Description of equipment used on stage by Throbbing Gristle

Text: Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle)
Originally printed in Flowmotion 1, January 1981

Description of equipment used on stage:
  • One rack containing 3 Clarion Auto-reverse car cassette machines customised so that all of the four tracks from each tape head are available. All or the 12 resulting channels are routed to a keyboard which selects the output combination.
  • One Apple II computer fitted with Mountain Hardware's Supertalker and Symtec's SSG synthesiser boards. This provides extensive facilities not available from other equipment. For example sound can be stored digitally in memory and then played back in a non-linear manner or be manipulated mathematically prior to recall. Also the computer offers virtually unlimited sequencing facilities and can enter and display any musical piece as standard musical notation; that is, one can type in the tune from the score and then type "play" and the computer will play it. All data, stored sound or lines can be stored on floppy-disc and recalled as and when needed.
  • One Cornet (made in Taiwan).
  • One Larry Adler professional harmonica.
All the above are routed to a Roland Jazz Chorus Combo, via Memory Man analog delay line and a Roland Waa-Waa. (As are any vocals I might do).

Sources or Sound fragments used:

These vary considerably. As far as possible I try to stay within the law both in terms of copyright and the respect of peoples privacy. However in general the use or any specific fragment is so short that these considerations are not too important and if a piece of sound seems right I will normally use it. Without wishing to be too specific (for obvious reasons, sources of sound have included: recordings of legal and illegal radio and T.V. broadcasts (mostly not in this country), interviews with people (usually interesting people who have only come to light when they were indiscreet), tapes made without peoples knowledge (methods used in this case have to remain unspecified - suffice to say I see no reason why technology used by politicians in covert Watergate-type situations should not be used in a more enlightening and hopefully enjoyable context), lastly I also used a certain amount of purely 'atmospheric' sound (cars, rain, dogs barking at night, people crying etc) most of which is recorded in situ as it happens and most of which is recorded binaurally. (The binaural system, which, we now always use to record gigs, is one in which the two stereo mics are separated in a similar way to human ears. On playback the minute phase differences that result between the signals give a considerably enhanced spatial effect when listening with headphones.)

Regarding the formation of T.G. material:

Usually T.G. Songs are formed for the first time live on stage (We very rarely rehearse other than to check the equipment) Each person working on ingredients separately - a title, a lyric, a rhythm (why can I never spell that word?), an idea for a sound etc. etc. And all these somehow come together on stage to form the song, which invariably alters in each performance until we do a definitive version on record. (After which we don't usually repeat it.)

Regarding what we are 'doing':

I don't really see what we do in terms of the conventional 'rock & roll' thing at all, although the format of a group making records is one which is immediately acceptable to many people (much more so than virtually any other, apart from film/T.V.) I don't think we are a "group" in the normal sense of the word. We are just trying to express ideas and feelings in a way that seems appropriate to times in which we live. What we decide to do at any point is as far as possible based only on instinct - what "feels right". So I have no idea what we (or I) will be doing in the future but it will be certainly be something I find interesting because there's no point doing anything boring, ever.

~Flowmotion 1, January 1981

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