Industrial music has always been around. Simply put, industrial is a form of self-expression that plays with the experimental. Woman has, since the dawn of time, been pushing the limits of her creativity through experimentation and the transgression of existing mores. I think that industrial music is one of the places that real art can still be found. Whether it is in the abandon factories of Berlin or right here in some young punks house in Atlanta, industrial continues to push the boundaries of music and art.
A Modern History, Briefly
The German band Kraftwerk is widely considered to be an early innovator in the modern industrial music scene. Throughout their career, Kraftwerk continued to push the limits of music by adding industrial sounds to music. While Kraftwerk was certainly influential, I think that Suicide was the greater influence on industrial as it stands today. Founded by Alan Vega and Martin Rev, Suicide combined guitars, keyboards, and haunting vocals to create eerie still-lives of New York City’s 1970’s depravity.
Still though, it wasn’t until Throbbing Gristle came around in the mid 1970’s that “Industrial” as a term, really took off. Throbbing Gristle founded and released their albums under the Industrial record label. It was this label and the bands, Like Cabaret Voltaire and NON, that really cemented the industrial genre.
Acts that continued to push the genre in the late 1970’s and 1980’s include: Whitehouse, SPK, and Merzbow. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will guide those interested to learn more onto a fruitful path.
Instruments, (Including Water Softeners)
What are the instruments that these industrial musicians use? Well, anything that can be found. Founders of the genre often restricted themselves to the use of standard instruments like guitars and keyboards. But as the genre progressed, found objects became more prevalent. This is especially true when it comes to percussion. I have seen everything from a keg of beer to an industrial water softener being used as drums! The industrial water softener is a huge system that is often found in old factories and is composed of control panels and giant metal cylinders. The artists used every component of the water softeners to achieve different sounds and create a crazy wall of sound. It is the clanging of pipes that really make the industrial sound.
Many people consider Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor to be the modern purveyors of Industrial Music. While NIN has its detractors, there is no doubt that they have pushed the boundaries of Industrial and made it accessible for a new group of kids to push the boundaries.