with fashion, and a PTV gig is a
safety zone. The most common thing we hear is, “You guys look like you’re
having so much fun.” We have a lot of joking and playfulness on stage, where
we’ve allowed life and art to keep blending.
We’re still showing videos about
pandrogeny; even at the silliest moments it’s still there. It’s a way of
engaging with the public. We think it’s all psychedelic, like the band The
Doors were named after Huxley’s book The
Doors of Perception.
I was wondering, do you
have a direction that you see the band moving in, or do you look ahead that way
GP: How far ahead?
Just the near future…
GP: We try to make each album
a picture of where we’re at then, a document. This one is of us playing for
Lady Jaye. It’s an outpouring of love, a very healing process, a work of
shamanism. Mr. Alien Brain also symbolizes the future, and led us to looking at
evolution. Like William S. Burroughs, we believe we have to colonize space if
we want to take control of our genetic software, our DNA. We have to accept
that the body is not saved-it’s a cheap suitcase. The only thing really human
is the spirit.
A space journey is so long, would we
have to hibernate? Would we become cold-blooded? We can’t colonize space until
we resolve our conflicts on earth. We have to look at the future positively or
there’s no point in going there. Our future direction? PTV is truly organic,
like the cell walls between members is broken down, and we are becoming a
molecular being. The last two weeks on tour, an idea for an encore was
improvised on stage. A lot of music happens that way, an accidental riff during
The song “Trussed” came about that
way. On the tour bus we get bored and read books. Lady Jaye was reading a book
about Houdini, and told me she was always interested in him, and he is buried
near our house. Part of the story was a conflict with Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle
was non-critical of magic, and Houdini said some were fakes, and thought the
fakers ruined it for the real ones. Houdini would go around unmasking the
fakes. There’s the theory in the book that Doyle paid people to kill Houdini,
did you know that?
No, I never was aware of
GP: Live, we do a song called
“Arthur Conan Lies.” In the song “Trussed,” the concept of being bound, and
trust in people; I like polymorphous words. The song began as a word, and its
implications. Like the way Houdini was bound in cords.
The future of PTV? In my honest
opinion, this is the most complete, the most pure. We listen to the new album
as though it was someone else, and usually I never listen to our albums. It
makes me feel, whatever the direction is, I like it. I’m lucky to be in Thee
Majesty. They still do carefully scripted poetry and alternative theater. In
April TM is commissioned to play in France what we call â€˜The Second
Book of Genesis,’ a version of the creation myth that’s pandrogynous.
I’ve studied anthropological
research, and a lot of paintings of the Garden of Eden originally pictured Adam,
Eve and God as hermaphrodites. That was the original version of perfection! The
whole conception of male and female was in error. Of course, most of those
paintings were destroyed by the Inquisition. But there was something about it
in that old 60’s mysticism magazine Man,
Myth and Magic. Have you ever seen those?
Yeah, I think I’ve seen
some of those. I was wondering, how would you describe Lady Jaye’s legacy to
the Pandrogeny Project?
GP: People assumed that the
only reason Lady Jaye was involved was because she was my girlfriend. The two
of us had an idea to write a book like Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men but of all the people I’ve met-Timothy
Leary, William S. Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Derek Jarman… the most remarkable of
all was Lady Jaye.
So what will happen to the
project without her?
GP: We had pondered that, and
she proposed that after death, the final result is that, post mortem, we both
evolve, after death, the two merge consciousness, absorbed into a new spiritual
unit; each other’s half. She always hated titles like wife, girlfriend, even
partner. She preferred to call me her “other half.”
She’s already gone into the next
phase. We had worked it out to be able to contact in case of death, and she’s
contacted me already. I have three prerequisites: there have to be witnesses,
it has to be something physical, and it has to have some private, personal
meaning. Wouldn’t you say that’s rigorous?
Yeah, I would say.
GP: For example, three days
after her funeral, my children were trying to talk me into going to California,
and I couldn’t decide. I went to our bedroom to our â€˜kissing wall’ where we had
pictures of the two of us kissing, one in particular in Katmandu, both of us in
red, one big blob of red. I was going to take it with to remind me we are still
one, but I couldn’t decide. All of a sudden, a picture flew across the room and
fell on the floor in front of me, and I took that as a message to â€˜stay home.’
Six other people saw this.
Another one, last May I was in Paris playing with
Throbbing Gristle, and Ryan Gelick from Dais Records was staying at my
apartment looking after our dog Big Boy. One day he came home to check on the
dog and the bed was turned back in a perfect triangle, and two rainbow-colored
bedsocks parallel to where we used to lay.
Yeah, I wanted to ask, did
you consider, you mentioned earlier, when the CD, maybe it wasn’t the same kind
of incident, but when you dropped the CD when you were going out the door, when
you dropped the CD on the ground and found those tracks of hers…
GP: No, when the CD dropped
there were no witnesses. The future of pandrogeny? A few months ago I went to
see a plastic surgeon to see if he could make me as close as possible to [how
she looked] before she died. I’ve had a little breast reduction, and some
tweaking of the face, and may have more surgeries as needed.
On the first anniversary of her
death, November 9, a mutual friend, Ghost, did a tattoo of Lady Jaye’s face on
my arm right above the psychic cross in white. Ghost said he got really
inspired. Isn’t that nice?
Yeah, very nice.
GP: So it’s
ongoing, as far as the implications of what might happen next. I’m still
grieving, but at least I’m able to keep creative. I’ve found pandrogeny an idea
that seems like it’s the right time. There are art exhibitions about it. I’ve
given lectures at Rutgers, Columbia and NYU. I gave a keynote at a gender
studies symposium at Cornell. In Spain, Madrid’s national newspapers did a full
page on pandrogeny. Lady Jaye is still as active as ever. As usual, the death
of someone young is an inspiration to others.
[Photo Credit: Kevin Henson]