Alice Genese has been the bass player for the latest incarnation of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s iconic experimental art and music project Psychic TV (PTV3) for the last 10 years. Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey across the river from Manhattan, Alice was enthralled by the vast underground clubs and music scene of 1980’s New York. She soon learnt bass guitar and became a strong fixture in the bands Gut Bank, Candyass, Pretty Boys and Sexpod. Around this time she met Edley O’Dowd (Toilet Boys, Special Head) who asked if she would be interested in auditioning for the new incarnation of Psychic TV - if he could get Genesis interested in doing it again.
After two Psychic TV albums (a third on the way), various special limited edition vinyl only releases and many world tours with the band, Alice is bringing out an EP of her own through Angry Love Records.
This is one of the most emotional releases you will hear, and that’s a great thing. We caught up on the phone last week for a chat.
interviewed by adam de ville
photo BY FLICKR USER poowietrze
Moma dome show photos BY Christina Pettit
photo by flickr user Petr Horčička
Was it conscious decision to move into more of a psychedelic rock feel or did that just happen through jamming?
I think it’s the musicians and the particular formation, I do think there’s a conscious decision as well, I think both things needed to happen, it needed to be a 50/50, kind of like...the body needs to do what the head tells it to.
I was talking to Edley about Maggot Brain and how it reminded me of the track Pickles and Jam.
Oh it’s funny you say that!
It's one of my favourites it had that same sort of feel with the lyrical structure and rising parts, and he told me you had a lot to do with Pickles and Jam.
Yeah, I started that one, I can’t even remember how long ago that was. I think it was something I started working on at home, with the bass part, and it turned into something in rehersals and turned into something more on stage. As things do we start with ideas, and it grows into a little toddler and a teenager and then it’s an adult song after a while. It goes on a natural journey, maybe all songs do, but I see it with Psychic TV songs. When I write a song for me, it will change in it’s little bits. I’m not a great guitar player I mainly use as a vehicle to write, Jackie or Gen would tell me it’s brilliant but I don’t think in my wildest fantasies I’ll ever be that good but it’s a vehicle to get to a means to an end. The players are so gifted how they can just take on all these different songs, it’s very organic too.
I heard there’s a new Psychic TV album in the works, have you started on that yet?
We’ve actually started writing, we will be recording shortly.
Is the process for this one any different than the other albums you’ve started?
I think... no probably not. *laughs* We pretty much get in a room all together and a lot of things happen and then a lot of it is Edley and Jeff and Genesis get into the studio and work some magic and then in the control room and editing and edit through about an hour worth of a song to find the juiciest part of a song. Maybe in this situation we actually started writing things before we went in the studio to precord, often times we’ll just go in with the idea in mind of what we want to do, sometimes Edley will come up with the bass line and I’ve just taken it from there and we’ll go from that point, but again it’s very organic and the whole band is playing together in a room. The last couple of songs, we’ve just done a round of four recently and that was Jeff and Edley and I went in the studio together on a night for a couple of hours and just sort of tossed ideas around and recorded it and slowly but surely those became four songs and Genesis came in and Jess came in and Gen wrote lyrics around it and it just sort of became something. I think that’s how that happened. I had a lot of things happened in the last few months and my memory isn’t as good as it used to be!
THE LIMITED EDITION SIGNED VERSION OF STICKS AND BONES - OUT MARCH 25
I listened to Sticks and Bones the other day, your voice sounds great on it.
*Laughs* Oh well thank you! I’m not much of a singer, I spent my time being a bass player and singing back up vocals for many years and it’s hard sometimes to step out of it. I was really scared but I felt I’d been writing songs for so long and just felt like it’s hard as a bass player and I just need to push myself to play guitar to be able to do that. And you get comfortable, and I was a single mom for a lot of years and you know, how many things can I fit? *laughs*
Who are your musical influences now and who were you a fan of when you first got into music?
Now? I would probably say it’s the same people! *laughs* When I was young my parents were into the typical folk music like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell so I heard a lot of that, and John Denver ironically. My dad loved Willie Nelson, and country music which was kind of weird growing up in a not so pretty city in the 60s and 70s. And when I was older, maybe around 10 to maybe 13 I was really into funk and R&B and old soul and I loved the Jackson 5, because I was a young girl. Sly and the Family Stone, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and just all of that really resonated with me, I loved it, I loved the music, I loved the soul, I loved James Brown. There was so much emotion with that music. As I got to be an older kid in highschool I really started getting into the rock side of it. I was listening to Zeppelin and Sabbath and harder stuff and then I started getting into more like modern punk rock music, I was actually listening to like Danzig, Bauhaus, New Order. I know it sounds like about 20 different things, but I listened to everything and I still listen to everything. I couldn’t put a finger on who my greatest influence is to be honest with you.
Because there’s so much you take away from each one I guess.
Yeah from everything, I think you do just pick it all up like a sponge, especially if you do write. Somewhere every song you’ve ever heard, a little piece of it lives inside of you. Whether you access it again, whether you ever remember it again, it’s like once you see something you can’t not see it.
How have the recent shows been? I saw you were in Europe a few weeks back?
The shows were great, wonderful audiences at both shows and even more special in Finland because it was Gen’s birthday. Everyone really enjoyed the vibe. We’ve been writing a lot of new music and working on new material so it was really nice to go out and try out some new songs and get some responses from people. The band has felt really tight, I think we all really enjoyed this trip.
That’s great, I saw you played in an igloo of sorts recently too?
Yeah kind of! It was a big music dome at MoMa PS1 VW Dome in New York and because it was snowing - it’s been snowing so much lately in New York, that it looked like a giant igloo in the snow. Definitely pretty cool, that was a great experience.
Is it challenging being in a band like Psychic TV?
It definitely challenges me in a really good way, just to be brave enough to go on stage and let things happen without always having a script. A song can sometimes be your script and you want to stick to the pattern, but often times we go on with only a little frame work, which is very cool.
Goes off on a tangent like a Led Zeppelin jam?
Yeah! We definitely go out and do a lot of onstage crazy jamming. You know, it’s scary sometimes because what if I go out and make a big mistake and everyone laughs at me? Or they hate it? You know it’s hard, it’s really hard.
Were you a fan of Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle before you joined the band, or know a lot about them?
To be honest I didn’t, it’s not that I wasn’t a fan, I did know of the band, I wasn’t very familiar with the music, I don’t know how it all passed me up but somehow it did, I didn’t miss all of it though. I’d never seen the band live before so it’s not like I wasn’t fond of the music I just wasn’t familiar with it at the time.
Does Gen change up the setlist from show to show sometimes? How does that work?
Typically we know what we’re going to do before hand, a lot of us work day jobs so we have limited time in their lives, so it’s easier for us if we have some preparation before hand with what we’re going to be doing on tours, and sometimes we have alternate songs. But we do have to prepare ourselves.
There’s more of a psychedelic rock feel to the band now.
Yeah it really has become uber psychedelic, and personally I’m really enjoying it, and Gen has been really enjoying it too. Gen will often say “This is the band that I’ve always wanted to be in!” not in a bad way, to any of the other past members of the bands, but I think it’s just grown into what Gen wanted to have it finally become.
above PTV3 band photos by Kyle Dean Reinford
Getting to your new EP, how did you choose the title for Sticks and Bones and can you tell me about the cover art?
Yeah, it’s pretty funny, or not. My son was the bass player in my band and he always used to laugh to me like “What you doing mama? Playing those sad mama songs again?” so I was going to call it 'Sad Mama Songs'. My friend Heather, I’d asked her if she’d do the artwork, she’s a painter. She had this idea of my shoes on the boardwalk on the Jersey shore, I don’t know if you know about the Jersey shore, but we have boardwalks and sand and I was going to toss some shoes on the boardwalk and take a photograph and she was going to paint that. But a couple of weeks later I get this text from her saying “I’ve just completely changed paths and I was thinking of your record and I just started doing this artwork” and she sent it to me and I loved it and thought it was perfect. And I was thinking well now I kind of need to change the name I didn’t really think of it I just said “Oh well now it’s called Sticks and Bones.” And then oddly, it’s sad, I was just getting it together, it was just going to be 6 songs and just a few weeks after I was ready to put it in print, my son died. So then yeah, it just took an interesting spin for me how everything kind of changed and I was looking at the little jar of skeletons I have in the kitchen and I realised the biggest one was the bass player and I looked at it and was like “That was my baby boy.”
PHOTO BY FLICKR USER miss_goodwrong
Have you got a favourite song to play with Psychic TV live?
Oh boy! I used to love playing Depravity which we don’t really play anymore which is now called Higher and Higher I like paying it because it’s upbeat and a little challenging. I like playing...there’s so many so it’s hard. I like playing Mother Sky by Can, I don’t know why I like playing it so much because it’s so so easy to play, there’s something about that song that just sort of makes me giggle a little bit inside. I like Thank You 1 and 2...and Greyhounds of the Future is one of my new favourites, it’s really fun to play, there’s some really great crescendos. So I’ve given you five, I’m like a woman in a shoe store! *laughs*
Sticks and Bones is available for pre-order now in the
P-Orridge Shoppe through Angry Love Records:
Limited edition signed CD EP: HERE
Limited edition signed CD EP with colour vinyl: HERE
above photos BY FLICKR USER Berto Garcia
This is a very emotional release, how did it first come about and what was the process of the creation?
I actually had been writing for a little while, and I called my friend Doug because he had some basement recording equipment in his house. And I said “Hey Doug, I’m writing some new songs and I’m not sure if they’re any good, and I think I need to record them and listen to them before I quit, because I’ll just put myself down." I can be my own worst critic. So I went over to his place and I started playing the guitar and that’s pretty much the beginning of it. I’d go away and listen to it and want to revise it, and we started to do some kind of open mics to alleviate my horrific stage fright that I’ve always had. *laughs* And being the singer and main song writer is extremely frightening for me and then I met Chuck who is the drummer and I think I picked my band on “Am I going to like you in six months?” and I thought about getting a bassist and really doing this, less of an acoustic thing and more of an actual band. My son really wanted to do it, what kid in his 20’s wants to be in a band with his mom? But mine did, and he really enjoyed it! It was amazing.
Have you got a favourite track on the EP?
I actually really love...it’s hard to like my own songs, but I would say Bella Luna, I really like playing it. We had a hurricane a few months ago in New York city and I was sitting with the drummer in my living room in the dark with no heat or light because we had none of that for like 6 or 7 days. And we’d all share food like friends in the neighbourhood, I had some cheese and bread, so all we could do is hang out and drink beer, we couldn’t even read a book because it was too dark. Tthe night before when I was walking home in the dark there was this beautiful full moon, and I sent a text to make sure Chuck got home alright. I sent a text, I can’t remember exactly what it said, something about it being a dark night and bella luna. So the following night when he was over I picked up the guitar because I had started writing something the night before and we just started writing it. So I came up with the words and Chuck’s like “Oh let me try on the guitar!” He came up with some tunes and it just came from there, he started banging on the table to do some drums too. And we sent it to Doug and we were playing it the next week. I think I like how it was written more than anything.
ALice performs on the waterfront in summer 2013 Jesse Nahem on Bass, Alice on Guitar, Doug Vannoni on Guitar and Chuck Tumulty on Drums