Throbbing Gristle

active between 1975 and 1981; Comeback 2004–2012

Biography

1975 Formation of the band, which emerged from the performance group COUM Transmissions, or rather existed for some years in parallel with it. First gigs under the name Throbbing Gristle in July 1976. Launch of the Industrial Records label and recording sessions in a studio belonging to the group in Hackney, London (known as Death Factory). Record releases and live performances until 1981. Last concert of that period staged in San Francisco in May 1981.

2004–2012

Group reforms in 2004. Live performances in Europe and the USA until 2010. New vinyl recordings and releases. In 2010, after Genesis P-Orridge leaves and before the death of Peter »Sleazy« Christopherson, the band goes by the name of X-TG (last X-TG albums: Desertshore/The Final Report, Faet Narok, 2012).

Members of the band

Genesis P-Orridge, from 2002: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

born 1950 as Neil Andrew Megson in Manchester, UK

Cosey Fanni Tutti

born 1951 as Christine Carol Newby in Hull, UK

Chris Carter

born 1953 in London

Peter Christopherson

born 1955 in Leeds, UK; died 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand

Member of the design studio Hipgnosis (and later of Greenback Films), together with Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell – in the 1970s and 1980s, Hipgnosis created some of the most famous LP covers in the history of pop.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

COUM Transmissions, the group that preceded Throbbing Gristle, was formed in the English city of Hull by the artists Genesis P-Orridge (Neil Megson) and John Shapeero as a performance collective, which existed until 1978 in varying forms. Originally influenced by Fluxus, actionism, and happenings, the group, which soon added Cosey Fanni Tutti (Christine Newby) and other members in a somewhat fluctuating lineup, staged actions that combined radical improvisation with acts that were sexually transgressive or even outright pornographic. To begin with, the group was active in the international mail art scene but soon shifted its emphasis to outrageous theatrical performances, which often included nudity and sexual acts that violated conventional norms. These actions, with titles like Marcel Duchamp’s Next Work, Couming of Age, and Couming of Youth, often contain paramusical elements that were typically anarchistic in nature, where every means of producing sound seemed acceptable. In 1976 the collective achieved nationwide celebrity with its exhibition Prostitution at the ICA in London, part of which consisted of a series of photographic works that Cosey Fanni Tutti had produced for sex magazines. (In the 1970s Cosey Fanni Tutti also appeared in porn films and frequently posed naked for the underground photo scene.)

Music

Music

In 1975, while COUM Transmissions was still active – with graphic designer and photographer Peter »Sleazy« Christopherson having also become a member in 1974 – the group joined with the electronic musician Chris Carter. Under the name Throbbing Gristle (slang for an erect penis) the foursome developed a confrontational musical style based on harsh machine sounds and threatening swathes of noise, for which the term Industrial Music was soon coined. »Music from the Death Factory,« another branding idea adopted by the group, made reference to extreme subjective experiences and to the abysmal catastrophes of the twentieth century. These are an evocative element of their aggressive wall-of-sound onslaughts, like the acting out of sexual violence (at their early live concerts they often showed the transgressive experimental film After Cease to Exist by COUM Transmissions). After four albums and a string of singles ranging from Zyklon B Zombie (1978) to Discipline (1981), the band broke up in 1981 owing to internal differences. In 2004 the project was brought to life again, new records were released, and in a series of concerts the group established their status as pioneers of Industrial Music, until their final breakup in 2010.

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Author: Christian Höller

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Throbbing Gristle, Band

Throbbing Gristle

Live at Oundle School, 1980, with Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge, 59:55 min

Film: Stan Bingo (Daniel Landin), Peter Christopherson, Courtesy: Industrial Records; Mute; Cabinet Gallery, London

On March 16, 1980, as part of their concert tour, Throbbing Gristle play a gig in the small town of Oundle in the English county of Northamptonshire. A music teacher at the privately run »public school« there – to whom the group has been recommended as having a kinship with John Cage – books them to play in front of the boarders, who range in age from eight to sixteen. At first, everything seems very orderly: Cosey Fanni Tutti’s cornet fanfares and restrained blasts of ambient sound do not suggest anything too awful. But gradually the sound becomes more intense, as do the songs and texts set to music, »Subhuman,« »Something Came over Me,« »The World Is a War Film« – followed by the over-the-top performance of the typical TG »Wall of Sound.« Meanwhile the school choir joined in with »England Is a Toilet.« It wouldn’t have taken much more to blow the roof off the school that day. This is roughly what the group had always imagined as a genuine »Couming of Youth,« only that at the time COUM Transmissions didn’t have the proper musical resources to achieve it.

Author:

Christian Höller