Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's bio reads like the result of throwing a Grimm's fairytale, a Star Trek episode, a Shakespearean tragedy, and the Enquirer into a blender and hitting pulse. One of the founding members and lead singer of pioneering art rock outfits Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, P-Orridge takes credit for inventing Industrial music and having a hand in creating the rave scene of the late '80s and early '90s, was allegedly the last person to talk to Joy Division front man Ian Curtis before he killed himself, and received a $1.5 million judgment after s/he (P-Orridge's dual-gender pronoun of choice) was injured throwing herself out of a window when super producer Rick Rubin's L.A. mansion caught on fire.
And that's only the beginning of her astounding story. (P-Orridge claims several people have taken stabs at writing her biography but each in turn gave up after finding the task too daunting.) The "wrecker of civilization," as s/he was deemed by a member of Parliament, and her late partner and former fellow band mate, Lady Jaye Breyer, had been attempting to achieve -- with the help of extensive surgical procedures including matching breast implants -- perfect pandrogyny, a term they coined to describe the total unification of their beings into a single, evolved, genderless likeness.
After briefly speaking with P-Orridge for a profile that ran in Out's October music issue, I asked for a more extensive interview in order to discuss her relationship with Lady Jaye and what s/he considers her true life work -- overhauling the human species via pandrogyny. P-Orridge was all too happy to oblige and invited me into her massive Brooklyn home on one of the hottest days of the year. S/he answered the door wearing a gauzy, see-through white top sans bra which showcased the breast augmentation she had received just a few days earlier and giddily revealed her chest was now the exact size of Lady Jaye's at the time of her death. In what would be an interview first for me, P-Orridge lifted off her top and insisted I give her "ta-ta's" a feel (for the record -- they were lovely). But before I felt up one of the music industry's most influential artists -- recognized or not -- we sat on her bed and chatted about her being snubbed by Trent Reznor and Marilyn Mason, her dream of genetically engineered humans with gills, and Lady Jaye's influence over P-Orridge's life -- and body -- from beyond the material world.
Out: Youve lived so many lives -- the things that youve done, the people youve worked with, the movements youve been involved in -- and yet I feel like you havent really gotten the acknowledgment or the credit you truly deserve. People like Trent Reznor, or Marilyn Manson --
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: They never mention me. And there are all these biographies of William Burroughs, and they never mention that I was his friend from 1971, that he got me my first Arts Council grant, that he got me a lawyer when the Queen [Elizabeth] tried to put me in jail for doing Queen postcards three years before the Sex Pistols and on and on and on. Ive just stopped thinking about it.
But when you do think about it, does it piss you off?
Its depressing, because it means that young people are being completely misinformed. And thats sad. Theyre not getting the true story of their culture.
So youve never met Trent or Marilyn Manson?
No. But I know they know of me, because I know people who know them. Without sounding egocentric, if they put me and Psychic TV as we are now which is a really fucking shit hot pandrogynous multi-gender multi-sexual preference psychedelic rock band with a light show thats fabulous and all about gender and identity in your face everyone else is going to look like a bunch of wimps! All the kids are going to want to wear skirts and draw on mustaches. Its the last barrier of revolution and evolution. Can you imagine if we could make kids decide that fashion was cross-dressing? Would that not finally freak out America beyond anything?
Well, yes. Thats the thing, though: counter-culture has become culture. But what youre doing is still counter-culture.
Pushing, pushing, pushing. It struck us that thats something wed like to have happen. Already the more daring young people coming to our gigs are realizing that its a safe, autonomous zone where its joyful and its fun and everyone is there to celebrate change, evolution, difference.
What would a world look like to you where you no longer had to push, push, push"?
The primary mode of the human species would be hermaphrodites, obviously. Get rid of the whole binary system. You realize all of this began as a romantic idea between me and Jaye.
You were ones who coined the term pandrogyny, right?
Yes. Positive androgyny.
When did this idea originate?
We were high on Ketamine and we were in this bliss zone and we had just made love and it was that kind of cosmic, ultimate love where you just become each other. And we thought Oh God, wouldnt it just be wonderful to always be like that? To always be able to be absorbed by each other? I wish I could just be inside of you and be you all the time -- I dont want to be me. I just want to be something of you -- I want you to absorb me, eat me, consume me. Thats what its all about -- thats what my idea of love is: this deeply romantic, lyrical, consuming, wonderful form. And so it began with that: the mutual orgasm is the two becoming one. For some people making a baby is the two becoming one and in sense all babies are pandrogynes in the beginning. Sadly, they get fucked up. Then we were thinking about cut ups.
Which was William Burroughs' method of creating new texts by chopping up and inter-splicing existing ones?
Yes. We were going to get surgeries to look like one another. First we were just going to dress the same, then we thought lets take this further. You know how Burroughs and [Brion] Gysin decided when they did their cut ups together neither of them was the author? It was this third mind. This other entity was the creator of this new material. So we thought what if we use ourselves as the cut ups and we created a third being and took that whole thing a step further into beingness and identity and DNA? And thats the pandrogyne. They called it the third mind, our entity is the pandrogyne. And once we got there, we're forced to look at DNA and we saw that its a recording. Its a recording of all of human history back to slime mold. And therefore how is it possible to change behavior? Because the big problem with human beings is that theyre clever monkeys with bad behavior. We can build this wonderful, miraculous, technological, futuristic environment, and we havent bothered to check on our behavior since prehistoric times! We just assumed it was all right to be violent, fearful, and intimidating of anything different or unusual. We cower against change, we cower against anything thats unknown or thats a different way of perceiving something -- it must be the enemy! Everything is the enemy if its not the same as ours. And that has been the tragedy of all human history. So how do we change behavior? We have to get into the recording. We have to get into the DNA.
Genetic engineering. Thats why the governments are trying to control it -- because thats the liberating force of our future as a species. In a sense -- ironically -- transgendered people are the storm troopers of evolution. Theyre already bending DNA -- knowingly or not -- it doesnt matter. What theyre doing is saying, I refuse to accept this prior recording of what Im supposed to be culturally, physically, sexually -- you name it -- I refuse it. I want to have control over my own recording, thank you very much. And once you have your basic species of hermaphrodite and people who have accepted that the human body is not sacred -- this is a very important thing for people to start to learn -- the body is not sacred. Its wonderful -- but it isnt sacred. That means that youre liberated to say, We want to go into space. There are too many people on the planet. Lets colonize space. If were going to be in weightlessness, were not going to need this kind of legs -- theyre actually going to be an encumbrance. So maybe we should genetically engineer ourselves to either have very short, stubby legs or no legs and four arms. And we could be cold blooded to save on having to heat the space ship. And why dont we hibernate like bears instead of being bored waiting to get somewhere? And maybe we could have fish scales and move into the sea and have gills. Why is there a limit to what we can imagine?
So you see pandrogyny as the beginning --
The beginning of everything! Ultimate flexibility of choice.
And you have a manifesto youve written up?
We have some -- but we need to catch up because its teaching us as we go. And now of course we have this body -- were trying to learn to say we because this body represents me and Lady Jaye in the material world and she represents us in the immaterial world. So we have two zones going on at the same time. And we are to some degree communicating, which is very bizarre, because I grew up a skeptical existentialist.
This reminds me of what youve been trying to with your music, with your politics, with your interest in magick and ritual. Youve always been trying to -- for lack of a better phrase -- fuck stuff up.
[Laughs] At least thats what Im told.
I can see a line running through your life and what youve been interested in. But you feel like this -- pandrogyny -- is the project that youre here to accomplish?
Yes. I used to say to Jaye, I wish Id met you when I was 15 and hadnt had to wait 30 years to meet you, and she would say, Oh no. You had to be ready for me -- you wouldnt have been ready for me and I wouldnt have been ready for you. And she was so right. She was an amazingly wise and very angelic in a non-New Age kind of way. Everyone Ive met who knew Jaye from all walks of life adored her instantly. She was a nurse by trade and she didnt just nurse she worked with chronically sick babies -- the hardest of all -- babies that will never ever recover. Babies born without a brain -- things like that. And she would take them and shed have to deal with the family too and say, Its not your fault. You arent guilty. This isnt because God is punishing you. We saw how people respond to her. Even the plastic surgeon cried when he heard what had happened to her. She had such an incredible impact on people.
I heard you've been in contact with Jaye.
Oh yes. This requires a reenactment. Follow me. [Leaves the bedroom and goes into the living room.] She died on October the 9th as I held her in my arms right in there [points to the kitchen]. She died on the floor there and she breathed her last breath into my mouth which was very intense. Anyway, there used to be this 60s furniture here in the living room and I was sitting here and the kids [Genesis has 2 children from a previous marriage] had come up for the funeral and they were trying to persuade me to go back to California with them just for a few weeks to get used to the shock and I was saying, I dont know if I really want to go. I want to stay here with Jaye. I feel like Jaye is still here. But if I go I want to at least have a picture of Jaye of with me. So we went to our bedroom and took a picture off the kissing wall which is a wall filled with pictures of Jaye and I kissing. So we picked this one which is in Kathmandu which is her favorite place that I ever took her and looking at it now I realize the way were sitting -- its like one body with two heads -- its the pandrogyne but I wasnt conscious that I picked it out. So we bring it in and put it on the windowsill and theyre all trying to tell me why I should go to California and I say, I just dont know. What do you think Jaye would want me to do? Six adults were here and they all saw the picture lift up, hover over eight feet, and land at my feet. And I just took that to mean that she wanted me to stay here with her. And everybody else just went, Did you see that? Yeah, I cant believe I just saw that. This picture just flew across the room! Oh my God! Oh fuck! It was so strange, but beautiful. So that was it for me. I said, OK -- Im staying here, bunny.
What about since then?
Looking back its struck me that since Jaye has dropped her body, my approach to photos and photo shoots is completely different. All of a sudden I respond to the camera really well! Before I would just look at the camera like [lets body go slack and makes an emotionless face].
And Jaye is responsible for the change?
Jaye is using my body and manipulating me like a marionette in a really positive way.
So you enjoy it?
Oh God, yeah! But I go into this weird trance. Its not me.
You have no control over your body?
Nope. Jaye takes over. I even say a little invocation at the beginning every time: This is my body but its also your body. These are your hands; you can use them as you wish. These are your eyes, the stained glassed windows of your temple and you can see through them as you wish. You can use me in any way that you choose. Occupy me, possess me, or manipulate me -- its all fine. Im yours. And then we do the film or the photo shoot and its so different what comes through! People have even said, It doesnt even look like you! It looks like Jaye! Thats a Jaye pose! And none of its conscious. Obviously were wearing her clothes and that makes a difference too.
Does she have plans for what she wants you to do next?
She has sent some messages, yes. She said that in late October the American economy is going to really start to crash. Early next year property is going to become a really big issue. She told me to sell the house as soon as possible and try and get some land in India, try and get some land in the country and tell people to get out of the cities. And she said we should start to collaborate and share and make small, chosen families that help each other survive. Because if you there are six of you or four of you and one of you has a house in Goa and one has an apartment in the Lower East Side and one of you has a house in Louisiana and another one of you has a house in Wales, you live like millionaires by sharing the keys and you can travel to all these different places whenever you feel like it for the price of an airplane ticket. Its so simple if you just trust each other. And Ive lived in communes all my life. My home has always been a commune in one way or another -- there are always extra people sleeping on the sofa or down the hall. To me thats the natural state of human beings -- you choose your family, you choose your tribe. Thats the one thing besides the body not being sacred -- please get over thinking you have to love everyone who is linked to you through blood and genetics because you dont need to love them all -- some of them are assholes!
I think that gay people and trans people have learned that already. You have to build your own family because so often your family wont be there for you.
Exactly. And thats why theyre so much better at taking care of their communities. Theyve led the way for self-fulfilling communities. Theyve had to.
Have you met anyone else who is journeying towards pandrogyny?
Yes. Its strange too because one of our friends who lives in New Mexico used to work with John Lilly, the man that the film Altered States is based on. John Lilly did loads of experiments with Ketamine in sensory deprivation tanks and he went into cross-dressing and then he started to take hormones to have breasts and started to become pandrogynous. So did our friend. So did Jaye and I. It seems that Ketamine is a portal to a pandrogynous perception of the world.
It unlocks something?
It unlocks a sort of a neurological blockage about gender and identity. There are a few of us. Its happening very slowly, here and there. It was really Jaye who really made it happen. She was one of those people who goes Yeah, lets! Theres me whos always trying to persuade people, like, What if we tried this? Or maybe we should do that, and Jaye is just Lets do it NOW! And why dont we do this as well? It was just amazing to have someone who was constantly reinforcing and accelerating and never, ever holding back.
Has her passing made you think differently about spirituality or death?
Its definitely confused me. Theres a part of one that thinks theres no sense to this planet and the way that human beings behave. As Jaye used to say, Door #1 -- thats oblivion, -- you know, existentialism -- its just a big fuckin exit and we deserve to go. [Laughs] The dinosaurs came and went and well come and go. Something else will come and go. The planet will continue. Were not that important, which is a shame -- because we could be. So door #1 is oblivion but theres not a lot of exploring to do with that -- thats it. So why not look for door #2 and door #3 and at the very least conceptualize them because you might as well do that. Its more constructive. Other ideas, other ways of seeing will come from that. People will learn to behave differently towards things that surprise them. Novelty might become less frightening to people. Collaboration might suddenly become something really joyous. People might remember celebration again -- wouldnt that be nice? Which is what we try to do with our live show of course. She taught me to always be looking for more -- more perceptions. Theres always another way to see it, another direction to look from. Having met enough Tibetan Buddhists who reincarnated, Im pretty sure they can maintain the individual self while not in a body. Thats mind boggling! And then when you think that theyve spent several tens of thousands of years in the most inhospitable environment on the planet just focusing on meditating to try and understand conscious -- of course theyre way ahead of us. If only the world planned itself like that everywhere! What a change! We would have this endless renaissance of people thinking of options and possibilities and impossibilities and we could become finally proud to become human beings. Humane beings as we like to say. We put an e on the end for evolution. So its gone from this beautiful romance, which it still is -- as you can see -- to something thats about a genuine altruistic desire to watch the human species live up to its possibilities.
Its become bigger than you now.
This entire Pandoras box of options and possibilities and implications that neither of us noticed at the beginning because we were just madly in love -- and still are.
Pyschic TV's new album Mr. Alien Brain Versus Thee Skinwalkers is in stores now.