Storytime With Uncle Pathogen: June 6th, 2012

Share this:
Share this on Facebook Tweet this on twitter
written by Matt
June 6, 2012 | Category: Editorial, Interviews, Storytime With Uncle Pathogen

Storytime with Uncle Pathogen is our new monthly Op/Ed column, written by friend of the site and now contributor, the always outspoken and articulate Matt Pathogen.

It May Shock You To Find That Our Female Comrades Have An Opinion As Well

In case you suffer from the dual conditions of being an industrial fan and living under a rock, here’s some knowledge: On the opening night of Festival Kinetik 5.0 in Montreal, Jairus Khan of Ad·ver·sary issued a decidedly unambiguous challenge to the industrial music community in the form of a scathing video backdrop while he and Antigen Shift closed their set. Upset by what he perceived as a rising surge of regressive tendencies in a scene he’s lived and loved for a long time, he threw down the proverbial gauntlet on the subjects of racism and sexism by leveling a stunningly audacious criticism of the acts he was opening for, Combichrist and Nachtmahr, and their utilization of blunt-force shock tactics in their imagery, videos and lyrical content. It has launched an incredible and near-universal discussion on the subject, a result that took many of us pleasantly by surprise.

I’ve previously made my own impact (for better or worse) by launching into the subject of sexism in the industrial community. My own blog after Combichrist’s “Throat Full Of Glass” music video was debuted went mildly viral and caused me a whole lot of shock when I received negligible fallout and an incredible outpouring of support for my criticism. I Die: You Die, a publication I am beyond thrilled to now be writing for, scooped the internet at large when they slammed out their interview with Jairus and subsequent reactions from Andy La Plegua of Combichrist and Thomas Rainer of Nachtmahr almost immediately upon the culmination of Jairus’ performance. It’s been an incredible couple of weeks for discussing our little music scene. However, there is one factor missing, which can be found with a cursory perusal of this very paragraph: On the issue of sexist attitudes toward women in the industrial scene, there’s not a heck of a lot of people asking women what their opinions are. I’d like to do my part to change that a little with this, my inaugural submission to I Die: You Die.

To give a hopefully insightful article providing a voice to a demographic that is obviously intimately involved in this discussion, I’ve used the following formula: A number of members of the industrial community were each asked two form questions, one pertaining to their reaction to Jairus’ video, the other asking them for some insight into their experience as women in industrial. They were also informed that there was, and is, no predetermined conclusion this article is being guided towards, and that they were encouraged to talk about it in any way they wished in whatever manner or tone they felt was the most honest. Also, in the interest of not encouraging this to be a discussion to which only the (for lack of a better word) luminaries of the industrial scene are invited, I tried to give these questions to women musicians, DJs, and members of the scene’s general population. With any luck, this will open the doors of the discussion to everyone, everywhere, with valuable insight. My own thoughts on the subject will be found at the end of this piece, but first, to business.

The questions issued were as follows:

Q1) What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

Q2) Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

“One thing that I would love to see come out of this is for industrial musicians to be inspired to create more meaningful lyrics”

Ginger Leigh, AKA DJ Synthestruct, Orlando, FL

What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

Unfortunately I had to miss Ad·ver·sary’s initial presentation at Kinetik, but I saw it the following day posted online. Initially, I thought it was a pretty bold move, and it was obvious that it’s something he feels very strongly about. This was the topic of many conversations in the days that followed, so it was extremely effective in at least making people aware of the themes that are being presented by both bands. Jairus chose to address sexism and racism specifically, but with a lot of industrial music, you hear many of the same themes over and over (mostly about war, or drugs, or violence). The one thing that I would love to see come out of this is for industrial musicians to be inspired to create more meaningful lyrics and break away from the same themes that have been presented repeatedly. Ultimately, music is a form of art, and is the result of how the artist has chosen to express certain ideas. The past few years I’ve really grown to respect artists who can break away from the mold and create something new and genuine – not for the sake of being innovative, but for the sake of creating something amazing. For a lot of people, the quality of the lyrics or the themes expressed are not important in a good dance track, but as an audience I think people should expect more from the music they listen to. As a DJ, this has really made me think more about the tracks that I play as well.

Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

When I was old enough, I started going out the clubs religiously, several times a week. I loved the music, and the club setting, and eventually started up my own industrial club night that I DJ’d at. A lot of people ask if there are any advantages/disadvantages to being a female DJ. In my experience, I’ve noticed that people tend to react very positively toward female DJs, since it does tend to be more of a male-driven industry. However, being a female promoter was a bit more challenging. There were many times when I booked a show and the bands would step off the tour bus and walk up to my boyfriend, assuming that he was in charge. This always amused me, but I know I would have assumed the same thing.

“I didn’t take 20 years of piano lessons to just stand behind my instrument and dance.”

Kassi Cork of MEND, Chicago, IL

What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

I know some people have called what Jairus did a stunt, but I don’t agree with that. I think the fact that he never directly attacks a person but instead the videos, lyrics and imagery by a performing act… He never once calls Andy, Thomas or their fans sexist or racist. I think if he were trying to pull some sort of stunt he could have easily pointed fingers at people specifically. The point of the matter is not whether or not so-and-so is sexist, but more the fact that their music is propagating the idea that it’s okay to be sexist or racist. This “scene” is, in my experience, largely made of people who have hardly fit the social norm, so I would think we would come from a background of not making people feel bad for what they look like or their gender. So it has always been strange to me that it is kind of a boys club, especially when a “jock” mentality is displayed.

Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

Being a female in this scene is difficult. I have walked into venues with music gear slung over my shoulder and have had promoters say, “The merch booth is over there.” When I was in the band Cruciform Injection we did a video for our song “Vacant Bodies”. The director told our guitarist to totally shred on his instrument while I was instructed I would be the “hot one” and that I should just dance on a podium behind my keyboard. If you watch that video, there are very few shots of me because I refused. I didn’t take 20 years of piano lessons to just stand behind my instrument and dance. I cannot tell you the number of times people came up to me and be shocked and say, “You are actually playing?” But that isn’t just a gender problem in this scene, it’s everyone. So many people don’t even plug their instruments in or just turn the LFO knob. They kind of ruin it for the rest of us who spend hours practicing. It especially aggravates me when bands decide they needs a hot girl to just stand there and pretend to play. We need to stop accepting that; it offends not because I’m female, but because I’m a musician.

Honestly, I have thought about this for the last number of years, how few female electronic musicians we have onstage. The ones we do have are actually quite talented and I would love to see more of that. I am not sure why we don’t have more chicks. I seriously don’t know if it’s just the intimidation factor or if it’s just disinterest.

“The acceptance of the misogynist imagery and actions are a reflection of a bigger, deeper societal issue.”

Brittany Bindrim of I:Scintilla, Chicago, IL

What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

When I first saw Ad·ver·sary’s video, I was impressed by Jairus’ bravery and the sincerity of his message. I commend his willingness to stand up for his beliefs and for facilitating a conversation on artists’ responsibility for the messages in their music and the prevalence of sexist and misogynist imagery in the industrial scene. Now that I’ve had a bit of time to digest the whole incident, I see both sides.

Yes industrial music sprouted from noble roots and rejected mediocrity and cultural biases. But you can’t expect the mainstream’s influence not to bleed in as a genre’s popularity rises and begins to creep out of the underground over time. I think ultimately the responsibility falls on both the artist for messages they put out there and on the audience for what the support and how they let it impact them. Although I don’t particularly like or support Combichrist and Nachtmahr’s depictions of submissive women getting the crap beat out of them or lyrics about how women should shut up and give head, it is their right to use them. Both bands are at the top of this scene and whether you like it our not, the audience has spoken with their support.

Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

The industrial community has been mostly accepting of I:Scintilla, even though some would not consider our music to be of the genre. I would say it is a bit tough to be a woman in any male-dominated music scene whether it be metal, punk or industrial. For example, I think people are quicker to judge a female musician based on her level of attractiveness. To some, being physically attractive or sexual may discredit her talents. At the same time many of the top male musicians are handsome, physically fit, or sexually charged; most don’t judge men quite as harshly on their appearance. While the vast majority of my experiences in the scene have been positive, I have had some negative ones. I’ve met the most wonderful, open-minded human beings, as well as some of the biggest narcissistic, chauvinistic assholes. Andy of CC has been nothing but respectful and down-to-earth in my interactions with him. On the other end, I’ve met another top industrial band that promotes peace through their music and one of its members got wasted at a Chicago club and physically assaulted multiple women, including myself. So what does this tell you? To me it seems the acceptance of the misogynist imagery and actions are a reflection of a bigger, deeper societal issue. Maybe what we really need to do is to support women in the scene by treating them with the respect that one would give any human being.

“Why is it more common to play the slut than the intelligent bad-ass?”

Allison Ashley, Dallas, TX

It’s not often that you’re at the right place at the right time. Watching the Ad·ver·sary performance at Kinetik 5.0 was one of those moments. My gut reaction to their We Demand Better backing video at the festival is the same as it is now– pride, hope, intelligence, guts.

I didn’t expect the video to go as deep/long as it did, but every point communicated was necessary. It opened up the conversation the way it was meant to; the way it’s been brewing for quite some time. The conversation was not new. There was no a-ha moment. I was not enlightened. But I WAS empowered. Empowered for this small community of wonderfully creative, talented and passionate people who DO and SHOULD demand better of ourselves and each other. We don’t always have to agree, but there should be at the very least a mutual respect. Most of us are outsiders to some degree, be it for the way we look, dress or simply because we don’t have interests that fall into the normal or average camp. If we can’t respect one another, then where are we to go for solace? The same can be said for groups of the same race or sex, if we want to stick to what was called out in the backing video specifically.

I tend to have more male friends than female; couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps it’s because I’m extremely blunt and outspoken. I’m also in an industry regarding my career where it’s a boys club. So, I’ve typically felt since college as though I’ve had to prove myself because I’m a small female who looks about 10 years younger than my physical age. I’ve never played the victim, follower or slut; attitudes which sadly find their way into both the sex and scene as a whole. It angers me that the riot grrrls of the 90s seemingly faded away. If there’s one community where they should have continued and thrived, it’s the industrial scene. And I know we’re out there. Why is it more common to play the slut than the intelligent bad-ass? The influx in the last 10 years of “alt models” is blatant proof of that. There’s support from men of us riot grrrls; who want us to thrive. I married one. Those negative and disgusting labels that the majority of the world puts on the outsiders – driven by race, sex, sexual orientation – how can we not be supportive of the differences which makes this community great? How dare we support or tolerate such ignorance?

The bitterness, negativity and hatred that has come out of the We Demand Better discussion from both men and women is disgusting and depressing. It made me question if the industrial scene is really so vastly different or special. On the flip side, the support, understanding, and respect that has been reiterated and the rallying around the message that I believe Ad·ver·sary wanted to communicate to begin with ignites all of the feelings I had at the initial performance. Pride, hope, intelligence, guts. And that’s what I’ll continue to embrace.

“…there is a lot of anti-women bullshit going on in the mainstream these days and I would just hope industrial can be part of the solution and not add to the problem.”

N.G., Chicago, IL

What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

Well, having just seen the video, as I was watching it I felt very touched that someone would go there and say something about what’s been going on. I think the video was well done and thought out, they did their research and presented facts, this is what it ACTUALLY looks like! This is what we have normalized in our minds as acceptable entertainment. People will probably say it’s just fantasy or that they are overreacting, but the bigger issue is that people will say that. What they are criticizing is just industrial’s take on the bigger picture, this happens in mainstream every day and it’s unfortunate that industrial has bought into that. They are just holding them accountable for their actions.

Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

I feel like sometimes to be a girl in the industrial scene I have to be constantly sexualized in every facet, from clubs to concerts and the advertisements in between. Like it’s a boys club and I’m just here as added entertainment. That said, I don’t feel like industrial is a totally misogynistic world, all of my friends and musician friends are very smart and liberal minded people and over all I feel safe in the community. It’s when I see shit like what Combichrist puts out that makes me *face palm* for the whole scene because that’s not what it’s about. On the subject of racism, I think it was really important for them to bring that up because I think we have to be careful because industrial is also a very white scene and I think some of the imagery that is used can be insensitive and alienating to some people. At any rate there is a lot of anti-women bullshit going on in the mainstream these days and I would just hope industrial can be part of the solution and not add to the problem.

Jennifer Parkin of Ayria, Toronto, ON

Photo copyright 2007 j. ward/COMA Music Magazine

What was your initial reaction to Ad·ver·sary’s video at first, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve had time to think about it?

I wasn’t present when the video aired, so I heard about it through everyone at the festival and watched it later. A lot of people came up to me that weekend specifically asking my thoughts on that video as a female musician in the industrial scene, but being asked this type of question is actually nothing new. I’d say in about 90% of any interview I do, there’s the obligatory question about what it’s like to be a female act in the industrial genre. It’s of course because it’s still very rare, as proven by that festival itself; something like 30 bands playing that weekend, not one of them female fronted. I’m not knocking the festival at all, I’ve played at it a few years ago, and had a fantastic experience! It’s strange though, about the question in general, reverse it, and ask any of the guy bands what it’s like to be a man in the industrial scene; doesn’t it seem so ridiculous? For some reason this genre is seemingly lagging behind other music genres for the success of women in the music realm. I’m not sure why. There’s no need to discuss the actual video, the content, the avenue chosen, no matter anyone’s thoughts on how it all went down, the important thing is that out of it, started a dialogue on the issue of misogyny and sexism. (I’m only addressing this issue; any others the video brought up is completely out of my experiences.) The video made me, and a lot of people feel, and think, and discuss, and that’s a good thing.

“The thought rarely occurs to some that a woman could write electronic music.”

Give us some insight into your own personal experiences as a female member of the industrial community.

There’s that question again!! Dang you! Argh! [Matt: I regret nothing!]

I’ve always thought there are 2 different ways to answer this question: A) You can pretend like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about? I’m just one of the guys, everything is totally awesome,” which, in some cases feels true to me. My experience and relationships with other musicians, bands, DJs, fans, and promoters and those I’ve worked with in the scene have been nothing but amazing, I feel camaraderie and acceptance and I’ve always been treated with the utmost respect. That’s why I won’t bash, accuse, or point fingers at any one other band about such a serious issue.

Or, B) “It can be tough to be taken as seriously as your male counterpart acts and I sometimes believe I’m stereotyped based on my gender.” My actual answer that I give regularly falls somewhere in the middle: Being a female trying to release music, tour, etc. is both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse when you perhaps don’t get taken as seriously, when people lump you into some magical, all-encompassing “female vocals” genre in order to understand where you fit in. I never hear the end of people saying to me, “I don’t like female vocals.” I’m always so baffled by this, or how it all could possibly become one genre that they immediately assume they don’t like. Or perhaps they mean that they can’t relate to the female perspective or lyrics? But on the other hand, it’s sometimes a blessing is because, as a woman, being somewhat of a rarity in this music genre, I perhaps sometimes get special attention. People are curious, wanting to check out what I’m doing, because it is different among the majority of male fronted bands.

“How often would ‘He’s ugly’ be enough to describe the value of the music of a male band?”

There is still sexism I encounter. It’s subtle, and it exists: Sexism to me is the fact that I play a show, and someone in the audience goes up to my live keyboardist, or drummer to ask them about the music they’ve written. The response from my amazing live musicians (Mike, Eric, Joe, Jeff, and Kevin can back this up!) is, “No, ask her, it’s all her. I just play live, she wrote the songs.” The thought rarely occurs to some that a woman could write electronic music. The attitude I usually encounter is that, “she’s JUST the singer.” Then I get angry because I know tons of male bands where there is a male vocalist who perhaps has no part in writing the music. This man would never be referred to as, “just the singer,” as if writing vocals and singing is such an easy part of the music making process. It would also never be assumed that a male vocalist is dating someone in the band who makes the music, or a man would never be accused as having, “must have slept with someone to get booked on this show or tour.” Or hearing, “Have you heard music by Ayria?” “I hate that chick, she’s ugly.” We still judge and value women musicians mainly on the merits of their appearance. How often would “He’s ugly” be enough to describe the value of the music of a male band? Apparently, I also still get the clichéd, “show us it” cat calls while I’m on stage too, in the not clichéd, joking kind of way. I’ve never heard it from stage, but my girlfriends at shows say it happens. The combination of all of my experiences above represent an existent sexist attitude that I still face regularly that I still hope can stop or change.

A lot of music is created from the male perspective. Girls have so few idols now. Not enough powerful women to look up to or to nurture new creativity of women and encourage them to pursue the writing or making music. There are some that I know and love, but not a whole lot. Most of my female idols came from past decades. I recall a moment in the early ‘90s, a revolution in grunge/rock music where girls picked up guitars, started bands, and sang songs about rape, abuse and inequality; the Riot Grrl era of Post-feminism that sometimes made the audience uncomfortable to see it. Love it or hate it, they wanted to be heard and they were very angry. It’s been a while since there’s been any revolution or movement forward it feels.

I want to bring up image and branding, since it seems to all play in to how women and men are portrayed. I don’t think anyone argues that image is still very important in music for men and women. My own experiences and “image” with my music have gone extremely feminine; it’s weird, I didn’t start this way. It’s almost like everything I experienced pushed me towards the total opposite imagery common in the genre. I went for a “feminine and proud of it” aesthetic, to say, “Hey, yeah, I AM a girl, and I’ve embraced it and I’m not trying to be exactly like the guys to fit in. I never can be.” It was once suggested to me that maybe I should consider rolling in mud, or blood, or adapt to the darker, dirty, hyper-sexuallly charged imagery more common in industrial music to help my career and sell more CDs, to which I replied, “No.”

“This isn’t about what exists in the mainstream. It’s about us, and what we are willing to accept or reject from a mainstream world.”

It’s hard to discuss this issue without sounding angry, and I’m definitely not angry. I guess I get sad sometimes that 20 years later from the revolution I mentioned above that a lot of women started, we are still here, realizing that there’s still sexism, misogyny and inequality. I like the discussion on sexism this whole festival has sparked. I have nothing personal against any of the bands involved or being accused. As I said above, mostly every band I’ve met, I’ve had completely supportive experiences with. I’ve toured with Combichrist and they were the most professional, respectful, fun group of people to work with. I’ve danced to ‘80s music with Thomas Rainer, who’s also been accused in this situation, and I don’t know Jairus very well, but I really respect him for being a seemingly intelligent person who had the courage to speak his mind and share his beliefs.

I guess none of this is personal, or about the people behind these bands. It’s about the perception, the portrayal, imagery and impressionability of the culture, and what we will accept in our teeny-tiny scene where we are all able to reach out to one another, support each other, and shape what we want and expect. We can say things like, “That’s not sexist! Watch a Tarantino movie, nothing we haven’t seen before,” or, “Look at ads for Guess! Way more sexist,” or, “Nothing that mainstream porn hasn’t done before,” etc. But that’s just it. This isn’t about what exists in the mainstream. It’s about us, and what we are willing to accept or reject from a mainstream world. We seem to want to define ourselves as being part of this little so-called scene, our festivals, our music, our bands that we feel a sense of ownership towards; therefore we each have the power and responsibility to make it what we want, and what we want to be part of or move towards. So, we can’t blame the external culture for what’s already out there and influencing the masses.

——————

Matt: Before I begin, I’d like to thank the women who contributed their words. I’m happy to call all of you my friends and I’m glad you were willing to put your thoughts out there. Thank you all.

For my part, I’m incredibly proud of Jairus and Nick for what they did and I’m overwhelmingly happy to call them my friends. Too much of industrial music has devolved into people sitting around at clubs, shunning anything outside of their comfort zone, focusing on nothing but the surface aesthetics and criticizing anyone who says anything that calls attention to issues intellectually deeper than making fun of someone’s clothes. This has become blazingly obvious from the distressingly anti-intellectual attitude taken by an unhealthy number of people that have expressed their opinion.

People have called Jairus “the real fascist” for supposedly trying to dictate what people should listen to; others have made the familiar, self-satisfying argument that political correctness does not belong in industrial, or have complained that they feel persecuted for liking Combichrist or Nachtmahr and like they are being judged for it. All of these arguments are, frankly, reactionary bullshit. Nobody, Jairus included, has said that Andy, Thomas, or their fans are bad people, and that you should feel bad if you listen to their music. Rather, the contemporary industrial scene is being directly challenged to look at itself and ask itself why themes like militant nationalism and sexism are being successfully marketed to them.

Therein lays the problem with industrial fans being lulled into a false sense of insulation. The industrial scene talks a big talk about railing against mainstream society; this is natural, considering it does have a rich history of accepting social outcasts, a history it should be proud of. Yet instead of diligently challenging the more insidious facets of mainstream culture when it creeps in, the industrial scene has taken to sticking its head in the sand and pretending those facets are just examples of “controversial material” when they are presented to them by familiar figures in industrial music. Violence against women and disturbing nationalist imagery are not controversial; they are found in all manner of media from the mainstream culture. To be entirely blunt, it doesn’t suddenly make it okay for you as a consumer of media to be accepting of nasty, hateful shit just because it’s being delivered to you by a guy with a throat tattoo instead of an elite A&R team at a major label.

Being a fan of industrial music isn’t about being thrown nothing but softballs.

Tangentially, there’s also been some talk about the festival being an inappropriate place for a political statement to be made. Bear in mind that going to an industrial show once meant that a small British man was going to scream in your face and jerk around like he was suffering a seizure while the rest of the band attempted to produce music that would make you spontaneously void your bowels. Being a fan of industrial music isn’t about being thrown nothing but softballs. It’s sad that many modern industrial music aficionados have become so coddled and comfortable in their musical experience that being confronted with a serious question makes them angry. Don’t go out of your way to listen to music that sounds like angry robots screaming at you and then expect a PLUR-fest where nobody will ever speak to you sternly, dig?

One thing Jairus did absolutely right during the discussion of this (and something I, quite frankly, should have adhered to more strongly when I found myself in the brouhaha last year) is not pointing a finger at the artists in question and shouting, “J’accuse!” Andy went on record saying he was veering Combichrist away from the macho Tarantino imagery because he felt he was being taken out of context. Good for him. He’s a talented individual, an excellent performer, and he is capable both of success without utilizing lowbrow methods, and setting an example by rejecting them. I wish him luck and I’m interested in seeing what the next permutation of Combichrist will be. Consider, if you will, probably the most canny, thought-provoking quote Jairus has expressed throughout this entire episode:

“…When I say that we should demand better, I’m not just talking about better imagery, better music, better t-shirts – I’m talking about better critical thinking, better exploration of symbols and aesthetic, better relationship with the people in your audience that you run the risk of alienating. I introduced myself and spoke to Andy after we both played, and he told me he didn’t mean anything racially charged in the photo, and I said the same thing to him that I’m saying to you: It doesn’t matter what you meant, what matters is that you think about the impact your actions will have on people who don’t have the context that you do. That’s what I want out of all of this. I don’t want Andy to be broke and homeless, I don’t want people to stop going to shows. I want us — all of us, artists and audience alike — to demand better from our community.”

There’s no way I could have said it better myself. Industrial has a long history of challenging symbolism and ideology, of making people think about uncomfortable topics, of engaging in a Nietzschean assault upon familiar, accepted notions in order to challenge the ability of those notions to stand up to criticism and thereby be found valid. For this proud legacy of iconoclasm to mean anything, the industrial scene needs to be able to stand up to that same criticism from within, to be able to express the self-awareness necessary to accept that we’re not always right about ourselves. If industrial music loses its ability to confront dangerous and uncomfortable content, whether that content is found without or within, it will have lost that vitality that made it mean something to so many in the first place. It will be a lost cause. Please think about that next time someone challenges you to think critically about the music you love. It’s about more than you. It’s about us, those that came before us, and those that will come after us.

In closing, I, as a DJ, erstwhile musician and unapologetic fan of industrial music, demand better. I hope you will consider doing the same, whether you’re a musician, a DJ, a promoter, a journalist, or a person that just loves clanky robot music. We can maintain the legacy of industrial music, but only if we stand up and give a shit about it.

Having spent the last dozen-odd years DJing all over North America, cultivating a nuanced and unabashed love for industrial, and analyzing the industrial subculture from an anthropological perspective, Matt Pathogen thinks he knows what he’s talking about. He’s more than happy to tell you ALL ABOUT IT.

32 Responses

  • Lindsey says:

    I think Allison Ashley’s last paragraph perfectly sum up my own feelings on the subject. It was fantastic to see all of the female points of view, thanks for this!

    • Mattias Axén says:

      As ancient greybeard of “industrial” music I think this discussion is healthy. The Ur-scene was all about provocation and Challenging the mainstream. Main methods included “Showing the audience everything that is wrong”, wth people, society, mankind or even yourself. What have we here? A guy showing provocative imagery? pardon me isn’t that supposed to happen at an “Industrial” show? Seems to me this is a return to what this culture was originally about!

  • JD says:

    This is a great piece.

  • Brad says:

    Blows my mind that you link to the Discipline video and rant about industrial music losing its ability to be confrontational, uncomfortable, challenging… in the same article you chose to interview members of the “industrial community” whose music arguably sounds much closer to pop than classic industrial (specifically I:Scintilla and Ayria; I’ve never heard MEND). I’m not saying those people are bad at what they do, but what hope do we have of maintaining the legacy of industrial music when we so thoroughly give up on the sound?

    • mr. pathogen says:

      I’m not sure what good my piece would have accomplished if all I’d done is boarded the Wayback Machine and focused on bands that A) would not give me the time of day if I asked for their insight, and B) the audience I am interested in influencing isn’t familiar with.

  • Stevey Sephen says:

    im all for a matriarchal scene, myself

  • Lawrence says:

    To play devil’s advocate to Jen’s comment about people assuming her bandmates write her music;
    You perform as Ayria, rather than Jennifer Parkin, so its easy for those not familiar with you to assume that you’re a band rather than a solo project (to be honest, I’ve always found that Ayria sounds more like a band name than a stage name. Don’t know why, though :/ ) and, in bands, the writing work is typically divided between members. The singer handles the lyrics and the music composition is left to the other members. There are exceptions obviously, but this is the way it normally works.

    So while there probably have been a few assholes who asked your bandmates about it because they assumed a lady couldn’t write music, I think its really more likely that people talked to them about it because that’s just the way band’s tend to work.

    Aside from that small point (that I am, admittedly, nitpicking), I think Jen gave a very smart interview and I’m proud to call myself a fan :)

  • Mark says:

    *stands up and applauds Matt*
    Well done, sir. A welcome addition to the site.
    And totally loving Jennifer response.

  • Rodney Anonymous says:

    Despite how I might feel about some of the opinions expressed (which are, for the greater part, expressed rather eloquently*), I have to say that this was one of the best and more original pieces of music writing I’ve seen in a long time. Nice work.

    *Especially when one considers the fact that the average musician has the cognitive ability of a paramecium.

    • mr. pathogen says:

      Holy crap, thank you sir!

    • Kassi says:

      Thanks for respecting this article but I feel pretty offended by the comment:
      “Especially when one considers the fact that the average musician has the cognitive ability of a paramecium.”

      In what way? Musicians are problem solvers. Regardless of what genre you are in, you have to have some level of intelligence to make things work. The average musician also needs to have a technical understanding of their instrument, rhythms, melodic phrases, harmonic structures, notation, collaboration and performing. The level of cognitive function that is happening within a musician brain far secedes that of a single-celled organism. So I find it offensive to compare or belittle someone who has spent years trying to become good at something, and putting their emotions and thereby themselves on the line to express that.

      I standby this statement in regards to musicians in all genres- classical, electronic, industrial, jazz, rock, etc.

      Maybe you didn’t mean anything by your comment, but please understand how disrespectful that sounds.

  • Omi-Polari says:

    The shameful secret of the industrial scene is that it’s a geek fandom subculture. (The last two bands to play Kinetik were vampire role-players and a band that sings about Star Trek.) This is what attracted me to it — I felt like an outcast in my life and industrial music gave me confidence and an identity I otherwise might have lacked. But like other geek subcultures made up of outcasts, it’s prone to the “Five Geek Social Fallacies” listed here:

    http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html

    Many of us had terrible feelings of being ostracized in our lives. So we desperately try to avoid ostracizing anyone else — even people who might need to be ostracized. We’ve all had experience with bullies, so we try really hard not to become bullies. We’re reluctant to exclude anyone, even those who are outright obnoxious and offensive. The other problem is that this “actively hinders the wider acceptance of geek-related activities.” You have to ask yourself what kind of people your scene will attract if it’s a scene that tolerates racism and sexism.

    I also don’t think we need to be like this: “Oh it’s just the message that we’re objecting to, not the person.” That’s too easy. Fact is Thomas Raniner is a racist Austrian nationalist who uses fascist and sexist imagery to fulfill his own personal power fantasy. If you want to participate in that, fine. But I don’t think you should. From the Faderhead blog:

    http://faderhead.com/blog/?p=914

    “’He said Thomas Rainer (Nachtmahr) is a Nazi!’ – true. Listen to him when he gets drunk. I’ve personally heard him spout racist “Untermensch”-stuff on one occasion (Amphi 2010 backstage) and I know a bunch of others who have too. So I don’t buy his ‘it’s all provocation in the name of art!’-shtick. If I had known this in 2009 (when I met Thomas at Mera Luna) I would have never done the ‘Mädchen In Uniform’-remix. But hey, if you play in a band, dressed up as a Hitler-lookalike, you’ll have to live with the fact that people call you out on your shit.”

    • innoxia says:

      You have some excellent points, but I have to vehemently disagree with the idea that the scene is reluctant to exclude people. That is the biggest fallacy within the industrial scene – i.e., that it is composed of individuals united in some sort of camaraderie where everyone feels included and is part of a greater cause. Many people flock to the scene explicitly *because* of its exclusivity tendencies (they’re actually proud of being part of something underground and subversive). And then ironically, these same people balk at the idea that intolerance percolates within their beloved scene. While not a huge Nachtmahr fan, I’ll give this to Thomas Rainer, and others criticized for similar performances/imagery – at least you know where they stand. Compare that to the hypocrisy shown by the rest of the scene, which says it is inclusive, but really is no different than the rest of mainstream society, where marginalization of certain groups is made acceptable through institutionalization of all sorts of oppression.

  • PaddieT says:

    “Tangentially, there’s also been some talk about the festival being an inappropriate place for a political statement to be made”
    Why is it inappropriate? Because its a festival not a protest. If Jairus wants to play Bono and preach at people from the stage fine but dont expect that paying customers aren’t going to have a problem with that.

    • mr. pathogen says:

      Do you say the same thing when Skinny Puppy, Ministry or VNV Nation use their live shows to convey political messages? If you’re looking for a harmless, safe show that won’t make you think, I recommend going to see Hootie and the Blowfish or Skrillex or something, not a form of music whose entire intent at the onset was to challenge everything you thought you understood about music.

  • AndyWWM says:

    “Why is it inappropriate? Because its a festival not a protest. If Jairus wants to play Bono and preach at people from the stage fine but dont expect that paying customers aren’t going to have a problem with that.”

    To hell with that noise.

    People wouldn’t whine if Jello Biafra or Henry Rollins made a political statement on stage at a punk gig. The fact that people object to someone actually voicing an opinion at an industrial festival shows how far the genre’s fallen into shallow mediocrity.

    I’d love for people to either vehemently disagree with or passionately support the points that Jairus made, but to just be annoyed that they encroached on your enjoyment is saddening.

    Industrial music should convey something. Politics and industrial have been enmeshed since the start.

    • Lawrence says:

      That’s a horrible comparison. Kinetik is not a punk show, its a drunken dance party.
      This whole ruckus is less “Jello Biafara making a political statement at a punk show” and more “Loud mouth who stands on a table at a frat party and starts preaching about Joseph Kony.”.
      There’s a time and a place for everything, and a gig at a dance festival where you’re sandwiched between Projekt F and Orphx fits neither of those two criteria.

      • mr. pathogen says:

        It may shock you to find that people are capable of both having a good time and not outright rejecting intelligent discourse.

      • Gotthavok says:

        as an offshoot of punk, like goth, i would hope an industrial festival is far, far more than merely a drunken dance party. and i would hope that the attendees are capable of taking as much flack as they fling

  • John Kennard says:

    The question of the meaningfulness of lyrics—whether lyrics should have ANY meaning, and if so what kind—and at what point songs become mere propaganda/advertisement, and artists political/commercial flacks, are knotty ones.

    But what would you think of, say, an auto-mechanic who insisted on your listening to her political opinions before she’d release your car to you? or whom you’d suspect might sabotage your car if you were of another poliltical persuasion?

    Furthermore, artists are if ANYTHING notoriously apolitical, and just as notoriously when political pathetically amateurish in their analyses, puerile, grossly ignorant of history and logic.

    And where does anyone get any ideas that artists are somehow automatically politically-gifted, or that good art means good politics, or that enjoying an artist’s work means you have to share her politics, or that fans of any artist or genre of music are somehow lifted above the human ruck?

    Bah.

    PS: You can mock MY moral-philosophical opinions on Twitter (@johnkt09), my blog jdkabc.blogspot.com, or Usenet (if you can find me ).

    • polk says:

      ^^^”Furthermore, artists are if ANYTHING notoriously apolitical, and just as notoriously when political pathetically amateurish in their analyses, puerile, grossly ignorant of history and logic.”

      A) No matter how you look at it, this is a terribly written sentence – making it all the more ironic that you are attempting to criticize (i assume) Jairus’ presentation. If you want to attempt to criticize someone for being pathetic and amateurish, maybe take more time to properly construct your sentence before typing.

      B) How can anyone, in their right mind, claim that artists (painters, musicians, dancers, writers, etc) are “notoriously apolitical”. What about Skinny Puppy, or Pink Floyd, or Tracy Chapman, or Bob Dylan, or GIL SCOTT HERON for goodness’ sake? Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivero>>>History and logic would like you to read the memo they sent you a long time ago.

      What about all the art that is produced in support of protests? There are no rules to creating art, if a given artist wishes to enrich his work of art with more than sex, drugs, and rock and roll, it is their right to do so. It is their art. Jairus had a slot on stage, and in addition to playing music, he had a visual presentation (see Skinny Puppy, and Pink Floyd, above). It is his right to present his art however he likes, and to infuse it with whatever message he wishes, as it is for any artist, whatever their medium. Your comparison to an auto mechanic is meaningless, because fixing a car is not, strictly speaking, a creative, artistic process. But Nachtmar dressing like a Nazi and singing about beating women “cause its edgy’ is ok? You dont have to agree with either artists ‘message’, but you can’t try to say that the audience has the right to dictate what a given artist should say, do, create, or be inspired. (as a side note, i think Nachtmar’s reasoning for making his imagery ‘edgy’ just to market his music is one of the most shallow examples of selling out that i’ve heard of in a long time. Playing a cello to industrial music would have been 1000 times more innovative and ‘controversial’.

      C) separate from John’s post, but i’ve read a lot in the course of this discussion the notion of “what business does Jairus (a man) have complaining on behalf of women in the industrial scene?” or something to that effect. It’s pretty simple, we all share this planet together. I am a man, but i have a wife, 2 daughters, a mother and two sisters. My two daughters are home schooled, still young, but listen to industrial music (my 4 year old, asking me to put on Imminent, priceless). Is it honestly that hard to understand that i have just as much right as anyone else (vagina, penis, whatever!) to criticize sexist or racist institutions and ideas BECAUSE I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH SEXIST, BOORISH, BIGOTED ASSHOLES when they grow up??? really? Im not permitted to advocate for a better world for anyone but myself? No one frowns on Skinny Puppy for advocating for animal rights? What, were the labrats and monkeys supposed to put together an audio/visual presentation in between getting electrodes shoved into their brains?

      The same goes for any person that gives a shit about more than just themselves.

      In a similar note to this article above, it may have been nice to hear from some not-caucasian people about their experience in the WASPfest that is the industrial scene. (and for the record, Jairus is mixed-race).

      • mr. pathogen says:

        I’d also love to see that, but I’ll leave that to someone else lest I become a one-trick pony commentator.

      • lucifel says:

        My Chinese husbands opinion (as he follows me to Industrial gigs and is usually the only Asian around): he doesn’t care. Similarly I don’t give a s*t if I go somewhere with him and his friends and end up being the only European. You can actually relate with people based on common interest and sort of forget about looking different or speaking with different accent. Weird that…

        There is only one think I like less than brainless dance tunes in Industrial – political agitation. Last thing I want to hear is an artists political opinions. Universal, timeless issues dealt with unique or interesting approach are good, But political agitation NEVER. That’s why I don’t nostalgize about the good old days of super-subversive-challenging-angry-industrial cult bands, I’m just a boring geek and I’m happy when the bands quote Lovecraft or sample my favorite horror films. I guess there’s 3 “wings” within both bands and audience: the men/women on a mission, the geeks and the party people. And the bands have to try to please us all.

        • mr. pathogen says:

          I disagree strongly with the idea that there’s some kind of dichotomy going on, because it foments an “us versus them” mentality that does absolutely nothing but wreck up the ability of people in the scene to cooperate, see each other’s viewpoints, etc. Also, just because I demand some degree of thoughtfulness in music doesn’t mean I can’t, or don’t, party like a goddamn juggernaut when the fancy strikes me.

  • jmmtx says:

    Wait… who are these people? Other than Jen and I:Scintilla they’re irrelevant to any scene.. I would liketo hear some opinions of actual artists..

    • alex says:

      If you believe that only the experiences and opinions of artists are of worth or interest, you’re part of the problem.

    • mr. pathogen says:

      Alex beat me to the punch, but barring the stunning lack of reading comprehension you’ve displayed (I pretty specifically laid out exactly why, in no minced words, I was asking people from a variety of backgrounds), who exactly are you to say that people’s observations and personal experience is somehow irrelevant?

  • [...] 50 cent words, that’s the way of our walk.A couple of recent articles (you know which ones) have brought us a bunch of new readers (hi!), so if you want to get a better, hands-on sense of [...]

  • [...] bands for their misogynist imagery. A lot of debate followed. In the aftermath Matt Pathogen interviewed some female artists of the scene, asking for their opinions and experiences regarding sexism in the [...]

  • [...] In case you suffer from the dual conditions of being an industrial fan and living under a rock, here’s some knowledge: On the opening night of Festival Kinetik 5.0 in Montreal, Jairus Khan of Ad·ver·sary issued a decidedly unambiguous challenge to the industrial music community in the form of a scathing video backdrop while he and Antigen Shift closed their set. Upset by what he perceived as a rising surge of regressive tendencies in a scene he’s lived and loved for a long time, he threw down the proverbial gauntlet on the subjects of racism and sexism by leveling a stunningly audacious criticism of the acts he was opening for, Combichrist and Nachtmahr, and their utilization of blunt-force shock tactics in their imagery, videos and lyrical content. It has launched an incredible and near-universal discussion on the subject, a result that took many of us pleasantly by surprise.  Now curl up g33ks, pull up a blankie, and grab your hot chocolate because it’s now Story Time with Uncle Pathogen… [...]

Leave a Reply