Complete Strawberry Switchblade interview by subject
Jill Bryson interviewed 9 June 01
Rose McDowall interviewed 29 Jan 02
Bill Drummond interviewed 26 April 03
David Balfe interviewed 19 May 03
David Motion interviewed 2 Aug 02 & 15 April 03
Robin Millar interviewed 16 Feb 03
Tim Pope interviewed 22 June 06
Rose, magic, paganism, Nazism and Genesis P-Orridge
Had she always been like that or had it come out of her with the commercial success?
JILL: I don't know. Her and her husband at that point started to hang around with Genesis P-Orridge and his crew. And he obviously wanted to use the fact that she'd had a hit single and I think she sang on one or to of their... Throbbing Gristle was it?
Psychic TV. Throbbing Gristle was his earlier project. [Rose sang on Godstar, a minor UK hit in April/May 1986, credited to Psychic TV &The Angels of Light].
JILL: Yeah, it was Psychic TV she sang with. Then she started getting into black magic and stuff like that, not in a positive way. And also she got into Nazi memorabilia that her and her husband would buy. In her daughter's room they had a huge Nazi flag and I just thought that was SHIT, I really thought it was SHIT. I don't know what you think of Genesis P-Orridge but if that was the influence it was a bad influence, a really seriously bad influence. She started to write songs clearly influenced by that, nothing to do with me, no collaboration at all with me. Which was, well, what's the point, you know?
You mentioned in passing that Rose had been hanging out with Genesis P-Orridge and folks like that, which you found weird. How much did she change with that, and what specifically did you find weird?
DAVID BALFE: When I first met her she was into fairies and things, that was her big thing. Jill was into cats and Rose was into fairies. Then it darkened into the psychic magic thing. I thought it was all fairly interesting. I knew Stevo who managed Soft Cell and, I think, managed Psychic TV for a while, and I'd heard a lot of stories via there. It was a bit too dark for me, all kinds of weird ritualistic stuff going on at his flat, things that were far more innovative in its day like body mutilation that's probably considered to be fairly standard these days.
But in those days there were all kinds of weird stories about what goes on with Genesis P-Orridge. People getting tied down to dentists chairs and having various sado-masochistic things going on. I took it all with a pinch of salt, and it wasn't an issue for us. I always saw it as something quite amusing and interesting but I think Jill saw it as something else.
They'd been best mates when I got involved with them, they'd been best mates for a while having met up at some indie club and totally gone off on this massive polka-dot stylistic thing where they were the only two girls who looked like that in the whole of Glasgow and everywhere they went they looked the same. These things happen, people come together and form this incredibly close relationship and then in the tensions of a shared project a slightly love-hate relationship develops, and that definitely happened with Rose and Jill. They start to be seen as the enemy in your project rather than the friend who you're going to make the project with. It really got very difficult between them towards the end.
It was weird cos I kind of agreed with Jill's point of view more. There was no big issue, it was just that they were always totally getting on each other's nerves. Mainly Rose would do things that would get on Jill's nerves, but the only thing of Jill's that was getting on Rose's nerves was that she was getting on Jill's nerves. Rose is one of those people who I've got to admire even though I got on better with Jill. Rose always did what she wanted to do and didn't think twice about it, which you've got to admire, really. Whereas Jill would worry about everything.
JILL: She started wearing black rubber. I remember them spending a huge amount of money buying a Nazi youth dagger, her and her husband, and it's like WHY? What's THAT about?
Was this still at the time you were together?
JILL: We were still as a band, yeah. It was all too much. We had flats as well, we had cheap flats in the same building, and me and Peter had this terrible neighbour. He was just awful, he practically threatened to kill us.
JILL: Because we walked about on the floor, and we were Irish and in the IRA, which he used to shout through the floorboards. Admittedly the sound insulation wasn't good, but we didn't make a lot of noise. We had the police up to the door because he said we were smoking drugs and we were in the IRA and we had bombs in the house. Well, for a start we're Scottish, one of us is Catholic and one of us is Protestant, we're from Glasgow, OK? Please search the flat; us and three cats and that's it. We had this campaign from this guy and he nearly got us thrown out and Rose refused to help us. Everybody signed a petition to say that this guy was crazy except them.
Why did they do that?
JILL: They said they didn't want to lose their flat.
But if everyone else is signing it....
JILL: But because our leases were tied together they didn't want to do it. Which I just thought was shit cos if you're friends with somebody then you're friends with them and you help them out even if it puts you at risk. And it DIDN'T put her at risk, you know? And in the end we got to stay there because everybody signed the petition except them, and the guy who was being mental was moved. I just thought she'd lost the plot then, totally lost the plot.
Who instigated splitting up then?
JILL: I just said I don't want to do this anymore because it's really horrible. The next album which we were going to do had got to the point where she was going to do one side and I was going to do the other. What's the point? What IS the point? I didn't want to do that, I wanted to write with her, I wanted to do it WITH HER. But she was writing about 'crystal nights', you know? [taken to be a reference to 'Kristallnacht' ('crystal night', the night of broken glass) : On the night of November 9 1938 throughout Nazi Germany windows were smashed in thousands of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues and hundreds of the buildings burned, without fire engines or ambulances being sent to help]. Just Nazi shite, and black magic and, well what's the point? Do your own album! Just go off and do it and I'll do my own stuff. I didn't want to, my heart was never in it. I did a few demos, but I didn't want to do stuff on my own. Some people like Julian [Cope], they can do stuff like that, but even Julian likes to collaborate.
He needs a team but he likes to lead it, I think.
JILL: He's been doing this for a long time, he's had other people around him, he's a strong character who knows exactly what he's doing and he's very smart and talented. I don't think Rose had the direction to do that. It was that, and the Nazi thing, and I just thought I can't cope with it any more. It had been difficult for a while but it got to that point where I just didn't want to do it. And also she'd starting taking a lot of ecstasy, that had just come on the scene and she was hanging out with those people doing a lot of that. We'd have some Belgian TV show to do and she fell out of a tree and couldn't go so it'd be cancelled. It was that sort of thing, she was totally unreliable and I really couldn't be arsed. Her heart wasn't in it.
Jill says your social lives had become very different.
ROSE: They had.
She said you were off with Genesis P-Orridge while she was at home with the cat.
ROSE: She was a bit freaked out by a lot of the people that I was hanging out with.
She said you bought Nazi memorabilia and that really freaked her out.
ROSE: She said that I bought Nazi memorabilia?
What's the story with that?
ROSE: I had a Hitler Youth dagger. Somebody bought me a Hitler Youth dagger for my birthday. I've collected weapons since I was really young, starting pistols, ornamental swords and things. I had a crossbow, a slingshots, nunchakas, and stuff for martial arts, butterfly knives. I practised with those things so I had them on that level.
Somebody bought me a Hitler Youth dagger as a ritual dagger, because I was into magic, which Jill was also freaked out by. I've always been into it, since I was a kid I've been into stuff like that.
I was always interested in the supernatural from when I was really really young, cos weird things used to happen, and continued when I was older. Like I set a tape on fire, mentally, because I didn't like a song that we were recording. We were doing this song and I really didn't like the beginning of it, but everybody else thought I was wrong. I thought, the first note's out of tune, I know it's out of tune. I was waiting for the head of the record company to come in and say yeah, it's out of tune. and he came in and said, well done girls it's in the bag.
What song was this?
ROSE: It was Let Her Go. I thought the first note is REALLY out of tune and I was staring at the tape machine and it started to smoke and it went on fire. Even though I saw it I didn't tell anyone until it was really obvious and they could smell it.
I used to do stuff like that. It started to scare me actually! I stopped being really into magic when I had my son Bobby, because if bad spirits come in they'll just go for the weakest easiest person to possess. So I stopped being really into it then, because I was bringing spirits into the house.
DAVID MOTION: There is one other thing that I'm remembering, it was my girlfriend reminded me of this. It's completely unrelated. I don't know how I managed to swing this, but I made it one of the things with Warners about doing the album that I really wanted to try out a whole bunch of different studios and be in a different studio each week. This was because I was intrigued to know what they were like. I'd worked in a number of studios but there were loads in London I wanted to try so we went into eight that I can remember but there are probably more. There was a week in Chipping Norton out in the countryside. I'm not a big fan of the countryside, but it was nice to be there. That one was towards the end.
The studio that we did the orchestral sessions in called Angel in Islington, it's basically owned by a library company De Woolf, but it's a converted chapel and the main studio has got the old original organ and a view of the choir stalls at the back. Built in to it is a fairly traditional late 1970s/early 1980s studio, wood all around and booths and stuff, and this organ and these pews emerging out of the studio. It's almost like a movie set, when you come out of the studio to go to the loo you come out into the main church bit.
We were there late one night, probably about three quarters of the way through the album, and I was out in the main studio with Rose. I think it was a Saturday, maybe about ten or eleven o'clock at night, and she was showing me something, she was sitting down and I was standing up. Then all of a sudden there was this change in atmosphere in the studio. Things kind of went grey and it suddenly went really cold, and we looked at each other. I mean, I'm very sceptical about all that paranormal stuff. So, there was this change in temperature and atmosphere, and I said to Rose, 'did you just sort of sense something there?', and she said yeah, and we compared. It was like something passing. I wouldn't say a person or anything, but there was this strange presence that passed and it was really spooky. We asked the studio manager and he said people had experienced ghosts and stuff like that. It was an old church and there was obviously bones and stuff down there.
Do you remember what track it was you were working on?
DAVID MOTION: No. I think we relaxing, she was just showing me something on the guitar. She was out in the studio, just knocking around, and I went out to talk to her about something or other. It was Angel studios where we did the orchestral tracks, but we were working on most of the tracks most of the time from the word go, in bits and pieces. It was fairly close to the end, final overdubs and stuff like that.
Just you and Rose, was Jill not there?
DAVID MOTION: I think Jill was in the control room with Peter, I don't remember who else was there. I just happened to be in the studio at that moment. I can't remember if we were about to try something or just chatting. My only spooky experience ever.