Trivial background information here!

While their "contemporaries" seem to be releasing average LPs every other week, Coil still seem to prefer to spawn more highly crafted pieces every three or four years. Every Coil record is an EVENT, rather than something to put on your turntable occasionally and then forget about. In the past, their music has leapt between genres as diverse as ritual music, primal electronics, dance music, semi classical pieces and advertising jingles. All of these were carried off with a unique air of refined deviance.

We met Coil a week after the release of their third "proper" LP, "Love's Secret Domain".

Band Members: John Balance (J) Stephen Thrower (T) Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson (S)


What are the underlying ideas behind the LP?

J: Electricity and Drugs. Energies. We started off with the LP three years ago and had the idea of doing a sort of decadent early electronics cabaret album, like Tesla - the inventor, would have done in Berlin. A weird idea. It started like that and evolved.

Has it taken a long time to do?

J: Yeah, I mean we've been recording it on and off for about three years, not because it takes that long, but because we've had so little money to finish it. And messed around.

T: It's changed its title about three times and we've got about three times as much material than is actually on there. The other two-thirds we got sick of and threw away.

J: When we did Horse Rotorvator, we had enough material for a double LP. We left the other material, and we were going to do one called 'The Dark Age of Love', deliberately like a twin or a follow up to that and as time passed, we changed our minds and ditched most of that, and started new things.

You seem to have picked up another member every time you've done an album. Coil started pretty much as just you, John, and now, looking at the sleeve, there seems to be this other bloke. Who is he, where's he from?

J: I don't know where he's from and I don't know where he's going. He's called Otto Avery. He's a child, about 18, I think. A mad acid kid. He doesn't do anything on the record, he was just there when we did it and he wanted to be a member, so we let him. He's disappeared again. He's probably in prison or something.

Was it a kind of...spiritual thing?

J: Well, we just thought we needed a younger person in the line-up, so we just grabbed the nearest one.

Talking of acid, I noticed that "Love's Secret Domain" is L.S.D.

T: Gosh! It is, isn't it?

It's a very acidic album, obvious Acid House influences.

T: I think the tracks without what you might call "acid beats" are actually best experienced in a state of complete mental drug derangement.

J: It was made in that spirit and is designed to be listened to in that spirit.

T: Although it was just cups of coffee.....

J: .....and Guarana. The whole album hallucinates as far as I'm concerned... it bubbles and warps every time I listen to it. "Windowpane" is an acid song. You get windowpane acid and I saw a guy doing it in a club and I thought it was a good idea because the visions he'd got came through seeing. I was just playing off on the words and how he may see the sky as gold and power, energies. All coming back to energy and electricity again.

It's a really deranged album. It seems to be different every time I listen to it. It's a lot more dense, a lot more going on...

J: That's partly due to us working and reworking everything. This is what I mean by "psychedelic", something that has more layers, that's interactive with the listener. The best, proper psychedelic music does that, you know. You have to work towards it, it doesn't come and get you immediately. All these 60's revivalist groups are just copying a style. That's not psychedelic at all. Psychedelic music expands and you expand with it. I think it's in the spirit of Can and a little like the early Throbbing Gristle. We were going back and using old tape techniques, like cutting up quarter inch tape and everything we felt like using.

Like the Burroughs cut-up techniques?

J: Yeah, you let the future leak through. you let things through that you're not sure about, you're just opening the door.

Is this whole psychedelic thing just because of the resurgence of interest in the 60's, or WHAT?

J: No, it's not just Acid House. I mean, we were doing Ecstasy back in 1982 when it was legal. So we've never bothered to be obvious about it and having explored more portentous or solemn music, like "Horse Rotorvator", big funeral echoes and stuff, it was decided it had to be more raw sounds, much rougher.....

.....and a lot more FUN as well....

J: Well yeah, fed up of being doomy and gloomy.

And quite diverse.

J: As usual. That's partly the thing, because we'll work for a year or so and we have a lot of ideas and they all happen to go on one record, so that's why you get the diversification, I think.

T: There's a problem with some bands who try to absorb acid house influences, that they tend to get absorbed by the format, rather than them absorbing the format. Often what's left is is hardly recognisable as them at all; while, with this album, there are bits of it that bear absolutely no relation to anything ever played in any club I've ever been to. So we've kept control over it, rather than it controlling us.

Have you been getting into the House scene?

J: That's a bad question for Stephen, I know he hasn't.

T: I hate people. I can only stand 2 or 3 at once. If I see large numbers of people enjoying themselves, I automatically start having a bad time.

J: But we did (him and Sleazy). Around the time of Horse Rotorvator, 3 or 4 years ago, I started going to "Shoom" and "Confusion" (seminal early London Acid House clubs). You just want to reflect what your interests are. I mean, we haven't gone totally House, there's only a few tracks where we let

T: You listen to Cabaret Voltaire and you could be forgiven for thinking they get up in the morning and they're sort of...(does wild impression of a Rave) soon as they get out of bed, that's what they do all day. There's no trace of the other things they used to do in their work.

And Marc Almond is singing on the album, is that just because he's a friend?

T: Yeah, he's a crap singer, but he's a friend so we let him do a song. (laughs cruelly)

S: I like his voice.

J: He wants to sing on more things, but we won't let him.

Do you see Marc a lot?

J: (Smiling) Yeah, unfortunately. Once a week. He comes round for his tea on Sunday.

Annie Anxiety is on the album. First female vocalist on a Coil record?

S: No, Rose McDowell was, on Windowpane.

J: But we've known Annie since Crass days. All these people are like...really early on. Like, Marc we've known since "Non Stop Erotic Cabaret". He worked with PTV and things. When you come to do something, you look around to see who'd be interesting, like he played guitar on one of our tracks before called, um, 'Restless Day'. He's playing feedback guitar on it, and he's done vocals before. We've got a lot of ideas about projects, we were going to do a mini album with him. He fits in. I wrote the lyrics, he liked them...
It was just interesting for us to use a female vocalist. We told her the ideas, about this shell-shocked Nicaraguan woman or something and she played off that, improvising in the studio.

You have magickal groups on the sleeve.

J: Magickal what? Groups?

Yeah, like the IOT and the EOD.

J: Yeah, only things with initials I put on there.

Yeah, right. I don't know how close you are to these groups... magick obviously plays an important part in what you do. And you've got a pentagram around your neck...

J: Well, I must be into magick, then.

(Faltering) Must be. I mean I found " alchemy... and I'm probably going completely up the wrong track here, but...

J: I like gold, I like the idea of gold, how it is a symbol. "Windowpane", again, is another acid song. You get windowpane acid, and I saw a guy doing it in a club, and thought it was a good idea because the visions he'd got came through seeing, and "the eyeis the instrument of the soul", as it were. And I was just playing off on all the words, and how he may see the sky as gold and power, energies... all coming back to energy and electricity again.

(Muso Question:) How do you compose material? Is anyone trained to play keyboards?

J: No Stephen can, but we can't.

T: Well.....

J: Well, we say we can't, but when we get down to it we find we can, to our horror. We do little bits, go into the studio, improvise around it.....

T:... and then study the improvisations, and you... around that, and improvise around that...

T:.. and then think about what you've done and take bits off...

The new album is a lot more as if you've left a lot of the improvisations in, weaving in and out, and not as structured as "Horse Rotorvator" which didn't have much room for improvisation.

J: Horse Rotorvator was as near to "songs" as I wanted to get and I had that deliberately in my mind this time... no way did we want verse - chorus - verse - chorus, so it's more open ended...

T: There's a lot less specific pointers on this album.

J: Yeah, every time we came across something specific or obvious, we'd cross it out, or fold it up, or harmonise it or flange it, and fold it in again.

T: With a record like "Scatology", with extensive sleeve notes, and quotes from all sorts of sources...

J: Which were ironic, I don't think people...

T:... and then you do another record, where you don't actually want to point to the sources as much and everyone goes, "Well what's this one about?"

J: "Where are the sleeve notes, where are the sleeve notes?" Yeah, for the first time, there are actually tracks on this album, where if I was asked what they were about, I could proudly say "absolutely nothing". I like that. You tell me.

Can I ask you who were the samples of voices from on 'Further Back and Faster'?

J: The first bit ("electricity pulses") is from "Performance". Some of it is from Andrea Feldman, one of the Factory/Warhol crowd, who jumped out of a window and committed suicide shouting "I'm going for the big one!" (much laughter all round). She's the only person who was clinically addicted to LSD, and it's her going "I need acid". There's a lot more...

There's the 'tattoo'.

J: Oh, right. There's a film called "Night of the Hunter" which had Robert Mitchum in it, black and white. American gothic kid's story, really good film, directed by Charles Laughton, who was the hunchback in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame.". It's his voice narrating on a record of the film.

T: He only directed one film.

J: He was a gay actor, who ended up living in Bridlington or something, with a 16 year-old boy. But he was really a good guy, amazing film. The bits from the record of the film were taken completely at random when we were off our heads, and tried to make sense of it; agonising process. I had about 15 fingers trying to play these keyboards with the samples. Certainly heavy going.

Did you write "Scatology" in the same frame of mind?

J: We were speeding then, when we were angry young men.

T: We were speeding this time as well!

J: Oh shush, shush!

T: (Banging fist on the table) ... and we're STILL angry young men!

What other artists and writers influence you these days, and what outside psychedelic substances?

J: Smart drugs, yeah. What are they called? Cognitive enhancers. This is what we're into.

There was a thing on the telly about them, the Shamen are really into them.

J: They're pussies compared to what we're into! Battle of the smart drugs with them. We swap smart drugs with the Shamen. You can buy these things legally. You get them shipped into the country.

Is there any obvious conscious effect?

J: Absolultely. Though it's not a high of any sort. It's more... over a long time. In Thailand I was taking Pertican, the Neutropill, and you just get... everything gets clearer, you wake up and you feel wittier, you're probably not, but you feel it, you talk better and remember better. You can remember things from your childhood, it all suddenly floods back. You think, "God, I haven't remembered that person for ages", so they do work.

S: There's no reason why chemicals shouldn't have that effect on the brain, considering the chemical basis of your brain. If you just find the right chemicals, you could do anything.

J: It just speeds up the working of your mind by 10% or 20%, and you can take some that work on different parts of the brain, like memory. Vasoprecin works on the process of memory.

S: They all work by increasing the blood flow between left and right brain, increasing the amount of oxygen that actually gets to the brain cells.

So listening to dance influenced the album - going to clubs and so on?

J: More going to the clubs than listening to it, the whole experience, not just the music. And not all the music, either, because I hate a lot of it. (to the others) What other influences do we have?

T: I don't know, I've stopped listening to music now. I used to listen to lots and you never used to listen to any.

So you don't keep an interested ear on bands who...

T: What other bands?!

J: Our so-called contemporaries? No. Nurse with Wound, I do.

T:Yeah, "Journey Through Chese" is one of the greatest compositions of the last twenty years! (laughs)

J: The twentieth century.

You're always lumped in with Sol Invictus, Death in June and Current 93, but I don't really see any musical similarities.

T: There is probably hardly any, besides if we use an acoustic guitar, but then if we do, we don't play it. (laughs).

Are you just friends with some of them?

J: Friends with some of them? Yeah. We're not enemies of any of them, just friends with some of them. It's because of Psychic TV with (David) Tibet, people still look back that far to... 1982 or whenever it was. There's still philosophical threads between Current 93 and us. Tibet renounced his Crowleyan interest, but he still keeps up to date with it all.

It seems like a lot of sections of music like Coil, I saw you get a mention in an interview with Napalm Death recently.

J: Yeah, right, yeah.

T: That's the kind of thing I like. You wouldn't immediately think of Napalm Death as closely linked to us, but they like us and we like them. And yet we're a million miles apart.

J: Mark Stewart likes us. (laughs) That was a real shock for me to find out.

(piling on the cliches) There just seems to be two types of music - good and bad.

J: Yeah, quite. And when you meet the people who make that music, it sorts it out even further. There's shit people making good music, so you just whittle it down and eventually collaborations arise and things happen.

Are you going to be collaborating with anyone else in the near future?

J: Yeah, Tim Simneon of Bomb The Bass wants to do something with us. He wants to remix Windowpane, which I think we'll let him do. And he wants to do something "weirder" - whatever that means to him. And we're going to do an album with Nurse With Wound one day. It'll be a proper collaboration, not as Coil or Nurse With Wound - a sum of the parts. Quite good for people to figure out who did which bits.

Is the response to your music more positive in Europe than it is in the UK?

J: Yeah, basically. Interviewers ask more interesting questions than they usually do here.


S: Present company excepted, of course.

T: He's so diplomatic. (laughs)

S: I think English people in general tend to be incredibly blase, and lacking in momentum. But once you get them going, they're okay, and will riot as good as the next man. But, they don't generally generate their own enthusiasm for things, in the way that the Dutch and the German and the Belgians and the French people do. Certainly we get far more letters out of the country than we do here.

What do you think of the way this country's going? There seems to be a big clamp down on 'alternative'...

T: I think it's clamped down on itself a lot, actually.

So they all deserve what they get?

J: Well, people obviously don't get what they deserve, because what they get is far worse than anyone can deserve. As far as our moral climate is concerned, the English learned pleasure about three years ago. That was a nice thing, but it's all dying down again. It's an ongoing battle that has partly to do with the climate, depression, all that shit...

T: I was reading this wretched wretched New Age magazine a few days ago. They were talking about sex, and saying "Sex is for evolutionary purposes and for love, and any lust driven animalistic drives are so 80's". I thought, great, like new conservatism sneaking through the back door again.

The New Age is turning into Christianity with different clothes on - different hats.

J: Yeah, if you go to any of those meetings, and New Age sort of thing, if you walk through in black with any sort of pagan symbol on, they all completely freak out.

Negative vibes, man.
J: Yeah, they just sit there with their finger cymbals.

T: It's like John Waters said about the 60's. When everyone else was wandering around talking about peace and love, he was fantasising about starting the hate generation. (laughs)

Is recording continuous for you?

J: It's a continuous sporadic process. We do as much as we can handle and we have to wait until a) We've recovered and b) we've got some more money.

Do you make a living out of Coil?

J: No, we could do if we really worked at it and prostitued ourselves.

S: If we didn't live in such an expensive house.

What sort of numbers are your records selling these days?

J: I don't know, it's just come out, really.

And was the picture disc just a marketing ploy?

J: No, it's a marketing ploy for us to release a record at all.

Touche! Are you going to play live?

J: Not yet, we're talking about it. Having been around for about 8 years, I think we may get down and do something live.

What sort of deal would it be?

J: I don't know. It'll be good, not all backing tapes like Front242, etc.

All dancey stuff?

J: It'll be more uptempo, but I don't know about absolute dance - loads of baggy kids dancing about....

T: Why not?

J: Well they can if they want, I'm not going to stop them. It'll be more beat orientated, more physical. I don't think we'll go for the pastoral, quieter bits because I don't think that's for live, you know?

Do you know who your audience is?

J: Only when they come round our house. I've got a vague idea. It's not up to me to find out what they look like or what they want.

So, does it bother you who listens to your records, or do you just want them to be released?

J: I don't target an audience. We don't say "Let's aim for 14 to 20 year olds, with an income of so and so"...

T: But if our aim was any better, we would! Particularly passing people on the streets and saying "I wouldn't mind aiming my product at that person there!"

J: We have always done what we want to do. You can't tell. you just do it and hope people like it.


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