Last year, in between moving across the country, touring, finishing graduate school, and co-creating this month’s new Matmos album, Drew Daniel also managed to pen a book. His contribution to Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of long-form essays (each based on a classic album) is a brisk burrow through the substrata of meaning encoded in Throbbing Gristle’s oft-derided genre stew 20 Jazz Funk Greats; the volume is book-ended by glimpses of Daniel responding to the album as a high-school goth “jerk” and 20 years later as a conceptual electronic musician. We sat down with Daniel to find out more about Throbbing Gristle’s bastard album.
XLR8R: Most of the 33 1/3 books are about a band’s quintessential album, but this isn’t at all the definitive Throbbing Gristle album.
Drew Daniel: I wanted to produce a book that was strong, not just [write] about an album that was strong. In a way, it’s a frustrating album because of its diversity. [By the time 20 Jazz Funk Greats was released], psychedelia had already allowed albums to be sort of internally fluid with different genres. Throbbing Gristle exacerbated that to the point of irritation and fucking with the fanbase in a more… aggressively wimpy way. That’s what’s cool about this album: [TG is] failing to live up to their own fans’ bloodlust.
You disappear from the book right when you first listen to the album and hate it. When did you start to appreciate it?
It kept cropping up as the kind of thing one could plausibly mix with newer music. I got a radio show in college, right when techno was kind of growing and the industrial scene was turning into a bad cliché. And yet I kept being able to mix TG’s work with even the weirdest records that were coming out. I guess it was a gateway drug. I don’t think I would have had a tolerance for those early techno records if I hadn’t listened to TG.
Was it tough to not relate to TG as a musician in the book?
I feel like if someone knows [Matmos’] work then they’ll sort of know what it is that I’m describing about TG that had a big influence on us. I remember reading about a TG concert where there was a Turkish circumcision on-stage. That totally amazed me. It just laid out there this whole idea of noise-music shows as a puberty rite. I loved how literal they could be.
I was surprised that you take it at face value when [TG frontman] Genesis P-Orridge tells you that the lyrics to “Six Six Sixties” came from a god called Mebar.
My job is to describe those meanings. If [they] are part of [TG’s] world, then that’s part of the art. I don’t know if Mebar exists or not... The projection of the idea that there’s a network of meaning that radiates out from the artwork–that’s part of the TG approach. That’s part of what I aspire to with Matmos.