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When it first started

Industrial music started it’s life as a form of experimental music that fought against the norm, and combined that attitude with provocative themes that were combined with harsh rhythms.

The term industrial (in a musical context) was first coined in the mid-1970s when the band Throbbing Gristle formed “Industrial Records” and promoted it with the slogan "industrial music for industrial people" the music on this label was mostly harsh in sound and challenging in it’s themes.

Industrial music has been described as "most abrasive and aggressive fusion of Rock and Electronic Dance Music", as well as "initially a blend of Avant-Garde electronics experiments (tape music, musique concrète, white noise, synthesizers, sequencers, etc.) and Punk provocation"

In the early days of Industrial, the artists experimented with machine noise and controversial topics. These topics were not only displayed through their lyrics, but also through the tone of the music as well as through shocking visual imagery, they also incorporated performance art, installation pieces and other art forms.. Some of the subjects covered in the lyrics included things like fascism and serial killers.

The early days

Some of the artists we need to credit for these early inspirations would be, “Throbbing Gristle”, “SPK”, “Boyd Rice”, “Cabaret Voltaire”, and “Z'ev”.

It could also be argued that these bands took some of their influence from the likes of;- the electronic legends Kraftwerk, the experimental Rock sounds of The Velvet Underground, the creative genius of David Bowie and wild shows of Frank Zappa, plus the sounds that were created by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and John Cage.

Some of these early Industrial musicians have also cited authors such as William S. Burroughs, and philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche as influences.

Early industrial music often featured tape editing, harsh percussion and loops that were distorted to the point where they had degraded to noise, for example, the work of early industrial group Cabaret Voltaire, which Journalist Simon Reynolds described as "hissing high hats and squelchy snares of rhythm-generator". Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle invented a device named the "Gristle-izer", played by Christopherson, which comprised a one-octave keyboard and a number of cassette machines triggering various pre-recorded sounds.

Traditional instruments were still played, but in a nontraditional or highly modified way. The Cabaret Voltaire members' individual contributions were once described as;-
"Chris Watson's smears of synth slime; Stephen Mallinder's dankly pulsing bass; and Richard H. Kirk's spikes of shattered-glass guitar."
Watson created a fuzzbox for Kirk's guitar, producing a unique sound. Chris Carter built speakers, effects units, and synth modules, as well as modifying more conventional Rock instruments, for Throbbing Gristle. "Cosi Fan Tutte" of Throbbing Gristle played guitar with a slide in order to produce glissandi, or pounded the strings as if it were a percussion instrument Throbbing Gristle also played at very high volume and produced ultra-high and sub-bass frequencies in an attempt to produce physical effects, naming this approach as "metabolic music."

The vocals were sporadic, and were as likely to be bubblegum pop as they were to be abrasive poems. Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder's vocals were also electronically treated.

As the sound grew

While the term was initially applied to a small group of individuals solely associated with Industrial Records in the 1970’s, it grew to include artists influenced by this early rebellion.
These artists expanded the boundaries of the genre, by pushing it into noisier and more electronic directions. Over time, its influence spread into and blended with styles including Ambient and more traditional Rock styles, all of which now fall under the post-industrial music label.

The more notable of the artists that pushed the genre towards the style it became known as, were also some of the ones who pushed it into a more Industrial Rock and an Industrial Heavy Metal direction, the two biggest names in this were, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, both of which released platinum-selling albums in the 1990s. A decade where the sound really came to the forefront and even found influences from the likes of Techno and Drum n Bass being dragged in to the sound.
From these changes in the 1990’s, there grew a sound that became referred to by names like - Electro-Industrial or Cyber, some of these styles are often referred to as simply “Industrial”.

Influences on the creators

Genesis P-Orridge and Z'ev cited Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart as inspirations in 1975.
Industrial music took influences from a broad range of predecessors. Many people argue that Kraftwerk were a particularly significant influence on the development of industrial music, Alexei Monroe said "the first successful artists to incorporate representations of industrial sounds into nonacademic electronic music." Dj Rex claims that they were the first band to create this style of sound, being the only band to be broken to the UK audience by the science show “Tomorrow’s World”, it has also argued that Brian Eno had a major hand in creating some of the sounds.

Industrial music started by using mechanical sounds and electric machinery, and later progressed, as technology developed, to incorporate synthesizers, samplers, electronic percussion and computer programming.

Other artists also spoke of their early inspirations coming from such diverse artists as The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, and Martin Denny.

Genesis P-Orridge, known for his work in Throbbing Gristle, spoke about his personal audio collection in a 1979 interview. it is a library of music including recordings by people as diverse as Jajouka, Kraftwerk, Charles Manson, and William S. Burroughs.
P-Orridge also credited 1960s bands like The Doors, Pearls Before Swine, The Fugs, Captain Beefheart, and Frank Zappa.

23 Skidoo took sounds from Fela Kuti and Miles Davis's On the Corner.

Boyd Rice cited influences from the music of "Lesley Gore" and "Abba".

Z'ev claim influence from Christopher Tree of Spontaneous Sound, Blues legend John Coltrane, Jazz great Miles Davis as well as the individual Rock sounds of Tim Buckley, Jimi Hendrix, and Captain Beefheart, along side the Tibetan, Balinese, Javanese, Indian, and African music as influential in his artistic life.

Chris Carter found inspiration through Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream.

Cabaret Voltaire said that Roxy Music were one of their initial inspirations, as well as Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express.

Nurse with Wound cited a long list of obscure free improvisation and “Krautrock” as recommended listening.

Many many other industrial groups, including Einstürzende Neubauten, took inspiration from World Music. Also a lot of industrial musicians preferred to cite artists/thinkers, rather than musicians, as their inspiration. Nurse with Wound dedicated some of their work to the Marquis de Sade, Cabaret Voltaire took conceptual cues from Burroughs, others cited Friedrich Nietzsche, J. G. Ballard, Whitehouse, Walter Benjamin, Jean Dubuffet and many others.

Another well known influence on industrial, was Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Project Pitchfork describes this album as "inspiring, in part, much of the contemporary Avant-Garde music scene—noise, in particular.” The album consists entirely of guitar feedback.

Industrial records

"Monte Cazazza" as the catch phrase for the Industrial Records record label originally coined the phrase "industrial Music for Industrial People".
British art/music genius’s Throbbing Gristle founded this label. This early wave of this music was led by Throbbing Gristle, from London; Cabaret Voltaire, from Sheffield and Boyd Rice (who recorded under the name NON) from the United States.
Throbbing Gristle’s first show was in 1976 and began as the musical side project for the Kingston upon Hull-based COUM Transmissions. COUM started life as a Psychedelic Rock band, but, as they developed, they took to describing their work as performance art, this obtained them grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain. COUM was composed of Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Beginning in 1972, COUM put on several shows inspired by Fluxus and Viennese Actionism. These included various acts of sexual and physical abjection. Peter Christopherson, an employee of commercial artists Hipgnosis, joined the group in 1974, with Chris Carter joining the following year.

From COUM to Throbbing Gristle

COUM renamed itself Throbbing Gristle in September 1975, this name coming from a northern English slang word for an erection. Throbbing Gristle's first public performance, in October 1976, was alongside an exhibit titled Prostitution, which included pornographic photos of Tutti as well as used tampons. Conservative politician Nicholas Fairbairn declared that "public money is being wasted here to destroy the morality of our society" and cited the group as "wreckers of civilization".
(We at Altopedia love a band that has that kind of impact).
The group then ended in 1981, with Genesis P-Orridge declaring "the mission is terminated."

Expansion of the scene

As the scene expanded, along came bands like Clock DVA, Nocturnal Emissions, Whitehouse, Nurse with Wound, and SPK.

Whitehouse’s mission was to play "the most brutal and extreme music of all time", something they eventually described as "power electronics".

An early collaborator with Whitehouse, Steve Stapleton, formed Nurse with Wound, who experimented with a collage of noise, sculpture and sound.

Clock DVA described their plan as borrowing equally from surrealist automatism and "nervous energy sort of funk stuff, body music that flinches you and makes you move."

23 Skidoo, in the same way as Clock DVA, merged industrial music with African-American dance music, but also performed a response to world music. Performing at the first WOMAD Festival in 1982, the group likened themselves to Indonesian gamelan.

Swedish act Leather Nun, were signed to Industrial Records in 1978, being the first non-TG/Cazazza act to have an IR-release. Their singles eventually received significant airplay in the United States on college radio.

In other countries, similar experiments were taking place. In San Francisco, performance artist Monte Cazazza began recording noise music.

Boyd Rice released a good number of albums containing noise, with guitar drones and tape loops creating a cacophony of repetitive sounds.

In Boston Sleep Chamber and other artists from Inner-X-Musick began to experiment with a mixture of powerful noise and early forms of EBM (Electronic Body Music).

In Italy, work by Maurizio Bianchi at the beginning of the 1980s also shared this aesthetic. In Germany, Einstürzende Neubauten mixed metal percussion, guitars, and unconventional instruments (such as jackhammers and bones) in stage performances that often damaged the venues in which they played.

In January 1984, Einstürzende Neubauten performed a Concerto for Voice and Machinery at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (the same site as COUM's Prostitution exhibition), drilling through the floor and eventually sparking a riot. This event received front page news coverage in England.

Other groups who practiced a form of industrial "metal music" (that is, produced by the sounds of metal crashing against metal) include Test Dept, Laibach, and Die Krupps, as well as Z'ev and SPK.

Test Dept were largely inspired by Russian Futurism and toured to support the UK miners' strike (1984–1985).

Skinny Puppy embraced a variety of industrial forefathers and created a lurching, crazy sound from many pieces.

The Swans, from New York City, also practiced a metal music aesthetic, although they were reliant on standard Rock instruments.

Laibach, a Slovenian group who began while Yugoslavia remained a single state, became highly controversial for including things from Stalinist, Nazi, Titoist, Dada, and Russian Futurist imagery, combining Yugoslav patriotism with its German authoritarian enemy. Slavoj Žižek defended Laibach, with the argument that they and their associated Neue Slowenische Kunst art group practice an over identification with the hidden perverse enjoyment undergirding authority that produces a subversive and liberating effect.

After Throbbing Gristle’s break up, P-Orridge and Christopherson founded Psychic TV and signed to a major label. Their first album was much more accessible and melodic than the usual industrial style, and included work by trained session musicians. Later work returned to the sound collage and noise elements of earlier industrial. They also made use of the sounds of Funk and Disco. P-Orridge also put together Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, a quasi-religious organization that produced video art. Psychic TV's commercial aspirations were managed by Stevo of Some Bizzare records, who released many of the later industrial musicians, including Einstürzende Neubauten, Test Dept, and Cabaret Voltaire.

Cabaret Voltaire had become friends with New Order, and began to practice a similar form of danceable Electronic Dance Music. Christopherson quit from Psychic TV in 1983 and formed Coil with John Balance.

Coil made use of gongs and other unusual noisemakers in an attempt to conjure "Martian, homosexual energy".

J. G. Thirlwell, a co-producer with Coil, developed a version of black comedy in industrial music, borrowing from lounge as well as noise and film music.

In the early 1980s, the Chicago-based record label Wax Trax! and Canada's Nettwerk helped to expand the industrial music genre into the more accessible Electro-Industrial and Industrial-Rock genres.

Politics, social anarchy and Industrial

The emergence of industrial music was a response to "an age in which the access and control of information were becoming the primary tools of power."

At its birth, industrial music was different from anything else, and its use of tech challenging lyrics and themes that would tear apart preconceptions about any rules of musical form, supports the suggestion that industrial music is modernist music. The artists themselves made these goals a vital part of the whole, even drawing connections to social changes they wished to argue for through their music.

The Industrial Records website says that the musicians wanted to re-invent Rock music, and that their uncensored records were about their relationship with the world.

If you read on it says that they wanted their music to be an awakening for listeners so that they would begin to think for themselves and question the world around them.

Industrial Records intended the term industrial to evoke the idea of music created for a new generation, with previous music being more agricultural: P-Orridge stated that "there's an irony in the word 'industrial' because there's the music industry. And then there's the joke we often used to make in interviews about churning out our records like motorcars —that sense of industrial. And ... up till then the music had been kind of based on the blues and slavery, and we thought it was time to update it to at least Victorian times—you know, the Industrial Revolution".


In the late 1980s, a number of additional styles developed from the already eclectic base of industrial music. These offshoots include fusions with Noize music, Ambient music, Folk music, Post Punk and Electronic Dance Music, as well as other mutations and developments. The scene had spread worldwide, and was particularly well represented in North America, Europe, and Japan. Post-industrial subgenres included Dark Ambient, power electronics, Japanoise, Neofolk, Electro-Industrial, Electronic Body Music, Industrial Hip Hop, Industrial Rock, Industrial Heavy Metal, Industrial Pop, martial industrial and Power Noize.

Some of the offshoots of this sound that many of you may recognise would include; Ministry, KMFDM, Nitzer Ebb, Revolting Cocks, Pop Will Eat Itself, Young Gods, and Nine Inch Nails, with Ministry and N.I.N.'s having both recorded platinum-selling albums. Interesting to note that N.I.N. were broken in the UK from the wave of late 80's sounds that grew out of the UK Rave scene.

Into the 90's

Nine Inch Nails's. and Ministry's success led to an increase in commercial acclaim for some other industrial musicians; for example, the Nine Inch Nails remix album Further Down the Spiral, which included contributions from Foetus and Coil, achieved gold in 1996. This created a high point for Industrial in the mid-90s and led to a wave of clubs starting to blend up the Industrial sound with Techno and Trance, for example, Dj Rex at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, as well as Dj Ian Fford at Albion/Batcave in Manhattan, also clubs like Perversion in Los Angeles and many many clubs across Europe. All this mixing of sounds and genres led to another wave and another development in the saga of awesome music that was generated by Industrial, leading on to a whole world of acts starting to combine that dance sound with an Industrial vibe. Around this time, Electronic Body Music became a term that many became familiar.

Also, there was a whole world of bands in the 90's that added to this ever growing musical rebellion, bands such as Gravity Kills, whose self-titled debut sold almost half a million copies, including some chart and radio success, there was also great commercial success for Industrial Rock acts like;- Marilyn Manson, who started to combine his sound with Industrial Heavy Metal and ended up releasing multiple platinum selling albums. Other acts worth checking out would include;- Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly, Pop Will Eat Itself, Covenant, White Zombie, (especially the remixes), Fear Factory (again, especially the remixes), Apoptygma Berzerk, Project Pitchfork, VNV Nation, Suicide Commando, Sheep On Drugs, Cubanate, The Young Gods, Razed in Black, Chemlab, In Strict Confidence, Wumpscut, Leæther Strip, 16 Volt, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Velvet Acid Christ, X Marks The Pedwalk, Steril, Cubanate and Ultraviolence

Combining with Techno

In the late '90's, Techno and Trance record labels like Dragonfly and Blue Room started to produce darker sounding tracks and a number of Industrial artists started to put out more Techno/Trance sounding remixes, these two ends of the music spectrum collided together, not only did they collide together, they also left their stamp on each other as well, with artists from each side starting to combine more and more sounds from each others side into tracks.

Initially this grew out of a thriving club scene, Industrial was being mixed in clubs next to Techno and Trance, Dj Rex at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, a few of the Djs at Slimelight, Dj Ian Fford (Albion/Batcave in New York), Perversion in Los Angeles, and a number of clubs across Europe. This all led on to an eclectic scene, with Industrial, mixed with Gothic, mixed with Rock, mixed with Techno/Trance, mixed with Punk, electronic 80s and Synthpop, it was an exciting and open-minded vibe

All this mixing of sounds and genres led to another wave and another development in the saga of awesome music that was generated by Industrial. Some of the acts we should credit with this move from the Industrial side of the music world would have to include;-
Apoptygma Berzerk, Combichrist, Covenant, Culture Kultur, Das Ich, Front Line Assembly, Funker Vogt, Hocico, Icon of Coil, Massiv in Mensch, Neuroticfish, Rotersand, Soman, VNV Nation.

Then from the Techno/Trance side of life, we would have to thank the likes of;-
Corvin Dalek, Delerium, Empirion, Hypetraxx, Jon The Dentist, Mauro Picotto, Organ Donors, Sun Project, Zodiac Youth, Dj Scot Project, Samantha Fu, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy.

There are of course countless more, please anyone feel free to add to this list!

Some industrial bands

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