ABBEY PUTS INDUSTRIAL SOUNDS INTO THE GROUND - OR - HOW TO LISTEN TO INDUSTRIAL MUSIC WITHOUT LOSING YOUR DATE
by Joe Kolb
A few months ago, I was looking through the paper and my eye caught an article about Industrial music. It was in, of all places, a "Dear Abbey" column. A distressed parent wrote about Ms. Abbey about his son who listens to this music "that sounded like a table saw being dragged across steel." The poor father was concerned about his son's soul going to hell for this, plus, I am sure, worried about his own home improvement equipment. What was Abbey's advice? Not to worry. This industrial music like many other types, is "just a passing craze." It will go by the wayside like all other forms. She also said that his son will "grow out of" THAT type of music. Poor Abbey does not realize that Industrial music has grown over the past few years to equal that of new age, and any other form of music. Although not heard much over the airwaves, Industrial Music has a very strong and legitimate following. Remember when "new age" music first arrived? Very few people recognized that as music either. Now, almost every radio station plays it at some time of the day or night. It is no longer played just in the early a.m. hours on public radio. I doubt that Industrial Music will have that kind of success but it has and will flourish nevertheless. So what is so special about it? First, it challenges the listener. Music in our society nas taken on a very generic/business style. Many businesses now play music. What was once frowned upon because it distracted the worker (Read this to mean a person LISTENED to the music) now is used as a "comfortable" environment. Music has gotten to the point where we do not THINK or actually LISTEN to it. It is just there as background. "Classic Radio" drones on and on playing music that does not matter anymore. After listening to The Doors, Zep, Who, etc. for twenty years one does not consciously hear what is played. When a person goes to a party, music is provided as "background" atmosphere. We play what is socially acceptable. A person hardly will play something that is not heard of because that would call attention to the music and not the matters at hand.
Industrial Music challenges because you have to LISTEN to it, it demands ones attention. The anonymity of the sounds attracts the unconsciousness to make a conscious EFFORT to HEAR what is going on. Secondly, Industrial Music is the most creative style because it defies any boundaries of style or instrumentation. Most Industrial Music is manipulation of sounds. Sounds of nature and machines are very common elements. This music does not depend on musical instruments. In that regard, it is more free for individuals to experiment with. There are no rules of music to follow. Thirdly, it is fun. One does not have to be a professional musician per se to make it. This opens a new era for non-musicians, for it does not rely on instruments as much as creative manipulation of sounds. So why is it not more acceptable? Because it defies definition. In our society, we like things defined logical and in order. Most people do not like any kind of change. We want to be told what is good, what is "in." We have been told since childhood what is good music, either from music appreciation at school, from our friends, "commercial" radio or reviews. So anyway, we have through life, created a definition of music. To some, if you can't dance to it, it's not music. To others, no music exists beyond the Baroque era. (Read again: If we don't UNDERSTAND a "different" style it is worthless.) And of course one no longer has "time" to learn or unlearn what was ingrained in the old noggin. It amazes me when I try to play some Industrial Music for someone, how hostile and quickly it gets dismissed. We are talking about seconds, maybe minutes at best folks. So I go on listening to it myself. I guess this is o.k. because we all have records we enjoy to hear alone versus with someone else. That could very well be another element to this, music to enjoy alone. There is a way to listen to it also. It should be played very softly. When two opposite forces meet, they join as one. Brian Eno discovered this when he started his own ambient style. I believe the story goes that a friend brought over a record to play when Eno was ill and bedridden at the time, so they just dropped it on the turntable and left. Well it was on the wrong speed, and low volume. Eno could not get up so he just listened to it as played. What followed became a revolution in music. Try listening to it in different ways. Personally I would never play The Groundhogs quietly, nor industrial loud. It is a matter of taste. Do not put it on with preconceived notions either. I guarantee you will not like it. Accept the style for what it has to offer. It takes a long time for one to try a different food without kicking up a fuss.
Well unscrew your mind and let the sounds roll in. Like any other form of music, Industrial has its extremes. Just because some bands are into Black & Decker rather than Korg, do not dismiss it all as a bunch of shit. There are some very intelligent, well crafted sounds. This article is not going to get into the ridiculous "What is Art/Music" argument. Save that for the church groups and college. Industrial Music is fresh and invigorating, like taking a brisk walk in the fall after sitting all day inside, it awakens your senses, not subdues them. Last but not least, it offers us a choice. We are not saddled to "Classic Rock" or forced to buy whatever the major labels decides to shove in our ears. Thankfully, through the Independents and Artists, we have the freedom of choice.