~ THE CUT-UP METHOD OF BRION GYSIN ~
At a surrealist rally in the 1920s Tristan Tzara the man from
nowhere proposed to create a poem on the spot by pulling words out
of a hat. A riot ensued wrecked the theater. Andre Breton expelled
Tristan Tzara from the movement and grounded the cut-ups on the
In the summer of 1959 Brion Gysin painter and writer cut
newspaper articles into sections and rearranged the sections at
random. "Minutes to Go" resulted from this initial cut-up experiment.
"Minutes to Go" contains unedited unchanged cut-ups emerging as
quite coherent and meaningful prose.
The cut-up method brings to writers the collage, which has been
used by painters for fifty years. And used by the moving and still
camera. In fact all street shots from movie or still cameras are by the
unpredicatble factors of passersby and juxtapositon cut-ups. And
photographers will tell you that often their best shots are accidents . .
. writers will tell you the same. The best writings seems to be done
almost by accident but writers until the cut-up method was made
explicit-all writing is in fact cut-ups; I will return to this point-had
no way to produce the accident of spontaneity. You cannot will
spontaneity. But you can introduce the unpredictable spontaneous
factor with a pair of scissors.
The method is simple. Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this
page. Now cut down the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 . . .
one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four
with section one and section two with section three. And you have a
new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes
something quite different-cutting up political speeches is an
interesting excercise-in any case you will find that it says something
and something quite definite. Take any poet or writer you fancy.
Here, say, or poems you have read over many times. The words have
lost meaning and life through years of repetition. Now take the poem
and type out selected passages. Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the
page. You have a new poem. As many poems as you like. As many
Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like. Tristan Tzara said: "Poetry
is for everyone." And Andre Breton called him a cop and expelled
him from the movement. Say it again: "Poetry is for everyone."
Poetry is a place and it is free to all cut up Rimbaud and you are in
Rimbaud's place. Here is a Rimbaud poem cut up.
"Visit of memories. Only your dance and your voice house. On the
suburban air improbable desertions . . . all harmonic pine for strife.
"The great skies are open. Candor of vapor and tent spitting blood
laugh and drunken penance.
"Promenade of wine perfume opens slow bottle.
"The great skies are open. Supreme bugle burning flesh children to
Cut-ups are for everyone. Anybody can make cut-upws. It is
experimental in the sense of bein something to do. Right here write
now. Not something to talk and argue about. Greek philosophers
assumed logically that an object twice as heavy as another object
would fall twice as fast. It did not occur to them to push the two
objects off the table and see how they fall. Shakespeare Rimbaud live
in their words. Cut the word lines and you will hear their voices. Cut-
ups often come through as code messages with special meaning for
the cutter. Table tapping? Perhaps. Certainly an improvement on the
usual deplorable performances of contacted poets through a medium.
Rimbaud announces himself, to be followed by some excruciatingly
bad poetry. Cut Rimbaud's words and you are assured of good poetry
at least if not personal appearance.
All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard
overheard. What else? Use of scissors renders the process explicit
and subject to extension and variation. Clear classical prose can be
composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups. Cutting and rearranging a
page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing
enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation. Images
shift sense under the scissors smell images to sound sight to sound
sound to kinesthetic. This is where Rimbaud was going with his color
of vowels. And his "systematic derangement of the senses." The place
of mescaline hallucination: seeing colors tasting sounds smelling
The cut-ups can be applied to other fields than writing. Dr Neumann
in his Theory of Games and Economic behavior introduces the cut-up
method of random action into game and military strategy: assume
that the worst has happened and act accordingly. If your strategy is
at some point determined . . . by random factor your opponent will
gain no advantage from knowing your strategy since he cannot
predict the move. The cut-up method could be used to advantage in
processing scientific data. How many discoveries have been made by
accident? We cannot produce accidents to order. The cut-ups could
add new dimension to films. Cut gambling scene in with a thousand
gambling scenes all times and places. Cut back. Cut streets of the
world. Cut and rearrange the word and image in films. There is no
reason to accept a second-rate product when you can have the best.
And the best is there for all. "Poetry is for everyone . . .
Now here are the preceding two paragraphs cut into four sections
ALL WRITING IS IN FACT CUT-UPS OF GAMES AND ECONOMIC
BEHAVIOR OVERHEARD? WHAT ELSE? ASSUME THAT THE WORST
HAS HAPPENED EXPLICIT AND SUBJECT TO STRATEGY IS AT SOME
POINT CLASSICAL PROSE. CUTTING AND REARRANGING FACTOR YOUR
OPPONENT WILL GAIN INTRODUCES A NEW DIMENSION YOUR
STRATEGY. HOW MANY DISCOVERIES SOUND TO KINESTHETIC? WE
CAN NOW PRODUCE ACCIDENT TO HIS COLOR OF VOWELS. AND NEW
DIMENSION TO FILMS CUT THE SENSES. THE PLACE OF SAND.
GAMBLING SCENES ALL TIMES COLORS TASTING SOUNDS SMELL
STREETS OF THE WORLD. WHEN YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST ALL:
"POETRY IS FOR EVERYONE" DR NEUMANN IN A COLLAGE OF WORDS
READ HEARD INTRODUCED THE CUT-UP SCISSORS RENDERS THE
POCESS GAME AND MILITARY STRATEGY. VARIATION CLEAR AND
ACT ACCORDINGLY. IF YOU POSED ENTIRELY OR REARRANGED CUT
DETERMINED BY RANDOM A PAGE OF WRITTEN WORDS NO
ADVANTAGE FROM KNOWING INTO WRITER PREDICT THE MOVE. THE
CUT VARIATION IMAGES SHIFT SENSE ADVANTAGE IN PROCESSING
TO SOUND SIGHT TO SOUND. HAVE BEEN MADE BY ACCIDENT IS
WHERE RIMBAUD WAS GOING WITH ORDER THE CUT-UPS COULD
"SYSTEMATIC DERANGEMENT" OF THE GAMBLING SCENE IN WITH A
TEA HALLUCINATION: SEEING AND PLACES. CUT BACK. CUT FORMS.
REARRANGE THE WORD AND IMAGE TO OTHER FIELDS THAN
WRITING. - William Burroughs~ BRION GYSIN ~
A biography/appreciation by Terry Wilson . . .
(19 January 1916- )
Minutes to Go, with William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Sinclair
Belles (Paris: Two Cities Editions, 1960; San Francisco: Beach Books,
The Exterminator, with William Burroughs (San Francisco: Auerhahn Press/Dave Haselwood Books, 1960, 1967);
The Process, (New York: Doubleday, 1969; London: Jonathan Cape,
Oeuvre Croisee (The Third Mind), with William S. Burroughs (Paris: Flammarion, 1976; New York: Viking Press, 1978; London: John
Brion Gysin is regarded as one of the most influential and visionary
of living poets and painters. In 1958, a chance encounter with
William Burroughs on the Place St. Michel in Paris resulted in him
moving into the famous Beat Hotel at no. 9 rue Git le Coeur in the
Latin Quarter. He confided to Burroughs his inventions, the Cut-ups
and Permutations, and thus began the most important collaboration
in modern literature.
A naturalized US citizen of Swiss extraction, Gysin was born in
Taplow House, Taplow, Bucks, UK. After the loss of his father when
he was nine months old, his mother took him to New York to stay
with one of her sisters and then to Kansas City, Mo., to stay with
another. He finished high school at the age of fifteen in Edmonton,
Alberta, and ws sent for two years to the prestigious English public
school, Downside. While there, Gysin began publishing his poetry
before he went on to the Sorbonne. In Paris, he met everybody in the
literary and artistic worlds. When he was nineteen, he exhibited his
drawings with the Surrealist group, which included Picasso on that occasion.
Gysin is an entirely self-taught painter who acquired an enviable
technique without putting foot in an art school or academy. At the
age of twenty-three he had his first one-man show in a prestigious
Paris gallery just off the Champs Elysees. It was a glittering social
and financial (even a critical) success, with an article in Poetry World
signed by Calas. But it was May, 1939. World War II caught Gysin in
Switzerland with an overnight bag. When he got to New York,
everybody asked: "How long you been back?"
~ HERE TO GO: PLANET R-101 ~
An excerpt from Here To Go: Planet R-101, by Terry Wilson
T: How did you get into tape recorders?
B: I heard of them at the end of World War II, before I went to
Morocco in 1950, but unfortunately I never got hold of good
machines to record even a part of the musical marvels I heard in
Morocco. I recorded the music in my own place, The 1001 Nights,
only when it was fading and even in later years I never was able to
lay my hands on truly worthwhile machines to record sounds that
will never be heard again, anywhere.
I took Brian Jones up to the mountain to record with Uhers, and
Ornette Coleman to spend $25,000 in a week to record next to
nothing on Nagras and Stellavox, but I have to admit that the most
adventurous sounds we ever made were done with old Reveres and
hundred dollar Japanese boxes we fucked around with, William and I
and Ian Sommerville. I got hold of the BBC facilities for the series of
sound poems I did with them in 1960, technically still the best,
naturally. I had originally been led to believe that I would have a
week and it turned out to be only three days that we had, so in a
very hurried way at the end I started cutting up a spoken text-I
think the illustration of how the Cut-ups work, "Cut-ups Self
Explained"-and put it several times through their electronic
equipment, and arrived at brand new words that had never been
said, by me or by anybody necessarily, onto the tape. William had
pushed things that far through the typewriter. I pushed them that
far through the tapeworld. But the experiment was withdrawn very
quickly there, I mean, it was . . . time was up and they were made
rather nervous by it, they were quite shocked by the results that
were coming back out of the speakers and were only too glad to
bring the experiment to an end. ["Well, what did they expect? A
chorus of angels with tips on the stock market?"-William Burroughs)
"The Permutated Poems of Brion Gysin" (as put through a computer
by Ian Sommerville) was broadcast by the BBC, produced by Douglas
Cleverdon. ("Achieving the second lowest rating of audience approval
registered by their poll of listeners"-BG) Some of the early cut-up
tape experiments are now available: Nothing Here Now But The
Recordings (1959-1980) LP (IR 0016) available on the Industrial
Records label from Rough Trade, 137 Blenheim Crescent, London
What we did on our own was to play around with the very limited
technology and wattage we had in the old Beat Hotel, 40-watts a
room was all we were allowed. There is something to be said for
poverty, it makes you more inventive, it's more fun and you get
more mileage out of what you've got plus your own ingenuity. When
you handle the stuff yourself, you get the feel of it. William loved the
idea of getting his hands on his own words, branding them and
rustling anyone else's he wanted. It's a real treat for the ears, too, the
first time you hear it . . . made for dog whistles, after that. Hey Rube!
- the old carny circus cry for men working the sideshows when they
saw some ugly provincial customer coming up on them after they
had rooked him . . . Hey Rube! - a cry to alert all the carny men to a
possible rumble . . . Hey-ba ba-Rube-ba! - Salt Peanuts and the
rude sound coming back so insistent again and again that you know
the first bar of Bebop when you hear it. Right or wrong, Burroughs
was fascinated because he must have listened to plenty of bebop talk
from Kerouac, whom I never met. He must have been a fascinating
character, too bad to miss him like that, when I was thrown up
against all the rest of this Beat Generation. Maybe I was lucky. I
remember trying to avoid them all after Paul Bowles had written me:
"I can't understand their interest in drugs and madness." Then, I dug
that he meant just the contrary. Typical. He did also write me to get
closer to Burroughs whom I had cold-shouldered . . . until he got off
the junk in Paris.
T: Who produced the "Poem of Poems" through the tape recorder?
The text in The Third Mind is ambiguous.
B: I did. I made it to show Burroughs how, possibly, to use it. William
did not yet have a tape recorder. First, I had "accidentally" used
"pisspoor material,"fragments cut out of the press which I shored up
to make new and original texts, unexpectedly. Then, William had
used his own highly volatile material, his own inimitable texts which
he submitted to cuts, unkind cuts, of the sort that Gregory Corso felt
unacceptable to his own delicate "poesy." William was always the
toughest of the lot. Nothing ever fazed him. So I suggested to William
that we should use only the best, only the high-charged material:
King James' translation of the Song of Songs of Solomon, Eliot's
translation of Anabase by St. John Perse, Shakespeare's sugar'd
Sonnets and a few lines from The Doors of Perception by Aldous
Huxley about his mescaline experiences.
Very soon after that, Burroughs was busy punching to death a series
of cheap Japanese plastic tape recorders, to which he applied himself
with such force that he could punch one of them to death inside a
matter of weeks, days even. At the same time he was punching his
way through a number of equally cheap plastic typewriters, using
two very stiff forefingers . . . with enormous force. He could punch a
machine into oblivion. That period in the Beat Hotel is best illustrated
by that photo of William, wearing a suit and tie as always, sitting
back at this table in a very dingy room. On the wall hangs a nest of
three wire trays for correspndence which I gave him to sort out his
cut-up pages. Later, this proliferated into a maze of filing cases filling
a room with manuscripts cross-referenced in a way only Burroughs
could work his way through, more by magic dowsing than by any
logical system. how could there be any? This was a magic practice he
was up to, surprising the very springs of creative imagination at
their source. I remember him muttering that his manuscripts were
multiplying and reproducing themselves like virus at work. It was all
he could do to keep up with them. Those years sloughed off one
whole Burroughs archive whose catalogue alone is a volume of 350
pages. Since then several tons of Burroughs papers have been moved
to the Burroughs Communication Centre in Lawrence, Kansas. And he
is still at it.
T: The cut-up techniques made very explicit a preoccupation with
exorcism - William's texts became spells, for instance. How effective
are methods such as street playback of tapes for dispersing
B: We-e-ell, you'd have to ask William about that, but I do seem to
remember at least two occasions on whyich he claimed success . . .
Uh, the first was in the Beat Hotel still, therefore about 1961 or '2,
and William decided (laughing) to "take care" of an old lady who sold
newspapers in a kiosk, and this kiosk was rather dramatically and
strategically placed at the end of the street leading out of the rue Git
le Coeur toward the Place Saint Michel, and, uh, you whent up a flight
of steps and then under an archway and as you came out you were
spang! in front of this little old French lady who looked as if she'd
been there since-at least since the French Revolution-when she had
been knitting at the foot of the guillotine, and she lived in a layer of
thickly matted, padded newspapers hanging around her piled very
sloppily, and, uh, she was of absolutely incredible malevolence, and
the only kiosk around there at that time that sold the Herald-
Tribune, so that William (chuckling) found that he was having to deal
with her every day, and every day she would find some new way to
aggravate him, some slight new improvement on her malevolent
insolence and her disagreeable lack of . . . uh (chuckling)
collaboration with William in the buying of his newspaper (laughter) . . .So . . one day the little old lady burnt up inside her kiosk. And we came out to find that there was just the pile of ashes on the ground. William was . . . slightly conscience-stricken, but nevertheless rather satisfied with the result (laughter) as it proved the efficacity of his methods, but a little taken aback, he didn't necessarily mean the old lady to burn up inside there . . . And we often talked about this as we sat in a cafe looking at the spot where the ashes still were, for many months later . . . and to our great surprise and chagrin one day we
saw a very delighted Oriental boy-I think probably Vietnamese-digging in these ashes with his hands and pulling out a whole hatful of money, of slightly blackened coins but a considerable sum, and (laughing) we would have been very glad to have it too - just hadn't thought of digging in the thing, so I said: "William, I don't think your operation was a complete success." And he said: "I am very glad that that beautiful young Oriental boy made this happy find at the end of the rainbow . . ."T: She consummated her swell purpose . . .
B: (Laughing) Exactly . . . exactly . . . (chuckling)
Now the other case was some years later in London when he had perfected the method and, uh, went about with at least one I think sometimes two tape recorders, one in each hand, with prerecorded, um-runes-what did you call them? You said William's things-
T: Spells.B: Spells, okay, spells.
T: Like-B: (chanting)
Lock them out and bar the door,
Lock them out for e-v-e-rmore.
Nook and cranny windo door
Seal them out for e-v-e-rmore
Lock them out and block the rout
Shut them scan them flack them out.
Lock is mine and door is mine
Three times three to make up nine . . .
Curse go back curse go back
Back with double pain and lackCurse go back - back
Et cetera . . . yeah . . . pow . . . "Shift, cut, tangle word lines" . . . sure . . .
Well, that was for the Virus Board, wasn't it, that he was gonna destroy the Virus Board . . .
~ HERE TO GO: PLANET R-101 ~
An Excerpt from Here to Go: Planet R-101, Brion Gysin interviewed
by Terry Wilson (with original writing and an introduction by W.S. Burroughs), available July 1982 from Re/Search Publications . . .
- Who Runs May Read
"May Massa Brahim leave this house as the smoke leaves this fire, never to return . . ."
. . . Never went back to live, and I've only been back there even to visit only very briefly . . .
And then it was back to Paris for a year or so, 1949-50, and then in 1950 I went to Morocco with Paul Bowles, who had taken, bought a little house there, and I stayed there really, or felt that I was
domiciled there, uh, although I was really only a sort of terminal tourist, from 1950 till 1973 . . .
"Magic, practiced more assiduously than hygiene in Morocco, through ecstatic dancing to the music of the secret brotherhoods, is, there, a form of psychic hygiene. You know your music when you hear it, one day. You fall into line and dance until you pay the piper."
A Project for Disastrous Success"
in Brion Gysin Let The Mice In
B: Yeah . . . what a tale . . . what a tale . . . yeah, I met John Cooke in Morocco uuummm but, uh . . . I don't know what to say about all
that, really . . .
T: He designed tarot cards . . . ?
B: Yeah . . .
T: A new set of tarot card . . .
B: Yeah, so he did. How did you even know that?
T: I saw them the other day.
B: Oh really? . . . No kidding? They're still around eh? Well well . . .
T: Is he still alive?
B: Yes, I imagine he's still alive, I think living in Mexico [John Cooke died sometime after this was recorded.] . . . and he comes from one of those very rich and powerful families who were the Five Founding Families of Hawaii . . . who own the island, did own the island of Molokai . . . and, uh, many people in his family have been interested in mystic things, and he was particularly interested in magic all his life . . . early connection with . . . what do they call it, kaluhas or something, the Hawaiian shamanistic magic men? . . . Kahunas, yeah . . .
T: Yeah. So tell me about Morocco . . . you got more and more
immersed into Islam, or, uh-
B: Not really, no, I never was much immersed truly into Islam, or I would've become a Moslem, and probably still be there . . . uh, it was most particularly the music that interested me. I went with Paul Bowles, who was a composer long before he was a writer, and, uh, he had perfect pitch, an unusual thing even among composers, and he taught me how to use my ears a great deal during the years we'd known each other in New York, but when he'd taken this house, bought this house in Tangier, he suggested that I go and spend a summer there living in the house and he was on his way to America, he was just going to leave me in the house . . . but it turned out
rather differently . . . he was goin to New York to write the music for his wife's play, Jane Bowles' In The Summerhouse, and he had
written a great deal of theatrical music for Broadway, all the Tennessee Williams plays, all of the plays by Saroyan, and many
other productions of that time . . . and was a great expert on that . . .
but he also had very, very extraordinary ears, and, uh, he taught me
a lot of things, I owe him a tremendous amount, I owe him my years
in Morocco really because I wouldn't've gone there if he hadn't suggested it at that particular time . . . I might have gone back to Algeria, which isn't nearly as interesting a country, never was . . But, uh, in 1950 we went to a festival outside of Tangier on the
beach, on the Atlantic shore, at a spot which was previously a small harbour, 2000 years ago in Phoenician times, and must've marked
one of the first landfalls that any boat coming out of the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar would make as soon as the boat entered the Atlantic, the first landfall would be at this little
place not very far from Cape Spartel . . . and, uh, the Phoenician habit was always to establish a center of religion, I mean a thanks offering for getting them safely over the dangerous sea, one supposes, and a marking of the spot which eventually became a center of their religious cult, presumably a college of priestesses . . . two or three more landfalls further down the Atlantic coast is what used to be the great harbour of Larache . . .
All these harbours are now silted up completely . . . Larache was the site of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, where Hercules went to
get away from the demonic . . . the orgiastic priestesses, who were guardians in a sacred grove surrounded by a serpent if you remember, a dragon - well the dragon is the river, in each case there are these winding rivers that go back up into the country; only one of them still exists, the Lixos. Well the Lixos was presumably the
dragon in the mythological tale and there was an island in the harbour, and this spot that we went to had been on the same geographic and even religious plan, as it were, and the festival was given there, which doesn't correspond to the Lunar Calendar but to the Solar Calendar, and has to do with the harvest and actual cycle of agricultural life of the people there . . . And I heard some music at
that festival about which I said: "I just want to hear that music for
the rest of my life. I wanna here it everyday all day." And, uh, there were a great many other kinds of extraordinary music offered to one, mostly of the Ecstatic Brotherhood who enter into trance, so that in itself-it was the first time I'd seen large groups of people going into trance-was enough to have kept my attention, but beyond and above all of that somewhere I heard this funny little music, and I said "Ah! That's my music! And I must find out where it comes from." So I
stayed and withing a year I found that it came from Jajouka . . .
(LOUD CRASHES, TAPE STOPS)
B: Your question . . . ?!
T: You found that your music was at Jajouka . . . The purpose of the Rites of Jajouka is to preserve the balance of Male-Female forces, is that correct?
B: Yes, in a very strange way I think it's a very pertinent question that you ask. Uh, when I met them finally, it took about a year to
find them, and went up to the mountain village, I recognized very quickly that what they were performing was the Roman Lupercal,
and the Roman Lupercalia was a race run from one part of Rome, a cave under the Capitoline Hill, which Mussolini claimed to have discovered, but is now generally conceded to be some 10 or 15
meters further down . . . and in this cave goats were killed and skinned and a young man of a certain tribe was sown up in them,
and one of these young men was Mark Antony, and when in the beginning of Julius Caesar, when they meet, he was actually running this race of Lupercalia through Rome on the 15.March, the Ides of March . . . and the point was to go out to the gates of Rome and
contact Pan, the God of the Forests, the little Goat God, who was Sexuality itself, and to run back through the streets with the news that Pan was still out there fucking as he flailed the women in the crowds, which is why Julius Caesar asked him to be sure to hit Calpurnia, because his wife Calpurnia was barren . . . Forget not in
thy haste, Antonius, to touch Calpurnia, for the Ancients say that in this holy course the barren are rendered fruitful, or something like that, are the lines from Shakespeare on the subject . . . Shakespeare dug right away that's what it was, the point of the sexual balance of nature which was in question . . . And up there on the mountain another element is added, inasmuch as the women, who live apart from the men, whose private lives are apart from the men's lives to a point where even women's language isn't immediately understood by men-women can say things to each other in front of men that men don'ts understand, or care to be bothered with, it's just women's nonsense, y'see . . . and they sing sort of secret little songs enticing Bou Jeloud the Father of Skins, who is Pan, to come to the hills,
saying that . . . We will give you the prettiest girls in the village, we will give you Crosseyed Aisha, we will give you Humpbacked- . . . naming the names of the different types of undesirable non-beauties in the village, like that, and, uh, Pan is supposed to be so dumb that
he falls for this, because he will fuck anything, and he comes up to the village where he meets the Woman-Force of teh village who is called Crazy Aisha-Aisha Homolka . . . well Aisha is of course an Arab name, but it's derived from an earlier original, which would be Asherat, the name of Astarte or any one of these Venus-type lady
sex-goddesses like that . . . And, uh, Bou Jeloud, the leader of the festival, his role is to marry Aisha, but in actual fact women do not dance in front of any but their own husbands, the women in Arab
life, all belly-dancing movies to the contrary, do not dance in public, or never did, and most certainly don't in villages, ever dance where they're seen by men any more than men dance in front of women . . . so that Crazy Aisha is danced by little boys who are dressed as girls, and because her spirit is so powerful-
" . . . a faint breath of panic borne on the wind. Below the rough palisade of giant blue cactus surrounding the village on its hilltop,
the music flows in streams to nourish and fructify the terraced fields below.
"Inside the village the thatched houses crouch low in their gardens to hide in the deep cactus-lined lanes. You come through their maze to the broad village green where the pipers are piping; fifty raitas banked against a crumbling wall blow sheet lightning to shatter the sky. Fifty wild flutes blow up a storm in front of them, while a
platoon of small boys in long belted white robes and brown wool turbans drum like young thunder. All the villagers, dressed in best white, swirl in great circles and coils around one wildman in skins.
"Bou Jeloud leaps high in the air on the music, races after the women again and again, lashing at them fiercely with his flails-'Forget not in your speed, Antonius, to touch Calpurnia'-He is wild. He is mad.
Sowing panic. Lashing at anyone; striking real terror into the crowd. Women scatter like white marabout birds all aflutter and settle on
one little hillock for safety, all huddled in one quivering lump. They throw back their heads to the moon and scream with throats open to the gullet, lolling their tongues around in their heads like the clapper in a bell. Every mouth is wide open, frozen into an O. Head back and hot narrow eyes brimming with dangerous baby.
"Bou Jeloud is after you. Running. Over-run. Laughter and someone is crying. Wild dogs at your heels. Swirling around in one ring-a-rosy, around and around and around. Go! Forever! Stop! Never! More and
No More and No! More! Pipes crack in your head. Ears popped away
at barrier sound and you deaf. Or dead! Swirling around in cold moonlight, surrounded by wildmen or ghosts. Bou Jeloud is on you, butting you, beating you, taking you, leaving you. Gone! The great wind drops out of your head and you hear the heavenly music again. You feel sorry and loving and tender to that poor animal
whimpering, grizzling, laughing and sobbing there beside you like somebody out of ether. Who is that? That is you.
"Who is Bou Jeloud? Who is he? The shivering boy who was chosen to be stripped naked in a cave and sewn into the bloody warm skins
and masked with an old straw hat tied over his face, HE is Bou Jeloud when he dances and runs. Not Ali, not Mohamed, then he is Bou
Jeloud. He will be somewhat taboo in his village the rest of hislife.
"When he dances alone, his musicians blow a sound like the earth sloughing off its skin. He is the Father of Fear. He is, too, the Father of Flocks. The Good Shepherd works for him. When the goats, gently grazing, brusquely frisk and skitter away, he is counting his flock. When you shiver like someone just walked on your grave-that's him; that's Pan, the Father of Skins. Have you jumped out of your skin lately? I've got you under my skin . . .
"Blue kif smoke drops in veils from Jajouka at nightfall. The music picks up like a current turned on . . . On the third night he meets Aisha Homolka who drifts around after dark, cool and casual, near springs and running water. She unveils her beautiful blue-glittering face and breasts and coos.
"And he who stammers out an answer is lost. he is lost unless he touches the blade of his knife or, better still, plucks it out and
plunges the blade of it into the ground between her goatish legs and forked hooves. Then Aisha Homolka, Aisha Kandisha, alias Asherat, Astarte, Diana in the Leaves Greene, Blest Virgin Miriam bar Levy,
the White Goddess, in short, will be his. She must be a heavy Stone
Age Matriarch whose power he cuts off with his Iron Age knife-magic."The music grooves into hysteria, fear and fornication. A ball of laughter and tears in the throat gristle. Tickle of panic between the legs. Gripe of slapstick cuts loose in the bowels. The Three Hadji. Man with Monkey. More characters coming on stage. The Hadji joggle around under their crowns like Three Wise Kings. Monkey Man
comes on hugely pregnant with a live boy in his baggy pants.
Monkey Man goes into birth pangs and the Hadji deliver him of a naked boy with an umbilical halter around his neck. Man leads Monkey around, beating him and screwing him for hours to the music. Monkey jumps on Man's back and screws him to the music for hours. Pipers pipe higher into the air and panic screams off like the wind into the woods of silver olive and black oak, on into the Rif mountains swimming up under the moonlight.
"Pan leaps back on the gaggle of women with his flails. The women scream and deliver one tiny boy, wriggling and stumbling as he dances out in white drag and veil. Another bloodcurdling birth-yodel and they throw up another small boy. Pan flails them as they push
out another and another until there are ten or more little boy-girls out there with Pan, shaking that thing in the moonlight. Bigger village dragstars slither out on the village green and shake it up night after night. Pan kings them all until dawn. He is the God Pan. They are, all of them, Aisha Homolka."BG "The Pipes of Pan"
Gnaoua 1, 1964
. . . It would be very difficult to say just what they are aware of and what they are not aware of, I have known them for more than 30 years now, 20, more than 20 of them in very intimate daily contact, with some of them at any rate, and for the period that I knew them
the most . . .
. . . Obviously they know so much more than I ever thought in the beginning; I think of course they realize that their name has to do with the whole history of Sufi thought, because the family name of the musicians is Attar . . . uh, it was after knowing them well for 20 years and then getting into some kind of legal difficulty and attempting to help them with their documents that I found this out . .
. uummm really the longer I knew them the less I knew about them,
is almost a way of phrasing it . . . they, uh, know a great deal more than they let on, of course . . . I don't know how much, how much do you want to know, because I could go on for booklength about whatever I have learned about them which is curious . . .
"I kept some notes and drawings, meaning to write a recipe book of magic. My Pan people were furious when they found this out. They poisoned my food twice and then, apparently, resorted to more efficacious means to get rid of me . . . "
BG Let the Mice InT: Your restaurant . . .
B: Oh the restaurant came about entirely becaue of them . . .
(CHANT BECOMING OBVIOUS ON TAPE)
I said, "I would like to hear your music every day" and, uh, they said, "Well, why don't you just stick around and live in the village?" And I said, "No, that isn't possible, I have to go back and earn my living" . . .
and they said, "Well, then why don't you open a little cafe, a little
joint, some place in Tangier, and we'll come down and make the
music, and, uh, we'll split the money?" And, uh, their idea was a very simple one, I think, which got blown up into . . . palatial size, because of the fact that I found a wing of a palace that belonged to some Moroccan friends of mine, where I set up the restaurant and, uh, it turned out to be a very expensive and very . . . as I had no previous experience in such matters, it turned out to be a very expensive venture (laughing) . . . I'd always been at most a customer in such places, and to learn how to run it . . . I had many other things to do which kept my mind off the musicians, although the rest of the staff were always complaining that the musicians were being favored, and I said yes, the restaurant existed entirely for the music, and it was literally true . . .
A group of them came down from the mountain and stayed a period of time, living in the house with me, and so I heard them practising, I heard them teaching the younger children how to play, and learned more and more about the intricacies of the music . . . I found out various interesting things about them, first of all that they had a secret language, that they can talk through the music, they can direct a dancing boy, for example, to go from . . . they can give him all his instructions simply musically . . . but that they also have a language
of which I really learned nothing, I didn't have the time to, but I think that at that point they would have been willing to teach me a great deal about it, even to start writing a vocabulary to find out
what it was, which language it was that they speak in private . . . but, uh, the restaurant folded with Moroccan Independence, a very difficult moment, when all of my clientele disappeared overnight, inasmuch as Tangier had been a small country of its own, with embassies, and ambassadors and their staffs and their visitors and everything connected with them, which was the backbone of my clientele . . . and they all left, and Tangier lost its independence and became part of Morocco . . . so the restaurant folded up and they
went back to their hills . . .
And then I saw them later as friends, went back to the village several times for the festival, and, uh, then the Rolling Stones came
to stay in Morocco, brought along Robert Frazer, who was an art dealer in London at that time, and he knew them and brought them
to visit me and we made trips together through Morocco, and Brian Jones later came back, he wanted very much to go up to the
mountain, and although he never got there during the festival time he did bring a sound engineer with him and recorded the music which appears on that record [Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Rolling Stones Records, 1971.], which is now out of print I'm sure . . . about which there was an enormous amount of legal difficulties over trying to get money to the musicians, for all of the usual recording company reasons, and naturally complicated by the fact that Brian had died and that the other Stones were not terribly interested in the record, probably because it reminded them too
much of things that they preferred to leave in the past, partly on the musical level, because Brian had wanted to take the Stone's music rather more toward the openings that Moroccan music made
possible, and, uh, which have appealed to other musicians since and I think will have even more and more effect in the future . . . but Mick was very determined to keep it right down to that R&B which they
had ripped off the American Black music, which he found a perfectly good product to last for the next 20 years, and has lasted 10, at any
rate . . .
T: So a different type of relationship with the Jajouka musicians after the restaurant folded?
B: Well, I might say about it, from the beginning, uh, that I got to know them much better than most people ever would because of the fact that we were in business together, whether we were first in business around the restaurant, or later around one or other records that they'd made, uh, you really get to know people only when you
do business with them, and we got to know each other very well, for good and for ill, for reasons of business . . .
T: There was some difficulty, wasn't there . . .
B: Plenty . . .T: Involved you losing the restaurant . . . ?
B: Plenty, yeah, plenty . . . hhmmm . . .
~ BRION GYSIN INTERVIEW ~
From a forthcoming book of interviews with Brion Gysin, edited by Genesis P-Orridge. In Paris, Jon Savage asked the questions . . .
R/S: You said it was worth surviving the whole cancer operation because there were some things you wanted to do-
BRION: Oh, you make that sound much too optimistic-too positive! No
no . . . the only reason for surviving was to wrap up some odds and ends, and some of them are already wound up. I mean like getting
The Third Mind published. Less satisfactory - getting Dreamachines into production, which they are, only partially. And getting some shape to my life as a painter-and that hasn't really happened yet-I mean, some successes along the way like this show at the museum . .
. but this will take more work.
R/S: Do you mean wrapping things up, or just sort of putting things in perspective, or continuing-
BRION: Mostly wrapping them up. Because I have plenty of things to continue. Let's say-the songs that I've written with Steve Lacy [Steve Lacy and Brion Gysin Songs (12" LP + 7" 45), Hat Hut Records, Box
127, West Park, NYC, NY 12493, or, Box 461, 4106 Therwil,
Switzerland.]-I want to get that all onto a record . . . if that's the ideal receptacle for it, whatever. I have a long manuscript that I would
like to finish, but I found I'm not the activist I once thought I was.
It's very difficult to do too many things at once-in fact I can't really ever do two things at once.
R/S: Is the manuscript The Beat Hotel?
R/S: The bit that was published in Soft Need - was that the beginning or-BRION: That was just a small piece in the middle.
R/S: Ideally, would it be a book like The Process?
BRION: It would have a form, yes, and I have found a form - it took
me many years to find the exact form. And I really have wanted to
fill the form that I now can see ahead of me.
The Process certainly is a very formed book - the whole idea actually end-to-end. So in that same way-Yes, I do now have an exact receptacle of the form into which I would pour all this.
R/S: Is that how you worked with The Process as well?
BRION: Yes, I only was able to work when I had found the form . . . it filled itself in, sort of inevitably. Once the form was recognized, then the material sliped into its proper place quite easily.
R/S: Because - in The Process . . . there's an enormous mixture. On
one level there were all sorts of allusions to Othello and Homer, and
then . . .there seemed to be people like Mya who were definitely sort
of creations that you'd actually known. Also, there was lots of ethnic stuff about Morocco . . . there seemed to be a lot of different things-BRION: Well, I had decided very definitely to put into it practically everything that I know about Morocco, because it would be
impossible for me to write any more, inasmuch as it's rather the stomping ground of Paul Bowles, who has invented his own mysterious, murderous Morocco which is not mine. But, it's his territory as much as Malaysia was the territory of Maugham . . . My good friend Sanche de Gramont has written a very successful book about him (Maugham).
R/S: To a lot of people you're only known as a writer - is painting actually harder to organize?
BRION: They're both very hard to organize. There are definite forms for getting a book published or not published, and getting some money or not getting any money from it . . . Whereas painting is
much more formless, much more mysterious . . . As to how a piece of spoiled canvas or scribbled-on paper suddenly becomes worth an enormous amount of money . . . has nothing to do with the case of literature and life and a career.
R/S: In all the books you put out you're actually communicating to a large number of people instantly, because-let's say the book has a
run of two thousand-there'll probably be about ten thousand people who read it-and that's a lot of people. That's more than will probably ever see a picture of yours . . .
BRION: Yeah, that's true . . . And certainly more people can read a
book than can "read" a picture, in any case. The level of pictorial education is not the same as just the ordinary literacy level of people who can read a book and get one kind of sense out of it, at any rate. Pictures reverberate much longer than a book does, because of the fact that they exist in a very different time from the time of a book. The time of a book is the imagined time in which the book is written (which it is meant to represent) . . . and the time that it takes to read
it. The time in music is the time that it takes to play it from the beginning to the end. Whereas a picture changes with every second of the day because of the changing light . . . all of what I do changes that dramatically, even. And many people that I have known who
own pictures of mine have said, "You know, I owned that picture for several years before one day, I happened to look at it and then I saw
it. I had already bought it because I liked it, but I hadn't really seen
it until several years after I had owned it." Well - that's not the same time that a book exists in.
R/S: Do you actually prefer either medium, or is that irrelevant - or
do you just like them both for different reasons?
BRION: Yes, apparently. It's rather troublesome to me as a matter of fact - to like them equally well.
R/S: Do you think the course of your career would have been
different if . . . I think people find it very hard to cope with the fact that one does two different things at once-
BRION: I certainly do, and I don't do just two, I do more than two.
Yes-as you understand the word "career"-it's certainly a mistake to
do more than one thing. In fact, even if it's only in sports or in a physical skill of some kind, you are better off to do just one thing . . . Not everybody can be a decathalon hero . . .
R/S: How do your paintings get out? Do they all go through galleries, or-
BRION: No, exhibitions. I've never had a gallery that really occupied itself with my career at all, and that's a very considerable lack. As I was saying to you, it's insane that my work should be in all the museums in France and all the important museums in America, and not in any gallery. But that's obviously my fault . . . more my fault than theirs, at any rate.
R/S: Presumably, painting is actually also different from a business point of view, in that you presumably (if you have an exhibition, sell paintings) make a fair amount of money every few years. Whereas with a book, you may not make any money at all, but they might
come out more frequently-
BRION: No, it doesn't really work that way. If you make a book which
is a hit book, you make quite a good deal of money. If you make anything less than a hit, you make nothing at all. Because they find ways of charging it off to advertising or public relations or god
knows what, and you really get only your advance. I personally have never seen any royalties, except some so ludicrous that they're not even worth mentioning.
In regard to pictures, they are sold by a gallery which takes a percentage according to whether you have made an agreement for just that one show, or - if you are going to work a number of years with that gallery, they will then pay you a monthly stipend, and they take a much greater percentage of the price for which the picture is sold at that time. And if the picture is re-sold after that, you have no lien at all on the money. As in the case of the Jasper Johns that he
sold for nine hundred dollars eleven or twelve years ago . . . and has now been sold for the ludicrous sum of a million dollars.
R/S: I bet he's pissed off-
BRION: Not really - he said he just doesn't understand it. He was brought up during the years of the Depression, and such sums are really quite unreal to him . . .
BRION: One of the reasons is that . . . I think it scares people . . . Because of the fact that it deals with the area of interior visions
which has never been tapped before. Except in history, one knows of cases - in French history, Catherine de Medici for example, had Nostradamus sitting up on the top of a tower (which is now just
being restored, at the present time, over there). and there was no pollution in those days . . . one didn't have any screen between the man on top of the tower and the sun. and he used to sit up there and with the fingers of his hands spread like this would flicker his fingers over his closed eyes, and would interpret his visions in a way which were of influence to her in regard to her political powers . . . they were like instructions from a higher power.
R/S: But they were good visions-
BRION: They could also foretell bad things too. Peter the Great also
had somebody who sat on the top of a tower and flickered his fingers like that across his closed eyelids . . . And any of us today can go and look out the window or lie on a field and do it, and you get a great
deal of the type of visions - in fact, it's the same area in the alpha bands of excitation of the brain - within the alpha band between
eight and thirteen flickers a second. And the Dreamachine produces this continuously, without interruption, unless you yourself interrupt it by opening your eyes like that.
So, the experience can be pushed a great deal further - into an area which is like real dreams. For example, very often people compare it to films. Well, who can say who is projecting these films - where do these films come from? If you look at it as I am rather inclined to now-like being the source of all vision-inasmuch as within my
experience of many hundreds of hours of looking at the Dreamachine, I have seen in it practically everything that I have ever seen-that is, all imagery. All the images of established religions, for example, appear - crosses appear, to begin with; eyes of Isis float by, and
many of the other symbols like that appear as if they were the Jungian symbols that he considered were common to all mankind.
And then one goes very much further - one gets flashes of memory, one gets these little films that are apparently being projected into one's head . . . one then gets into an area where all vision is as in a complete circle of 360 degres, and one is plunged into a dream situation that's occurring all around one. And it may be true that this is all that one can see . . . that indeed the alpha rhythm contains the whole human program of vision. Well-that is a big package to deal with-and I don't think anybody particularly wants . . . amateurs sitting in front of Dreamachines fiddling with it, perhaps . . .
R/S: Are you paranoid or realistic (depending on your definition of that). Do you think that part of the fact that the Dreamachines
haven't turned out is deliberate?
BRION: Somebody said that the lesson of the 60s was the fact that all the paranoids turned out to be right!
R/S: I think William Burroughs said that: a paranoid is somebody
who knows what's going on-
BRION: Who see what's happening. And it's a very easy package of dismissal into which to dump every kind of objection to what is going on. Who can say? I don't really know - it seems to me much more random than that. I don't feel paranoid in that-I don't think there's some sort of agency after me-or if they are, they're doing it with kid gloves . . .
R/S: Talking about dream-like states . . . is there any sort of
Surrealist source in that? Because they were trying . . . they made some attempts to merge the two states . . . Has the Dreamachine and even cut-ups taken it a whole stage further?
BRION: Oh, but quite a different stage. It's actually dealing with the material involved - I mean, cut-ups are taking the actual matter of writing as if it were the same as the matter involved in sculpting or
in painting . . . and handling it with a plastic manner. The Dreamachine is something else again, as it gives an extended vision
of one's own interior capacities, which could also be overwhelming. After all, people could think that these were being imposed upon
them - before they were capable of realizing that these were a part
of all human experience. And from there - say they did realize that - well, a great deal of what they see in life would be changed, it's true.
In some people's lives, they say, "Oh yes, I've had visions like that when I rubbed my thumbs in my eyes," or, "Yes, I remember one
time I was going past a row of trees" or something or another like that. It would become more general knowledge that this is part of one's interior vision, and I think that-I would even go as far as
saying that this particular century in which we live has given a great importance to painting, and this knowledge of one's own interior possibilities would rather lessen the importance - as there have been other centuries which have given greater importance to say, architecture or music. Painting itself looks to me like it's on its way out - as though it were dying on the vine. And this recognition of one's own interior possibilities might very well supplant it.
R/S: Why would you say painting is dying on the vine? Is it because
of the gallery system . . . is it because of the social and cultural place
BRION: No, it really began with the Einstein apprehension of the physical quality of the world, where the energy of the world (which is supposed to be represented in the arts, after all) is declared to
equal m, which is the mass of the earth times the speed of light squared. And anybody who realized that you can change the forces
in an equation-you can change the elements from one side to the other of the equation-in the same way people realized that the
matter of painting (which for the last few centuries has been considered to be colors, ground colors floated in oil and laid onto a surface and dried, producing an effect of luminosity and transparency) could be changed by adding pieces of cut-up newspaper as the Cubists did, or throwing sand into the mixture to produce exploding kind of matter itself. So, matter was being played with very early in painting . . . by the beginning of the twentieth century, at any rate . . .
Here's the energy-which is sort of the talent or the genius of the artist-represented by the speed of light squared which is a flash vision forward. And the m is the oil and vinegar mixtue-like I always said-like you're making a salad . . . here was oil and linseed oil and lengtheners like turpentine and whatnot were used as a medium in which to float colors and prduce an image of the world. But then one say that that image was not sufficient. By the time that photography had jumped into its place in the middle of the nineteenth century, people had annouced it: "As of today, painting is dead!" That was the announcement with which photography was hailed, at the time, and there was such a grain of truth in this, that one thought that obviously pursuing the exact representation and the way of . . . hyperrealism was no longer interesting - so let's try and change the nature of the matter. And so - sand was thrown into the canvas . . . collages were invented, and that's why I thought that all of those techniques which had entered into the arts in the beginning of the nineteenth century hadn't even touched the realm of literature yet.
R/S: I think you'd be surprised to see how much cut-ups have
actually been assimilated and taken for granted-
BRION: That's true - even in France, where it doesn't work nearly as well because of the nature of the language . . . Almost immediately, within the very first few months, there was a group of American poets that brought out a two-volume book of their 'genius' work
called Locus Solus, which was all cut-ups. But they never acknowledged it - it happened within six months of the publication
of Minutes To Go, in January 1960.
R/S: How did you work the cut-ups-was it an accident which you
then observed and then built upon systematically?
BRION: Yes - that's what it was, an accident . . . but which I
recognized immediately as it happened, because of knowing of all the other past things - I knew about the history of the arts, let's say. And it seemed like a marvelous thing to give to William, who had a huge body of work to which it could immediately be applied. It wasn't applicable to my condition because I didn't have that body of work
just to take and cut up and produce something new with. I would
have to produce new work which then I would cut up - it seemed
like a contradiction in terms. and William was doing so well with the marvelous subjects that he had, which were drugs, sex and rock'n'roll - he was doing good with it. So-let him have it!
R/S: And indeed The Process is cut-up-
BRION: No, there are lots of cut-ups in it and lots of things that came out of using cut-ups, but very thoroughly assimilated-
R/S: It's more stylized, I think, and the temporal cut-ups are very clear . . . they're mated, actually. A lot of William's books are quite hard to read all the way through because you just sort of jump and pick bits out . . . I just like savoring bits, all the gamey bits, or whatever. But The Process is much more like a proper novel . . . it would seem to be scripted.
BRION: It's tooled actually . . . The general all-over picture is that there's no voice of an omniscient author, and that these are a series
of voices which are the different presences of speech. There's I, thou, he, she, it, and you-they, etc . . . As I said, they were tooled down
until they fitted like that, and lots of the pieces going through the information was cut-up and echoes of Herotodus, echoes of T. E. Lawrence - echoes of all kinds of people are cut up right into it to
give it that sort of particular timeless flavor.
THE BURROUGHS ARCHIVES
BRION: . . . I was always telling William - in fact it's the thing that did pull us out of the hole - was my insisting on this with William, who had always just thrown, practically abandoned, his manuscripts everywhere. Lots of manuscripts have disappeared and god knows if they'll ever see the light of day. The suitcase full of material that never went into Naked Lunch was left behind in Tangier and the street boys were selling it for a dollar a page!
R/S: So somebody somewhere has got them-
BRION: A few pages here and there . . . But there is a huge amount of material in Lichtenstein . . . you've seen the William Burroughs Archive [catalog]? All of that stuff hasn't been seen by anybody. One hopes . . . very soon it will be sold to somebody else or sold to a university who will know how to catalogue it and put it at the
disposal of people who want to consult it. But as it is now, it's just wrapped up in boxes in Lichtenstein.
R/S: Why is it there?
BRION: It was bought by somebody in Lichtenstein.
R/S: Are they doing any research on it?
BRION: No. Nobody's allowed to look at it at all . . . The man who owns
it has a very good reason - that he knows nothing about how to catalogue it, and as it has once been catalogued as it appears in that printed book, he wants the material to remain just in that order, in order to be able to hand it on intact to somebody else. Because he
made a poor investment for reasons which had to do with the enormous money gap that occurrred between the dollar and the
Swiss franc. Like, if he sold it today for a sum which is offered, he would make a profit of forty-five percent on his dollars, but he'd be losing money on his Swiss francs . . .
R/S: When did you first start thinking about films?
BRION: Right then at that time, particularly saying to William that . . . we should get hold of somebody that could help us - that was in the business already. And right in that same short street which is only one block long, somebody that I knew just as a neighbor invited me
to a party, and that's where we met Antony Balch.
Antony had been intent on making films since he'd been twelve years old . . . Our plans didn't work out - I mean, we made only those two short films, after all, and we had meant to make at least Naked Lunch - that's never been made yet, although I wrote two scripts for
it at different times. A lot of money was spent . . .
R/S: I've seen the storyboard for one of those . . . that Genesis P-Orridge has.
BRION: We saw it when Antony died-it was very nearly thrown
away, all of that material-his mother didn't know anything about
him, and none of his business associates did, because they were
really quite on a different beam with him. And it seemed the best
idea for Gen to have it - which is why I sort of shoved it off in that direction. He has the storyboard and a whole layout of the pictures . .
. of camera angles and shots and stuff like that.
R/S: Cans of film-BRION: Which he hasn't seen yet.
R/S: I'm dying to see that stuff-
BRION: So are we all.
R/S: Was it all on 16mm?
BRION: Thirty-five. There may be some 16mm in there, but
everything they shot was always in 35mm . . . and in 70mm.
R/S: Did you actually find it difficult to do at the time?
BRION: Of course! The money's always enormous! It's always very expensive. Antony was a very successful distributor of films, and
made a good deal of money. He also spent a good deal of money, as
one does in that movie world. You have to spend that sort of money
in order to be able to get to the people who will put up a good deal more money. You have to travel around as we did and see them and meet them and whatnot, and none of those things worked out.
Antony spent a really . . . I have no idea of how much, but, say- fifty or a hundred thousand pounds, perhaps already was spent on those film projects . . .
R/S: William also did a bok recently called The Blade Runner - do you know if that's to be made into a film?
BRION: No, nothing's been made into a film and put on the screen except the two that we did together, Towers Open Fire and the Cut-
ups, and then Antony and he did Bill and Tony on 70mm. And then
the material that Genesis now has which has never been seen by anybody . . .
R/S: Where were those films done?
BRION: They were done in Paris, London, New York and Tangier.
R/S: Over a period of years?
BRION: No, not all that long.
R/S: When they came out, were they actually shown?
BRION: Sure they were shown. And even now they're still shockers when they're shown. People yell and scream and jump up in their seats and are very affected by them, still. They still look very, very
new to people.
R/S: I'd agree with that. I saw them . . . when Throbbing Gristle was playing . . . people were actually completely flipped out, and the
whole concert ended up in a huge fight. The whole evening was very, very charged . . . I felt, not as a result (but pretty damn nearly) of seeing those two films first, in combination with all of that.
BRION: Sure. Well, the same thing happened in New York, where you would think the audience might be more blase, but they were not - people were also jumping up and down there too. Almost everything that we've done still has that kind of charge in it . . .
R/S: In a way that's wonderful-
BRION: Well, it's also difficult to live with, because people - as
recently as this week, where I've been frequenting all the art dealers that I know who are now sitting there ensconced in their art fairs dealing in million dollar, half million dollar pictures that they have hung around the walls of their stalls - are just sitting thre on their balls saying, "You know that's what we're doing, and you, dear Brion, as much as we appreciate you, you're still very avantgarde . . . We're tired old gentlemen, you know - if you'd only come to us twenty
years ago when were full of enthusiasm . . . " Of course, twenty-
I did . . . I've known them that long, and they gave the same answer then. They were all after ten minute masterpieces by Andy Warhol
or Frank Stella or any of those stars that they've invented, who sell for huge sums of money . . .
R/S: Were those two films originally part of larger things?
BRION: No, they were meant to be what they are. For the Cut-ups, a great deal more film was exposed than that, and that's presumably what Genesis has there now - the stuff that one didn't use . . . more than that, even. I'm not quite sure myself - Antony was always fairly vague about it, even . . .
We were always going to see that old stuff again, but there was always new stuff to see - we'd be visioning that, and I'd say, "When
are we going to vision all the rest of the stuff that you have there?" - "Well, it's at, you know, the B.F.I. in cans . . . " So, I'm not sure what Genesis has. A good deal of it is photographs of me working in Paris, and working . . . painting a huge great big paper in New York that William just - left the studio and left the paper behind. It was
shoved up into a place where you could easily have forgotten it, but he's always been a great one for just picking up his hat and what he can hold in one hand and-a portable typewriter in the left hand-he leaves his own manuscripts behind, so I can't really complain too much when he's left a great deal of my work behind. He has-he's destroyed an enormous amount of my work-but he's destroyed a
great deal of his own by just letting go . . .
R/S: I suppose at the time it didn't seem to matter.
BRION: Well, one was just so busy and, having all these tons of paper
to move around and-where were you going to put them-and, where one was going one wasn't quite sure-it wasn't as if one was going home . . . we were just settling some place else for awhile . . .
~ BRION GYSIN INTERVIEW ~
"Romance is about losing, essentially. Delights are about control" JOHN GACY AND ROSALYN CARTER
BRION: The American scene is certainly full of death. Full of it, my god. The Monster of Augsburg - in my childhood there was a horrible cat who, at the end of the war, 1919, had eaten some thirty-two
boys. He made them into pates and sold them to his friends and stuff like that. Well, this was considered very extraordinary: a case for Krafft-Ebing. But now, here's Rosalyn Constable Carter, whatever her name is, in a photograph with-
SLEAZY: Yeah, but the fact that Gacy was around just meant that he was a little bit more-
BRION: You're absolutely mad, man, he was a community leader. He dressed up as Santa Claus and he gave Santa Claus performances; he wasn't disguised at all. That's who he really was, he was Santa Claus .
He was a pillar of society, like a Norman robber baron. You got all these people buried under you, you put them through the dungeons - you got them like that. Why shouldn't you go up and shake the President's wife's hand and get you picture taken? . . .
We've arrived back where we've always been. Now things are getting back to normal when this is happening. Who did Eleanor of Aquitaine have for dinner? She had Gilles de Rais, who had eaten one-hundred-and -thirty five boys, or something like that - that's who came to dinner in those times. Little Mrs. Carter from the South - she's
getting right up there in history! She's in there with Empress Theodora and Messalina. She's rubbing elbows with good company
like that. She's got the Monster of Augsburg right there, turned into a fat Kiwanian. I think that's the way it's going . . .
SLEAZY: I don't think any of that stuff actually happens in New York. It always happens in suburbs, doesn't it?
BRION: Oh no, it happens on the WestSide . . .
SLEAZY: You don't get mass murderers in New York. You get murderers obviously. You get muggings, you get stuff like that, but you don't get people that are really specialized.
BRION: You kidding yourself? You just haven't been frequenting the specialists . . .
BRION: Paper was invented by the Chinese, and got to the Arabs about the eighth century. Before then, there'd been papyrus paper from Egypt, which was older, of course. But the sort of paper as we know it appears in Europe only about the twelfth century, and came from Arab sources through Sicily, through the German kings - Hohenstauffen. Kings of Sicily imported paper first of all, because they had large schools set up of people, copying manuscripts for the first time onto paper. And so paper making made its way in Europe connected with good water, which is very important - the water source. All the paper mills were set up along rivers that were then still very clear. The Rhine was clear until my day; I saw the Rhine clear in 1930. Now it's a great big sewer . . . dangerous sewer.
My first cousins had a paper factory on the Rhine from about 1500, maybe earlier, and made paper from reclaimed linen sheets and things like that; made that fantastic handmade linen paper that's so tough you can barely tear it. And they made money for bank notes
too, for a long time - centuries.
As a child, I made paper there too, where there was this big mess
like porridge-Genesis P-Orridge!-and you'd grab a dollop of it in a big wooden spoon and throw it into a box that had a net at the bottom
like a sieve, and you'd dump it up and down in a mortar like that
until a sort of drool was distributed evenly all over the surface of
your mesh. Then you'd turn it out on a marble slab and roll it either cold or hot . . . and that was handmade paper.
In the S----- Museum they still have those things shown, materials that they used and the machines that they had, stuff like that. Their paper went up and down the Rhine-from Amsterdam-it went quickly and easily to London; that was the nearest port. So they and people from Basel used to go back and forth from London from Elizabethan times regularly. Well, the Holbein, who was the principal painter at the court of Henry VIII, came from Basel, and worked on paper. And this woman that I know has this collection of papers that are of such value that she's always been afraid to distribute them in any way, because of the fact that they could fall so easily into the hands of forgers. And she should worry.
All collections are full of fakes and forgeries, in any case. I spent a whole winter working and going through the archives that the Louvre has here in Paris. You have to get special permission and a letter from your embassy and all kinds of stuff to get in - I did that. And I was particularly interested in the German and Basel painters and graphistes like Durer and Holbein and Urs Graf and Nikolaus Manuel Deutsch, of which they have a big collection. And half of their Durers are fakes! At least half. Obvious fakes. And they say, "Yes,
yes, we know they're fakes, but you know, they've been here so long
- they were given by somebody in the eighteenth century, so they have some kind of historical value, and we're not saving them simply because they are real or are very good, but . . . " - You know, those kind of museum-ology-type stories that they tell; I guess they're reasonable enough. But this woman has given me quite a lot of these different papers. I have still big wads of them in there that I haven't used. And I have used them on some very interesting projects, but I don't have enough to . . . a book of this size, for example. I wouldn't even be able to make a single copy.
GEN: That's a nice sort of connection, timewise, isn't it?
BRION: As I said, it was studying Japanese-the Japanese language school-that got me so interested in paper and ink, really. It's a whole study and it's the basis of their aesthetic. As a matter of fact it's
based on the two-
GEN: Actually coming from the materials rather than imposing them.
GEN: Strange coincidence that there is a family connection . . . Can't escape your roots, boy! - What is it he says in Towers Open Fire?
"You can't deny your blood."BRION: I deny that statement!
GEN: I got a horrible sensation the other day watching myself on a video. I suddenly looked and - I did an expression identical to my father. It was horrible, I thought, "Oh shit!" . . . That always worries me a bit - being trapped.
BRION: "Somber moor, looking like Othello."
A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN . . .
BRION: . . . We live in a period, I think, unique in all history. No house has an attic anymore, there's no granny to put it in the attic - granny's gone away to Florida to an old age home in St. Petersburg. Nobody even knows her maiden name. You ask any American the maiden name of either one of his grandmothers and he hasn't got
any idea. So there's no connection anymore - most of them don't
want any connection. They've decided that they're going to be just Americans, for one reason or another.
More than that, we have this enormous privilege which I think is unique and comes about for the first time in any society - of it being possible to have a room of one's own. Nobody has a room of his or
her own ever in all of history. Everybody lived with . . . dogs . . . and camels . . .
GEN: You mean, even within somebody's family you have your own room-
BRION: Yeah, it was never possible. You always slept with brothers
and sisters, and mothers and fathers and grandparents and all sorts
of people; maids living in the house, sleeping behind the kitchen door. Do you know how much the idea of having a room to yourself
has changed the whole sexual scene? In fact, I think that really the basis of the sexual scene is the fact that it's been possible to be able
to be alone to do these fancy things that you've thought up. It was never possible if you lived in the bosom of a family, how can you possibly? People do get up in some really kinky situations but not
And I think a society like Muslim society where all sexuality occurs with your clothes on! I was once sitting with a man who had four wives and I suggested that any one of his wives might have seen him with his clothes off and he was shocked at the idea. And sex is very quick, and religious law demands immediate washing after it so it's
all bangbangbang and shoo . . . zoot to wash yourself! None of this languorous lying around and this luxury situation that everybody's thought about; for our ancestors that never really existed at all.
Maybe sometims for a sultan and his harem, yes. But even so, just think of that: all of them tattling on each other and jealous of each other and poisoning each other's children - all that happened regularly, and still does.
GEN: The only way to change a society properly is to break down the family units and the atomic structure of whatever they call it. 'Til
you break it down you can't break any other system of control. At
the moment most societies still are based on the assumption of families, so it's one of the key areas to fight if you want to change things.
BRION: Yeah, but do you? Does one? Are you going to change it into what?
GEN: Change it into what!? Why do people always have to change things into something else?
BRION: William changes it into a Wild Boys scene - you and I know
that William himself wouldn't survive a wild boys scene! (laughs)
GEN: . . . I think . . . loose alliances you choose, not a family in the normal sense, but people you find you relate to more naturally than you do people who are related by blood. Whom you tend to associate with more often than you do with (what do you call them?) filial family. I've never understood the logic of the filial family - why just because somebody came out of the same fanny you should like them, or because somebody was your mother's sister you should like them.
BRION: Well, it hardly ever happens, does it?
GEN: No, but it's traditional that you keep in touch with aunts and uncles and cousins and all that shit, you know. And it's very unlikely you even like your own family. But it's still suggested to you from an early age that it's quite natural and reasonable to like relatives. And
to dislike relatives is unnatural.
BRION: Not in my family . . .
DEAD FINGERS TALK
GEN: How did William lose part of his finger?
BRION: The most commonly told story is that he cut it off himself and threw it into the face of a psychoanalyst who was questioning him in an army examination . . .
GEN: And that's the story he tells?
BRION: No, he doesn't it, other people tell it. He's never told it to anybody. He doesn't say anything-
GEN: As usual. I guess that's a good technique sometimes: to clam up.
I do remember it now.
BRION: He's not the only one. Partly the legend may be due to
Maraini, who was an Italian who wrote a very admirable book called Secret Tibet twenty years ago, and more recently a monograph that was written also twenty years ago (it has come out only now) about Japan. And he and his wife and three daughters were taken prisoner by the Japanese at a time when he had come as a diplomatic-cultural expert from Italy to Japan, and then Mussolini joined with the Axis and all the Italians were demanded-obliged-to take their fascist oath. And they refused and so they were thrown out to the Japanese prisoner camp where they were very badly treated.
Maraini demanded an interview with the general and- here's this Japanese general sitting with regimental sword in front of him like that, and Maraini . . . took his sword, and cut off his own finger and threw it into the man's face. And that had absolutely the desired
effect - it was the thing that really impressed the Japanese more
than anything else that he could have done. Everybody got more
food, and lives were saved by this gesture. So maybe it's partly that true story that's been loaned to William as part of his legend. But
that didn't happen quite that way.
GEN: So you've lost a toe, and he's lost some finger-
BRION: Everybody loses a little something here and there on the way through this rat race . . .
This excerpt is from a forthcoming book of interviews with Brion Gysin, edited by Genesis P-Orridge, Genesis and Peter (Sleazy) Christopherson asked the questions . . .
"Real total war has become information war, it is being fought now . . "