Thirsty Ear’s Nick Cucci Tries to Uncover The Man Beneath The Myth – Thirlwell, Ruin, or Foetus?

What’s in a name? Right, you’ve all heard that before. But, when the name comes in so many forms, with so many intentions, you have to take notice. And there is a vast collection of monikers–Foetus Uber Frisco, Foetus Under Glass, Foetus Art Terrorism, Foetus in Your Bed, Phillip & His Foetus Vibrations, You’ve Got Foetus on Your Breath, and (the most recent) Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel–so vast, in fact, that it is hard to pin down exactly who or what is behind all this. Precisely the point.

It’s designed to throw people off from having a definite focal point,” says Clint Ruin, latest Foetus spokesman. “Each name is designed for one separate thing. I mean, I’ve often used names just once, ever. And that’s because it had one specific intent. Other names which I continue using have more of a hinging effect. The longest has been You’ve Got Foetus on Your Breath, which was for two LP’s. So far, I’ve only done one LP with Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel. But at themoment, that’s the whole hinging thing. It’s the main thing. My next LP is coming out under that name. I think it’s going to be a lot more durable than You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath, which got assimilated into people’s consciousness and therefore became slightly redundant. Whereas Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel is something I could feel happy with using longer.”

Jim Thirwell is the man behind the Foetus family, Clint Ruin, Frank Want and the Self Immolation label (through which he releases his Foetus musical statements). It’s all him. Hole, the recent domestic release of his LP and assorted previously released 12″ tracks on Ze/PVC, is under Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel and is actually the third LP. The first being Deaf, the second Ache–both on Self Immolation. Both nearly impossible to get. “There were only two thousand of the first and fifteen hundred of the second. They’re all gone, which I like. I like the fact that you can’t catch up with my past.” The look in Ruin’s eye tells you he means this.

Thirwell’s past is difficult to catch up with. He left his native Melbourne, Australia for London. “In Melbourne I felt constricted, because in Australia, due to the small population and geographical aspects, you get to a certain point and you can’t do anything more ’cause there’s only so many people there to assimilate what you’re doing. Whereas in England, you’ve got a smaller population concentrated in a smaller area. And for some mythical reason, it is still viewed as the centerpoint of the music business. I wasn’t particularly sure I knew what I wanted to do, all I knew was that I wanted to get out of Australia. I felt it was culturally barren. So I moved to London–to get away, start a new life, erase everything I had done previously for the last eighteen years.”

That was in 1978. He started his Self Immolation label in 1980 as “an outlet for works of aggression, insight and inspiration, and in reaction to the general malaise, mediocrity and poison rife in the music scene,” stated the press release.

The two LP’s, Deaf and Ache, were released through that label under the You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath name. Not a rich man to begin with and not bound for the pop charts, Thirwell had to support himself with a series of jobs, including one in a record shop. There he met Some Bizarre chieftan, Stevo. Stevo eventually signed Jim’s Ruin and Foetus and gave him unlimited studio time to create Hole: “At that point I was pretty much bankrupt. I didn’t want to be on his label initially because, ideologically, we seemed to be opposed about our approaches. I refuse to conform to what people want to hear. My philosophy is to wait for people to come around to my way of thinking. Where Stevo, at that point in time, was the other way around. I think he has since modified. Some Bizarre has changed a lot. We went through extensive arguments and he asked me to be on Some Bizarre. After pacing around the room for some time, I decided to go with him. But it’s been great and our relationship has been very good.”

“When it’s one man against the world, I shouldn’t have so much time to complain. I found there was a hole in my spiritual parachute After I jumped from the astral plain. No escape from four stone slimy walls I built up While trying to knock them down Death warrant Death watch Death rattle Death’s door Ain’t I died enough before?” (“Cold Day In Hell”)

Working 24-36 hour graveyard shifts in the studio to make Hole, Ruin, who writes, performs and produces all Foetus material, is most comfortable in the studio. Be it for his own work or collaborations with others. Workaholic? “I guess so. I was ruminating on that the other day because I’ve had an enforced layoff over the past couple of weeks. Trying to relax and I can’t relax. All I do is pace and think about the next project. I’m impossible about relaxing. I love the draining experience that the studio gives me. If I’m sitting around, it builds up. So, this energy I can drench out of myself in the studio. It’s a purgative experience, a cathartic experience.”

Collaborations are another side to Clint Ruin. The list is long and imressive: Einsturzende Neubauten, The Immaculate Consumptive (with Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch and Marc Almond), The The’s Matt Johnson, Coil, Nurse With Wound, Sonic Youth to name a few. His latest is Wiseblood, a project with Roli Mosimann of the Swans. It’s a mad romp called “Motorslug.” “I think It’s quite tame by comparison,” he rebutts. “It’s got a sick edge to it, but it’s very focused. It’s influenced by America a lot. Car obsession, hot rod obsession, death obsession.” He continues: “As far as working with others, it’s only with people who interest me musically or idea-wise. I certainly don’t do it for the money. There’s a lot of ideas that I come up with in the studio which I can’t necessarily implement on any of the Foetus family productions, so I can possibly implement them on someone else’s recordings. To be in the studio, for me, is a constant learning process. I love being in there.”

“I’m on a one way trip down Satan Place Is this purgatory necessary? I’m wearing a suit of tar and feathers The fallen angel they could never bury I’m Knock Knock Knock Knockin’ on Death’s door Do you remember where you’ve seen this cadaver before? This swan-song’s floating on a watery grave Blow Your Brains Out Baby!!!” (“Satan Place”)

Again, where he is most comfortable, Clint can be found in the studio these days. He has been performing a new set live, and he is up to his elbows with new material for LP number four (it will be #2 for Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, if you’re keeping track). The title for now is Nail, scheduled for an August release through Self-Immolation/Some Bizarre. Nail may change, as everything surrounding this man seems to do. Purposely, of course. He’ll be leaving for London in June to finish it off, along with two new 12″ tracks.

Watch out for Jim/Clint/Foetus. His passive, good-natured exterior hide his poisonously humorous inside, full of images, setting and characters that will keep you up at night. Seriously.

Source: Rockpool of 20 May 1985, Nick Cucci.

(Original text including mis-spellings left intact)