KALX Radio : 15 May 1981
Note : this interview appeared in Talk Talk Vol.3 No.5 : July 1981
SPK performed their first show in the United States on May 16 in San Francisco. The day before, this radio interview was conducted at KALX with Operator and Tone Generator of SPK, along with members of Factrix.
TT: People always thought your name was Surgical Penis
Klinik and then we've found out that it has been System Planning
Korporation all along. Is that true ?
Operator: No. It was originally the Socialist Patients Kollektiv and then we changed it to Surgical Penis Klinic, which was something we thought up the morning we released the single on Industrial.
TT: The morning ? Must have been a pretty quick cover
Operator: The morning I sent the artwork off. At this time we changed it to the name of the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Division, the secret division.
TT: The middle one, the story was that that was the
name of a German group of mental patients that blew themselves up
Operator: No, that was the Socialist Patients Kollektiv.
TT: That was the first one then. Where did the second
one come from ?
Operator: Out of my head. And it sold a few singles.
TT: Did the drawings come out of your head, too ... Who
was in charge of the graphics ? I've seen the swell poster for
the gig tomorrow night.
Operator: Joseph of Factrix did that.
TT: What led you to do graphics like that. Were you in
Operator: Yes. Our guitarist in Britain has had a similar operation so it is very close to home.
TT: Your guitarist in Britain ? So are some of you from
Australia and the rest from Britain ?
Operator: That's the illusion we'd like to keep up. Sometimes we're from Australia.
TT: Who is actually from the group and what are their
names and are they here ?
Operator: Operator's here. Tone Generator is here, he's from Australia as well.
Background: Gee, this is swell.
TT: It is indeed.
Operator: And Wilkins is the guitarist. He had to remain in Britain but we are going back there next year. And he'll start playing again.
TT: OK. Let's go with another rumour, being the leader
of the band, which might be yourself, was once a male nurse in a
Operator: That's right. And one of the originals was a certified schizophrenic.
TT: What happened to the originals ? Werethere two that
are gone now ?
Operator: There were three, one died and two became popular musicians.
TT: Popular musicians ? With who ?
Operator: A group, called Secret Secret, in Australia.
TT: How did you end up getting signed to Industrial
coming from the outback ?
Operator: I went to England and rang up Throbbing Gristle and in a very confusing five minutes he said he'd had already heard our stuff, some idiot had sent it to them from Australia and they just offered to do it. It was actually a re-release of something we'd already done.
TT: But the new album is on your own label, Side
Operator: Yes. We split from Industrial - a mutual consent because Industrial have performed a very useful experiment of setting up and independent company. What we are trying to do is do it completely without any normal reviews, all by word of mouth or mail. And so far it is working really well.
TT: I understood there were going to be two gigs in
America. Did one fall through ?
Operator: There were going to be none to begin with and then there was one.
TT: How did it happen ? Did you fly here specifically
for this gig ?
Operator: No. We were just on our way back to Australia to do another album, from England. We're just passing through here. And Vale said while we were here we might as well do a concert.
TT: Are you going to put out other bands on this label
Operator: We're beginning to produce a group in Australia called The Crush working on a totally different idea we've heard on tape. But any group we have anything to do with will have to be extremely odd musically.
TT: Well, you're having something to do with Factrix.
Do you consider them to be odd ?
Operator: Extremely odd people, yes. We don't get along at all.
TT: The sides on the album are the Ultra-Face and the
Hyper-face. What's the difference between Ultra and Hyper ?
Operator: Well, Ultra is the manic face and Hyper is the depressive face. I don't like the Hyper-face.
TT: You don't like it and you did it ?
Operator: Of course, we don't do just anything we like. We do things scientifically.
TT: What kind of scientific background did you have to
do the job you were doing - giving drugs to patients ...
Operator: And restraining them. I'd like to do it again. It's the only physical labor I enjoy.
TT: Why ?
Operator: Because it is a great no-win situation. You are acting like a prison officer or security. There is no way out for these people once they get in.
TT: I thought the system was working well. That's what
they told us.
Operator: That's what they told me as well. But one or two people don't seem to be able to hack it.
TT: Did you come in idealistically ...
TT: Wanting to help the afflicted ?
Operator: Still do. You help them by oppressing them. That's the only choice you have.
TT: What equipment do you use ?
Operator: We use two synthesizers: EMS synthesizers from England.
TT: Are they an unusual brand ?
Operator: Yes, quite unusual. We don't have keyboards or anything like that.
TT: There's just knobs and settings ?
Operator: Yes, and patches and a lot of devices which are quite difficult to use.
TT: Do you ever find your patch chords getting
misplaced or you can't provide a certain affect because you don't
have nine patch chords you only have eight ?
Operator: No, we use patch pins. We're just so professional we never have any trouble.
TT: So we expect the gig tomorrow night to come off
smooth and perfect ?
Operator: No, not smooth, but perfect. Messy. I hope.
Reports of the show support the messiness resulting from the four skinned goat heads which were used in the performance. It was only the fifth time SPK have performed - the earlier shows being two in Australia and two in Britain. A long table was set up with two microphones, cassette decks, synthesizers, a power drill and other power tools. A high point to someone was witnessing Operator split one of the bloody goat heads with a cleaver, reach inside for a handful of brains and eating them. the crowd was small - around 250. The sound was very loud and rhythmic with screams. They also used a low-toned rhythm track which was pleasant to hear as one watched the two covered with blood in their Israeli army gear. Definitely a happening in the performance art tradition.
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