It has become an overworked phrase in our commodified and superficial times, but this is an “heartfelt” song. It waited 10 years to come through me and even then, staring at a wall as gray as the cover of “Still” as the words poured out, it was painful and distressing. I heard it as if I was hearing someone else sing. Like all the best songs, it wrote itself directly onto tape. The following excerpt of writing is taken from a chapter of my autohagiography “GENESIS - THE LAST BOOK OF CREATION” scheduled to be published by Creation Books U.K. January 1st 2000.
“My feeling, looking back at my brief but precious friendship with Ian Curtis, is that he and I were intensely anomalous. We were born in the same post-industrial manufacturing slave vortex of Manchester, England. We both had an obstylistically sickly and socially stunted. There was a cynical disregard for society that could often express itself in self-hatred, for failing to make people understand, failing to make them really SEE the hypocrisies and the betrayals, the ludicrousness of inherited ideas of relationships and reasons for living. Yet, coupled with that commitment to the point of death to try and make people share our feelings of ennui, was an equally deep distrust of empty, sycophantic acceptance. An isolation that knew no bounds. It is so hard at a certain point in one’s material ex
The only way that I can describe how that connection between us really felt, beyond the obvious fact of mutual recognition of kindred, spectral, lost souls; of the “little boy lost in a world of demons” syndrome is to concede what has since become a cliche. We had an almost genetic Mancunian grimness of vision. If you saw Salford in the fifties and early sixties, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady would vindicate all interpretations of the proposal of “cultural inevitability”.
The brutal mundanity of the post-Blitz environment itself spawned a neo-romantic detachment and kindled a fire of massive messianic motivation that became almost entirely about compounding and validating undistilled pointlessness for its own sake, taking as its medium an highly individualized perversiimself Velvet Underground catalyzed against the mainstream of fashion. Throbbing Gristle was, quite consciously, exactly the same fantasy for myself. Rather than be crippled by having none of the usual skills, or ingredients normally eschewed for such a mission, both of us chose to let the available resources mature and fester in equal amounts, believing as we did, that the form would inarguably appear and succeed by virtue of our determination. This was an act of faith, a leap of faith, into the unknown pleasures of an metaphysical, and emotional highwire performance that required, for its illumination, the refusal of any manner of safety net.
This is how it was. Can you feel that almost erotic
To build something, in this case an aesthetic “jihad”, that was not already publicly desired, that nobody in their right mind could possibly want, and then to relentlessly prove that they did want it after all, indeed, leave them feeling that it always existed, and was always so, that was the meaning, the necessary agenda to extricate ourselves from the horror. In the end, they would crave our tortured visions despite themselves, even despising themselves. That was, at the beginning, as far as we coul≤d see. It was enough. How we imagined the Velvet Underground’s nihilism to be, especially on that first album, was a crucial trigger to this beginning. Later we would discover that a knowing musicology and ambition flavored our personalized, and self-justifying interpretations. Later we would substitute Jim Morrison’s spiritual and emotional psychic- implosion as closer to the process we had volunteered our “selves” for.
All the while we were converting the outside world to our inner aesthetic Ian and I were depressingly aware that really, in the end, the audience and critics understood nothing, respected nothing, and protected nothing of our vulnerability on parade, our genuine pain. They saw nothing of the bottomless dead souls that fueled it all, nor the charade of charisma that disguised the obvious detachment from actually feeling truly alive that underpinned the paradox of seeming to discuss a seclusion of perception whilst ∆actually describing a state of absolute discomfort laid bare.
Not even the other band members of our respective groups really understood this, or really saw it. What was so fatally affecting us, the exposed morbidity of our onstage, on record personas, was dismissed all to conveniently as affectation. They were so close to the open wounds, they couldn’t even address them. At times they chose not to believe they were real, or to sympathize. This compounded our cardinal angst, possessing us with a terrible foreboding of the emptiness dwelling symbiotically alongside the pivotal vacuity of humanity, friends and lovers alike.
We explained so much we appeared silent. We moved so many we appeared still.
This paradox of the “cry - for - help” misdiagnosed as superficial pop anthem has claimed others greater and lesser than Ian Curtis. Spirits that scream for acknowledgement. Hindsight maketh fools of us all.
I am forced to believe that Ian recognize
We were never whole, nor never wholly connected, not even to the other members of the bands we were part of. We had secrets. Secrets kept from before those bands existed. Secrets that might have revealed why, for us, they were a necessity, not a contrivance. We had our own cathartic and therapeutic agendas. We suffered from an afflicted fanaticism of vision bordering at times upon an individuated form of megalomania. No matter how the world chose to validate Joy Division or Throbbing Gristle, at the most private level of conception there remained a repulsing apprehension that it was all, in the sweet end, an enterprise of pearls before swine. A thing without substance.
The latter lionizes the ultimate, yet detached, possibilities of daring to dream of the immortal. Of course, in retrospect this seems a flawed, naive way of looking at simply making music to some. Opening up the heart and soul in public. Learning in public, and experiencing pain as entertainment and entertainment as pain can consume even the recklessly strong. Nobody who is mediumistic can survive it without scars, without wounds, without weeping.
As far as I was concerned, in terms of the emotional turmoil eating away insi
But I would share these secrets, these strategies and unspoken manipulations that were required by my insecurity to render the slightest touch of extracted absolution to my existentialism, in order to cosmetically lessen the burden of worthlessness. I shared these convoluted fears, and this underlying shame of even seeming to believe that I was, in private, what others imagined I appeared to be in public with Monte Cazazza and with Ian Curtis. I had no choice. The searing pain of seeing is so relentless and unforgiving. The contradictions are so crushing that someone has to be told. Otherwise the blackne moment physically present and in time and place, requires, absolutely, an audience.
The audience is our anchor. They hold us here when the sirens and demons try to distract us. We hold on by our fingernails, unable to confess our terror, lest the mere movement of our jaw dislodge us and our sanity, slipping us effortlessly out into the abyss to the howling glee of the banshees. This sense of terror is very real. The puzzle is how it drives us towards that which we know wishes to consume us, committing us to purgatory. The edge of loss is within us, cutting its shape. The outline is blurred by the tumultuos mass. In solitu
Monte Cazazza understood, still understands ( Hello Monte!) . Ian Curtis understood. I didn’t HAVE TO EXPLAIN! Do you have any idea what a blessed relief it is to not have to explain anything? Not pretend anything? Not hide anything? Not have to remember what must not be said? To become, briefly, the beach and its rocks, accepting the forces of crashing waves from a place of equilibrium. The destructive forces are not calmed, but there is a chaotic balance.
This illness, this “sickness of the heart” is a little like a cruely imposed and imprisoning secret society. One that claims its members without prior agreement, unlike Faust, but requires an alleigance and exchange no less formidable. Its participants can channel its crippling powers through their dramatic crimes of entertainment through pain; through serial bloodlust; through military sadism or ˙through political autism. Nothing ends this creeping dis-ease. The best its victims can hope for is a controlled bleeding, a steady release of pressure that just might reduce it to a point that lies just inside the boundaries of a bearable, but depleting, agony. The infected are all ways in crisis. Death is an ending of unremitting struggle, a dreamless sleep, a vast and implacable emptiness. To choose immersion in this gives life its only consistency. In blindness, so easily invoked by the closing of eyes, closer, a warm darkness envelops. A slow moving, viscous tar where repose is foetal. Suspended animation with only demons for company. Bad drinking partners. Worse lovers they make! And the source, the source of all this numbing futility is laughingly celebrated as “life”.
I haven’t talked about this before. Except to the little boy, alone again, that dwells in terror, deep within my heart. I never had the inclination. Something paralysed me. Something sacred. Something to revealing about my Self my truth to my Self, and honour that I felt I saw within his.
But, now, I am compelled, and wish to, speak. I wish to make peace with the Ian Curtis whose secret and unknown pleasures were, I believe, of necessity never revealed to the world outside. Least of all those closer to him. What necessity can that be? Perhaps the necessity to try and find a trick to convince yourself of a plausible ideal for living, and a necessity to avoid acknowledging a final round of destructive paranoid insecurity from within, and emasculating ridicule from without. You see, critical acclaim just does not serve the purpose of a behavioural suture for the likes of us, as we were then. It doesn’t heal these kinds of personality wounds, or resolve the pressin˝g and omnipresent dilemma ...suicide.
Perhaps it was Jon Savage, or perhaps someone else. But Ian Curtis got hold of my private telephone number and he began to call me. He would call me at odd hours (as the newspapers might say). To talk. To talk about Throbbing Gristle, to talk about my anarchic ideas on popular music; ideas not a little laced with disdain and sarcasm for what I felt were the obvious rock and roll celebrity aspirations of “punk”. He was a great talker on the phone., and smart. He turned out to have been an afficianado of Throbbing Gristle from as early as 1977.
Apart from a mutual drive to subvert and inflame “popular” music, we would also talk about militaria; transgressive acts; nazis; sociopathic tendencies, and needless to say, about depression and isolation.
In 1978 Throbbing Gristle released “D.O.A. - The Third And Final Report Of Throbbing Gristle” on our own Industrial Records label. “Industrial Music” being a term first coined by Monte Cazazza and myself during a convers˛ation a couple of years earlier. Ian Curtis loved “D.O.A.”. In particular he liked the track “WEEPING”. As chance would have it “Weeping” was my own first official solo track within the confines of Throbbing Gristle. This song plays with several interlacing interpretations and resonances of the word “weeping”. It addresses the idea of weeping as tears and crying and the other weeping of raw third degree burns and wounds. This conjunction of physical injuries from burning and emotional wounding from being burned is the morbid centre of the lyric. Morbidity itself is seen as metaphor and reality. The extreme result of betrayal, hopelessness, flesh scalded and blistered leaving no protection, only an absolute vulnerability to infection and unbearable agony.
In fact this song was recorded as an actual suicide note by me. I had already chosen to commit suicide onstage at “The Crypt” gig by Throbbing Gristle, in London. To this end I drank a bottle of whisky laced with sleeping pills and valium. In th˚e crypt of a desanctified church no less. It didn’t quite work. So on my delerious return home after that disconcert I had swallowed more than 50 valium and mogadon and flushed them all down with mugs of whisky! To this day I consider that the last true Throbbing Gristle gig.
I was disillusioned with everything. I felt no respect for the other members of Throbbing Gristle. I hated the sudden shift into critical acceptance. The dilution of integrity. Even the “cult” acclaim. I was convinced that I had become merely the spectacle. Suiting the voyeuristic purposes of public and band alike by risking sanity, life, physical freedom and emotional disintegration in order to speak more clearly of vulnerability and alienation. I was trying, in my crippled way, to be as mediumistic as intoxication and celebratory indulgence; as pure sonics and streams of improvised consciousness could take me; in the hope for an epiphany. A final moment of vision captured in the headlights of this madness and mayhem. I felt I was the pet freak, a necessary evil to the others. A controlled implosion of notoriety that added a cudos they might never achieve otherwise. I believed they despised me and betrayed me behind my back. That they despised me, and were similtaneously intimidated by my intensity, and that they were phoney in their expression of exploring extremes and taboos, in public at least. Fair or not. True or not. Megalomaniac or not. Paranoid or not. This was how I was feeling. Exploited, unappreciated, and disgusted. Without any redeeming sensations. Which made me assume that this was all my fault. That I was a failure and completely and utterly worthless and devoid of genuine love.
All these thoughts and screams of pain were poured into this tremendously personal song. I recorded it, and the layers of my violin sedated with more alcohol and downers. These days I stil find it hard to listen to. But because of the stupidity. How could I have accidentally found myself caring about anything to do with mﬂusic or such people so much? How could I have let them hypnotise me into believing I was all of the problem? With hindsight it seems clear that a lot of this might well have been amplified “adolescent” angst. But I had nobody around me to share this with. Except Monte Cazazza in letters, and Ian Curtis over the phone. Ian understood. There seemed to be no separation between us. We even wished we were in each others groups. Or rather, we wished we were somewhere else with a group of our own, a new group.
“Weeping” remained Ian Curtis’ favourite song by me. Sometimes he scared even me with his devotion to it. He’s play it to me over the phone and sing the words along with my vocal. Joy Division released “An Ideal For Living” in June of that same year and he gave me a signed copy. Years later I would sell it so that I could go to see Brion Gysin in Paris.
... During the night of 17th May 1980 an abject Ian phoned me for the last time. He was singing, intoning “Weeping”. I wted, confused and severely depressed. He felt that somehow he’d let matters slip out of his grasp and control; that nobody around him cared what he wanted, what he needed, and more importantly at that moment, how much he did not want to tour or be in “Joy Division” right now.
He had a sense of invisible, relentless, steamrollering behind the scenes and this was compounded by feeling he had ended up exactly where he didn’t want to be. Feeling obliged to take part in a truly dreaded American tour. He spoke of a sense of betrayal, of being used, of claustrophobic relationships, of bei
He believed that somehow his own failings and courage had combined to create this situation where he was seeming to voluntarily compromise his own self-esteem by allowing commercial blackmail and misplaced loyalties to discredit his principles and dishonour his original intentions within “Joy Division”. Matters had somehow been shabbily manipulated in such a way that despite his “cries for help” he was scheduled to fly to America on Monday the 19th. He was was alternately bewildered and angry. Sick of it all. Sick of not being heard when it was inconvenient for others. With his own personal contradictions and problems on top I knew that there was not much time.
I phoned someone in Manchester and told them that I thought Ian was really going to try and kill himself and that they should get to him immediately at home ohey’d do something anyway, even though they thought he’d just been winding me up. A sense of inevitability still overwhelmed me. I cried into the night until the valium kicked in. Weeping..the kind that wracks your body with sobs and screams so deep that they resemble terminal spiritual convulsions.
I am not sure how long after we spoke he actually hung himself in such a very working class Manchester manner. I suspected that nobody would manage to do anything practical. Nobody would make it to go and see him and babysit him through that night.e fine; it was just a prima-donna tantrum and that I should not interfere directly and call anyone else or the police. That it was not any of my business and that I was just panicking and being dramatic. Just like Ian liked to be. I was assured that if anything really serious was going on the Joy Division inner circle would take care of it in their own way. They were used to this kind of thing.
All this left me very unsure of my orginal intuition and of how much I could appropriately intrude when I really didn’t know everything about what was going on. I only knew Ian’s version in late night phone caed off for more medical and even psychiatric evaluations. Perhaps this was just an extreme version of his usual motive for ringing me up. He was just desparate for company and support, to be heard and given respect for his psychological cravings by a person he believed felt the same things just as intensely. I intended to travel up to see him that week if he managed to cancel the American tour.
And I see much more clearly everyday
And I sense I can see you play
And there’s always some truth
And there’s always something
There’s always something there to give me water everyday
Water I hear you say
Water I plead that you might stay
And every day, in every way
I can see you die
And I could never go away
And I could never tell you a lie
And I can see you scream and I can see you cry
For all the stories and all the hate that always comes to you
Water I hear you say
And I know and I feel
What you say is far too real
And every thing
And everything you say you care for
I need some water
I need some water
I am the devil’s daughter
I am a Lamb to the slaughter
Water everyday (water pouring down)
Water I hear you say (water on the ground)
You tell me things and they’re things I should have known
Where your tears are NOW they’re not quite your own
As we spin in circles that look so blown
Water in the ground
And your tears are tears and fears more like me
And the S.M.I.L.E. that I S.M.I.L.E. is not what I see
Water, water I know you care
And the tears stream down from the sky
Each tastes bitter
The salt of asking why?
And your words come down and fall over me
Each one is a friend
Each one is the rain
And each is the sea
Our worlds are so close they’re inside my heart
Falling, falling, falling
Ripping me apart
Water, water I hear you say
Water, water everyday
Water, water I hear you say
Water on the ground
What a strange sound
What a strange sound,
What a strange, strange sound
Lyric copyright GENESIS P-ORRIDGE 1989.