Music History

Remembering Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Denver Connection

Tom Banger with Genesis P-Orridge and manager Lisa Lupa in 1995.
Tom Banger with Genesis P-Orridge and manager Lisa Lupa in 1995. David J
Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) founder Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who died in Manhattan on the morning of March 14 after a long and valiant battle with leukemia, had a special connection to Denver.

In 1986, I was a 23-year-old punk promoter. The scene was evolving; punk bands were crossing over into metal and psychedelic, while punk itself was getting popular enough to attract mainstream promoters. D.O.A. manager Ken Lester called me to ask me if I wanted to book Psychic TV in Denver. There was no way to break even on the show, but I was a huge fan of the band and Thee Temple, so I offered to run lights and went on a three-week North American tour with them. I had a lot of suggestions about how Thee Temple could do a better job promoting its ideas in the U.S., and Genesis said, “Why don’t you just do it, then?” And for the next five years, I did.

Genesis sent me a mailing list of 200-odd folks living in North America. I rented Post Office Box 18223 at the post office on Colfax Avenue and Marion Street. I got a bulk mailing permit, printed a newsletter/catalog, and started creating booklets and pamphlets with a few friends. These were the days before the computer, and it was our policy to send a handwritten reply to every letter we received. I was living in the basement of 1450 Logan Street, and we spent hours each day answering mail, dubbing cassette and VHS tapes, pasting up booklets and broadsheets, and, most of all, discussing and debating everything under the sun: philosophy, art, music, tribalism, symbolism, body modification, ritual and sexuality.

Throughout the life of the U.S. Temple, Gen remained a source of inspiration and sage counsel. S/he and I were in weekly touch by phone or mail. At least once a month, s/he’d send a care package from the U.K., containing all the latest stickers, records and literature. By this time, we’d established six TOPY franchises, called “Access Points” in North America, and there were more than a dozen in Europe. We exchanged newsletters and tactics, and the North Americans converged on Denver for a week-long wilderness campout, where we explored the mountains, performed rituals, but mostly just talked and got to know each other. Most of these folks have remained lifelong friends.

In 1988, Psychic TV planned a second U.S. tour, and Genesis, inspired by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, had the idea of hitting the road in a school bus. S/he asked if I could find one, and I spent weeks scouring the classified ads and finally alighted on a 1966 sixty-passenger Ford. It had already been partially converted, but we did some additional modifications to accommodate the equipment, and Bussy was born. When Genesis first saw her, s/he immediately painted the words “Even Furthur” on the destination panel, in homage to the Pranksters' “Furthur” bus.

Our official silk-screener, Denver’s very own Andrew Novick, made more than 300 shirts for us to sell on the tour. And off we went, for more than 40,000 miles. Genesis and the band returned to the U.K. from New York.

In 1989, Temple headquarters relocated to 1421 Columbine Street. We brought Bussy back into active duty for the 1990 Psychic TV tour, and Genesis and he/r then-partner Alaura opted to spend more time in Denver this trip. While Mum and Dad signed records at Wax Trax, Gen and Alaura’s young daughters, Genesse and Caresse, romped around Capitol Hill, spotting and posing for photos next to Psychick Youth graffiti.

While Psychic TV was playing at 23 Parrish and I was busy doing their projections, a couple of self-professed fans kicked down the door of my apartment and made off with more than 150 Psychic TV-related records, along with my audio and videotape archive. This included videos I’d shot during the 1988 tour, and general documentation of Temple work and ritual. In spite of this inauspicious beginning, we played in more than thirty cities to great critical acclaim. After the tour, we drove the bus to Valley View Hot Springs for some much-needed post-tour R&R.

Moving into 1991, we had a mailing list of more than 3,000 people, with more than 200 active members. There was really no way to scale our practice of answering each letter personally — it took two to four people to keep up with the ever-increasing volume of correspondence and orders. We were all burning out. Some of the most devoted Templars left Denver to pursue opportunities in other states, which left a huge labor shortage. For some reason, I felt depressed and paralyzed when the first Gulf War began, and I slipped behind in answering the mail.

The U.S. Temple was in many ways a victim of its own success, and it wasn’t sustainable without some structural changes. I reached out for Gen’s advice, but s/he was in Nepal doing charity work for exiled Tibetans, and I was left to my own counsel. In 1991, I decided to relinquish my duties as the head of the North American Station of TOPY. Interestingly, but unbeknownst to me, the head of the European Station made the same decision around that time, for the same reason. Genesis decided to terminate the Temple altogether shortly thereafter, but we remained close friends until he/r death.

In 2015, Psychic TV returned to Denver to play its first performance in the Queen City since 1990 at the Summit Music Hall and returned again to play the Mercury Cafe in 2016.

Friends remember Genesis for he/r quick and incisive wit, he/r ability to see patterns in everything, he/r uncanny knack for foreseeing — and creating — trends, and he/r ability to give people like me the trust and freedom to collaborate with he/r, yet own the project and run with it.

Gen was a proponent of body modification. In the 2000s, s/he and he/r soulmate/psychic twin, Lady Jaye Breyer, began the "Pandrogeny Project" and underwent surgical procedures in order to literally merge into a single pandrogenous person. After Lady Jaye’s death in 2007, Genesis continued to produce music, art and writings until s/he dropped he/r body, as s/he would say.

S/he was one of the most compassionate yet strong individuals I ever met, and certainly a life-changing mentor who remained supportive throughout our 34-year relationship. I will remain grateful for he/r gentle influence and tough love the rest of my life.
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