Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

FLAUNT Magazine, November 2009.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has worn many faces to many people, even before plastic surgery sliced its way into the picture. Whether as a pioneer, a deviant, a devil, a saint, a shaman, a prankster, a philosopher, an occultist, a prophet—or, as one member of British parliament infamously declared him a “wrecker of civilization”—Genesis has projected a reflective kaleidoscope of society’s greatest ideals and worst fears. Sometimes frightening but always beautiful, one cannot help but be exquisitely mesmerized. First as the front man of the brain frothing, white-knuckle industrial band Throbbing Gristle, then as the spiritual leader of the subsequent pre-rave “hyperdelic” Psychic TV—or PTV3 in its current incarnation—the musician’s physicality and art have been mutually consequential and influential beyond words. It has been one year since the tragic death of Genesis’ “other half” Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. Speaking as a pandrogynous, rock n’ roll widower (Genesis and Jaye went through multiple surgeries to mold their identities in an artistic statement they labeled as “pandrogeny”), Genesis employs the use of the pronoun “we” rather than the traditional “I”:

“It started as a purely sentimental and romantic project: two just wanting to literally just be absorbed by each other,” Genesis says of the ongoing transformation. Sitting with Breyer-P’Orridge in her Brooklyn townhouse, over which the tangible presence of Lady Jaye hangs like a gilded halo, s/he diagrams for me how through consciousness, two became one. “The way Jaye would explain it is that some people feel they are a man trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman trapped in a man’s body, but the pandrogyne just feels trapped in a body. Our idea of identity is way beyond gender. It’s the right to manipulate our genetic structure, and say ‘I would like to have fur like a leopard. I would like to have fins and swim underwater, and live underwater half the year. If I’m in a spacecraft in 100 years, I’m going to need short legs, I might need extra arms, I might need different eyes’, and to finally get people to realize that whatever body we have should be designed by us, for us, in order to achieve the maximum ambition that we have.” Such a radical alteration in human self-perception is daunting, but Genesis reminds us that the most daunting tasks are the most important ones. “Pandrogeny went from being in love to being a challenge to the entire species to grow up. Stop squabbling everybody! Grow up!”

As civilization wrecks itself and we navigate through our new dark age, such wisdom from one of society’s greatest troublemakers is certainly needed more than ever. Lucky for us, it comes with the transcendent new PTV3 record, Mr. Alien Brain vs. The Skinwalkers. Mostly recorded at a Philadelphia studio typically reserved for NPR broadcasts, s/he explains how the session had been preceded by a single, hour-long rehearsal. Quite cosmically, they played at their highest level—dedicating their performance to the spirit of Lady Jaye—and recorded the majority of the album in a single take. “All our grief and celebration, all at once, came out,” Genesis marvels. The result? “It’s the album I’ve been wanting to hear all my life,” s/he says, preceding a mirthful laugh. “It only took forty years to get it just right.”

A dense mixture of meditative psychedelic guitar riffs, pre-recorded messages, improvised chants, and brilliant pacing—with an upbeat pop single (“Papal Breakdance”, originally conceived out of hip hop inspiration in 1983) and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Foggy Notion” thrown in for good measure—the album comes as an abrupt surprise for fans and the band alike.

“It’s the most joyful, funny, witty, beautifully done album,” Genesis declares, surrounded by precious artifacts from a life far from ordinary. “It still falls into the category of being largely improvised and subject to random chance, and yet, it’s very amenable. It’s something that you can come to and listen to in almost any mood.” Indeed, psychically charged harmony within the studio helped to draw out the full beauty of the songs’ chords, achieving a sonic catharsis. Whether there was divine intervention or not, even the saddest songs come off uplifting. As the album draws to a close, a tape-recorded refrain plays of I-love-you’s from Lady Jaye and Genesis soaks in the spirit. “We’re in a very difficult time… culturally, politically, economically and ecologically. So what better way to communicate than through something that’s not dark and difficult, because then it has that reflection of what we wish to have changed. It has brightness and light and joy.”