Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Vinyl Encounters Of The... Rewind! - Juggling J.G. Thirlwell

 Vinyl Encounters Of The... Rewind!

Juggling J.G. Thirlwell 

Check out the full length mixes below, or check out the J.G. Thirlwell Spotify playlist.

Welcome to the return of V.E.O.T.R! It's been a while since I've put one together, but this is a very special one. The spotlight is on J.G. Thirlwell, if you've watched The Venture Bros. on Adult Swim, or the past several seasons of the FX animated series, Archer, then you've heard his soundtrack work, but his musical contributions span over four decades. This one of a kind artist, composer, producer and performer has released uncompromising, sonically extreme, sometimes lyrically shocking and always exciting, genre-bending vinyl releases, under a plethora of aliases, some of which I will delve into here.

I will focus primarily on the vinyl releases as per the name of the blog, but much of the music from the 90s and 2000s has been put out digitally thus far, so I will mention some of those, as well.

Australian born James George Thirlwell studied Fine Art at Melbourne State College before moving to London in 1978. He joined post-punk band, PragVEC, playing the EDP Wasp Synth for their 1980 Spec Records LP, No-Cowboys, released as a compilation although it is all variations of the same band.

His first solo release was 1981's Foetus Under Glass 7" single, OKFM / Spite Your Face, on his own Self Immolation label. Next came the You've Got Foetus On Your Breath - Wash It All Off 7" and the LP, Deaf (reissued by Ectopic Ents in 2019). These releases are raw and slightly primitive, but witty, poignant, unique and very experimental. The album artwork (often with inserts) is reminiscent of Agitprop, often depicting authoritarian imagery (created by Thirlwell, as well) which would continue to be a common theme for the variations of Foetus.

1982 saw another Self Immolation 7" called Tell Me, What Is The Bane Of Your Life, credited as Phillip And His Foetus Vibrations, crass, funky electronic noise that came out a few years before Foetus would make his way onto my radar. Also that year came Foetus Over Frisco - Custom Built For Capitalism 12" single and the LP, Ache, on Self Immolation. These records are very rare, there hasn't been a reissue for Ache,(hopefully someday!) so I have yet to add that to my collection.

 Foetus In Your Bed's "Primordial Industry" and "Industrial Go Slow" appeared on the 1982 United Dairies compilation, An Afflicted Man's Musica Box.

1984 saw the release of Hole, which together with 1985's Nail were both released as Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel on Self Immolation and Some Bizzare Records and are two parts of an epic, masterpiece. The subject matter is often cynical, dark or tragic, but is executed with a keen sense of irony with no skimping on the comedy. 

Under the alias Frank Want, Thirlwell performed or recorded with Marc and the Mambas, The The and Orange Juice

He collaborated with Nurse With Wound, having made friends with Steven Stapleton in England, adding vocals to the 1984 L.A.Y.L.A.H. Antirecords release, Brained By Falling Masonry

He helped German band, Einstürzende Neubauten, compile the music for their 1984 Mute Records release, 80-83 Strategien Gegen Architekturen.

He also collaborated with Coil co-producing their 1984, Force & Form / K.4222 Records, Scatology LP as Clint Ruin. The song "Panic" was remixed and dubbed out quite nicely on their Wax Trax! Records single, Tainted Love. He worked with them on the song "The Wheel" off of the 1985 Some Bizzare compilation, If You Can't Please Yourself You Can't, Please Your Soul which was also featured, remixed, as "The Broken Wheel" on their 1987 LP, Gold Is The Metal (With The Broadest Shoulders). There is also a Clint Ruin appearance on "Circle Of Mania" from their 1986 Force & Form / K.422 album, Horse Rotorvator

The Some Bizzare compilation also features Thirlwell performing on The The and Marc Almond's contributions, as well as a Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel tune, "The Only Good Christian Is Dead."

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 1984 Mute Records LP, From Her To Eternity, featured "Wings Of Flies" which Thirlwell helped produce. He and Cave connected in England, though Thirlwell had been a fan of and seen his previous band, The Boys Next Door / The Birthday Party, in Australia. 

He produced the song "Burning Boats" from Annie Hogan's 1985 release, Annie Hogan Plays "Kickabye" which came out on Cabaret Voltaire's label, DoubleVision. That same year for DoubleVision, he and Roli Mosimann remixed the song "Revelry (King Size Mix)" for Don King (New York No-Wave band, not the fight promoter) One-Two Punch EP.


Several singles also came out on Self Immolation in 1984-85, Foetus Art Terrorism with Calamity Crush, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath again with Wash / Slog (a rerecorded version of "Wash" from the previously released 7") and Foetus Uber Frisco with Finely Honed Machine.

Thirwell toured as The Immaculate Consumptive with Lydia LunchMarc Almond and Nick Cave and stayed in New York when the tour ended, where he would continue creating the Foetus legacy as well as developing a few other musical personas. 

Also in 1985, Self Immolation and Some Bizzare released Foetus Of Excellence, which is a limited edition t-shirt and box made to fit the Foetus vinyl that had been released up to that point.

This was around the time that i first heard Foetus on the K.C., MO public TV show, Joy Farm, on which they played the live video of "Pigwill." As a 14 year old straight edge kid that was listening to more "positive," punk stuff at the time (though I was beginning to thirst for something a little more experimental or avant-garde as a lot of the bands that I was hearing were starting to sound the same, no disrespect to hardcore punk - it definitely broke me of mindlessly accepting whatever mainstream crap the radio was playing, and I still love a lot of it, but variety is the spice of life)... I didn't know what to think when I heard the words "D-E-S-T-R-O-Y... Destroy... All... Girls!" - the music was really interesting, though. I don't think that anything had shocked me, at that point, since I heard Johnny Rotten scream "I am an Anti-Christ, I am an anarchist!" (it was the Anti-Christ line that surprised me at 11 years old when I first heard Never Mind The Bollocks... I'm sure that I had to look "Anarchist" up in a dictionary and thought...cool!). So, thanks to my older sister, our friends and a couple of friends from school, I listened to more. It took a few tunes for me to get into it, but once I did, I became captivated by the compositions, and the conceptualization. I don't think that I understood the process of how the tracks were made at the time but these albums (Hole and Nail in particular) planted the seeds in my mind that led me to become fascinated with samplers (particularly the Fairlight CMI), synths and unconventional sounds. My friends and I referred to it as "Industrial" music, at the time, for lack of better description... but it contained elements of No Wave, symphonic orchestra, big band, Exotica, Musique concréte, surf, punk rock, funk and soul, even hip-hop twisted together, a glimpse into the mind of a "Sick Man," perhaps, with catchy refrains like "Blow your brains out, baby!" or "You ain't tasted nothing till you got Foetus on your breath!" most likely just a really good sense of humor.

In 1985 the Motorslug / Death Rape 2000 12" single was released in America by Wax Trax! Records (k.422 Records elsewhere). Wiseblood is the name of the project and it consists primarily of Clint Ruin and Roli Mosimann (Swans). In 1986, the Stumbo / Someone Drowned In My Pool 12" came out on Relativity / K.422 Records, followed in 1987 by the full LP by Wiseblood, Dirtdish. The subject matter on this one is particularly grizzly, from the real life story of Satanic murderer, Ricky Kasso, "O-O (Where Evil Dwells)" to the ode to butt-sex... "Fudge Punch," it's all raw, mean... a little psychotic(?)... perhaps enough to match the brutal, stabbing, percussive force that these two unleash together.

Thirlwell & Mosimann also worked together in mixing the heavily percussive Chocolate Frenzy single by Bewitched, released in 1986 by Shove Records, a project by one time Sonic Youth (and Pussy Galore) drummer, Bob Bert.

1987 saw the Ramrod / Boxhead 12" by Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel and the dive-bar tinged blues of Foetus All-Nude Review's EP release, Bedrock.

The Flesh Volcano was a collaboration with Clint Ruin and Marc Almond (Soft Cell) whose single, Slut, was released in 1987 by Some Bizzare. This one had an awesome cover designed by Robert Williams. When I bought these records in the eighties I wasn't really DJing yet and didn't fully appreciate it, but this singles (or EPs) songs have instrumentals of the b-sides of other releases (DJ Friendly!) - "Slut" ("Smut" on Ramrod / Boxhead) and "Universal Cesspool" ("Diabolos In Musica" from Bedrock), buy 'em all!  

!988's collaboration with Lydia Lunch (he mixed and performed on her 1987 LP, Honeymoon In Red), Stinkfist was released on Lunch's Widowspeak Productions and featured a host of percussion mad-men like Spit from Fear, DJ Bonebrake of X, Rolli Mosimann and Cliff Martinez as well as Lunch's spoken words depicting an apocalyptic, dystopian, hell-scape quite similar to the current state of our world, ranted over an equally unsettling soundscape. Also on Widowspeak Productions that year was The Crumb single from Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore, which Thirwell mixed and performed on.

1988 also saw the release of two LP's, Foetus Interruptus with Thaw, engineered by Martin Bisi and put out on Self Immolation, and the (official bootleg) live album, Foetus Corruptus's Rife, on a label called Rifle. These are two that I don't have in my collection yet... accepting donations!

In 1989 the Foetus Inc. compilation Sink came out, on Self Immolation and Wax Trax! Records in America, which features most or all of the singles and EPs that I've mentioned thus far (Foetus releases, not collaborations or guest appearances) plus a few obscurities. Most of the earlier ones had been long out of press by the time I got into them, so this one was a blessing!

That year Thirlwell also produced / remixed for Pig aka Raymond Watts (KMFDM)on the Wax Trax! Records release, Sick City / Shit For Brains.

Foetus Inc. returned in 1990 with the single, Butterfly Potion, on Self Immolation / Wax Trax! Records in the U.S. and Big Cat overseas. This one had help on the mix-desk from Roli Mosimann. The title track "Butterfly Potion"(which foreshadows The Monarch, the arch-villain of Dr. Venture of The Venture Bros., whose characters creation was inspired by the music of Thirwell's Steroid Maximus) and "Your Salvation" border on psychedelia while "Free James Brown So He Can Run Me Down" ensures that those accustomed to hearing extremism from Foetus won't be disappointed! 

Garage Monsters was a project with Thirlwell and The Pizz; together they released the Power House 7" in 1990 (with awesome engraving on the b-side of The Pizz artwork), and the 10" Safari To Mumbooba!, in 1992, both of which were on Sympathy For The Record Industry.

Steroid Maximus is another alias, exposed to the world with 1990's exotic and bombastic LP, Quilombo, on Big Cat. 1992's Gondwanaland on Big Cat and Ectopic Ents has not been issued on vinyl, nor has 2002's Ectopia, on Ipecac and Ectopic Ents.

1991 saw the release of another Wiseblood EP, P.T.T.M. (Pedal To The Metal) as well as the Clint Ruin & Lydia Lunch 12" EP, Don't Fear The Reaper on Big Cat featuring a cover of the Blue Oyster Cult song, and a Beatles cover, too..."Why Don't We Do It In The Road"

1991 saw a Foetus Inc. appearance, "See Dick Run" on the limited edition Elemental (Ralph Records) 7" compilation, Scary Songs For Kids, which I just discovered on Discogs.com while researching for this blog.

In 1990, Thirlwell remixed I Believe for alternative rock band, EMF which was released as a 12" single on Parlaphone, opening the doors to remixing for labels in the early 90s. He would go on to remix for ProngRed Hot Chili PeppersCranesPantera and Danzig.

He remixed two songs, "Wish" and "Fist Fuck" by Nine Inch Nails on the Fixed EP that came out in 1992 on Island / TVT Records. 

In 1992 Big Cat released Male by Foetus In Excelsis Coruptus Deluxe, which is a live set from N.Y.C.'s CBGB. This one has received much acclaim, to my knowledge, there is no vinyl release of it. Nor was his 1994 album (simply credited to Foetus), Gash

A split 7" was put out in 1994 on PCP Entertainment, Vice Squad Dick by Foetus and Chrome Cranks.

The 12" Null was released by Big Cat / Columbia in 1995 featuring several mixes of "Verklemmt" which Columbia also put out a picture disc of.

In 1996, Foetus released Null / Void, and the live CD, Boil, all on Big Cat, exclusively digitally. The same goes for 2001's Thirsty Ear / Nois-O-Lution Foetus album, Flow.

2001's Blow, however, was issued on wax by German label, Nois-O-Lution. It featured remixes by the likes of Amon Tobin and DJ Food.

Thirlwell remixed R&B legend,  Andre Williams with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for the 2000 In The Red Records 12" single, Lap Dance. 

The last five Foetus albums have all been put out on his Ectopic Ents. They are 2004's Love, Damp from 2006, Vein from 2007, Hide from 2010 and Soak, released in 2013. There is also a 2009 compilation, Limb. These were all released on digital formats only.

2011 saw a remix for Zs song "New Slaves" for their New Slaves Part 2, Essence Implosion! 12" on the label, The Social Registry.

On Ectopic Ents, another alter-ego, Manorexia, debuted in 2001 with the CD, Volvox Turbo and has since released three more albums digitally which further display Thirlwell's exceptional talent in creating cinematic-quality soundscapes.

That particular talent landed him as the musical score creator for the Adult Swim series, The Venture Bros., which ran for 17 years before being cancelled this year. 

In 2009, Williams Street Records released The Venture Bros. - The Music Of JG Thirlwell with themes that range from Ennio Morricone influenced, spaghetti western sounds to space jazz, ambient, drum 'n' bass and detuned and deranged amusement park music. 

The Venture Bros. Volume 2 came out in 2016 on Ectopic Ents and is still available from foetus.org

2017 saw yet another alias, Xordox, a synth based project with an LP called Neospectionwhich came out on Editions Mego. There's a good balance ambience and arpeggiation here.

2020 has brought with it the most recent Thirlwell record, it's a collaboration with Swedish self taught musician, Simon Steensland and is called Oscillospira. It's an amazing album with a heavy prog-rock, King Crimson influenced kind of sound and was pressed on double vinyl so the grooves aren't cut too thin. There's haunting harmonies and breaks that sound like something that Wu-Tang Clan might sample on here, and it's available from foetus.org

For further information, go to:

That concludes this edition of V.E.O.T.R., check back soon for more vinyl adventures!