2001 Legends Interview: JG Thirlwell

Beneath the numerous identities revolving around the entity known as Foetus, you will find an individual every bit as eccentric and flagrant as the music he produces. This individual is Jim Thirlwell, emerging again with his latest record Flow and preparing for the unveiling of its companion “overflow” album Blow. Jim answers some questions about these and other upcoming projects in this interview.

Daryl Litts: You recently did a live stream of DJ Otefsu at Bar d’O…will you be doing this more as Otefsu or for the Foetus live shows?

Jim Thirlwell: I daresay there will be; depends on when someone sets it up. There have been some requests. If they are going to happen, they’ll be posted on the Foetus website (www.foetus.org). You can also join a mailing list to be notified of these events. The otefsu streaming was set up by the cat from the In Hi-Fi night, Jack Fetterman, who recorded, edited and set up the streaming at luxuriamusic.com. I’d like to have an archive of esoteric performances scattered around so if anyone’s interested in setting this up they can contact me via the website. Acting as a DJ has been very interesting and I do enjoy it, especially when I’ve had glimpses of the “power” of it. What I play when I DJ and immerse myself in a lot of the time, has infected some of the new Steroid Maximus in a crime/spy tip. You’ve got to understand that, for DJ Otefsu, time stops at about 1975! What DJ otefsu does is not “mixology” or “turntablism;” he’s a selector who creates a vibe and atmosphere, but a specific world in which I am immersed. It’s kind of a weird comfortable/dangerous fantasy.

DL: Who will be in the Foetus lineup when you start touring the US in June?

JT: Vinny Signorelli: drums (Unsane), Brian Emrich: bass (Congo Norvell, Family of God), Paul Bonomo: keys (bedroom productions), Howard Pyle: guitar (Frodus), J.G.T.: maestro de disastro. By the end of the last tour Foetus live had, I felt, become a rock band with samples tacked on – granted, a huge pummeling type of cybernetic Stooges-esque monolith with up to three guitars at once! When you try to translate the sounds that I use to make up melodies into, say, guitar and bass, it inherently “dumbs it down” and a lot of the nuance, timbres and microtonal “offness” is regularized and conventionalized. As a result, the samples are a lot more prominent this time around and the other instruments frame them. The drums also trigger samples occasionally. However, the songs are still radically rethought for the line up of instrumentation, and also for my own interest! Some of the material, which was never written with the thought of how I’d perform it live, turns out surprising even me!

FoetusDL: I read that you recently performed at a tribute to Serge Gainesbourg. What song did you perform?

JT: Harley Davidson, originally recorded by Brigitte Bardot.

DL: What made you choose to play that? Has Gainsbourg’s work influenced any of your music?

JT: I was asked if I would perform at the night, which was set up by my friends Jedi at The Cooler and Pasul Walfisch of Botanica/Firewater. I really can’t say whom or what has influenced my work, it’s a kind of facile question, as really I find my artistic life to be one long exquisite corpse with my mind alternating between a sponge and a sieve. Though I have always loved Brigitte Bardot’s interpretations and collaborations with Gainsbourg and he was quite a character. I’m more haunted by B.B. than S.G.

DL: Flow was recently released in the US, but it’s been out a little longer in Europe…have you gotten any response to it so far?

JT: Yeah and it’s very favorable.

DL: Are you planning on releasing a video for it? I heard something about The Need Machine.

FoetusJT: Yes a video was shot for The Need Machine, directed by Genice Carroll, and it’s up on the website; I’m in talks about the possibility of a video for the song Cirrhosis of the Heart. We’ll see where that leads…

DL: Can you give any hints as to what will be appearing on the companion album Blow besides all of the other band appearances?

JT: The people remixing tracks are: Amon Tobin, Kid 606, Panacea, Franz Treichler (Young Gods), FM Einheit, DJ Food, Charlie Clouser (NIN), Pan Sonic, Jay Wasco (Johnny Skilsaw), Sean Beavan, Ursula 1000, Phylr and also J.G. Thirlwell. I expected them to bring something to the table I might not think of in the first place! They were chosen people whose work I respect and I’d be intrigued as to what they may bring to the project; some of them I knew beforehand, some of which I introduced myself to in the course of the project. They are all people whose work I respect and everyone has been most gracious! If there’s room I’m considering also slipping in my cover version of The The’s Shrunken Man, which came out on an EP of interpretations last year (very quietly) through Nothing Records. I’ll be staging a performance in November in Los Angeles bringing together many of the remixers for an electronic/DJ/multimedia event to celebrate Blow.

DL: Can you explain your new project Manorexia?

JT: The Manorexia album is called Volvox Turbo, which is J.G. Thirlwell under a new name. Manorexia is very dark, brooding and evocative, if not scary. One of the mandates behind Manorexia is spontaneity and going with an instinctive feel; the sound is more spacious. It started conception as an ambient album, then mutated into a kind of sly aural insidious psychological drama; it was also a reaction against the music biz and being under scrutiny, and was just exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. This I’m just selling through the website (www.foetus.org) and maybe on tour too. It will be out at the end of this month, May 2001. I also hope to realize a live Manorexia performance next summer in Los Angeles.

DL: Why will it only be released through foetus.org?

JT: It’s a new business model I’m trying to start where I bypass these lame record companies who would bury you alive and steal you blind, and maybe even make money on each release…what a concept!

DL: I know Steroid Maximus is getting revived. What’s happening with that?

JT: I’m halfway through an album entitled Ectopia, which may be out in 2002.

Source: Legends Magazine (July?) 2001, by Daryl Litts