~ An Interview with PSYCHIC TV by Sandy Charron ~
Recorded on "Synesthesia" program WZBC 4:21:84
On Easter Sunday Psychic TV, as composed of Genesis P-Orridge and John
Gosling, gave a performance at the Longwood Theatre of the Massachusetts
College of Art. This unholy event for the holy weekend entirely consisted of
a presentation of prerecorded audio and video tape, with the exception of a
brief section when Gen plinked a few notes on a piano along with a tape loop
of Aleister Crowley chanting to evoke demons. The videos presented
included a COUM Transmissions performance from '77 where Cosey appears
to castrate Chris Carter, PTV members having their penises and clitorises
pierced, other assorted bondage and discipline films, Jim Jones, Charles
Manson, Roman Polanski, Brion Gyson's dream machine in operation, and the
final video was a PTV production, "Terminus" which treats the subject of
people who've given up hope. The audio included both finished PTV and
Throbbing Gristle pieces plus tapes mixed during the performance. These
were primarily tapes of various religious and mystical rituals at their peaks
put on loops.
This event also involved another sister event which took place the previous
Good Friday in Reykjavik, Iceland. It was hoped that there might be a
"Psychick" influence between the two. That remains to be seen.
On the day after the event Gen & John held an informal discussion at Mass
Art with about 25 individuals attending. Gen did all the talking for P.T.V. The
following is a transcript from parts of that discussion:
Q: Do you feel last night was successful?
Q: As far as a ritual.
Gen: As a ritual? I'll probably find out in a few weeks. I'll have to check in
Iceland first, because basically what we did yesterday was to see if we could
have an effect in Reykjavik. Primarily, in terms of what we wanted it was a
success. In terms of what we presented to the people there it was far
simpler. It was a presentation, and it was an initiation in the sense that
people go through something. They go through a structure, and instead of it
being a normal structure that most dogmas or religions or physical systems
use, it's a structure that parallels that, that has no specific direction, and
therefore it's an attempt to short circuit.
Q: What were they doing in Reykjavik last night at the time of the
Gen: I have no idea. If we knew, then we'd be doing inaccurate research.
They also don't know what we were doing.
Q: Was there something preplanned...?
Gen: It was preplanned for them to in some way sense whether they were:
(A) feeling anything and if so what it was, what was happening, or (B)
maybe they were doing something to see if there was interference with what
they were doing. We have to check later about what they were doing and
what happened. We know that on Friday when they were doing something,
we got very strange interference in Boston.
Q: What were they doing in Iceland? Was it the same performance?
Gen: Uh, they were actually doing a much more traditional, medievil
ceremony, because they're still dealing with inherited visions of what magic
is about. We're trying basically to make use of contemporary technology as a
reflection. Television is magic, we're saying that television is actually a
neurological and electrical form of magic or alchemy, and that that's the way
creative television will be going.
Q: So you say that in the past people used magic to achieve this certain kind
of physical and mental state or...
Gen: The basic aim of alchemy was not to turn actually metal into gold, but to
turn the person into someone of higher potential or achievement. The gold is
the actual person, and the method was to repeat the experiment almost to
the point of neutrality, like no longer being emotionally or consciously
involved in it. And in the end, the random chance ceremony, the one thing
you can't specify, which could be anything from the conjunction of planets to,
uh, someone knocking on the front door, or you don't know what the other
element is, that's the thing, the unknown factor is the thing which makes
something spectacular happen. That's precisely why we can't say if we're
successful or not, because we present the elements that we are interested in
in a way that we feel opens up the situation. The rest is out of our hands,
and it may or may not an effect, and it may be on one person or several. It
may be a residual or long term effect. It may be ten years time that
somebody can refer back and understand what was happening to
themselves. It may suddenly become relevant then.
I was once talking to William Burroughs about the idea of magic, and he said
that "most" people's fallacy is that they think they have to mimic what was
done before as magic. In fact, people who are working in the area of magic
just use what is available in their contemporary societies. So if you're in a
cave you use rocks, sticks, sand, blood, dead animals, anything that's there.
When you're in the middle ages, you're using test tubes, flames, and candles.
That's because that was actually the most advanced scientific equipment.
And now we're in 1984, and we have TV and video and video projectors and
poloroid cameras... and that's what it should be, a contemporary application
of what's available. The structure remains the same, the equipment used
should actually be as relevant as possible to what is being used for the
entirely opposite reason by the powers that be to control and suppress
Q: Do you think there's any chance of breaking the control the media has
over the populace?
Gen: You mean on a mass scale? (Yeah.) In theory there is always the chance.
In practice it's very unlikely, and also not necessarily desirable, you know?
Q: When you get into subjects like deprogramming from basic society it
implies that there will be something afterwards.
Gen: No, that's just a fallacy that's been deliberately thrown into the culture
to put people off. They always say, "It's all very well saying you want to
destroy this, but what are you going to put in its place?" And the answer is
that it's inevitable that there will be something in its place. You don't have to
define it. If you knew what it was in advance, then you'd have already have
had it given to you before.
Q: But then that brings up the problem of there will always be another
control structure built up after the one you tear down, and so there'll be the
constant battle against control structure. Do you ever break through that?
Gen: Well control has its own life. This is one of the things people don't
realize. Control exists almost separate from the human race now. You know it
has always done so, and at the very lowest point, it's more fun to attack and
deal with control than it is to do many other things. You know, it's like why
not? To submit willingly is less interesting than to play games with it and to
see what happens. And at the end of the day you may or may not come up
with something remarkable, but you'll at least have occupied yourself in a
far more stimulating way. I think certainly that control can be lessoned or
the systems can be more flexible and more reflective of the way people
genuinely are both in their brain and physically. I think one of the problems
at the moment is that we've been removed from ourselves, and we treat
politicians and the people who run the media as mummy and daddy, and we
ask them to smack our bottoms when we're naughty and give us praise
when we're good. And we expect other people to tell us what we value, even
down to this situation when we're supposed to justify what we do, and we
don't justify it. I would prefer that yesterday was left as it was, and the
people who were there have to deal with it. I think it's better for them that
way. As soon as we're here, people can push the conclusions on us, and then
say I do or don't agree with that conclusion, or they can just leave it on us
and try and dismiss the fact that it ever occurred. I think it's much more
healthy to leave things on people, so they have to struggle, struggle with
themselves and struggle with the situation. And that way they'll educate
themselves, even if at the end of it they don't like or care about anything
that we've done. It doesn't matter. What we've done doesn't lose its value or
gain its value according to the response.
Q: I'm curious about the piercing of the genitalia.
Gen: Oh yeah? So are a lot of people.
Q: Yeah I'm sure. Was there some precedent that you found somewhere for
doing that sort of thing in magic or tribal situations or was that something
that you thought up on your own?
Gen: We actually first came across the fact that that was still being done
through somebody we knew who was gay, a man who was gay who did
tattoos and also did piercings as well.
Q: I've seen articles on it in magazines.
Gen: There is actually an American magazine called "P.F.I.Q., Piercing Fans
International Quarterly" made in Los Angeles, which in a typically California
way, (if I can generalize slightly) is like "who can have the most of it fastest
and who can do the most outrageous, gross thing to themselves." But it is
very interesting, and also contains articles on ethnic or tribal precedents. I
suspect their motivation is far more self-titillation than they pretend. Like in
the 30's people used to do sort of pseudo medical books, you know like, uh
"The Worship of the Phallus in History" and so on, and pretend that it was all
very anthropological, when in fact it was the only way they could have an
excuse to write something about sex.
But, through meeting this man and talking to him, um, first of all we
discovered that it is actually functional; that whatever the level of your
orgasm, if you have a piercing, whether you're male or female, the orgasm
intensity is increased. And uh, we know this from our own experience, and
also from the experience of a lot of other people that we've since met who've
got the same things. And in our private mythology we deal with the idea of
the climax or the orgasm, so obviously that was of interest to us privately.
And there are precedents in history in different cultures, both in India and
Africa and New Guinea. And I think that in most cases they used it as a
memory of a particular event or moment in your life when you change or
you've reached a certain point socially, and they're also used for ritual
reasons as a test or as a threshold or as a discovery or your own limits. And
all those ideas interest us.
Q: Well, it's a bit like circumcision.
Gen: Well, not really because circumcision is usually, but not always
unnecessary; usually but not always desensitizes the penis, and is in a sense
a removal of one's personal powers.
I think that piercing is very symbolic of taking back the power over your
own sexuality, to the point where you actually get separated from civilized
society and its norms. And that certainly does appeal to me personally on a
level of vanity or personal feeling that I do accept and admit that I also like
the idea of it making me slightly an outsider or an outlaw, of having
removed myself to that point from what I inherited as the view of how I
deal with my own sexuality.
Q: So you really have been involved in setting up events where, uh, that will
empower people and give them a sense that they can change things; that
there can be a destruction of the status quo which allows people more
options for their lives. Is that a fair assumption?
Gen: That sounds quite good, yeah. I just wonder where you're leading me.
Q: I just have a question as to whether the lack of what you were calling a
sort of alternative...
Gen: There is no "lack of" trouble. The big problem actually is that there are
infinite alternatives. There's not one reality, or not one possibility, or one
answer. Like when the TV screens go off, and there's all those little white
dots, the snow all flying around. They're all reasons, and they're all flying
around each other. There's not one reason; there's infinite reasons; there's
infinite possibilities. And a lot of people find that very hard to deal with
because it throws them back totally on themselves. They can't go anywhere
anymore without someone telling them what to do.
Q: What if you found that through your efforts some people were having a
harder time coping with life, to the point where they become very disturbed
and possibly dangerous? This is an "if", this is a big "if", and you've got to
look at these things. If it turns out that way, would you let them continue
with it and say the burden is still on the person experiencing, or would you
work to try and counter that, or what?
Gen: We would work to try and counter it, certainly. But as it happens, the
evidence that we have so far is that quite the opposite has happened. One or
two people who we have met, who are quite definately in the normal
explanations of being psychopaths, have actually found an ability to deal
with living actually in the society as opposed to in institutions. When we
have done concerts or events in other countries or in England, where we've
done the most, one thing they tend to say is that they're amazed how well
behaved and quiet the audience is, and how attentive they are. And you
know, you can get groups like the Osmonds and people get killed at their
concerts. Nobody has even been beaten up at ours. And that's unusual,
because actually there's a tradition of rock'n'roll and music and events of the
kind of popular culture that we tend to deal with, that there is a certain
element of lack of control in one or two people. I think it's quite remarkable
how little agression there is, and how tiny the amount of confusion is. I'm
always amazed, and rather pleased that that's the case, and I tent to show
that as the proof that most people, given that you treat them as responsible
adults and intelligent people, and you don't patronize them (which is what
most people do) are actually quite....well, they know what's going on, and
they know what's happening. They just don't often get left alone, and that's
why we try not to preach at them. That's why we try not to explain to them.
You know, we have a basic faith in human nature, although the society itself
when it's a total thing disgusts us. Usually on a one to one level people are
quite aware of what's happening. Even the guy who's a real redneck, if you
get him on his own, on the right night he'll turn around and tell you he
knows what's happening...in his own way, but he'll tell you. So it's a great
tragedy that people are lying around then, masses of people, and all they
want to do is be left alone to get on with things. They don't need to be
instructed all the time, and they get confused by instruction.
Q: I found in one of the videos, when you were talking about trust as applied
to these violent images that what seemed to have that quality was the self-
immolation part. It seemed almost like the person was doing it in a very
Gen: He's still here. (Pats John on the head.)
Q: Yeah, but it didn't have any sense of gratuitously violent act.
Gen: It was also a more literal image of what the lyric was talking about. And
the idea of the lyric...
Q: But it wasn't like a horrifying image. It was very strong, but...
Gen: Well it's called "Terminus" and we had at that particular moment in
time...we were thinking about terminal people, the people who seem to
voluntarily give up responsibility for themselves and make no effort to
survive or fight. So in that sense it was more obviously suicidal or terminal,
just because it was actually trying to describe the feeling of people who are
very passive and withdrawn. That's why at the end there was still a
sensuality and a feeling of uh...I actually though it was very pretty and
emotional at the end; the last section, the third section. The reason that was
there was to say even at the worst point we have to try and believe there is
Q: Before the immolation is seemed more depressing that afterwards.
Gen: Well, it's like everything...all symbols or all energies are like that. Whilst
it's self-immolation, it's also like liberation. It's energy released as well. It
may be that that's the crisis point, and through that crisis we get to the point
where we start to feel more at ease with what's going on. We start to deal
with it, instead of hiding from it, or running away from it.
Q: It was also an image that was very common in America in the 60's with
Viet Nam and the Buddhist monks.
Gen: Which is why it was done in a much more formal sense. When
somebody had made that decision and still was doing it after the emotional
feeling of wanting to be destroyed. They decided to do it more as some kind
of personal or political act, which was unexplained. I still find that one of my
favorite things that we've done as a complete piece. I think it sums up a lot
of the things that we are trying to deal with, and it shows the slight change
from what we used to do. In that there is in the old days, when we used to
do things, we would have left it at second part, whereas now we have the
third part. And that's partly because we do try and take into account how
people respond to what we do. We do try and now leave an open, primarily
optimistic situation if we can. We don't try to say where they should go, but
we try to leave them with the feeling that there is hope, whereas once we
used to deal more in the idea of hopelessness per se. We were more like
journalists. We described the hopelessness we saw and that was it, whereas
now we sort of describe individual people within that situation and how they
try and deal with it. Basically we say they can deal with it and they can find
Q: With the Psychick Youth, it seems that you borrow that from other
Gen: We're not a religion. We borrow a lot of symbols and styles from
Q: Is it a dogma?
Q: How would you describe it then?
Gen: We never have.
Q: Oh, would you care to now?
Gen: Not really.
Q: But the offices, do you have offices?
Gen: No, we give the impressions of a lot of things and have very little.
Q: Do you mean to give the impression of it being a religion at all?
Gen: Sometimes, if it seems useful. We'll play any game if it seems effective.
We like to generate paranoia in the people who think that they have a covert
monopoly over that kind of area, and we like to take the structure that
they've set up to protect themselves, and then use it to protect ourselves.
They have a vested interest in post office boxes. They set post office boxes
up so they could do things quietly. So it's very convenient for other people to
also do things quietly. It's kind of like, you know, with xerox. Xerox was
invented for the convenience of corporations, but it also means that by
default anybody on the street with a few cents can also duplicate
information, and that's a very powerful tool for everybody. Same with
poloroid cameras. I like the fact that the people who want to suppress
everybody because they invest so much money have to also give their
weapons to everyone else, not all of them, but a lot...actually the most useful
ones, like cassette recorders and video tapes. The ones that duplicate ideas
quickly are the ones they've given to us, and I think it's great. I really enjoy
the irony of it, that they supply the propaganda system to the enemy. That
shows actually that they are a bit dumb. It gives hope because they must be
a bit dumb. Well, in the iron curtain countries, like when I was in Poland, I
wanted to do some xeroxes, and there's one xerox machine in each city. And
you have to go and show what you want xeroxed first to an official, and they
give you permission or not to xerox it, and they make a list of how many
copies you make. They're obviously very aware of the power of the xerox
machine, and they keep total control.
One of the few advantages of our culture is that because the impression is
given that...they want to give the impression of freedom and choice, they
also donate a lot of useful things to everyone else. And that's what's helpful,
and it's fun, you know, at the worst it's fun. There's lots of nice games to play
with each other. It's like a game of chess.
Q: Is there anybody who actively tries to slow you down? Any certain
Gen: Uh, in England certainly...the police, the post office, the telephone
Q: What methods do they use?
Gen: Well, they tap the phone, and they open the mail, they come to the
house searching for deviant material, propaganda, weapons, anything. Some
people just attack you in clubs.
Q: Are you ever able to get back at them? For instance in America there's a
number that you can dial if you feel that your phone is being unrightfully
Gen: Well, in America you don't realize that the legal system here, for all of
its faults, is far more fair in terms of retribution on those who insult your
privacy. There's no retribution in England. I mean that if in England
somebody cuts off the wrong leg you can't sue the hospital. (laughter) You
can't! You can't sue the medical profession in England. It doesn't matter what
they do to you.
They've just started banning books again. They've banned Hunter S.
Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas", "The Naked Lunch" by William
Burroughs, Marquis de Sade. They've just banned the video of "Apocalypse
Now" because it has the word apocalypse in the title.
Q: They're doing that now in America with the moral majority and all that
shit. They're buring books left and right.
Gen: And probably Black Sabbath records too.
Q: The moral majority doesn't notice Throbbing Gristle records.
Gen: To them it's no threat.
Q: In England do people ever work against the government?
Gen: Uh, young people are very cynical and aware of what's going on, but the
basic...it's strange, but there are kind of national characteristics...the British
are very apathetic. You know, they've kinda lounged around for a long time
having an easy time of it, having their empire and so on, and they're
basically still comfortable. "Oh, as long I can go out to work and come home
and watch TV." I mean, that's true everywhere, but in England it seems to be
a disease. I mean these outrageous things are happening that have never
happened before, like the police being given machine guns, and rights for the
police to enter anyone's house without a warrant, search anyone anywher,
keep you in jail for two days without any explanation. It's all gone through
and there's like a paragraph that big in the newspaper (holds his fingers an
inch apart), and then there's a whole front page on Boy George went to such
and such a club and wore a black dress. It's crazy, this sort of triviality that's
being pushed into people's consciousness is unbelievable in England at the
They just brought in a new computer called the X Factor, (which I though it
was funny calling it that), and it got one paragraph in one newspaper and it
means they now have a computer in London which any policeman or any
civil servant can go to and they can just tap out your number and it
automatically taps your line, and they don't even have to have a warrant.
They just walk in and say, "I wanna check what this person is doing." And
everybody in Great Britain is now on that computer, and not one person
complained, not a demonstrator, nothing.
Q: You don't have any alternative newspapers?
Gen: No, we don't. We did at the end of the 60's, but there's none. It's weird,
Q: Some people's phones are being tapped and being investigated who seem
completely superficially harmless, even less subversive than anything you
have done, that's in England.
Gen: Oh yeah, the great thing is they don't really know what they're looking
for at the moment. So they have the ability to tap phones, but they rarely
listen so far. They just know they can do it. I mean our phone is tapped, but
they can't possibly listen, otherwise we'd have been locked up ages ago. So I
mean they're very clumsy and they're very inefficient. They have this
rivalry where they don't tell each other what they're doing, and thank
goodness they're like that; that they're so petty, because it's what protects
most of us. Just like in California when there was the Charles Manson case,
like with the police department where one side of the room had the gun and
the other side had something else, and none of them bothered to tell each
other. So for months nobody knew what was going on when they could've,
because they were all bitching about who was gonna be the...you know, all
worried about who got the arrest, you know, the little tit for it. So that works
in our favor. It's very useful.
Q: Yeah, unfortunately though, like for instance I told you about the number
you can call to find out if your line was bugged. I mean that's also run by the
government, so if they actually did have any serious intent on doing
anything to you...
Gen: Well, at the end of the day if they really want to get you, they'll get you.
I mean it's as simple as that, so it's not really worth worrying about it. If
they just want to come up in a car one night and bundle you in and your
never seen again. They'll get you, you know, if they really think it's
Q: How much interest do you think the government does show in you?
Gen: They show it, but I don't think they really understand...we're very
lucky, that they think in very compartmentalized ways. You are either a
pornographer, or a terrorist, or a drug dealer, or a this or a that. And when
they come round to our place they see a little bit of evidence of everything,
and they just short circuit. They don't want to deal with it, so they just think,
"Oh, they're wacky and they're eccentric," and they go away.
Q: Your records can be helpful in a very therapeutic way, even for the
government, I mean unintentionally. Like if someone was very angry and
they decide to go home and listen to some music, like "Terminus", they'll
finally relax. You're not about to go out and blow up buildings.
Q: I don't think music makes people burn down buildings in any way.
Gen: No, I don't think there's much evidence that records have had a
particularly radical effect either way on anybody. At least what you can try
and do is use them as basically propaganda and also as a way of making
contact with other people who think in a similar way. When you have the
contact you can then start to develop ideas, regardless of records. That's why
we've always said we're not particularly interested in records. They're a
means of contact, and they're a means of trying to encapsulate certain ideas
or certain observations or certain messages, but that's all. And then their
primary use is fund raising and also, most of all, contact. That's why if we
never made a record again, it wouldn't make a lot of difference. We could do
something else. I always say even if you're about to sort of fall over and die
in the street, you could scribble a little message on a piece of paper and
throw it at somebody. There's always something you can do. Or you could
scratch it on the concrete while you're lying there drooling. There's always
some way to try and communicate with somebody, and that's the great hope.
And there's usually somebody somewhere who's at least gonna give you a
hearing, even if they tell you afterwards that you're an idiot.
~ THE BARREN ARE RENDERED FRUITFUL ~