Monday, November 26, 2012
Everyone remembers their first love fondly. As much as I'd like to say that my first love was my high school girlfriend, the truth is my first love is industrial music. I was always a big fan of music for as long as I can remember. But there was no such thing as "kids music" to me; Raffi never meant anything to me because I had The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and yes, even Gary Numan (I still have the "Cars" 45 that my older sister bought for me at the mall.)
It was high school when I first discovered industrial music. I was pretty much a recovering metalhead when I was exposed to Ministry for the first time. It was "Jesus Built My Hotrod" that was getting some pretty regualr airplay on MTV's Headbanger's Ball (the good incarnation of the show that was hosted by Riki Rachtman), but really it was when I saw the video to "Wish" from Nine Inch Nails that really intrigued me. It was the craziest, darkest, thing I had ever seen like Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome but with a kickass soundtrack. Not too long after that, I picked up Broken and from that moment on I was hooked to Trent Reznor's music. But it took a friend of mine to point me in the direction of industrial music. He brought over a stack of CDs he thought I'd be into. Stuff like Sister Machine Gun, Front 242, and Psychic TV. About a year later, NIN released The Downward Spiral which was the catalyst for my soon-to-become obsession with all things industrial. Back in 1994 - 1995, it was easy to find music magazines running huge cover pieces on industrial music tracing its long history. Next thing I know, I'm buying anything on Wax Trax! Records, as well as other industrial compilations left and right; all in the name of absorbing everything this genre had to offer. It's no surprise that I'd end up hosting my own industrial radio show which still airs to this day.
Industrial music led to me wanting to become a DJ and for that, it will always be my one true love. With that said, today's mixtape is just a small sampling of what I consider to be essential industrial music. Songs that I don't hesitate to call "classic" for both personal and historical reasons. So strap on your stomping boots, dim the lights, and dance.
Industrial Music For The Masses
1. Skinny Puppy, "Smothered Hope": One of the reasons I was so attracted to industrial music in the first place was that the music itself had such cool names in its infancy. Back before it was lumped under the "Industrial" umbrella, people described Skinny Puppy's music as "death disco." Dark, evil, and strangely danceable, Skinny Puppy was like horror movies set to dance music. Trent Reznor, himself, admits to using "Dig It" as a template for his own, "Down In It." And in the mid to late '90s, Skinny Puppy's entire sound right down to the scathing, distorted vocals, was practically the blueprint to the entire genre (see: early Haujobb, :wumpscut:, X-Marks The Pedwalk, Evils Toy, et al.)
2. Front 242, "Headhunter": I remember reading the words Electronic Body Music (EBM) and thinking how cool and sexy that sounded. And every time I read about Front 242 the term "EBM" would inevitably be used to describe their music. "Headhunter" and "Tragedy For You" was the first taste of EBM for me and I've never looked back since. Also, remember when Front 242 was part of the third Lollapalooza tour?
3. Covenant, "Theremin (Club Edit)": My radio show, The Industrial Factory, started back in 1997. Before my first show (which aired on 2/17/97) I remember rummaging through a bunch of CDs that got sent to the station and stumbled across the Theremin EP from Covenant. I had no idea who they were but saw they were on the 21st Circuitry label which I recognized as an industrial label thanks to one of the many industrial compilations I had picked up. Upon my first listen to "Theremin," I was blown away. It was the perfect mixture of EBM, synthpop, and goth between those pulsing synths and Eskil Simonsson's deep vocals. I still get blown away every time I listen to this song.
4. Nitzer Ebb, "Join In The Chant": Along with Front 242, Nitzer Ebb was the act I saw most often associated with the term, EBM. It took me a while to get into it but once I did I couldn't get enough. Unlike 242 or Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb had a simplicity about them almost stripping things down to its most basic elements of throbbing synths, primal beats and shouted vocals. Just as late 90's industrial music was almost a throwback to Skinny Puppy, there's now a current wave of stompy EBM that owes a huge debt to Nitzer Ebb.
5. Bigod 20, "Like A Prayer": Producer/DJ Talla 2XLC may be more well-known in the trance/techno circles, but for me, I always associated him with Bigod 20. It's hard to believe that back in the late 80's to late 90's, it was commonplace to find some industrial acts on major labels, but it's even harder to believe that this cover of "Like A Prayer" got released on the same label that was also home to Madonna. Needless to say, I prefer this version in all its German-accented glory.
6. Cyber-Tec Project, "Let Your Body Die (Catatonic Dance Mix by B6)": For an all-too-brief time in the late 90's, I really thought industrial music had a chance at becoming big. In my mind there wasn't too much separating what was "electronica" (a term I never liked, by the way) and EBM. But alas, ska went and ruined everything...this is the reason that I have a very long-term hatred for No Doubt. "Let Your Body Die" was a club hit back then. It was one of those songs I'd always hear at Man Ray and it would get instantly get stuck in my head. And with the vocal talents of Jean-Luc DeMeyer (making his second appearance on this mixtape following Front 242's "Headhunter") it cemented his voice as one of industrial music's most distinctive sounds.
7. Apoptygma Berzerk, "Non-Stop Violence - CNN Version": I read about Apoptygma Berzerk in an issue of Industrial Nation. The album, 7, was reviewed and, according to the write-up, "Non-Stop Violence" was the album's highlight. What attracted me to it was that the song was described as a mixture of Front 242 and Depeche Mode. That alone made me go out and blindly order the album and honestly, I was not disappointed.
8. Spahn Ranch, "Heretic's Fork": I first heard Spahn Ranch on the Industrial Revolution - Second Edition compilation. But it wasn't until I heard "Heretic's Fork" that I became a fanboy. Clean, well-sung vocals that predated VNV Nation and the whole future-pop movement that made early 00's industrial music sound like retro 80's synthpop. This song and band has extra significance for me because lead singer, Athan Maroulis, was my first live on-air interview for my radio show. It wasn't nearly as disastrous as it could have been.
9. KMFDM, "Juke-Joint Jezebel": Around 1993 was the tipping point for me and my burgeoning love of industrial music. KMFDM had just put out Angst and WSOU (Seton Hall's all metal radio station) had been playing "A Drug Against War" which was just a mindblowing song. Nihil came out a few years later and upon hearing "Juke-Joint Jezebel" for the first time, I was convinced that it was a damn near perfect industrial song. Soon after, I saw KMFDM live for the very first time and they were so loud my left ear was ringing for well over a week. They're the reason I started wearing earplugs to shows.
10. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, "Kooler Than Jesus": The Thrill Kill Kult injected some sleaze and sex into industrial music. I'll be totally honest, I don't love everything they put out but the stuff of theirs I do like (Confessions Of A Knife, in particular) I rate pretty high. "Kooler Than Jesus" is easily my favorite song of theirs.
11. Chemlab, "Codeine, Glue, And You": I had a friend during my freshman year in college who was almost as big of a Nine Inch Nails fan as I was. She had a mixtape of all this industrial music I had never heard and I remember gravitating towards this song based solely on its name. To me, this is what I remember as being "coldwave," back when that term was used to describe guitar-driven industrial music. One of the coolest things I ever got to do was interview Chemlab backstage in 1997 back when they were touring with GWAR. Also, I got to see a couple of members of GWAR not in costume. It was like finding out that the Easter Bunny wasn't real.
12. PTP, "Rubber Glove Seduction": This mixtape could have easily become a Wax Trax! rehash. Or it could have also easily become an Al Jourgensen lovefest, so sticking to just two songs from his many bands is quite the achievement. Acid Horse's "No Name, No Slogan" almost became the name of my radio show, however "Rubber Glove Seduction" is the more fun song to play. It's also way more catchy.
13. Ministry, "Flashback": Me and my friends in high school used to debate over what the best song on The Land Of Rape And Honey was. I always voted for "Golden Dawn." These days I go back and forth between the album's title track and "Flashback."
So there you go: My essential industrial songs. Coincidentally the song count is at the (un)lucky 13. Fitting. As always, listen loud and become immersed.