The designer has partnered with Psychic TV for his fourth Samizdat collection – here, he and the band’s co-founder open up about the project, and their friendship
- TextTom Connick
One of industrial and noise-rock’s most enduring icons, whisper Genesis P-Orridge’s name in any countercultural circle and you’re sure to find a devotee. From early work in avant-garde group Throbbing Gristle, to their later turns in Psychic TV, Genesis’ work has caught the eye of thousands with a taste for the more audacious side of creative expression. One such fanatic is designer Yang Li, who has collaborated with Genesis for his fourth (A/W18) Samizdat collection, photographed here by Gareth Powell.
Samizdat x Psychic TV
Through their deconstructionist attitude to rock’s countless tropes, 70s industrial group Throbbing Gristle did more than reinvent the wheel – they smashed it to pieces, and created something new and otherworldly with the shards. After disbanding in 1981, Genesis and their former bandmate Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson founded Psychic TV – a group that pioneered acidic electronic music and helped forge what we now know as techno. To this day, the two groups remain among alternative music’s most influential.
Meeting around half a decade ago, Genesis and Yang Li struck up a fast friendship. “He had a skateboard with ‘OUR AIM IS WAKEFULNESS – OUR ENEMY IS DREAMLESS SLEEP’ on it – one of my key slogans,” the musician recalls, “But you’d only see it when you fell off!” From there, long-time Throbbing Gristle obsessive Li quickly proved to be Genesis’ creative match. “Taking a stereotype and enforcing reductive thinking on to it, we find endlessly fascinating,” they say of Yang’s stripped-back approach to design. “It’s how we turned rock into industrial music in 1975. So we have similar, radical aesthetics, taking nothing for granted.”
The latest collaboration comes following a 2014 link-up, which Yang says “helped introduce Genesis to a new generation.” Bookended with two rare live performances from Genesis, the avant-garde underground scene of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle’s fanbase collided with Yang’s fashion-forward following, it connected dots in both the designer’s own creative upbringing, and the passions of their respective crowds. “It’s always a pleasure to show something so important and influential to someone,” says Li. “Unsurprisingly, many would find that something they liked linked back to Genesis somehow.”
Now, the pair have teamed up once more, spurred on by Genesis’ recent leukemia diagnosis – proceeds from this collaboration will go towards helping Genesis with their treatment. “Yang calls me regularly since we became friends to see how we are,” Genesis explains. “We’d just learned we had leukemia when he called and discussed my situation, my stress. Yang is a very kind soul and empathised.” Inspired by Yang’s ongoing Samizdat project, which creates merchandise for a seemingly imagined industrial noise band (though “SAMIZDAT IS NOT FICTIONAL,” Li stresses over email), they agreed to work together on another collaboration.
Taking motifs from their respective creative universes, the Samizdat x Psychic TV collection imagines tour merchandise for a European run in the 1980s, creating work that draws from streetwear, rock merchandise and industrial culture in equal measure. The ‘Hero’ longsleeve features an image of Genesis at the beginning of their career, while the ‘PTV MA-1’ bomber jackets feature embroidered detailing of the near-iconic Psychic TV logo. It’s a fitting tribute to one of counter-culture’s most enduring artists, with a touching, altruistic aim at its heart.
“We’ve always preferred when people who may be inspired by my work mutate it and develop threads within it that we’ve left untouched,” Genesis explains. “We always enjoy new applications of my ideas and concepts. We already know what we think or conclude, we desire new, unexpected information resulting from another being’s points of perception.” The open-ended approach is something that Li thrives within, himself enthused by the collection’s “access to the total work of art; the gesamtkunstwerk of Genesis.” Drawn to “an iconography and identity that was now complete, and had the facility to be added to,” Li has succeeded in creating a tribute to a friend and inspiration, and opened up the universe of Psychic TV to yet another potentially adoring audience.