An Interview With… Well, Pick Your Nom de Musique
Foetus for Dancing
Frank Want a.k.a. J.G. Thirlwell a.k.a. Clint Ruin a.k.a Aaron Fuchs a.k.a. Foetus Under Glass a.k.a. The Foetus Vibrations a.k.a. Foetus Over Frisco a.k.a. You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath a.k.a. Foetus In Bed a.k.a. Foetus Uber Alles a.k.a Foetus Art Terrorism a.k.a. Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel … is a whale of a nice guy. And lo, ‘though there’s a whole fuckin’ raft of nice guys listed in “The Book of Names,” who’d of thunk that this genteel musician would be amongst ’em? Surely not I. Having waded through the thick swamp of wax that has dribbled profusely from Clint’s creative organ [Cute metaphor Byron! – ED.), this innocent listener was thoroughly convinced that the author of said work could hardly a pleasant fellow be.
His recent LP, Hole (Jem Records), whose domestic release will feature seven bonus tracks, is a case in point. While it teems with some of the most viciously wonderful lyrics I’ve ever glommed, it’s aural presence is possessed of a funk/concrete ker-UNCH that filters up through parodic Beach Boys chorusing only to plummet back into a churning Faustian fire-hole, where all the gods grovel at the wolf-tit marked “BEAT.” Hole is the vinyl equivalant to drawing a lipsticked mouth around the edge of a sucking chest wound, and I was fully expecting Clint to be the sort of lad whose idea of fun is filling his shorts with insects before leaving the house for a hot date.
Duty beckoned loudly, however, so I took out a quarter and rang him up at the oh-so-posh Spanish Harlem flat in which he is currently shacked up with Ms. Lydia Lunch. As we talked at length about his history, he quite unexpectedly turned out to be as pleasant a Joe as you’d ever wish to shoot the breeze with.
He’s from Melbourne, Australia.
“I used to tell evervone I was from San Francisco, but I don’t think they’d believe me anymore.”
He was not involved in music production whilst still a card-carrying Antipodean.
“The scene always seemed too redolent of the whole fart-in-bucket syndrome. It was completely self-referential and inward-looking. The communications out of there are pretty bad.”
He moved to London toward the end of 1978 and got involved with the band Prag Vec.
“I played with them for about ten months and it was really disgusting. After that I decided I was never working with anyone again.”
So he didn’t, for a while.
“In an attempt to do everything that my previous group hadn’t, I started Self Immolation Records. A lot of the experimenting I did on the early records was fairly unsuccessful, but it took that process of experimenting to come up with what I’m doing now. Also, I was on a very limited budget. Since the first six records (two albums, two EP’s, two singles) were totally self-financed, that meant I was working in pretty shitty studios, so I didn’t have much of a grasp on the technology. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years. I always thought the stuff was fantastic when I was doing it, even though listening to my old records now, it becomes apparent that several of them are primarily transitional works.
“On Ache, for example – the second album – there are a few ideas that are starting to become more focused, but everything’s still far too sprawling. That particular record was also hurt by the fact that I decided I didn’t want any bass on it. Consequently, you never get that sudden surge that only bass can provide. I think the new stuff is a lot more satisfying; the music and lyrics are more fully married and they’re truly wrenched from my soul. It’s pretty hard stuff.
“I’ve been working on a new LP for the last couple of months that’s far superior to Hole. It’s not quite so amphetamine-inspired, but it still has a rather epic quality. That may be because it’s a sort of concept album, in that much of the material deals with different aspects of oppression – from personal oppression to self oppression to social oppression. And the actual sound is a lot huger too.”
As if Hole was, somehow, not huge enough. Anyhow, that horrifier will be released sometime this year under the Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel moniker. Or, just maybe, under one of its nominal kith.
“I use the different names when I’ve got things I want to express that I don’t feel fit into the category I’ve ascribed to my main nom de musique. For example, Foetus Art Terrorism was very specific to the sound and the lyrical content of the Calamity Crush 12-inch. For right now, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel is the main project. You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath was phased out of that role because it seemed that people had come to terms with the name as an abstract idea connoting a certain type of music. It’s difficult for a band’s name to retain its initial impact, whereas the first time you hear it it can conjure up certain images.
“I never feel any great need to keep a certain name.
“I’m basically just interested in doing music. I don’t have the organizational capability to de-emphasize the artist as an individual as much as somebody like the Residents. But hopefully I can keep people from putting their finger too firmly on one focal point.”
And it seems this loopy anonymity may be important to the art of “moving units” as well.
“I was in a record shop one day and I picked up this record that had an interesting front cover, looked at the back, and there was this bunch of fat hippies pictured there. It could have been a great record, but after I saw them I didn’t want to know what it was like. If I had my picture on my records someone might pick one up and say, ‘Oh, he’s got that hairstyle. I know what this sounds like.’ I like to de-focus myself to a certain extent.”
This is not the primary reason that Clint’s live performances have been so limited, however.
“Basically, I’m just not interested in working extensively with other people. There are too many problems, especially in a live context. But I do enjoy getting involved with collaborators now and then. I did some live dates with Soft Cell where I’d come out for their encore and perform Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’ with Marc and I swapping lead vocals. That was pretty wild. I play and record with all types of instruments, so I don’t feel bad about performing with only backing tapes.”
The above mentioned Marc Almond was also a member of Clint’s thus far best-known performing group – the Immaculate Consumptive, a foursome that included Lydia Lunch and Nick Cave. The soundtrack for this cuddly quartet’s short tour of the eastern U.S. was also supplied by Clint’s magnetic musical support group, and though these bedfellows might seem a bit unlikely, our man says otherwise.
“I’d known Nick vaguely since my Melbourne days. I saw the Boys Next Door (Cave’s pre-Birthday Party combo) more than any other band I’ve ever seen, and though in those days I was just friendly enough with him to say ‘Hello,’ I got to know him a lot better when the Birthday Party first moved to England. Lydia and I met through them, I even roomed with Mick Harvey (B.P. again) for a couple of years. Marc and I hooked up through the label Some Bizarre, after I had decided to sign with them. The only thing that was really difficult with that was co-ordinating four massive egos.”
In his off-hours, Clint assembled Einsturzende Neubauten’s greatest-hits package Strategies Against Architecture, co-wrote ‘A Million Manias” for Marc Almond’s Marc & the Mambas LP, contributed percussion to the Swans’ Cop LP, co-performed Lydia’s track on the new Giorno Poetry Systems sampler, did a noise/percussives tour with her called “Stinkfist,” (which played at the Lingerie as a night of “Swelter,” aided and abetted by Cliff Martinez’ drumming), and basically did more things than you can shake a stick at in concord with more people than you’d care to shout down.
“I suppose there is some sort of a network there, consisting of people who know each other and have, at some point, worked with each other. But they’re not necessarily of a type. Some work that Roli Mosimann from the Swans and I have done together, such as Wise-Blood, was conceived specifically as a sick, macho, violent music, and I think it succeeded. On the other hand, I did a little bit of work with Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice, and it’s very different.”
Other recent collaborations include work with the Virgin Prunes, Matt Johnson, and Psychic TV-offshoot Coil, among others. If there’s any pattern discernible, I don’t see it. Clint refers to it as “just bits and pieces” (and, as it’s his behavior we’re discussing, I guess we’ll have to take his word for it). By the time you see this he’ll have played L.A.’s Anti-Club as part of a small West Coast tour. He’ll use his tapes, his hips and he says that the focus will be on his new output. What I figure this means is that he’s gonna do his best to fill some room with the sorta noise that flashes through the brains of acid-fed vultures as they realize you’re dry-gulching them in a Marine-base-disco-cum-gas chamber. It’s a loud, creepy, gnashing sound set to a horrendously large BEAT.
So if you get a chance to, chance it. Just check your butt at the door as you leave. You may have ground it off entirely. Or somethin’.
Source: LA Weekly of 15-21 March 1985, Byron Coley.
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