RATBRAIN OF THE WEEK: Fred Vermorel (moviemaker and Sex Pistols biographer) for his stunning performance during Throbbing Gristle's gig at last Thursday's Benefit in Camden for the London Film Maker's Co-Op. The trouble started when a boozy Raincoats entourage (which included The Slits' Palmolive) failed to content themselves with yelling abuse and found it necessary to aim a projectile at the stage and to upturn one of the band's monitors. There were resultant scuffles, one involving a security guard and female audience member (drunk). Valiant Jon Savage of Sounds tried to smooth some of this out without much success. Clincher came when the prime offender hit a security guard and attacked the equipment, which caused Gristle's Genesis P-Orridge to take a (perfectly justified) swing at her with his bass guitar. Then Vermorel (normally a rather quiet individual it would seem) felt compelled to throw a chair at the group, managing to bang Sounds person Sandy Robertson on the head with it in passing. It's rumoured that Freddy has replaced Throbbing Gristle with The Normal as electronics contributors to his ' Millions Like Us' flick so maybe that had something to do with it. TG played for free by the way.
One final point, we can't wait for Industrial Records to issue their bootleg of death threats recorded on Genesis P-Orridge's home answer-phone.
Sounds, 15 July 1978
"There was a girl at the London Film-Makers Co-op, we did a benefit for them, and she had a spontaneous orgasm. Her friend told me. This girl next to her suddenly started wriggling and moaning and saying it was fantastic and explained what had happened. I was trying desperately to find out exactly at what point in the concert it had happened because we keep a cassette of easch gig and we could have worked out exactly what sounds made it happen. We could have followed her round the street playing the cassette..."
Genesis P-Orridge, Talk Talk Vol.2, No.10, 1980
Throbbing Gristle - Film Makers Co-op, London
PLAY GAMES with people's minds and you risk having something very nasty on your hands, as Throbbing Gristle probably know only too well. I could be very cool and say they're simply reiterating the blinding machine scream of early Kraftwerk (circa 'Stratovarius'), literally bombarding the audience with painful, frightening noise. But there's something else going on, something that isn't very nice.
Coincidence or intent. They play beneath a red, black and white logo that is just one step removed from the sort of runic symbols used by various right wing organisations. Their PA is two 'H'-shaped speakers on either side of the stage; HH, 88, Column 88 - the interpretation is tenuous, but it is there. And a young roadie dressed completely in black 'guards' the stage. I could, of course, be wildly off course in this, or Genesis P-Orridge's infamously weird tastes could be leaning towards bizarre totalitarian chic.
Having removed the audience's inhibitions with art-porn movies (I missed the one with the guy getting castrated with a pair of scissors), they might have expected something to happen. They managed to play half an hour or so (I lost all sense of time) before the gig was truncated by violence. (See Our Man On The Floor In A Pool Of Blood for account).
Waves of stomach-churning noise, intestinal gurgles of oscillator and phased percussive synthesiser rhythm filled the room. It was a hurricane of loud, inhuman and disorientating noise roaring around the 'eye' of the stage. Intimidating bassy growls vibrated the room and wild vocalese and spine-snapping guitar flailed out from the stage.
It took on the atmosphere of some Fluxus 'happening' rather than the usual passive musical recital. A sensory overload of awesome noise that places the audience in a very volatile situation. The fracas appears to have stemmed from a couple of stupid morons who couldn't handle Throbbing Gristle's provocative music. But even the group seemed loathe to accept the situation their music forced the audience into. As the room began to resemble a furniture warehouse being attacked by poltergeists, they stopped playing with one final disgusted scream of white noise.
Stunning but dangerous music.
John Gill, Sounds, 15 July 1978
I am writing to rectify a few "tenuous" interpretation published in Sounds July 15 in a review by John Gill of the free benefit concert by Throbbing Gristle at the London Film-Makers Co-op. He words the second paragraph of his review very carefully, with the skill of a professional propagandist, you never SAY something, you just suggest it forcibly and it tends to be absorbed as true by a majority of readers. Plus Mr. Gill gets an added bonus of the old process MUD STICKS. Once suggestion is made it has to be endlessly revoked, therefore more than "tenuous interpretations" are needed to justify irresponsible slurs.
John Gill carefully constructs the idea that TG are a neo-fascist group simply because their PA on this occasion was stacked in such a way that about one third of it COULD, to a paranoid mind, be seen to be H-shaped. This was then deliberately linked with Column 88. It is VERY important that TG be allowed to point out that they have absolutely no political stance of any kind. Throbbing Gristle are apolitical. They are not left wing, or right wing or liberal. They are four individuals creating music that they like when the opportunity arises.
TG had their speakers stacked on bass bins to get the best possible sound technically, almost all PA systems are stacked in two symmetrical piles to give even balance. If one side happened to be in part H shaped obviously it would have to have a similar twin on the other side of the stage. If we had enough money to but 4x12 cabinets we would, it's less loading and more efficient. We should appreciate Mr. Gill thinking about the following points too.
TG have always said that they reflect people back at themselves: most reviews of TG tend to more revealing of the writer than of TG. In this case John Gill's current phobia has been revealed. However, his review was irresponsible in linking his fears with ASSUMED interpretations of TG's motives. This unthinking hysteria disguised as analysis is even apparent when he refers to "Our Man On The Floor In A Pool Of Blood". One girl had a bruised arm, one of TG had a bruised foot and a broken bone in their hand. There are no excuses for a DANGEROUS inaccuracy when Mr. Gill does not have to repair the damage. He admits to sensory overload, he seems unable to realise that TG did exactly what they profess to do, they withdrew the veils from his subconscious.
- TG have NO roadies at all. The figure in black was a young boy from Gillingham who hitched to London as a fan. He liked the music that's all.
- Does every group using H & H amplification now have to consider trading in their gear to avoid tenuous suggestions of supporting Column 88?
- Would John Gill think a rock musician reaching up to the top of his stack to get a glass of beer was "tenuously" doing a nazi salute?
- Has anyone counted how many fans, groups, passers-by like wearing black? The "runic" symbol referred to is actually taken directly from GLC High Voltage danger sign. It means danger, electricity. This sign is used universally even in Poland and other socialist countries.
- TG played for exactly 57 minutes. John Gill missed the fact that they played 5 minutes in total darkness, then played LIVE soundtrack to the film from behind the screen for 12 minutes. As all their sets are timed by digital clock there can be no question of this.
- The Film-Makers Co-Op specialises in making available ALTERNATIVE visions of life on film. It collects, shows, distributes alternative information which is certainly NOT in the interests of any totalitarian movement. Censorship is a constant factor in all totalitarian control systems, left & right wing.
- Puritanism, an anti-sexual attitude, is also a constant factor in totalitarianism so where would a "porn-art2 movie fit in?
Journalists think about the effects of unbridled opinion. TG are abrasive & uncompromising in their music. We must also say that we LIKED very much the actual description of the music that night, not many groups are called "stunning". Finally, let John Gill sum up for himself. TG play music, John Gill writes, both have responsibilities. "Play games with people's minds and you risk having something very nasty on your hands". Your readership is equally as sensitive as our audience.
Long live the Industrialists!
David Brooks, Throbbing Gristle & Industrial Records
John Gill says: "The 'interpretations' were 'tenuous' because I was a complete stranger to TG's music and was asked to review them as such. They were personal interpretations of an apparent Power symbolism rather than insinuations of political affiliation, and were qualified as such in the text. No, I doubt very much TG are neo-fascist, but there visual imagery does seem to connect on some innocuous level. And the music? My subconscious lies unveiled - for which my thanks.
Sounds, 25 August 1978