Dirt 3, December 1978
Interview with Cosey Fanni Tutti
DIRT. Why have you switched your attentions from the art world to the music scene?
COSEY. 'Cause that's what we like doing at the moment, we started off with music anyway right in the beginning in 1969. Gen even before that. He used to do a lot of acoustic stuff with his violin and bongos and talking drums. Then it sort of got side tracked into experimental theatre and then we got told that what we were doing was art and we could get a grant for it etc., to make things a little bit easier. We worked really hard to get the grant as well, it didn't come easy at all. That was another thing that made us leave the whole thing, as well as the art scene, was as far as grants were concerned; 'cause it's really sickening, the whole thing is really sickening, all the artists are sickening, the whole lot, it's just horrible. The money isn't going to the people who should get it. When we used to get our grant we used to do accounts and send them in, so they knew where the grant had gone and I just assumed that everybody else was doing the same thing, being an honest person you know, but no, they weren't we were the only ones up until the year before the ICA, that were actually sending in accounts and then they demanded that accounts were sent in by everyone else, 'cause people were buying houses and that on it. That's what sickened me more than anything else, that everybody was spending their money on houses and cars and clothes. It was just rotten the whole scene. Then of course we didn't fit in with everybody else 'cause we wouldn't do the circuit as such of arts centres and community halls. We weren't interested in it, it was just a safe option, they did the same thing each year, just changed the colour or changed the costumes you know, it was just the same thing, year in, year out, and we just didn't fit into it. So we got sort of outcast in a way and then the grant came under question, 'cause we no longer fitted in and we were no longer doing as we were told either. They used to send you a sheet with every day for three months on it, a diary thing that you had to fill in what you were doing on it, where the venue was etc., and we just used to stamp it with Gens rubber stamp and we'd just put in if we were doing anything every now and then, we turned down 900 pounds from them anyway before we actually split completely, 'cause our grant came under review and they said they wanted to see us doing a performance before Christmas, so they could give us the other 900 pounds, so we said we hadn't got anything planned before Christmas, sorry, and they said surely you can put something on at the Oval House, they'll put you on 'cause the Oval House was then the place you'd go and book a night and a couple of people from the panel would come and watch you and say yeah alright and then you'd get your grant you see, and we just said no, we don't want it, keep it or give it to somebody else. That's what was so ridiculous about the ICA thing. They said we were getting 53000 pounds at one point, we didn't get anything near that. We still do things; the only way we're not connected with it anymore is we're not in established exhibitions, because we don't go to them anymore, we went as far as we could.
DIRT. Since you've been a part of COUM, have you worked outside of it at all, in the way Sleazy does for Hipgnosis?
COSEY. Sleazy's different because he had Hipgnosis before he met us and that is his living as an actual job. It's all official and everything else. I've had very few jobs other thanx like I had two factory jobs and a secretarial job when we first came to Londonx that have been completely separate. Every other thing I've done like modelling, dancing and stripping now, is all connected anyway, it's all part of the whole thingx
DIRT. How's it connected?
COSEY. Just in experience, just the fact that we were interested in things like that and it just seemed a bit naïve not to find out what it was actually like. We kept talking about something and making collages of things, just to start proclaiming this, that and the other. I think it's hypocritical not to experience it. Like when I do the stripping now and when I did the films and the magazine work, I went out as a model and how they'd expect a model to be because to get the jobs that's how you had to do it. When they found out about the ICA, I got black listed from every tit magazine, 'cause they realised I'd taken them for a ride. They actually all got round and said no more Cosey, right! I had to be how they expected a girl to be in all the different kinds of situations I was gonna get into, but then I had to take out of it what I actually wanted. But it was a really good thing to do, it taught me a lot about people, it really did, and how easy it is for them to fall into it and get absolutely destroyed. I mean even stripping now is really bad. You see the girls on the circuit, they get so wrapped up in the guys they see every day they forget that they've got their own lives to lead and the whole circuit becomes their life, which is terrible because when they go home after doing a booking they've got nothing, it's really sad. It's weird because a lot of the girls I'm working with, stripping and dancing, would never do photographic work and a lot of the girls I did modelling with would never do stripping or topless dancing, they've both got different sets of values you see and each side has fallen into it along a certain track. Therefore, it's quite justified for them to be doing that, but to be suddenly switched over they couldn't see it. For a start a lot of the strippers wouldn't be able to model and a lot of the models wouldn't want to strip, because it's degrading, or only tarts or old bags do it. That's how they look at it anyway. A lot of the models are no better anyway 'cause they screw to get jobs.
DIRT. About this genetic terrorists thing. Could you tell me what it's all about?
COSEY. Well that is the chromosome of the criminal, the misfit. Everybody who they test out, people like Manson, famous criminals or famous politicians or whatever, they all have the same chromosome thing, it's the XY chromosomex
DIRT. And it's not quite rightx
COSEY. No, well it is, but it just shows that wherever you meet that you meet somebody who's an individual and a strong individual, strong enough to become famous or whatever I suppose, but it's supposed to be the criminal one, or what they label as the criminal chromosome.
DIRT. What is the point behind lyrics like Slug Bait, if they're not to be taken just as sort of descriptions of an act, in as much as you could sing a song about washing up, and it would be a description of an act, is there any reason for lyrics like that being there?
COSEY. Well Slug Bait is a mixture of all different murders that have gone on, but that's mixed up with the Manson murders and also, where the hell was it, Rhodesia or somewhere, where people had gone in, the army or whoever had gone in and castrated a guy and made his wife eat his balls. No they made him eat his balls and made his wife watch and various things like that. The whole thing is around the fact that you could take like Charles Manson and what he did right, which was justified or it wasn't, nobody really knows the true story anymore because there have been too many versions, but he is put in a prison and is condemned for the rest of his life, he'll never get out, like Ian and Myra will never get out. Myra might but Ian won't, 'cause there's three people on the list never to come out and he's one of themx
DIRT. Who are the other two?
COSEY. A poisoner, I can't remember his name, very interesting him, and some other person. They're put away, really condemned never to come out and yet you hear of all these atrocities that go on and people say it's terrible, oh it's awful and all the rest of it, but none of those people ever suffer so much, because alright, say they get put in jail but the whole world doesn't know their name?
So when they come out they can just, they'll never forget it but they can at least have the chance. Gen just took it from a whole lot of different things that had happened and came together as being very much the same thing where when people get into mutilation and murder it always turns towards sex and things, which is a really sick thing. It's weird because when people kill or mutilate they're never content with physical injury it has to go as far as mental and emotional injury as well, like with rape and everything. Rape is a fucking awful thing whether it's a bloke being raped or a woman, 'cause it does stay with you for ever. It is really, really bad because you can't relate to people properly again, it's always in the back of your mind.
DIRT. You don't really provide the reasons behind doing stuff like Slug Bait, that you just let them speak for themselves and you don't sort of say "We're doing this because of so and so", and I can almost appreciate why you don't, but don't you think a lot of what you do is open to misinterpretation and don't you feel the need to explain it more?
COSEY. No, 'cause when we had performances we never used to explain them, because they were there, they were presented purely as we were at the time and what we did as how we were then and each person sat through it with us and saw what they saw, interpreted what they interpreted, each one is different. I'm not going to sit and tell them what they should have seen or what they should have felt and it's the same with the records. I mean if somebody wants to know what I interpret it as, I'll tell them but only after I've heard their interpretation, I won't tell them beforehand, 'cause people are very frightened to say anything unless someone else is going along with them. I don't mind if someone interprets it differently from me, or if they're upset by it I'll ask them why and then I'll work from there, then I don't mind telling them what it really means to me, 'cause at least I've got some idea of what it meant to them. Then I can try and justify why they should see it in a different light or maybe why I should see it in a different light. It's just a thing of feedback, of communication, if they can interpret it their way then it's a different thing again, it's just individuality.
DIRT. It's not leaving a lot to the listener, but it's almost like, how many people do you think really can interpret it in any sort of logical and thoughtful way. It's a very optimistic view of people that they can, presented with a bunch of informationx.
COSEY. But I'm not expecting people to be where I am, I'm really not. Like one guy said, his friend thought we were into the devil etc., that's one of the first steps you've got to write back and say we're not and try and explain exactly what you are, but you have to explain it in very basic terms because they're not up to taking it as it actually is at the time. There's a gradual increase of knowledge or whatever, of awareness that people go through, just in life, just having experienced twenty years of life you know, five years having lived away from home, they experience different things and they just come to terms with all sorts of different things that they're doing, but I don't see why I should make it easy for them, you can't pigeonhole things for people forever.
DIRT. Do you have any desire to reach a larger audience than the one you do at present?
COSEY. I don't know, it's a curious thing that as soon as your numbers of your audience or followers increase, people begin to think that it's a trend and they drop out, do you know what I mean?
DIRT. Yeah, to me it always seems that an increase in numbers brings about a dilution of ideals and ideas and purpose even.
COSEY. Yeah it does, it's weird, but to be honest I don't think I could handle it if it got that big because it would demand too much and that's not the point of it, to demand off us, I mean it demands off them and that's why I don't think it'll get big, because not that many people come to terms with the fact that they have to be themselves.
DIRT. Also, what is so precious, is that someone can write to you and get a proper reply from one of you.
COSEY. Yeah, someone wrote to us and said that his brother had written off to, who was it, someone like the Boomtown Rats, one of those groups and all he got back was a poxy badge or something and he said 'I actually got a letter' and he was really thrilled but it was really nice that he was pleased enough to write back and say thank you, all he said in his letter was thank you for bothering, I realise how busy you are, you don't have to reply to this.
DIRT. That's good, as long as people don't get in touch just for the sake of getting an answer, like that kid who keeps ringing Gen up and asking him what qualudes and valium are.
COSEY. We've got someone else as well who rings up and says 'I'm disappointed with you', he rang us up and asked us for a newsletter, we hadn't even sent them out, but he wanted his first 'cause he'd been one of the first people who'd ever written. So we sent him one and he rang back the next day and said 'I was a bit disappointed with the newsletter'. Then he came to one of the gigs and said 'I was a bit disappointed tonight' and Gen had just had enough of him and he said to him 'How can you demand so much and turn round and say you're fucking disappointed, when you give nothing in return. When you start doing something for yourself, then maybe you'll get something out of it', which is a horrible thing for someone to click on to us and then actually do something we're dead set against x nothing.
Source: Dirt 3, December 1978