Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FVCK INDVSTRIAL

As I do on most weekdays, I'm sitting here in front of my computer, working on remixes, new songs, etc.. but, also, as I do on most days, I wander over to Facebook now and again to see what's going on in the lives of my 199 friends. Today's mindless surfing brought me to a recent article from I Die: You Die, which in the most chipper of fashions the author hails that "Revolution has come to the industrial scene!" He praises it for many things, some of which I agree with, but his assertion of the Rebirth of the North American Industrial Scene is so off the mark that I am compelled to write my own rant deriding it. Now, it's true, I am quite often a pessimist, but I do like to look on the bright side from time to time. And, as someone who has traveled across the globe, experiencing various incarnations of this little scene of ours, I feel like my perspective may be a bit helpful.

Off the bat, I will admit that I do not feel very close to the "industrial" scene. I come from the dark electronic music scene, it has offered me a platform to build my band and share my music with the world. But from the beginning, like with all scenes, I felt a bit put off by the arrogance espoused by those who believe that belonging to some rigidly structured subculture was somehow less conformist than being a mainstream pop artist. I mean, really, whatever clothes you put on, whatever music you listen to, if it does not represent you 100%, then it is merely a costume, and therefore a total sham. I can't tell you how often I have been mocked for liking hip hop, or how often I get crazy looks backstage when I put on Madonna to warm up. I simply cannot reconcile that kind of closed mindedness, especially from people who want to pretend that they are open minded.

But I digress. I'm here to tear apart an article, not go on a tirade about why I hate scenes.

The author offers up five points, the first of which hails the opening of Club Complex in Los Angeles as a sign of the virility of the North American industrial scene. First off, I love Complex, I love the concept, I love the vibe. I've been there many times, the owner is a friend of mine. But let's be real. The scene in Los Angeles has ALWAYS been great. From my days of using fake ID's to get into Nocturne and Dungeon, up to the present when Aesthetic Perfection draws 800+ people at Das Bunker (the largest crowd we have EVER drawn ANYWHERE in the world), I have never seen a dip in the enthusiasm and passion LA folks have had for this kind of music. In fact, I believe that the fact that Complex has opened here is a testament to the Los Angeles scene, and not the North American scene at large. I would go so far as to suggest that if such a club opened anywhere else, it would flop.

He continues by boasting about the North American festivals. Which leaves me thinking; "Uhm, have you ever even been to a European festival?" Wave Gotik Treffen has an annual average attendance of 20,000 people. M'era Luna brings in around 25,000. I have played all 3 of the North American Festivals he mentioned. I am friends with all the promoters. They are all awesome people investing tons of money to trying to breathe life into this scene. But to try and compare them to the German festivals is simply disingenuous.

Our intrepid author continues on by insisting that the resurgence of older Cold Wave bands is somehow indicative of progress. While it may be great to see some fire still burning in the bands that helped forge the American sound, I'd rather see new bands shaking things up. There will ALWAYS be a market for great bands of the past. But we need to be focusing on the future.

Forging on, the author makes the assertion that the new Skinny Puppy record being released on an industrial label is GOOD for the scene. That somehow their faith in this label is a testament to it's strength… or… something? On the whole, I feel this is totally irrelevant. Metropolis is THE label for this kind of music. Hands down. From my personal experience, the type of freedom and support they offer their bands is something most artists on other labels could only hope for. I quite enjoyed this record, as I think a lot of people did, but we have to be honest about our North American sensibilities, and how they fit into the global market. The new SP record will NOT be released in Europe. Sonic Seducer recently reported, and I quote, "fans were no longer interested in listening to, or paying for, Skinny Puppy's sound experiments, which is why SPV decided to pass on licensing this record."

I think this is quite a statement about how the old world views our tastes in music. To me, passing on a band like SP is absurd, but they did it because it wasn't economically viable. Just sit and think about that. Let it sink in. The most influential and important North American industrial band is not economically viable in Europe.

EDIT: IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. THE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY SONIC SEDUCER IS INACCURATE. THE NEW SP ALBUM WILL BE DISTRIBUTED IN EUROPE VIA METROPOLIS RECORDS.

In his final point, he contends the new wave of minimal, dark alt, minimal synth, whatever the hell you want to call those hipster bands coming out right now is beneficial to us, because their success will add credibility and cross pollinate our scenes. My prediction is that is is absolutely, positively, 100% not the case. My very unscientific position is that we are dealing with hipsters, and hipsters are even more elitist and arrogant than the industrial scene! Because a bunch of people from our scene enjoy what they are doing, does not mean that it will be reciprocated by them. What I suspect even more, is that as our bands begin to incorporate the styles and inspirations used by these hipsters, once they notice, they will immediately move on to a whole new kind of music. That is what being a hipster is all about! My more scientific position relates to the fact that our scene is REVILED by the majority of other scenes out there. And this, I believe, is the key to what is holding the genre back, and what has held it back for so many years.

You would be surprised how quickly one is to judge you negatively when you tell them you make "industrial" music. You would be surprised at how quickly your demo is rejected for review by the music magazines, you would be surprised how quickly your album is thrown into the trash by blogs like Pitchfork. Lots of people like to pretend that this is somehow related to the masses being against aggressive electronic music. Well, the current trend of dark electronic music being consumed by the masses would seem to counter such a claim. Skrillex is pretty goddamn heavy, TRUST is pretty goddamn dark and Grimes is pretty goddamn gothy. From my point of view, what is really holding the scene back, is the fact that the majority of the music is terrible. Terribly produced, terribly written and terribly performed. The soul that gave us credibility back in the 80's and 90's is all but gone. Style over substance, ego above humility, the drive to be unique quashed by the fear of not being accepted. Think of any other genre where the vocalist of a band is not THE defining sound of that band. How many vocalists in this scene can you count that have a voice you KNOW the second you hear it? Certainly not that many. A handful? And those are the top players in our scene.

Mind you, I am willing to concede that there is A LOT of terrible music out there that has become successful, and there is some outstanding scene music that gets no recognition at all. Why them and not us? Well, it's been my experience that what one lacks in talent can often be made up for in hard work or an awesome gimmick, but I don't see many bands investing a lot of effort into their live shows, their music videos or their image. Practically none of our bands are willing to put any sort of real effort into their musical endeavors.

What I do see are amateurs at all levels. Bands performing their lackluster music in a lackluster fashion. Promoters that are fans first, and businessmen second. People who would rather spend their time backstage drinking with the band than making sure that their event is running smoothly and making money. For the people behind the scenes, this is work, it isn't a social club. This type of attitude is NOT prevalent in mainland Europe. Sure, promoters may be fans, but their number one goal is to turn a profit. This may seem counter to DIY culture, but from my perspective, DIY means "DO IT YOURSELF" as in "DO SOMETHING"! DO ANYTHING! Get off your ass and work. Save your namedropping and douche-baggery for AFTER the show.

As I said at the beginning, I am indeed a pessimist, and a lot of what I see going on in our scene here in the Americas makes me even more so, but I'm not blind, I do see a bright side. We've got some seriously talented up and comers in this scene. Guys with attitude, flair and killer music to boot. We've got hard working, driven promoters who are equal parts fan and businessman. I feel invigorated by the hunger I see in the eyes of this young blood. It motivates me to work even harder. To tour more and bleed for the music I love so much. Is it even industrial anymore? To me, no. I feel no more connected to Throbbing Gristle than I do to The Beatles. "Industrial" means nothing to me anymore. It's a label used by those who are just as elitist as the hipsters who won't let us into their party. Let's be ourselves. Let's find our passion again. Let's find our REAL voices and be heard. Let's create a whole new era of dark electronic music. Let's stop looking back and march forward into the fire. Whatever's left will be the best of us.

24 comments:

CrimsonFrost said...

Fucken right on! :) agree with you 100%

MentheAddikt said...

I applaud you, sir

Bryan Lynch said...

I didn't know it had gotten so bad... I guess I've been out of the scene so long I forgot what it was when I left it.
Personally, I've stuck true to Aesthetic Perfection, Grendel, Nachtmahr, and before they broke up; Nurzery [Rhymes]. Skinny Puppy was never that appealing to me, or at least what I heard from them wasn't. I haven't seen anything that seemed like hipster industrial, but then again I've been out of the scene for three years...
I can, however, relate to your rant. Because the same thing is happening to the Electronic Dance Music scene. Dubstep is an umbrella term for anything with a bassdrop added to it, electro now consists of any kind of music with a kick-snare drumline, and as long as it has synths in it, it can be conidered a part of the EDM scene. I hate it... I hate it so much. And in reading your rant I realized that we are at a similar path but at two different sides of the table. I don't produce electronic music but I sure do listen to a whole lot of it.

Amber Gregory said...

This is great. I agree with you, except seeing as I come from a background in hipster-indie SF, I am NOT surprised at how fast Pitchfork would throw something industrial-based in the trash without looking at it. Also, fuck Pitchfork :P

I really relate to what you've said here and will be checking out M'era Luna this summer (traveling to Germany for the first time to do it). And as a music photographer, the line between being a fan more than a businessperson often means the difference between success and failure, so these lessons apply to more than just promoters. Thanks for giving me so much to think about today.

TheFatControlleR said...

Huzzah!! Someone talking sense... ;)

matt pathogen said...

Aight, well, one, if you think I was making any comparisons between Kinetik, et al. and European festivals, you weren't really picking up what I was putting down. Much of my point was that North America's industrial tradition bottomed out once we jumped on the, "Let's be exactly like Europe," bandwagon, so no, I was not claiming that our festivals rival theirs. I don't really care if they ever rival Europe's festivals. I care that we can hold our own festivals and have them do something aside from crash and burn. I know you've been around the block and that you're aware of how many times people have attempted to get festivals going only to have them canceled at the last minute because they ran out of money as soon as it came time to book hotel rooms. The fact that you've had three North American festivals to play AT ALL is what is good.

Second, is the Sonic Seducer article actually quoting anyone in particular or is it just speculating? I don't see anything actually being referenced.

Thirdly, I think you mistook my statement in general for something it's not. I don't know how closely you actually read the article, but my argument was not, "Everything is so fucking amazing and we're all winning." Instead, it was that there is evidence available that, after long years of industrial (or dark electronic or spooky techno or Tuvan throat death electronics or whatever you want to claim you are) being neglected or relegated to juggalo levels of being taken seriously, it is being rediscovered and people are taking notice and taking it seriously again. I guess I'm sick of being pessimistic about everything because it made me zero fun to be around. I'm happy that people are rediscovering what made American industrial cool and attractive again instead of just aping pseudo-rave style and scoffing at people wearing shoes instead of moon boots.

Finally, in regards to promoters who are fans first and pros second, I get what you're saying and I think that's one of the unfortunate realities of a scene being a labor of love instead of a profit-driven industry. I've personally grown tired of discussing the music, the scene, or anything involved therein with most vocal proponents of the European model of success because it seems like the labor of love aspect has died on the vine and now everyone seems to just care about what they can get from the big electronic music smash-and-grab before it all collapses around them. It's depressing and not an attitude I'm interested in.

Eklypse said...

It shocked me the fact that Skinny Puppy is not going to be released in Europe... that's a huge mistake, lots of friends of mine are fans (I live in Europe by the way) and they love their new job. God bless internet, so they will be able to buy and, for those who consider it doesn't worth it, download it. I live in Spain and for better or worst, piracy is not prosecuted.

Anyway, I agree with you in the terms that labels should be erased, Industrial is a big label to put on to something and actually your las CD I don't think they should be under this umbrella. Maybe you should have never been under this umbrella. I like electronic music. Generally, with some exceptions, and that's what you do: quality electronic music. So as long as you do this kind of stuff, I'll be your fan.
And about American scene... It happens the same shit in Europe sometimes. Maybe not in Germany (I've heard a Lady Gaga song in the middle of a session at Moritzbastei, during the WGT, and everybody was dancing), but in Spain everybody says that if you're playing in a gothic club, you're just allowed to play gothic music. What if the Dj is in the mood to play Madonna, as you said? some of their lyrics, even she's the Mainstream Pop Queen, I consider they're gothic enough to be played in a goth club, like "Oh father", and even some of her videos had a clear gothic influence. Who is the "Master" (or whatever you may call it) to decide what's gothic and what's not gothic? IAMX played in WGT this year, they are more pop than gothic to me, and the agra was crowded watching them play.
Anyway. I don't care about magazines, stores or whatever. I buy and listen what I want and what makes me feel something, no matter the genere. Music is music. Fuck labels, fuck scenes

Reconfigure said...

I don't constantly keep my ears open and sift through everything anymore, because it gets tiring, but there honestly isn't much out there now that I would consider "Industrial." I also don't bother with subsubgenre (not a typo) labels to define groups of two or three bands which sound SLIGHTLY different than a group of another two or three bands/artists.

I agree with you completely on the idea that aggressive, serious or angry electronic music is almost always a turn-off to most people... but that's sort of the point. What matters is what fraction of the public it really appeals to at any given time, and I think the level of ridiculousness and lack of real creativity over the last ten years or so definitely doesn't help, so I agree with your assessment of the material and image not being decent enough to attract more people. I think a lot of artists could do better by making something which contributes, rather than just labeling themselves Industrial and making a song called "Pong" or some other crap. Take it a little more seriously. Differentiate yourself from others who may seem more generic, even if you end up calling back to older 80s and 90s image and sound elements.

In reference to the "Rebirth" article, it's good to see people being enthusiastic at least concerning bands and North American festivals, because compared to Europe, they are lacking in number and substance. I went to WGT in 2011 (saw you milling around), and have yet to get to a North American festival -- mostly due to a lack of variance in the bands' styles. But I agree with you that whatever those subsubgenres he mentioned are, there probably won't be any transfer to darker or aggressive stuff unless existing and/or new artists make it, and if people respond to what they make. If there's nothing "industrial" or "dark" or aggressive in electronic music for people to discover which they actually like, the whole thing goes nowhere.



Daniel Graves said...

You inferred that the North American Festivals are successful and profitable and they have become destinations for people from all over the world. Can you demonstrate that? How do you know these N.A. festivals are profitable? I see nothing wrong with using European festivals as a bar in which to compare other similar events. They're great festivals with dedicated organizers, but that doesn't mean they are "successful" in a business sense.

The Sonic Seducer article says that because of poor sales of their last records, SPV has decided to pass on the new SP album.

Thirdly I reject your claim that people are taking us seriously again because from my experience, no one is, and I find your arguments unconvincing.

If you believe the way to run a music festival or a tour or a scene is on love and not money, then please, for the love of god, never ever work with me. This is a labor of love. I'm not a rich man. I live paycheck to paycheck. Which makes each paycheck very important to me. Because you love something doesn't mean you should treat it frivolously and unprofessionally. I find your position irritating at best, and infuriating at worst (when people like you book me for a show and can't pay me at the end of the night but "it's cool, we're here for the music, right?")

matt pathogen said...

I dunno man, I'd love to discuss this with you rationally but I'd really like for you to stop taking it so personally when I'm just trying to correct you on what my statement was. I actually did promote a fair amount of shows and, while I was far from perfect and made a lot of mistakes, do think I treated most of the bands fairly and paid out guarantees as agreed to, because I believed in not booking a show unless you could deal with taking a loss. So your saying "people like me" is pretty fucking infuriating as well considering you have absolutely no idea what my values are in terms of professionalism. Stop trying to be catty and actually talk to me, it might actually be enjoyable.

Daniel Graves said...

You have to understand that I take my work very seriously, and I find it annoying when people talk about touring and music as if it is just a hobby. It isn't it's what pays my rent, puts food on my table...

"I've personally grown tired of discussing the music, the scene, or anything involved therein with most vocal proponents of the European model of success because it seems like the labor of love aspect has died on the vine and now everyone seems to just care about what they can get from the big electronic music smash-and-grab before it all collapses around them. It's depressing and not an attitude I'm interested in."

What evidence do you have to support the claim that anyone making money is simply in it just to smash and grab? All this says to me is "The European market is successful, and therefore soulless, therefore I am not interested in it." I find that absurd to the point of being offensive, especially when people who think that way book me for shows.

matt pathogen said...

Well, I don't really like to look at things in an either/or sense is the thing. I don't think the only two possible models are labor of love/hobbyist/etc. or purely business-oriented professionalism. I do understand your frustration with fly-by-night promoters who think their job is essentially over once they book the show and find a venue, and assume that everything is going to work itself out in the end, then cut and run when they realize inviting 5,000 people from Belize to their Facebook event isn't going to cut the mustard. That's utterly and totally understandable, and I can't stand them either, because they make everyone who does take pride in doing a good job and doing right by their talent look bad by extension. Hell, Chicago lost a LOT of shows for years on end because one promoter managed to fuck up an entire festival so badly that it scared everyone off! Coincidentally he also spent most of the time drunk backstage thinking that he could gain rockstar status through osmosis.

However I also really don't like it when people treat music like it's a hedge fund instead of a form of art, which is an attitude that I've come in contact with a lot and has really turned me off. I don't speak in terms like "sellout" or disparage success off the cuff out of some deluded idea that being broke is romantic, and I know quite well that love don't pay the bills. Really, the only issue I have with the European scene being more viable is that it leads people over on this side of the pond to blindly emulate it and expect everything to turn out great, when that clearly hasn't worked too well. I'm not crazy interested in a lot of the music and aesthetic coming out of Europe purely for subjective reasons, but my argument has a lot more to do with wanting American industrial to find its way instead of riding Europe's coattails when the two have extremely different situations.

matt pathogen said...

Also I don't think I actually made the argument that Kinetik is profitable, and I'm pretty sure Terminus lost its ass last year. I do know that I met a lot of people from faraway lands where they speak, like, Swedish and all sorts of weird shit at Kinetik over the years and who get excited about it as well as with the festivals closer to home. After the sheer amount of festivals that have collapsed under the weight of the unrealistic hopes of their organizers, just being around for six years in the case of Kinetik is cool enough for me to call it successful.

Sugacubb said...

Well said, that is why i am looking forward to moving back to Germany in the fall......see you over there.

squarewavproductions said...

Matt: go back to whatever it was you were doing before you started journalism. You suck at it.

matt pathogen said...

hi dave, nice to talk to you again too

MrNullDevice said...

I've already had my commentary thread with Uncle Pathogen on his fb, but it occurred to me after reading this to add a few things relevant to what was said above.

A counter example to the "festivals are doing great" is that the worldwide-drawing, multi-band and multi-label German festivals draw 20-25k once a year...and a single-label London drum-n-bass night can draw 5000 *every two months.*

It's hard to argue the vibrancy of a scene when basically every other "underground" scene is kicking your ass, population-wise.

One of the biggest stifling influences, and possibly why it's, as you say, terrible, is that the scene is small enough that everyone knows everyone else. Subsequently nobody gives a straightup, honest criticism, for fear of offending their buddy (or at the very least, for fear of not being asked to play at their next gig or fear of never being able to get into the lead singer's knickers). Even the music review sites are shockingly uncritical (and often awful), leading to a lot of back-patting and self-congratulation. I suppose I can't talk too much, as I've always couched my criticisms VERY carefully to avoid the cycle of butthurt and friendloss that accompanies an average "your song is terrible" criticism (I'm 40, I can't afford to lose friends). Some people are thick-skinned enough to handle it (I like to think I am, anyway), but most people just aren't for one reason or another, so instead of criticism, constructive or otherwise, we get a lot of "your album is so raw and lo-fi" (instead of "yeah, running everything through a distortion plugin isn't exactly shifting any paradgims, here").

If everyone is convinced everything is great and awesome and has been since 1995, nothing will ever move forward.

But then again, maybe nobody really wants to; for all the handwringing and navel-gazing about the health of the scene, maybe secretly everyone wants the music of their college years to be frozen in immutable amber until everyone needs a hip replacement and can't dance to it anymore.

Metropolis Records said...

While it's true we did not license the album to a European label, Skinny Puppy will absolutely be released in Europe. Metropolis has distributors based in the UK and Germany and our digital distribution is global.

Daniel Just said...

"Style over substance, ego above humility, the drive to be unique quashed by the fear of not being accepted."

So true, so sad.

Daniel Graves said...

@Metro:

I am happy to hear that as I found that to be the most bleak and disheartening part of my post.

jffortin said...

i'm with you on that one Daniel, the only reason Kinetik is still there, for now, is that i was crazy enough to keep it alive. I would love to see north american scene going up, but from my point of view, the best years where from 1995 to 2000, anything after that is just a fade version of it (even Kinetik)

signed the crazy Kinetik promoter :)

Magali Frechette said...

I agree with you; a lot of people (any artists, really) seem to focus a lot more on the labeling than the actual 'art' itself. People always seem very surprised when I tell them I love artists like Josh Groban, Elton John, Billy Joel, and yet, dress what they call "goth" (and then always ask me "what type" of "goth" I am) and I also love Rammstein, Blutengel, Marilyn Manson, etc. and of course, Aesthetic Perfection.

A lot of music that are played in 'Industrial' bars/clubs sound very similar and repetitive, as you stated, some, I couldn't even tell a different song was playing before another one. Your music, however, I can always tell it's you, I can always tell it's Rammstein, Blutengel, Unheilig, Marilyn, etc.

The lyrics are also even better when I can understand them (not to say I only listen to music in which I understand the language, I only know a few German words, but love many German bands), but if they are in fact in a language I understand, it's nice if they are coherent. I love that I can understand all the lyrics to your songs.

I think people should stop focusing so much on their labels and what 'genre' they are, and just do what it is makes them happy, whatever music, whatever art that may be. Just do it and stop trying to find labels for it constantly.


p.s. I was at Kinetik, and I love that you sang "She drives me crazy". I grew up listening to the original, so it was quite a treat!

edminister said...

Matt, don't even drag juggalos into this. ICP and Psychopathic records are a business model this scene should pay very special attention to. Their annual festival "Gathering of the Juggalos" has an average draw of 18,000 people. That's European festival size. Do you think those guys are living paycheck to paycheck? Of course not. Name an artist in this scene who has ever seen a platinum or gold record.

Juggalos are not taken seriously at all but maybe they should be. Their success flies in the face of the music industry and makes it into the joke we all know that it is. After Columbine, Jenny Jones goth makeovers, "real vampires" with Tyra Banks, and a slew of other stupid things do you really think that this scene has a reputation that is taken any more seriously? Of course not, and that's with Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Marilyn Manson, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and other heavy hitters such as Rammstein in the same niche.

To everyone, as far as this thread going into an Insane Clown Posse bashing, don't bother, I won't take the bait and it makes you look stupid, pretty much every band that puts on facepaint or makeup and goes onstage gets this sort of treatment, from Alice Cooper to the Cure to Marilyn Manson to... any number of other artists. Remember when you were a teen and promised to never be like your parents? ICP bashing is exactly that.

All that mess aside, seriously, those guys are succeeding in a way this scene could only dream of, it makes sense to look at what they are doing.

matt pathogen said...

haha what

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