THE boy born Neil Megson in Manchester in 1950 has not been sighted for more than 40 years - not since he made his first album, Early Worm, at the age of 18 under the name Genesis P-Orridge. The formal name change three years later began a lifetime of transformations for Megson, though when Genesis Breyer P-Orridge giggles down the phone from Brooklyn, New York, during a 90-minute interview, you can almost hear the child within.
''We're excited,'' P-Orridge says of an impending Australian visit - the ''we'' being the two people P-Orridge, who also refers to himself as ''s/he'', has become as part of a remarkable life journey that has resulted in the performer becoming one of the world's most influential artists of the past four decades.
P-Orridge has never been to Australia, though numerous endeavours since the early 1970s could easily have brought h/er here: as a founding member of controversial performance art group COUM, once damned as ''wreckers of civilisation''; as a founder of industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle; with the band formed in the wake of Throbbing Gristle's 1981 break-up, Psychic TV (PTV); as a visual artist; or as the star of a documentary about a love so powerful, two people chose to become one.
As part of the Dreamers music program of ''innovators, icons and iconoclasts'', of which former Melbourne International Jazz Festival director Sophia Brous is curator, Psychic TV will play one show only, of all-new material. There will be no back catalogue of PTV and definitely no Throbbing Gristle - P-Orridge is suing TG's two other surviving members, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter, after they allowed the release of the band's back catalogue without P-Orridge's knowledge or permission - or share of proceeds.
''It's outrageous. They didn't even send me a copy of the contract or anything. Their only excuse for not paying me is that they don't like me any more,'' s/he says.
P-Orridge says the songs PTV3 will perform in Adelaide ''are kind of a homage to my teenage years and the inspirations that made me want to start to create music'', with radical versions of tracks by artists including Funkadelic, Can and Hawkwind.
But while the PTV3 show is an Adelaide exclusive, P-Orridge's appearance at the screening of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a Melbourne one, ahead of its cinematic release in the US next month
Lady Jaye, nee Jacqueline Breyer, was a New York performance artist and dominatrix with whom P-Orridge began a relationship in the 1990s.
P-Orridge's friend and mentor, the writer and artist Brion Gysin, introduced P-Orridge to the ''cut-up'' art technique of the early 20th-century Surrealists. It was a theory P-Orridge applied to the pandrogyny project he undertook with Lady Jaye, as they attempted to merge their identities through cosmetic surgery, hormone therapy and matching clothes and behaviours. Filmed over seven years by Marie Losier, the doco follows the couple's journey through art, music and liberation from their ''flesh suitcases'', up to and beyond Lady Jaye's sudden death in 2007. Since she ''dropped her body'', as P-Orridge calls it, he has absorbed her identity to become ''we'' and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.
As confronting as the pair's transformation is, the core of the film remains the couple's deep devotion to each other.
''The first year [after Jaye's death] we don't really remember,'' P-Orridge says. ''We got so skinny that even Lady Jaye's clothing - and she had a 22-inch waist - was loose on me. We were skeletal.''
It wasn't until Losier asked P-Orridge if s/he wanted to finish the film that s/he was able to regroup. ''I thought, 'Well, Lady Jaye's greatest desire was to be remembered as a great love affair, so we have to finish it'.''
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Psychic TV play the Adelaide Festival Centre on Saturday, March 3, at 7pm (tickets $29 at adelaidefestival.com.au, or 13 12 46). On Monday, March 5, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye will screen at ACMI Cinemas, Federation Square, at 9.15pm, followed by an audience Q&A with P-Orridge. Tickets $30-$35 at acmi.net.au
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