When Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti began collaborating more than 30 years ago, it was as founder members (alongside Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Genesis P-Orridge) of Throbbing Gristle, the first industrial band whose music and performance art — usually featuring pornography and bucketfuls of fake blood – was the very definition of challenging.
Yet to think of Throbbing Gristle only as “wreckers of civilisation” (as they were branded by Conservative MP Nicholas Fairburn, in a row over public funding of the arts) is a mistake, something clearly seen in the music of Chris and Cosey. After TG’s demise in 1981, the couple moved to a derelict school in the fens of north Norfolk, built a home studio and began producing music that was a long way from the unsettling horror of Throbbing Gristle tracks like “Hamburger Lady,” recently voted one of the scariest songs of all time in a Guardian poll.
Collaboration has always been at the heart of what Chris and Cosey do: They’ve worked with everyone from Robert Wyatt to Current 93, while this year’s acclaimed Transverse album was recorded with Nik Colk Void of Factory Floor, one of the many artists who cite them as an influence.
Their new release, the double album Desertshore / The Final Report, released under the name X-TG, was conceived with former bandmate Christopherson, and finished by Chris and Cosey after his death in November 2010. Desertshore is a reworking of Nico’s 1970 album of the same name, with guest vocals from Blixa Bargeld, Marc Almond and Gaspar Noe. The Final Shore is an album of more abstract electronic sounds.
To mark the end of the Throbbing Gristle mission, Luke Turner talked to Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti about their favorite albums in a toweringly influential catalogue.
Throbbing Gristle, 20 Jazz Funk Greats
The third Throbbing Gristle album from 1979, which matched a deceptive title to deceptively accessible electronic pop songs.
Cosey: This was released in 1979 and by that time people had thought they’d sussed us out, so we wanted to play around a little bit. We did a gig at the Lyceum, and everyone turned up in camouflage. We all went on in white, wearing slacks. “We’ve moved on now.”
Chris: There were so many happy accidents with this album, the way tracks and lyrics and things just came together.
Throbbing Gristle, Heathen Earth – The Live Sound of T.G.
Live album, recorded in the group’s studio in Hackney, East London in 1980.
Chris: I think this is probably the most TG album because it’s an encapsulation of a historical moment in time. Most of it was recorded live, in an hour – that was it. I’d admit that it’s not a fantastic album – there are bits of it that are meandering – but that’s how TG was.
Cosey: We wanted it to be a realistic experience of TG in the studio.
Chris: If someone said could you recommend a TG album I’d probably recommend this as a good starting point.
Cosey Fanni Tutti, Time To Tell
1983 album of electronic music composed to accompany Cosey Fanni Tutti’s “art actions,” also featuring a lecture on her work as a stripper and porn actress.
Cosey: I stopped doing art actions in the early ’80s in order to focus on music, so it was a nice point in my life to get everything together and put it out there, so I could just forget about it for a while. I didn’t want the art world to think that my work should just be kept in this tiny little gallery; it shouldn’t. It’s music, it’s public. And it has a life of its own outside the art world, outside of the music business even, into women’s magazines. Time To Tell was a cut-off point for me. I came to realize that people expected me to be naked. So I kept my clothes on and disappointed them. Tough!
Chris & Cosey, Songs Of Love & Lust
After TG, Chris and Cosey embarked on a series of albums that embraced a lighter synthpop sound. This includes ‘October Love Song’, about their own romance.
Chris: We wanted to confound people’s expectations when Throbbing Gristle split up — we didn’t want to sound like TG MK II or whatever. Martin Gore [of Depeche Mode] said that “October Love Song” was his all time favorite love song.
Cosey: When we recorded it, I was in the front bedroom, and Chris was in the studio in the room behind. We put the mics through, and Chris said, “Just do whatever you want.” I had this vision of him sat in the other room with his headphones on, and it felt like a really intimate situation. So I told him how I felt about him, and that’s how “October Love Song” was written. It’s about how we got together: “Do you remember how I took your hand on the stairs?” It was me whispering in his ear.
An album of experimental collaborative tracks from 1988, featuring Coil, Robert Wyatt, Lustmord and Boyd Rice.
Chris: Over the years we were always saying to other people, “We have to do something together” and we never did. So we thought right, “Let’s be the hub for it all, and get everyone to give stuff when they can.” I think the only recording we did in the studio was with Lustmord. Robert [Wyatt] did his by sending cassettes – we didn’t have ramps for his wheelchair.
Cosey: I remember getting stuff from Geff and Sleazy [of Coil] for “Core” – that wonderful cello. That was the starting point for that track, and we added to it and sent it back. To think we did it by mail then! I enjoyed that album.
Chris & Cosey, Pagan Tango
Darker, harder, highly sexual album from 1991, with tracks like “Take Control” sounding like Kraftwerk in an S&M dungeon.
Cosey: I like Pagan Tango because it feels dark and dirty. I don’t know whyâ€¦I’m trying to think what was happening at the time that pissed me off.
Chris: We were doing a lot of live shows, that had some influence on it. You were wearing all your latex, skin-tight stuff. We were very aggressive in that period, I rememberâ€¦
Cosey: â€¦you remember the bruises.
Chris: We had all those really filthy videos we used to show live.
Cosey: Pagan Tango is the dark side of the sexual urge – gratuitous, primitive. Songs of Love & Lust is quite light by comparison.
Chris Carter, Small Moon
In 1999, Chris & Cosey moved away from pop towards ambient textures.
Chris: I’d accumulated all this analogue gear and there was so much of it, I wanted to sell it all and start again. I must have been having some kind of midlife crisis. Anyway, I thought before I did that, I’d do an album with what I had – and this is that album. I sold everything the year after, and got a lot of money for it, but I regret it now. You sometimes see people selling stuff as “owned by Chris Carter,” which is quite weird. I hadn’t heard this album for probably five or six years until I played it the other day. Some of it was like listening to someone else, I can’t remember how I did it.
Carter Tutti, Feral Vapours Of The Silver Ether
Thoughtful, abstract album from 2007, far removed from the performances by the revived Throbbing Gristle around the same time.
Chris: We did a Chris & Cosey gig in 1999 or 2000, and it was a good gig and sold out, but we came off stage and it was like nothing had happened. It had been too easy. That was the point when we said, “Let’s stop doing Chris & Cosey for now, and do Carter Tutti instead, and release different stuff, like Feral Vapours.”
Cosey: We’d moved on so much that we weren’t those people any more, and it didn’t feel honest to me. Feral Vapours is a very melancholy album.
Chris: I find it really difficult to listen to.
Cosey: We’d lost a lot of people in the five years preceding it. You inhabit a different dimension when you’re dealing with those things, and that’s what Feral Vapours was about. When we finished we said, “If that’s the last album we do, we’ll be really happy.”
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Desertshore / The Final Report
Double-album, completed after Sleazy died in 2010. The re-imagining of Nico’s Desertshore features guests including Marc Almond, Antony Hegarty and Blixa Bargeld.
Chris: We started the list of vocalists in 2006, right at the beginning of the project. There were some quite bizarre choices on it: Oliver Postgate, Tilda Swinton, but it got whittled down because we had to get practical. And they had to have the right voice.
Cosey: We always saw the album sleeve as white. After Sleazy died, one of his close friends from Thailand came to see us. He looked at the artwork and said, “I love that you’ve got the color white. It’s the color for when someone has died in Thailand.” We didn’t know, and I thought that’s so nice. I wanted it so it’s almost ethereal. You’re thinking, ‘Is there something there?” You’re looking through it for Sleazy, and he’s there.