Industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge dead at 70

Throbbing Gristle performs onstage at the Veterans Auditorium on May 22, 1981 in Culver City, California
Throbbing Gristle onstage at the Veterans Auditorium in 1981 in Culver City, California (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV founder Genesis P-Orridge has died at the age of 70. The musician, poet, artist, occultist and gender-nonconformist had been diagnosed with leukaemia in 2017.

The death was confirmed by Genesis's daughters, Caresse and Genesse, who said in a statement, "It is with very heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved father, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. S/he had been battling leukaemia for two and a half years and dropped he/r body early this morning, Saturday March 14th, 2020. 

"S/he will be laid to rest with h/er other half, Jaqueline ‘Lady Jaye’ Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be re-united. Thank you for your love and support and for respecting our privacy as we are grieving."

Born Neil Andrew Megson in Manchester, England, in 1952, s/he adopted the name Genesis P-Orridge after joining a counter-culture commune in London. S/he gained notoriety after founding the COUM Transmissions performance art collective with Cosey Fanni Tutti, becoming famous for performances that embraced prostitution, pornography, occultism and serial killers. The pair even appeared together on the cover of UFO's 1975 album Force It

The same year P-Orridge and Tutti founded Throbbing Gristle. Describing their music as "DeathRock Music" before settling on "Industrial Music for Industrial People,” the band were a huge influence on artists like Nine Inch Nails and on Wax Trax, the Chicago label responsible for Ministry, Front 242, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

Neurosis guitarist Steve Von Till compared the impact of the band to that of Black Sabbath, telling us, "I was very young when I heard Black Sabbath for the first time, and even though I was enraptured with the sound and knew it was for me, the dark paranormal energy was a bit scary for a young lad. I didn’t know shit. 

"Years later, tuning in to a late night program on my local cutting edge community radio station, for the first time, I would be truly terrified by music and sound. Throbbing Gristle. Disturbing, unsettling… this is the sound of confronting society’s taboos while its facade fades into an industrial wasteland."

When Throbbing Gristle disbanded P-Orridge founded another experimental band, Psychic TV, a force in the early days of the Acid House movement who went on to release over 100 albums. 

In 1995 s/he married Jacqueline Mary Breyer, later known as Lady Jaye, and the pair embarked on a body modification project in order to physically resemble one another.

Among the musicians paying tribute to P-Orridge were Michael Des Barres, who wrote, "Genesis P-Orridge made the avant -guarde look like a kindergarten. Experimenting with every thing that could be experimented with," and Sex Gang Children singer Andi Sexgang, who tweeted, "Sad news on the passing of Genesis P-Orridge. We shared some laughs, philosophy and political thought. He was witty, charming and straight forward. Rare for a musician."

Cramps, Gun Club and Bad Seeds drummer Kid Congo Powers tweeted, "Onwards Gen! Thank u for your otherness , taste, and inspiration. May S/He Rest in Paradise with Lady Jaye," while WAH! frontman Pete Wylie wrote, "Ah fuck. Genesis P-Orridge RIP. All love, Gen."

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A photo posted by on on Mar 14, 2020 at 1:45pm PDT

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.