SPINonline Conference With Foetus — Jim Thirlwell
Wednesday, April 26, 1995
SPINaps : You guys can start firing away with questions for Foetus….Punk pioneer. Noise maker. Drinking man.
OnlineHost : SCRAPING FOETUS OFF THE SPINONLINE LOUNGE
OnlineHost : Born in Australia, Jim Thirlwell moved to London in the late 1970’s where he became a part of the no wave / noise scene of bands such as Throbbing Gristle and SPK. Thirlwell moved to New York City in the early 80’s, and confined himself to ceaseless work in the isolation of his studio. From this rose Foetus, the title under which he would release many of his 32 recordings over the next 14 years.
Thirlwell challenged the idea of the pop icon by taking on different aliases for different projects and then used them to attack one another in interviews. (This is the same kind of controlled, innovative schizophrenia we strive for in the SPINonline message boards.)
“Gash,” the first Foetus album in seven years, drags the listener from the upbeat jazziness of big band to painful shrieks of industrial noise, all the while narrated with the gravely, beaten down song voice of Jim Thirlwell.
SPINaps : So let’s get goin with some questions…Jim, what’s up.
Jim Foetus : My pants. A tent in my pants
SPINaps : How does it feel to be here in the SPIN office.
Jim Foetus : Mighty sexy…I’m such a loser… no one wants me….
Question : Why did you bury the vocals so far down on “Gash”?
Jim Foetus : I don’t, basically, let’s see….ah, they’re at the exact right level for my taste in the mix. It’s a delicate balance, and believe me I analysed it, and any louder would dissipate the power of the music and that’s why there’s a lyric sheet. …and if you don’t like it eat me.
SPINaps : Everyone should know that we have Tracie Matthews typing for Jim tonight. Tracie is the Asst. Research Editor at SPIN. She is also Foetus’ favorite bar tendress. At the Mars Bar on 2nd Ave and E.1st St. Tracie isn’t the fastest typist…But she’s a fine bar tender.
Question : Who are your favorite bands / musicians? Are they the ones you’ve done remixes / productions for?
Jim Foetus : Casper Brotzmann, HALCION, ULTRA BIDE, Jon Spencer Blues, Explosion, COP SHOOT COP, GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, SPITBALL, CASPER BROTZMANN!!!! Penderecki, Nancy Van der Vate, Einsturzende Neubaten… Jesus Lizard, Cop Shoot Cop, Triphammer, Helios Creed, Can, the Residents, Kraftwerk, Cheap Trick, Slade, Gary Glitter, Ann Mar regret.
SPINaps : Ok this could go on….. so.
Question : Here is an easy one ( a little obvious too)….tours?
Jim Foetus : etcetecetcetc July 1st. world tour for 3-4 months
SPINaps : Where in the U.S.?
Jim Foetus : everywhere! I’m spreading my seed all over the Cunt-ry!
Question : Does a complete discography exist that covers all, or at least part, of your works, and, if so, where can it be obtained?
Jim Foetus : I’m trying to sort it out so keep your butt plug firmly in place, and you’ll know about it soon…
Question : Is the sound common to “Hole”, “Nail” confined to only those albums, or are there more recordings of this type available?
Jim Foetus : I don’t think there is a common sound to Hole and Nail and I don’t think there is a common sound to any of my stuff and I’ve done over 150 records, so read it and weep…bastard!
SPINaps : Setting: Foetus is pacing the office. Smoking Marlboros.
Jim Foetus : Or, hear it and weep, bastard!
Question : On the track “Hammer Falls”, the guitar is reminiscent (sp?) of Arcwelders Criminal. Have you ever worked with them, and, if so, on what title(s)? If not, was that an influence?
Jim Foetus : I really dig Arcwelder, they they’re friends of mine and they will be on Mesomorph Enduros, Vol II.
Question : Hey Jim, i heard you did some kind of re-mix/creation with Neurosis for a Leonard Peltier Benefit album what’s the deal with that-
Jim Foetus : It will be out soon, we’re trying to get him out of jail, I basically reedited one of the cuts from 32 minutes to 3 and a half minutes and it sounds killer!
Question : Jim, what’s it like to be on a major label after all these years?
SPINaps : He’s pondering…
Jim Foetus : Like the difference between having a turd in the punchbowl…and…
SPINaps : Can you elaborate or do you just want to leave it at that.
Jim Foetus : not having a turd in the punchbowl…no, that’s it… (you gotta be poetic…)
Question : You cancelled a show in Charlotte in about 1992 or 1993. I wanted you to know that you suck for doing that.
Jim Foetus : I never knew about that show. It was my booking agent’s fault. or the club, I don’t know, I would love to have played there. I’ve never been there.
Question : I heard ‘Argyle Park’, in which you did some spoken word. Was that enjoyable, why did you do it to begin with, and do you plan to do any more such work?
Jim Foetus : I want to come and vacation at your house. The guy from argyle park is one of the producers of MTV Sports which I do the voiceovers for and he asked me to do it at the end of a session and just gave me the script and I said why not? I heard the tape, it reminds me of the intro of Diamond Dogs, I think it blows away shit like KMFDM, etc.
Question : Long ago, in an interview with Leonard Cohen, he named you as a songwriter he admired, now that you two are label-mates, will we see a collaboration?
Jim Foetus : Yeah, I’m doing a dance remix of Suzanne….
Question : Are there any projects you’ve been involved with that even a die-hard fan might not be aware? If so, what?
Jim Foetus : Tons. Latest stuff I’ve been working hasn’t come out… remixes of Mr. Self Destruct (NIN) remixes of Kick to Kill by Pop Will Eat Itself, also working on tracks on the new albums by New Kingdom and Voivod. It’s tough for myself to keep up with my own discography.
Question : How do you feel at being imitated so closely by certain artists?
Jim Foetus : It’s fine if my grandchildren keep sending the checks.
Question : What do you think of the ‘industrial’ music of today? Do you feel it has lost an integral connection to that of Throbbing Gristle and such? Would you consider NIN to truly be industrial?
Jim Foetus : Don’t… Don’t use the “I” word
Question : Ok….on “the only good christian is a dead christian”…..is that as it sounds…or…is it the only good christian is the person people call christ?….always wondered
Jim Foetus : yes
Question : Is there any plans to re-issue Deaf and Ache?
Jim Foetus : Yes, fan club only which is yet to be set up keep listening and don’t pay extortionant prices for it.
Question : Yo, Foe – if you could be a tree, which one would you be?
Jim Foetus : I’d be a stick a BIG STICK!
Question : are you pissed off that they gave trent reznor all the credit for “inventing” industrial music when you had a bigger hand in it?
Jim Foetus : go to the source … go to the sauce
Question : Jim, what do you think of coil now???
Jim Foetus : They’re good buddies.
Question : what band would you like to see disappear?
Jim Foetus : I think there should a five day waiting period to buy a guitar
Question : Do any of your acquaintances, be they musicians or otherwise, consider you a “sellout” for signing with Sony/Columbia, or have you had any other negative reaction to your signing?
Jim Foetus : Listen to my album and ask me that. It’s the most BRUTAL thing I’ve ever done, and if you still think I’m a sellout I embrace the idea of having sold my soul to Sony.
Question : Did you take the title for “Take it outside Godboy” From a Simpson’s episode, where Bart says just that to his school principal?
Jim Foetus : yes, no it’s Homer says it to Ned Flanders.
Question : Which personality are you right now?
Jim Foetus : Felix the cat, the Wonderful, wonderful cat.
Question : What is the story behind the fallout between you and Some Bizarre?
Jim Foetus : Call my lawyer.
Question : What is your proudest accomplishment, musically?
Jim Foetus : The new album.
SPINaps : Tracie (the typist/bartender) wants to know what your proudest non-musical accomplishment is…
Jim Foetus : Still being ALIVE!
Question : Are you familiar with Bill Laswell’s work like praxis or Painkiller
Jim Foetus : Yes
Question : What is your favorite Devo album and Why?
Jim Foetus : MY FAvorite DEVO stuff is before they put out their first album their first singles, I think Eno homogenized them. But, Mark Mothersbaugh rocks!
Question : What is your relationship with Lydia Lunch all about?
Jim Foetus : Best buddies and none of your business! We live in different cities, and I will love her til my dying days.
SPINaps : thinking…
Jim Foetus : But that doesn’t mean that we have to be together geographically.
Question : Will there ever be a complete or partial compilation of your vinyl material released on CD, much less a greatest hits sort of thing?
Jim Foetus : I’ve got ten CD reissues coming otu this year five on BIG CAT, five on Thirsty Ear, we accept all major credit cards.
Question : This may sound stupid, but you are the same Foetus who did “Scraping Foetus off the Wheel”, back in the later eighties, right?
Jim Foetus : Yes.
Question : Why do you call yourself foetus?
Jim Foetus : Well, my biological mother had a miscarriage and flushed me down the toilet and I was raised by the denizens of the sewer much like Romulus and Remus. Hence the name Foetus.
Question : is it true jim, that you will be working with coil on the soundtrack to the new dennis cooper movie frisk???
Jim Foetus : First I’ve heard about it.
Question : Who are you?
Jim Foetus : A walking sac of shit.
Question : what is your relationship with the Kerns?
SPINaps : Richard Kern…
Jim Foetus : **************************************666***
Question : Do you try and take your “sound” into a new direction with each new release?
Jim Foetus : I don’t try anything, I try everything.
Question : What do you think of lollapalooza?
Jim Foetus : Never been there.
Question : After not getting an oscar for Fingered, are there any more filmroles in yer future?
Jim Foetus : Got any offers.
Question : Now that Matt Johnson is rooming with you (According to Ray Gun, at least) are you two planning any future collaborations?
Jim Foetus : We’re not roomies, but we’ve been best friends for years, and now that he’s in New York, I’m saving a lot of money on my phone bill, and it’s not unlikely that something may come up, nothing solid yet, except… what is in my pants.
Question : What are your hobbies? Are you ever on America Online, and if so, can we hope for some commentary in th FOETUS folder?
Jim Foetus : The only time I went on line I got cut off after about 30 seconds.
SPINaps : (the foetus folder is located in the SPINonline Music Message Forum)
Jim Foetus : somebody up there doesn’t like me.
Question : Jim, It is very cool to interact with you like this. I’ve been a fan for many years. I don’t really have a question, just thought I’d interact with you.
Jim Foetus : Well thank you very much, likewise I’m sure.
Question : I have been an admirer of your work for the past eight years-what is your favorite city?
Jim Foetus : NYC!
Question : Would you like to hear any of your works on the radio and if so, which ones do you consider worthy of airplay?
Jim Foetus : I don’t have a radio but I think I should be on every station in every nation! I perceive my work as being very accessible. It’s just the world has taken awhile to catch up with me. Rock ON!
Question : You said in an interview that after your break w/ Lydia, that you felt fine because “…I learned all of her musical secrets, but she learned none of mine,”. What exactly did you learn?
Jim Foetus : That was a misquote.
Question : Who cuts you’re hair (nifty hair-do you got there )?
Jim Foetus : DC
Question : What is your opinion of the college radio phrnomenon?
Jim Foetus : I don’t have a radio.
Question : What’s your opinion on how hard your material is to get ahold of, even just a year after release. Do you know the prices someplaces are asking???
SPINaps : he’s thinking….
Jim Foetus : Hardcore FRUSTRATION! But there will be re-releases this year, but I’m one little boy and I don’t have a manager, and I’ve worked on almost 200 records, and I’m trying my best and DON’T GET RIPPED OFFF! I have made not a nickel on those collectors’ items that are going for $100-300 you don’t need them, there’s plenty of new stuff coming out.
Question : Are you planning on working with Trent Reznor on another project?
Jim Foetus : I just remixed MR. Self Destruct. Five versions. I don’t know how many are coming out. It’s going to be on an EP with COIL remixing another song.
Question : Jim, excuse my stupidity, but what band are you with
Jim Foetus : Warrant.
Question : What are the chances of your playing San Francisco in the near future
Jim Foetus : 100%
Question : I heard that one of your nicknames is “chickenhead”..why do they call you that??
Jim Foetus : I DON’T only Matt Johnson and Tracie call me that. Stop calling me Chicken Head!
Jim Foetus : !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*****
Question : who is your fav current rock band?
Jim Foetus : HALCION
Question : Which was better: Pulp Fiction or Natural Born Killers?
Jim Foetus : Pulp. My life is a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Question : Why so many different band / artist names? So each sound can be “identified”? Who is Clint Ruin, really?
Jim Foetus : None of your business.
Question : Why did you just go by Foetus this time, rather than Foetus Inc or Foetus Interruptus, or the myriad of other Foetus names?
Jim Foetus : The older I get, the more juvenile I get, and the more skins I shred. Also, since I do my own graphics, it fits better under the sleeve.
Question : Have you been asked to play with Mike Watt yet?
Jim Foetus : No but we got drunk together once.
Question : What do you think about the current trends in music, ie: Grunge, R&B, “alternative”, pop, etc…?
Jim Foetus : I create in a vacuum and I’m open to everything. Send me free stuff!
Question : What are you doing after this conference?
Jim Foetus : Going to see Dinosaur Jr. And meet my girlfriend.
Question : What is in your pants?
Jim Foetus : You don’t want to know. Or DO YOU? Dial 1-900-FOETUSS. The extra “S” is for exxxtra Sensuality
Question : What is your favorite food?
Jim Foetus : You
Question : Do you have any plans to further experiment with “industrial-swing” (a la Garage Monsters and Wiseblood “PTTM”) and release a full-length CD?
Jim Foetus : I am postulating on 25-30 piece big band live album with two performances only which will be recorded live and documented with a four camera shoot right after this world tour. Documenting all of my big band material and various other pieces Vegas-style, which will be a stop gap album between Gash and the next one, yet to be titled.
Question : Foetus – will you ever work with Prong again?
Jim Foetus : I haven’t been asked.
Question : Have you ever worked with Nick Cave or Blixa Bargeld? And did you like Wings of Desire?
Jim Foetus : Yes,
SPINaps : Foetus says this is a long story…he’s kind of muttering right now…we’re thinking….
Jim Foetus : It’s too complicated,
SPINaps : mutttering… thinking… “interlocking…”
Jim Foetus : Our relationship is very close. Check out Strategies Against Architecture, which is being re-released by Mute. Strategies Against Architecture by Neubauten. I put all of my money when I had no money into that.
I played sax with The Birthday Party live in Athens, Greece, and I co-wrote Wings Off Flies on the first Nick Cave album.
I played live with Neubauten, not only as a guest, but as a co-member in Kansas City when Mufti slashed his leg open on a piece of corrugated iron. Mick Harvey and Katie Beale were my roommates for a long time and the rest is private. But I think they’re the greatest…. all of them. And kisses to them all. These are two bands who have made me ascend through the ceiling.
Question : In the song “Wash” you sing of SM. Is this your interest and are you gay?
Jim Foetus : pass
Question : Do you think you’ll ever work with bands like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden?
Jim Foetus : For the time being, I’ve given up producing but I’m still remixing bands, both bands I really dig, especially Soundgarden.
Question : Who would you like to work with but have not done so yet?????
Jim Foetus : David Bowie.
Question : Jim, I loved that song you guys did awhile back. I think it was called Cherry Pie?
Jim Foetus : I remember that video had that really hot chick in it.
Question : Where is your favorite place to play in NYC?
Jim Foetus : My bedroom
Question : Any chance of releasing “I am the Warlus” ala Foetus Inc?
Jim Foetus : Wait for the CD_ROM In about a year.
Question : Where was the “hidden” photo from the “Gash” CD taken, and what was up with you?
Jim Foetus : I can’t believe you found that! I should send you a lottery ticket. I was thrown out of a peep show.
Question : Which of your albums are you most proud of?
Jim Foetus : GASH and Gondwanaland.
SPINaps : We’ll end it on that. Anything else you want to say, Jim?
Jim Foetus : bye bye BUY!
SPINaps : Also, stop by the Foetus folder in the SPIN message boards…..
SPINaps : BTW, the Poster Children are playing on May 4 at CBGB w/ Halcion and Ultra Bide…
Jim Foetus : The two finest bands in New York.
Jim Foetus : Halcion has a new 7 inch out on Twitcher Records called “YELLOW.” It will tear the top of your skull off! It is totally endorsed by Foetus! Do IT!
Note: The Foetus folder on America Online/SPINonline is now defunct.