I’d read about Throbbing Gristle in an old copy of Spiral Scratch magazine I’d bought because it contained a detailed Bauhaus article. So enamoured was I, that I didn’t notice the TG section till later. Spiral Scratch was a record collectors magazine that would review bands and their discography in extensive fashion, which appealed to my obsessive tendencies. Not so much a record collector myself, but when I get into a band, I want to know all about them and I’ll get their back catalogue and listen to it for months and months. And months.
The article was fascinating – their whole aesthetic, their fierce independence and general ‘anti’ stance. I didn’t feel there was any meanness in what they did, no real message of HATE, but I definitely felt they were ‘dangerous’. And enormously compelling.
So I think sometime around 1993 I saved my pennies and bought TGCD1. I was skint and CD’s were expensive – I think it cost me £15 from Virgin – a small fortune to me back then. I got it home and with bated breath and great expectations, I put it in the CD player and listened. My face scrunched-up into a ‘what the fuck is this?!’ expression and I started hitting FastForward, hoping it would ‘improve’. It didn’t.
I wasn’t about to piss £15 away, so I gave it a good few listens, but still, I was unimpressed. On the whole.. The last 15 minutes or so, that was definitely much more interesting to my ears, though. And when the rhythmic synth line kicks-in at 32:20… woah. I realised there was something there. I remember sitting in the flat with the lights off, listening to that particular section and having an epiphany. I still thought little of the rest of the album, but that section was AMAZING.
Anyway, I taped the thing and took it back to the shop to get my money back. Food was more important than a disappointing album purchase!
Maybe a year later I came across a dirt cheap copy of Mission of Dead Souls. Being a lover of live albums, my interest was piqued again. And anyway, it was £6. This time there was no turning back, the thing was incredible, time had enabled what I’d gleaned from TGCD1 to do it’s work, as if I’d learnt a new language and suddenly it all made sense.
Needless to say, my collection now contains everything TG I’ve ever been able to get my hands on. Most of it, then. They became an enormous influence and I voraciously soaked-up everything I could find about and of them. Which was not so easy in the 90’s, when the web was not at all as ubiquitous as now and I was still skint! My ears and mind opened-up massively. Not that I was a musical ignoramus, but I definitely had my head up my arse much moreso than I did post-TG.
They influenced my approach to making music; my approach to using the studio – ever since I’d started making my own music, I’d always had that alternative slant that I’d picked up from my love of post-punk. ‘Playing’ the studio as if it were an instrument appealed to my love of sound and my general techy interests, so it was nothing new to me, but TG seemed to give me new found impetus to do so; they inspired me to focus more on the possibilities that my limited equipment offered. I say studio – it was a desert-storm damaged mixer (the roof had blown off a warehouse somewhere in the Middle East) that I’d bought cheap and repaired (I still use it), some guitar effect pedals, a domestic hifi tape recorder, a couple of drum machines, one of those crappy Yamaha keyboards you got in school’s music departments and a beloved Atari ST.
Making the most of what I had and making my own equipment became the order of the day. I’d always been interested in electronic music (having been exposed to ‘Oxygene’ and ‘Autobahn’ when I was little) and in the ensuing years, I became very interested in early computer music and musique concrète – I wanted to play with tape machines and vinyl.
By 1996 I’d met a like-mind and we formed Stray Dog City, a unit interested in improvisation within a framework, post-punk (ethereal or not), soundscapes, playing the studio, and being able to do it all live, which we managed to do with great success. I don’t mean we were successful in terms of a career in music, but that’s always been beside the point anyway. I just mean it worked, it worked well and I consider it a milestone of immense proportions in terms of my music output.
Is TGCD1 to blame for all of this? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely quite nice. You can hear it in it’s entirety here: