"Throbbing Gristle is Yorkshire slang for an erection," remarks Cosey Fanni Tutti in her dryly cynical Yorkshire accent.
"Yes. Use that as an opening. I don't think anyone's ever come out and said that before," says Genesis P-Orridge, "of course if you were thinking of writing a serious article about us continual references to Throbbing Gristle are going to destroy the effect, aren't they?"
He smiles at the absurdity and tastes the incongruity. A dissertation on Throbbing Gristle???
We are all sitting around in the P-Orridge residence in less-than-salubrious downtown Hackney.
The "we" consists of sundry dogs and cats, visitors who amble in and out, and the Gristle group - Genesis, Cosey and electronics nutters - Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson.
Outside the periodic roar of trains bears witness to Genesis' apt description of the street as "a row of Victorian terraces with a Magritte railway bridge overhead."
It's a bleak, inhospitable industrial environment. An eternal grey monotony of rows and rows of houses periodically interrupted by a factory or a huge warehouse.
Throbbing Gristle music is hewn out of this environment It is the music of England's urban blight. Harsh, raw, confronting, alienating, anti-social, nihilistic.
Musically TG (as they like to be affectionately called) are about sounds and noises. Not the exotic whirls and swoops of a synthesiser or the laidback bourgeois bliss of the American West Coast or the driving, compulsive rhythms of street life in Frenchtown but the banal sounds of English surburban living.
They are obsessed with the junk sounds of everyday life - snippets of conversation, Radio One as back- ground noise, factory throbbing, boring Open University lectures, onomatopoeic beeps and screeches of traffic, staccato pings of computer tapes, children chattering, people swearing at each other, television and radio static, the world of low fi and no fi, the swirl of inconsequential sound that, like some gigantic aural blanket, wraps us in its meaningless cacophany.
Out of the Throbbing Gristle have created a "music" which is both relevant to 1978 (in that it absorbs the sense of alienation and confrontation of the whole punk/new wave ethos) and genuinely avant garde in its refusal to fall back on easy, early arche- types (ie. rock'n'roll).
In fact, while a section of the punk audience have been attracted by what Throbbing Gristle have to offer, Genesis makes it quite clear that he sees no musical similarities between Throbbing Gristle and your standard bondage pants and wall chords band.
"It's rock'n'roll and we're not interested in rock'n'roll. We're not interested in a career in rock'n'roll and we're only interested in marketing as something for us to play with and parody."
He is dismissive of a lot of the bullshit masquerading as profundity and revolution that hangs limply around the new wave and pours scorn upon those he regards as phony. People with a carefully sculptured image of mystery and anonimity come in for some particularly abrasive and succinct observations.
"There's lots of people who want to know what it these characters are thinking and they're just saying 'Fuck You'. Well I find that arrogant and pointless. Why should they hide anything? What big secret have they got which is so precious and fragile that it will disintegrate if they tell the truth?
"There's nothing more irritating than somebody whose got nothing to say pretending they're hiding something important."
A criticism that could never be lodged against Mr. P-Orridge who is, contrary to the massive lies per- petrated by the Fleet Street hacks, a disarmingly honest and open person whose conversation tumbles and cascades in a great torrent of fact, opinion and anecdote.
Genesis P-Orridge (in spite of his religio-culinary name) is suffused with the kind of radiant, incandes- cent intelligence one doesn't usually associate with musicians.
He is articulate, witty, incisive and perceptive managing to imbue his flat, whining, monotonal Hull accent with scarcely believable nuances and subtle- ties.
His life is an open book. Born Neil Megson in Hull 28 years ago he did a stint with the local chapter of Hell's Angels before heading south to outrage the worthy citizens of Fleet Street with an exhibition at the ICA in October, 1976 which will be remembered for its used tampons display and its "Shock." "Horror!" mileage in such bastions of intellectual esteem as The Sun and Daily Mirror.
Genesis recalls, with ill-concealed ironic delight, that, "The actual agreed theme in advance was "The Corruption of Information by the Media' and also how they edit it to put across attitudes. There was one whole wall at that show that was just press cuttings. Anything written about any of us in the media up until then and it was never mentioned once in any newspaper report. It was added to day by day until it got bigger and bigger and bigger like Topsy and they ignored it.
"I mean the exhibition was discussed in the cabinet and they actually said the Foreign Office had had a telephone debate between Washington and Ottawa and London over whether we should go anywhere and what we should go as, and who wanted us. I mean that is ludicrous. There were these government departments debating what we should do because they'd read the news- papers.
"It was depressing and it was hysterical and it did take us somewhat unawares when it happened. On the other hand now if we discuss the mass media and corruption of information people can't now say 'Well. How do you know?' because we've got 500 press cuttings to show them exactly how we know."
From that time on Genesis and TG became "media personalities" being written about by everyone from Tony Parsons through to John Blake.
Genesis went on holidays in Poland - the papers reported it. TG were attacked on stage by The Slits - the papers reported it. The Vermorels asked TG to do some film music - the papers reported it.
The papers lovingly lingered (and misreported) the minutia of the band's, and particularly Genesis', lifestyle.
Nowhere was the attraction greater than in Genesis' apparent obsession with psychopathic murderers. Ironically Genesis' interest in people like Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, Charles Manson and the Marquis de Sade was not fuelled by a desire to be outrageous or to make psychopaths this year's chic thing.
His bookshelves, and the incidents used as subject matter for TG lyrics, bear witness to this interest in the macabre. A case in point is, "Slug Bait" on The Second Annual Report.
Genesis explains: "That was inspired by Rhodesian guerilla activity at the very beginning of the troubles when some black guerillas came to a white farm house and castrated the husband in front of his pregnant wife and then made him eat his own testicles and she had to sit and watch him bleeding to death.
"I spliced that image in with the Sharon Tate killing when they actually stabbed her and one of the girls, Sadie, talked about wanting to cut the baby out because it was still alive inside Sharon Tate.
"It's two different moments in time and two differen motivations or cultures - one primitive, one very, very sophisticated - but also all through history conquering armies have raped, pillaged, castrated and tortured.
"It seems to be an inevitable result of that kind of physical power over somebody. Men seem to always be tempted into rape and castration. It's a kind of eternal behavioural trait of man which I find objectionable but I don't believe in being an ostrich.
"I believe it's much more useful to turn around and look at it closely, even if you can't figure it out, and say, 'This puzzles me. Why do people do this?"
There is no sense of relish when Genesis discusses incidents hike this. His interest seems almost academic and the conclusions he draws from such information show a concern to come to grips with the darker side of the human psyche.
In this context his observations about Charles Manson are particularly illuminating.
"Certain murderers seem to transcend the activity itself and make, maybe accidentally, a statement about the whole society or the human condition.
"They seem to have a flair for coming up with a new, unique approach to the problem of how to kill somebody. They become stars almost the same as pop stars. They become media figures and if they weren't locked up they'd be invited to all the chic parties. "Charlie Manson's become a cult, One interpretation is that really all he wanted was perhaps to be famous. If the Beach Boys had actually let him make his LP and release it the murders would never have occurred. He had a drive to become famous and to be noticed - and he managed it.
"The irony is that the media who were saying they hated him gave him what he wanted and he could never have done it except for them and if they'd ignored him he would have been a failure but because of the attention he received he was given everything he ever wanted out of life which was to be remembered after he was dead.
"I think in contemporary society most people, whether they realise it or not, don't believe in eternal life except that they're remembered in history. That's eternal life now."
Yet, for all this seriousness, it is unfair to think of TG as a quartet of intellectuals or, worse, "art college types" upon whose lips a trill of laughter never passes.
In fact the group have a strong sense of humour - with heavy overtones of the absurd, the satiric and the ironic - which they have managed to infuse into D.O.A. The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle.
Much of the group's humour is rooted in their determination to show up the inherent absurdities of record industry conventions and cliches.
Genesis draws immense satisfaction from the way he and the group have structured the first three tracks on the album.
"IBM", sixty seconds of computer tape given the "Gristle treatment", opens the album because: "I like the idea of when you put records on in shops people always ask to hear the first track on Side One and "IBM" is the most grating track on the whole album. The idea of people browsing through the records with that on in the shop amuses us, if they can cope with that, and still want it, then they definitely should listen to us."
"IBM" is followed by "Hit by a Rock" which, being a less than complimentary jab at the excesses of heavy metal, was originally meant to be called "Hit by Rock."
"It was meant to be more spoofy but it was mangled as ever by the TG sound because we can't play proper rock anyway. The lyric is 'Hit by a rock/Blood and brains in my marmalade/spoiling my breakfast'. It's kind of silly but It's just as effective as the people who're trying to do it seriously."
Then there's a 16 second version of "United" which TG released as a single last year. It's being played at something like 24 times the normal speed and, as Genesis observes, "Every album should include a hit single so we've included "United" but we've got it over quickly."
That kind of tongue-in-cheek lunacy, combined with the interesting idea of letting each member of the band have "their own track" tends to make D.O.A. a much more acceptable and accessible album than the cold and brittle machine noise of The Second Annual Report In fact the individual tracks do much to destroy the accepted media image of the band.
Cosey Fanni Tutti, who has been popularly presented as some kind of sleaze queen of the avant garde, sees herself as a rather quiet homeloving young lady. A self analysis this scribe would fully endorse.
When talking about her track she conveys a naivete and innocence one doesn't usually associate with girls whose pics are sold, under the counter, to overcoated gentlemen in the back streets of Soho.
"Hometime" is just connected with my sister's daughter and she's playing out in the garden. It's just a calm domestic day and that's all it is. "Home- time" is like...you go to school and have playtime and then at four o'clock you have hometime."
Chris Carter's track "AB7A" (similarities to a famous group allowed) is "a pastiche of all the disco rhythms and all that sort of stuff" while Peter Christopherson's offering "Valley of the Shadow of Death" is a series of conversations secretly recorded with surveillance equipment and bugging devices.
Neither Chris nor Peter are happy to talk about their individual contributions arguing that their tracks "speak for themselves". Genesis shows no such reticence when speaking of his own track "Weeping". "Weeping used four types of acoustic violin played through a space echo. I've got a Czecholslovakian bodyless practice violin; a one string violin fiddle and two straight acoustic fiddles. The words are a combination of a letter I received from a Polish woman who's mother of the girl on the cover about when she got divorced from her husband and my observations about relationships in crisis.
"Also it's called 'Weeping' and there's a kind of allusion to burns and the weeping you get when you get first degree burns which heads into the first track on Side Two and keeps the medical theme going."
The macabre humour of the last comment is revealed with "Hamburger Lady" a story and musical evocation of a lady burned from the waist up.
When talking about he track it is surprising how the group actually disagree on what they set out to do and how they achieved it.
Genesis busily tells me about the origins (genesis?) of "Hamburger Lady" - "We tried to simulate the position of a woman who'd been burnt from the waist up and in this terminal burns unit in Portland, Oregon. They keep her alive and they called her the Hamburger Lady because she looked like a hamburger. So we all combined to simulate a delirious state and also the ominous evil malignancy of when you choose to keep a body alive.
"Peter puts in sounds like people talking at the end of the bed then Chris did a semi-heartbeat thing and a very droning threatening noise and Cosey puts in the groaning things almost like moments of pain."
Only to be interrupted by Cosey saying, "I always thought of my guitar being a vacuum cleaner going around the ward" and Peter observing, "I would say I don't think it's necessarily as conceived as that."
Then there is the title track "Dead on Arrival" which, as Genesis explains, "is just a hive rhythm section from our concert at the Portsmouth College of Art put straight down on tape. We've been doing rhythm sections for quite a while now and we started an example of one to show people what we are doing in that area as well so we stuck it in," he looks up and with a delightfully amused expression adds, "and of course the long instrumental is always the title of the LP isn't it? Oh I'm sorry I've got my archetypes switches over."
It is an uncompromising album but one well worth the interest of anyone investigating the outer reaches of the avant garde.
The record is available directly from Throbbing Gristle, 10 Martello Street, London E8 or from places like Rough Trade and the Virgin shops. Price: a modest inflation resistant 4 pounds.
Bruce Elder, 1978