November 18, 2004 by

Jhonn Balance


Categories: Musicians

Jhonn Balance, founder of the experimental industrial band Coil, died on Nov. 13 in a fall. He was 42.
Born Geoffrey Laurence Burton in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, he took the surname Rushton as a boy after his mother remarried, but later adopted the stage name Jhonn Balance. A singer and percussionist, he played in several bands until 1982 when he launched Coil as a solo project. Balance broadened the band’s scope after joining forces with Throbbing Gristle keyboardist Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson.
Coil’s 17-minute single, “How to Destroy Angels,” was released in 1984 and touted as “ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy.” A year later, Balance and Christopherson recorded “Scatology,” a full-length album of electronic music and primitive themes.
The band spent the mid-1980s focused on visual media. The video for its cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was widely banned for graphic imagery, yet it was archived in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Coil created the soundtrack for the 1985 film “The Angelic Conversation,” released the records “Horse Rotorvator” and “The Anal Staircase,” then produced material for the Clive Barker horror flick “Hellraiser.” When Hollywood decided to use different songs on the soundtrack, Coil released “The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser” in 1987.
Coil rocked the techno/rave scene in 1991 with “Love’s Secret Domain,” a music collection The Rare Vinyl Network described as “psychotic dance tracks and freaked-out industrial experimentalism.” In 1992, the band signed with Nothing, a record label owned by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, and released songs under its own name and under the pseudonyms ElpH, Eskaton, Time Machines and Black Light District.

20 Responses to Jhonn Balance

  1. rick

    I first started listening to Coil in 1988. Me and my friends Carrie and Rebecca would sit in Carrie’s basement bedroom listening to Horse Rotovator over and over. We had gotten into them, of course, because of their cover of “Tainted Love,” but soon realized they were much more than that (the B-Side “Panic” made that clear immediately). “Ostia,” in particular, was completely moving to us. The weird romanticism, magic and mystery seemed to suit our Arctic environments perfectly. Coil was the band for 40 below and pure darkness.
    When Carrie went off to Italy in the summer of 1989, she brought me back a small fragment of a mosaic from Ostia. It stayed on my shelf as one of my cherished nicknacks until this year, when I moved to Cambridge. It’s in the gallery of nicknacks I posted then. A reminder of those times.
    When I moved to Boston, I became completely obsessed. The original versions of “Scatology,” “How to Destroy Angels” and “Gold Is The Metal” were among my first purchases when I moved here. The original ten inch single of “The Hellraiser Themes” was one of my first vinyl “holy grails” in my burgeoning obsession with record collecting. It was a 10″ of music that Coil had recorded for Hellraiser that Clive Barker had deemed “too scary” to use. I eventually bought it from my roommate mike, but not until 1996.
    Up through the Eskaton stuff, I literally owned every copy of every Coil record. Five versions of Love’s Secret Domain, including the german one with a slightly different remix of one song.
    My obsession fell off around then. They went in a direction I wasn’t really into. They got more magickal and I was getting more and more unabashedly secular. About three years ago, though, they started getting “really good” again, and Ben, Emily, Matt, etc. all insisted I’d like them again. I slowly had been getting into them again, got copies of everything they’d put out since i loved them, and was working my way through it. Last night, even, as I was loading my iPod I listened to a couple of their albums, just trying to make sense of the sheer mass of material they’d out out in that time, thinking it was time to tackle it all.
    The other thing about Coil was how many bands they lead to. I learned about Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle from Coil. Current 93, Nurse With Wound, etc. They were the first of all those I learned about. Even Leonard Cohen – in 1988, it was Coil’s cover of “Who By Fire” that made me realize, when I was 16, that there might be more to that old guy than just another folksinger.
    They had been playing live the last few years. Ben always went to the shows, I always skipped them, thinking there was time to go in the future. Of course I regret that, now. Ben brought me back a coil wristwatch from one of those shows – it tells time backwards. I still have that, along with two coil t-shirts.
    It’s really sad that he died so randomly and so early. It’s surprising to me how this effecting me. He’s literally been a part of my culture, my subconscious, my personal mythology, for my whole life.

  2. darkFIN

    Dear Jhonn, I barely knew thee.
    I’ve been re-introduced to Coil over and over by friends at different points in my life. It has only been within the past couple of years that I have come across their CDs at a time when I had money to spare–usually in some random music store on the way to a concert that itself has no doubt nearly broken my bank.
    Still, as their music has slowly made its way into my collection, I have grown to realise just how influential Jhonn has been on all the music I love.
    I have been tinkering in event-promotion for the past 2 years, dj-ing on and off for club and radio for about as long. There’s always a fine opportunity to slip some Coil, Black Light District, Time Machines, Plastic Spider Things–ELpH & others, if I had them–into the mix. Too scary? Indeed! (What better way to clear the room of folks who weren’t there for the music?)
    In the end, the identity of ELpH is likely Jhonn himself–allowing his work to trickle down from the higher realm to whence he has passed… Unquiet Rest.
    In Memory of the Truth,

  3. nemeton

    Well i am a relativly new listner of Coil (i know them for abaut 6 years), but from the first time i heard them i was astonished and hooked!
    Johnn u did lot for my spiritual evolving and i think u spent your life good – by linking magic and music u did a unique thing – hope to came accros u in my next life!

  4. Anarcadia

    between pylons you walk
    past jackals with cruxes held within paws
    they point the way
    down the 29th path
    the road of crimson glory
    moon’s monthly river
    trickles another life
    that ebbs to earth
    another not born
    it will still be years
    until another like unto you

  5. Anarcadia

    93 Jhonn,
    Hail unto thee rebel angel
    on this Winter’s Solstice
    where, without you,
    the coldest days
    are truly here
    Continue to send me
    dreams of imperfection
    that I might strive
    the harder

  6. Jason

    I was raised on Coil, Current 93, Foetus, and Neubauten. A much deeper loss is felt than I would have anticipated. Rest in peace…victory is near.

  7. Marion (Miss Undead)

    It’s really annoying all those “news” ,I only knew it some days ago and it schoked me a lot! I was so hypnotized by the wonderful Coil stuff that I wasn’t understanding what was going on. =( Peter killed himself too and it made me more sad…after see the lyrics from “who’ll fall?” I was searching the story of this dark band and then I had 2 news at once,all bad…and Coil is dead as Peter and Johnn are…I wish’em the best and their music never will die.

  8. Jaret Johnston

    Oh, how the Balance was an act, an action of life.
    Hard time filled with a whisp of wind.
    The Angelic conversation was within, not without. We all rest within Loves Secret Domain, to rise again renewed through the Time Machines.
    Demonstratively elegant, yet with thorns.
    Love to you and yours.

  9. Donovan

    I was in Chechnya when Jhonn passed away. I only heard it when I arrived back to Tbilisi, Georgia 2 weeks later. Truly shocking news inspite of what I had just endured previously. Here it is almost nearing one year later and I’m still stuck on that day. Peace be with you, you were an inspiring force in my life.

  10. K.C.

    the world may never know what you have given it or what it has lost. true majik is life tru, l-if-e is engery energy canot be destroyed or created Jhonn Balance may not walk among us but you spirit will be our guide.
    thank you jhonn

  11. Hobart

    ‘he has gone away to invisible morning
    leaving a million tape recordings
    of his voice behind
    fading into the cold spring air
    a colorless question

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