Recently I have been reading some books about the history of industrial music. “Assimilate“, “Industrial Evolution” and “England’s Hidden Reverse” (not yet finished when I write this). “Assimilate” starts with the early scenes of Northern England, Berlin and San Francisco, but soon speaks only of relatively popular bands and projects.
“Industrial Evolution” focusses on the UK, but this is not strange, because it started as a book about Cabaret Voltaire. The author has nothing good to say of more extreme projects such as Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend.
When I write this, I have not yet finished “England’s Hidden Reverse”. This book is, of course, also mostly about the UK too, but it at least does not shy Whitehouse or even more over-the-top projects like Fistfuck, so there may be more about the extreme side of industrial here.
These books got me thinking. I have known industrial for a while, but especially when it concerns the more extreme projects, it is only in the last decade or so that I started to enjoy some of them. It is from around the time that Thorofon started (1995) that I know about industrial music. So everything from before that is ‘old’. I started to dig around a little to see what more projects are there which may or may not have found their names in any of the mentioned books. Which of these projects would I know and would there be anything interesting among the names that are new?
I decided to focus on the period from the start of industrial music up until about (well before) 1990. I did not make a real story around this (still a little though), but there will be a lot of names below that you could sift through and look for music of projects that are new to you too.
UK and USA
I am not going to repeat the story of the early days of industrial music in detail. Books have been written about the UK and for the USA and a film has been made about “nowave” which -in some ways- lead towards industrial music. A few years though to give you an idea what time we are talking about.
1971 And 1972 were the years in which the short-lived “nowave” scene bloomed in the USA. This scene would launch bands such as Swans (founded 1982, but an earlier incarnation was the nowave band Circus Mort) and other bands that continued the electronic experiments of Suicide who took off in these nowave days.
Early industrial from the USA include Factrix (1978), The Haters (1979 later Con-Dom), Z’Ev USA (1983), Hunting Lodge (before 1982) and Architects Office (1983).
Simultaneously, in the UK there were people experimenting with new ways of making music: Cabaret Voltaire, founded in 1973. “The Cabs” gave rise to a scene which included bands such as Throbbing Gristle (founded 1975 and coming from Hull, also the inventors of the term ‘industrial music”), Foetus (founded 1978, London and New York), Clock DVA (founded 1981, Sheffield). Other names are Cultural Amnesia (1979), 23 Skidoo (1979), Nocturnal Emissions (1980), Whitehouse, the first “power electronics” project (1980), Stabmental, first a magazine, later a music project (1980), there was a “Deleted Funtime” compilation double cassette in 1980, Consumer Electronics (1982), Sutcliffe Jugend (1982), Konstruktivists (1982, I saw them live a few years ago), Current 93 started as an industrial project in 1982, The Death And Beauty Foundation (1982), Zos Kia (1982), Male Rape Group, before 1983, later Ramleh, also running the Broken Flag label, Pure (1983 after 1986 Total after 1988 Skullflower), Un-Kommuniti (1983), Fistfuck, a short-lived female fronted noise and S&M outfit (1984).
The Brit Brian Eno played the keys in the symphonic rock group Roxy Music at the time and apparently he was interested in these experimental groups as he compiled the “No New York” compilation of 1978 with New York (nowave) bands. Obviously there were links between the USA and the UK.
Well then, what about the continent? When did the virus leave the UK and USA? I personally only learned about the Swedish label Cold Meat Industry (CMI) in 1993 and this was my first, real introduction to industrial music. By that time, they had a catalogue starting in 1987 and CMI was not the first ‘industrial effort’ of the man we came to know as Roger Karmanik. Already in 1987 he released a tape as Bomb The Daynursery. This was the second cassette released on the label Selbstmord Organización also run by Roger who was then still named Karlsson. The first tape was from 1982 and of a project named Enhänta Bödlar of which Karmanik used to be a member as well. That is only a year after the foundation of Clock DVA. Karmanik was inspired by Throbbing Gristle. He said that Brighter Death Now (his most famous musical outlet) was inspired by TG and CMI used to have a sublabel called Death Factory named after TG’s debut release. We are already a decade after Cabaret Voltaire though.
Selbstmord Organización released tapes of only a few projects. Enhänta Bödlar, Bomb The Daynursery, M. Forshage and En Halvkokt I Folie. The last project is interesting, since it was founded in 1982, the same year that Karmanik started with Enhänta Bödlar. The man behind En Halvkokt I Folie has the same last name as Karmanik’s original name: Larsson (surname Lars). This Larsson also had a label of his own: Konduktör Rekords which released tapes of a number of projects about which I cannot find much information.
There was yet another label in Sweden: Börft Records, releasing tapes since 1987 and run by Jan Zwarre Svensson. I have not found any musical projects of the latter. It looks like that all these men are still involved in industrial music in one way or another.
Another early project that I ran into is Enema Syringe, which saw the light of day in 1985. The famous CMI-act In Slaughter Natives released his debut in 1988 on Staalplaat, who we will run into lateron. So the country which formed my introduction to industrial music seems to have started in 1982, almost a decade after the American nowave scene, a decade after Cabaret Voltaire and 7 years after Throbbing Gristle.
From CMI I moved on to Germany. Labels such as L.O.K.I.-Foundation, State-Art and later Tesco. Of course I knew the bigger bands too, but now when I started to look back to find the early days of industrial in Germany, I see how little I actually know.
More than one person involved in the early industrial scene was not only inspired by punk, but also by “Krautrock”, psychedelic and experimental rock. Germany had a thriving Krautrock scene with bands like Guru Guru (founded 1968), Amon Düül (II) (founded 1968) and Ash Ra Tempel (founded 1971). I am not sure if this scene highly influenced the industrial movement, but some say that one of the first German industrial acts, Einstürzende Neubauten, has Krautrock leanings here and there.
As in the UK there was an early scene with Sheffield as centre, so Germany has ‘a Berlin scene’. Einstürzende Neubauten (which has ‘outgrown’ the industrial scene many decades ago) were founded in 1980 and are active until today. The Berlin scene had names such as Din A Testbild (1978), Das Synthetische Mischgewebe (1980), Sprung Aus Den Wolken (1980), a DJ called WestBam and the enigmatically named project FâLX çèrêbRi (1983) came from Berlin. Also, what the “Equinox Event” was for the British scene the “Festival Genialer Dilletanten” was for the German scene, gatherings of early industrialists.
Of course there were pioneers in Germany outside Berlin. I ran into many names surfing around the world wide web. Of course Kraftwerk (not really industrial) has been around since 1970, but after a few years in which I did not find such projects, there is Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF) who started making music in 1978. The projects CHBB and Liaisons Dangereuses contained members who would later continue with DAF and Einstürzende Neubeuten when they split. All releases are from 1981, but that must have been before 1978.
Asmus Tietchens started with electronic rock bands working with big names (like Eno) and he has been releasing strange experimental electronic music under his own name since 1980. Die Tödliche Doris started in the same year as did Sentimentale Jugend (half of this duo would later join Neubauten). The still existing Gerechtigkeitsliga has been around since 1981. Or what about one-girl noise-project Maria Zerfall (1982), another enigmatically named project named P16.D4 (1982) or Cranioclast (1982)? There was a project called Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa (or HNAS, 1983), another called S.B.O.T.H.I. (first release 1984) and then a year later Genocide Organ (and their label Tesco Organisation in 1987).
Other German acts from this time seem to hold the middle between wave and industrial, also there was a leaning towards punk sometimes. Der Plan (1979), Kosmonautentraum (1980) and Malaria! (1981) were not strictly industrial. Kurt Dahlke not only played in DAF, but also Fehlfarben (post-punk), Bombay 1 and the earlier mentioned Der Plan. Also he had an experimental, but not extreme, label called Ata Tak (and before that Art Attack) and he still performs under the name Pyrolator.
Germany certainly was blooming early as well, but -as far as I know- still five years after Cabaret Voltaire. Kraftwerk may have inspired some industrial musicians, but their music has always been something different.
I will shortly continue with other countries from which I ran into early projects.
A still existing group is the Italian Esplendor Geométrico, one of the better known industrial projects. It was founded again in 1982. Their first release came out on a Spanish label called Tic-Tac, apparently ‘just’ an experimental label, but active at least since 1979. The second Esplendor tape was made available by the German label Datenverarbeitung who has been releasing material since 1981 and which seems to have been a sublabel of Normal Records which on its turn released material of Tuxedo Moon (founded 1977) and And Also The Trees (1979), also experimental bands.
Another early Italian in the genre is Maurizio Bianchi who started making music in 1978 (!!) and who created fairly dark soundscapes. There is another such artist with a ‘normal’ (sounding) name: Giancarlo Toniutti who also started in 1978. A little later (1982) was Mauthausen Orchestra. I ran into two more names that I did not yet know: Zona Industriale (founded 1983) and Tasaday (first release 1984). Indeed, Italy had industrial music relatively early.
I knew a few projects from France, but I do not believe I knew that France had an early and fairly big industrial scene.
Inspite of their German name, the band Die Form is from France and they have been around since 1977. Die Form is big enough that you may just know them.
There are also more obscure projects coming from France, at least, I did not know them. Déficit Des Années Antérieures (1979). Denier Du Culte (first release 1984, later they changed their name to La Sonorité Jaune). Pacific 231 (first release 1984), Berlinerluft (first release 1984) and Stenke Bazin (first release 1985, Claude Escarmand also founded the Émergence Du Refus tape label in these days with more projects that I did not know).
Le Syndicat (1982) I did know mostly as a ‘minimal wave’ project. Then we have Minamata who I have seen live a couple of years ago. His first release is from 1984! There are more projects with names similar to La Nomenklatur but I think I have an album of this particular French project which was founded in 1986.
Japan is relativelly famous for its brutal noise terror. Early names I ran into are White Hospital (before 1984), Grim (before 1984), Dissecting Table (before 1986 I have a few albums of his) and the UPD label run by Dissecting Table which has been active since at least 1986.
Australia may not be the first country to think of when you think of industrial music, but one of the bigger bands started there in 1978: SPK.
Nowadays a resonably big label can be found in Austria, Steinklang Industries, founded in 1994 or so, but already in 1982 this country had a project called Korpses Kathonik which would later become Zero Karma. The man behind this project has a label called Nekrophile Records which released a material from Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) in 1983.
And let us not forget that Streicher has been making music since 1984.
Before they moved to Berlin, I regularly visited the Staalplaat shop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I have not been able to find out when they started, but the first release (Laibach, itself founded in 1980) was in 1983. Staalplaat has been releasing all kinds of experimental and weird things ever since.
The Legendary Pink Dots are not strictly industrial and they were founded in Brittain in 1980, but they have been living in the Netherlands for a long time, so I just mention them here.
A name I run into every now and then is De Fabriek; indeed an early project, since they were founded in 1982.
A name that was new to me is Forced Run which was founded in 1982, a year later they changed their name to Het Zweet.
A bit to the South is Belgium, of course famous for Front 242 (1981), Absolute Body Control (1980) and Klinik (before 1985), but before that there were Etat Brut (1979), Club Moral (who played at the Equinox Event, founded in 1981) and L.A.Y.L.A.H. Antirecords (first release 1983) which released material from Current 93, Laibach, Coil and Nurse With Wound.
From Spain I ran into Comando Bruno (first release 1984).
I am sure that there will be many more names. I do not want to make a catalogue or anything, just to give an idea what could be found when and where. Should you -however- have some obscure names started as early as possible (or a less obscure name that I overlooked), just let me know.