Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the legendary frontperson of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, has died. The avant-garde artist, who identified as third gender and used s/he and h/er pronouns, was 70 years old.
P-Orridge announced that s/he had been diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia in 2017. Genesis’ children, Caresse and Genesse P-Orridge, revealed the news of h/er passing via a statement shared by Dais Records co-founder Ryan Martin. “S/he had been battling leukemia for two and a half years and dropped he/r body early this morning, Saturday March 14th, 2020,” they wrote. “S/he will be laid to rest with h/er other half, Jaqueline “Lady Jaye” Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be re-united.”
Born Neil Andrew Megson in Victoria Park, Manchester, England, P-Orridge grew up in Essex. S/he began cultivating an interest in occultism and avant-garde art as a teenager, and eventually dropped out of the University of Hull to join a commune in London. Three months later, s/he left the group and founded the Dadaist art collective COUM Transmissions. Its with this project, which operated from 1969 to 1976, that s/he changed h/er name to Genesis P-Orridge.
Towards the end of COUM, s/he joined Chris Carter, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Cosey Fanni Tutti in forming the experimental industrial band Throbbing Gristle. Their debut album, The Second Annual Report, dropped in 1977. They would release four more full-lengths before breaking up in 1981, with four additional albums coming after they reunited in 2004. They split for the final time in 2010.
With their mix of unique audio manipulation (including tape samples and white noise) and incendiary visuals in their live shows (such as pornography and Nazi imagery), Throbbing Gristle became one of the originators of industrial music. The group’s abrasive style and P-Orridge’s artistic focus on taboo topics such as sex work and occultism turned h/er into an iconic cult figure. In fact, P-Orridge would go on to earn the title of the “Godparent of Industrial Music.”
When Throbbing Gristle first dismantled in 1982, P-Orridge joined bandmate Christopherson in the art and musical performance project Psychic TV. In 1986, they released a monthly series of live albums, intending to drop one LP on the 23rd of each month for 23 months. Though they only made it to 17, the series earned them an entry in The Guinness Book of World Records. In total, PTV released over 100 full-length albums over the course of their career. They broke up in 1999, but reformed in 2003. The band’s 2016 record Alienist would be P-Orridge’s final studio effort.
In addition to h/er musical and performance work, P-Orridge formed the “anti-cult” network Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY), a group centered on “chaos magic” and the occult. However, despite the outside world labeling P-Orridge as the leader of an “occult order,” s/he never thought of h/erself that way and TOPY was intended more as a loosely knit forum than a true organization. As a result, s/he left TOPY in 1991, allowing it to continue as something of a fan group.
In 1993, P-Orridge and h/er second wife Lady Jaye underwent the “Pandrogeny Project,” which included body modification surgery so that they would look alike. They adopted the “pandrogynous” name Breyer P-Orridge and used gender neutral pronouns. P-Orridge continued to identify as pandrogynous even after Lady Jaye passed from stomach cancer in 2007. S/he will be laid to rest alongside Jaye.
P-Orridge’s former COUM bandmate Cosey Fanni Tutti accused h/er of emotional and physical abuse in h/er 2017 memoir Art Sex Music. In denying the allegations, P-Orridge told The New York Times, “Whatever sells a book sells a book.”
Find the full statement from P-Orridge’s children below, followed by some highlights from h/er career.