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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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APRIL 2020 Issue
In Memoriam A Tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Edley ODowd

Genesis and Edley on stage in Madrid, 2008.
Genesis and Edley on stage in Madrid, 2008.

In 1998 I had received a call from my old friend (and first girlfriend back in 1984) Jackie. Best known to most as “Lady Jaye.” She reported that she was back in NYC and had taken over her grandmother’s building in the now gentrified area of Ridgewood. Excited to see each other (years before she left a message on my answering machine stating that “the person I intend to spend the rest of my life with has been in a terrible accident in California, I don’t know when I will be back”). Jackie and I got together and caught up. It was summer and I remember sitting on the hood of her car just "chattering away" (as Genesis would say). After a couple of hours, Jackie drove home and I went back to my apartment. This was still the time of answering machines. It appeared my tape had been completely used up. I hit play and this familiar voice comes on asking, “when is Bunny coming home?” The message went on for over 30 minutes. I thought it best to call and let h/er know that Jackie was en route home. Genesis and I ended up chattering on the phone for nearly an hour. When we met for the first time, there was clearly a connection and I began to spend a lot of time at their place. We began to do a lot of things as a trio, including a three-week excursion in Nepal. Eventually we decided that I should move in. I sunk my savings into help paying for the basement to be refurbished into an art gallery and an office space for Genesis and I to work. Those were fun years. A lot of productivity and a sense of family that I had not previously experienced. Our doors were often open to each other, our pets would mingle, we would drink wine on the roof. We also regularly visited the Russian baths on Fulton Street and took good care of ourselves and each other. I used to encourage Genesis to go to the gym with me to build strength in h/er arm that had been shattered in the accident s/he was involved in in California that nearly cost h/er h/er life. There was a lot of trust and encouragement. Of course there were arguments as well, but what would a family be if there was never conflict?

Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford, 2013
Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford, 2013

After my long time band Toilet Böys decided to call it quits, I went to Genesis with a proposal. I wanted to produce one Psychic TV concert in New York City. We had all gone to SqueezeBox, the famed weekly party at Don Hill’s in SoHo and agreed that the night had a great roll out each Friday, usually concluding with an infamous person taking the stage and doing a few songs. Past performers had included Debbie Harry, Boy George, Lene Lovich, and Green Day. My suggestion was to have Genesis get up there and do “the hits.” Sadly, SqueezeBox closed its doors before we ever got the chance, but I was not to be deterred. Genesis said, “if you give me a set list to review, put a band together, book the show”…basically do everything so that all Genesis had to do was walk on stage, s/he would “consider it.” S/he later admitted that s/he was trying to “call my bluff” and s/he never thought I would come through with the goods. A month later I asked h/er to join my longtime friend Alice Genese on bass, myself on drums, and a couple of others at a rehearsal room in Manhattan. We ran through the set and s/he was thrilled. I worked with a friend who promoted events and we booked a show at a bar called the Coral Room. Tucked away in a seedy area on the far west side of Manhattan, the bar had an enormous fish tank behind the bar that had live “mermaids” swimming around. We had to bring in a sound system as this was not a venue that was used to having live music. On December 5th, 2003, the day of the concert, New York City saw one of the worst snowstorms ever. It took four hours to reach the bar from Brooklyn. We were convinced the concert would be a flop. Upon arrival, there were 500+ people waiting in line outside the venue. The line wrapped around the block. This was before the internet was used as the sole promotional tool. We spread the word the old-fashioned way, by putting flyers into every shop and on every wall we could find.

The rest, as they say, is history. The flooding began on Monday when I started receiving calls from press and booking agents who had “heard the news that Psychic TV is back and reborn as PTV3.” The next thing we knew we were on a six-week tour of Europe. We also began to make plans for a new album. As a longtime graphic designer, I began to create designs for merchandise and pretty soon we had what Genesis called “a cottage industry.” S/he had of course done this type of thing before, but with my assistance, we were able to take it to the next level. Tragedy struck our household on October 9, 2007. We had returned from our only failed tour in the 15 years we made music together, disenchanted, defeated. It was a harrowing experience trying to bail out of a tour that was clearly in the red. We had a terrible manager and realized just how bad he was on our autumn 2007 tour of Europe. I was fortunate enough to be in demand as a graphic designer at the time and immediately went back to work in-house for Sony. A few days into being back in the swing of things and dealing with the collateral damage the tour had caused, I received a text from Genesis saying “Jaye died. The police are here. Please don’t come home until later.” I was gobsmacked. We all were. There were times it seemed we would never survive the grief. We attempted to carry on as a band but the loss was too big—the area Jackie used to occupy onstage was now empty and could never be refilled. At this point, Genesis and I decided to take a break from touring. We had just completed a short European jaunt with a new guitar player I had met named Jeff Berner. He brought something very new to the band and on tour we had begun to morph into a psychedelic machine with this new sound. After the tour, Genesis called and said “that version of ‘Maggot Brain’ we came up with on tour was brilliant. I think we should record it for posterity and then call it quits.” It just so happened that Jeff was not only a brilliant guitarist but a fantastic audio engineer as well. That recording was the first in what would become a long list of tracks recorded at his studio over the next 10 years.

Genesis and Edley performing with Tony Conrad at the HAU2, Berlin, 2011
Genesis and Edley performing with Tony Conrad at the HAU2, Berlin, 2011

At this point, Genesis admitted that s/he was very impressed with the recorded version of PTV3 performing “Maggot Brain,” with new lyrics written by h/er, and asked if we could consider recording some new material with Jeff. It was also at this point that Genesis gave me most of the creative control in steering this mammoth project of PTV3 as a whole. If someone had told me that I would be working this way with a person I literally grew up listening too when I was a teenager, I would have said “pinch me.” What followed was a long list of releases, and a new record label I started which Genesis named Angry Love. S/he drew the logo back in the ’80s and handed it over to me. There were points where my apartment was practically floor to ceiling with merchandise and I was maintaining our web store daily. Genesis often told me that s/he was very thankful to me for making things easier for h/er and giving h/er the space to be an artist and not get bogged down with the minutiae of running things. I enjoyed watching h/er shine. Above all, we were always very close friends, even when we got mad at each other. The laughter, the tears, the things we encountered together. We made indelible marks on each other's lives. I was grateful that I was able to compose a letter for h/er 70th birthday, outlining how much I cared for h/er and my gratitude for our friendship in time for her big day. S/he read it and said, “this is a beautiful letter, but I have to tell you that in the condition I am in, it’s hard to enjoy anything.” It was the last words s/he spoke to me, and I knew from the look in h/er eyes that s/he was finished with suffering. S/he passed a few weeks later.

With Genesis, nothing was ever “by chance.” It was “ov course.” There is so much more to say, but I’ll save it for my memoirs. S/he will always be in my heart and I think it will be a long time before I stop reaching for my phone thinking, “I need to touch base with Gen.” Instead, every time that happens now, I write it down in the beautifully ornate diary s/he gifted me years ago.

Contributor

Edley ODowd

A graduate of Purchase College in New York, Edley ODowd joined forces with Genesis P-Orridge in 2003 to reactivate Psychic TV. He has produced the music and created the graphic designs for nearly all Psychic TV (often referred to as PTV3) releases and merchandising since the band’s reactivation. A first-ever gallery exhibition of ODowd’s work entitled: Discipline: The Art Of Psychic TV, 2003 – 2016, was on view from September 8 - 29, 2017 at the Lethal Amounts gallery space in Downtown Los Angeles. An accompanying hard cover book of the same name was also released at the same time. Although still making art and music, ODowd has turned his focus in recent years to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a counselor, he currently works as a mental health wellness specialist in New York City.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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