On this day in 2004, John Balance—best known as one half of industrial innovators Coil, passed away. November 13th marked the end of one of the most influential industrial acts, leaving us with many albums easily to be considered milestones in the history of electronic and avant-garde music.
Coil’s ever-innovative, ever-evolving musical universe ceased to exist when John, well known for his alcohol addiction, fell from a balcony and died. Coil were, in terms of a journalist from The Wire, “more than just music”, but this might be the wrong place to talk about this – David Tibet, long term friend of John’s, might be most qualified to utter some words about a figure without which the face of industrial music could be looking completely different. Indeed, Tibet uttered a line which might be describing the demons possessing John’s soul best:
“He was talented and lovely and just a really dear friend and a great person in any way I can think of, but he had no confidence. He would say, “Well, if I’m not drinking, you’ll find me boring,” and of course it wasn’t true. It was a tragedy just as anyone’s death in those circumstances is a tragedy”.
Balance fell from the first floor, and landed some 15 feet below. It was Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson who found Balance unconscious, though still breathing. Although rushed to the hospital, his condition deteriorated, and he died soon after, without ever regaining consciousness.
There has to be more than words to express the impact of John Balance on everyone he touched; not just those who were close to him, but also those whose perception of music was drastically re-designed by Coil. I could easily drop lines about the impact of Coil, their use of samples, the innovative structures of songs, the expressive, hermetic lyrics, their image, their engagement in the queer community, and so on. There might have been voices more qualified to utter words on the legacy of John Balance than I could possibly be, so at this point, I should just tip my hat to John Balance, a person and a musical persona dearly missed by many, regardless if they knew him in person or as a musician. This article shall end with a minute of silence – and 40+ minutes of your favorite Coil album at ear-blasting volume. And a collection of words spoken by those who knew him.
“We were stunned when we received news from Sleazy that Geff had died. That word ‘died’ is so final and we know Geff would not perceive his own passing as an end to his presence in this world. We, of course, are left with the feelings of physical loss and the thoughts of never hearing his voice again or feeling his embrace. He has been a dear friend for over 25 years and we hold that as a privilege. He was one of the very few treasures in this troubled world and he remains so in our hearts.”
“With burning sadness and with burning sorrow we remember you as: Kindest of men, funniest of men, most intuitive of men, most incisive of men, most generous of men, a great artist, a great voice, a great visionary, a great soul and a great Heart. Finally, you were overwhelmed by it all: by all the beauty and by all the pain. You perhaps never knew how much you were loved. Till we meet again as we know we will, our dearest friend, with love always to you dearest Geff, John, Jhonn, shape-shifter, and joker, in angelic form now, playing with stars in the love of God.”
– David Tibet and Steven Stapleton (Current 93 / Nurse With Wound)
May you find peace in your sleep John