In 1976, you’d have been hard pressed to find a decent flat white or fixed-gear bike shop anywhere in the London Borough of Hackney. Instead – in a basement a few yards from London Fields – you’d have found a band of pioneering musical perverts working under the NSFW name Throbbing Gristle.
As half of TG, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti are co-founders of the dark, twisted and hugely influential electronic genre known as industrial music. Carter was an audiovisual engineer from suburban north London who had become interested in synthesizers, while Tutti (Christine Newby from Hull) was a performance artist, stripper and pornographic actor who had already joined forces with fellow Yorkshire-born subversive Genesis P-Orridge and musician and designer Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson.
‘The Death Factory’ was the band’s cheerful nickname for their studio on Martello Street, and the sounds they made there still ooze with the danger, grimness, chaos and filth of ’70s Hackney. ‘We were trying to reflect the sounds around us, in some weird way,’ said Carter later, and in TG’s synthesized soundscapes you can vividly hear the freight trains hammering across the Beck Street railway bridge, the smash of broken glass and the last gasp of Hackney’s industrial heritage.
Having released five searing and seminal studio albums, and been called ‘wreckers of civilisation’ by a Tory MP, TG broke up in 1981. Carter and Tutti, by then a couple, disappeared into the Norfolk countryside (partly to avoid Tutti’s stalkers) and set up a home studio. They’ve worked there ever since, operating first under the name Chris & Cosey and then Carter Tutti, and turning their backs on their own industrial past to produce beautiful, spiritual and fragile electronic pop that anticipated the first wave of British dance music by almost a decade.
Carter Tutti haven’t stopped looking to the future, but nowadays they’re more happy to revisit their history, too. After a Throbbing Gristle reunion was cut short in 2010 by the death of Christopherson, they turned their attention to the Chris & Cosey catalogue. This Sunday they’ll bring their all-encompassing sound and vision to Heaven, presenting old material with a dance-ready contemporary twist (as heard on their new album ‘Carter Tutti Plays Chris & Cosey’). To judge by recent shows, it’ll be a joyous, sweaty spectacle – a 26 bus and a lifetime away from the Death Factory.