1999 Ben Didler Interview JG Thirlwell

Foetus Interview by Ben Didier, ca. 1999

Of all the sense an interpretive mind can make of what Foetus stands for, the least has got to be with the song “English Faggot”. Through his lyrics Jim Thirlwell outlines his distaste for a gay individual and caps the song off with a death threat. His posters from the “Gash” era depict a cartoon of a woman show casing her silicone-laden breasts, the very name Foetus along with all it’s vivid monickers… all of this contributes to how easy it is to come up with misinterpretations of his work. But amidst all the warped topics and scenery his music stands alone. He is undoubtedly an innovative musician with a great deal of originality and influence. This is an interview from last year that I put a lot of time into, and although I didn’t get a lot of time put out in return it’s still an interesting slice of his take on some things, however brief and impersonal. Unfortunately the better questions surrounding more in-depth topics like religion, censorship, some of my interpretations of his lyrics and imagery, and his distant past were all removed due to his lack of responsiveness.

What first inspired you to form Foetus?

Jim: To make music I wanted to hear, realize my vision and succeed or fail totally on my own merits.

Would you say the success is prevalent?

Jim: In terms of realizing my vision, yes.

Do you find a lot of freedom in having so many different manifestations and side-projects, instead of just lumping all of your collaborations into one band?

Jim: Of course, not every project has the same intention and it should be perceived with different criteria.

Is that when a new side-project evolves, when your intentions change?

Jim: There are no rules to my “logic”, only I know it and make those choices.

In the live Pigface video, “Glitch”, as the credits rolled up I noticed both the names Jim Thirlwell and an alias of yours, Clint Ruin. Why the duality?

Jim: I’ve done guest vocals with them several times live and we played some shows in Florida together. My appearances with them have been unrehearsed and chaotic, fairly insane.

Sounds like a typical Pigface show… do you enjoy chaos in creativity?

Jim: Controlled chaos… although it’s an oxymoron.

Is there any chance of future involvement with Pigface?

Jim: I have no idea, it’s up to Martin [Atkins] to ask me.

Is that how your inclusion in the past was arranged?

Jim: Yes, I didn’t volunteer.

Videos don’t seem to be a primary interest with Foetus considering the amount available. Is there any reason for this?

Jim: Videos are expensive especially if they never get played. I don’t mind ’em though they can put a finite interpretation on the work.

Were you doing the trademark Foetus cover-art before the music started, or did it begin to accompany the albums?

Jim: I started evolving graphic stylizations way back before art school, which I dropped out of, and they continue to evolve and devolve.

What motivated you to drop out?

Jim: I moved to the other side of the world to start a new life.

Was this just a spontaneous thing?

Jim: Yes, I decided the night before.

So what might one find JG Thilrwell reading?

Jim: Biography, pornography and the TV guide.

They seem to be getting more and more similar… When do you think “Bust” will be completed?

Jim: It’ll be done when it’s done, it has no set deadline. Before 2000.

Are there any contributing artists on this album like “Gash”?

Jim: Yes, there’ll be some but I’m not yet divulging the special guests.

What is happening with your label?

Jim: The label is Self Immolation, which is a company, and part of Ectopic Enterprises, which is my corporation. An ectopic pregnancy is where the foetus attaches itself to the womb and is potentially fatal. It’s the blanket corporation for all my releases plus other endeavours. My studio is also called Self Immolation studios.

Something I’ve been wondering about… on the end of the lyric sheet for “Nail” there are notes from “Helsinki Jail”, were you really writing this stuff in jail? I hear it was for jay-walking with Lydia Lunch…

Jim: Yes, indeed I wrote that in jail. I was there for two-and-a-half days immediately after finishing “Nail”. As to why, none of your beeswax.

I heard you did some work on the new En Esch solo album?

Jim: We messed around with something, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen.

I also heard you would be the vocalist on the next Chrome record?

Jim: I’ll be vocalising on a couple of songs on a future Chrome album, yes.

What is it like when you’re recording Foetus?

Jim: Intense and exhausting and sometimes exhilarating.

What is happening with the Foetus “Book” project? When do you think people can hope to see it out?

Jim: This is on hold indefinitely, probably for a long time. New material is my number one priority.