Preview: Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay, Art School, Glasgow
New film about the industrial music scene of the 70s and 80s screens at Glasgow Art School
More challenging, innovative and representative of the darkness of its times than the more widely-celebrated punk movement, industrial music channelled the sound of heavy industry in its final throes. Amelie Ravalec and Travis Collins’ hour-long documentary, Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay, examines the genre with music and contributions from artists including Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK and Test Dept, whose Scottish-based founder Angus Farquhar went on to re-establish Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival and head site-specific arts organisation NVA.
The film, which spans the genre's 1970s and 80s heyday, arrives in Glasgow courtesy of a party at the Art School.
Farquhar and Optimo’s JD Twitch will be leading a discussion after the screening – here, Twitch discusses the genre and his favourite industrial tracks.
When did you first become aware of industrial music?
I was around 14 or 15, I was listing to Coil, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Test Dept, Foetus, Einstürzende Neubauten and a host of others. I guess it was the first music that felt like ‘my music’. Saying that, and although I use the term ‘industrial’ myself, it was coined with tongue slightly in cheek, and a lot of so-called industrial artists made or went on to make music that was anything but industrial.
It’s a genre which is often mentioned hand-in-hand with the political context of the era, particularly with reference to what happened to industry in the UK over the 1970s and 80s. What are your thoughts on this?
It was very political, particularly in that it was a reaction to everything that was going on at the time, and not just politically but culturally too. It was also a music with no precedent. No music that had come before really had any influence on it and sonically it was often informed by the death throes of the industrial era. One can understand why so much industrial music came out of Sheffield as the constant hammering of the steel forges was a day to day part of the sonic landscape there.
What is it you like about industrial, and why? The sound, the social resonances, the people who made it, the aesthetic, the sense of futurism...?
All of these things. At the time it seemed the most forward-looking, technologically advanced music around. Industrial artists were so far ahead of most other music with regard to how advanced their production was, and to this day I’ve always been interested in music that pushes at the frontiers of technique. So yes, the futurism aspect of it particularly interested me. It's also very cathartic and I find it quite relaxing. It was a fairly lonely existence loving this music as a teenager, as I didn't know a soul who was into it for many years and all my friends loathed it. The upside of the fact that seemingly nobody in Edinburgh liked it at the time was that I'd pick up all the best releases in the bargain bins for next to nothing.
How does the music hold up now, and why do you think this is?
Time has been particularly kind to it, and in many ways it sounds as good now as it did then. It has a lot more character, individuality and personality than a lot of modern machine music. A lot of the later 80s releases when they started thinking about the dancefloor perhaps haven't aged so well, but almost everything from 78–83 still rules. I listen to almost all the artists I listened to then though of course it's not something I listen to all the time, but I go through phases. Currently I'm having a huge SPK frenzy and enjoying their earlier releases much more now than I did at the time.
JD Twitch’s Five Favourite Industrial Tracks:
SPK – 'Mekano'
SPK stood for something different on each of their releases; in this case the charming
Surgical Penis Klinik. This is way more punk rock than punk rock.
Throbbing Gristle – 'Discipline (Berlin)'
I could listen to the rhythm in this one forever and I also think it's pretty funny. I do an
occasional night in Glasgow called So Low where I play this kind of stuff and the first time I
did it I played this in its entirety so I could run outside to have a smoke. I came back in
expecting it to have totally cleared the dancefloor but the whole place was totally freaking
out to it.
Blackhouse – 'Holy War'
I think I'm going to try and reissue the album this is from. To me this is sexy and full of
funk, although I’m fairly sure I'm on my own in that point of view. I also love that they were
Christians making music for the Christian industrial market. Who even knew such a market
Einstürzende Neubauten – 'Tanz Debil'
I used to blast this out in my bedroom as a teenager all the time, which drove my parents
crazy. They suggested I'd get the same effect hanging out on a building site. They were
right, and I still enjoy the sounds of a good demolition on a regular basis.
Coil – 'Solar Lodge'
Coil went on to be the greatest act in the history of recorded music and it would be a
disservice to say their later music’s industrial but I guess this early track could be called
that. I named my house after this one.
Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay will be screened at the Art School, Glasgow, Wed 13 May, followed by a Q&A with JD Twitch (Optimo) and Angus Farquhar (Test Dept), and a DJ set from JD Twitch.