We Have A Technical 106: Pip Pip Cheerio M'erF'er
Apologies for the delays and sound issues last week, folks! We’re making it up to you with a full hour of classic talking head punditry. Yes, that’s right: all of the wisdom and clarity you associate with the chattering classes of CNN and Fox News being applied to your favourite music! Hurray! The topic? The broader state of dark music, with questions concerning the rise of darker music outside of the boundaries of goth and industrial being kicked about. We debate whether or not a new dark age is moving beyond the ken of Our Thing, and whether the genre markers we’ve grown up with will have any future relevance in a pop landscape now so marked by strange and moody themes. We’re also doing all of the usual show and news catch-up we like to cram into the corners of the podcast, and try to keep baseball and wrestling chatter to a minimum despite our excitement there. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below!
Bonus: Here is a totally legal and legit way to see the match Alex mentions in his recommendations for free!
Dear Alex & Bruce
Thank you for such wonderfully insightful discussion on a topic which has been of interest to me personally for quite some time. Like both of you I got deep into industrial music in my teens, but perhaps unlike you, I gradually lost interest in it as a genre at the turn of the millennium. This was at a time when futurepop had taken over and power noise was ever so gently running out of steam. Being naturally drawn to darker more experimental music, but tired of “the scene”, I began “looking” for this type of music outside of its by and large well defined borders. Over the years, without paying any attention to what was happening in the industrial scene, it became very apparent to me that there was a huge amount of music which shared allot of interesting characteristics with industrial music but never intersected with that scene. The first time this became graphically apparent to me was with the emergence of grime and its gradual transformation into dubstep here in the UK. Before dubstep became a “mainstream” phenomena it was an underground, dark, gritty, deeply experimental type of electronic music which shared much with industrial music. If you don’t believe me, give the early works by Vex’d a listen. Pure industrial brutalism. While Cloaks really took this sound to the next level. A trend curiously (and brilliantly) taken up by one half (Roly Porter)
of the group. Similarly, we now have artists like;
Shapednoise, Demdime Stare, Ben Frost, Raime, Abul Mogard
Emptyset, Not Waving, Samuel Kerridge
Low Jack, Ricardo Donoso, Thomas Brinkmann, to name but a few, who are nothing if not industrial. But, curiously are neither recognised as such by the industrial scene, nor perhaps even more interestingly, by those outside the scene. I mean, no one ever comments on how “industrial” Emptyset for example are. So we have a rather curious situation currently; on the one hand there is this music which is outside the scene but could very well be in, while at the same time this “outsider” music is not very often recognized (by the more “mainstream” media) as being connected to industrial music. If your discussion brings up the interesting question has to why The Haxan Cloak is not been taken up by the industrial folk, it leads equally to the question: why is the Haxan Cloak not being recognized to share a number of interesting characteristics with industrial music?
For me this is where you fellows come into the picture. Where were your reviews of Helm’s excellent album from last year, how about that mind blowing Thomas Brinkmann or Shapednoise albums!?! All these, and plenty beside, fall precisely on that self delineated space you have decided should be the remit of your site. I love your site and everything both of you do, but, it’s still too insular to the “industrial scene”. It would be great, on the basis of your discussion, for you to dedicate more time to this “outsider” music.
Hey Paulo, thanks for listening and especially for your thoughtful comment!
I can’t speak for Bruce, but I think one of the big impediments for me to write about some of the amazing music coming out of the broader left of center electronic community is my own lack of context and knowledge. For example I’ve heard a great deal of really amazing stuff from the bass scene that is dark and I think salient to the interests of many industrial listeners, but my own capacity to provide commentary on it is so limited (beyond just saying “this sounds neat”) that I would feel like a fraud presenting my uninformed opinion. Of course the solution to that is to educate myself, and I’m thankful to have a few friends who are very good at passing stuff along to me so I can expand my horizons musically beyond the areas I’m comfortable in. Maybe some day I’ll feel informed enough to start including more of them in our regular coverage, it’s certainly a dimension that would add something to the site!
You make a lot of good points about different kinds of darker music being around but not represented. Here’s what I know from experience; When Servitor does live shows I have EVERYONE’S rapt attention, EVERY time. I have had fans as young as 10 to as old as 70 go bonkers over the drums and they totally didn’t care about the industrial format, it’s never even mentioned. There is a plethora of belly dancers who all have Servitor albums, perform to Servitor regularly and support the band all the time. Most promoters that I perform for ask Servitor to return to perform again, and I have had promoters who run record labels repeatedly invite Servitor to perform at their events, but they absolutely will not sign Servitor to their label. Why is that? Because they are businesses and they know that they absolutely can NOT sell new ideas to the industrial scene. The clubs will not play it because it’s not 00ntz, and it’s not 20 years old, so the vast majority of industrial fans couldn’t give a flying fuck if it doesn’t sound like what they’re used to. Go outside the scene with something that is new and exciting, and people don’t care so much about the genre or their social standing in a scene, they will eat it the fuck up. That’s what needs to change, but some industrial fans REALLY want to be down with the scene, and obeying the music standards is a big part of that. When performing with iVardensphere, there was a number of times when I could see people really wanting to lose their shit to the drums and dance like a maniac, but it’s almost like they were looking around like “Is this band popular enough to like? I didn’t hear them played 6 times at the club last weekend, what if I lose status for dancing to the wrong band?” That’s a really bad mentality for “music fans” to have. I’m totally not surprised when people speak of things being stagnant. Labels, promoters, bands and DJ’s can only do so much. the FANS need to hunger for new things because THEY FUCKING LIKE IT. The fact that they give a shit whether or not it’s popular enough or that that it’s played at the club is borderline blasphemy for a music ideal founded on musical ingenuity and general rule breakery.
Super interesting to hear the artist’s perspective Sean. I think my own tendency is to believe that you CAN lead a horse to water (I’m optimistic!) but I also recognize that a large number of people in the traditional g/i community are older, have set tastes and generally don’t want anything new to have to figure out.
I think you can lead a horse to water too, but promoters, and bands need to come up with new ways to do it methinks. If people don’t want to have to figure out anything new, I think that’s when you separate into a new entity, go a different way and let them be what they’re gonna be. That means, the people who want to create and listen to new ideas need to be willing to get REALLY diverse.
I think that’s a very fair point you make there. And certainly, when reading reviews or some such about the work of these “left of center electronic” musicians, the best way to understand the lack of reference to industrial music might be along the lines you point out here. I mean, take for example the recent vinyl reissue of Mecanica Popular – ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo.
In my book an industrial classic, perhaps some would dispute the “classic”, fair enough, the point though is that it’s an industrial work. But, the word “industrial” does not appear anywhere on the labels promo, of the reviews I read, no reviewer ever mentioned the word industrial or its related scene. Instead, again and again we have words like “proto-techno”, proto-dance”, “tape music” and so on. I guess there could be several reason for this negation of industrial music. The most charitable reading would be one similar to your answer; the people writing about this staff lack the appropriate foundations to write about it. But we could also read this as sheer ignorance or worse, a blatant case of wanting to misappropriate the industrial music legacy.
Or take the last (or any from his catalogue really) Ben Front album, how is that NOT industrial? Man, people in the industrial scene should be embracing and claiming this music! To my mind this is the only way a scene can continue to grow and flourish. So, to bring this back to your comment Alex (and Sean!s too), I think sites like this need to be doing just that – leading the proverbial horse to water. Digging out this left of field music, teasing out the overlaps and similarities and so on.
A minor response: things like this could also be part and parcel of the whole “I thought industrial was long over” perception from people well outside of the scene. Depending on someone’s age and tastes, it’s entirely likely that the only periods of industrial activity they might be aware of begin with TG and end in the mid 80s, with the mid 90s mainstream crossover with more familiar rock and metal forms (Ministry, NIN, Stabbing Westward, Filter) as a later echo. The idea that there’s been a continuous and at least somewhat contiguous tradition threading through those but so many more eras and bands is still news to a lot of people.
iVardensphere has been signed to Metropolis Records since 2011. If the more conservative/establishment side of the club scene isn’t on board with iVardensphere, what *are* they listening to?
I wanted to offer my own input on how the scene in Arizona has progressed.
DJ Tristan/Iseult started a club night out here called HAXAN that has slowly evolved over the past 3 years to become the biggest scene event in the entire state. It foregoes your average goth/industrial club night entirely for a generous smorgasbord of new dark alternative music, from the stuff that has gained traction in the media (The Soft Moon, 3Teeth, Light Asylum) to the music that only people in the “know” are that privy to but still eschews traditional club/genre tropes. It only happens once a month, but we pack the venue each time.
Interestingly, when this night started back in 2013, not a lot of people were coming out and most dismissed it as just “witch house,” despite witch house only making up a smidge of what was spun. But it gradually picked up the traction that have made it the “place to be” in recent months thanks to his resilience. More importantly, a lot of younger kids (IE people my age) are finally starting to actually come out to the clubs, whereas previously I would only ever see them at shows of new dark alt bands. I personally attribute this to both Tristan/Iseult’s cultivation of the atmosphere, his connections to other scenes and communities in the city, and finding a venue that actually gives a shit and promotes its nights–whereas the previous club, though beloved and adored by the scene and certainly an important part of its history, never did.
All of this is to say that, yes, you absolutely CAN lead a horse to water and you CAN catch the attention of that younger demographic. If you plan it out intelligently, find the right venue, meet the right people, and truly make the music a special phenomenon, you can succeed with flying colors.
Although, personally, I just want a weekly club night of nothing but second-wave 90s goth rock.
I’m so grateful to live in Los Angeles.
DJ and promoter Xian Vox undermines all of your complaints.
She’s coming to Dj HAXAN this month
Metropolis Records ≠ the goth/industrial scene. They had their era of relevance, I guess, but in 2016 it’s like pointing to the later-era Wax Trax! roster of Pills, Expansion Unit, Frontside, Hednoize, Underworld, etc. and claiming that to be fully representative of relevant industrial music in 1999. 😛
I don’t see Chelsea Wolfe as someone who is particularly underrated or any kind of outsider in the trad goth scene. Tons of >30-year-old goths in the audience at the Toronto show last month, and I don’t think “goth” is a term that she has ever shied away from. “I think there is a lot of good goth music. Like when I think about goth I think about Joy Division and Siouxie and the Banshees, and to be grouped in with that is not a bad thing.” – Chelsea Wolfe, 2012 (https://youtu.be/cx8qq-RXbf8)
Do you have a functional definition of “dark music”? Is it based on specific sonic properties, subject matter, audience associations? Or just an “I know it when I hear it” thing?
I just wanted to comment that I thank you guys for this podcast. I had been doing a fair-bit of hand-wringing over the past few years at the “death” of industrial. Lately I have been sniffing out artists in other genres not traditionally associated with industrial, among them Chelsea Wolfe, and finding them to be excellent at scratching those itches I get for darker, experimental, moody, aggressive music. While my musical upbringing was on industrial, I find myself in my age becoming less of a loyalist to a scene and a subculture that seems to embrace stagnation and conformity, completely at odds with the artistic and cultural values on which they were formed. While I have always just listened to what appealed to me, the overlap in the Venn diagram between “Industrial” and “Music That Pleases Me” has been shrinking somewhat. The cultural influences of the scene have leached out into other aspects of broader musical culture and its innovations and aesthetics are going to survive the genres and cultures that spawned it. Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re moving on. While I still have massive regard for industrial (I went to Cold Waves last year and had an amazing time) it may be time to destroy the appellation, burn the old definition and find a new way to unite and embrace all of this great music that is coming out and leaving The Scene in its shadow.
Yes, I’d certainly agree with that for sure Bruce. I’m not sure if you or Alex are at all familiar with Boomkat (the online record shop), but they are very guilty of this. Boomkat incidentally are renowned for their excellent album review, (if your not familiar with them you should check it out), and their ability – and subsequent influence – to seek out and promote obscure experimental types music. (They are hugely responsible for the “popularity” of The Haxan Cloak for example). For over half a decade now they have been strongly promoting, which to all intent and purpose, can only be known as power noise/rhythmic noise very much of the classic Ant Zen/Hands mode. Bands like Container, Kerridge, BMB, Low Jack, Shapednoise and so on. In the process they have contributed to the popularity (awareness?) of this style of music across Europe. But again, not only is there an implicit assumption in the manner the music is written about that this has no real connection to industrial (since this has been dead since the late 80s) but there is no recognition of that which had proceeded it, e, g. Ant Zen has been doing this sort of thing for over a decade. Having witnessed the rise of this dark, noise dance music, I’ve found it very curious that no one has connected the dots to Ant-Zen et al. It is interesting that this seems to me to be pointing to a deeper, more fundamental issue – the one you chaps love so much: what is industrial music? Whether (as insiders) we are wondering if the Haxan Cloak is part of The Scene or, as outsiders (to the industrial scene), we are considering what scene Kerridge is part of, the borders of industrial music are inevitably being considered.
While I think Alex Reed’s defense of “social consensus” as the ultimate grounds for genera inclusion is largely correct, I think that this is by no means the complete story. I think that before people can agree that X,Y,Z really are industrial, an important necessary prerequisite is required. That is, X,Y, Z need to be assimilated into, and partake in, the diverse practices of the particular scene; play the right gigs, appear in the right festivals, figure in the right media outlets, sign to the right labels, be played by the right DJs and so on. This to my mind explains why the resurgence of “power noise” is not regarded as industrial. None of the bands partake in the required practices. A good example here is Ancient Methods, if we go back a few years we can see that no one regarded them as industrial, but now it’s a different story. It’s not like, just out of the blue, we all decided to consider them industrial.
While on the topic of Reed’s book, which I very much enjoyed, I do wish someone would recognize/acknowledge its rather narrow scope. I personally think there is a very restrictive and distinctively (North) “American ” narrative, which sidelines a whole thread of post-industrial (European) music which stems from Maurizio Bianchi through Genocide Organ to Samuel Kerridge. And this is not to do with the actual content of the back but the narrative thread of the book Reed develops, which takes (post)industrial music to merely be a darker variant of dance music. Again, I would not want to take issue with this, but, I do think there is a broader narrative here which has been sadly swept under the rug. Which incidentally leads me to take issue with something you chaps often point to. Your insistence that Reed’s book is the final word on this manner. I have to strongly contest this. While the book is clearly invaluable it is but one (important for sure) word in a much broader, contextually richer story.
^^^ This is some of the material I wish I’d gotten to cover in greater depth. MB (for example) is a god to many industrial fans, but is completely unknown to most—even in Europe, I think. There are so many lineages, and it’s hard to retrace them accurately or completely.
I think Ben Frost is great; did he arrive at his sound by listening to Genocide Organ? Controlled Bleeding? Sonic Youth? Charles Dodge? Or just playing with a distortion pedal and a compressor? Would his answer in an interview be honest? (Chelsea Wolfe and Zola Jesus know more Cleopatra-era goth than they let on, but why would they “out” themselves?)
Heaven forbid my book be last word on any of this.
Interesting point/question regarding Ben Frost (& Chelsea Wolf). While I can’t vouch for his exact musical tastes, it is interesting to note that his second LP (theory of Machines) contains samples from Swans and a track titled “We Love You Michael Gira”. So a direct connection to industrial music is certainly not that far fetched.
But let me clarify my comment in the previous post as I don’t think it was as clearly stated as I intended it to be. Especially as I did not not explicitly draw the intended connection to the general theme of the Podcast. While I would certainly agree that Maurizio Bianchi is not as well known as he perhaps should be his influence on a very particular lineage of industrial music is undeniable. I’m thinking specifically about that thread of music which starts with him, goes through Come Org/Broken Flag and directly to Merzbow. While I know that your somewhat critical, a bit unsure and a tad dismissive of noise, it’s connection to industrial music is an important and interesting one and one which I think should not be disavowed. Particularly in the context of the current conversation, since in my opinion, the best “industrial” music being made today has a direct connection to this (noisier) lineage. Now, it seems clear to me that, both from the podcast (only from this podcast, as I know that both Alex & Bruce don’t necessary subscribe to this) and from the comments made here, there is a strong tendency to only see “industrial” music as a particularly type of dark, electronic DANCE music. In other words, music for the club. This position is reached rather naturally enough by drawing the sort of connection/emphases and lineage you do. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not disputing nor disavowing this lineage at all. Rather, my point is that; 1) there is a, very broadly construed, different lineage which could not be covered in the book and 2) there has for a long time now been a host of “left of centre” music which is more easily connected to THAT particular lineage.
Clearly, Ben Frost or The Haxan Cloak are closer to Maurizio Binachi or Mauthausen Orchestra than, say, to Front 242 or Covenant for example. And indeed, the chap behind The Haxan Cloak is on record on his love and influence from precisely those bands and the lineage of music they have spawned. Samuel Kerridge and Helm have both professed their love for Whitehouse, Beppu for Esplendor Geometrico and Thomas Brinkmann (yes, the well known techno producer) dedicated his last album (What You Hear, incidentally, album the year for me last year) to Zbigniew Karkowski. Moreover, these musicians ARE often open about their love/connection to industrial music, but, for a distinctly different strain of it. Another very recent high profile case in point is the Prurient, right!? Again, his love for industrial music is no secret, but again, it’s more along the lines of MB, MO, Atrax Morgue, Whitehouse, Genocide Organ etc, than Bigod 20 or leather strip say.
Let me just once again say that, I love the book! Thank you for writing it. It’s well informed and well written and should be read by anyone interested in music generally. My remarks on the previous comment should not really be read as a dig at the book as such (I apologise if this is how it came across), but merely as a point of acknowledgement regarding an equally important alternative lineage of industrial music. A lineage which has inspired a very interesting crop of musicians but has also sadly been neglected by The Scene.
“Another very recent high profile case in point is the Prurient, right!? Again, his love for industrial music is no secret, but again, it’s more along the lines of MB, MO, Atrax Morgue, Whitehouse, Genocide Organ etc, than Bigod 20 or leather strip say.”
Prurient actually is a fan of some ’90s industrial dance projects. His FACT mix playlist had Suicide Commando and :wumpscut: in it. http://www.factmag.com/2011/07/18/fact-mix-266-prurient/
Still, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. There really haven’t been any books that cover the full history of heavier industrial/power electronics. I’d really like for one to exist, but I don’t exactly feel qualified to write it.
Good point. A name that comes to mind for said prospective tome is Drew Daniel. Not sure of the extent to which he tracked PE through the 80s, but he certainly has the vocab and pedigree to properly contextualize it if so.
It’s interesting though, there’s a number of really good books on noise but not a single one PE. That’s always struck me as odd because PE, arguably, is largely “responsible” fot noise.
At a party this weekend a bunch of “scene people” I am friends with were at.
We discussed how the future of our scene is in many ways the hipsters and the young kids.
And I said this and I truthfully unfortunately think it- the words “goth” or “industrial” are fuc king kryptonite to both the press and to listeners.
I know so many people who listen to all kinds of stuff but are alienated by those tags. There is something about it that carries such an ugly association I don’t know why.