Chris & Cosey Interview (1994)

Feb. 1994, San Francisco


What is your present relationship like with the other members of TG?
A: We have a very good relationship with Sleazy, keep in touch, and we've worked together on "Core". Since Mute took over the TG catalogue, we've all three of us tried to keep things clear of TG misconceptions via the re-releases. We've overseen all the artworks and text that's submitted etc. There's been a lot of shit and lies printed about TG and what we all did or didn't do etc over the years and we all thought this time we can make sure it's all correct. All three of us over the years have become utterly sick of the 'unofficial' releases that keep surfacing, and we're not the type of people that waste energy on the negative actions of other people. All that does is feed negativity into your life and drag you down. So we made a conscious decision to work on the positive and negate the bad energy at the source, by terminating its existence within our own conscience. So the fourth member of TG has ceased to exist as the person we had any empathy with.

Though its been stated that TG existed as four equal members injecting creativity, you would guess by the interviews and material published that Genesis was the major figure/influence. Was he domineering or overbearing in the situation? If so, did this ever cause problems?
CHRIS: Yes. (to the last part of the question)
COSEY: It's clearer looking back on the situation now. It's not as cut and dry as people would have it. TG wasn't just music, but graphics, philosophy, and ideals. Gen had a lot of all those things, we all did. But had he been with any other group of people he would have totally dictated the state of play. We just wouldn't have it. We compromised sometimes by giving in and letting him sing, like on "Adrenalin". I can remember that very clearly because all three of us didn't want vocals on it at all. That was nearing the end of TG anyway, and the relationship Gen and I had too. It was difficult to get him into the bloody studio long enough to get anything on tape. Chris would do a lot of preparation for recording sessions by working out rhythms and noises at home. Sleazy would work on his samples too at home. Gen was very much a 'live' person, and someone who needed an arena. The rest of us got more subtle satisfaction from our various activities and fetishes. A lot of the actual composition of the 'music' was down to Sleazy and Chris, and getting the technical details right, etc. Creating a new sound generator or my stick guitar etc. Sleazy was the one who made the sleeve artworks a reality and supplied the knowledge behind printing techniques and the photographic skill for promo shots etc. TG wasn't Genesis' band. He became the front man if you like, and he was good at it sometimes. He embellished events somewhat, and took credit where it really wasn't due. He was a sad person really, who turned bitter. Endeth home truths (edited version.)

What/Who would you say has been influential on you and your work? Much of the material published on TG went on about the Beat Scene and Burroughs, etc but was this really an equal influence on all of you?
No it wasn't. That's why the TG work didn't deal solely with that influential source and it didn't just merely do homage to it either. It was because all four of us had our own ideas, sources of inspiration, and ideal, that TG created such a volatile concoction. We took energy and knowledge, and mixed it all together, reinterpreting it in our own style and for our own ends. That's what we encouraged others to do too. We then became the source of some information to people, and they utilized it for their projects. That's what life's about. We learn, we experience, we express ourselves, and then we grow in strength and knowledge.

I know Burroughs was a great inspiration to Gen. Gen's literary skills were born from the Beat scene, Kerouac, etc. Sleazy was into Burroughs, but for additional reasons too. Chris had read his work before he met us, and absorbed it much the same as he had other great works. I hadn't, and wasn't into it. I think that's where Chris and I are similar, we both never took anything like that and blatantly tried to be or relive it in our own lives. I was always too busy 'doing' to worry about getting the references right. I suppose Gen worried about those details more than I did. I tend to read up on things after an experience has brought it to my attention, rather than looking for something to make new experiences from. I like to have some empathy with the material I am dealing with. It's somewhat hypocritical to mouth off on subjects that you've only read about and know nothing about first hand. Techniques etc are different. Books of reference are there for that very reason, and there to be used. A lot of the material on TG was based on interviews with Gen, so his views were uppermost, but not necessarily the strongest held within TG itself. He was usually the most available because Chris, Sleazy, and myself were working. Chris doesn't like doing interviews much anyway.

What were the early days of the Chris & Cosey romance like?
Clandestine meetings, magickal kisses in the middle of the night. We stole odd evenings together when Gen went off with his 'girlfriend' for a night or two. The beginning of our 'romance' was towards the end of my relationship with Gen. It was extremely difficult for all of us, there was so much happening, I can't begin to give the whole picture. It would read like "The Story of O". All three of us had two or three relationships going on at the same time anyway, and then experimented on top of that, so it was a recipe for some kind of break-away. Gen and I had been together for nearly ten years, so I guess we had the most to lose, especially as I knew TG would end also. Then how can you acclaim honesty and freedom and live a lie. So I left Gen and got years of shit and denial. Such is a man scorned. So you see the words read all romantic 'the early days of romance', but in reality it was a struggle against great odds. I know we're the stronger for it.

Do subliminals still feature in your work? You've been quoted as saying your subliminals weren't harmful in any way. What about the past warnings on albums, just intrigue?
We've always thought there was confusion over the definition of subliminals in our music. Definitions became blurred as the techniques we used for placing sounds on tape or within the pieces of sound changed. It's all very technical really, but simple as well. Another contradiction for you. To most people the word subliminal means some kind of coercion into the doing, feeling, wanting of something you would not otherwise entertain. To us, within our work it means a way by which we can create the same sensations people get from emotions triggered by certain sounds. At first we used subliminals in their crudest form, and when recording we utilized the accepted techniques of the time. Anyway subliminals are usually thought to be an attempt to subvert via the spoken word, and instruction. Now it's mutated. We mix sound in a subliminal way (which is not necessarily 'a sublimnal' as per the definition.) We may have a sound effects loop along with something else which together create a certain atmosphere, which in turn directs the mood of the listener where we want it for that particular piece of music. It's a gamble that the listener will pick up the subliminal anyway, so it is in effect a hidden added bonus to the track, but one we feel drawn to continue using. It has become a part of our standard studio technique now.

Way back when we did our bulk of sound experiments, we felt it was interesting to let people know that science was involved here with this album. It was no 'normal' dance music or punk etc. We wanted people to enquire and learn as well as consume. We got feedback, and both parties benefited from the exchange, that's what its all about. We're not in the music 'business' so much as communication and sharing of information and opinions etc. We've never subscribed to spoon-feeding 'an audience', what's the point? TV does that very well, as do mainstream 'bands'. That kind of stuff is for moments of escapism at best, at worst a way of life for some people. We really want to touch the people who for some reason they don't understand, can't accept that lifestyle comfortably. The people who think 'they' are strange for not accepting their lot in life as being a work, feed, sit and only take what is on offer, don't ask questions or seek new horizons kind of person. It's got to that point again, but in a way it's far worse because people now take instruction from corporations and not the family unit. I think even the family as strong (and sometimes just as destructive) as it is, is losing against the hype of the media now. People are failing to communicate on a truly one to one level. Escapism is easier and much less painful to them. I think it has always been like that to some degree, but it is compounded now by the technological advances that have really gone into overdrive in the last 15 years. So, yeah I think when we actually state there are subliminals within our music, we are giving out an underlying message, another subliminal by disclosing that fact. As for our subliminals being harmful, they are not. We don't preach any doctrine or instruct people to buy products, like this, hate that. What's the point? That would be destructive when we are attempting to encourage free thought and expression in a positive, productive way.

How far into the mainstream would you be willing to let your music take you? Do you feel it's headed that way at all?
Whenever we get asked that question, and we get asked it a lot, it's always like a kind of accusation. Like we've done something wrong by appealing to more mainstream listeners. We're not as calculated as that when we sit down in the studio and write our music. We never 'decide' to do a track that will be more acceptable so we can direct it into a more commercial market. We're happy to do re-mixes, as we did with Erasure, but even with that our hands were tied (in more than two directions actually) as to what we could do that would be approved. Free reign on the project with guaranteed release would have been great. But control is what its all about there. We had a great time remixing, it's like going to the fairground trying everything out and it doesn't matter because at the end of the day it's your treat. So as far as mainstream is concerned, we're happy if what we do coincides with what people like, but we couldn't work to a tested pattern of what's happening now and infiltrate. I'd feel really creepy doing that. Quite happy to be the hidden force behind projects though, that appeals to us a lot. All those "Man From Uncle" spy programs from our youth. Tongue-in-cheek kind of attitude prevails, and knowing something no one else even suspects is kind of appealing too. I like a twist in the tale, it makes for a more interesting, fun life. I think what happened with us, is that the sound we came up with from "Exotika" onwards happened to coincide a little with what was more acceptable in the mainstream/fringe. I still can't work it out, being objective and analyzing the 'whys' and 'what ifs' regarding our work seems to me a waste of time. A bit like what would you do if you won a million dollars? Mind you we do go through that once every year, driving along deciding what we'd buy first etc. Pie in the sky.

What music do YOU listen to?
It is such a variety. From 'chart' stuff to film soundtracks, and our contemporaries. We get hits from the 60's - "Kung Fu Fighting", "Yummy Yummy Yummy" etc. They're so kitsch. Nick loves them too. Then we got the "Akira" soundtrack and Sound FX CDs. Anything but Country & Western!!
I HATE IT. Slash your wrists music I call it.

Tell us about Nick. Does he have opinions on his parent's work yet? How aware is he of his parent's sometimes controversial past work?
It's a weird thing when you have to somehow explain to your child why you did the things you did. Especially my background, how do I describe my actions and reasons behind them to my son in a way that won't affect his attitude to women and his mother? I'm still working that one out as I go along. He knows a lot anyway just by the fact that nothing is hidden away. There's framed pictures of me in Penthouse etc in the house, and he accepts them for what they are. Now he's getting to his teens, he'll see them in a different light maybe, but I tell him everything he needs to know when he asks. He has to have a healthy attitude to life if his life is going to be enjoyable and fruitful, so I am very careful how I present things to him and how much detail he can assimilate at his age too. People's attitude to themselves and others are very important, and I want him to be tolerant but selective with his energy.

He's got to hit the mayhem of his teens and twenties yet, and no doubt I'll be worried sick for him, like all mothers. Until you are a parent you can't begin to understand the responsibility. Maybe it's me, but getting the balance right between love, freedom, discipline, and control, is a full time job. An emotional rollercoaster at times. As for the music, he likes more of it than I thought he would. He has rather good taste for his age and era. I hope it continues. He likes, selectively, some of the chart stuff (like Chris and I) but he also loves 30's music, film score, blues, jazz, and some classical. So that's pretty varied for a 12 year old. Now when he hears some chart stuff, he asks if something is a cover from when we were young! He seems to appreciate originality and genuine talent.

Do you travel much for fun? Favorite places?
You give me the money and we'll travel for fun. We never have the money or the time. Or if we have time we don't have money, and vice versa. In the summer when Nick has his long school holidays, we take him all over, exploring Britain. He's really into history, so it's fun for all of us. Then we go mad at some theme park on the way home, hit the beach and other such novelties. He came around the USA on tour with us a couple of times, and to Canada and Belgium too. We'd all travel more given the chance, but preferably as a pleasure trip, and not on business.

As for favorite places, we both actually love San Francisco, and talked of moving there a few times. Then we had a passion for Berlin before the wall came down. It's a tragic situation that gave it a very special aura. Although the wall coming down was a momentous time, it destroyed Berlin as people had come to love it. The people changed. As the people and how they are, make up the atmosphere in any given place, it's that which would be the deciding factor of where I chose to live. I can say this world is getting pretty short of 'humanitarian' communities.

What new and upcoming releases can you tell us about? Describe Library of Sound.
We decided to release some of our work through our own label, Conspiracy International, and continue the CTI projects with The Library of Sound. There didn't seem any obvious avenue for the more soundscape side of our work, and we had a whole list of ideas we wanted to get working on. The Library of Sound is a series of CD releases that deal with specific concepts to do with the use and experimentation of sound as a source of enjoyment and experience. So it can be very diverse from one edition to another. Volume I "Metaphysical" speaks for itself by its own definition. It's multifunctional listening, you can go as deep into it as your mood dictates. Volume II "Chronomanic" is a totally different concept. We chose various dates throughout the year timing our actions with empathetic dates in time. So each track we have recorded is a celebration or recognition of that moment. It all began when we recorded "Pagan Tango" and the track "Balfigore...Before the Feast". We wrote and recorded the track on that very night.

We're set to start working on a new C&C album as well later in the year, we've set aside material and sounds ready for that already. Then we promised ourselves that we would get a live album out and a video of live work too. So our 1994 is going to be busy for us. There's also been compilations we've contributed to which will surface this year.

I started doing collage work and painting again and that's taken up a lot of my time. An area I had almost stopped altogether has been rekindled now, and I'm being torn between that and music at the moment. But that's okay, I can choose according to my mood and ideas of course. Painting is just so totally different, and it was quite difficult for me to get into the spontaneity of it all after so long. Now it's hard for me to keep up with the ideas, I make endless notes so I won't forget. I also started writing a book too. A fiction cum faction. That was fun to do and I've got to go back to it, as I was rudely interrupted halfway. As far as writing is concerned, I am always at it in one form or another. Some days I get a real buzz out of it and the words seem to just stream our right, other days it's like literary constipation, and I just do something else. I think with most forms of expression, you need to keep your hand in, you get rusty if you rest too long.

Tell us about the TGT project.
We just wanted to release something under a totally different name to see what would happen. Also there were the would be TG clones springing up, so we did a spoof on them really, right down to the promo photos. It was a fun project.

Still no plans for any more concerts? Can you elaborate on the reasons behind your decision to stop touring?
There's so many reasons really. Too knackering, not interesting enough anymore, the venues and set ups are not really suitable, and we have to play the gig circuit. We hate that. It's mainly the logistics behind the tours which really put us off. All the preparation, setting up, soundchecks, breaking down the studio. Getting the equipment trashed by the airlines is another. We can't afford to replace a lot of it, so it's become a survival thing too. We did an ambient festival in Amsterdam just to see if we really felt so strongly about not playing live. It proved to us that we wouldn't play live again. Everything went very well, no hitches or anything like that. We don't get a buzz out of it anymore either. Chris never did enjoy playing live anyway, even as TG, so it was always a relief when it was over. The only bit we enjoyed in the end and the bit we'll miss, is meeting everyone. That's not meant to sound like a cliche, but when we met our 'audience' it made our work tangible. It made it a reality, and all those hours in the studio meant something to other people as well as ourselves.

Favorite Movies, Books?
Chris: Chinatown, Blue Velvet, Brazil, Taxi Driver, Wild at Heart, Clockwork Orange, Alien, The Devils, Nikkita, Blow-Up Performance, English 60's comedies, etc.
Cosey: Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, The Elephant Man, Maitresse, China Blue (Crimes of Passion); B/W Ealing films from the 50's, Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses)

This is a random selection of our most favorite, but there's loads and loads.

As for books.....
Cosey: Killing for Company, real life murder books, esoteric reference books; Stephen King, Clive Barker for easy reading.
Chris: Colin Wilson, Wilhelm Reich, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, reference books on Sexual Deviancy, TV Guide (for what not to watch!), Tolkien.

This is the latest reading material really. All the Crowley, Kenneth Grant, Austin Osman Spare, and research material goes without saying. We both read every day now, like some kind of addiction really.

What is your private/home life like aside from your work?
The obvious answer to that is 'private'. I'd say it's much the same as anyone else, but from experience I don't think it is. On all levels we seem to differ from the norm. We have never become a 'man and wife', 'him and her'. Opposing camps within a relationship is a weird way to spend your life, don't you think? So when I'm in any situation, like school open evenings, when other parents talk with me, I'm in an alien world, but I have to emit some form of normality to get the most out of the system for Nick. So far two hours is my limit of endurance, then I have to get away. It's like watching a play and you're in it. I have to remember my lines and visual expressions and yet make sure I get what I want for Nick. It's very difficult, Chris and I have trouble maintaining an aura of normality amongst some people. We've tried just saying what we want, but they look at us as if we're mad, so we put it into their language and go by stages now. Very odd. I suppose if we hadn't have had Nick, we would've been in our own little world all the time, maybe we benefit some way by having to confront the reality of society as it is today. Other than that we do what we want when we want on all levels. We have the luxury of time because we work at home for ourselves, and therefore 'work' as such or outside influence don't dictate to us very often. We watch TV, videos. Listen to music, read, play computer games, etc. I suppose the difference there is that we tend to sample from the entertainment source and bring it further into our lives, then we use news items, images, etc as lyrics, paintings, etc. We consume and utilize, recycle.

Having said all that, when we did have jobs we still lived the same way, so its a state of mind and strength of will. We can all choose to some degree how we want to live and who we ultimately become. It's no good blaming someone else.

Are you spiritual people? Is there any way you can describe such feelings or beliefs here, and how they may have affected or influenced your work, if at all?
I think that is the essence of our work altogether. Without it, it would never have been, and I think it's the very reason we have never managed to record a 'banal commercial' track. We always work on the premise of 'it feels right' or not. It never sounds right when you try and explain 'spiritual' feelings, so I tend not to attempt it. It's very personal anyway.