Obituary: PETER ‘SLEAZY’ CHRISTOPHERSON

Back in the dim, murky depths of the late 80s, I came across a band that was to practically change my life forever (in terms of musical perception, anyway) – Psychic TV. Through them, I discovered a whole new world of independent, underground music, material that truly challenged the definitions and boundaries of what could actually be considered ‘music’. In some senses, Psychic TV answered a question that I didn’t even know I was asking: were there people out there pushing the envelope, breaking through the creative straitjackets that musical genres of the time were being constrained in, and piercing the staid narratives that had become the acceptable face of ‘popular music’ in the late 20th century?

The answer was most definitely a resounding yes. Punk, of course, enacted the blitzkrieg strike at the heart of the ‘dinosaur’ music industry in the late seventies, allowing smaller entites, both bands and labels, to emerge out of the woodwork and evolve a self-sustaining ecosystem of their own. After the initial outburst, not to say furore, created by punk, came other groupings, of which COUM Transmissions was one.

This was a performance art group, the nucleus of which was Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Later on, along with Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter, they were to morph into probably the most influential band of the emergent industrial music scene, if not the founders of the whole movement itself – Throbbing Gristle. Despite the superficially ludicrous name, TG established the parameters that were to define the early iterations of industrial music – in essence, that there were no parameters. Despite those early subterranean beginnings, industrial music is now a permanent fixture in the lexicon of popular culture, in its turn spawning other subcultures in its bastard wake (goth and cybergoth, gabba and dark ambient, to name far too few).

Peter Christopherson, who died peacefully in his sleep yesterday at his home in Thailand at the young age of 55, was a part of three of the most pivotal projects of the industrial era, at least for me – Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and, perhaps my favourite, Coil (founded with his partner Jhonn Balance, who also unfortunately passed away in 2004, a man who used to send me signed CDs of their’s on a regular basis). All three of these entites liberated and inspired me in ways that are still being felt even now, even if in recent years it was more of a subconscious influence. In 1989-90, I launched my very first foray into publishing, FRACTured fanzine, a publication devoted entirely to the fledgling industrial scene and which lasted for all of three glorious issues, only coming to an end because of a combination of youthful fecklessness and personal issues. Then, in 2008 (after rediscovering the scene thanks to Justin Mitchell of Cold Spring Records, one of the original FRACTured ‘zine correspondents), I was inspired to renew my ties with the scene by starting up FracturedSpacesRecords – this time its demise was through factors outside of my control rather than through want of hard work.

I nearly went to see the reformed TG last year, at Heaven, in London, but again personal and financial issues prevented me. Like I felt after the news of Ingrid Pitt’s death, I now find myself wishing that I’d found a way to circumvent the problems and attend the gig. More recently, Peter was part of a successful tour by X-TG, essentially Throbbing Gristle without Genesis P-Orridge. Peter was never one to sit still for long, always being driven to push and reinvent and experiment.

Yes, he may have gone, but the legacy that he left behind is enormous and profound, and is still being felt. He and his collaborators were the progenitors of an entire movement, one that still exists today, albeit with less of the frisson of electricity and excitement that the early scene engendered back then. He might not have been as well-known as either Genesis or Jhonn, or even Stephen Stapleton of Nurse With Wound or David Tibet of Current 93, but that doesn’t matter. What he brought to the emergent scene and subsequently made deep and lasting impressions on many people, myself included. And, I have to say, I am enormously grateful for that – I wouldn’t be where I am now without that influence, however unseen it was.

Goodbye, goodnight, and RIP Peter.

Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, musician, artist, sonic provocateur, was born 27th February 1955, and died of natural causes in his sleep at his home in Bangkok, Thailand, on 24th November 2010.

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2 Responses to “Obituary: PETER ‘SLEAZY’ CHRISTOPHERSON”

  1. Just found this, but still worth saying that I enjoyed reading it. And glad I found this site – am a horror fiction writer whose main inspirations have been Coil and Clive Barker. Will check out Spectral Press.

    • Hello Julie!!

      Thanks for the kind words! I hardly ever post to this blog these days, simply because Spectral Press has somewhat taken over my life – its success has taken me completely by surprise, with an excellent first year under its belt. I do encourage you to have a look at what’s on offer over at the SP website…

      SMJ

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