Music History

"My Bus Wants To Have Sex with Your Bus": Psychic TV's Special Connection to Denver

Psychic TV is making its first Denver appearance since 1990, but the one-of-a-kind music project has long maintained special connections to Denver.

Formed in the wake of the 1981 break-up of foundational industrial band Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV continued to foster a community of like-minded individuals aimed not just at creating forward-thinking music and art but in expanding consciousness, knowledge and connectedness. Like other bands that helped to create a lifestyle beyond being mere entertainers, PTV has had a cult following since starting with the philosophical wing of its efforts with Thee Temple of Psychic Youth which shared texts, information and methods to make formerly occult and other esoteric knowledge available to anyone that wanted to explore ideas that one often can't find out about through the usual mainstream sources.

One of its creative visionaries, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, says the group seeks to create a community where new ideas can be shared in an attempt to rejuvenate the world. With all the violence, ignorance, stupidity and hate in the news, P-Orridge seeks to project into the world its opposite: to foster love, understanding, knowledge and intelligence rather than fight fire with fire. This might seem Utopian to some, but for P-Orridge it is inherently practical because the survival of the human species and the health of the whole planet will require many to not follow the prevailing, self-destructive trends, but seek more creative, nurturing and thoughtful methods of organizing our collective existence. This open spirit is what P-Orridge sees as the band's mission: to not just be a band but to forge basic human connections.

In the beginning when the band formed, it did not immediately break into even the American underground, but its then-unusual ideas and music resonated with key people. Some of these key people were affiliated with the Wax Trax Records imprint, with its roots in the record store of the same name in Denver, and a now legendary punk show promoter. What follows is P-Orridge's recollection of the series of events that lead to PTV becoming an important and influential experimental and electronic/psychedelic rock band in the U.S.

Westword: What can you tell us about how Thee Temple of Psychick Youth became centered in Denver?

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: In the mid-'80s we did a deal with Wax Trax for them to release Psychic TV records in the USA and Canada. I had my own label then, Temple Records, and Wax Trax turned out to be the indie, psychedelic, alternative, hard-edged best music of the decade for a certain demographic. Out of the blue we started selling sixty-thousand records in the USA out of our tiny little living room in England. We thought it would be great to tour the USA but how do we do it? We met these guys on the first tour, including Tom Hallewell, who is Tom Headbanger, and they said, “We're fans and what we'd like to do is volunteer to do a light show for you every night in return for doing the tour. We just want to go to every gig with you so we can see you play and we'll do the light show and be the roadies.” And we said, “Deal.”

We got to talking, as you do when you're driving twenty hours between the shows, and they were saying, “What's this philosophy? Why is it so tribal?” In those days that was new. The whole acid house thing hadn't really hit America yet so our psychedelic dance sets of three or four hours was this new phenomenon everywhere we would go. [We networked and trie to create] this demystified but proactive tribe for all the freaks and all the people that [didn't] fit in. We just said, “Here's home!” And the flag was the psychic cross—if you see that you know it's one of your tribe. So they said that that was great and that they wished it was going on over here like it was in England. I said, “Why don't you do it?” And Tom, stupidly, said, “What a good idea!” It took up the next ten years of his life.

Being the person he is, Tom Hallewell, Mr. Headbanger, started doing newsletters, campouts, doing xerox copies of books by Austin Osman Spare and it just grew. Then the agent from Wax Trax said that the tour was so successful that they wanted us back everywhere. And we said, “How do we finance that?” Then I had my vision. I'd read Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe where Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters got an old school bus and just traveled all over the USA. We thought why not get a school bus and play gigs all over the USA—let's be the new Grateful Dead!

And of course everybody in England went, “You're nuts, Gen. How the hell are you going to do that and who gives a shit?” But Tom went, “What a good idea, Gen!” And I thought, “Oh, somebody believes in it then.” Again to Tom Hallewell's credit he put an ad in a paper in Denver, I don't know which one, and this Mexican family rang him up and said, “We have this old school bus we've used for vacations because we have a lot of kids and it's the cheapest way we can go camping and feel safe. But we need to get rid of it.” He said, “We'll buy it.” Then he called me and said it was three thousand dollars. At that time that was a lot of money to me. And I told him to just get it, we'll find a way. So we got this 1966 school bus and it was very reliable most of the time.

Tom and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth people in Denver stripped out all the seats and put in sofa beds so that by day it was comfortable and at night it became a massive bed. At the back they welded steel all over the windows but they welded them in psychic crosses, the symbol, and at the very back was a platform of mattresses, underneath was where all the gear went so that there was no way to get to it without waking everyone up. That was now our tour bus. Both my daughters, Caresse and Genesse, [went on the tours] in 1987 and 1989. [They] were five and three that first tour. When I talk to them about their childhood and ask them what's their favorite memory they said, “Being on Bussy.” So we were doing twelve, fourteen week tours. But Bussy was home and it was amazing.

When everything was done, the bus had been jury rigged into this traveling motel and we put a big, green, metal psychic cross on the grill, the radiator, and everyone looked at it and I went, “Something's missing.” Everybody, said, “What?” [So I said], “You know how Ken Kesey's bus said 'Further?' Our bus is going to say 'Even Further.'” I climbed on the bus with a big can of paint and a paintbrush and painted “Even Further” on the front of the bus. His bus said, “You're either on the bus or off the bus.” So I made a sign that said, “No passengers on this bus.” And that was it. We took off and we found a place that did some of the the very firs- ever radio satellite phones that looked like the ones in spy movies in the '70s with the massive aerial. They worked in cities, but not outside of them because there was no network, but they worked enough that we could get directions to venues when we hit the side of town. So it was like the very first ever, GPS, radio busses from '66. When we were going around we met this kid who said, “This is so rad, man. I know Ken Kesey's phone number.” I said, “What? You what?” “Yeah, I think I've got Ken Kesey's phone number.” So I said, “Gimme gimme gimme. Gimme gimme gimme.”

It so happened we were in Seattle on the way down to the Bay Area. And in Portland there was a motor cycle club that was part of TOPY North America called the Illuminati of Bavaria Motorcycle Club. There were about twenty of them with choppers and other motor bikes and they were our escort down the coast. So there was this bus with “Even Further,” and these amazing, psychedelic bikers who were TOPY surrounding it and I rang up Ken Kesey's phone number and he answered. I said, “Is this Ken Kesey?” He said, “Yeah...” I said, “You don't know me but I'm Genesis P-Orridge and my bus wants to have sex with your bus.” And he said, “Come on over.” Then he gave me the address. God bless Tom Hallewell and TOPY Denver because he gave me and a lot of people months of amazing adventures and fun.

Psychic TV performs with Acidbat, Echo Beds, Plack Blague and a special guest on Friday, December 11, at Summit Music Hall. Doors are at 9:20 p.m.. Tickets are $20 adv. / $23 d.o.s. All ages. From 2-3 p.m. Psychic TV will also do a kind of meet-and- greet with fans and friends at FashioNation at 1594 S. Broadway. 
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.