Art. Sex. Music. Interview with Cosey Fanni Tutti


2013. I’m still working as a teacher. Working hard, so to speak. Pupils sweep along the corridors at an incredible speed, and all I can do – is to thread my way between them. I wear a typical «primary school teacher» outfit — a black jacket, black pants, sneakers and a black T-shirt, with an extended inscription «Industrial Records» included. One of those days, a reasonable question arose: “Industrial. What is it?” — children are always take an interest in such things. And it’s OK. I tried not to look confused and speak not in a suppressed voice. Dates and names were spinning in my mind. Goddamn Marilyn Manson. Bloody Nine Inch Nails, Ministry. No, it’s not what I want.

«You know, once there was a group in the UK –called Throbbing Gristle …» Later I understand how important this group was — being on my own, and I looking through the window glass. Children walking along the autumn-painted streets. And I was thinking over the meaning of the term «industrial», as well as about the group itself…

There were four of them. Genesis P-Orridge, Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter Christopherson. Perhaps these names mean little to you , but they mean a lot to others… Four people who budged the tectonic platform of modern music. They created a genre, which was gradually modified by means of) experiments, developing it even further than the «far space». «20 jazz funk greats» became one of the first house-style albums, a kind of a progenitor of of the 90’s club culture.

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I remember myself watching their concerts and looking there, at the back of the hall, imagining being a part of the crowd. How carefully I listened to infernal music, extracted by a group of self-made instruments.
Of course, many years have passed since that time. Cosey Fanni Tutti does not give any performances for a long time, but continues to record music. I waited for an interview with her as for a second Christmas: so many questions await being answered.  And although it seems that she had to to cover all the questions with by autobiography, but speaking of Throbbing Gristle, we can say — the questions won’t cease to appear. Certainly, answers, being good or bad won’t keep you waiting, once you turn the record on and make your consciousness re-launched with the renewed energy .

Let’s start with an easy one. Last year you had an autobiography – “Art Sex Music”. I congratulate you with that! Very interesting and fantastic work! Certainly, the fans of Throbbing Gristle were pleased to learn all this histories and facts which you told for us! How was your tour with the presentation of the book?

The book tour was so great and I’m still doing talks and readings. It’s a whole new experience for me and a lot of the events are at music festivals which have a literary section so it feels odd not to be on the music stages, sound checking etc. A refreshingly different thing altogether.

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In one of your interviews, you’re talking about the fact that TG’s first direction was something like «anti-music». But, if you leave the framework of your style. How do you feel about such creativity? For example, anarcho-punk band Crass lived in the commune and also positioned themselves as “anti-musical” band . Actually, like the participants in many grindcore groups.

By the time TG began we weren’t living as a commune so that is one difference between us and other so called ‘anti-music’ bands of the time. Also we weren’t a ‘band’ in the same way and we certainly didn’t play what you would think of as recognisable ‘music’. I think their agenda was different to ours. We weren’t interested in ‘becoming’ a known band and worked outside the alternative and the mainstream in ways other than sound.

But if we’ll focus on postindustrial music. Which was formed influenced by your creativity and found it’s place in popular culture. Ministry, Marilyn Manson, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails. Nowadays these are an extra-popular bands. Don’t you have such a…tainted feeling if we talk about the music they play?       

Those bands have aspects that are attributable and recognisable as derived from TG or Industrial. But what they do is their own kind of Industrial music, not what I’d call the original Industrial sound and ethos founded by myself and the other members of TG.

                                                      Cosey Fanni Tutti perfoming with Genesis P-Orridge

How you’re looking at your success and result? Because as I know, when you began playing with TG you were pretty surprised with the result. Especially when you received a governmental grant.

TG never received a government grant (that I know of anyway). COUM received a few grants. I personally was never interested in ‘success’ in the usual sense of the word. Success to me was more linked to what TG did in the studio experimenting and playing live… discovering something new would be what I’d call ‘success’. Certainly not in the shape of money or fame.

In early 2000, according to Sleazy’s idea, you and Chris started a project to re-record Niko’s third studio album — ‘Desertshore’. Unfortunately, He had not heard the result of this work… What emotions did you experience when the work was finished?

Both myself and Chris felt a sense of joy, relief and fulfilment having completed the album in memory of Sleazy.

But, I would like to delve deeper into detail about the work of the album. I know that at the stage of preparation Sleazy compiled a list of all those whose vocals he would like to record on this album. At least so it came out with the composition «Desertshores», the vocal parts of which were recorded by a wide variety of people — from David Tibet and Marc Almond to Sasha Gray. Tell me, what was it like to create so large-scale …? I can’t even call it a song… Rather, an opus»!

We were synching with other people’s schedules, working on our own projects and performing live so the album itself took a long time to complete — but the actual process of working on it in our studio was seamlessly smooth. There were only two people who didn’t want to contribute and everyone else was so overwhelmingly generous with their time and affection for Sleazy and the project. It wasn’t easy to get that many people recorded for the ‘Desertshores’ track but working on challenging sound projects is something we’ve always enjoyed.

You were greatly influenced by The Velvet Underground and the New York «Factory», but comparing your activities — it’s completely different things. After all, Warhol with his art aspired to commerce, and you are not. Did you perceive yourself as such a «reverse side of the factory,» or as pioneers of something new?

The influence was more about an alternative lifestyle than copying what the Velvets or Warhol did. I don’t think either set up was compatible with me as a person or how I relate to other people. Both situations yielded some great works but at a price — casualties from hard drugs and what I regard as exploitation. So yes I’d say we could be said to be the reverse side of the New York factory.

                        Throbbing Gristle: Peter Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter

Let’s back to the early years of your work. In «Art Sex Music» you say such an interesting thing, that your commune — COUM, was not so much a musical collective or something like that, but a «way of life.» It turns out in TG, you nevertheless crossed this barrier, becoming a phenomenal group or it can not be compared?

I’d never compare COUM to TG. But I would say that as TG we did have a particular approach to life and our creative output which we called ‘Industrial’. That TG became what it did was never intentional (on my or Chris’s part). It was all about living life creatively to the max. It still is for us two. I know no other way, nor want another way to live.

Honestly, by taking your book in hand, I did not expect such frankness. But along with this, after reading, I was literally shocked. It is always difficult to write frankly — at least, I can tell this from the position of the writer. But that’s interesting, do you perceive the «Art Sex Music» as a bildungsroman ? My first association was «A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man» by James Joyce.

I regard my book to be the factual writing of my life by me, the person who lived through and experienced all the good and bad events. It is in no way a ‘novel’. I’m from the North of England and we are known for our frankness and honesty. We ‘say it as it is’, no dressing things up or making excuses for anyone’s behaviour. What happened happened it’s as simple as that. It may have been uncomfortable to read but it was far more uncomfortable for me to have experienced it.

I would like to talk about your late work with Chris. After the collapse of TG, you started your own project, which gradually gained popularity. But tell me, was it difficult to work together?

Except for maybe some small different opinions on certain sounds one of us may prefer to the other, it has never been difficult to work with Chris and I’m sure he’d say the same about me… We are lucky that we have a particular symbiotic relationship that has developed even more intensely over the years we’ve been together. Because we work for ourselves we’ve also been together more or less 24/7 we are used to each others company and can intuitively read one another very easily, we feel one another’s moods, balance out one another’s needs give individual space.

But at the same time, I note that you’ve also released a solo album called «Time To Tell». Very gloomy work, in the best traditions of industrial. The album came out almost bootleg, without any information. But at the same time, in 2017, a reissue of «Time To Tell» was published. Tell me, how do you feel about this release ?

I never thought of the ‘Time To Tell’ album as ‘gloomy’. That’s a first. I’d been approached for quite some years by different record labels to release the work on vinyl but I wasn’t ready. So I was really happy to finally release it myself on vinyl. A great format that suited this particular work. It was important that the parts from the original fanzine were all included and that the text was updated. It took a long time to put the parts together because so many of them hadn’t been digitised. So I don’t think anyone else could have done it without my involvement and work.

In 2004, TG were reunited for the release of a new studio album. Knowing that just recently you released an autobiography. Tell me, how did you feel when you recorded an album with the same people and went on stage with them, after so many years of interruption ?

Having read my book you’ll know that the regrouping of TG had its challenges to say the least. But we got to do some great work with Sleazy and had a wonderful warm ‘TG family’ with exceptional support from Paul Smith who was TG manager. TG second time around couldn’t have continued without him, nor without the TG fans who were absolutely amazing and inspirational.

Well, let’s back to the topic of literature, with which we started. Your debut everyone liked. Was there any thought of continuing to work as a writer?

— Well the reception the book took me totally by surprise. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t even think about how it would be received — much the same as when I make music or artworks. So the wonderful reviews and numerous book of the year lists was unexpected but also fantastic.

I haven’t decided on another book yet. These things take time to form and present themselves… simmering thoughts, ideas, being in the mood for writing. I have a lot of music to record which will take priority but you never know when the urge to write will dictate how I spend my time.

Your top list of songs that you can listen to every day.

None. Every day I make music, art, love, write and sing.

Russian version of the Interview

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Данил Волохов
Данил Волохов
Музыкальный критик, писатель

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