Industrial Culture, Part 1

by Kiko Matsing

Industrial Rock Banner 1

The first thing I look for in music is edge: it must have rough asperities; it must bite and sting; it cannot be complacent, neutral, unobjectionable; it must be, in other words, transgressive. It is the difference between late (e.g. Große Fuge) and early Beethoven. It is also, almost always, music at the fringe, which connotes not just obscurity/opacity, but, more so, denotes being right at the periphery, hence, of breaching boundaries, which is also what it means to transgress.

Back in the 1980s it was post-punk (Joy Division, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen) and goth rock (The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees). In the 1990s it was indie/alt rock–back when it was truly independent and alternative–(REM, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam), until, that is, what was at the margins became mainstream–appropriated as mouthpiece of suburban bellyaching.

It was thus refreshing to be re-introduced to fringe music in industrial rock, through one of my co-workers in the lab. It is a genre that fuses industrial music and punk rock, and spawned industrial metal, with which it is often confused. It exploded into the American scene in the early to mid-1990s with bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, and labels such as Metropolis and Wax Trax!, which defined the genre, but since then declined in popularity. Artists generally employ the basic rock instrumentation (electric guitars, drum, bass) and pair these with electronic music gear (synthesizers, sequencers, samplers, drum machines), thus incorporating the sounds of machinery and industry. (Source: Wikipedia)

Aesthetically it is aligned with the cyberpunk science fiction genre that couples advanced technology with societal entropy–glitter with grime, utopia with dystopia–as represented by films such as Blade Runner and the Matrix trilogy, and anime such as Akira, Ghost in a Shell, and Aeon Flux. Along with the morbidity of industrial refuse, of plastic and metal, is a fetish for leather. The gothic horror of vampires (Batman) and zombies (The Crow), and sadomasochistic role-playing (Blue Velvet, Fight Club), also inform the dark tempers and tempo of industrial rock.

Gravity Kills
“Love, Sex and Money”
(from Superstarved, 2002)

The song [Guilty], a bone-crunching assemblage of industrial-strength guitar overkill and spastic noise, appeared on a local radio station compilation album and became an immediate alternative radio staple around the country. Gravity Kills were born.
     –Kevin Raub
       (Rolling Stone)

Official Gravity Kills Website
Fan Videos:

Sister Machine Gun
“Hole in the Ground”
(from Burn, 1995)

Combining the aggression of industrial with the pop-savvy of techno sounds, Sister Machine Gun’s sound sits close to Nine Inch Nails’… though the band injects more menace into its sound…
     –Matt Schild

Official Sister Machine Gun Website
Other Videos:

Nine Inch Nails
(from The Downward Spiral, 1994)

[Trent] Reznor rented the infamous Hollywood Hills house at 10050 Cielo Drive to record The Downward Spiral in 1993; he took the door with him before the owners razed the place.
     –Anthony Bozza
       (Rolling Stone)

Official Nine Inch Nails Website
Other Videos:

“Juke Joint Jezebel”
(from Nihil, 1995)

Juke Joint Jezebel… was the closest the German industrial-metal outfit came to a hit in the [US]. The song, which features hard-edged guitars and relentless programming, followed the mold set by KMFDM’s previous (and later) releases, with vocals shined up to add a touch of pop charm.

Official KMFDM Website
Other Videos: