Scraping The Surface
of Industrial Music and Culture

Deftly-D (a.k.a. David Dodson) is a specialist in Industrial Music. For five years, he has been spinning radio shows dedicated to electronic/experimental music including Industrial, Ambient, Experimental-Techno, Noise, Uncategorizable. He runs the Electronic Experimental Industrial DJ List, a big guide about Industrial Music radio shows from around the world (including electronic, experimental, ambient, techno, performance art, goth, noise, & anything remotely categorized as Industrial Music)

Industrial music is a complicated genre of music with a history dating back at least to the 70's and a roots dating as far back as the roots of electronic music itself. With the publicity that has been given to artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, KMFDM and Chem Lab as "industrial artists" or "the industrial revolution" it is easy to see industrial music as the latest trend of music. Seemingly a simple fusion of speed metal and techno. This view completely misses what industrial music is about because it is based on the artists who seek publicity in the mainstream of alternative rock music.

Most will agree that the origin of the term Industrial Music came in 1976 when Throbbing Gristle founded Industrial Records as a distributor for deviant artists including themselves, Monte Cazzazza, William S. Burroughs, ClockDVA, & Cabaret Voltaire. Monte Cazzazza continued the idea with a slogan "industrial music for industrial people." The idea of industrial music was intended as a joke aimed at corporate rock, mass pressing of music in factories, records being synonymous with files, etc. The name industrial became a category for deviant musicians and artists associated and influenced by the artists on Industrial Records.

The imagery that comes to mind from the term industrial music influenced artists like Einstruzende Neubauten, Test Dept, and SPK as well as TG and ClockDVA to explore factories and machines as musical instruments, atmospheres and performance art. Although there are certainly predecessors at least as far back as John Cage and musique concrete, Neubauten could be said to have started one part of industrial music. Including found sound, the use of junk, and particularly the use of heavy machinery and scrap metal in performance and composition of music, Einstruzende Neubauten have on occasion been called the "godfathers of industrial music." TG and Cabaret Voltaire among others have also explored William S Burroughs' & Brian Gysan's cut up theory as applied to sound. Due to these experiments they were inventing their own samplers and keyboards in the 70's before digital sampling became common in either synthesized pop music or in rap music.

TG broke up into three very different projects that continued exploring new forms of music. Psychic TV moved from noise to dark soundscapes to cut up theory to psychedelic rock to acid house to techno and made the Guinness Book of records for putting out the most albums over a period of time. Genesis P-Orrige, the TG member who formed Psychic TV, also created (and destroyed) a cult called the Temple Ov Psychic Youth. Before it's destruction TOPY directly influenced the techno project The Psychic Warriors Ov Gaia among many other experimental musical projects. Chris + Cosi, formed from Chris Carter and Cosi Fani-Tuti of TG, explored exotic music and subliminal messages among other paths. Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson (who in the opinion of this writer possesses artistic and technical genius on par with John Cage, William Burroughs, Hank Shocklee and Brian Eno) joined John Balance in the formation of Coil, participated in Steven Stapleton's experimental project Nurse With Wound (the same could also be said here) and has directed videos (for Coil, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Van Halen, Rage Against The Machine, and Front 242 among others) and short films. Both Coil and Nurse With Wound are very twisted and technically innovative projects that sounds like no other band out there and change the way they create music constantly. Although the work was not used for the film, Clive Barker originally requested Coil do the score for Hellraiser, but the producers rejected Coil due to Mr. Barker describing them as "the band whose records I have to take off because they make my bowels churn." The scores have since received better reviews than the film they were intended for.

With the onset of digital sampling and sequencing industrial music joined at the roots of house music in Chicago. Artists like Front 242, Meat Beat Manifesto, BiGod 20, Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk and ClockDVA are just some of the pioneers and innovators who have permanently altered the path of techno's development. Chicago's Wax Trax Records during the 80's held releases by almost all of the great industrial artists of it's time including releases by pioneers and early industrialists Coil, Psychic TV, Chris & Cosi, Test Dept, Laibach, Controlled Bleeding, ClockDVA to the newer prolific artists including Frontline Assembly, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Greater Than One, KMFDM, Meat Beat Manifesto, Ministry/Revolting Cocks and the multitude of side projects. Around the same time Skinny Puppy originated a branch of industrial music that has continued expanding and influencing modern industrial artists including Haujobb, Project Pitchfork, Mentallo & The Fixer, Oneiroid Psychosis, and Alien Faktor. Skinny Puppy also in loosing one of it's members early on allowed the formation of another highly influential industrial project, Frontline Assembly. Both of these projects have had multiple side projects with separate identities.

In the late 80's Ministry became the first "industrial group" to become highly exposed. With many being introduced to Ministry (who had just changed from the synth industrial dance music of Twitch to the programmed Speedmetal of Land of Rape & Honey) as their only industrial influence, a host of rock artists began forming similar bands that they called industrial without knowing about the roots, while ironically Al Jourgensen of Ministry was proclaiming they were not industrial artists at all and was recommending Neubauten and Test Dept in countless interviews.

Since Ministry has attained the spotlight there have been a small handful of other artists who have moved into the mainstream including Front 242, Frontline Assembly, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and KMFDM. Since it's origin industrial artists have touched nearly every form of music from symphony orchestra & world music (Test Dept, Coil, Foetus Inc.), to disco (My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Electric Hellfire Club, Coil), to speed metal (Foetus Inc., Controlled Bleeding, KMFDM, Ministry) to rap music (Meat Beat Manifesto, Consolidated, Disposable Heroes of HipHoprisy), techno (Meat Beat Manifesto, Lassigue Bendthaus, Frontline Assembly, Coil), and musical forms that have uniquely evolved from industrial music (Skinny Puppy, Einstruzende Neubauten, Haujobb, Abstinence, Negativeland, Laibach, Evilution Control Committee, 31337, Nurse With Wound, Severed Heads, Chem Lab, Emergency Broadcast Network, Laibach).

Unlike most musical categories Industrial music is not defined by musical similarity but rather philosophy. The industrial musicians who follow the spirit of the artists on Industrial Records are not focused on sounding like them but rather trying to do something completely different derived from their own experiences. Because of this there are vast disagreements as to what Industrial Music is. There is however little doubt that industrial music has played a strong part in the growth and influence of most modern forms of electronic music from the synth pop of the 80's to rave, and alternative rock.

Some good resources to learn more about this music include RE-Search's Industrial Culture Handbook which covers many of the originators of industrial music and performance art, The FAQ for Rec.Music.Industrial, The Industrial Page, and although it is now out of date and has many flaws Dave Thomas' book Industrial Revolution gives information and history behind many of the important artists in the industrial music scene. I have many direct contacts with artists, labels, dj's and publications in the industrial music scene and also associated with other genre's of the electronic experimental underground listed at Zero Times Infinity.



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