• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

JG Thirlwell: Hide and Seek - Page 5

E-mail Print PDF
Article Index
JG Thirlwell: Hide and Seek
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
All Pages


Steroid Maximus live at Celebrate Brooklyn 2010 by Ryan Muir













JG Thirlwell decided that, unusually, he wasn't going to make really bad music after cleaning up his act. While the other bands I loved at the time peaked in the '90s, Foetus just got better and better. FLOW, BLOW, LOVE, VEIN, DAMP and LIMB followed, along with releases by his chamber ensemble project Manorexia, Baby Zizanie (with Jim Coleman), and nightclub slots as DJ Otefsu (which he claimed was some dialect from Ghana meaning “flame-haired prince”, but is actually just an anagram of “Foetus”). He also revisited his all-instrumental incarnation, Steroid Maximus.

Steroid Maximus - Chain Reaction: Ectopia, 2002

AS: You went back and rescored Steroid Maximus and Manorexia with live instruments. Would you ever go back and rescore Foetus songs with real brass and strings?

JGT: I rearranged the whole LOVE album for that instrumentation for a performance at the Donafestival in Krems in 2005. We also did a version of “Hammer Falls” during that set, as well as an overture that used elements of “Theme from Pigdom Come”, “I'll Meet You in Poland Baby,” and “Mortgage.” I would love to do the new album HIDE with a large ensemble or orchestra, and there are a few songs, like “Poland,” that would be great to do symphonically. It's possible I'd like to rescore more material. But it's expensive to assemble large ensembles like that so it has to be underwritten or part of a festival. I do want to write for an orchestra.

JGT: Somehow I always had it in mind that I wanted to rework Manorexia for string quartet and percussion though it took a little while to come about. Those pieces adapt very well to that instrumentation and I enjoy writing for strings. That led me to adding a string quartet to the LEMURbots when I did the commission for League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots.

Rehearsing the LEMUR Robosonic Eclectic concert, 2007

The mystery is why the music he once told me was “totally accessible” is not more popular. To me it’s perfect, but other people describe it as unsettling or just “too much” – the sheer compositional density is overwhelming. He tried to rein it in on 2005’s LOVE, but found the need to give himself “permission to be bombastic.” He can do gloriously epic arrangements and even minimalism, but he’s unlikely to write any hits for Miley Cyrus. Luckily Thirlwell doesn’t have to pay the rent by making bland, commercial pop or staging endless greatest hits tours.

The past decade has seen him scoring cartoon series The Venture Bros and working on commissions for Kronos Quartet, Bang On A Can, and the LEMUR robot orchestra, fully entering the world of being a respected composer. One such endeavor - a Kronos Quartet commission called Eremikophobia (“fear of deserts”) - involved JG flying out to Oman to record the “singing sands” – the natural music of the sand tumbling down the dunes. It's as though, having run out of samplers to program and pots and pans to bang on, he’s now playing the world itself. That’s in addition to art projects like the freq_out sound installations and recent dabbles in sculpture. Thirlwell likes to keep one foot in the future and one in the Stone Age musically; I wonder if that’s true of his art.

AS: Do you think that we'll see you using watercolors and charcoal any time soon?

JGT: Not soon, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

AS: Do you sit down and write, say, a Manorexia album, or do you just write something and then decide which project to assign it to?

JGT: A bit of both. Sometimes I will come up with something that is obvious for a project but I have had pieces intended as instrumentals and turned into Foetus songs. I have had Manorexia pieces migrate into other pieces and a couple of Foetus tracks have surfaced in instrumental forms here and there.

JGT: On the Manorexia album I am working on, I work with the intention that the pieces will be on that album, but something may creep up that turns into something else. I am going to be mixing a version of the album in surround sound, as well as stereo, so on certain pieces that is a consideration – where the instrumentation and sound events will be panned, where they will appear in the sonic field. That has grown out of doing multi channel installation work. The previous Manorexia album on Tzadik (The Mesopelagic Waters) consisted of the chamber versions of selections from the first two Manorexia albums, which I have been playing live with the ensemble for a couple of years. This new one is only me in the studio, although later I will be adapting some of the pieces for the ensemble too.

Manorexia – Armadillo Stance, 2006: from The Mesopelagic Waters

AS: Is the reason that you haven't done any video game soundtracks simply that you haven't been asked?

JGT: The remix of “Quick Fix” was used on some game, I don’t remember what. [Mirror’s Edge?] Apart from that I haven’t been asked to score video games.

AS: Do you find it easy to compose on demand?

JGT: I don't like the pressure of composing to deadlines so I work a long way in advance. Once I've broken the back of something – i.e. come up with the concept – the rest falls into place much more easily. I always work on several projects simultaneously and go back and forth between them, so each project is in a different point of completion. When I am working on a season of The Venture Bros, I work a long way in advance, scoring to the animatic. After a couple of episodes I might break from that to work on an album or remix or something on location. Then I return to that for a couple of episodes and so on, until by the end of the season I will be right on top of the deadline. It enables me to keep multiple plates spinning in the air at once. I have a fear of drying up or coming to a creative impasse if I’m right on top of things but I’m a bit more relaxed about it now. I have found that the more I do (at once), the more I can do. I’m a time management fiend like that, though that doesn’t mean that part of the creative process isn’t procrastinating, or looking in the fridge to see if there is anything new in there since I last looked 20 minutes ago.

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 July 2010 21:34  


Donate towards our web hosting bill!
		at the iTunes store