November 9, 2007 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Foetus may, or may not be, a band that once consisted of two Brazilian statistics collectors, their penpal Frank Want, and temperamental singer Phillip Toss. As it stands today, Clint Ruin, aka Frank Want, aka J. G. Thirlwell is the driving force behind the band known as Foetus. Expounding on the underlying themes of "aesthetic terrorism" and "positive negativism," the name has gone through many deviations, but the concept remains the same.

Moving from Melbourne, Australia to London, and then New York, Thirlwell started his musical career in 1981 as "Foetus Under Glass", and, after numerous incarnations, is still continuing to release albums under his "Self Immolation" label today, as simply "Foetus". There is an interview with Clint Ruin in Tape Delay (Google books link) that documents the fictional beginnings of the band, up to 1987. For more reviews, see The Rough Guide to Rock (Google books again), and the comprehensive entry at Trouser Press.

Never one to rest, Thirlwell has appeared with other New York musicians such as long-time collaborator Lydia Lunch, and with Nick Cave, Marc Almond, and Lunch as "The Immaculate Consumptive". Coral cache of a Tripod site with more info... (it's tripod, but the most comprehensive I could find) and a Coral cache of a brief overview. An idea of what that may have been like is this clip of Ruin and Almond doing a cover of Suicide's "Ghost Rider." (Original version here, for comparison.) For those The The fans, Frank Want also played "sticks and tins" on Matt Johnson's 1983 "Soul Mining" Album.

More side projects include Wiseblood, a collaboration with Roli Mosimann (percussionist for Swans) and a sound that is much heavier than that of the Foetus releases. Steroid Maximus, an instrumental project (jazz, swing, big band). Manorexia, also instrumental but more cinematic in theme, and finally Baby Zizanie, a collaboration with Jim Coleman of Cop Shoot Cop - improv on laptops. He also uses the moniker DJ OTESFU, when dj'ing live. Thirlwell has also remixed and produced artists such as White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, and Coil, and seems to be unstoppable on all accounts.

Videos. Five on the official site, and there are a few on Youtube. There are a few vids below that are featured on the official site, but I've linked to YouTube as they're not Quicktime. Some of the choice ones are...

Scraping Foetus off the Wheel live. This ten minute clip includes an interview with Thirlwell.

Butterfly Potion. From the 12", released 1990.

Verklemmt. From 1995's 'Gash'

The Need Machine. 'Flow', 2001

Time Marches On. From 2005's 'Love'

Wiseblood Stumbo (live)

Steroid Maximus Chain Reaction

Manorexia Ice on the Equator (live)
posted by Zack_Replica (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Thirlwell is only my 2nd favourite Australian industrial act.
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:52 PM on November 9, 2007

(awesome post, though)
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:53 PM on November 9, 2007

Thirlwell is only my 2nd favourite Australian industrial act.

The first being Severed Heads?

I'll meet you in Poland, baby!
posted by Slothrup at 10:05 PM on November 9, 2007

The use of "terrorism" to label art/pranks hasn't been interesting since that pedophile and NAMBLA endorser Hakim Bey and "poetic terrorism", and really, not even then.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 PM on November 9, 2007

This is great. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 10:10 PM on November 9, 2007

It's funny, I was just remembering how utterly fantastic Foetus is. I only found out about the performance at the Whitney a day after it had happened, and I got so bummed about it that I dug out all my old Foetus. Even my old Wiseblood and my copy of Cop Shoot Cop's White Noise.

And now here you are, posting all about it. Synchronicity.

Also, Jim Thirlwell is a genius. It's like the world's most exciting movie is always on in his head.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:10 PM on November 9, 2007

Yes, Slothrup, Tom Ellard beats all.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:22 PM on November 9, 2007

Oh, and there's a lot of links there (which is a good thing, but still...). Did you link to any of this, Zack?
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:25 PM on November 9, 2007

I had a brief look, but there wasn't anything that jumped out at me and screamed "Thirlwell was here!" or really showcased him as the rest of the links do, so I didn't put that in. In retrospect, it's still an oversight, and thanks for the addition!
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:31 PM on November 9, 2007

free james brown so he can run me down
posted by exlotuseater at 10:32 PM on November 9, 2007

Oh, and, yeah - Severed Heads are great - loved 'em for years. We need a post about them, too.
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:32 PM on November 9, 2007

Thirlwell is also the composer for The Venture Bros.
posted by Iridic at 10:40 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dammit - I wanted to add before I posted... Thirlwell was once asked, "Why the name 'Foetus'?", to which he responded, "It's the lowest common denominator - everything was a foetus once."
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:42 PM on November 9, 2007

I love me some Thirlwell. I picked up Nail for the first time sometime in the late 80s and it blew my fragile punk rock head off.

The comp "Mesomorph Enduros" that he put together in the early 90s had a profound influence on me, introducing me to Cop Shoot Cop, the Pain Teens, Helios Creed, Barkmarket (!!!), and Unsane.

Here (MP3 link) is the preview of the new CD, Vein.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 10:56 PM on November 9, 2007

I was just listening to Gash the other day. It's a pity the production on that album was so shitty, because the songs are pretty great.

(Thirsty Ear released remastered versions of Hole and Nail earlier this year. Now those sound great!)

(I wanna die with my hands around a white man's throat.)
posted by neckro23 at 12:40 AM on November 10, 2007

I don't really like Foetus, but I totally love Steroid Maximus. Now there's an exciting movie for you.
posted by the dief at 4:05 AM on November 10, 2007

Thanks. Haven't gone through all the links, but I've always wondered if, and suspected that, all those horn arrangements were real and not sampled from somewhere.

It's kind of interesting how the CDs I have start off one way, then get progressively some other way. In communal work situations they go over OK for a while, until someone eventually says "alright, alright, enough of that."
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:23 AM on November 10, 2007

Ha! Good to see him here.
posted by Termite at 4:38 AM on November 10, 2007

A friend's mom found his You've Got Foetus on Your Breath record when we were back in high school. The hysterics the woman went through just from reading the title were impressive. She screamed all the way to the trash can that she stuffed the record into. Some people are just ridiculously thin skinned.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:44 AM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I bought the Fietus Interruptus album back in 1990 (?) after hearing a track on Brave New Waves (CBC late night show from way back when). Tracks like "Don't Hide It/Provide It" made Ministry sound like complete wusses. Good times...
posted by spoobnooble at 5:10 AM on November 10, 2007

Up there in the pantheon of greatest shows I have ever seen: Foetus - with Norman Westberg and Al Kizys from the Swans on guitar and bass - opening for Einsturzende Neubauten. 1990. Sound Factory. NYC. Now that there was some noise.
posted by googly at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2007

I think I saw the Neubauten/Foetus concert also at the 9:30 Club in DC around the same time. If not, I saw them at separate shows. Hard to remember. The best concert from that period was Skinny Puppy at a high school gymnasium, the only venue they could reasonably be assured of cleaning up the stage after the show, probably with fire hoses and bleach.
posted by stbalbach at 6:25 AM on November 10, 2007

Just flew into Retard City, USA. I have been here so many, many times before.
posted by asok at 7:11 AM on November 10, 2007

I remember seeing Foetus and Lydia Lunch at the Anticlub back in '85? '86? Great show, though a lot of it was spoken word. Thirwell also sang on Brained by Falling Masonry, one of my favorite Nurse With Wound tracks.

Great post, Zack_Replica, thanks!
posted by malocchio at 7:27 AM on November 10, 2007

i went on some sort of ghost rider trip after this, finding out they didnt use the original suicide song for the movie soundtrack, but some naff orchestral/metal stuff instead and the whole movie looks like a meatloaf cover - anyway, that was the most shocking thing that came out of this post : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:34 AM on November 10, 2007

"Wash It All Off" is one of the greatest dance party songs in human history.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:51 AM on November 10, 2007

Gimmie gimmie gimmie
A man after midnight
to suck - and wanna FUCK - WHEW!
posted by porn in the woods at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2007

I'm cancelling my next birthday!
posted by pernoctalian at 9:19 AM on November 10, 2007

Ram balam balam bam DAMN DAMN!
posted by Termite at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2007

I like the way you fill out your clothes.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2007

Go Team Venture!
posted by JHarris at 12:02 PM on November 10, 2007

I can't get this box off my head.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2007

I saw the Foetus Manorexia show at the Whitney. Eh. Neither fun nor deeply absorbing. String quartets with some robot percussion -- the robots weren't nearly as good as real people.

Overall, there seems to be an age where people who decide they are "serious composers" write string quartets -- and usually they aren't very original. Nothing wrong with his orchestration, he's clearly read the books on "how to write for strings" and studied his Beethoven and Ligeti (RIP) but I don't quite see the point, it bring nothing new to the table and the themes weren't particularly memorable.

If you want strong strings from contemporary composers, might I suggest "Shaker Loops" by John Adams, the works collected in Terry Riley's "Cadenza on the Night Plain" and George Crumb's much darker "Black Angels"? -- three very different composers writing for string quartet or (in the case of Shaker Loops) a small string orchestra with brilliant results.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:18 PM on November 11, 2007

Yaaay! Foetus! I've got kind of an interesting story about how I got into Foetus. A while ago, I was having a dream about talking to one of my friends (MeFi's Boring Postcards, actually), about how I seemed to like Foetus OK, but thought that a lot of it sounded the same. He kinda glared at me, since in the dream, he was a huge Foetus fan, but was sort of "You're wrong, but OK."

Shortly thereafter (in real life), I picked up the (not adam) EP, and was utterly blown away, and I've basically been absorbing as much as I can ever since. Love is one of my favorite records ever. Just an outSTANDING piece of plastic-and-aluminum.

And, as it turned out, though I didn't know it at the time, Boring Postcards actually IS a huge Foetus fan in real life, too. Though, I suppose, I should have been able to guess -- after all, he's the one who turned me on to Coil.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2007

Funny story. It was 1997, and my boyfriend and I were at a Flaming Lips' garage experiment at SXSW. I struck up a conversation with a very energetic, orange-haired man with an accent. We talked about children's television, and how the Bananas in Pajamas theme song differed depending on which country you were in. We ended up singing "Saved by the Bell" at some point.

When we got home, my boyfriend asked what I talked to JG Thirwell about. I had no clue. I was pretty into industrial music at the time, but had never seen a picture of Thirwell.
posted by lunalaguna at 4:25 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I feel about as able as Cain...

Ah, Foetus. I was lucky enough to be in the industrial scene in DC, where you could hear at least one Foetus song every time you went out to a goth/industrial club for years and years. Those young whippersnappers today don't know what real industrial is, I tell ya.

Another thing to note is Pig. Thirlwell produced the first album, and it definitely reflects his absorption of a diverse array of musical influences.
posted by rednikki at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2007

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