Interview with Jim Thirlwell of Foetus. July 29, 1995 Dome Room, Chicago


The interview begins with the arrangement of various chairs around a common table and the scheming of how to steal a lip shaped chair from the dressing room after the show. Jim pours himself some Jagermeister, lights a cigarette, and droops back in his chair waiting for me. I hand him a copy of an interview he did with Gene Hopstetter in New Orleans two weeks prior and we begin.

Jester: What exactly is the reason behind the four letter naming convention on all of the Foetus albums?

Jim Thirlwell: It's conceptual. I was actually planning on stopping at ten albums, but it was always a conceptual thing. I think every album title has double and triple entendres. Gash for example has a gashing wound, the sexual reference to women's sexual organs. Nail, coffin nails, cigarettes. They all have to be mono-syllabic. I was talking with Dave Yow (SP?) right before Lollapalozzea started and they do the same thing. Except they had an album called, "Liar". Which of course is more than one syllable, but I started it first!

Jester: Null and Void are two very apt choices for dual EP's. What is the significance behind the duality of those two releases?

Jim Thirlwell: Totally. Each one has remixes of songs from Gash and three non album tracks. I've not been asked that particular question yet and haven't quite made up a good witty comeback yet so you'll have to give me a second.

[ Jim never gave me an answer. ]

Jester: Do you have any ideas on the release date for void?

Jim Thirlwell: I don't know, ask my publicist. They kind of just prop me up on a dolly and wheel me between shows and not tell me everything that occurs.

Jester: As far as your contract with Sony. How far does it go beyond Gash and the two EP's?

Jim Thirlwell: As my lawyer. They are the ones who know that. Supposedly another album. A week before this tour started, I went incorporated. I formed a corporation, Entopic Ants, Inc. Which is the corporate identity of my label subsidiary. Self-Immolation being the corporate identity of Foetus. Entopic Ants being my corporate identity of Steroids Maximus, Wiseblood, & Clint Ruin. I went incorporated as Entopic Ants to actually sign other bands. The first release is going to be album by Halcion which is coming out in September. I am putting together and releasing the soundtrack for film version of the J.G. Ballard book, "Atrocity Exhibition" which is going to have a wide variety of artists on it, Vince Gilbert, James Plotkin, Einstruzende Neubauten.

Jester: That is quite an menagerie of artists.

Jim Thirlwell: Yes, it is going to be quite awesome.

Jester: Has Sony been treating you well with the video, and the CD releases?

Jim Thirlwell: Yes

Jester: Has that made you happy now that you are signed to a big label and you have a manager to do all of the promoting for you instead of doing everything yourself like you used to do in the past?

Jim Thirlwell: Nothing makes me happy. Being on stage, that is when i can forget everything. I've made all of the choices, I've made all of the decisions, I've rehearsed all the songs. That is when I can really truly express myself. I can be at ease with myself.

Jester: Why have you chosen so many pseudonyms based of the same name for your albums? Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath. Is it because of collaboration with different artists on each album?

Jim Thirlwell: No. The new album is the first album that actually had other people play on it. The first Foetus studio album that other people played on. it is a mixture of perversity and misguiding people and identity crisis I guess and the bad boy in me. Now I've whittled it down to just Foetus. There will still be various Steroids Maximus releases as well. I've pretty much constituted all of my personalities into just Foetus and have gotten it all out of my system. It seems all kind of puerile in retrospect which I am anyway. I feel that I get achievement out of it that way.

Jester: If you don't mind me asking, what does the G in Jim G. Thirlwell stand for?

Jim Thirlwell: Whatever you want it too. God, Genius, Godzilla, Gregarious.

Jester: How did you end up getting involved with MTV and MTV sports in particular?

Jim Thirlwell: They asked me. They approached me on the basis of some of records when they were putting MTV sports together. They first employed me to do the theme song and 3-5 seconds sound bytes. I did the themes for the front and the end. The producer at the time asked me if I could audition for doing the voice overs. I've done over sixty shows now, four seasons. We've won two Emmys. I've done commercial for Sprite, Sega, Reebok. All sorts of stuff.

Jester: Do you find that it takes up a great deal of you time?

Jim Thirlwell: No. It doesn't take any time at all. It takes like half an hour. It is good beer money, but I do drink a lot of beer. I don't have any problems with doing work for MTV. Just give me the script. In fact I'm very proud of the work that I've done, doing voice overs on MTV. In fact I end up with much more of an artistic input to it and find myself writing scripts for it. Recently they came up with a very lame script and they were sort of unprepared and I wrote it and it worked perfectly. Most of the last season I wrote.

Nick: Have you considered expanding more into television, movies, longer pieces of music?

Jim Thirlwell: There was a time when I wanted to do soundtrack work, but I don't sit very well with being told what to do. When your working with a director you have to sort of bow to their vision. I'm more of a direction giver, not taker. It is not inconceivable that it would happen, but right now I am more comfortable with having pieces that exist placed in movies than actually constructing a soundtrack. It also the last thing that is done in any film production with a rush to pull it all together. I don't need that kind of bullshit.

Jester: Has anyone criticized your album to you personally that they think it doesn't sound like the Foetus of old? That is sounds like the old catch phrase, "Sold Out". Do you feel that the album is entirely yours and no outside pressure of any kind molded the album into what it was released as?

Jim Thirlwell: Of course. For gods sake, I think it is the most uncompromising thing I've ever done. I find it hard to listen to all in one sitting. it is totally intense. The words, "Sell Out" are not in my vocabulary. What is sell out? People make their own decisions. I think of myself as always being accessible. It is just that no one has heard of me. I think that I have a lot of really catchy songs. In my universe, I think all of my songs are number one. Unfortunately my universe is only populated by one person.

Jester: Is there any reason you don't play any songs prior to Hole live?

Jim Thirlwell: I think that around about Hole I struck my stride and I got to the point where I could translate what I had in my head to my music. I had to strike a balance between the song and the songwriter. Sometimes the words in your head kind of drift for the older songs. Around about Hole I stopped being influenced by the music around me and started influencing myself.

Jester: How did you end up with Bruce Kimball as your drummer on this tour?

Jim Thirlwell: Jim Kimball. I've known him for like ten years and when he left New York asking if there were any gigs going on to let him know. Then with this new album I kind of wanted to shed skin and have a whole new band. Prior to our rehearsal none of the current band have ever met each other. I chose them on their musical prowess. I wanted to have a whole new band.

Jester: I heard about an incident that occurred earlier in the tour in Seattle, someone from the audience threw a bottle at you?

Jim Thirlwell: I was doing the outro/intro for Halcion and someone threw a bottle half full of beer right at my face. I was kind of enraged and went out into the audience and asked a girl who had thrown the bottle. She pointed at a guy and I punched him in the face and a big fight started and a bunch of people joined in. Unfortunately I found out the next day that I had hit the wrong guy. This thumb here is still bruised from the fight. I am just covered with bruises. My fist got slammed in a door. I tend to wake up the next day after a show and I've got bruises all over. If you think there are bruises on the outside you should see the inside. Now there's a nice little sound byte.

Jester: Will you be touring Europe after the end of the U.S. dates?

Jim Thirlwell: Yes. Early October for about a month with Halcion, and then Japan.

Jester: How have the fans been on the tour? Has it been a good tour?

Jim Thirlwell: It is Foetalmania! I've already met a few diehards. One guy had the Butterfly Potion logo tattooed on his arm and another guy had the word, "Foetus" logo on his arm. Kind of like Wayne's World. It has been pretty good.

Jester: I know that you are going to be releasing Deaf and Ache independently on your own, but will you be including some of the various 7"'s like, "Custom Built For Capitolism" on the re-releases?

Jim Thirlwell: I've got thirteen CD's coming out this year. I'm not in a rush to put anything more out right away. Hole, Nail, Thaw, Dirtdish, Sink, both Steroids Maximus albums, Wiseblood P.T.T.M., Clint & Lydia, Male, and the three on Columbia, and a few secret projects while will be slipping out through various channels. I also just started my own label. I've got to get that altogether as soon as I get back from the tour. There are three other projects that I'm not going to talk about that are hush-hush secret. Then there is the mail order service starting. I've got a list of thousands of names and there will be direct mail order exclusive stuff. Deaf and Ache will definitely be mail order but I think i am just going to keep them in their original form. I guess I should release a few old 7"'s as well. There is also a CD-ROM in the works.

Jester: That is the one with all the collected artwork?

Jim Thirlwell: And writings. I've got like couple of hundred drawings which i want to get out there and a lot of my earlier artwork from back when I was sixteen. Drawings, oil paintings, watercolors. I'd like to sort of document all of that to remember it by. Hopefully a complete discography with will be pretty hard. I've tried to keep an archive of the stuff that I've done. To actually keep copies of everything, but I've put out over a hundred records.

Jester: Are you going to be playing any Steroids Maximus tracks live on this tour like on the Double Male Live album?

Jim Thirlwell: No. Tonight it is mainly Gash, a few covers and a couple greatest hits.

That concluded the interview. Jim escorted us from the posh dressing rooms to the main stage and thanked us for taking the time to interview him. The show later that evening was positively fantastic. Jim even took it upon himself to encourage the crowd to get into the music during the encore by beating me on the head, thereby enticing the entire crowd to rush forward to try and get touched by the master himself.


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Last Modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2012 16:43:44 MST