By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2001
Over the years, J.G. Thirlwell has made quite a name for himself as a remixer. Now his own Foetus project has been given the re-mix treatment. “Blow” is a collection of re-interpretations of material from the recent “Flow” cd, featuring such remixers as Amon Tobin, DJ Food and PanSonic. In an email interview, Thirlwell told us a bit about the disc.
Of the remixes on ‘Blow,’ did any particular ones surprise you, in terms of the direction the remixer took the track?
J.G. Thirlwell : I chose the track for the remixer,sometimes having a vibe of where I’d like them to take it, and sometimes because it seemed like such a left field choice (of song vs. remixer) and i was pleasantly surprised each time; for example I’d never expected the Berlin style dub approach Franz Treichler did for “The Need Machine) (after he had started it,i re-recorded the lead vocal for it) each time i was quite blown away, it was liking opening a present.
How did the line-up of remixers come together? Did you give them a choice of tracks? Or did you have particular people in mind for particular tracks, based on their past work?
J.G. Thirlwell : “Blow” started life as “Blow Aka Overflow”, with additional studio material that i was going to finish off and include plus remixes by other people. I have remixed other people extensively but hadnt had others tackle my work; as this idea took root it superseded the original plan of the album, then slowly my “wish-list ” came into being. Some of the people i knew, others i had to track down and introduce myself to.
You’ve done quite a bit of remix work yourself – are there certain things you look for in a song in deciding to take on one?
J.G. Thirlwell : No there isn’t something I look for as a criteria as to whether I’ll take on a song or not. As i start working on it, what i’ll do with it emerges. Sometimes i know in advance, other times not. Sometimes the spirit veers further away from the original than others, and sometimes they are “sounding boards” for ideas i havent had a chance to integrate into my songwriting. I dont have to be a fan of the band i remix, and I dont have to “like” the song to remix it, I see what i can do with it, see what bits may be useful to me and i end up digging what i put the song thru.
What effect has the evolution of musical/studio technology had on the way you create music?
J.G. Thirlwell : It’s alaways been crucial to the way that i work,i have never drawn a line between production and composition and now engineering, or melody and sound/timbre. The process and the compostion are inextricably linked, especially for an avowed “bad” musician like myself! I have gone thru many evolutions in the way that i work and a lot of different technologies have been invented and then e]ventually become affordable since i started. When i started making records, sampling technology didnt exist but what i was doing….working with tape loops, flying in sounds, varispeed, manipulating sounds…is not dissimilar to what sampling technology can offer. Sampling just affords an orderly way to create it. But i am glad i reached my conclusions the arcane route because I discovered a lot a long the way.
What made you decide to release the Manorexia “Volvox Turbo” CD only online?
J.G. Thirlwell : A new business model where people who really want to get it. I want to bypass labels and distributers. Also it was created from a different place, under less scrutiny, which i needed to return to. It’s back to old school, converting people one by one.
Hows has the foetus.org site been working out for you? What do you see as being positive (and/or negative?) when it comes to the internet’s use by musicians/listeners?
J.G. Thirlwell : It’s positive in keeping people abreast of what you are doing, up to the minute, in an exhaustive manner, if they are interested. (and it seems some are!) The negative is the democratization….there is too much CRAP and FILLER out there which devalues art and makes it CONTENT.
As someone who’s explored various forms of creative expression and also has an online presence, do you have any desire to attempt some kind of internet-only art form (one that does not have a direct parallel offline)?
J.G. Thirlwell : I dont really think about the internet that much.
What’s in the immediate future for you?
J.G. Thirlwell : I am currently completing the Steroid Maximus album “Ectopia” which i hope to unleash in the spring. Early next year i will be working on the second Manorexia album and hopefully some euro dates in the spring,and then working on new Foetus material. On the short term,i have a date this evening.See all interviews →