Jim Thirlwell - Foetus Music

[Collecting]

Don't make the mistake of thinking that Jim Thirlwell's Foetus music is music for or about foetuses. That sort of thing is covered by artists like Mickey Hart (ex-drummer for Grateful Dead), who recorded his unborn child's heartbeat, added drums, mixed it and fiddled with it, and used the resulting tape as a sedative for his child both before and after birth. If you're interested in this sort of music, then you can buy Hart's cd from Ryko.

No, Jim Thirlwell's Foetus music is not intended to soothe foetuses, nor soothe parents. It's electronic, metallic music. It's violent. It's not politically correct. It's rough. It's got guts. It's violent. In my arrogant opinion, it's bloody great.

As far as I know, Jim Thirlwell started out in Melbourne, Australia, moved to Britain and started music making there. Years later, he moved to America, where he is currently teamed with Lydia Lunch, and still making music. Information about him and his music is a bit scarce, so I'm vague about the history. However I do have a fairly good idea of the musical releases, although I don't think I'm up to date with the latest releases. So If you've got better info than me, email me, please.

I've got only one magazine interview, and a radio interview on tape, and apart from my collection of vinyl and CD and the information in the Sink CD, that's all the data I have.

I first heard the music in 1986, when I was doing some radio broadcasting at 4TTT, Townsville's Community Radio Station. Our station manager, Peter Tozer, was sent the Hole LP by a friend in Britain. He passed it on to us to listen to. I played it several times and couldn't believe the vitality and the rawness of the sound. Not many others who heard it had the same reaction. Most rejected it. I immediately ordered Hole, and anything else available. While I was in Townsville, I was able to acquire several LPs and several 12" singles, thanks to Gary Hunn and Wavelength Records. He was the only one with the contacts to be able to find this sort of material. After I moved to Sydney it did become easier to keep up with Thirlwell's releases through a variety of outlets, especially Red Eye Records. I had a coup in July 1996, when I wandered into a little record shop in Crows Nest and discovered four of the early 12" singles. I don't have the complete collection yet, but I have nearly all of it.

Best Listens

[Collecting]

In my opinion, the early music is the best. It was rawer and much more vigorous than the later stuff. Best item to get is the CD Hole. This is a consistently excellent release. It smashes open with Clothes Hoist, and roars off with Lust For Death and I'll Meet You In Poland Baby. The fifth track is Sick Man, a track about Nick Cave, that starts really slow and builds to a crescendo, with big chunks of the Batman theme thrown in. Water Torture is another favourite of mine. The other tracks are just as good. This CD is a must.

Next, you should get Nail. The intensity isn't quite as good as Hole, but it is a better produced item. There's only one really great track on this CD and that's Enter The Exterminator. Sing this loudly in a car and match the voice and you'll very quickly go hoarse.

Then, try Thaw. Lots of intensity, plenty of violence, some great tracks and good production. The first track is great, Don't Hide It, Provide It, as well as English Faggot. English Faggot has a boar's enraged squeal incorporated as part of the chorus, and it's very effective. Raises my hackles and makes me nervous whenever I hear it. He's very good at production, is our Jim.

An absolute must-have is Sink. This CD is a compilation of all the early vinyl singles. If you can't get that vinyl, then get this CD. It's good value, too, at 79 minutes and 59 seconds. It starts with Bedrock, one of my all-time favourites. This song is slow and deliberate and has a great rhythm. It also incorporates elements of the early Louie The Fly advertisement for Mortein Fly Spray. Interesting amalgamation. Other great tracks to listen to are Ramrod, Dead Christian, Okay Freeze Mother-Fucker (OKFM), Catastrophe Crunch, and Wash and Slog.

After those basic Foetus releases, try the Steroid Maximus CD Quilombo. This has a jazzy, Brazilian feel to it. It doesn't have the vigour of the ealy stuff, but it's pleasant enough and has a couple of pretty good tracks. Also try Wiseblood's Dirtdish. Some very good stuff on this CD, including Prime Gonzola, Where Evil Dwells, Someone Drowned In My Pool and Stumbo. Come to think of it, this CD is a must. It's got real punch and some great tracks. There's an interesting internal joke that starts on this cd. At the end of Death Rape 2000 (I think), it repeats da-da-dum, da-da-dum, and keeps repeating this for minutes while the CD winds down. It can be irritating depending on your mood. On the Wiseblood CD single Pedal To The Metal, he finishes one song with the same wind-down motif, da-da-dum, but does it only once and then growls "Etcetera". It's a neat joke if you've been listening well.

If you can find them, grab most of the CD singles. They are pretty nifty, especially the ones he did with Lydia Lunch. Stinkfist, the vinyl 12" single with Lydia Lunch, is about the only image of Jim Thirlwell you'll see on all the cds and vinyl. And it's pretty good, too, with both of them naked and rolling in the mud. The other momentous CD single is the one with the track Free James Brown, So He Can Run Me Down.

Collecting

[Collecting]

If you want to collect Thirlwell's output, it can be difficult to know what is his, as he goes under many aliases. Follow these steps to make sure you can recognise his work:

  1. Look for band names that include the word Foetus.
  2. Look for the names Jim Thirlwell, James Thirlwell, J.G. Thirlwell, Clint Ruin, or Frank Want in the artist list or production credits.
  3. Look for band names like Wiseblood or Steroid Maximus.
  4. Look for record labels called Some Bizarre, or Self-Immolation, and record/CD numbers like WOMB FAN 13.
  5. Look for album/CD titles that have only four letters: Hole, Nail, Gash, Thaw, Rife, ...
  6. Look for CD or vinyl covers that are garishly coloured in red, black and white.
  7. Look for artwork that is reminiscent of post-revolutionary Chinese social-realist art.
  8. Read the real freaky magazines and try and find information about the new releases.
  9. Cultivate a good relationship with your usual purveyor of music. Get him to recognise the stuff and put it away for you.

The Output

[Collecting]

Alias Year Title Format
Foetus Under Glass 1981 OKFM / Spite Your Face 7" single
You've Got Foetus On Your Breath 1981 Wash It All Off / 333 7" single
You've Got Foetus On Your Breath 1981 Deaf LP
Phillip And His Foetus Vibrations 1982 What Is The Bane Of Your Life? / Mother I Killed The Cat 7" single
Foetus Over Frisco 1982 Custom Built For Capitalism 12" single
You've Got Foetus On Your Breath 1982 Ache LP
Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel 1984 Hole LP
Foetus Art Terrorism 1984 Calamity Crush / Catastrophe Crunch 12" single
You've Got Foetus On Your Breath 1985 Wash / Slog 12" single
Foetus Uber Frisco 1985 Finely Honed Machine 12" single
Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel 1985 Nail LP
Foetus All Nude Review 1987 Bedrock mini lp
Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel 1987 Ramrod / Boxhead / Smut 12" single
Wiseblood 1987 Dirtdish CD
Clint Ruin & Lydia Lunch 1987 Stinkfist 12" Single
Foetus Interruptus 1988 Thaw CD
Foetus Corruptus 1988 Rife live CD
Foetus Inc 1989 Sink compilation CD of early material
Foetus Inc 1990 Butterfly Potion CD Single
Foetus In Excelsis Corruptus Deluxe 1990 Male Double Live CD
Clint Ruin & Lydia Lunch 1991 Don't Fear The Reaper CD Single
Wiseblood 1991 Pedal To The Metal CD Single
Steroid Maximus 1991 Quilombo CD
Steroid Maximus 1992 Gondwanaland CD
Foetus 1994 Vice Squad Dick CD Single, with two tracks by the Chrome Cranks (non-Foetus)
Foetus 1995 Gash CD

Remixes Of Other People's Work

[Collecting]

My knowledge of this is very patchy. I've only got the Cult's Sanctuary Remixes with two tracks re-mixed by Thirlwell. He has done considerably more work with other artists than this. For a really great discography which contains an extensive list of his remixing work, jump to Daniel Jones' top rate Foetus Discography.

Other Links

[Collecting]

Try these other links for more information about Jim Thirlwell and his music.