SCRAPING FOETUS OFF THE FLOOR
I was introduced vinylly to “Scraping Foetus off the Wheel” in early 1983. A late bloomer I might add. Chris D. x-Flesheater was visiting Boston and he kept playing tapes of all of this different music he had with him over the radio at WERS and I taped the show, and everytime I listened to it I kept only hearing “I’m on a death knell in heavenly hell-“…”Street of Shame.” Then an issue of NME came out in 1984. Pictured on the cover with loads of hair was Jim. It was a black and white and red cover. I think. I barely remember. It’s stuffed away in my mother’s attic so it’s not readily available. At the time I was working in an indy record store and everyday I would wait and wonder if this record was ever going to come out etc… I left my job in July of ’84 and travelled west to Los Angeles and then onto San Francisco. I had a job interview at Rough Trade one day and when I walked in all drugged out and not feeling very well I could hardly believe my eyes. Here it is, September 1984 and the record album Hole is sitting on the shelf here. I immediately grabbed it, payed for it and left. Fuck the interview. I hate working in retail anyway. I went home and put it on the turntable. I though everybody in the whole fucking world should listen to this album and like it as well! With songs like “I’ll Meet You in Poland Baby,” “Sickman,” “Street of Shame,” and my fav, “Hot Horse,” and just the whole fucking record is great!!!
Jim Thirlwell was born and raised (yawn) in Australia. Myth has it that he’s from London, San Francisco, and possibly Memphis, where he and his friend Nick grew up in some mansion together, but I doubt that one’s true. He resides in New York most of the time with his girlfriend Lydia Lunch and uses a variety of different names most of which include, “Foetus,” with the exception of his group Wiseblood, for which he collaborates with former Swan Roli Mosiman.
BANG!: You’re from Australia right?
BANG!: But didn’t you say you were from San Francisco at one time?
Foetus: Yeah, but that was part of the mythology – that I created. I created this complex mythology to take the emphasis away from myself because I didn’t want to be [something about] one person. [Sorry my tape recorder sucks, and let it be known from here on out if there was something I didn’t understand, instead of misquoting Mr. Thirlwell, I simply put the word muffled in these [ ].]
BANG!: Your records weren’t available here until 2 or 3 years ago, were they?
Foetus: Well, the first six records that I did were a limited edition kind of thing on my own label. I couldn’t afford to press up a lot of them, no one bought my records anyway. Then when I got together with Some Bizarre I got much better promotion and basically got the records out there. The first six records are out of print.
BANG!: What were they?
Foetus: Ache and Deaf by You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath, an LP; a 12″ by Foetus Uber Frisco called Custom Built For Capitalism; and three 7″‘s, Wash It All Off, by You’ve Got Frisco On Your Breath, O.K.F.M., by Foetus Under Glass, and Tell Me, What Is The Bane Of Your Life by Phillip And His Foetus Vibrations.
BANG!: Wow, and it’s all you?
BANG!: You play all the instruments? So you’re very talented?
BANG! & Foetus: [muffled sound and laughter].
BANG!: What about, I know when you were doing Hole, you thought you were going to die in the Studio? I thought you were really going to kill yourself.
Foetus: I thought I was too.
BANG!: Where do you record and do all that stuff?
Foetus: Mostly in London, various studios in London, depending on what I need, various studios there, working with this one engineer called Warne Livesy, who I’ve been with the last couple of years and I also do some recording in New York depending what the project is. The Wiseblood stuff is recorded in New York, and the Foetus stuff in London.
BANG!: Wait, how many records do you have out?
Foetus: About, um, I’ve released about a dozen records.
BANG!: Oh Yeah?
Foetus: …and then there are all these other projects that I’ve done, about another 25 records, I’ve appeared on some.
BANG!: Really? What stuff?
Foctus: Uh, I produced an LP and a 12″ for Coil, I was on about five or six records with Nurse With Wound, loads of different collaborations and stuff with Marc Almond, um…
BANG!: Stuff with Einsturzende Neubauten?
Foetus: Oh yeah I compiled this record with them, Strategies Against Architecture, um what else, quite a few things.
BANG!: Did you ever work with Nick Cave?
Foetus: Well I wrote a song with him “Wings Off Flies.”
BANG!: Oh you wrote that with him?
BANG!: Oh that’s really funny because there’s a song on Nail that I thought sounds like that song.
Foetus: The song “Sickman” [from Hole] is about him.
BANG!: Yeah, that’s a great song.
BANG!: Do you do all the orchestrations and stuff like that? How do you do all that?
Foetus: Fairlight computer.
BANG!: [Having no idea the fuck one is] Oh really?
Foetus: …and an emulator and various live percussion, various trickery, a lot of trickery.
BANG!: Do you like doing live performances?
BANG!: Because people don’t understand that you… like why don’t you want to work with a band and stuff?
Foetus: Well, I just don’t know enough people that I would like to work with and I hate the idea of rehearsing and carrying amplifiers, it’s so uncivilized. And it’s much more mobile to work like this and it’s true to myself as well because I created every noise anyway, so why should I have a band try to simulate what I spent weeks doing in the studio. In that sort of environment I’d rather take, I’d rather divorce the whole process so, you know, it’s a separate thing and just use the live format as a way of presenting myself on a one-to-one level with the audience or whatever it is, presented as more of a visual phenomena.
BANG!: Yeah, see some people don’t understand it, and they think they’re being ripped off. And they think you’re a big scam.
BANG!: Yeah, last night [at the Rat].
BANG!: And I don’t know what they expect, I mean it’s you doing it all.
Foetus: Well I don’t owe them anything anyway.
BANG!: People were saying, “Oh we better see them now before they break up,” and I’m like, yeah, unless he breaks up with himself. [laughter]
BANG!: So you do soundtracks too, huh?
Foetus: Well I guess.
BANG!: How did you get involved with Richard? [Richard Kern, NY underground filmmaker and co-writer of The Right Side of My Brain, with Lydia Lunch, which also stars Miss Lunch, Henry Rollins, Jim Foetus, and the totally rad Norman Westberg!]
Foetus: Lydia knew him. The stuff I’ve done with him hasn’t been specifically done… I mean the stuff I’ve done with him hasn’t necessarily been designed specifically for those films. Seems like more, like I had the material and he had a lot of different sources from Penderecki to Henry Mancini to sound effect records and a lot of playing things off each other than like a real track [muffle].
BANG!: How did you get involved with being in the movie?
Foetus: Someone had to do the scene, someone had to do the dirty work. [You’ll have to rent, or better yet, buy, The Right Side of My Brain to see exactly what scene we are talking about. It’s rated X!.] [Death Trip Films, P.O.Box 1322, NYC 10009.]
BANG!: Do you have any new records coming out?
Foetus: Yeah, I’m working on six different records at the moment.
BANG!: [shocked] SIX?!?!?!
BANG!: Of your own?
Foetus: Two Foetus twelve inches, one by Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel and one by The Foetus All-Nude Review and they should be out by the end of the year. Another record with Lydia called Stinkfist which I’m going to be mixing next week I think. And Wiseblood is working on a new record called Dirtdish and it should be out by late summer and also the 12″ by Wiseblood called Stumbo and this other collaboration in England which will be finished hopefully by the end of the year. They should all be out by August or September, I guess.
BANG!: Is Lydia singing on that record?
Foetus: Yeah, all percussion with vocals. We recorded it in L.A.
BANG!: Oh yeah, just now when you were there?
[They were in L.A. filming Lydia’s soon to be released film called Fingered. Another done by Richard Kern. This one is rated XXX, see it fool.]
…with Cliff Martinez playing from, he used to be in 13.13, he’s in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and DJ Bonebrake from X, and the drummer from Fear, this other guy called Neal, who all have a drum corp and this other guy, a friend of ours, called Tom Sigor. Yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s tribal.
BANG!: Are you releasing these records on Homestead?
Foetus: No, I mean, Homestead… I haven’t been too impressed by the handling of their situation. I mean their distribution has been good and their promotion has been good but ya know I just can’t deal with… they take on too many releases and can’t devote enough time to each one [muffle]. I’ll be fishing around the states.
BANG!: Did you have a problem getting Nail out?
Foetus: No, the only problem which happens everytime is trying to coordinate the release so it comes out simultaneously around the world, it came out in like eight countries. So you have to make sure that every label is going to release it at the same time. And it was coming out toward the end of the year so then you got to really hammer down on their asses because if it gets pushed back too much, you don’t want it to be released Christmas day. Hole took about a year to come out.
BANG!: That was the one on PVC?
BANG!: It was on something else too, right?
Foetus: Ze, through JEM.
BANG!: Didn’t it come out on something before that?
Foetus: Well it was on Some Bizarre in England and then licensed to Ze here and they fucked me around. There was no simultaneous release on that and that was released around 5 months later with a different sleeve, and did no promotion whatsoever, and now deleted it. [Hear that squareheads, better get to the store now!!]
BANG!: Oh really?
Foetus: Yeah, sucks.
Foetus: Nail has just come out on CD.
BANG!: Oh it did, it must sound great.
Foetus: You’ll have to buy a CD player now.
BANG!: Yeah [Rocco, will you buy me one?]
BANG!: Are you interested in acting at all?
Foetus: Yeah, but no one asks me.
BANG!: What kind of role would you do?
Foetus: I’d play myself.
BANG!: And what’s that? [What a stupid fucking question, I’m not even going to try and decipher the answer, you’ll just have to use your imagination.]
BANG!: Do you ever think about doing a video or something like that?
Foetus: Hopefully I’ll be doing a live video. I’ve got a few performances, the last few NY performances on tape and the only thing I’ve done is this TV show in England called “The Tube.” I also did this thing from “Pigdom Come” from Nail with using stock footage from this silent movie from the ’20’s or something, from this mad scientist who sets Paris on fire, and that looked really good so I’d like to have some access to some stock stuff for intercutting as well and hopefully come up with a half hour feature video show.
BANG!: Do you listen to music?
Foetus: [bored with question] Yeah.
BANG!: What do you like, what do you listen to?
Foetus: Jefferson Starship, Falco, Duran Duran, that kind of stuff.
BANG!: Are you being serious?
BANG!: You’re not going to tell me.
Foetus: I like some music, people ask me that all the time, and I just say the same thing. Why do people want to know what records I listen to? You know? What sox I wear, you know?
BANG!: What’s a good one.
BANG!: What’s your favorite color? WHAT IS YOUR DREAM DATE?
Foetus: My dream date?
BANG!: Dream date?
Foetus: I don’t have one.
Source: Bang! magazine, 1986, Holly Ha Ha.