Alice Genese

Psychic TV

Interview and video by Jarett Cole
Alice Genese spent the better part ov the last two decades as the bass player ov Psychic TV and a dear friend ov its legendary and iconic founder Genesis P-Orridge, who passed away on 3/14/2020 after a long illness. Alice talks about her relationship with Genesis, the musical herstory and personal connections that brought her to be in the band, and some ov the events – both magic and tragic – that made her experience as a member ov PTV so profound and her friendship with Genesis so extraordinary.

How have you been? How have you been dealing with Gen’s loss? And do you care you talk at all about her illness and the time leading up to her passing?

It’s been hard. I lost one of my closest friends, and my band mate, and someone that I had a tremendous amount of respect for. So its been hard. You know we were able to have a small, intimate funeral for her – and then we all went into quarantine after that so it was kind of like hey everybody go take your broken hearts and go be by yourselves. We didn’t really get to have a celebration of her life. So I think that was hard for me – and not everybody could attend the funeral for many different reasons – some people because they had underlying issues and were concerned about becoming ill – you know there were a lot more people that would have liked to have been part of that memorial. But there was an incredibly beautiful memorial service that her daughters planned, and I felt like we really honored her life. Even though it was just maybe 25 or 30 of us there, we were really able to give her a send-off that I think she deserved.

Her illness – she was struggling with her leukemia for several years. I was very close with her through her illness and did a lot of care taking. There were a few of us that revolved – took turns around her – you know, ‘The A Team’ – or ‘The G Team’ – and I guess I felt really honored to be trusted in that way by a friend with their declining health – because I know that when I’m sick I don’t really want to be around anyone, and get rather cranky, and what I witnessed in Genesis was this extreme strength and bravery. I watched her go through tremendous pain through some of the procedures that she had to go through.

On several occasions I really didn’t think that we would see her the following week – and she bounced back. She had this incredible way of beating the odds, I guess, and in the end she made it to her 70th birthday and it was nice, on February 22nd we all got to – many of us, in an intimate setting, were able to get together and celebrate her life and I felt like she was really happy on her 70th birthday and she was the center of everyone’s love and attention and it was a really nice time. And I think that was the last time I saw her. I took her to chemo earlier that week and then I couldn’t be with her at the next one. I’m a jeweler and sometimes I do markets so I was doing a market which ended up being cancelled because of Covid and she actually died that day – on the 14th of March.  Yeah. I’m sad I wasn’t there when it happened. But I did rush – and I got to her bedside a little bit too late. It’s hard to talk about actually. I don’t really talk about it.

I posted in Facebook group asking what people missed the most about Gen and I got a lot of great answers: “Devotion of love and voice”, “heroism”, “A feeling of community, adventure”, “big love” – a lot of people said ‘sense of humor’ – is there anything that you miss the most about Gen?

Everything. All of the above. I’m going to cry. You know, I miss my friend. I miss her voice. I miss her love. I miss her heart. I miss her ability to see through all of the fucking utter bullshit in life. Her positivity. I miss watching endless stupid television with her for hours and hours on end. I miss her love. I miss her body. I miss all the things that – I miss what I had. But I’m also so incredibly grateful that I was able to be so close to such greatness because I really feel like she was one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever known. Ok I already hate this.

What kind of stupid TV did she like watching?

Oh she would hate if I told you this but like cop shows, where people get arrested. (laughs) And then we would watch a ton of John Oliver – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, that HBO show. We would watch a lot of those and, I don’t know, we just watched really dumb TV together. When we would watch the cop shows it was always like, ‘I didn’t do it, it wasn’t’ me!’ – we just laughed all the time at how many times people got caught doing the stupidest things and it was never them.

You refer to Gen as ‘she’ and not ‘they’ or ‘them’ – did they – or did she – have a preference?

We called her she. I mean that was her preference. But she would also refer to herself as ‘us’, and ‘our’. When I first met Gen we were using ‘he’ pronouns and then after a few years we were using ‘she’ pronouns.

How did you come to be in Psychic TV?

I was in a band called Sexpod in Hoboken for years and we played, you know, all over the country, but we played in Manhattan a lot and we were part of this whole – there was like this lower east side, village, Manhattan, music scene that we were a part of and I was at that point friends with The Toilet Boys and Eddie was the drummer of the Toilet Boys – Edley – and Sexpod at some point ended and I was going on to play with this other band called CandyAss – toured with Pink, and Eddie was all along saying that he had been talking to Genesis and Genesis was considering doing a US version of Psychic TV – or redoing the Psychic TV band. In the meantime I had met Genesis and Lady Jaye and I started making some jewelry for them and every time we would do a hand-off, Gen and I would spend time and we would get to know each other and then it kind of turned into this thing where we would meet at Odessa, which is on the Lower East Side – I think they’ve actually closed during this pandemic – but we would go and get pierogi and sit around and chat and at one point she was talking about when we start playing together and just looked at her. I remember, we were actually walking on St. Marks Place from the East Side towards the West Side and I looked at her and I said, “well what do you mean when we start playing? We’ve never – I haven’t auditioned for Psychic TV, you don’t know my style of bass playing, you don’t know that we’re going to mesh, like I don’t know if this is the right thing for you.” She’s like, “Oh no, you’re the bass player” (laughs) Which I thought was really kind of sweet – and very psychic of her. And then there was an audition and obviously here I am.

Could you have imagined that you’d be playing with them so many years later?

To be honest with you – it’s kind of like I blinked my eyes and 18 years of my life went by. I started playing with Psychic TV in 2003 and I had known Gen a year or two before that. You know when you’re happy you don’t think about not being someplace. You’re just happy being where you are. And I was really happy.

What was the song writing process with Gen and the band – and do you have a favorite bass line that you wrote or liked to play?

It was a lot of jamming. It was a very open process. It wasn’t like one person or another person came in and was like ‘ this is a whole song’ – no – but this is just my interpretation of what went on. So for me there were basslines that came in, guitar licks that came in, drum ideas that came in, you know, keyboard ideas that came in, and everybody sort of brought something to the table and then Gen always had a book of lyrics. Gen was always writing. Gen constantly wrote music and wrote lyrics so – you know, she’s a writer. Gen was a poet in her heart. So we would get together, we’d jam for hours, and then Jeff – in the later years, the last version, Jeff would do a lot of the editing with Edley and write that way. Earlier on I think everybody just came in with ideas and we would jam out songs. I don’t think it’s that different than how other bands do it, except maybe we had a lot more cut ups. In the end we would edit a lot of things after the fact and mesh parts together – which I wasn’t always a part of, I was part of the initial recording of the parts part.

Favorite bass lines – two of the favorite bass lines that I’ve loved that I had written are Greyhounds – I love playing that bassline, and I actually remember writing it in the back of my apartment in Hoboken before we went in to jam on it. And then After You’re Dead She Said, that was something that I had in my back pocket for a while – the bass line. But I’ve also really enjoyed playing I Like You, and you know there are just so many great bass parts that I didn’t write that I love – like Riot in the Eye, Riot in the Sky – there’s so many bass parts that were just incredible. LA Angel was always a fun one to play, Depravity was fun to play.

I mean it was a fun band to be a bass player in, I’ll tell you that much – and there was a lot of freedom. And I think in the end, the final version of Psychic TV was just kind of magical. Genesis would often say that it took her her whole life to find her psychedelic rock band, the band that she had always wanted to be in. It was powerful and it was joyous, it was scary, it was psychedelic, it was mystical, it was completely full ov love and I felt like every night was an adventure. Every night that we played together live was an adventure that we would go on with the audience and Genesis was just this grand conductor of everyone. Because it’s not just the band that goes on the ride, it’s the audience, and the band, and Genesis was like the top of this fucking crazy pyramid, you know? And everything is just kind of like flowing. And it was an incredible experience to be a part ov. It was magical. Maybe that’s the best word for it. It was magical.

It was powerful and it was joyous, it was scary, it was psychedelic, it was mystical, it was completely full ov love and I felt like every night was an adventure.

Did Gen teach you about magic or were you ever into magic?

You know that’s a hard question to answer. I’ve never formally studied magic but I believe in magic and I definitely feel that I possess – I need to do more studying (laughs) but yeah I feel like I have a lot of powerful magic within me and Gen and I both had some very – I’ll go on a psychic side, but we both had some very psychic abilities together and have gone through and talked about experiences that both of us have had in that way. But I haven’t really practiced. But also that’s not completely true. I haven’t formally studied…exactly…I mean I read Tarot and I’ve done ruins and I have all these divining things but I don’t formally sit down and practice the magic.

Gen talked a lot about evolution. I’m wondering what you feel your evolution was like in the band and also how you think you saw Gen evolve during your time in the band?

During my time in the band both Genesis and I suffered great tragedies and I think that it brought the two of us much, much closer together. Gen lost Lady Jaye – I mean we all lost Lady Jaye, but Genesis lost Lady Jaye, and a few years later I lost my son. And I think that it drove us closer together because we were both grieving, deeply. And I think that evolved in our hearts connecting in a different way than they had been. I think that the way she and I both were writing –I remember when we started writing Snakes and we were just jamming on something – to me I felt like I was playing the bass part of my son’s heartbeat, and then whatever else happened that that song evolved into happened. But I do feel like she and I both brought our pain and our healing into the songs going forward from both of those very life altering and difficult and tragic events, and I guess we both had to evolve as human beings, as one does when they’re faced with that kind of tragedy and I think both she and I decided that you move forward in love, you know? Rather than closing your heart down or shutting your heart you open your heart more.

I think that we tend do – as human beings when we’re hurt we tend do close off our hearts. I think that we tend to grab a shell and hide under it until the pain goes away. I think Genesis was incredibly brave in her ability to open her heart and allow people to see the pain and I think that I had a great teacher in her, and I try to lead with my heart open. For me that was part of my evolution as a human being and something that Genesis taught me – that we spread love and that the world does need more love and if we just fucking loved each other we would have half of the violence that we see – that we’re witnessing in the United States right now. I don’t understand. We just need to love each other more.

I felt like I was playing the bass part of my son’s heartbeat, and then whatever else happened that that song evolved into happened. But I do feel like she and I both brought our pain and our healing into the songs going forward from both of those very life altering and difficult and tragic events

When did you lose your son?

2013. My son is Jesse – and that’s why my company is called Love Jesse Designs.

Can you tell me a little bit about your company its namesake?

Sure. I’ve been a jeweler – so here’s the alchemist of me – I love working with metal and I’ve been drawn to metal since I was a very young human. I initially started making jewelry out of anything I could get my hands on when I was young and when I was older I decided that I wanted to work in fine metal so I went to FIT and I took some courses – FIT is Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. I took some classes in jewelry making and I somehow got lucky enough to get a job in the industry when my son was 7, or 6? And it was prior to my getting divorced so it was great to have this job that I liked lined up and it was close to my son’s school so it was easy to pick him up. I worked for this incredible woman, her name is Elizabeth Lindsay, she has since moved to Denver, very witchy, very spiritual and open and open-hearted. And I just sat in this room in her house all day with a couple of other jewelers working in silver and gold and it made me so happy.

She moved to Denver, I ended up having to find jobs in the industry in Manhattan where I wasn’t working with my hands but I was doing more designing kind of work and then trying to balance that with playing with Psychic TV, touring with Psychic TV, being a single mom at that point, yeah it was a lot. Sometimes I don’t understand how I managed it all but I think when things in your life are really important you figure out how to juggle really fast, and I was really good at juggling.

So yeah, I guess I always wanted to have my own line, not that it’s the most groundbreaking thing in the world, but after my son died and the band wasn’t playing as often because Gen was sick I just decided that what I was doing – the job that I was doing for someone else was making me feel really unhappy – and that was ok when I had so much other happiness in my life but when I was grieving and I was that unhappy with something else I had to stop it. So we went on tour, I guess it was 2015,  and I gave my notice at my job and I just never went back after we toured. And that it’s, that was the last time I worked for someone else for any kind of a normal day job. I was just playing music and making my jewelry. Struggling, but that’s ok. It’s worth it to be happy.

Do you have any favorite moments and/or strangest moments that you can think of being in Psychic TV?

I’m going to touch on the strangest moment. I think that there’s a lot of strange that happens in the world of Psychic TV but oddly its normal because strange can be normal and normal can be strange. I don’t know if that makes any sense but for me the strangest moment was after Jaye died. Lady Jaye. I don’t remember exactly who was in the room at the time but I know it was Genesis, I believe it was Genesse and Caresse. I think Marcus was there. I was not the day after Jaye died but it was very close, maybe a few days after, and I think maybe I brought a casserole – as one does – I made like a big ziti and we all got together. We were sitting in the living room and we were talking about Jaye, and Gen was like she said she’d always wait for me and that she would send signs to me and it was a room – there was a window and there was like a phonograph console – I don’t remember exactly what you call that – but Jaye’s photograph was on it and just about the time that Gen said that, the photo flew into the middle of the room and landed on the ground, in between everyone. Like if we had been in a circle, which we weren’t, but we were sort ov gathered around different corners, it landed like right in the center of all of us and we turned it over and it was her photograph. There was no reason for a photograph to fly in the center of the room like that. It was the strangest thing. So that’s the strangest thing.

Favorite things are always being on stage. I had many favorite shows, I don’t know how to list them. I think the first time I ever played in St. Petersburg – I don’t even remember the year, I’d actually have to go look it up, maybe like 2005 or 6? Might have actually been 2004, I can’t remember. But just watching the reaction of all of these older men. At that point they were older than me, now I’m older than the people who come to the shows. But at that point it was almost twenty years ago and a lot of these guys were older than I was and I’d look out in the audience and there would just be all these men like with tears streaming down their faces because they had never gotten to see Psychic TV and Gen was a hero to so many people. And I remember at one point having to kind of turn my back because I felt so emotional, I didn’t want to just like completely lose it when I was trying to play and then have them think Psychic TV sucked because the bass player was terrible.

That was when I realized for the first time how important not just Psychic TV but Genesis was to so many people all over the world. People who didn’t speak English or didn’t speak English as a first language, it was quite possibly the first time that I recognized the power of music – which I don’t know if I ever truly thought about it in that way – but how it transcends all language because it really is a language in and of itself that we all can share, all over the world. So I think for me those were some of my favorite moments even though it’s not just one moment, it’s a lot of them but the realization of those what I think are very important takeaways of being in a band like that, those were my favorite moments.

I’d look out in the audience and there would just be all these men like with tears streaming down their faces because they had never gotten to see Psychic TV and Gen was a hero to so many people.

Was there an education that Gen ever required about the history of the band or the Temple of Psychic Youth?

No. I mean I picked up what I could pick up. There was no real education except you know, the trial by fire. Obviously there were a lot of stories in the 16 years of touring. I kick myself now that I didn’t always record everything, but you don’t do that when you’re with your friends, it just seems weird. I’m sad because I think the older I get the less I remember unless it’s something that I need to remember. But no there wasn’t a formal education – it was just – really it was just Gen had to like you and feel like she could create with you. One of the last honoring things for me was that she asked me, maybe it was a month before she dropped her body, if I would write music to a poem that she had written about her losing her virginity when she was a young teenager.

And I did come home that night – I actually was with her in the hospital – we were doing a chemo session, and we used to stay at this hotel across the street from the hospital to make it easier for her to get back and forth – and the chemo, you know it was hard – it was hard  for her and it’s hard as a friend to watch but it’s more hard for her to have to go through but at one point she asked me if I’d write music – because I also play some acoustic guitar (I’m a terrible guitar player by the way, I’m not like Jeff Burner or anything) but I do write and I’ve written some solo music and she asked if I would write music to this poem. I came home that night and I did, and I sent it to her on her phone but I guess she didn’t get it so on her birthday she was berating me, like three days later, like ‘you didn’t write it!’ and I was like, ‘I sent it to you! (laughs) it’s on your phone!’ – and you know we listened to it.

The night that actually she dropped her body I was trying to make a better recording of it with some stupid little recorder that I had but I couldn’t get it to work. It’s interesting that I was working on that as she was letting go and saying goodbye. I felt really honored – it seemed very important to her and I hope at some point to actually, you know with the blessing of the estate, do a recording of that at some point. I did just do a recording of a song that I wrote in Gen’s honor called Funeral Boots and I did have input from just a few of my band mates, so Jeff Berner and John Weingarten helped with some keyboards and guitar and then Jeff really wrote a tremendous amount of guitar tracks and really changed the whole trajectory of the song. It just became so much bigger with his input, and that will eventually be released next year on a compilation that another friend is putting out. So I’m looking to being able to play music again and not having it feel like its breaking my heart.

Have you been working on any other solo material or playing any other music?

I always have written and been a songwriter for good or bad. Yeah, I do have a friend who lives where I live. I moved, I live very close to the ocean where I am now, so I have a young friend who’s originally from South Africa and he and I have been working on a project together. It’s not really a band but we’ve titled the project ‘Ov Stars’ (@ovstarsband on Instagram) and at some point I hope that we get to record some of these tracks and maybe have some musician friends that I’ve worked with in the past work with us on it. And I would also love to keep working with Jeff and maybe John and see if we can do some more music together somehow. It’s been really – it’s hard for me to move on and let go – I’m not there yet. I’m still – it’s kind of like if you were married and your husband died or your wife died you don’t go out and get married 8 months later. I sort of feel like that’s what’s happened for me. I don’t really feel like moving on yet. But I will. And I’m writing, and I think all of that is positive.

What do you think the legacy of Psychic TV is, how do you think Gen wanted to be remembered, and how do you think she wanted the band to be remembered?

I think that’s a three  part question. The legacy will be in the music and the lyrics. The legacy will also be Genesis P-Orridge, who I think was in many ways an underrated figure. Really a true artist, one of the truest artist and writers I’ve met and was lucky enough to call a friend. I think her words will be her legacy, her ideas and ideology, her quotes, and there are so many – I can’t even think of any right now. “See a cliff jump off,” well that was Lady Jaye’s quote…She was just an incredibly remarkable human being and I think that is really the legacy of Psychic TV. But I do hope people will continue to listen to the music. I think that some of the early Psychic TV songs are incredible. I’m always so impressed when I go back and listen to earlier songs – Force The Hand of Chance, I think Just Drifting is one of my favorite songs in the world. I just get chills when I listen to it. It was the song that Genesis wrote for Caresse when she was a young girl and it just moved my heart. It’s definitely one of my favorite Psychic TV songs. So yeah, music, lyrics, and Genesis. That’s what I would say.

Well thank you so much for taking the time Alice, I really appreciate it. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you want to talk about at all?

I think that we covered pretty much everything. I think Gen would just want to say ‘big love’, just big love, just spread it around. That’s it.

Genesis P-Orridge 2/22/1950 – 3/14/2020
More Stories
Ian Svenonius / Escape-Ism