Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, avant-garde artist and "Godparent of industrial music"

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, avant-garde artist and "Godparent of industrial music"
Photo: Neville Elder/Redferns (Getty Images)

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has died. A pioneer of the industrial music scene—as well as a performance artist, occultist, and all-around outsider artist innovator of the 20th and 21st centuriesP-Orridge spent decades charting their own course through and around the pop culture world, as well as any number of increasingly eclectic artistic scenes. In bands like Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, as well as in their personal life—most notably in their decision, alongside spouse Lady Jaye Breyer, to attempt to surgically alter themselves to more closely resemble each other and adopt a form they referred to as a “pandrogyne”—P-Orridge defied convention, resisted normalcy, and hued to a simple philosophy: “When in doubt, be extreme.”

Born in Manchester in 1950, P-Orridge embraced the counter-culture early and often, staging numerous “happenings” while still in school, and legally changing their name at the age of 21. Attracting fascination and police and political attention in equal measure, they made a name for themselves, first with artist collective CUOM Transmissions, and later with industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle. Although often treated as artistically separate—with Throbbing Gristle considered more accessible, for a given value of “accessible” that incorporated pounding beats, unconventional instrumentation, and dense layers of noise—both groups touched on the themes that often dominated P-Orridge’s work: Bodies, sex work, identity, serial killers, and more. Such work continued to provoke strong reactions in the public, too; after receiving a number of death threats by phone, P-Orridge recorded them and used them as a backing track in the latest Throbbing Gristle release.

In the 1980s, P-Orridge embraced a more psychedelic sound, forming Psychic TV alongside Peter Christopherson and Alex Fergusson. At the same time, they continued to delve even further into the arts and other topics of interest, most notably with the co-founding of occult group Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Said group also led to P-Orridge’s dissociation with their native U.K.: Spurred on by Christian groups during the height of the Satanic panic, Channel 4 produced a documentary accusing P-Orridge of sexually abusing children. When the tapes in question were not only found to only contain consenting adults—but were even funded, in part, by Channel 4 itself—all charges and allegations were dropped. But P-Orridge still departed the country for New York immediately after, meeting Lady Jaye there in 1993.

Lady Jaye died in 2007; at the time, P-Orridge noted that “We now represent myself and Lady Jaye in the material, mortal world. And she represents us both in the immaterial, immortal world. This is just our belief system.” P-Orridge’s death was announced by their two daughters, Caresse and Genesse, on social media earlier today. They were 70.