WHAT: My inaugural post for the blog portal Thought Catalog, a discursive meditation, refracted through the prism of personal recollection, on what I call “the fulsome ’80s” and, more specifically, the industrial aesthetic in music and subcultural thought, on the occasion of the death of the Throbbing Gristle keyboardist–tape-player, to be accurate–Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson.
I remember discovering Re/Search magazine’s “Industrial Culture” issue, with its grainy black-and-white photos of a band with the incomparable name of Throbbing Gristle, a band unlike any I’d ever read about in Creem or Circus or Rolling Stone, a band whose idea of a promo photo was recreating an archival image of the Manson family huddled in a cave at Spahn ranch, a band whose idea of a day off was taking William Burroughs target shooting, a band whose brain-stretchingly erudite, reference-studded interviews were a graduate seminar unto themselves, ricocheting with references to Situationism and sadomasochism, Surrealism and survivalism, the Viennese Aktionists and the Moors murderers, muzak and mind control, mail art and something called The Colour Atlas of Forensic Pathology, Nazi occultism and how to listen to Abba “against the grain,” with ears warped by irony.
My brief essay introduces a 1987 profile of Christopherson I wrote for the tech rag Keyboard magazine, improbably enough. In it, Sleazy helpfully provides the magazine’s prog-rock readership with the story behind the song “Ostia,” on the record Horse Rotorvator by his Throbbing Gristle spinoff project Coil:
“In ‘Ostia’,” he informs, “there’s a recording of some grasshoppers that we made at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Chichen Itza is a pyramid that was used for the sacrifice of young men. Blood flowed down the steps of the pyramid and made it impossible to climb up.”
Keith Emerson, take note.