Rocker/artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (born Neil Andrew Megson) and her equally avant-garde wife, Lady Jaye, were so mutually enraptured that in 2003, they surgically set about becoming one “pandrogynous” being. The result—known as Breyer P-Orridge—redefined gender-identity issues while garnering lots of admiration, gawking, and art-world press.
Sadly, Lady Jaye died of heart failure in 2007, but loving the skin she lives in, Genesis carries on their project. I talked to her about Marie Losier‘s atmospherically engaging new documentary, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which is very Ozzie and Harriet–meets–Sid and Nancy. (See also “Artist Provocateur Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Lives By the Last Exit To Brooklyn,” when the Voice visited her at home last year.)
Hello, Genesis. Is it bittersweet for you to watch the film? It’s really hard because since the filming, we lost Lady Jaye, my dog died of cancer, and then we lost the house because without Jaye’s income, we couldn’t pay the mortgage. There’s grief and frustration, but it’s a memorial for Lady Jaye. We wanted her to be remembered as she always wanted to be—”as one of the great love affairs.”
“We”? “We” is me and Lady Jaye. To make sure people realize she’s a part of me.
Did you purposely avoid making the whole film about your surgical project? At the beginning, we thought that’s what it was going to be about. We thought, “We need an Andy Warhol to film everything now that we’ve decided to go for broke and have surgery and see how far we can go with emerging physically.” We took Marie on tour with the band, more as a test of her endurance. She filmed for six years, and we never interfered with her decisions on editing. It was she that found the story in it—the love story.
If we’d have made the film, it would have been a lot more intense, but it would never have gotten shown. So we were grateful Marie did it her way because it’s had an amazing impact on people. No one’s saying, “Why are you two freaks getting breast implants?” They’re saying: “It’s so touching. You’re so in love.”
What would you have included? We have lots of wonderful footage of my face being peeled off, getting cheek implants, and my chest being split open to put in breasts. We can maybe make an art film out of it—for more limited audiences. We want to put the cost of each surgery in ticker tape on the bottom of the screen!
It seems as if Jaye didn’t have nearly as many surgeries as you did. Actually, she had more. She had the tops of her eyes done to make them more like mine and cheek implants and a chin implant and lip plumping and breast implants and liposuction.
She could have been a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. She could, except she didn’t want to look that way. She was waiting for the day there’d be genetic engineering, so she could grow fur and horns and have extra arms, so she could get more done. Both of us wanted more choices. My favorite was to have gills, so we could live underwater.
Did the painkillers help you? They worked all right. Having had experience with various narcotics over the centuries, there was no surprise. Our cosmetic surgeon said we were the fastest-healing person he’d ever met and we have a very high pain threshold. So it’s lucky we chose what we did to do!
Why doesn’t Lady Jaye talk much in the film? The film was originally her idea, but she was skittish with the camera and was good at dodging it. She was the classic extrovert who’s shy. She had no interest in being scrutinized in any public way except as a love affair. She was carefully constructed in her own mind. She built herself from scratch because she had a classic unhappy childhood—her mother and friend squirting holy water on her like an exorcism!
You had a rough time with chapel-goers yourself. But you come off at times like sweet domestics. The film shows the ordinary stay-at-homes that we were at the time. Of course, we had intense times, too. Lady Jaye was a registered nurse and a dominatrix. After the breast implants on Valentine’s Day 2003, we started working together in the dungeon, purporting to be two biological females.
Was Lady Jaye born male? I wondered about that. No. But someone tried to discourage me against her by saying she was born male. It actually made me more interested.
Do you call yourself a lesbian, or is that too restrictive? We came up with “pandrogyne” because we wanted a word without any history or any connections with things—a word with its own story and its own information. We’re experimental. We have no prejudice about anything except violence, and when it’s consensual, even that can be fun.
What did you learn from your associations with provocateurs such as William Burroughs? Their lives were their art. We made a conscious decision that life should be the art, and it should be as exciting as possible to generate creativity.
Are you ever bored? No. We read almost a book a day. And think. We make art. We write books, make music. There’s always something to do.
Like promoting a new documentary! Congrats!