Throbbing Gristle

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Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle-New York.jpg
Throbbing Gristle performing in 2009. From left to right: Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter Christopherson, Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge.
Background information
Also known asX-TG
Origin Kingston upon Hull, England
Years active1975 (1975)–1981, 2004–2010 (2010)
Labels Industrial
Past members Peter Christopherson
Cosey Fanni Tutti
Chris Carter
Genesis P-Orridge

Throbbing Gristle were an English music and visual arts group formed in Kingston upon Hull by Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, later joined by Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Chris Carter. They are widely regarded as pioneers of industrial music. Evolving from the experimental performance art group COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle made their public debut in October 1976 in the COUM exhibition Prostitution, and released their debut single "United/Zyklon B Zombie" and debut album The Second Annual Report the following year. P-Orridge's lyrics mainly revolved around mysticism, extremist political ideologies, sexuality, dark or underground aspects of society, and idiosyncratic manipulation of language inspired by the techniques of William S. Burroughs.


The band released several subsequent studio and live albums—including D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (1978), 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979), and Heathen Earth (1980)—on their own record label Industrial Records, building a reputation with their transgressive and confrontational aesthetics; they included the extensive use of disturbing visual imagery, such as ironic fascist and Nazi symbolism and pornography, as well as that of noise and sound manipulation influenced by the works of Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

Throbbing Gristle dissolved in 1981 due to interpersonal differences; the individual members went on to participate in other projects, such as Psychic TV, Coil, and Chris & Cosey. The band was reformed in 2004, and released three more studio albums— TG Now (2004), Part Two (2007), and The Third Mind Movements (2009)—before disbanding again after P-Orridge's departure in October 2010 and Christopherson's death the following month. The band's final studio project, a cover version of the 1970 Nico album Desertshore entitled The Desertshore Installation , was released in 2012 under the moniker X-TG.


First era: 1976–1981

Throbbing Gristle evolved from the performance art group COUM Transmissions, formed in Kingston upon Hull by a group of performers including Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. In 1973 COUM moved from Hull to Hackney, London, where P-Orridge and Tutti met Chris Carter, then working as a sound recordist in television, and Peter Christopherson, then a member of the graphic design collective Hipgnosis; the four built a recording studio in Hackney which they dubbed "The Death Factory" and began performing music together. [7] The last known performance of COUM Transmissions—Prostitution, an exhibition held in October 1976 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London—was also the public debut of Throbbing Gristle. [8] The provocative sexual content of the exhibition led Conservative Member of Parliament Nicholas Fairbairn to dub the group "wreckers of civilisation". [9] [10]

Throbbing Gristle's confrontational live performances and use of often disturbing imagery, including pornography and photographs of Nazi concentration camps, earned the group a notorious reputation, but they maintained that their mission was to challenge and explore the darker and obsessive sides of the human condition rather than to make attractive music. Throbbing Gristle made extensive use of pre-recorded tape samples [11] and effects units, some of which they had designed or modified themselves, to produce a distinctive, highly distorted sound, usually accompanied by lyrics or spoken-word performances by Tutti or P-Orridge. [7] Though they asserted that they wanted to provoke their audience into thinking for themselves rather than promote any specific political agenda, Throbbing Gristle frequently associated with the anarcho-punk scene. They appeared in the fanzine Toxic Grafity with a condensation of their own propaganda parody series, Industrial News. [12]

In 1977, they released their debut single "United / Zyklon B Zombie", followed by the hybrid live/studio album The Second Annual Report . First pressed in a limited run of 786 copies on the band's Industrial Records label, it was rereleased on Mute Records following high demand; however, this later release was reversed, with all tracks playing backwards and in reverse order. This was followed by the albums D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle (1978), 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979), and Heathen Earth (1980), along with a number of non-album singles.

In 1981 concert promoter and Transparency Records founder Michael Sheppard brought Throbbing Gristle to Los Angeles. [13] On 29 May 1981 Throbbing Gristle performed at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco in what would be the group's final performance until reuniting in 2004. Throbbing Gristle announced their dissolution on 23 June 1981, mailing out postcards declaring that their "mission [was] terminated." [14] [15] In a 1987 interview, Tutti attributed the band's split to her own breakup with P-Orridge: "TG broke up because me and Gen broke up." [16]

P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson went on to form Psychic TV, and Tutti and Chris Carter, now a couple, continued to record together as Chris & Cosey. Christopherson later formed Coil with fellow Psychic TV member John Balance; P-Orridge subsequently formed Thee Majesty and PTV3 with their wife Jacqueline "Jaye" Breyer.

Reunion: 2004–2010

In 2004, Throbbing Gristle briefly reunited to record and release the limited album TG Now . On 2 April 2007, TG released the album Part Two: The Endless Not , which the group had finished recording in Berlin. It was originally set to be released by Mute Records in September 2006 but was delayed for unknown reasons.

In March 2007, Side-Line announced Part Two's final release date, adding that a string of special live events would take place in 2007. [17]

A seven-disc DVD set titled TGV was issued in 2007. [18] The set contains old and new footage of the band. TGV came packaged in a deluxe box with a 64-page book, all designed by Christopherson. [19]

The group performed a reinterpretation of their debut album The Second Annual Report twice in 2008 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of its release. [20] The performance in Paris on 6 June was issued as a limited-edition framed vinyl set titled The Thirty-Second Annual Report. [21]

The band then worked to record an album based on their interpretation of Nico's 1970 album Desertshore . [22] The group issued the entirety of the recording sessions for the album as a limited edition 12-CD set packaged in a custom CD wallet, The Desertshore Installation , which was sold via mail order from the group's website. [23]

In April 2009, Throbbing Gristle toured the United States, appearing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Chicago. The Third Mind Movements , a new release, was made available at these shows, which was edited down from improvisations recorded during the Desertshore Installation sessions.

A collaborative installation with Cerith Wyn Evans titled A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N was displayed at Tramway in Glasgow from 7 August to 27 September 2009. Throbbing Gristle contributed a multi-channel soundtrack that was played through 16 hanging Audio Spotlight sound panels that Evans had incorporated into his sculpture. [24]

In November 2009, Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records released their version of the Buddha Machine loop player, designed by the group with Christiaan Virant of FM3. [25]

On 29 October 2010, Throbbing Gristle announced on their website that P-Orridge had left the group; Carter, Cosey and Christopherson finished their current tour under the name X-TG.[ citation needed ] P-Orridge's website stated that they had not quit Throbbing Gristle and had merely stopped participating in the current tour. However, the band would dissolve for good on 24 November following Christopherson's death. [26] [ better source needed ]

After dissolution: 2011–present

In 2011, Industrial Records had an official "re-activation" to reissue the group's studio albums, as Throbbing Gristle's contract with Mute Records had expired. [27]

Industrial Records subsequently announced that a double album, titled Desertshore/The Final Report, would be released on 26 November 2012. Carter and Tutti produced the album with the participation of film director Gaspar Noé, former pornographic actress Sasha Grey, and guest vocalists Anohni, Blixa Bargeld, and Marc Almond. [28]

The group had decided before Christopherson's death to re-record the album because they were not satisfied with the ICA recordings. Christopherson had been the driving force behind the project and had been working on the record in Bangkok with Danny Hyde. "It was Sleazy's project, then Cosey and Sleazy's, then I came in on it", Carter said in an interview with The Quietus . [29] After Christopherson died, custom instruments built for the project by Christopherson were given to Carter and Tutti, and they began combining his recordings with the work they had done themselves. [30] They announced plans to debut the album live at AV Festival on 17 March 2012 accompanied by a screening of Philippe Garrel's film The Inner Scar "for which Desertshore was the soundtrack and inspiration". [31] [ clarification needed ]

P-Orridge died from leukaemia on 14 March 2020. [32]


The band is widely viewed as having helped create the industrial music genre along with contemporaries Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten. [33] The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by P-Orridge and Monte Cazazza; on Throbbing Gristle's debut album The Second Annual Report, they coined the slogan "industrial music for industrial people". [34]

Alternative Press included Throbbing Gristle in their 1996 list of "100 underground inspirations of the past 20 years." [35]

Wreckers of Civilization, a survey on COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle's original run written by Simon Ford, was published in 1999. [36] A book in the 33⅓ series on 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Drew Daniel of Matmos was released in 2007. [37]

Other, Like Me: The Oral History of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle , a documentary on both projects consisting of archival footage and photos and interviews with their members, was co-produced by BBC Television and aired on BBC Four in December 2021.



During Throbbing Gristle's extensive career, they released numerous volumes of music, including studio albums, live releases, and box sets.

Studio albums

Related Research Articles

Industrial music is a genre of music that draws on harsh, mechanical, transgressive or provocative sounds and themes. AllMusic defines industrial music as the "most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music" that was "initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments and punk provocation". The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by members of Throbbing Gristle and Monte Cazazza. While the genre name originated with Throbbing Gristle's emergence in the United Kingdom, artists and labels vital to the genre also emerged in the United States and other countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Genesis P-Orridge</span> English artist, musician and writer (1950–2020)

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge was an English singer-songwriter, musician, poet, performance artist, visual artist, and occultist who rose to notoriety as the founder of the COUM Transmissions artistic collective and lead vocalist of seminal industrial band Throbbing Gristle. They were also a founding member of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth occult group, and fronted the experimental pop rock band Psychic TV.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Christopherson</span> English musician

Peter Martin Christopherson was an English musician, video director, commercial artist, designer and photographer, and former member of British design agency Hipgnosis.

COUM Transmissions was a music and performance art collective who operated in the United Kingdom from 1969 through to 1976. The collective was influenced by the Dada and surrealism artistic movements, the writers of the Beat Generation, and underground music. COUM were openly confrontational and subversive, challenging aspects of conventional British society. Founded in Hull, Yorkshire by Genesis P-Orridge, other prominent early members included Cosey Fanni Tutti and Spydeee Gasmantell. Part-time members included Tim Poston, "Brook" Menzies, Haydn Robb, Les Maull, Ray Harvey, John Smith, Foxtrot Echo, Fizzy Paet and John Gunni Busck. Later members included Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Chris Carter, who together with P-Orridge and Fanni Tutti went on to found the pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle in 1976.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Balance</span> English musician and poet (1962–2004)

Geoffrey Nigel Laurence Rushton, better known under the pseudonyms John Balance or the later variation Jhonn Balance, was an English musician, occultist, artist and poet.

<i>Desertshore</i> 1970 studio album by Nico

Desertshore is the third studio album by German musician Nico. It was released in December 1970 on the Reprise label.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cosey Fanni Tutti</span> British performance artist, musician and writer

Cosey Fanni Tutti is an English performance artist, musician and writer, best known for her time in the avant-garde groups Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Carter (British musician)</span> Musical artist

Chris Carter is an English musician, best known for being a member of Throbbing Gristle and the duo Chris & Cosey, both with his longtime partner Cosey Fanni Tutti.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris & Cosey</span> British band

Chris & Cosey, sometimes known as Carter Tutti, are a musical duo formed in 1981, consisting of couple Chris Carter (electronics) and Cosey Fanni Tutti, both previously members of industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle. Since the release of their 1981 debut album Heartbeat, the group have expanded on the rhythmic ideas of Throbbing Gristle while adding synthesized pop elements to their sound.

<i>Part Two</i> (Throbbing Gristle album) 2007 album by Throbbing Gristle

Part Two is an album by English industrial band Throbbing Gristle, released in 2007 through record label Mute Records.

<i>20 Jazz Funk Greats</i> 1979 album by Throbbing Gristle

20 Jazz Funk Greats is the third studio album by British industrial music group Throbbing Gristle, released in December 1979 by the band's Industrial Records label. Known for its tongue-in-cheek title and artwork, it has been hailed as the band's best work, with Fact naming it the best album of the 1970s and Pitchfork naming it the best industrial album of all time.

<i>Heathen Earth</i> 1980 live album by Throbbing Gristle

Heathen Earth is a live album by the English industrial band Throbbing Gristle, released in 1980 through Industrial Records.

<i>TG+</i> 2004 box set by Throbbing Gristle

TG+ is a box set by Throbbing Gristle. The 10-CD set contains Throbbing Gristle live performances, all digitally remastered by Chris Carter. The set is a follow-up to TG24. These recordings represent the final ten live TG recordings that were not included in the TG24 release. Other than CDs, the set contains an inlay with five laser cut metal plates that are about the size of a business card. Each plate is a variation of the TG logo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United/Zyklon B Zombie</span> 1978 single by Throbbing Gristle

"United/Zyklon B Zombie" is the debut single by industrial band Throbbing Gristle. It was released in 7" vinyl format in May 1978, through the band's own Industrial Records.

<i>TG Now</i> 2004 album by Throbbing Gristle

TG Now is an album by English industrial band Throbbing Gristle. It was released in 2004 through the band's own record label Industrial Records and was their first album of original material since 1982's Journey Through a Body.

<i>The Second Annual Report</i> 1977 album by Throbbing Gristle

The Second Annual Report is the debut album by English industrial music group Throbbing Gristle, released in November 1977 through Industrial Records. It is a combination of live and studio recordings made from October 1976 to September 1977. The Second Annual Report is considered to be influential within electronic music, being one of the first industrial music albums.

<i>D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle</i> 1978 album by Throbbing Gristle

D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle is the second studio album by English industrial band Throbbing Gristle, released in December 1978 by their Industrial Records label.

<i>In the Shadow of the Sun</i> (album) 1984 film score by Throbbing Gristle

In the Shadow of the Sun is an improvised musical score by Throbbing Gristle for the 1981 Derek Jarman film of the same name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discipline (Throbbing Gristle song)</span> 1981 single by Throbbing Gristle

"Discipline" is a song by the English electronic group Throbbing Gristle.

Other, Like Me: The Oral History of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle, also shorter titled Other, Like Me, is a 2020 American-British documentary film on the music and art groups Throbbing Gristle and COUM Transmissions, which covers the history of both projects in archival film footage and photos and interviews with their members.


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Further reading