THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL MUSIC
By Michael Casano
Between the years 1975 through 1983, a collision of genres aided along the evolution of industrial music. These genres were punk, metal, goth, dub, glam, hardcore, synthpop, and noisecore. In this article, a myriad of bands and albums will be introduced.
In 1975, The Bowery in the East Village of Manhattan exploded with the sound of the Ramones. The East Village was overrun by poverty and heroin. Bored suburban kids from Long Island, Connecticut, Westchester, and New Jersey came to New York City to score some excitement. Punk and drugs seemed to be the scores of choice. The Ramones looked like a parent’s nightmare: long hair, ripped jeans, black leather jackets, and the hint of pent up psychosis locked behind sunglasses and red eyes caused by the inhalation of too much model glue. Punk in England was not that much different. In London, punk was a culmination of pub rock, mod pop (the Who, Kinks, Stones, Small Faces), garage rock aesthetics, rockabilly attitude, and tons of amphetamine sulfate.
“By July 1975, England was in recession. The unemployment figures for that month were the worst since the Second World War.” (Savage, p.108, 1992)
Around that time the seeds of the Sex Pistols had been sown by Malcolm McLaren. Punk was a musical rebellion against bands that were perceived by some as bloated irrelevant hippy bands, as Johnny Rotten sported his Pink Floyd T-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled over the group’s logo. (Savage, p.114, 1992)
David Bowie and Roxy Music were at the height of their popularity in 1975, as Bryan Ferry and Bowie influenced the fashion trends of both genders. Glam rock, in some ways, paralleled punk. Both were very much underground movements. Glam was played mostly in gay discos.
Both glam and punk, despite their subterranean tendencies influenced popular culture, and their effect on fashion cannot be understated. The electronic innovativeness of the dub movement was led by luminaries such as King Tubby, the Mad Professor, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Keith Hudson. With its use of fades, echoes, and submerged yet strong bass lines, this form of electronic reggae influenced bands like the Clash, the Slits, Public Image Ltd., Tackhead, and the Pop Group, as well as the later emerging hip hop culture.
Electronic music was still influencing sound, as Kraftwerk released Radio-Aktivitat. Lou Reed released his legendary Metal Machine Music, a double album of tormenting feedback that left most listeners befuddled. In the historical context of industrial music, Metal Machine Music can present a convincing argument that it was the first real industrial record released.
“In 1976, England’s unemployment figures worsened. By June of that year 6.4 percent of the workforce was out of work, the worst figure since 1940.” (Savage, p.229, 1992)
In October1976, an art show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts was cancelled in reaction to public outrage. COUM Transmissions’ “Prostitution show marked the first full public exposure of the radical theories centering around performance art. Parallel to punk, it involved a merging of art and everyday life that is the archetype of the twentieth century avant-garde.” (Savage, p.250. 1992)
COUM Transmissions was founded in 1969 by Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. The examination of taboos within the realms of sexuality and occultism was their focus. The reaction to the “Prostitution” show was so strong, that not only was the show cancelled, but COUM was banned from exhibiting anywhere in the U.K. P-Orridge and Cosey decided to devote their energies to Throbbing Gristle in an attempt to better understand and manipulate the communications media. Throbbing Gristle was the musical arm of their endeavors.
Cabaret Voltaire formed in 1973 as “Stephen Mallinder, Richard Kirk, and Chris Watson began experimenting with various sounds and compiling types of them in Watson’s loft. Later the trio began buying second-hand instruments and incorporated these as additional sound sources.” The band explored their many interests: “German music, the writings of William S. Burroughs, Dadaism, and military history amongst others.” (Neal, p.152, 2001)
In 1976 bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, and the Clash performed infamous shows in clubs. The spark of punk was threatening to become a fire on the brink of chaos. The Ramones released their self-titled debut as punk raised its angry fist on vinyl. The Residents continued their weirdness with the release of Third Reich ‘n’ Roll and Fingerprince.
In 1977, David Bowie released two massively influential albums: Low and Heroes. These two albums, recorded in Berlin with Brian Eno, were certainly a creative departure for Bowie in a long line of consistently good album releases: Space Oddity (1969), The Man Who Sold The World (1970), The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust (1972), Hunky Dory (1972), Aladdin Sane (1973), Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975),and Station To Station (1976). Bowie’s influence could also be heard on Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and The Idiot, also released in 1977. Brian Eno’s Before And After Science was an album that pointed towards his own ambient future. Kraftwerk continued their electronic excursion with the release of Trans-Europa Express. In England, punk exploded all over the radio waves with the release of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, the Clash’s self-titled debut, the Damned’s Damned, Damned Damned, the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP, and Wire’s Pink Flag. England also showed signs of two other burgeoning scenes developing: the synthpop and metal scenes. The release of Ultravox’s self-titled, Brian Eno produced, debut and the Ha! Ha! Ha! album anticipated the synthpop scene. Motorhead’s self titled debut album was a catalyst for the soon to be prominent metal scene. Throbbing Gristle released their 2nd Annual Report. 1977 also saw the media obsessed Genesis P-Orridge form the independent record label Industrial Records. The band Warsaw, which would soon be known as Joy Division, performed their first show at the Electric Circus in Manchester. In the States, the Ramones released The Ramones Leave Home and Rocket To Russia. Other important albums of 1977 were Television’s Marquee Moon and Suicide’s self-titled debut.
1978 was the year that the Sex Pistols imploded and Public Image Ltd. began. The Johnny Rotten persona was gone, replaced by the new John Lydon, as PIL released their first album. Factory Records was formed as Joy Division released their Ideal For Living EP. Daniel Miller created Mute Records and, under the moniker the Normal, released the single TVOD/Warm Leatherette. Crass recorded the Feeding Of The 5,000 album. The synth scene began to emerge from the vestiges of punk. Other important albums released in 1978 were Wire’s Chairs Missing, Ultravox’s Systems Of Romance, Chrome’s Alien Soundtracks, Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Magazine’s Real Life, Tubeway Army’s self titled debut, and Kraftwerk’s Die Mensch Machine. Other key recordings that year were the Residents’ Duck Stab/Buster & Glen and Not Available albums, The Ramones’ Road To Ruin, the Clash’s Give ’Em Enough Rope, the Buzzcocks’ Love Bites and Another Music In A Different Kitchen albums, and Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance and Dub Housing.
In 1979, four of the most important pre-industrial (or post-punk) recordings were Wire’s 154, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Public Image Ltd.’s Metal Box, and Chrome’s Half Machine Lip Moves. By 1979, the punk scene of 1977 was nearly extinct. Punk was rapidly morphing into hardcore and metal. Motorhead’s Overkill and Bomber albums furthered along this metal trend. An experimental approach began to dominate. Nurse With Wound’s Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella, Cabaret Voltaire’s Mix-Up, the Residents’ Eskimo, and the gothic dub of the Pop Group’s Y were all prime examples of this experimental spirit. A tremendous amount of great albums were produced in the U.K. that year: Gang Of Four’s Entertainment, Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, David Bowie’s Lodger, Human League’s Reproduction, Tubeway Army’s Replicas, Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle, the Clash’s London Calling, the Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette, the Killing Joke’s Almost Red EP, the Slits Cut, Crass’ Stations Of The Crass, and Magazine’s Secondhand Daylight. In the U.S., the Germs’ GI album, the Weirdos’ Who? What? Where? When? Why? EP, and Devo’s Duty Now For The Future were also released in 1979.
Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in 1980. Ian Curtis of Joy Division committed suicide. The U.S. independent record labels started to form, offering the listening public an alternative selection of bands that would not be heard on commercial radio stations. SST Records and Dischord Records both formed in 1980, with Alternative Tentacles having formed the year before. In the U.K., 4AD Records started its existence. The Apocalypse seemed a very real threat, as the U.S. nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union escalated and the U.S./China relationship was still under the shadow of the post-Vietnam War era. Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of England in 1979. Her conservative ideology in conjunction with that of Reagan’s conservative rhetoric led some to question the methods and motives of both governments. The economies of both countries seemed to be getting better, but the improvements mostly benefited the rich. In the U.S., punk became faster and angrier as the hardcore scene began to explode in clubs across the country. In London, the club The Batcave became home to the new goth scene. A host of albums were released in 1980 that dealt with the darker side of life: Bauhaus’ In The Flat Field, the Damned’s Black Album, Whitehouse’s Total Sex, SPK’s Information Overload Unit, Joy Division’s Closer, the Pop Group’s How Long Do We Have To Tolerate Mass Murder?, and the Birthday Party’s self-titled debut. Seminal metal albums such as Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades and Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut were released in 1980. Public Image Ltd. released the U.S. version of Metal Box, entitled Second Edition. The Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex, X’s Los Angeles, and the Nuns self-titled album all urged on the U.S. hardcore scene. Other key album released in 1980 were the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, Gary Numan’s Telekon, the Clash’s Sandinista, John Foxx’s Metamatic, the Residents’ The Commercial Album, Metal Urbain’s Les Hommes Mort Sont Dangereux, David Bowie’s Scary Monsters, Cabaret Voltaire’s Voice Of America, Chrome’s Red Exposure, a;Grumh’s Price Is Light, D.A.F.’s Die Kleinen und die Bosen, Devo’s Freedom Of Choice, Clock DVA’s White Souls In Black Suits, Magazine’s The Correct Use Of Soap, and Nurse With Wound’s To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl and Merzbild Schwet.
MTV debuted in 1981, bringing to the marketplace a visually creative outlet for both bands and record executives to promote music. The Cure, who went from the stark minimalism of their first two albums, immersed themselves in gloomy introspection for the Faith album. Throbbing Gristle fractured forever as their last live performance was recorded and released as the Mission Of Dead Souls album. Despite the death of Ian Curtis, Joy Division released the Still album. Though they missed their fallen singer and songwriter, the band changed their name to New Order and released the Movement album later that year. The industrial scene began to assert itself. Releases such as Clock DVA’s Thirst, Whitehouse’s Erector, You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath’s Deaf, Die Krupps’ Stahlwerksinfonie, Einsturzende Neubauten’s Kollaps, Boyd Rice’s self-titled debut, and Cabaret Voltaire’s Red Mecca all began to explore avenues of unparalleled noise and/or aggressively danceable rhythms. The Killing Joke took over the bleak territory from Joy Division as they released their self-titled LP and What’s THIS For …! Other important 1981 recordings were Bauhaus’ Mask, John Foxx’s The Garden, Public Image Ltd.’s Flowers Of Romance, Kraftwerk’s Computer Welt, Minor Threat’s Filler and In My Eyes EPs, the Slit’s The Return Of The Giant Slits, X’s Wild Gift, Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, Iron Maiden’s Killers, The Birthday Party’s Prayers On Fire, the Plasmatics’ Beyond The Valley Of 1984, Black Flag’s Damaged, and Chrome’s Blood On The Moon.
In 1982, Throbbing Gristle was no more, but from the ashes of the band came Psychic TV’s Force The Hand Of Chance and Chris and Cosey’s Trance album. If Faith was the Cure’s gloom album, then Pornography was the band’s doom album as the world seemed on the verge of ending. 1982 saw some interesting work coming from the hardcore sector: Savage Republic’s Tragic Figures album, the Dead Kennedys’ Plastic Surgery Disasters, Flipper’s Generic Album, The Exploited’s Troops Of Tomorrow, the death rock of Christian Death’s Only Theatre Of Pain, the Plasmatics’ Coup D’etat, Bad Brains’ self-titled album, Discharge’s Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing, and the Misfits B- horror movie Walk Among Us. The industrial scene contributed You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath’s Ache, Cabaret Voltaire’s 2x45, and Die Krupps’ Volle Kraft Voraus. Other albums of note were Bauhaus’ The Sky’s Gone Out, Marc and the Mambas’ Untitled album, the Birthday Party’s Junkyard, Front 242’s Geography, Killing Joke’s Revelations, the Legendary Pink Dots’ Brighter Now, Chrome’s 3rd From The Sun, the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour, and Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age Of Wireless.
In 1983 the dance clubs were playing tracks from Depeche Mode’s Construction Time Again, Soft Cell’s The Art Of Falling Apart, Clock DVA’s Advantage, Cabaret Voltaire’s The Crackdown, Alien Sex Fiend’s Who’s Been Sleeping In My Brain?, and New Order’s Power, Corruption, and Lies. Sonic Youth’s Confusion Is Sex album and Merzbow’s Material Action 2 were two contributions from the emerging noisecore scene. Noisecore would be developed more fully in Japan in the near future, but its roots were in No Wave and hardcore. Suicidal Tendencies’ self-titled album came straight from the heart of hardcore and Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All was certainly influenced by the hardcore scene. Other important albums from 1983 were Psychic TV’s Dreams Less Sweet, the Legendary Pink Dots’ Curse, Killing Joke’s Fire Dances, Einsturzende Neubauten’s Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T., SPK’s Auto Da Fe, Controlled Bleeding’s Knees And Bones, Swans’ Filth, Marc and the Mambas’ Torment And Toreros, and John Foxx’s The Golden Section.
As industrial music progressed, the genre itself became even more difficult to define as its disparate influences led the genre to fracture into many different forms: pure electronic sound, hardcore techno, guitar-driven dance music. The next article will examine the pertinent music and bands from 1984-1990.
In concluding this article, a brief mention of the independent film is necessary. With the advent of video and MTV, the visual images of the independent cinema of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s are certainly relevant materials to consider. The independent cinema’s reliance on smaller budgets nevertheless did not diminish the indie film’s impact on popular culture. Its DIY attitude certainly influenced a new generation of videographers. An extremely short list of influential films are: The Night Of The Living Dead (1968) by George Romero, A Clockwork Orange (1971) by Stanley Kubrick, Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorsese, Eraserhead (1977) by David Lynch, In The Shadow Of The Sun (1980) by Derek Jarman, Polyester (1981) by John Waters, and Videodrome (1982) by David Cronenberg.
Balsito, Peter & Davis, Bob - Hardcore California - A History Of Punk And New Wave, 1996, Last Gasp Of San Francisco
Frank, Peter & McKenzie, Michael - New, Used & Improved - Art For The 80’s, 1987, Cross River Press
Hager, Steven - Art After Midnight - The East Village Scene, 1986, St. Martin’s Press
Larkin, Colin - The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Eighties Music, 1997, Virgin Books
Larkin, Colin - The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Indie And New Wave, 1998, Virgin Books
Mercer, Mick - Gothic Rock, 1994, Cleopatra
Middles, Mick - From Joy Division To New Order - The Factory Story, 1996, Virgin Books
Neal, Charles - Tape Delay - Confessions From The Eighties Underground, 2001, SAF Publishing, Ltd.
Savage, John - England’s Dreaming - Anarchy, Sex Pistols, and Beyond, 1992, St Martin’s Press
Thompson, Dave - Industrial Revolution, 1994, Cleopatra
Thompson, Dave - Alternative Rock, 2000, Miller Freeman Books
Vale, V. & Juno, Andrea - Industrial Culture Handbook - RE/SEARCH #6/7, 1994 RE/SEARCH Publications
Copyright, Michael Casano, 2002