Electronic Body Music

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What is it?

Electronic body music (EBM) is a style of music that takes elements of post-Industrial, elements of Electronic Dance Music, bits of Techno and a certain amount of SynthPunk, as well as taking elements, EBM has also been a huge influence over these sounds. First coming to light in Belgium.

These early days of EBM aka Old-Skool EBM shouldn't be confused with Aggrotech, Dark Electro or Industrial Music. Most of these Sub Genres will have a certain amount of crossover, but would very much have a different flavour to each sound.

EBM dates back as far as the early 1980s, / the late 1970s. Taking it's inspiration from the likes of a number of the acts that gave birth to Industrial, for example, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, also from European SynthPunk acts like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft aka DAF, Liaisons Dangereuses, Portion Control, and Electronic Dance Music geniuses Kraftwerk.

Some of it's Flavour

From its earliest days, EBM has had a hard, frequently sparse feel, combined with danceable electronic beats, the vocals can be clear and undistorted, or shouting and growly, often sung through heavy reverb and echo effects. Another characteristic would be the repetitive sequencer/synthesizer melodies. At it's inception, the common keyboards that could be heard would be;-

How about the rhythms? The standard EBM rhythm would be a straight 4/4 beats, with the kind of peaks and drops that one would expect to hear in a Rock or Punk track.


The combining of the flavours between EBM and Industrial was a progression from the days of EBM, that developed in the mid-1980's. The flavour of EBM being very minimal in its structure and clean in its production, and Industrial having a rich, full and layered vibe, the two styles combining created their own style. One of the pioneers would have to have been Skinny Puppy, as well as Front Line Assembly, also Wumpscut would need to be mentioned as well. Then as things developed through the club scenes of the mid-'90s, EBM and Industrial almost "gave birth" to it's own style that developed into Dark Electro and Aggrotech.

Industrial Dance

Industrial dance can be credited to, growing out of North American and becoming a term for Electronic Body Music and Electro Industrial music fans. Another term that grew and became associated with this scene was Rivetheads. Rivetheads became the generic term for the fans of this style. This is a term that came to the forefront via the thriving international club scene that was around in the mid 1990's, suggested references and credits for this would include;

Some History

Late 1970's – Late 1980's

The term Electronic Body Music was first coined by Ralf Hütter of German legends Kraftwerk, way back in 1978, it was his way to describe the more "physical" sound of the album The Man-Machine. Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft aka DAF from Germany used a term "Körpermusik" (body music) to describe their danceable electronic punk sound. Later on the term was used again by Belgium legends Front 242, this was in 1984 and was an attempt to describe their sound from the EP they released that year, No Comment. Front 242 characterised their sound as being a cross between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. Nitzer Ebb, cited DAF as an influence, and Cabaret Voltaire, followed soon after, with Die Krupps, and A Split-Second, being amongst the list of bands who coined the term as well.

Late 1980's – early 1990's

As the later half of the 1980s arrived, a number of American and Canadian acts such as Front Line Assembly, Ministry, (who's album of that time "Twitch" probably owes a lot to Front 242). Started to draw inspiration from that European EBM sound. They added this sound to the sound and harshness of American industrial Rock, one band that this could really be heard in was, the Revolting Cocks. Nine Inch Nails continued this cross-pollination between European EBM and American Industrial Rock with their album "Pretty Hate Machine" in 1989, which became popular in the UK through the Rave/Indie/Rock crossover sound of the late 1980's early 1990's.

Meanwhile, EBM was gaining popularity in the underground club scene, particularly in Europe. A number of labels were leading the way during this time, some of the most important being; the Belgian based Play It Again Sam and Antler-Subway, Zoth Ommog from Germany, the North American Wax Trax! and the Swedish Energy Rekords.

Some of the other leading artists from this time included And One, Armageddon Dildos, Bigod 20, The Neon Judgement, and Attrition.

The 1990's

Between the early and the mid 1990s, many EBM artists gave it all up, or switched direction, bringing more influences from Industrial and blending up elements of Rock and Heavy Metal. The album Tyranny For You by EBM pioneers Front 242 initiated the end of the EBM epoch of the 1980s. Nitzer Ebb, one of the more important artists, also went in the direction of Industrial Rock. Without the strength of its figureheads, the original Electronic Body Music was fading by the mid-1990s.

In the late 1990s and after the millennium, Swedish and German groups such as Tyske Ludder, Coinside and Spetsnaz started to make EBM music. In the same time period, a number of artists from the European Techno scene started to bring in more elements of EBM. This also showed up in the newly emerging Electroclash sound and, a number of artists associated with that included, The Hacker, DJ Hell, Green Velvet, and Black Strobe, they would start to lean towards this Techno/EBM crossover vibe. There has been increasing convergence between this scene and the old school EBM scene. Bands and artists have remixed each other. Most notably, Terence Fixmer joined with Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy to form Fixmer/McCarthy.

A large amount of Techno labels included darker sounds as well, one of the most notable being Dragonfly Records a Techno/Trance label owned by Youth of Killing Joke, other notable labels would include Blue Room Released and Nukleuz Records this massive crossing over of early EBM, American Industrial, darker Techno and Trance caused an incredible, large and vibrant underground club scene, although it was underground, it would include thriving club events that would see numbers of 1100 in London, 2000 in Florida, 1400 in New York, 2000 in DC, 1500 in Los Angeles, and similar numbers in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece and many other countries.