Industrial music drew from a broad range of predecessors. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the genre was first named in 1942 when The Musical Quarterly called Dmitri Shostakovich's 1927 Symphony No. 2 "the high tide of 'industrial music'." Similarly, in 1972 The New York Times described works by Ferde Grofé (especially 1935's A Symphony in Steel) as a part of "his 'industrial music' genre [that] called on such instruments as four pairs of shoes, two brooms, a locomotive bell, a pneumatric drill and a compressed-air tank". Though these compositions are not directly tied to what the genre would become, they are early examples of music designed to mimic machinery noise and factory atmosphere.
In his book Interrogation Machine: Laibach and NSK, Alexei Monroe argues that Kraftwerk were particularly significant in the development of industrial music, as the "first successful artists to incorporate representations of industrial sounds into nonacademic electronic music." Industrial music was created originally by using mechanical and electric machinery, and later advanced synthesizers, samplers and electronic percussion as the technology developed. Monroe also argues for Suicide as an influential contemporary of the industrial musicians. Groups cited as inspirational by the founders of industrial music include The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, and Martin Denny. Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle had a cassette library including recordings by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Kraftwerk, Charles Manson, and William S. Burroughs. P-Orridge also credited 1960s rock such as The Doors, Pearls Before Swine, The Fugs, Captain Beefheart, and Frank Zappa in a 1979 interview.
Chris Carter also enjoyed and found inspiration in Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. Boyd Rice was influenced by the music of '60s girl groups and tiki culture. Z'EV cited Christopher Tree (Spontaneous Sound), John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Tim Buckley, Jimi Hendrix, and Captain Beefheart, among others together with Tibetan, Balinese, Javanese, Indian, and African music as influential in his artistic life. Cabaret Voltaire cited Roxy Music as their initial forerunners, as well as Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express. Cabaret Voltaire also recorded pieces reminiscent of musique concrète and composers such as Morton Subotnick. Nurse with Wound cited a long list of obscure free improvisation and Krautrock as recommended listening. 23 Skidoo borrowed from Fela Kuti and Miles Davis's On the Corner. Many industrial groups, including Einstürzende Neubauten, took inspiration from world music.
Many of the initial industrial musicians preferred to cite artists or thinkers, rather than musicians, as their inspiration. Simon Reynolds declares that "Being a Throbbing Gristle fan was like enrolling in a university course of cultural extremism." John Cage was an initial inspiration for Throbbing Gristle. SPK appreciated Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Gilles Deleuze. Cabaret Voltaire took conceptual cues from Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, and Tristan Tzara. Whitehouse and Nurse with Wound dedicated some of their work to the Marquis de Sade; the latter also took impetus from the Comte de Lautréamont.
Another influence on the industrial aesthetic was Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Pitchfork Music cites this album as "inspiring, in part, much of the contemporary avant-garde music scene—noise, in particular." The album consists entirely of guitar feedback, anticipating industrial's use of non-musical sounds.
Industrial Music for Industrial People was originally coined by Monte Cazazza as the strapline for the record label Industrial Records, founded by British art-provocateurs Throbbing Gristle. The first wave of this music appeared with Throbbing Gristle, from London; Cabaret Voltaire, from Sheffield; and Boyd Rice (recording under the name NON), from the United States. Throbbing Gristle first performed in 1976, and began as the musical offshoot of the Kingston upon Hull-based COUM Transmissions. COUM was initially a psychedelic rock group, but began to describe their work as performance art in order to obtain grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain. COUM was composed of P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Beginning in 1972, COUM staged several performances 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 Carter joining the following year.
The group renamed itself Throbbing Gristle in September 1975, their name coming from a northern English slang word for an erection. The group'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 blasted the group as "wreckers of civilization." The group announced their dissolution in 1981, declaring that their "mission" has been "terminated."
Wax Trax! Records
Chicago record label Wax Trax! Records was prominent in the widespread attention industrial music received starting in the early 1980s. The label was started by Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher. The label's first official release was an EP in 1980 entitled Immediate Action by Strike Under. The label went on to distribute some of the most prominent names in industrial throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Wax Trax! also distributed industrial releases in the United States for the Belgium record label Play It Again Sam Records, and had opened a North American office dubbed Play It Again Sam U.S.A. as a division of Wax Trax!. Wax Trax! was subsequently purchased by TVT Records in 1992. When TVT closed its doors in 2001, Wax Trax! re-emerged under a different name, WTII Records (Wax Trax 2 Records), releasing industrial and other forms of electronic music.
Expansion of the scene
The bands Clock DVA, Nocturnal Emissions, Whitehouse, Nurse with Wound, and SPK soon followed. Whitehouse intended to play "the most brutal and extreme music of all time", a style they eventually called power electronics. An early collaborator with Whitehouse, Steve Stapleton, formed Nurse with Wound, who experimented with noise sculpture and sound collage. Clock DVA described their goal as borrowing equally from surrealist automatism and "nervous energy sort of funk stuff, body music that flinches you and makes you move." 23 Skidoo, like 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.
reference guide to the philosophy and interests of a flexible alliance of "deviant" artists.
Across the Atlantic, similar experiments were taking place. In San Francisco, performance artist Monte Cazazza began recording noise music. Boyd Rice released several albums of 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 experimenting with a mixture of powerful noise and early forms of EBM. 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. Blixa Bargeld, inspired by Antonin Artaud and an enthusiasm for amphetamines, also originated an art movement called Die Genialen Dilettanten. Bargeld is particularly well known for his hissing scream.
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 1984-85 UK miners' strike. Skinny Puppy embraced a variety of industrial forefathers and created a lurching, impalatable whole from many pieces. Swans, from New York City, also practiced a metal music aesthetic, though reliant on standard rock instrumentation. Laibach, a Slovenian group who began while Yugoslavia remained a single state, were very controversial for their iconographic borrowings from Stalinist, Nazi, Titoist, Dada, and Russian Futurist imagery, conflating Yugoslav patriotism with its German authoritarian adversary. Slavoj Žižek has defended Laibach, arguing that they and their associated Neue Slowenische Kunst art group practice an overidentification with the hidden perverse enjoyment undergirding authority that produces a subversive and liberatory effect. In simpler language, Laibach practiced a type of agitprop that was widely utilized by industrial and punk artists on both sides of the Atlantic.
Following the breakup of Throbbing Gristle, 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 hired work by trained musicians. Later work returned to the sound collage and noise elements of earlier industrial. They also borrowed from funk and disco. P-Orridge also founded 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 electropop. Christopherson left Psychic TV in 1983 and formed Coil with John Balance. Coil made use of gongs and bullroarers in an attempt to conjur "Martian," "homosexual energy". David Tibet, a friend of Coil's, formed Current 93; both groups were inspired by amphetamines and LSD. 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.