Throbbing Gristle's Gristleizer audio effects unit

 Gristleizer Gristleizerfront
Seen above is an original Gristleizer, the custom audio effects unit that helped define the industrial sound of Throbbing Gristle (TG) in the late 1970s. TG co-founder Chris Carter made the device in 1977 based on a design printed in Practical Electronics magazine and sold in kit form by Phonosonics. (Cloned Analog Gear posted a PDF of the article.) Apparently, Carter is a quintessential maker. From an interview with him at Planet Origo:
When I was about 12 years old I was given a "Young Scientist" electronics kit that included instructions and parts to build a basic radio, a small amp, a flashing lamp and so on. Which I really enjoyed making. I then subscribed to Practical Electronics magazine and spent my pocket money buying electronic components to build the monthly projects. By the late sixties I was building synth circuits such as oscillators, filters, amps etc. from scratch....

When I joined TG I built an effect unit called a Gristleizer for each of us. This (now infamous) box of tricks consisted of a smallish metal case containing an LFO, VCF, VCA, a pre-amp, various front panel controls and LEDs. Certain settings on the Gristleizers were very distinctive and it's often regarded as imparting one of TG's trademark sounds. We used them on almost everything: synth, guitar, bass, violin, tapes, rhythms and of course on Genesis (P-Orridge's) voice. The beauty of the Gristleizers was that its range of sounds was so extreme, which also meant it could sound completely different depending on the instrument. The sounds included slow modulated filtering, a metallic ring-modulation effect , clipped and fuzzed distortion and tremolo. At the time there was no other battery powered effect unit capable of such a wide and weird range of sounds. When TG finished I was constantly being asked by musicians to build more Gristleizers but it was something I only did for a few friends . Ultimately I built about 10 units in total but I know there are at least two (just about) working
Chris Carter's Gristleizer (, From Which the Gristleizer Came (Matrixsynth), Interview: Chris Carter (Planet Origo)


  1. Nah…for this sort of thing I much prefer the grotty individuality of analog boxes stuffed with bits of hardware connected by wires and blobs of solder over the uniform abstraction of software emulation. A box where you have to clean out the switches and pots to get rid of static.

  2. Okay…I was just in Shanghai telling my friend about Throbbing Gristle, I get back to Japan and this is the first thing I see. My life is weird.

  3. There’s something to be said-or sad? about Analog delays such as tape loops or spring reverb+delay being replaced by “most” chips or DSP And yeah- that was a subtly geekenbait pun about the SAD1024 device. I also often pun about psychoacoustic claims being often psycho acoustic more than “real” So? Say what one will about the differences between DSP and Analog. Some deride them as being irrational human artifacts – artifacts affected by “knowing” what’s in the black box. I suspect the proof lies in what we like. And the effect of a performer liking the sound in THEIR monitor. Ask for example- Neil Young.

  4. Old live TG is getting harder and harder to find. I just found out they did a reunion thing after I saw this article.

    I never heard of them until 1984, and I believe Gen was doing Psychic TV then if not already. Somebody I knew had a beta tape of a TG show. There were stacks and stacks of boxes everywhere, and wires covering everything. The entire stage was wires and boxes. I didn’t know anything about them. Cosey was very interesting to watch, but the others appeared to be on large amounts of heroin (I’m not saying they were, they just looked it).

    Within a few months after I saw that tape I had a couple dozen TG bootlegs. There was just nothing like the crazy sound they made when they were “on.” A lot of people in New Orleans began imitating Chris’s sound techniques. It would totally be safe to say that Carter was not only a pioneer of the hardware of electronic sound, he helped touch off the revolution that became postindustrial dance. And yet so few people know anything about TG.

    I met Gen in 1988 at the Grand Canyon. He was wearing a large leather overcoat which barely hid his nudity underneath it. There was a 16 penny nail stuck through the end of his penis. When I tried to speak to him he looked at me as if I were a leper or an alien. Orridge is a strange guy.

  5. iWood – dirty pots and pans notwithstanding, the TG box is all op-amps and FETs. Very linear until they clip hard. There’s not much to drift, saturate, or overdrive creatively.

    That is such an elegant little box, either the TG or the pedal version, and you can’t do a perfect digital simulation of the literally infinite ways to set a couple of analog knobs. Then again, by that logic you can never get them exactly the same way twice when performing either.

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