Throbbing Gristle: What A Day. (Boing Boing Video shoot notes)

(Snapshots from the BBV Throbbing Gristle shoot by Chris Cooper).

Earlier this week, Boing Boing Video and Richard Metzger shot an interview with art-damage/industrial music godfathers Throbbing Gristle in Los Angeles. They're on a limited tour of the USA, with a show tonight in San Francisco, and dates scheduled in Chicago and Brooklyn (info on dates, venues, and tickets here).

The resulting BB Video is yet to come, but I wanted to share some notes, photos, and ephemera from the experience.

Metzger is a super-mega-otaku fan of TG, and covered their legacy extensively through Disinfo publications and video releases. My knowledge is nowhere near as comprehensive as his (he's even stumped TG members with knowledge of early songs they've forgotten!). But I have been fascinated with them since I was a teenager, when a friend in a punk squat loaned me a beer-stained copy of V. Vale's 1983 RE/Search book about industrial culture.

When I phoned TG's manager Paul Smith on Monday to ask for permission to shoot for Boing Boing Video, I explained that I believed TG were the cultural ancestors for much of the "mutant" culture we explore here on Boing Boing. Sappy but sincere. Without their early experiments in nihilistic machine song we would not have "industrial music." The projects that split off when TG first disbanded -- Chris And Cosey, Coil, Psychic TV -- only expanded their cultural footprint. Countless acts owe them a huge genetic debt -- everyone from Einsturzende Neubauten to Skinny Puppy to NIN to Aphex Twin to Radiohead to every other act you're likely to type in the comments.

COUM Transmissions, the experimental performance art collective which preceded Throbbing Gristle, was responsible for legendary shock-events so extreme, they'd make Tubgirl, Goatse, and the Two Girls with One Cup blush.

The TG show we witnessed (and shot for BBV) this week reflects less of that shock, anger, and taboo-bombing, and was almost entirely instrumental. More moody, doom-y, Faustian. But the physically overwhelming sounds "took the meat off the bones," as Metzger put it. And it was fucking amazing.

Tuesday night's performance was a reprise of a live, improvised soundtrack TG composed for the 1980 Derek Jarman film In the Shadow of the Sun (you can watch a snip of the original version here).

"These people are the wreckers of civilisation", said conservative Member of Parliment Nicholas Fairbairn back in 1976. He was talking about Throbbing Gristle. During the BBV interview, we talked about what it's like to go from being "wreckers" of culture to being celebrated as cultural heroes. We talked about Twitter and Flickr. Gen asked what the difference is between blogs and websites, and announced s/he'd recently acquired her first Blackberry.

Ruth has some snapshots of the shoot and the soundcheck here. TG member Chris Carter is on Twitter here, and his photos are on Flickr here -- don't miss this incredible photoset of historic "lost and found" TG photos. TG member Cosey Fanni Tutti is on Twitter here. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is here. And Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson is here.

Some archival interviews I've been reading and re-reading, as we edit the interview: This one with Cosey, about her art and her explorations of the sex trade (for her, one and the same). And this amazing interview purportedly from 1978, by an Australian reporter for NME, which was apparently never published in NME. This article in Artlurker by Federico Nessi. And this review of a box set in Artforum.

Thee Boing Boing Video episode(s) are "coum-ing" soon.

(Special thanks to Richard Metzger, to Boing Boing Video's production crew, and friends who helped along the way: Ehrich Blackhound, Ruth Waytz, Chris Cooper, Jason Louv, Suzan Jones, and Greg Chong, to name a few. Very special thanks to Paul Smith, and to the members of Throbbing Gristle).

Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle: Illustration of Twitter/Flickr/BoingBoing recursive meta-bombing


  1. Outstanding! Thanks for this Xeni! Can’t wait to see this. I just wish they were coming closer to to here. I’d love to see them live. I’m sad I’m gonna miss them on this tour. Leonard Cohen isn’t playing anywhere close, either, for that matter (speaking of folks playing coachella I’d like to see…). Sigh.

  2. And after that COUM Transmissions performance the audience asked what they called it and Gen replied “The Aristocrats!”

  3. @#3 Anonymous

    Best… comment… EVER…

    Too bad it’s an anonymous post, that one’s an AWARD WINNER! LMFAO, as the kids like to say.

  4. Is it bad that I kinda wanna see video of one of the COUM Transmissions performances? OK not kind of – really want to see, it sounds too interesting.

    Surely there is footage of this somewhere?

  5. DAMN! SO COOL!!!

    What the hell is Cosi messing with in front of the laptop, though?

    Can’t wait to see the video|!

  6. Post nº 3: GENIUS!! I laughed out loud (for real!).

    This article is great, I’m looking forward to see the video.

  7. #3 anonymous, holy hamburger lady, you win the gold-plated unicorn award for lulz. wow. outstanding.

    #8 anonymous, I have been trawling the internets and torrents all week. I asked Metzger about it, too. There are some still b/w slide scans in the Disinformation INTERVIEWS book, but they’re small. I am dying to see larger images (color?) and film, who knows if it exists? There are accounts of exactly what actions the performance involved, at the links in this post. I mean, wow.

    #9 Chang, that is a stringed electrical instrument.

    All: video’s gonna be epic. This is a big deal for us. And TG was very, very accommodating. Pretty amazing day.

  8. in my record store there’s an original Industrial Records pressing of TG’s third and final report for $50 which i am saving my meagre 17 year old income for because i am a good little noise kid

  9. omFg this was ROFLMAO hilarious.

    I hope the code on the SUBMIT button was random and not getting a feed from the State-mandated breathalyzer on my laptop.

    Because that would be surveillance and wrong.

  10. There is a Coum Transmissions film called After Cease To Exist. About half of it is a black screen and the other half is film of a castration (faked). I’ve got it on VHS as an Nth degree copy ( in other words, almost unwatchable).
    (BlueKephra, having forgotten the log-in)

  11. Great article.
    And today I just heard about a gig PTV are going to be playing in London at a tiny underground (literally) venue which fits about 100 people max. Sold out already, of course, DAMMIT!

    Ah… what-a-day…what-a-day…

  12. Wow. How synchronous. I just finished attending a TG Conference this afternoon, and I listened to TG in the vehicle as I drove away! (the former TG being Texas Guaranteed student loan corporation, the latter being the incomparable Throbbing Gristle).

    Now time will become a loop, and I’ll have to do it over again?

  13. I had the terrifying pleasure of interviewing them (Chris and Cosey) for my college radio station WMCN in 1985, or was it 86? Anyway, I was scared out of my mind. I asked Cosey about this story (the link reg. the infamous show) on air, and she totally denied the whole thing? Why do you think that is? No, I am serious. Has anyone else heard contradicting stories or was she just BS’ing me?

  14. I’ve got loads of interviews available of TG on KFJC available at They are from 1979 and more recent. We’re also hosting another 24 hour TG special on 23 Mayhem at

    Still looking for any other recent materials by TG for the show. Say hello if you have anything to share.

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