Interview with Jim Thirlwell, conducted July 12, 1995 at 5:15pm, on WTUL, 91.5 FM, New Orleans, Tulane University's radio station.

Interview conducted by Gene Hopstetter, Jr., who can be reached at: gene@cadmus.com


[We join this interview already in progress after the initial pre interview bantering.]

Gene Hopstetter: Are you still having problems with Stevo at Some Bizarre?

Jim Thirlwell: Actually, no. They have been paying up. They just licensed five CD's to Thirsty Ear. There are going to reissue Hole and Nail at the end of the fall. Big Cat are reissuing the two Steroids Maximus CD's, Wiseblood P.T.T.M., Foetus Double Live Male, and Clint Ruin/Lydia Lunch Don't Fear The Reaper. Columbia is releasing the two EP's Null & Void and of course Gash. That is like a total of thirteen CD's this year which is going to be totally ridiculous.

Gene Hopstetter: I heard that you were going to re-release Deaf and Ache yourself.

Jim Thirlwell: Yes. In fifteen years I haven't had management and now I have management. So I will be able to put together a type of information service so I can release them myself rather then have them commercially available. I'm so far removed from what they are like I think just the people who really want them and who bother to write to me should have them.

Gene Hopstetter: They will most definitely sell. People have been looking for those records for so long.

Jim Thirlwell: I've got like a pretty extensive potential mailing list as it is, but I never answer my mail. I am going to basically be employing someone to do it for me. Exclusive things will come from the service.

Gene Hopstetter: I would gladly pay $40 or $50 each just to have those records on CD.

Jim Thirlwell: You will!

Gene Hopstetter: I heard some rumors that you were going to do some recordings with Diamanda Galas and Casper Brotzmann?

Jim Thirlwell: We've had meetings. Every time Casper comes to town he stays with me. We end up sitting around talking and drinking vodka instead. If you've added together all the days we've just sat around talking it would add up to thirty days or so. Out of that time we've maybe done thirty minutes worth of work.

Gene Hopstetter: Casper was here about a month ago and I never got a chance to ask him about it.

Jim Thirlwell: Diamanda sort of pulled back a bit. I hadn't contacted her for a while. Casper and I were going to do the basics and then Diamanda would come in. It is something that will probably take until the next millennium to actually be realized. We're all so busy.

Gene Hopstetter: That is sort of a combination that I can't imagine coming together at once.

Jim Thirlwell: Neither can I! It is a tough thing. One of the reason why it hasn't come about so quickly is because I have no idea what it is going to sound like. I have done some experimental guitar sounds with Casper and sampling it and looping it.

Gene Hopstetter: He does things with the guitar that I have never heard done anywhere.

Jim Thirlwell: Yes, he is pretty incredible. He is Adolph Hendrix! (laughter)

Gene Hopstetter: Brilliant! Have you done much with his father?

Jim Thirlwell: No. I've only met him once.

Gene Hopstetter: Have you heard the Machine Gun album he did? Crazy stuff.

Jim Thirlwell: No.

Gene Hopstetter: What about your graphics? You've done all the albums covers up to Gash. Are you ever going to put it all together in a book?

Jim Thirlwell: I am going to be doing a CD-ROM. It is probably going to take about a year. I am still waiting to hear back from people who will be releasing it. I will be turning all of the material all to this guy. He will be putting it all together and we'll probably be packaging it with something like an exclusive 10". That will be the Foetus In Excellence II.

Gene Hopstetter: Like another boxed set?

Jim Thirlwell: It is a different format.

Gene Hopstetter: Is there any particular reason why you didn't do the art for Gash yourself?

Jim Thirlwell: I did the art that was projected on the Jumbotron. But after Butterfly Potion, I felt like I had taken it as far as I could. I did the singles for Null & Void and I was wondering how I could take it further. I was recording the album in Times Square and one night I came out of the studio about eleven o'clock and I saw the Sony Jumbotron. It seemed like the best idea. And after a lot of wheeling and dealing and internal politics, I actually pulled it off. Now they are projecting ten second visual bites from my video several times a day. It says, "Foetus: Gash, The New Album!" Taking over Times Square was one of the proudest moments in my life.

Gene Hopstetter: Have you shot any videos for the new record?

Jim Thirlwell: Yes, there is a video for Verklemmt. Which was direct by Alex Winter. It is totally fanatic. It is less than four minutes long at it has 2500 edits in it.

Gene Hopstetter: Are our friends at MTV going to show it?

Jim Thirlwell: I hope so. I know they are playing it in Europe.

Gene Hopstetter: A couple of years ago I talked to Ted Parsons, he was here with Unsane, and he said...

Jim Thirlwell: Unsane?

Gene Hopstetter: Yes, he played with Unsane?

Jim Thirlwell: No you are you thinking of Vinny Signorelli, he plays for Unsane. Ted plays for Prong.

Gene Hopstetter: Whoops! Well, whom ever I talked to said you were talking about taking Steroids Maximus on the road.

Jim Thirlwell: That ain't going to happen. I do have a pipe dream of doing a two nights only twenty-five piece big band and record it as sort of an interim album. I am trying to cost that out and with the musicians union fees it would be phenomenal.

Gene Hopstetter: Sony won't take care of that for you?

Jim Thirlwell: We'll see. I don't want to count it against product commitment.

Gene Hopstetter: Well right now we're going to play a cut from the new Foetus album titled Gash, courtesy of Sony Columbia. This cut is "Steal Your Life Away" Any comments about this track or should I just play it?

Jim Thirlwell: Actually, an interesting observation by Rob Sutton the engineer that I work with, made about this song. Are you familiar with the movie "Man Bites Dog"? He said this song reminded him of that character.

[ The interview continues after the end of the track. ]

Gene Hopstetter: A few years ago you did some incidental music for Richard Kerns, "The Death Trip Films", did you ever want to break into that?

Jim Thirlwell: I did two albums under the name Steroids Maximus which were all instrumental. One of the reasons being because the Foetus albums had increasingly becoming more instrumental. I decided that I kind of wanted to split that up and have a different identity for my instrumental stuff. I wanted to have a chance to collaborate with other people on certain things. At the time I was thinking that I would like to do some sound track work and was thinking about various directors. As usual I got one step ahead of myself. Doing soundtrack work your usually are the mercy of the director and it is high pressure. They always leave it to the last minute and I don't take direction, I give direction. It is something that I might do in my old age if such a phenomenon happens which is highly unlikely.

Gene Hopstetter: Graeme Revell seems to be doing pretty well with all of that.

Jim Thirlwell: Totally, he has scored every second move that I've seen.

Gene Hopstetter: Who are some of the directors you like?

Jim Thirlwell: Polanski. Cronenberg.

Gene Hopstetter: The idea of you doing music for a Cronenberg film would be too much.

Jim Thirlwell: Jodorowsky and a host of others.

Gene Hopstetter: Are you hanging out much in the new jazz scene in New York. I noticed that you have Mark Ribot on your new record. How did you pull that off?

Jim Thirlwell: He's a friend of mine and also one of the best guitars players in the world. Steve Bernstein who is in Lounge Lizards and who has his own group called Spanish Fly, came up and introduced himself to be one night at bar and said that he really liked Steroids Maximus and that if we ever needed a trumpet player, give him a call. We collaborated. He came over for a few nights and played. He made an arrangement for the four piece brass section. Art Barren who has played with Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder, and all sorts of people and now Foetus. Pablo Callogero who has played with Bowie. Frank London who has played with tons of people as well.

Gene Hopstetter: It is great that you have that kind of clout to bring people in from such a wide variety of styles.

Jim Thirlwell: It is really amazing to work with such competent musicians who are always saying, "No, no, no you've got it all wrong!"

Gene Hopstetter: How much of Steroids Maximus is sampled or taped as opposed to being played live?

Jim Thirlwell: I'm not going to give away all my secrets. There is a lot of live stuff. It is a mixture.

Gene Hopstetter: It is good stuff, a lot of people are looking forward for more of it. It is very popular.

Jim Thirlwell: I am sure there will be more.

Gene Hopstetter: Are you going to do any more with The Pizz or Buttstain?

Jim Thirlwell: The Pizz is one of my best buddies. it is not totally out of the questions. Something may occur. We've done like an eight page story which he illustrated.

Gene Hopstetter: Didn't somebody do like a comic strip or comic book about you awhile ago?

Jim Thirlwell: That was Matt Howarth, the guy who does the posters for us. I am a comic strip. I am a cartoon character.

Gene Hopstetter: We're going to tie things up right here. We're going to leave the interview with a long cut, "Slung" a long piece which features a big band section and a great little drum solo right in the middle of it. Thank you very much for being here with us.

Jim Thirlwell: Your welcome.


To get on the Foetus mailing list to acquire the CD versions of Deaf and Ache, send an SASE to:

Entopic Ents (Enterprises)
P.O.Box 1085
Canal St. Station
New York, NY 10013-1085


[Interviews] [Sonic Boom]
Last Modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2012 16:43:43 MST