Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the controversial experimental musician and artist and founding member of cult bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, died Saturday of leukemia at 70 in h/er longtime home on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Dais Records co-founder Ryan Martin shared a statement about their parent from the musician’s daughters. P-Orridge was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017.
Born in Victoria Park, Manchester, England, the performance artist and musician identified as third gender. Orridge was a provocateur whose art revolving around witchcraft and pornography caused considerable uproar in the United Kingdom.
S/he formed Throbbing Gristle in the mid-1970s with Chris Carter, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Cosey Fanni Tutti, releasing seminal industrial album “The Second Annual Report” in 1977. Throbbing Gristle released nine albums and broke up in 1981, reuniting nearly 20 years later.
In a body art project which would consume the rest of h/er life, P-Orridge and h/er wife Lady Jaye each undertook body modification surgery in 1993 in an attempt to resemble one another and merge into a single being. Lady Jaye died of stomach cancer in 2007. The announcement read, ”S/he will be laid to rest with h/er other half, Jaqueline ‘Lady Jaye’ Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be re-united. Thank you for your love and support and for respecting our privacy as we are grieving.”
Indeed, the only thing more experimental than the avant-garde music of Genesis P-Orridge was the avant-garde life of Genesis P-Orridge, a bold existence crafted with utter humanity, intelligence and radicalism.
Born February 22, 1950 in Manchester as Neil Andrew Megson, P-Orridge started an artistic life in the late 1960s as a student poet and radical fanzine publisher before turning to music, visual and performance art. Inspired in equal parts by Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange,” the Merry Pranksters, William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, P-Orridge made similar cut-up techniques his own.
When P-Orridge got to London in the mid-1970s, the artist’s main vehicle became Throbbing Gristle, or as it was best known, TG. Created with Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (both of whom worked with P-Orridge in the avant-garde performance art group COUM Transmissions, a troupe renowned for self-mutilation and onstage nudity) and Chris Carter, they made six albums between 1976 and 1981.
Loud and abrasive beyond the punk of its start, Throbbing Gristle were the ultimate outsiders, and splinted into solo acts such as Psychic TV, Coil and Chris & Cosey. The band reformed in 2004, and released three more studio albums before Christopherson’s death in 2010. “Sleazy” was also a part of P-Orridge’s Psychic TV, a 1980s electro-noise pop duo who shared a label (Some Bizarre) and its kink with Soft Cell and The The. What Psychic TV didn’t share was sales, as P-Orridge and Christopherson’s brand of pop was as askew as TG’s was.
By the time Psychic TV wound down in the late 1980s, P-Orridge was busy creating Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth – an occultist group that explored real magic as part of its ethos. Magic figured quite heavily into the P-Orridge’s life after Psychic TV as transformation became key to her existence. So too was the inspiration of Paganism, a confrontational ideal that lined up with P-Orridge’s abrasive music handsomely.
By the 1990s, with P-Orridge’s soon-to-second wife to-be, a dominatrix named Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer), the newly minted New Yorker created the “Pandrogeny Project,” and, influenced by Burroughs’ cut-up technique, underwent body modification to look like one another. With P-Orridge adopting breasts and Jaye chin implants, they identified themselves as a single pandrogynous being named “Breyer P-Orridge” (much of the money for their operations came from a lawsuit involving Genesis getting injured in a fire in the California home of producer Rick Rubin in 1995, and being awarded $1.5 million).
Seeking to tear down the conventions of gender, “Breyer P-Orridge,” was non-binary before there was such a thing.
When Lady Jaye died of an acute heart arrhythmia in 2007, P-Orridge was left as one half of a person and the ultimate art project. Though she would continue to paint, lecture, sculpt and create collages with gallery shows in tony respectable places like London’s Tate Gallery, P-Orridge stopped making solo music with 2004’s “When I Was Young,” and, after a brief reunion with Psychic TV in 2016, ceased touring.
Music be damned, P-Orridge will be remembered as a concept, an aggressive abrasive confrontational artist who lived life to the fullest.
“Our identity is fictional.”
“When in doubt, be extreme.”