Interview with Peter (Sleazy) Christopherson

DIRT. T.G. do aim themselves at a rock audience, why?

SLEAZY. Yes well, that is true to a certain extent and it's not something of which I altogether approve. However, having said that, it is true that if you make certain, not what I call compromises, but if you do certain things that are likely to incline you towards a rock market, simply because of the way the system operates, or the prejudices people have, or whatever it is, you do reach a lot more people and er, within the group there is a strong point of view and I think it's a reasonable one, that reaching more people and showing more people something or other, what ever it is that we do, is a worthwhile thing, not because it sells more records, 'cause we don't er, we don't take any of the profits of the records anyway, we just plough it back in, but simply because it's like an educational, or an enlightening, or an endarkening, whatever process. I'm not altogether sure that I totally one hundred percent agree with this point of view, because a lot of people, um, like there's a percentage of the population that's interesting and a percentage of the population that's boring, which means to say that to reach the percentage of the population that's interesting, you've got to go through a lot of shit to get past the boring ones and it's a question of how much shit you go through, it's how much, you know, is worth the people you reach. At the moment we're still in an expansive, er, expanding point of view. It's more difficult for us in a way, in a sense, trying to work within the rock framework because even selling, our records selling out and everything like that, we simply don't have the resources to function efficiently as a rock band, nor do we have the time 'cause three of us have our work that we do ourselves, um, that's another thorny topic. Working outside Gristle, it's a question of how much one is dedicated to ones day job kinda thing. That's like a classic rock syndrome, when the semi-professional band give up their day jobs to do it full time. It's one of the things we find humorous I think, definitely, is the parallels between what we're doing and a kinda normal rock group, despite the huge gulf that exists between them and us in terms of what we're actually doing and what we're intending I hope to do, so in a way we like playing on those rock numbers because it just shows how silly it all is and how kinda funny and so on. I think Gen in particular enjoys taking a poke at the rock thing, working at Hipgnosis I've become so familiar with it and I know such a lot about the business and the people actually in the business that I think it's lost a bit of the star dust. I wouldn't say that it has any star dust for him at all but I think the genre still has a certain um, he has a certain enjoyment in the genre, more so than I do. There is a point of view, like I was saying earlier, that we should concentrate much more on the work and not making any kind of compromises with the rock format, but then you wouldn't reach so many people and we're still getting letters from new, interesting people and that's pretty important.

DIRT. What are your feelings about the new album? [AXIS note: DoA]

SLEAZY. I was very satisfied with it. It was done in a bit of a rush, for various personal reasons, but I don't think that made it any less good. I think often the kind of thing we do works better when one has a deadline and when one has certain constraints upon the availability of information, equipment, or whatever it might be and I think that probably adds to the end thing. When we were doing it I don't think we made any compromises, using that word again, with what we felt we should do, we simply did what we wanted and I was very pleased that that happened and that it came out the way it did. Immediately after we'd done it I was slightly amazed 'cause it was so different from the first album, or I felt it was different anyway. I think that's a very positive thing. Of course, as soon as you've done one album, you want to make another 'cause of all the things you didn't have time to say on that one. That's one of the things about albums is that you can't get more than about 40 minutes on them and they're a tremendous hassle to make, not make in terms of recording, but to get the pressing done and things like that, which is the reason I guess in the long run why, well no it's not in fact, but it's one of the reasons why people have record companies, to pay someone to do the hassle, but the amount of stuff one has to go through if you want to have a contract with a record company is altogether for us, not worth it. It might be worth it for other people, but for us it's not, at the moment, which is not to say that we might not change, 'cause change is what it's all about…….

…….One of the things about Gristle I think, is that we're pretty careful to make sure that we're not lured by the kinda star thing. In fact if there's one single mistake that most bands make, it is their fundamental and underneath, their desire to become rock stars, the same as all the other people, no matter how much they might claim that they don't. The Devos and the Pere Ubu's of this world really want to be rock stars and that's not necessarily a bad thing if that is your intent, if you say 'I'm going to be a rock star and I'm going to do it by making groovy catchy records' there's nothing the matter with making groovy catchy records, but if you do it at the same time as you're saying you're doing something that's socially important and meaningful, then that's trades description act as far as I'm concerned. Obviously it's not that black and white but people wanting to make money … actually I think that having a day job is not the bad thing that it is, because it makes one financially independent. I think if all the people who are trying to set up bands and do things that were interesting for people, I mean this is probably a facile thing to say, but if they were all financially independent then it would stop them doing things which they think would sell, because people are normally wrong, I mean I'm certainly wrong if I tried to do something that I thought would be a hit record; I'm sure I'd fail miserably. I think we've only had the success that we've had because we've done things not on that premise but on the premise of just doing something that we find is interesting and fun and worthwhile, whereas a lot of bands do things that they think will be popular, in fact the vast majority of bands as far as I can see, and consequently a lot of them are bound to fail. I mean if you've got to sell ten thousand records in order to pay off your mortgage or to pay off your alimony or to pay for your drug habit, or to pay the rent, or whatever it might be, then you're immediately in a panic situation, you've got to find the bread from somewhere and consequently it's the beginning of the slippery slope, sooner or later you either find yourself on skid-row or you'll find yourself in a mansion in Sussex, depending on chance and talent and circumstances and stuff like that, promotion.

DIRT. Do you use things like T.V. in the tapes you use within the band?

SLEAZY. Well like they say in the advertisements for the video machines, 'recording of T.V. programmes may contravene some copyrights' etc, etc, and of course they may well, so we don't use T.V. things on anything that we sell, you may find fragments of T.V. in live gigs, one thing we do like to do is to have live T.V. because it's another thing, another kind of aspect that brings the event of a live gig, kind of just a bit further. When people go to a gig they expect to be taken away from it whereas we would try and do the reverse. The gig we did at the Crypt, Chris has got one of these little portable T.V. cassette machines that you can get now and I had this video which has got a receiver built into it and another T.V., so we've got potentially three direct line T.V. sound sources which is very good. Unfortunately a lot of the places one does gig are well under ground which makes reception a bit tricky. The observant listener will have noticed in the gig we did at the Crypt various bits of the service from the Albert Hall to commemorate the whatever it is, Poppy Day, and various other things.

DIRT. I didn't notice.

SLEAZY. That's one of the reasons we want to do the tapes of the live gigs, makes it worthwhile, there's such a lot going on, I mean frequently I can't tell what's going on and I'm working right there on the stage, just sort of, if it sounds good, do it. Within the bounds of the law and stuff like that, T.V. has a lot of information that is not readily available elsewhere and er, much more interesting information than kinda fragments of commercials and stuff like that.

DIRT. How do you see your personal development within T.G. and T.G.'s development as a whole?

SLEAZY. I wish I knew! I think that's the exciting thing, I mean we have short term plans and I have short term er, pieces of equipment that I keep meaning to build, there's a computer that I bought in February and I haven't had time to build it 'cause I haven't had time. Well that's my excuse anyway, and I'm sticking to it! So one has the kind of short term projects, in terms of a long term thing vis a vis with Gristle, I've simply no idea where it's gonna go. I think I personally would like to move to a situation where if we were actually producing records in vinyl the production was the easier of them, because it's very different at the moment one continually has to ring the pressing plant to make sure they're on time and that they have checked the third set of stampers to make sure that they're not screwed up and all that kind of boring boring, and I would like not to do that but that's not to say that I'm gonna stop doing it because it's necessary at the moment in order to get the records out, you know Gen or whoever it is that's doing it, so I would like to move to a situation where that's more automatic and less of a hassle, and I would also like to move to this cassette situation where there might be a possibility for there to be a situation as it were, I'm repeating myself, where any kind of material that one felt was in any way interesting however obscure, or however specialised is a better word than obscure in fact, one could simply have a master copy of it in the office and an entry in a catalogue as it were and if anybody wanted to buy it they could write in and we could run one off. In this way you wouldn't need any money for stock whatsoever and potentially anybody who thought they had something to say could send in their cassette and we could send them a bit of paper saying we'd just charge them the costs of producing it or whatever and they can have the rest of the money, in this way anyone could make a recording of their music and have it distributed and if they wanted to advertise it they could do that, if they didn't they wouldn't have to and the hold over the distribution of sound would be broken.

Because I've used so many cassettes in Gristle, I mean like we counted up the number of machines the whole of us as a group were using at the last gig and it was something ridiculous, eighteen or twenty. So I've come to see cassettes as a very useful method of carrying information. Of course, now with the advent of micro-processors and stuff like that, they use cassettes for carrying absolutely raw computer information which is a nice kind of double level thing. So I view a blank cassette a bit like a blank exercise book. I really get off on blank books actually, I think they're really nice because of all the things you can write in them, things that after one persons written them, another person can read. I don't know if you've, I'm sure you have, you go to someone's house and they've got one of those sort of hard back books with just blank white pages in, completely full of notes and sketches and little drawings and stuff like that and it's really amazing to read it, because you see totally that persons world and I see cassettes in much the same way actually. Also you can play cassettes in your car and walking about and stuff like that. So all one has lost in terms of visual information and the quality of the object (records) I think one gains in terms of playing time, convenience and a whole lot of other things. In terms of production they're so much easier to produce than records.

DIRT. Could you tell me about your involvement with Casualties Union? I heard that on the last exercise your role was to be dead on arrival.

SLEAZY. That was at an exercise in Crystal Palace where we did a train crash for the local emergency services which went very well. Appeared on Blue Peter and various things like that. I really enjoy it actually, quite apart from any kind of use it might be said to be to the local… the reason we do it in fact is for the Red Cross and Saint John's Ambulance and everybody like emergency services to practice on so they can do what they have to do if it came to the real thing. It's a very bona fide organisation of people from all walks of life, most of them are very straight people, which is nice. But I really enjoy it because it gives me a buzz to know that I'm to all intents and purposes an injured person in their eyes. For example in this thing we did at Crystal Palace we were all in coaches that they had to cut their way into through the roof and strap people onto stretchers then lift them out on ropes through the roof and down the side of the train, which was pretty scary but it was amazing. It's more my sort of COUM kind of thing because Gristle is totally orientated to sound and towards sound as an artifice I guess, or something, as information, whereas Gen, Cosey and I, and Chris to a lesser extent, are most centrally interested in all kinds of aspects of the relationships I guess, between people's behaviour in the real world and something else, the way they see the world, which is not necessarily the same thing at all. Obviously I think I derive much more interest and much more information from being in a simulated accident than I would from a real one, obviously accidents are not intrinsically to give people experiences or information, they happen by chance, in theory, but the experience of people going through an accident is an important one, obviously, and it's a significant one in their lives and if everybody went through accidents without in any way getting damaged or hurt, it would be possible for them to a certain extent anyway, perceive some aspect of that experience without dying or being maimed or anything like that, which I think is very interesting.

Source: Dirt 3, December 1978

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