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JG Thirlwell: Hide and Seek - Page 4

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JGT - Alternative Press May 1992 by Michele














AS: You mentioned regretting that you never went further with that (Butterfly Potion EP) sound. I notice similarities on tracks like "Sieve" and "Need Machine" – is that you going back to that?

JGT: No, I don’t think they are really going back to the Butterfly Potion thing. The sound on those tracks was a product of the technology I was using and how I was using it right then, and a kind of economy it bred. “Sieve” and “Need Machine” are entities to themselves from a different time with different methodologies.

Touring band-members over the years included various members of Swans and Cop Shoot Cop, Raymond Watts from Pig/KMFDM, and Ministry’s William Tucker.

AS: What prompted you to recruit a full live band?

JGT: The need to get out and play it live: I wasn’t satisfied performing with the backing tracks but didn't think I could do my music justice as a band. And I don’t think I ever did, until I had a large ensemble. With the rock band format, the music gained in volume, confrontation, physicality and heft, but lost nuance.

JGT: I didn't actually perform that much with a live band. There were about seven tours: Europe in 1988, US in 1991 and 1992, US and Europe in ‘95-‘96 and US and Europe in 2001. 2001 is when I gave up that “rock band – tour” format. It just wasn't working, it felt boring and not who I am any more. My main artistic life happens when composing and recording.

JG also built up a reputation as a producer, having successfully remixed tracks by Prong and EMF, which led to commissions to alter songs by the likes of Megadeth, The Cult, Nine Inch Nails, Danzig, Pop Will Eat Itself, Pantera, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He became better known for his remixes than for his own music – moving away from it when he felt his mixes were becoming a sort of self-parody – though he still does the odd reworking.

Faith Healer, MALE, 1993: gravel-voiced rock god

In 1995, Thirlwell signed to Sony to release GASH. He was becoming high-profile, fashionable and in demand: the billboards in Times Square on the cover of GASH are genuine. Foetus became a Byronic human whirlwind. Other interviews from that time confirm my own experience: he wore a very convincing mask of warmth, seductiveness and charm, but hidden in plain sight he was falling apart. He’d often remain in character offstage, and I thought nothing amiss when I met him: the extreme personality just seemed to fit the music.

To make things worse, the slash-and-burn era had begun with alternative music. Sony's business affairs in Japan decided they wouldn't be promoting the subsequent album so the wheels were set in motion to extricate him from his contract. His UK label Big Cat – with whom he’d had the longer relationship – was swallowed by Virgin and then dismantled. He’s since regained the rights to his Big Cat catalogue, but this dual loss was a major disappointment. JG took his already prodigious drink and chemical habits to new levels, falling into a spiral of debauchery from which he didn’t emerge for several years.

I next saw Foetus at the Royal Festival Hall in 2000. I gasped the moment I saw him: his Elvis-style lamé suit hung shapelessly off his skeletal frame; dull dark-shadowed eyes staring out over hollow cheekbones. He looked old and frail and tired – and very, very unwell.

JGT: Yes, it got pretty scary and eventually I straightened out. Some chunks of the '90s are a bit of a blur.

Need Machine, FLOW, 2001

AS: When you came out of your “lost years,” you were much altered. To me you look younger in 2010 than you did in 2001. How long did it take you to get your health back?

JGT: Yes, I became quite distorted mentally and physically. I guess it didn’t take that long to regain my health comparatively; a little longer to regain my brain. I feel much better and fitter now than I did when I was 30. My musical output was comparatively small in the 1990s and I’m making up for it now. My work has really accelerated.

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 July 2010 21:34  


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