|Stylistic origins:||Musique concrete, Fluxus movement, Performance art, Electronic art music, Noise music|
|Cultural origins:||Early 1970s, London, Sheffield, United Kingdom, San Francisco, Chicago|
|Typical instruments:||Synthesizer – Drum machine – Tape loops – Drums – Guitar – Found objects – Modified electronics (in latter incarnations were added Sequencer – Keyboard – Sampler)|
|Derivative forms:||Techno music – IDM – Trance – Synth pop – Futurepop – Glitch|
|EBM – Noise – Neofolk|
|Notable artists – List of noise musicians – List of subgenres|
Some statements may be disputed or dubious.
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Industrial music is a loose term for a number of different styles of electronic and experimental music. First used in the mid 1970s to describe the then-unique sound of Industrial Records artists, a wide variety of artists and labels have since come to be represented under the "industrial music" umbrella. Depending on who you ask, this definition may include European Avant-garde performance artists Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept., American rock bands Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, Canadian electronic acts Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, or writer William S. Burroughs.
The term was meant by its creators to evoke the idea of music created for a new generation of people, previous music being more agricultural. Specifically, it referred to the streamlined process by which the music was being made, although many people later interpreted the word as a poetic reference to an "industrial" aesthetic, recalling factories and inhuman machinery. On this topic, Peter Christopherson of Industrial Records once remarked, "the original idea of Industrial Records was to reject what the growing industry was telling you at the time what music was supposed to be."
Table of contents
Luigi Russolo's 1913 work The Art of Noises is often cited as the first example of the industrial philosophy in modern music. After Russolo's musica futurista came Pierre Schaeffer and musique concrète, and this gave rise to early industrial music, which was made by manipulating cut sections of recording tape, and adding very early sound output from analog electronics devices.
Industrial Music was originally coined by Monte Cazazza as the strapline for the record label Industrial Records (founded by British art-provocateurs Throbbing Gristle, the musical offshoot of performance art group COUM Transmissions), but soon evolved through the artistic endeavors of projects like Psychic TV or Skinny Puppy. The original Industrial Records artists have very little musical connection with most modern industrial music.
Although it was contemporary to punk rock in the mid-to-late 1970s (such as the Sex Pistols), industrial music was harder hitting, conceptual, thought-provoking and seen as more "difficult" (being at its root an experimental genre, not rock-based music). Whilst punk's revolution was to boil rock music down to three chords on a guitar, industrial's rebellion against the music industry refused the need to know how to play any chords at all. Early industrial performances would often involve taboo-breaking, provocative elements, such as self-mutilation, pornography, sado-masochistic elements and totalitarian symbolism.
The first wave of this music appeared in 1977 with Throbbing Gristle and NON, and often featured tape editing, stark percussion, and loops distorted to the point where they had degraded to harsh noise. Vocals were sporadic, and were as likely to be bubblegum pop as they were to be abrasive polemics.
Bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Factrix and SPK soon followed. Blending electronic synthesisers, guitars and early samplers, these bands created an aggressive and abrasive music fusing elements of rock with experimental electronic music. Like their punk cousins, they enjoyed the use of shock-tactics including explicit lyrical content, graphic art and Fascist imagery. Industrial Records enjoyed a fair amount of controversy after using an image of a gas chamber as its logo.
Across the Atlantic, similar experiments were taking place. In San Francisco, shock/performance artist Monte Cazazza (often collaborating with Factrix and Survival Research Labs/SRL) began working with harsh atonal noise. Boyd Rice (aka NON) released several more albums of noise music, with guitar drones and tape loops creating a cacophony of repetitive sounds. In Germany, Einstürzende Neubauten were performing daring acts, mixing metal percussion, guitars and unconventional "instruments" (such as jackhammers) in elaborate stage performances that often damaged the venues they were playing.
New Wave and electronic body music
In the early 1980s, advances in sampling technology and the popularity of synthesised new wave music bought some industrial musicians greater exposure. As much as some New Wave bands were informed by the experiments of the industrial bands, the original industrial groups also began to refine their sound. Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle experimented with dance beats, and the Cab's (as they were known by fans) album The Crackdown was released on Virgin Records to some success.
These dancefloor-friendly releases began to have a far-reaching influence, and acts such as Front 242 began to refine the industrial sound to a synth-oriented structure, with great success. By 1983, Front 242 had become Belgium's most popular band, although they had released only one album. They released a second album later that year, and introduced the term electronic body music (commonly referred to as EBM or body music) to describe themselves, as industrial music was still considered by many to refer to the artists on the Industrial Records roster.
Main article: List of industrial music subgenres
It should be mentioned that there is much disagreement within the industrial scene as to the current state of industrial, to the extent that some (including artists mentioned on this page) are of the belief that there is no "current state of industrial", and that industrial music ended with the demise of Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records. Thus, the outlines that follow are intended to be a general guide to the evolution of the style, and not a complete list of subgenres. Please see the List of industrial music subgenres for a more comprehensive accounting of industrial styles.
First wave (70s to 80s)
Industrial began as an intellectual movement to challenge the idea of what music can be. The first wave of industrial musicians began performing in the mid-seventies. There are still a number of artists who create music in a fashion very similar to the original philosophies of Industrial Records.
- Artists: Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, Test Dept.
- Labels: Industrial Records
Second wave (80s to 90s)
Speaking very generally, early second wave industrial usually involves sequenced electronics, making heavy use of FM & digital synths. It is characterized by a deadened snare drum sample and a heavy bass drum sample to a rock or techno beat. Vocals are often distorted and can feature "tortured" lyrics. The auto-arpeggiate feature of modern synthesizers is used often, to create complex sounding multiple simultaneous arpeggiations from multiple synthesizers which are synchronized with drum machines via MIDI. Reliance on heavy distortion pioneered by heavy metal also typifies the genre, along with a fairly high number of club-friendly tracks. An element common to this period is sometimes known as the "left hand right hand" mistake. Much of the genre's early work was written using step sequencers, which often resulted in the bass and snare drum loaded onto one track, precluding them from being played at the same time. This creates a sound which gives the impression a drummer is holding two drum sticks, and is hitting a drum with his left hand, and then another with his right hand.
- Artists: Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Numb, Pigface, The Grey Wolves, KMFDM
- Labels: Off Beat (Germany), Zoth Ommog (Belgium), Pendragon (USA), Wax Trax (USA)
Third wave (90s to 00s)
Perhaps as a reaction to the band and rock-oriented feel of the mid-nineties, industrial music made a radical shift towards computer-generated, one-person acts. Eschewing the explosive stage shows that were commonplace, many performances now consist of a single artist on stage, surrounded by computers and electronic music equipment. The structure itself is opening itself up to even further experimentation, with modern equipment making a number of previously unattainable effects and techniques fair game for anyone with enough computer savvy and patience.
- Artists: Mimetic, Tarmvred, Winterkälte, Imminent Starvation, Gridlock
- Labels: Ant-Zen (Germany), Ad Noiseam, Hymen (Germany), Hands Productions (Germany)
As of 2004 there was a considerable amount genre-crossover and confusion taking place within industrial music. There are several high-profile artists whose early albums could arguably be classified as industrial (such as Covenant's first album, 1994's Dreams of a Cryotank, or the first VNV Nation album, 1995's Advance and Follow), but who have since worked almost exclusively in the futurepop or synthpop genres. Conversely, there are a popular number of artists from other genres who are releasing work that sounds like modern industrial music, but without any participation or work with industrial musicians, labels, or media. The Speedy J album A Shocking Hobby is a good example of this — it comes from the IDM scene, but would fit perfectly as a release on a rhythmic noise label. As a result, the genre is becoming increasingly influenced by artists working in other genres. This may be seen as a benefit, as it has exposed industrial music to a larger audience, but some have countered that this popularity is also causing the genre to become "watered down", due to techno and futurepop artists getting increased consideration in industrial clubs and on industrial labels.
Part of the seemingly myriad sub genres of industrial music are caused by the tendancy of fans of a particular industrial artist or group of artists to continue to follow those artists even if they begin working in a completely different genre. This change in style is often described as a sub-genre of industrial, even though in content it might be more similar to other genres of music. For example, the genre of apocalyptic folk was essentially created when a few industrial artists started to make folk music. Almost all of the fans of these artists are industrial music fans, as opposed to folk music fans. This phenomenon continues to shape the label of industrial music.
Notable industrial music artists
- The rec.music.industrial usenet group FAQ file
- Lectro Slue: Description and origins of industrial music
- The Unacceptable Face of Freedom: Totalitarian imagery & industrial music
- Industrial Music Library: On-line repository for documents chronicling the origins of industrial music
- Page by music professor, includes several articles and copy of PhD written about industrial music