„Transformation“ is perhaps be the key word which arises upon reflection of the singer and mothership of the band Psychic TV. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is known for having lived through many phases of social and cultural zone-bending. It is Impossible to describe those phases in merely a few sentences and difficult to place them into already existing categories. It’s also a positive thing that that is impossible. As a musical icon and sort of priest, Genesis invents and follows h/er own codes of practice and points of view. Breaking the rules runs like a thread through h/er life. After being a part of the constellation which made up the artistic, scandal-producing-collective COUM Transmissions, as well as forming the roots of industrial music through Throbbing Gristle, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge came to found Psychic TV in 1981 together with Peter „Sleazy“ Christopherson and Alex Fergusson. The band started producing pieces who are intimately connected to visual art and performance. The ship´s members varied over the years, whereas Genesis has remained the central figure. The list of members and collaborators is long, as too are their releases. They have an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for publishing the most record releases in one year. Psychic TV explored many different genres of music, such as Psychedelic Rock, Industrial (of course) and Acid House. This is where the band – also known as PTV3 or Psychick TV – detected new toxic and addictive themes to contemplate in order to convert. As a by-product, there existed P-Orridges other offshoot projects, Splinter Test and Thee Majesty. Central themes of Psychic TV, such as uncovering established structures in politics, reactivating the deeper-lying connection between humans, or deconstruction of gender, enwrought the band´s progress. As a result, their productions are marked by progressive avant-garde-developments despite/due to the fact that they are driven by suspiciousness and conspiracy theories.
Phew! Arriving at the concert in Berlin last Thursday.
As the perfect entertainer Genesis let the masses idle for a bit until s/he stepped on the stage with a light on h/er forehead – a third eye, one could say. Adorned in two cute pigtails. Plus the little tummy Genesis has acquired. So I couldn´t be a spectator of the show without detecting waves of self-ironical winks. The light (a third eye?) – maybe it was just coincidence and the light was simply there to aid in the reading of the lyrics as seen through the eyes of a now 66-year-old fabulous mythical creature. S/he could have also used a normal sidelight. I´m not sure about that. Media is working, visuals are manipulating – other central points of the band´s manipulative and trance-inducing intentions – so I let myself run with this representation. Also, if you got lost in it all, you could always find P-Orridge again on the stage – blinking away. Accompanied by exploding, shrill and morphing backing projections, Psychic TV started with a cover of Henry Nilsson´s „Jump Into The Fire“ – which worked like a call to the audience suggesting we should hug and kiss each other: „We can make each other happy“ – I guess the spectators understood this was the the message intended, yet, the man to my right was a little surprised when I followed Genesis´ instructions. Ok well, the show was only just beginning, so let´s see what we’r in for next…
After this motivating song we found ourselves back on the ship that has sailed so many genres – „Just Like Arcadia“. The song, published in 1988 on the release „Allegory and Self“ is in on the one hand, pulsing, and on the other, depressing. It blazed the trail for the next three new tracks „How Does It Feel“ (I suggest, it´s a new version of „How does E feel“, Genesis loves to re-transform h/er own ideas), „Looking for you“ and „Alienist“, wich were more lulling than titillating, almost trendy. Wanting to entertain isn´t always entertaining. I liked more the moments when Genesis really delivered the priest persona with a deep, almost-overtone-voice and critically assessed the spectators with diabolic eyes. Then one could begin to get an idea of what h/er intention actually is; Or when the awesome guitar player Jeffrey Berner sucked epic vibrating tones out of his guitar. Or when Alice Genese strummed her base guitar with passionate, purposeful fingers. Then the audience was really filled with those frequencies – combined with pulsating background visuals, the venue began to melt. The Astra Kulturhaus managed to achieve an excellent sound and for the event. In addition, Genesis mentioned that the previous day had been the anniversary of the death of Joy Division´s Ian Curtis at 36 years old and onlookers cried. Not all, of course, but some. This atmosphere was followed by „Burning The Old Home“, a really deep and catchy song, a track from the last release „Snakes“, published in 2014. After that wallowing piece, Genesis continued by pulling some beats out of „Southern Comfort“, again from „Allegory and Self“. Approaching the last quarter, Psychic TV performed a Psychic-TV-classic, the grandiose and complex song „Greyhounds of the Future“ („Greyhounds Of The Future / Alien Lightning Meat Machine Part II“, 2013) before the grand finale, „After You´re Dead, She Said“ („Snakes“). Again, anger prevails in Psychic TV, again, there is no end to their capacity. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is a great lyricist, s/he knows how to choose the right moment. It appears to come naturally to the musicians to hit upon the right notes and improvisation flows effortlessly out of the band as a collective of soloists, yet in some moments, I felt the overwhelming alluring light and sound began to bade me to escape, get outside and back to normality again. The mood lightened when they played an easy and freeing „Encore“, „How does it feel“, again, with crazy guitar and beating drums the 2nd time around. It seems to be quite important to Genesis to reflect upon and present their own feelings through performance. Or are their intentions purely to impart catchy tunes? I endured the whole show and was happy about that, although I knew that for me, participating in this concert was largely based in curiosity, out of an interest in Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and h/er projects rather than due to a fanatic-fan-like-identification with the band. I´m scared of religions of any kind. Psychic TV interspersed upcoming, not yet pressed tracks on the live-audience, wich was a pleasant sampler of things to come.
What´s up next?
There is a teaser of „Alienist“ you can watch online. Ideas seem to flow endlessly for the Psychic TV´s. You must not be engaged with Psychedelic Rock – this is the directional tendency of the up-coming release. It is a planet they have landed on, they will discover and try to create a new merging version of PTV3-Psychedelic Rock. „Alienist“ – it´s easy to listen to, a good form of entertainment. I also must say that the performance itself almost appears pre-programmed, wich is maybe the logical consequence of preaching, touring and being on stages for so many years. We, the onlookers, were definitely not „the best audience we had in years“. „I don´t think so. I really don´t think so“. Audiences should not be sold for stupid. Hm. Although can it not also be torturous, constantly performing on stages? Since an accident in 1995 at Rick Rubin´s house, Genesis health has been seriously affected. Also experiments with drugs and continous operations have thrown more coins into the basket of ill-health. Audience members must abound, those appearing as merely tourists to their concerts to see the ‘spectacle’ of the wonder of the transformation Genesis. S/he has become an icon. That is despite the fact that h/er every-day-life is all about deconstruction. Do you become ironical then?
Born in Manchester in 1950, Neil Andrew Megson created h/er „self“ Genesis P-Orridge when s/he was 15. Has it now become the final consequence of a life-long self-experiment to stand in front of an audience until you really become dust? Is it still a self-experiment or is it just only about you, you and you without any „second life“ or „experiment“ or „otherness“? Are we just fluid beings with many personas? Like softwares on hardware? Why is it so rarely examplified, that the possibility to radically transform oneself can be possible without the neccesity of losing the „before“? Is death the only way to achieve a ‚new transformation’? I guess in this instance the answer is yes. Psychic TV could be considered a ‚modern sect’ or ‚cult’. Music has replaced other religions, wich is remarkable but logical, the blank space needed to be filled. At first I thought, with regards to the new songs, „I can´t find the energy in most of them, how can they fill me, they are to poppy“ but then I took into account that this is intentional, their strategy. Poppy songs are a significant part of their work. The style and lyrics contain a lot of black humor and that´s why they’re clever. I was filled after the concert. Something moved in and made a mess. It is a funny approach to self-(de)construction. I celebrated it, when Genesis thundered h/er prayers (in that case „Greyhounds Of The Future“) through the microphone: „(…) The aging mechanism of the mind. Memories are clock. Mechanism! Memories tell us one thing: everything must go. (…) Your soul. The only thing you´ve got. (…) Nothing matters but the end of matter. (…) We make space to be space (…)“.
„Alienist“, the announced upcoming release, will be published in September 2016.
For more information see: webside Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Thanks to Sasha Matteucci