“I’d like to be able to be kinder about Industrial music”: Edited highlights of a private email to Matt TWANBOC

Why? Most of it’s SHIT!

> I want to hear music which is primarily a sonic experience. Only bits and pieces of “Industrial” music I’ve heard have managed to transcend this.

You mean most of it’s not very good music?

Hmmm. Does the listener need to know about the philosophical framework to enjoy the music? I can’t answer that. For me, I liked (some of) the sounds, but I liked the whole package of music, philosophy and art. Some of the records that weren’t about music so much as transcendence were good, like How to Destory Angels, and some of them weren’t.

And anyway, personally I question how hard the demarcation line is around what is and is not industrial. I reckon I can factor in Tackhead, most of Bill Laswell’s stuff, most of Scratch’s stuff, lots of Tubby, Miles Davis, lots of acid house as being part of industrial. All of them have as much to do with what I and I think a lot of other people thought industrial was about as someone like The Normal. So it’s hard to say what you’re enjoying just as a sonic experience and what you’re enjoying for transcendance.

I think industrial was adept at co-opting outsiders with the right vibe, especially since there were usually just three degrees of separation between the co-optees and the core groups. For example, you can go: Laswell->Burroughs->TG (and everyone else); or Lee Perry->Adrian Sherwood->Mark Stewart (et al). Of course, if you go looking, that’s what you’ll find — but part of the point of industrial music was that it tried to reveal how your subconscious constructed meaning from music, and lead you to musical synchronicities. Very hermetic I’m sure.

Of course, this argument is really just special pleading to defend the fact that so much industrial music is, without a doubt, total shit.

Nevertheless, there’s a few good tunes in industrial, from one perspective or another. Here’s a bunch of goodies that have pretty much stood the test of time:

Einsturtzende Neubaten: Halber Mensch, Yu Gung (esp the Sherwood mix of course)
Test Dept: Victory (the one with bagpipes on A Good Night Out), The Unnacceptable Face of Freedom
Psychic TV: Arcadia, The Orchids
Cabaret Voltaire: loads, but I like Sleepwalking, Sensoria and Kino a lot, off the top of my head
TG: Heathen Earth (the whole LP)
23 Skidoo: Coup
400 Blows: Moving
Foetus: The Only Good Christian Is Dead

Hmmm. Very much the poppy end of industrial then, rather than the transcendental, noise-tastic stuff. But there are so many threads running through industrial, at what track do you draw the line between what is and is not industrial? Colour Box’s Say You? Heaven 17’s How Men Are LP? (Ace album, very much under-rated, if not unknown, now.) Killing Joke’s SO36? Joy Division’s Dead Souls (or maybe Komakino)? Head of David’s Metal Texas Psychout? Scritti Politti’s The Sweetest Girl (or perhaps the dub of Wood Beez…)? They’re all connected to the industrial canon one way or another, sonically as well as by lineage.

Alright then, here’s some noisier stuff:

PTV: In the nursery
Cabaret Voltaire: War of Nerves (off 2 X 45, errrr you really need the original vinyl cos the CD version sounds a bit weak ), oh alright then Nag Nag Nag
Laibach: Die Liebe (“there’s always been a Deep Purple influence on our music” — actually there’s a great ambient version on the flip of the original Yugoslavian release)

Hmmm. It’s harder work than you’d think, picking good industrial records that would sound good to a new listener today. And fuck it, I can’t think of any more noisy ones. The real problem with them is that you can’t put many of them in mixes, which lets face it the only point of having old records…

> Some contributors have said NWW don’t belong in there.

Hahahahahahaha! That’s really funny. Where the fuck else will you put them? NWW were shite anyway. I don’t even like the Foetus ones.

I always thought Whitehouse were supposed to be a joke band. I mean it’s piss take music isn’t it? I always thought Half Man Half Biscuit were more worth your time. My mate Alan had me convulsed with laughter at HMHB lyrics on Saturday night. (errr I’m not saying HMHB were industrial. That would be ludicrous. Now, The Fall…)

I never liked Death In June’s music either, but the album covers are great. I seem to remember Fields of Rape being good, or maybe I just liked the title. Heaven Street I always thought was rubbish. Test Dept were ace. Live they were incredible. Similarly you can’t leave Mark Stewart out. 400 Blows were great cos they did funk so well — there’s always been a huge element of funk to industrial. That was obvious to me as a 13 year old getting into Cabaret Voltaire and TG.

> However I’ve heard TG, Whitehouse, Coil, NWW and Current 93 all say in separate interviews
> that they were unhappy with being lumped in the “Industrial scene”. That’s so rich!

Yes mate. But look at who they were being lumped in with? Skinny middle class white spods in the main… Can’t blame ’em. Them and dodgy goths sweating in spandex. Christ. “Forgive me for my fans.” acid house was invented as a way of getting out of the rut of industrial culture. Forget all the Oakey / Ibiza stuff, that’s just window-dressing. Acid house goes back to Matt Johnson making an album on E, and way before then Sleazy getting tricky in new york discos… this is all on the public record… somewhere…

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