6 Artists on Why They Start Bands, From IUD to Psychic TV

There’s a long legacy of artists having bands. Mike Kelley, David Wojnarowicz, Yoko Ono, Richard Prince and Jean Michel Basquiat all had them. The artist Genesis P-Orridge started Throbbing Gristle because of what an old man at a pub told her. He was someone she’d regularly chat with and “he’d been gassed at the Somme in World War One and he had about two teeth,” she says. At the time, the Dada-influenced collective P-Orridge co-founded COUM Transmissions, which was getting a fair bit of press for their controversial performances, including live enemas and 10-inch nails. “I understand why you are doing these strange things, Gen, but what about the other people in this pub, would they understand?” the old man asked her. He suggested music as a way to reach a maximum amount of people with the same ideas, and this inspired P-Orridge to start her industrial band Throbbing Gristle in 1975.
Artists start bands for lots of reasons. The creative impulse to make music often comes from the same place as what inspires artists to make the other art they make, whatever that might be, paintings, sculptures, video installations. But the context music exists in — the clubs where it’s played—is far less pretentious, and more fun. Plus it gets artists out of the studio and up on stage. (And, as an aside perhaps, who gets laid more than musicians?
Starting a band was in another era a fuck you to the lofty art world. In ArtForum in 1983, Kim Gordon wrote about the art school kids who started No Wave bands in the late 70s, of which she continued the lineage with Sonic Youth. “Their involvement in music, spurred on by the cynical, anarchistic aspects of punk rock, was an alternative to alignment with the art world.”
February 1, 2019
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