The alphabet according to Cosey Fanni Tutti
Photo: Ben Roberts
As a performance artist and founding member of Throbbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti helped permanently alter modern musical consciousness with sonic and visual transgressions rooted in electronic experimentation and socio-political confrontation. Together with Genesis P-Orridge, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and future partner Chris Carter, TG created the blueprint for the industrial genre and then spread the good word through their label Industrial Records, releasing such acts as Cabaret Voltaire and spoken word pieces by William S. Burroughs. Following the band’s initial break-up, Chris and Cosey (today Carter Tutti) would go on to become one of the most prolific and influential experimental electronic acts around. Thankfully, they have not chosen to rest on their laurels. In the Winter ’13 edition of EB Magazine, Cosey gave us her version of the alphabet; needless to say, it’s right up our alley.
A as in All Tomorrow’s Parties: Nico’s voice echoes in my head whenever I see this written down. I’m immediately transported back to my youth. My seventeen-year-old self chilling out with my friends. Dope, acid, mescaline times. A mind expanding era for me with Nico, Velvet Underground, Beefheart, and many more as the soundtrack.
B as in Bourgeois: I’ve never been a member of that club but oddly enough I’d class some of my friends as bourgeois.
C as in COUM Transmissions: It was then. It ended. This is now. But that’s not to deny the importance of my work with COUM.
D as in Death Factory: The music from the death factory came specifically from Throbbing Gristle working in the basement studio at Martello Street which was a factory built on the mass grave pits for the victims of the plague. So effectively we were more or less on the level of the burial grounds in a factory making music.
E as in Ethics: Imperative, yet sadly lacking in so many people.
F as in Fetishes: Wonderful fetishes, what would we do without them? My deepest fetishes are mine alone, except for whom I choose to share them with.
G as in Guitar: My sound weapon of choice. After more than thirty years playing guitar I “feel” it as an extension of myself. I still get such a buzz from playing, discovering, and generating new sounds with it. I can’t even remember what made me choose to play the guitar but I remember well getting Chris to cut down the body of a cheap and ugly seventies “Raver” guitar into a slick stick guitar to make it easier for me to handle. Then I gradually gathered my arsenal of effects pedals.
H as in Heartbeat: Little did I know that this word would come to have quite a different significance from when we used it as the title for the first Chris & Cosey album. The irony isn’t lost on me that my unpredictable heart condition, arrhythmia, is actually a rhythm problem!
I as in Industrial Records: The beginning of the industrial music genre. Founded by myself and the other three members of Throbbing Gristle in 1976. It was, and still is, an extension of TG and our related works.
J as in Jokes, bad: How many roadies does it take to change a lightbulb? One, two! One, two! One, two!
K as in Kitsch: I love some kitsch, and done well, or badly even, it is just so, well, kitschy.
L as in Love/Hate: I don’t buy into hate, neither do I agree with the saying that love is another form of hate. They are opposites, one positive and enriching, one negative and destructive.
M as in Making music with your partner: We fit like a glove. We have a wonderful symbiotic relationship, so making music, video, or doing photography together is second nature to us. There are very rarely any moments of conflict. Plus, we both have separate projects so we get some space to expand on our creativity individually. That in itself brings new life into the work we do together.
N as in Nick, MY SON: The best Chris and Cosey production… ever!
O as in Occultism: Occultism is a private issue, but I will say that my interest in occultism lies in the broadest sense of the concept. Certainly I’ve embraced spirituality and I feel that a deep sense of self is essential to fulfill one’s potential. This also goes for maintaining a connection to a seemingly hidden dimension that is possibly out of reach if one conforms to restricted notions and established modes of thought, expression and ways of living and communication. Having experienced my own death and resuscitation after undergoing a heart procedure some years ago, as well as the loss of so many dear and very spiritual friends, my thoughts on the subject now have shifted somewhat. When your light goes out you cease to exist. When we are vital organic life forms, our potential for ‘being’ is in our hands and is determined by our ‘self’. Whether one chooses to achieve that through occultism or other practices is a personal choice. But in my mind occultism—or, other channels such as organized religion, Scientology and so on—act as facilitators. Practices alone do not provide any given rite of access to our deep inner self. It’s understandable that some people seek the mysterious in this world of vast scientific discoveries and knowledge. But that’s a kind of “blind faith” when you think that at the same time as seeking mysteries and higher truths they so readily accept science and technology such as the Internet, or mobile phones to access information on the subject, or the science of aviation to fly to remote spiritual retreats and locations. That technology and science actually disproves some of what they base their “belief” on.
P as in Performance Art: I prefer the term “art action” to differentiate between a performance, like theater, and an action. It can be great, inspiring and profound and it can also be disappointing and devoid of meaning or power.
Q as in Quo vadis, Industrial?: As a genre “industrial” means something quite different to us, to TG. People take the meaning far to literally. It’s not just about hard sounds and driving rhythms. You just have to listen to all the different styles of music TG have produced over the years to figure that out. Our Industrial Records label is nearly thirty years old and still alive and kicking and doing very well. We have a series of unreleased TG projects planned for next year.
R as in Radical Politics: Although it can be incredibly divisive in either a good way or a bad way I guess it’s necessary even if just to emphasize that something is definitely very wrong. I despair at the human race, its ignorance and capacity for destruction and malevolence.
S as in Sex Pistols: I guess they were pivotal in their own way but they were essentially a manufactured boy band nevertheless. I’m just pleased John Lydon went on to do some good work in his own right. His Country Life butter ads on TV were so cutting edge and anti-establishment.
T as in Transgression: Always good and even better when it’s genuine and not done to gain attention or notoriety. My work’s often been described as transgressive but I never think to myself, “What can I do that’s transgressive?” I just am and I do what I feel best expresses my feelings and myself. I’m an innocent really—or as Chris always says “49% angel and 51% devil.”
U as in Utopias: Somewhere we dream of when we seek escape.
V as in Vicious ignorance: Far too prevalent I’m sad to say.
W as in William S. Burroughs: I’ve never been as interested in his work as much as the other members of TG were. I was “discouraged” from being involved on a personal level when meetings with Burroughs were arranged. I was told he was a misogynist. Or maybe it just wasn’t “cool” to have a woman with you when you go to meet and want to impress your hero.
X as in XXX Film: Oh yes, nothing like a good Triple-X! Although, as with music, my appreciation can be colored by over analysis.
Y as in Yearnings: All my yearnings are towards peace and quiet. Ironic… or maybe understandable considering the amount of time I spend making noise.
Z as in Zyklon B Zombie: Lest we forget, one of the lowest, most horrendous periods in human history. ~
Published January 30, 2014.