Crushing the Mold: An Interview with JG Thirlwell

Published on March 30th, 2008 in: Art, Interviews, Issues, Music, Underground/Cult |

Interviewed by Julie Finley

manorexia 2007
Manorexia (JG Thirlwell) at Bang On A Can
Photo © 2007 Julie Finley

JG Thirlwell is a man of many different talents. You may know him as one—or possibly all—of his many guises (i.e., Jim Foetus, Foetus, Inc., or many different variations utilizing the word Foetus; Clint Ruin; Frank Want; Wiseblood; Steroid Maximus; Manorexia; Baby Zizanie;, DJ Otesfu; that guy who does the music for The Venture Bros., the remix-dude; the gruff voiceover on MTV Sports; the swank, svelte red-haired guy you’ve seen on the NYC subway who wears white shoes and big sunglasses; etc). He seems to be omnipresent whether you realize it or not, and yet he also often seems to slip under the radar. (Some of you may already keep abreast of what he’s up to; he does have a fervid and endearing fan-base, present company included.)

The man just never stops his workaholic ethic, and he’s sonically and physically maturing like fine wine. Some things get better with age. . . and he’s a shining example of that. Instead of regurgitating his past, he lives for his future without dragging his heels. Instead of making the club circuit with a pathetic “hits” reunion tour like the ones so many others in his age bracket are shamelessly doing, he’s writing commissioned compositions for Kronos Quartet. Instead of trying to cash in like some of the aforementioned hacks, his ambition drives him into many high-achieving directions.

He cannot be pigeonholed no matter how hard some may try to categorize him and he’s consistent in his rejection towards that lazy way of thinking. Each year seems to reveal more and more surprises in his ever-growing and changing Curriculum Vitae. To clarify some of those entries on his CV, I conducted the following interview with Mr. Thirlwell.

What are you currently working on or with? Is 2008 shaping up to be as busy as the last two years?
I am preparing a Venture Bros. soundtrack album.

Also a Foetus album of archival minimal recordings made between 1980 and 1983 (some radically updated or redone where the quality of the original is bad or unfinished). This will be packaged as a digipack with a 48-page booklet of minimal artworks.

And also a new Foetus studio album for release in 2009.

I’m also working on the score of season three of The Venture Bros.

Pulling together some new Manorexia arrangements with my colleague Dr. Shohl (for “ChloĆ© Don’t Know I’m Alive” and “Edison Medicine”).

Doing a remix for the Danger Global Warming project.

. . . and a bunch of other stuff.

Is working on The Venture Bros. something you find difficult? I imagine it’s something that has impending deadlines, more like a day job as opposed to when you’re working for yourself. Do you ever feel that you have spew out work just to get it done on time? I could imagine it might feel a little stifling compared to your typical methods. Since the soundtrack is coming out soon, would you like to talk a little bit more about that?
It exercises different creative muscles, sometimes, those of “problem solving.” It’s made me better in some ways. As I said, I work way in advance so I’m never rushing at the eleventh hour. I don’t consider it a “day job.” It’s a different part of my career and legacy. I established a musical vocabulary and identity for the show.

As for the work process, first I get a copy of the animatic (which is the storyboard edited with camera moves and the dialog embedded in it). I watch it and block out musical ideas, sometimes re-editing cues I’ve already written, and make notes for new compositions. I sync them up then view it with the director Chris McCulloch. We talk about what works and what doesn’t. Since we are watching essentially an animated storyboard, sometimes its not always clear what’s going on in the action to me.

We also discuss the character’s motivation, back-story and exposition, and the subtle subtext of each individual joke. Then I get to work creating the score and afterwards we review it again and I tweak it.

lemur 2007
JGT: LEMUR Presents Robosonic Electronic
Photo © 2007 Julie Finley

Are you still working with LEMUR?
Yes, I will be creating more works for the LEMUR bots and string quartet. Since the first commission, I wrote a new piece trying to exploit some of the resonant qualities of the bots.

I also adapted the Steroid Maximus piece “L’espion Qui A Pleure” and the theme from The Venture Bros. for my concert at the Whitney Museum. I will be developing more pieces, which will hopefully be performed by the bots with the Kronos Quartet in NYC in March 2010.


Click to read more from JG Thirlwell on. . .

LEMUR, Strings of Consciousness, Elysian Fields
Current favorites, Der Kastanienball, “Narcissum Escenda”
freq_out, Baby Zizanie, Christian Marclay, ChloƩ Delaume
Afflictions, shoes, and sunglasses

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2 Responses to “Crushing the Mold: An Interview with JG Thirlwell”


  1. Beat the Meatles. The Beatles Go Totally Metal… | Cherrybombed:
    May 27th, 2008 at 12:43 am

    [...] is a stretch, but I’m limber and drunk enough to reach that far right now. Thirlwell’s his latest work, a modern sculpture called Narcissum Escenda, is currently on display at the Fargfabriken Museum in [...]

  2. Myspace.com Blogs - JG Thirlwell interview - FOETUS MySpace Blog:
    December 18th, 2008 at 10:32 am

    [...] I did an interview with JG Thirlwell. Check it out! [...]

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