Indie record labels Sacred Bones and Dais Records have announced the production of a new documentary entitled Message From the Temple, which delves into the fascinating story of "anti-cult" Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (TOPY). The pair have also introduced a funding initiative to support the project.
The documentary is being directed by Jacqueline Castel, whose work has screened at Sundance, SXSW, and BAMcinemaFest and has had featured collaborations with filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and John Carpenter.
Formed in the U.K. in 1981, Thee Temple originated with experimental British artists and the group Psychic TV and its inimitable iconoclast, musician, artist and thinker Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and the similarly creative artist Peter Slezay Christopherson (both of whom also played in the wonderfully avant grade Throbbing Gristle). At its peak in the mid-to-late '80s, TOPY reportedly grew into a global network of some ten thousand followers, which subsequently influenced the likes of DJ/producer Andrew Weatherall and Trent Reznor, among others.
"We actually wanted to talk about things that concerned us and ways to change society and ways to change ourselves and to improve our connection to wisdom," says P-Orridge, of the mystical community which used the back of the band's 1982 debut Force the Hand of Chance to lay out its communal message. "Lyrically we were beginning to deal quite blatantly with ideas of magical thinking, the occult, networking, directed orgasm and how groups of people can have impact," the 66-year-old artist says. "A band can be so much more than just a way to play songs."
Indeed, the group's message would eventually reach Caleb Braaten, founder of indie label Sacred Bones and one of the film's producers. "Having grown up in Denver and TOPY having a large presence there, I remember as a kid wondering around downtown and seeing these groups of people that looked like a bunch of punk Hare Krishna kids," Braaten wrote in an email to Billboard "They always seemed so mysterious to me. So on a personal level this has been an incredible exercise in unraveling that mystery."
The documentary's other producers, Ryan Martin (P-Orridge's manager and co-founder of Dais Records and avant-garde label Robert & Leopold) and Aldona Watts (director of Land of Songs), are today launching a Kickstarter campaign both to draw out more ex-Temple members for the film and to complete funding for the project. Rewards for the campaign include a subscription to Thee Temple Bulletin ($5.00), a Psychic Youth haircut with P-Orridge's original clippers ($60.00) and even artwork by P-Orridge ($1,000). One of the incentives includes a panel discussion on Oct. 15 in New York with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Tom Headbanger, Paul "Bee" Hampshire, Pieter Schoolwerth, and others.
As for P-Orridge, who faced harassment from both media and the police, as well as accusations of leading a satanic cult, s/he (P-Orridge identifies as a pandrogyne, a third gender with he/r partner Ladye Jaye Breyer and has he/r own pronoun construction) eventually walked away from the Temple in 1991.
"Nothing should last forever, and we didn't want it to become a permanent idea," P-Orridge tells Billboard, though s/he still embraces many of Thee Temple's philosophies. "As our friend Z'ev, the musician and alchemist said, 'The most genius thing you ever did Gen was to walk away when you had the possibility of all that manipulative power. You could have become the guru at top of the pyramid... you had the good sense to walk away.'"
P-Orridge is currently touring with the latest edition of Psychic TV and promoting the band's new album Alienist P-Orridge, who seems to be eternally touched by magic, will perform solo this weekend at London's Serpentine Gallery and has a sculpture of h/er hand this was commissioned by and will be shown at a very different kind of temple: New York City's. St. John the Divine.