[Note: this was originally blogged on 3/21/08. Since I have people constantly ask that I compile this shit into a book I figure I’d just start “reprinting” it here for the time. Thanks.]
Due to the writer’s strike I became increasingly dependent on cable TV to satiate my need for mindless entertainment, specifically the weird, mildly freakish mob on the Food Network (we heart Ace of Cakes) and, more notably, Anthony Bourdain’s ’No Reservations’ on the Travel Channel.
For those unfamiliar with Bourdain, he’s a former NY chef, drug addict, and now mainly a writer and travel author whose show takes him all over the world, where he’ll try anything. And I mean anything. He ate a warthog’s asshole, okay? ’Nuff said.
While detractors call him an egomaniacal dick, I personally find him funny and incredibly respectful of the cultures he visits. While he will eat a seal’s eyeball, he’ll also be in the streets of any of the various locales he hits getting “the people’s food” just as often as he’ll end up in some famous chef’s restaurant eating their expensive culinary delights.
What resonates with me about the show is that whenever he talks about countries that are becoming more “foodie” nations, such as this week’s program on Ireland (hardly known for it’s awesome cuisine), he often mentions how the best chefs there are rooted in tradition, but looking towards the future.
That’s my long-winded introduction to something I’ve talked about before somewhat, but have been really trying to wrap my head around this whole week, which has been mired in sickness (both mine and my wife) and basically sitting around a lot frustrated and wanting to not feel like crap– so, in other words, lots of “thinking time”.
Without pushing the tired cliche much further, I’ve been trying to figure out why the hell I like “industrial” music so much, and moreso, why the hell I think industrial is WHAT it is.
(notice I’m not starting another stupid fucking “What is Industrial?” debate. It’s what it is to ME, and maybe me alone, so see what I did thar? Klevar…)
Mostly it seems to come down to the slightly altered porn addage– I know it when I hear it. To me industrial music is essentially electronic punk, which is supported out of many of the original industrial bands coming out of the punk and post-punk scenes in the UK and elsewhere (hell, look at Suicide in the U.S., too). Mainly it’s also because industrial, despite the success of a few key bands like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Mniistry, and others, has always remained underground, much like most punk has (and forever will be, in it’s “best” form).
Devo is industrial to me just as much as DAF. Kraftwerk is industrial to me just as much as Ministry. And y’know what? VNV Nation to me is industrial to me just as much as Throbbing Gristle in many ways.
So let the shit-slinging begin.
Obviously the stylistic differences are immense, but to me “industrial” is EBM AND synthpop AND powernoise AND electro AND [insert subgenre here]. And y’know what? It’s all punk.
Not punk ROCK, like the Dead Kennedys or The Exploited. Simply “punk,” in attitude and aesthetic. Billy Bragg or The Pogues are just as punk as Agnostic Front or Atari Teenage Riot, even though musically they’re definitely on several different pages. But it’s not the sound, fuckers: It’s the FEELING.
Punk and industrial fit many of the same templates– many of the artists in both genres are not necessarily trained musicians. There’s a serious lack of musical noodling in both genres (there ain’t many punk or industrial jam bands out there), and there’s a fuck-all attitude that comes forth recorded and live from both genres. What’s the attitude? “This is my music and if you don’t like it suck a bucket of severed cocks.”
Even though I’m critical of it in many ways, it’s EXTREMELY “punk”, in my humble estimation, to not even give a shit to learn your instruments enough to play all of the music live, as to many purists that’s what live music IS. To “us,” and to be honest it’s more prevalent than most know, backing tracks are pretty much EXPECTED to be used. While it’s fun to bitch about laptop rockers and even “stars” like Ashley Simpson using backing tracks, there are a TON of bands using them out there– we’re just more up front about it, almost like a middle finger to anyone who thinks a “performance” must all be “live”.
We also understand that someone playing a constant loop or 4/4 kick drum is most likely as interesting as watching the leaves change color.
So let’s get back to tradition, as Bourdain put it. Personally, I like tradition, but at the same time think it’s stupid. It allows for laziness and a lack of experimentation for new ideas. There are purists out there who will forever think that Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and those few electronic renegades who gratefully got the ball rolling are the ONLY True Industrial. These are the same dick-wavers who probably still consider auteurism in film the only TRUE film and any band on a label bigger than their pinky “sell-outs”.
Not to say that’s not a valid opinion, but it’s horribly short-sighted in my mind. Why? Simply because this viewpoint in many ways states that any bands that DON’T sound like these originators are simply not “industrial,” when these originators sound the way they do because they didn’t want to sound like anyone else. While there’s a massive host of imitators for every popular (or “cult popular”) “industrial” artist out there, it in no way invalidates their, for lack of a better term, “industrialness”.
And that’s not to say you shouldn’t RESPECT our Great Industrial Forefathers (and mothers, few as are recoginized), but at the same time rules are meant to be broken, especially in the world of the punk aesthetic.
If I want to hear a band that sounds like Throbbing Gristle I’ll LISTEN TO THROBBING GRISTLE (and to be honest, I don’t really want to. I’m not really a huge fan of most of that early stuff. Demote me several “scene points,” I don’t give a shit), but if I want to listen to a band doing their own thang NOW, I’ll listen to Babyland or Stromkern or SMP or Cyanotic or Boole or countless others who I personally appreciate for taking things a step further.
Respect tradition, but be no more beholden to it than the originators of industrial were when they went their own way and assfucked the world sonically. Giving a new name to an old sound isn’t necessarily creating a new sound– experimenting will. That can still be done with club tracks or some ambient freakshow track that meanders for 40 minutes, because in many ways, it’s all still “industrial”, whether made in Fruityloops or Logic or using hardware or software or by banging pipes on the fuselage of a jet and recording that.
Take the gifts that other artists have given you, ingest and analyze them (whether literally or subconsciously), and make them yours. We’re all a combination of our influences, but the more you do the more you bury them and create your own sound.
So get to it, people. Fuck the “audience”. Fuck the nay-sayers. Fuck mass acceptance. Make your music and make it the way YOU want. Perform it how you want, but do it all with PASSION and ENERGY (or, like Kraftwerk, completely devoid of it:)), as without that your music sucks just as much as that Top 40 shit that the masses lick up like so much watered down piss. And remember- there’s as much beauty and validity in eating from a street vendor as there is in an expensive restaurant, and the vital different is the love and the skill in which you present YOUR vision.
So make it taste good to you, y’all. It may not taste good to everyone, but I guarantee it will to some, and that’s more than enough when push comes to shove.