Mark Dery remembers Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson

In 1987, Keyboard Magazine published an interview by BB pal Mark Dery with industrial music pioneer Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle and Coil. Last week, Sleazy tragically died at age 55. Over at Thought Catalog, Dery gives his "Final Report" on this late, great agent provacateur. Photo below of Sleazy (left) and Chris Carter in 1977, by Cosey, from Chris's Flickr stream:
 3205 2934370856 020C1108De Throbbing Gristle were the house band for postpunk's cultural unconscious. Ballardian and Burroughsian to the core, they made the first truly post-industrial music; unmoored from any roots in the Afro-American blues tradition that anchored Rock as We Knew It, TG made sonic statements--sound as information--that, like Ballard's Crash and Burroughs's Nova Trilogy, responded to the media landscape and the built environment around them, anatomizing the posthuman psychology and social pathologies native to these environments.

I remember interviewing (Sleazy) in the Broome Street Bar, in Soho. He was softspoken, diffident, with a coruscating intelligence and a sense of humor dry as bone dust. With his talk of sex magick and blood sacrifice, anal staircases and tape recordings of "this little kid laughing and saying things like, 'My legs are starting to sweat,'" I found him genially, discreetly depraved. Which, then as now, impressed me no end.

"This Mortal Coil: A Final Report on Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson"



  1. ” TG made sonic statements–sound as information–that, like Ballard’s Crash and Burroughs’s Nova Trilogy, responded to the media landscape and the built environment around them, anatomizing the posthuman psychology and social pathologies native to these environments.”

    God I hate it when people make up incoherent babble like this, it demeans what the man accomplished in my eyes.

    1. Welcome to the writing world of Mark Dery…the man who can turn what should be an edifying and interesting article into….incoherent babble.

    2. I strongly disagree. I find Dery’s observations perfectly comprehensible, illuminating, and rich with meaning that further interweaves my symbolic/semantic web. Just because you’re unable to parse his writing doesn’t make it babble. Consider that you may not be his intended audience, or that you may need to further re-wire your neural network to create the context necessary to receive and integrate his form of input.

      1. I find Dery’s observations perfectly comprehensible, illuminating, and rich with meaning that further interweaves my symbolic/semantic web.

        I can’t figure out if you’re serious or if you’re sarcastically parodying Dery’s writing style.

  2. Thanks for the post. I still *vividly* remember reading Dery’s original article when that article of Keyboard arrived in 1987 (I was a subscriber, still trying to wrap my teenage head around the nuts and bolts of synthesis, sampling, and electronic music). The article appeared in the upper right corner of the page, with a b/w image of a much-younger Christopherson and Balance. I seized upon it immediately – a minute oasis of genuine weirdness & danger amidst Keyboard’s usual onslaught of crap-jazz Chick Corea/Jeff Lorber commercial Valium – and promptly ran out to buy Horse Rotorvator. This in turn lead to my discovering Psychick TV, TG and an entire genealogy of avant-garde industrial earbuggery.

    As Dery notes, unearthing these veins of counter-culturalism was far more difficult in the pre-Internet era; we relied instead upon zines, magazines, and the semantic semaphore of t-shirt logos and concert posters. Publications like RE/Search, Reality Hackers (and later, Mondo 2000) were like magickal texts, allowing dedicated students to begin to glean the connections between the disparate threads of this unnamed new weirdness that was fruiting in dark corners all over the globe. And study we did, re-wiring our brains to properly perceive the patterns of the whole, to interpret the symbols which would drive us each from our mundane surroundings and out into the world, where we knew that we would – knew that we must – Find The Others.

    Thank you Mark, for illuminating one link in the golden chain of that journey. And for illuminating so many more, both before and since.


    1. What a gracious, pitch-perfect response, SFSlim. The thoughtful reader seems to be an endangered species, so thanks for your comment. You’ve captured the feel of that Lost World before the advent of the Web better than I did! (Incidentally, I’m thrilled—and not a little shocked and awed—to discover that anyone gave my KEYBOARD column, “Notes from the Underground,” more than a passing glance. Nice to know it was a conduit, at least in one instance, for the spores of some sort of intellectual panspermia.)
      I’m curious to know: do you think that the act of running to ground arcane information and obscure subcultures made us value them more, back in the day? And: was the world a better place when the cultural vanguard was small enough for a teenage kid in some bedroom community to wrap his mind around? Or are we the better for a world in which the mainstream has fragmented into so many numberless microniches that *no one* can say, “the coolest people in America are sitting RIGHT HERE AT THIS TABLE,” without irony?
      Some bloggers have taken me to task for the solipsism of the piece. But it’s important, I think, to judge it by its aspirations. My intention was to use my close encounters with Christopherson, TG, and the industrial aesthetic as a prism through which to refract the ’80s.

  3. Mark,

    I, too, vividly remember reading that interview in 1987. “Notes from the Underground” was my favorite column in Keyboard. Or, as we used to joke in the day, “Emerson & Wakeman Monthly.” ‘Course, I liked Freff as well, so I probably wasn’t a typical reader.

    I have to think things are better today – I missed so many great things living in a small town in the eighties, things I would have been able to find today. Of course, when I had a very limited budget for albums (and nobody around who had TG albums they could tape for me!) I listened to what I had more obsessively than I may otherwise have.

    1. I’m gratified to hear it. A microfandom! Who knew? The editors were broad-minded enough to give me a playpen, to their immense credit, but the bulk of the readership seemed to treat the column—all 650-750 words of it—with benign (or was it malign?) neglect. Dearest to my heart was one of my last columns, a roundup of vanishingly obscure and/or determinedly unlistenable records (a COIL release among them), titled “10 Records That Will Never Be Staged as an Arthurian Fantasy on Ice”—a snarky nod to Wakeman’s touring version of KING ARTHUR. Written in an ironic, mock-outraged style, it railed against the benighted few who had the gall—the gall!—to sneer at Jon Anderson’s woo-woo metaphysics or the beer-bong profundity of Uriah Heep. Naturally, KEYBOARD readers were utterly baffled. All of them, of course, except you.

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