On Misogyny in Industrial Music

Industrial music patron saint Cosey Fanni Tutti.

In 1975, Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti consumed blood, semen and piss onstage in the UK. Government officials labeled them “the Wreckers of Civilization.” A female sex worker, Cosey examined “how men and women interact in a sexually charged/volatile manipulated situation” by fearlessly, shockingly putting her body on display. This was the beginning of industrial music, a genre rooted in taboo and transgression.

The tradition continued. In 1985, Coil’s cover of Tainted Love addressed the AIDS crisis at a time when huge stigma still surrounded the discussion. The release of the single constituted the first AIDS benefit in music history. In 1988, Skinny Puppy spoke out passionately about animal rights through a series of live shows that involved animal blood and graphic, distressing portrayals of vivisection. During the Siege of Sarajevo in 1995, Laibach’s NSK diplomatic passports literally saved lives by enabling people to escape from the war zone at a time when Bosnian passports weren’t considered valid. The giants of industrial used subversive tactics to challenge audiences and create new awareness.

Still from Suicide Commando’s “Die Motherfucker Die” music video

But something happened. Once industrial music had fully transitioned from avant-garde venues into nightclubs, the stench of Axe body spray began to dominate the subculture as a certain douchey, bro-tastic vibe emerged. Where the goth/industrial scene had once existed as a safe haven for artists, weirdos, outcasts, geeks, dreamers and rebels, a disturbing trend of sexism, racism and anti-intellectualism is driving people out.

This trend gained significant traction in 2011. That March, Combichrist, a band infamous for songs such as “Shut Up and Swallow” and lyrics such as “all you feminist cunts you know that you want it”, released a music video called Throat Full of Glassin which band members force captive gangster girls to strip at gunpoint before using them as human shields during a shootout. Similarly, Nachtmahr’s Can You Feel the Beat shows a bevy of interchangeable, uniformed, corseted lady soldiers at the beck and call of the solo musician, Thomas Rainer, who is styled after Downfall Hitler (minus the cheeky humor of Hipster Hitler or the high-art totalitarian whatthefuckery of Laibach). After one of his officers is captured by a Middle Eastern-looking villain (way to mix your shitty metaphors!), she is interrogated and beaten savagely. Then, a bag is placed over her head and she is “seduced” by the villain’s henchwomen into changing allegiances. After her rescue and return to Nachtmahr HQ, she is killed after the Nachmahr character suspects her of betrayal. (A scathing analysis of the entire music video can be found here).

But the rapey, murdery vibe isn’t limited to these two bands. Faderhead’s 2012 music video Fistful of Fuck You features an arcade game that lets the main character eliminate drag queens. In Suicide Commando’s 2009 Die Motherfucker Die, an aging Johan Van Roy spends the majority of the video alternately dragging scantily-dressed girls across the floor while they kick and scream, or sitting in a dirty bathtub surrounded by female corpses. Rammstein (who, in the past, have created more thoughtful fare) recently did a photo series with Eugenio Recuenco in which naked women are dismembered and eaten. And the ever-classy Hocico has a song called Ladykiller (Don’t Rape the Dead Girl).

No wonder women in the industrial scene report feeling marginalized, ridiculed, sexualized and disrespected. In an email interview with Coilhouse, Amelia Arsenic of industrial band Angelspit writes, “I feel the bands that are very popular in industrial at the moment mainly comprise of pretty bro-ish dudes singing about ‘manly’ things like guns and being violent with girls.” Like many of her compatriots in this music scene and others, Amelia says that she’s commonly mistaken for a merch girl or the girlfriend of somebody in the band. “One thing I’ve noticed is that I get a lot of questions from guys asking me if I know anything about the technical side of music. Most people think the guys do the writing and the girls just sing!” In Amelia’s video tutorial on semi-modular synths, the number of sexual/disparaging comments is high… even for YouTube.

Recently, two bands – Ad·ver·sary and Antigen Shift – decided to speak out against this growing trend. They did so by calling out two of the scene’s worst offenders while opening for them at Canada’s largest industrial festival, Kinetik. Above is the video that they played at the end of their set, right before Combichrist and Nachtmahr took the stage. Thoughtful criticism of this phenomenon already existed, but no one had ever conveyed the message so loudly and clearly, to the audience that most needed to see it. The “We Demand Better” video spread across the web like wildfire. “THIS.” “So on point.” “Thank you for making this”, wrote male and female industrial fans. Others accused Jairus Khan, the creator of the video, of trying to bolster his band’s popularity, describing the video as “overly PC,” or stating that Khan lacks a healthy sense of humor.

Both Andy LaPlegua from Combichrist and Thomas Rainer from Nachtmahr responded to the critique with interviews (here and here). In each instance, the musicians explained that the videos were made from the perspective of invented characters. “In Combichrist, for my sake, I always did it as a fictional character,” LaPlegua said. “I’m doing horror stories with Combichrist … it was meant as some kind of a parody, and little bit of irony.” Similarly, Thomas Rainer said in an interview, “my stage persona is the Supreme Commander. He’s very arrogant and cocky. I’m not like that at all, I’m a fun loving guy, I like to be social.”

For the sake of context, a similar technique is currently employed by rapper Nicki Minaj, who has long been criticized for her own misogynistic lyrics. Minaj has invented a character named Roman Zolanski, a boy who lives inside her head. Roman is responsible for all of Nicki’s most controversial lyrics, and she says she wishes for him to “go away.” As the The Lilith Effect puts it, “this is apparently supposed to absolve her of any and all responsibility for the damaging, derogatory language she uses while ‘Roman’ is speaking. Unfortunately, this tactic is no more honest and effective than a child blaming a broken vase on her imaginary friend.”

On the other hand, for some artists, remaining faithfully “in character” yields output and situations that can only be described as high art! Laibach – a band  that “drew the attention and admiration of left-wing intellectuals and skinheads alike” and hasn’t broken character in over 30 years of interviews, ambiguously stating that they are “as much fascists as much as Hitler was a painter” – was able to create moments like the following 1996 concert, described in an essay by Erin Felicia Labbie:

Together with my budding and pseudo left-wing intellectual graduate school cohort, I rubbed shoulders with the enemy—the skinheads (who would have happily burned me at the stake in other contexts)—and found that, in the proper situation (entranced by music that they liked), they were quite nice, making room for intellectuals carrying beers, and even offering to light a cigarette here and there. Again, we asked, was this the power of the band to pacify violent skinheads by way of their sheer insight into the way that music may alter human emotion and affect? Or, were skinheads actually nice people despite their hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism, and xenophobia? … This, ten years ago, symbolized the utter perversity of the potential for artistic and textual interpretation itself.

Laibach playing four-player chess.

What makes a caricature acceptable, or a stage persona effective? Is it possible to read Combichrist and Nachtmahr’s work as satire? Does the format of the art – music versus film – make a difference? In three three different interviews, Andy LaPluega likens himself to film director Wes Craven. “Nobody would criticize Wes Craven for making The Hills Have Eyes, with a mutant raping some daughter. None of my stuff even gets close to being as mean and brutal as that, but nobody’s going to give him shit for it because it’s a movie,” LaPluega said in 2010. So Andy, if you’re blissfully unaware that film criticism is a thing, then good for you. As for Wes Craven? Here was his experience before going on to direct Scream 4, which has been described as “the first mainstream feminist horror movie”:

When I made Swamp Thing, my daughter was watching it with me, and I had a scene where a female character was running away, and as in all such situations in horror movies, she stumbled and fell. My daughter turned to me and said, “Dad, girls don’t always fall down.” This made me realize I had fallen into the old horror cliché of the girl running from the villain and tripping on a rock or some other debris. I didn’t really care for that, so it got me thinking about taking it in the other direction and creating some strong female characters.

The fact is, the world is changing, audiences are getting smarter, and people (especially the new generation coming of age online) are expecting more. We live in a world where 13-year-olds deconstruct slut-shaming on YouTube, and teens like Tavi Gevinson are leading a new wave of sassy, media-aware publishing. A world where more and more people know that “girls don’t always fall down,” and mock those who invoke that image.

The “cinematic reference” argument seems to be a common tactic in deflecting criticism. Thomas Rainer has used the filmic term “sexploitation” to describe Nachtmahr, and Throat Full of Glass music video director, Chad Michael Ward, wrote to Coilhouse stating that “the video, conceived by both the band and myself, is a send-up of 1970s grindhouse/exploitation films, where men were thugs and women were whores; in other words caricatures, not entirely unlike the noir films of the 1930s that I also love dearly.” In reality, the “it’s an homage to grindhouse” defense is so common that it’s becoming a cliche. Here’s the thing: when Tarantino revived the grindhouse genre, it was with clever, self-aware, satirical, intelligent scripts that actually told new stories that were relevant to our time. The Bride is one of the most celebrated bad-ass film icons out there. Similarly, today’s burlesque movement revives the noir glamour of the 30s with a DIY, feminist sensibility. Contrasted to that, what collective story does the combination of these industrial music videos tell?

Rainer also defends Nachtmahr by pointing out that he’s the producer and main songwriter for L’Âme Immortelle, “one of Europe’s most important female fronted goth/industrial bands.” While L’Âme Immortelle deals with Rainer’s  “more feminine side as a musician” by projecting more “introvert, romantic and sensitive content,” Nachtmahr is the channel for his “masculine side of being extrovert, aggressive and direct.” So your two music projects reinforce the opposite aspects of the same tired, restrictive gender binary. Good job.

Combichrist fan art on DeviantArt. “Slut” by LuceInsana. “Rain of Blood” by Cantique. “Combichrist Fan” by Dita69. “Shut up and swallow” by SeparateFromTheHead.

That said, context is key. It’s interesting to note that it was the female cast who came up with and really enjoyed performing the most violent scenes in Combichrist’s TGoF. Do the critical standards change if we repackage these industrial music videos as straight-up BDSM porn? Sure! Industrial and fetish scenes share a long history together, and many of the same motifs – bondage, uniforms, blood, and control – appear in both. In his defense of Can You Feel the Beat, Thomas Rainer explains: “I’m … fulfilling a sexual fantasy of mine. I just get fucking turned on by hot chicks in uniforms. If I can have that in my band, it really turns me on, and it turns a lot of people out there on. I’m living my own sexual fantasies through the imagery of the band.”

If fan art is any indication, Combichrist’s “shut up and swallow” rhetoric seems to have struck a chord with the listeners’ erotic imagination, especially that of young women. Inspired by the band’s presentation, female fans had pretty consistent interpretation of how Combichrist wanted to see them: eager, submissive, and exposed, while male fans tend to present themselves as strong and aggressive. (A small minority reversed the trope, with girls looking tough and boys displaying vulnerability). Bondage, uniforms, and rape are all relatively common fantasies for both men and women, and it takes a lot of bravery to put one’s sexuality in display. Are bands like Combichrist and Nachtmahr empowering a young generation of fans to create raw, confrontational art of their sexuality?

To consider this perspective, Coilhouse caught up with Mollena Williams, author of The Toybag Guide to Playing With Taboo. Williams is a BDSM educator who engages in the controversial practice of race play. In scenes that are highly emotional and psychologically intense, Williams, who is black, enjoys being dominated by a white master. The scenes include whippings, racial epithets, and scenarios such as a slave auction. “If I do a scene in which I am replicating some outrageous violence, or some mysoginist attitude, or the wicked language of racism, I and my partner(s) have come to an understanding about what that means,” says Williams. “It may not be possible for a band portraying an image to negotiate with their audience in the same way.”

In other words, the answer is not censorship (it’s never censorship), but more context. If you care for your audience to include people other than basement-dwelling virgins and 35 year old aggro muscle heads, but you’re artistically moved to repeatedly depict women being punished, called sluts, beaten and humiliated – talk about what that means publicly. Write a blog post. Engage with your audience. Talk about consent. Talk about your inspirations. Own what you’re doing, but talk about the problematic nature of it. Don’t hide behind cheap defenses like “it’s art” or “it’s just a character” or “it’s grindhouse” or “some of my best friends are women.”  You may find that your audience may expand, because, guess what? Sexual violence is a fascinating topic, and within the right context, it’s something that people of all ideologies (GASP – feminists included!) can find interesting, appealing, fun, and exciting. And isn’t being an artist more fulfilling when your fans come from all walks of life?

Finally, there’s no shame in admitting that past work has been unkind or cruel. In fact, those kinds of admissions and the voicing of genuine contrition for past work that was hateful or othering can earn folks a lot of love and respect where there was only resentment and hurt before. A great example of this is the Beastie Boys. “Time has healed our stupidity,” they wrote in a letter to Time Out New York, referring to homophobic and misogynistic lyrics of the past.  In the article MCA’s Feminist Legacy, Jessica Valenti describes the strong effect that the band’s words had on her as a fan:

When you speak up about any sense of unfairness or injustice, you’re told that you’re overreacting, you’re too angry, too silly—shut up already. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to be able to live in this world as a woman, let alone a woman who wants things to change.

And that’s what was so remarkable and emotional about the Beastie Boys’ feminist turnaround. Maybe your father says sexism doesn’t exist and your boyfriend disrespects you. Maybe you have to deal with assholes on the subway who rub up against you every day and laugh when you yell at them. But listening to this band that you love so much say that your pain is real, that the world is fucked up and that they are not going to participate in actions that hurt you anymore because they care about you—it was the overwhelming feeling of being made visible. They were sending a clear message to their female fans: this isn’t okay, we have your back, we’re sorry.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t be too worried about the future of “dark music.” It doesn’t belong to thse Confederate-flag-waving assholes. It may not even lie in the industrial genre, but with musicians such as Spoek Mathambo, Fever Ray, Light AsylumHTRK, Chelsea Wolfe, Cat’s Eyes, and Kate Stelmanis. Or, musicians in the industrial scene can rise up and continue to call bullshit on the misogyny as it happens, following Ad·ver·sary and Antigen Shift’s lead. It would be great to see the scene’s most lazy and pandering art replaced with more discourse, critical thinking (both about oneself and one’s peers), compassion, inclusivity, and diversity. At its core, this is an issue of othering, of negation, and a lack of basic recognition of others’ humanity. Modern incarnations/offspring of the industrial scene can still be angry, hard, heavy… but not hateful or abysmally ignorant.

Until then, industrial music will continue to replicate the tired, boring, old cliches of the mainstream:

With the spooky costumes and makeup stripped away, it’s the same old, tired story. Pictured above: Snoop Dogg, Nachtmahr, and Combichrist.

Many thanks to Meredith Yayanos, M.S. leDespencer and Ian Baker for help/inspiration in writing this sprawl of an article!  

63 Responses to “On Misogyny in Industrial Music”

  1. Flavorwire » What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office Says:

    […] We found out what random kids in Brooklyn are thankful for this year. We wondered about misogyny in industrial music. We discovered a weird little game that lets young girls give themselves an Upper East Side […]

  2. mr. pathogen Says:

    I love this! I’m also totally flattered to be cited by a site as fine as this. For the record, though, the internal dialogue post-Kinetik has been very diverse and, while there has been a lot of godawful rhetoric tossed around by people in defense of Combichrist and Nachtmahr, there’s also been a huge outpouring of support and agreement about standing against the regressive tendencies creeping in. All is not lost for us! We just need to dig our heads out of our collective asses a little more and stop pretending any of this shit is even remotely edgy.

  3. Gray Says:

    This is such a hard one for me. Being Bi-gender I see both sides of this argument and Nayda makes a wonderful point. The video from Ad·ver·sary really made me think twice before playing devil advocate here. Some of this dose belong in “hell”.

    I remember my first industrial show in 93. Hard lyrics with equally tripping violent industrial video being playing in the background. I remember NIN “Fuck you like an Animal” There is no doubt that industrial music is hard core and not for the faint of heart. But and this is a big but early industrial music never directed the violence against a group. It was an expression of violence against an oppressive society.

    My first response is that this is a male music and by default misogynistic. It is as you would say an alternative culture. It is the other to the feminist musicians like: Fiona Applegate, Alanis Morissette or Tori Amos (yes I am dating myself). It angers me when male interest are talked about in insulting terms such as boorish. Just as it angers me when women are called emotional. It is this anger that makes me say if you don’t like it don’t listen to it. Just as I choose not to listen to Amos’ last albums. Indeed, if you chose to stretch the point, one could argue that this music is a rebellion against feminist oppression. If you cannot accept this alternative culture you might as well change your mission statement to “A lover letter to feminist culture”

    Then I watched Ad·ver·sary video and my feminist side raged. This wasn’t industrial music. This was hatred masquerading as industrial. These bands are not about violence of or against the machine or oppression. They are about violence towards women. It oppresses women. When I either as a male or female want punk or hard hitting music I turn to Amanda Palmer. Her music is rock punk aimed against the injustice of life not of a particular person or gender (though class is there) And as the head of the band her masculine military costumes play to the ironic. Unlike the women in these bands who are dressed this way to titillate and be objects of male sexual fantasy.

    At this point I believe no demand that the artist of industrial music throw the artist and those like them mentioned by Nayda out into the wilderness. Like the ancient masculine form of being outcasted. Where they should dwindle and pass away leaving us instead with a gender neutral rage against the machine. It is the producers’s, and musicians’s responsibility to carry out this revolution. Till then I will stay way from this music!

  4. Mildred Says:

    It’s the flagrant use of the term ‘irony’ that’s most infuriating. It’s as though if you fail to be creative, you can always exploit the most base desires of humanity as a crutch to provoke your audience without having to express a meaningful message beyond the surface of that. It’s less shocking to those you intend to shock and more insulting to the intelligence of those you are trying – and failing – to impress.

    Sir Mix-A-Lot had a better handle on irony than these people. It’s embarrassing.

  5. rachelyra Says:

    Maybe a poignant coda – I hear Snoop Dogg has begun to worry about the legacy he is leaving behind, and has decided to become Snoop Lion.

    There is hope for all of us.

  6. Paranoid Gynoid Says:

    Hey Nadya, thanks for this post – echoing issues I’ve had with industrial culture for a long time.

    This shit was meant to be incendiary, challenging and scary. But there’s nothing challenging about upholding the status quo. I love when people think they’re being so brave and edgy and un-PC when really? All they’re doing is picking on people less privileged than themselves. Yeah, really admire your courage, dudebros.

    Though I fear this article will bring an onslaught of trolls rehashing tired old “FREEEDUMB URV SPEECH!!11! and “FEMINAZI!!” or “WELL “UR JUST KINK-SHAMING U PRUDE!!” who will do nothing but prove you right.

  7. widnoon Says:

    Great post. Related thought: Trent Reznor was sexy when he was more gender ambigious. Beefcake Trent Reznor is sort of like mustard on a pancake.

    When reading this, I also thought about the aesthetic of noise music wherein BDSM and sex taboos have been prominent. There is a lot of potential dialogue there.

  8. Gweskoyen Says:

    Did you have to use the “basement-dwelling virgins” cliché?

    In many countries single men live with their parents until they marry, and the recent recession forced many Americans to live with their parents longer than they like, and of course there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin.

    Think about it: If it sounds stupid when you flip the genders, it sounds stupid if you don’t. (that’s a quote, but I forgot by whom.) Nobody would belittle a woman for being virginal, so why is it an insult if applied to men? Especially considering there exist asexuals, who simply are not interested in sex.

  9. joblowcritic Says:

    I liked this article, because I think it engaged in criticism of a delicate subject without being, if you’ll excuse the expression, hysterical.
    I think it’s pretty lame when, when confronted about the meaning or content of their work, artists respond by saying “it’s just…” music/cinema/art/comedy etc. The obvious implication to this is that these things aren’t meaningful enough to merit criticism.
    But, that being said, it is not always the responsibility of the artist to explain or apologize for work that the audience, or members of the audience don’t get or misinterpret. If satire isn’t interpreted as satire, but as a sincere expression of belief, doesn’t mean that the artist has to condescend to explain it and hold the listener’s hand. As far as I know, Laibach has never come out and said “we aren’t fascists”. General consensus is that they are not, and most of us perceive that from the content of their work. But I don’t think they should have to issue some kind of general disclaimer in case someone comes along and encounters one of their works out of a broader context and thinks that they are.

  10. Alysa Says:

    Oh wow, thank you so much for this timely post!
    I’ve found myself having a lot of conversations about “hipster sexism” lately, and I think this speaks to a similar pattern. This kind of “If it’s outside of the mainstream, it’s cool, so therefore it can’t possibly be sexist [or racist, etc]” way of thinking.

    Having this conversation with goth/industrial types can actually be even more frustrating. So I will be forwarding this post to a few of them…

  11. anne thropy Says:

    I’m really sick of people telling me how to feel (I’m a female) about the art forms in Industrial music, misogyny, exploitation of women is nothing new. As a female, you have to accept its that way and fight back against the man instead of being a victim of circumstances out of your internal locus of control. You think I’m hot? that’s great, but you can fuck off if you say anything disrespectful to me. Has anyone considered the women featured in these groups have agreed to be a part of that art-form? They made an active decision to do so and were not forced. My homeland country is a county where the role of female dominance is accepted and glorified and the woman is considered to be the patriarch/boss, so hearing the West side of the whining is what I feel is interesting about how oppressed people feel by art.

    There was also no bibliographic references to any articles or statements outside of the scene to women and social movements in this article either. I demand better by people not forcing their opinions upon my gender and what is acceptable and what isn’t. While the effort is appreciated, this article could have talked about the generalized issues that women face as a whole outside of the music industry, as well as suggestions to help aid, raise awareness to women’s issues.

  12. Strigiform Says:

    What a fantastic, well researched, well written, and engaging article. We’re also flattered over at IAO for being mentioned. We, in turn, mentioned your article. http://industrialantioppression.blogspot.com/2012/11/coilhouse-misogyny-in-industrial-music.html

    Please keep writing about this. Keep educating. The world needs writers like you. And our scenes especially do. Thank you.

  13. On Misogyny in Industrial Music | Technoccult Says:

    […] Story: On Misogyny in Industrial Music This entry was posted in Link and tagged feminism, fetish, gender, industrial, industrial music, […]

  14. Klint Finley Says:

    “If satire isn’t interpreted as satire, but as a sincere expression of belief, doesn’t mean that the artist has to condescend to explain it and hold the listener’s hand.”

    The question of the artist’s responsibility for people not getting a piece of work is a sticky one. People completely missing the point of satire has been a thing for a long, long time. The movie Joe [1] comes to mind, but it was hardly the first.

    Similarly, to what degree can an artist be criticized for utterly failing at satire? If Combachrist has been at this for as long as he has, and no one gets the joke, is that a failure as an artist on his part? (joblowcritic’s point about Laichach is particularly relevant here).

    There has been a rash of movies over the past few years that claim to be satire or criticism of media violence, violence against women, etc. but simply devolve into being an embodiment of what they intended to satirize — to such a degree that it’s questionable whether the film makers ever really intended to do satire or whether that was all just a cover (Sucker Punch for example).

    Combachrist and Nachtmahr have fallen into the same realm. Is this stuff *really* earnest parody, or cover for the opportunity to do whatever they want without criticism? Did it start out as parody, but at some point start feeling a bit too comfortable?

    One big difference between these guys and Laibach is that, to the best of my knowledge, Laibach never used their aesthetics of fascism schtick as an excuse to, say, make a video about torturing Jews or beating women or whatever. That’s the problem I have with films like Sucker Punch, Crank and that whole family of neo-grindhouse films as well. There just isn’t a big enough difference between the real thing and the satire.

    [1] http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3013/

  15. TanzAnarchy Says:

    Thanx for a really good and important article.
    Have linked to it from my own blog.



  16. Klint Finley Says:

    (And though it’s a tangent from the matter at hand I too would like to voice my support for the retirement of the basement-dwelling virgins cliché)

  17. Mary Says:

    Great article and so true. I totally lost interest in Industrial music around 2000 and have never returned to it. I f**cking loved Skinny Puppy, Coil et al but these newer versions of ‘industrial’ hold absolutely no interest for me.

    I can see the same in the goth music scene; it’s not longer about being weird, experimental, different, it’s now just about a bunch of hot goth chicks in corsets who conform completely to mainstream societal standards of beauty except in halloween costumes. At least some of the new musicians (who some class as hipsters) are actually coming up with music and art that is much closer to the original goth aesthetic. Bands like O Children, Austra, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Horrors are closer to what I consider ‘goth’ than any of the new wave of goth bands that identify with the subculture.

    I also hate the ‘get a sense of humour, it’s ironic’ or ‘this is PC gone mad’ cop-out statements. Even humour needs to be examined for what it is really saying as it’s often the truest representation of how society really feels and thinks.

  18. Tias Terror Says:

    Great article, and one that really articulates the unpleasant feeling I’ve had as an outside observer – I haven’t been to industrial shows in several years, but the trend towards empty machismo, overt misogyny and less reflective play with fascist imagery has been clear even to someone who’s not in the know.

    One extremely tiny nitpick, it’s really irritating when skinhead is used interchangably with neo-nazi. The vast majority of skinheads are not nazis or racists, and most of us are very aware of gender and sexuality issues, even though we come across as crude and macho to some.

  19. Andrew K Says:

    For the thing with Laibach is they’ve always been able to take nationalist imagery and show the us that what makes it most dangerous is that it can be made very beautiful, attractive, and endearing. Just watch their video of Across the Universe and imagine how seductive a Norman Rockwell version could be to the average American. Just as Laibach’s mutations of popular songs is a demonstration of how anything can be co-opted by the cause.

    In comparison Combichrist is pornographic trash. Grind-house is also pornographic trash. It’s all about instantaneous experience. That’s why you watch Cannibal Holocaust or Faces of Death, so you can see crazy shit. There’s a point where you should stop pretending that you’re intellectual, ironic, or satirical and just admit that you like seeing crazy shit or you like making crazy shit for others to see. Cause the problem isn’t the fact that the imagery exists, it’s the fact that some people don’t want to talk about what is wrong with them.

  20. kelly Says:

    suicide girls made it ok

  21. Nadya Says:

    Guys, thanks so much for all the comments on this piece. I read each and every one one of them, as well as on the various discussions on Facebook. This piece really exploded today, and it’s going to be difficult to reply to everyone individually.

    It feels great to have this article out in the wild. I feel like some poison has been drawn out of me. And the quality of the discourse surrounding the piece has been astounding.

    I accept the criticism about using the phrase “basement-dwelling virgins.” It occurred to me as I was writing that I should have reworded that for precisely the reasons mentioned. I should have listened my instinct more and changed it. My intention was not to shame anyone, and I apologize. It’s too late to change it, but I will use a different metaphor in the future.

    @Klint Finley Isn’t it weird how Sucker Punch passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors?

    @anne thropy: If you reread the article, you’ll see I do address the fact that some of the female performers not only enjoyed acting in the TGoF music video, but came up with the most violent images in it. Nowhere in the piece do I tell anyone how they should feel – I am merely stating how I, along with a huge portion of fans, feel about this. There are no bibliographic references to women’s issues outside of the industrial scene because we have an entire category on this site – gender – filled with dozens of posts talking about gender-related struggles all across the world.

    @Strigiform I love your blog so much. It was a huge, huge inspiration for writing this blog post. Keep doing the good work that you’re doing!

    @mr. pathogen Likewise, your blog posts were a huge help as I was researching! Thank you so much.

    @Andrew K I love Laibach so much, precisely for that reason. They were one of my biggest inspirations when I started Coilhouse – I listened to Kapital nonstop when I designed the first version of this site – and it’s kind of fitting that in my last post, there is so much wonderful commentary about them. You really summed up what made them great!

    @Tias Terror I am aware of what you mean. I was quoting another writer when talking about skinheads, but in the future, I’ll try to contextualize further.

    @Mary I completely agree. I hate it when people pull that “PC thought police” bullshit. Especially since “PC” is essentially a straw man: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v5n2/homepage.html

    @joblowcritic I agree. Laibach should not have to justify themselves to anyone or issue any sort of “we are not nazis” disclaimer. It would completely ruin their mystique! The difference is that I believe that they do have an artistic agenda, and that their fans can read between the lines. It takes subtlety to say something without actually coming out and saying it – while staying funny and creating poignant work. If people get offended – and trust me, a LOT of people have been offended by Laibach, including the Anti-Defamation League, which succeeded in censoring Laibach in the States at times – sometimes that’s part of the art, and part of playing your cards right. But you need to be really, really smart to get away with that.

    @Gray A love letter doesn’t have to be positive. It can be scathing, tearful, silly… it can be a lot of things. We’ve written about many different types of alternative cultures here, and not always kindly. Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed reading it!

    Everyone else who I did not call out specifically – you guys are awesome. After working on this piece for what seemed like an eternity, I am so heartened by the response!

  22. Lykanthrope Says:

    The comment of Grey hits the point. Industrial music always was very violent (and hateful). But ist was about violence and hate itself and in all kinds. It was “equal” violence in a very pure kind. With becoming mainstream the industrial scene also became more civilized and in our society violence against women ist more civilian than showing violence and hate in all forms.

  23. Tesca Says:

    While I do think that this is a well-written article, I’d really like to see women interviewed for their reactions and responses. Can you get ahold of Sow? I’d fucking love to hear what she has to say.

    Additionally, I’ve been wondering this since I saw Jairus’s post on sideline/vp prior to the festival. Why is this whole issue being treated as some type of new phenomenon? Like it was allll hunky-dory for women just 15 years ago. Do a search through rmi’s archive. I’ve found posts by myself on the topic dating back to 1996, and misogyny was far from a new issue for the other women (gnat/etc) on the list at the time. It’s been a problem in our subculture for women in general, female djs, female performers, female fetish-performers, female show-organizers, and female musicians/band members. It’s been a problem on our various IRC channels. It’s been a problem at our music festivals and music shows, and at our clubs. (And I’m not even getting into the complicated relationship our scene has with queer women/sexualities.)

    Women have been pointing this out to men in our scene for decades. I know it was not meant to be this type of thing, but I sorta feel mansplained. Like, wow, now that these two men have finally noticed A Problem, they’ve come to show us all The Way. Here they are, two white knights. They are so brave. Ladies, let’s thank them for saving us! We’d all forgotten–women _do_ deserve respect. Let’s pat them on the back and kiss their asses!

  24. Chewtoy Says:

    As the industrial scene thrives on exploring moral ambiguity, the most hard-hitting dismissal of any industrial artist is not that they are immoral or politically incorrect, but that they are shallow and tedious, as artists who repeat the same sex ‘n’ violence fantasy over and over again invariably are.

    When industrial music started out in the late 1970s it was all about constant innovation, you would never catch Throbbing Gristle repeating a concept twice in their consecutive records. Over the years, however, industrial music has become an all too comfortable formula, conservative much like any more mainstream music genre.

    I am not familiar with the music of Combichrist and Nachtmahr, but their narrow focus seems a bit infantile, of the frat-boy variety. I am reminded of a similar discussion in the mid eighties about whether the band Whitehouse had fascist and/or racist sympathies (a similar debate was over Boyd Rice). The issue soon died down as the Whitehouse’s variety of feedback and screaming was simply too boring to attract a following of considerable size to care about.

    From the article:
    “…talk about what that means publicly. Write a blog post. Engage with your audience. Talk about consent. Talk about your inspirations. Own what you’re doing, but talk about the problematic nature of it.”

    This is never going to happen with the majority artists, and not only because men don’t discuss their inner life as exhibtionistically as women do. Rather, for an artist, analyzing your work to death with your audience strongly diminishes the strength of its charge. The power of art lies in its mystery, which lets the viewers/listeners complement the abstract with their own imagination.

  25. mark Says:

    G P-O and Cosi’s outrageous performances (COUM Transmissions) started in 1969, not 1975. “Tainted Love” was not the “first aids benefit in music history” . I found a reference to a 1983 benefit concert at Arlington Street Church in Boston, but “firsts” are difficult, often impossible to clearly establish, and such flimsy claims with grandiose language should trigger everyone’s skepticism as this false claim did mine. It was an early one, not too long after the high profile benefit trend got going in ’84 after “Band – Aid” put out the ever annoying “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and Coil deserve a certain amount of credit for this along with the recognition that they weren’t doing it to make themselves look good personally, which is clear enough if you look at the record cover or ads from that time.

    I suspect the article misses the point. Creating something new is a completely different act than working in an established moneymaking tradition. And so they attract different types of people on the supply and demand sides.

    Modern “industrial” isn’t just misogynistic. It also sucks in pretty much every other way. You’ve got artists and fans that think it is nothing more than a 1980s vintage concept of what is supposed to be shocking (yet still commercial), with 4/4 sequencer beats. In what way is this supposed to challenge, subvert, or redefine art or pop culture ? This goth dance music is about as revolutionary as rich white suburban kids in the 90s starting “punk” bands. Which is to say, it isn’t. Not even a little bit.

    Of course their imagery has descended into ugly, familiar cliches; they never got any more than that from the original stuff, either. If they had a full appreciation of the individualists that created what is now considered the “stye”, they would have done their own thing as those people did, rather than imitating it superficially.

    If you’re looking for threatening and dangerous anti-art, as a general rule you will not find it with it’s own dedicated section in the record store, nor with a recognizable name. Current offerings in formerly revolutionary styles of art or music aren’t just inferior in form compared to the originals, they are also a complete joke in content. They should be laughed at, not supported, because the people that make and consume that stuff really just don’t get it.

    It makes more sense to classify musicians by methods, rather than resulting styles; this puts innovators together (regardless of style) and followers together. As long as audiences don’t see this, they will continue to fall victim to cheap fuckin’ imitations.

  26. Nadya Says:

    @Tesca: Thank you for the thoughtful feedback. I do agree with you that casual misogyny has been a problem in our subculture for decades. I remember Gnat (and definitely considered her a role model), and I remember RMI, though I was more of an AG/AGF kinda girl. But this blog post was mostly about the visual culture (and secondarily about the lyrical content) of industrial’s most modern incarnation. All the most egregious examples I cite – the Suicide Commando video, the Nachmahr and Combichrist album covers and videos – happen in 2008 or later. I thought about interviewing more women for this article, but felt that ID:YD did a great job of polling lots of ladies in the scene in this piece that I linked to. In addition to Amelia, I wish I’d had time to interview my friend Shikhee from Android Lust, but simply ran out of time. Sow would’ve been great too. Coilhouse interviewed her in 2008 and she talked about feminism and equality. Good stuff. As for Ad·ver·sary and Antigen Shift, I don’t think they should be given any less credit for coming up with a powerful way to protest this growing trend in our scene, just because they happen to be guys. It is everyone’s responsibility to speak up and fight this problem. We’re all in it together. I actually started writing this piece long before the “We Demand Better” video happened, but I was really happy that it did – it gave me even more to write about. I hope that people continue to be outspoken about this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  27. Maggie Says:

    A friend of mine posted this on his FB and I commented there but hadn’t contributed here and I really do want to so I hope the conversation isn’t over.

    I don’t like CombiChrist and I’m not really a fan of Nachtmahr. I find both of them dull and repetitive musically. The kind of songs that don’t keep me on the dance floor in a club because I get bored when dancing is just one move repeated again and again for 5 minutes. But at the same time I dig the return of the aggression in industrial, damn I loved the first VNV Nation track I heard in a club (Joy), but that ushered in the futurepop/electropop/another damn subgenre name/whatever and I just felt like things got so…soft. I got into the music through NIN (specifically Broken), Skinny Puppy (Last Rights), and Ministry (The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste). I quit going out as much when ‘industrial’ nights turned into ‘Wolfsheim/Depeche Mode/maybe And One’. And I like And One and Depeche Mode. It’s just I always wanted to hear something fucking vicious too. I wish it weren’t coming around in the form of this lame dudebro shit. You can’t satirize something by just *mimicking* it, and so much in the mainstream is still so ugly, and there’s been such a successful run of getting people to shut up about what’s offensive by cloaking it with ‘irony!’ with a wink and a nod that it’s become virtually impossible to tell the joke from the real. Satirizing sexism in the US is like trying to satirize the WestBoro Baptist Church, or any of the birthers and increasingly anything the Republican Party does – it is so pervasive and they are so crazy, how do you top it? How many people watching Family Guy know that part of the concept was to make fun of the fat horrible slob married to a beautiful woman on sitcoms? It just seems normal. It is normal. It’s boring. When Nirvana had cheerleaders for anarchy in the Smells Like Teen Spirit video it was weird, they took an image from wholesome happy Americana and turned it on it’s head. Now it’s been done, it’s not edgy or unique anymore. You can’t paint a red square on a canvas and tell people who don’t care about it that they just don’t ‘get it’. Rothko did that before I was even born. It’s old hat. Get a new idea.

  28. Nadya Says:

    @mark: Thank you for the fact-checking. What I meant (and I could’ve worded it more clearly) was that Coil’s Tainted Love is considered the world’s first AIDS benefit music release. I see that there was an 1983 AIDS benefit concert in Arlington, but that’s different from a record release. I got my information from Wikipedia: “all profits from the sale of this release were donated to the AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. It was the first AIDS benefit music release.” The Terrence Higgins Trust was the UK’s first HIV charity, established in 1982. Wikipedia is not always reliable, but there is a citation provided for this claim to an 1985 article written by Tom Vague for Zigzag Magazine. I just updated the Wiki citation to link to a version of the article that’s still online, as the version referenced as no longer live. As I can find no reference to any other AIDS benefit music release before 1985, this is good enough for me. (My understanding is that Band-Aid’s single “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was to raise charity for the impoverished in Ethiopia.)

    COUM Transmissions has been around since 1969, but I was referring to a specific incident. I got the year wrong – it was actually 1976, not 1975 – but I was referring to COUM’s “Prostitution” show at the ICA, in response to which Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn famously exclaimed, “It’s a sickening outrage, sadistic, obscene, evil … these people are the wreckers of civilization. They want to advance decadence.” I did a little more research and found that this specific show merely involved pornography, stripping, maggots and used tampons, and that the semen-consumption happened at another show. So, you are right, I should have checked my facts better.

    I agree with most of your points, though. Modern industrial music is full of “vapid disco shitbeats,” to borrow a phrase from my beloved co-editor, Mer. And it’s true that most avant-garde music traditions end up in this same exact place – the originators leave, the genre dwindles into cliches. In this article, I’m just talking about how that happened in a specific genre that’s dear to my heart.

  29. Nadya Says:

    @Chewtoy “The issue soon died down as the Whitehouse’s variety of feedback and screaming was simply too boring to attract a following of considerable size to care about.” TOTALLY. The difference (and why I wrote this) is that these new bands have a much more widespread appeal. I have friends who like them, they get uncritically interviewed/reviewed in magazines that I read, and that’s why I felt the need to go for it and write this.

    As for artists talking about their work too much, I definitely agree that too much navel-gazing and oversharing can dull a piece of art. See my comment to joblowcritic about Laibach in this thread. Some art just doesn’t lend itself to more exposition, similar to how a magic trick can lose its appeal once you know how the mechanism behind it. OR, it can become more fascinating. Depends on the trick. Depends on the storytelling. Art can’t be made by committee, and reading ALL the comments isn’t healthy for any artist. That said, I still believe that unless it undermines some cleverly-conceived artistic meaning, taking some time to contextualize a piece of work that you know will upset and trigger a lot of people is worthwhile. In today’s world, where the connection between the artist and their fan base is so direct and easy to maintain, it doesn’t even take that much effort. No artist is obligated to explain anything to their fans, of course. But, by the same token, as my friend Lorraine put it, artists are under no obligation to have fans, either. :)

  30. Guerrilla Monkey – Bookmarks 27/11/12 Says:

    […] Interesting piece on misogyny in Industrial Music […]

  31. club|debil Says:

    Great and surely necessary artivle BUT…

    Besides Laibach non of the mentioned band has to do anything with Industrial. Call it Hell Electro, Gothic Techno or however, it is no fucking Industrial. If you want to talk about Misogyny in Industrial scene and I’m sure you’ll find more than one example, look at Sutcliffe Jügend, Brighter Death Now, Whitehouse…
    This kind of phenomena you are talking about startedt years ago. Look at all the „Gothic“ compilations with the sluts imaginary on it. I’m sure, this was only the typical attempt to get attention and get this Cds sold. So Nachtmahr et. all are Industry music, exploiting the stupid schemes of consumer satisfaction, but they don’t play Industrial musick. Please don’t throw them in our pot! Thank you!

    club|debil, Dresden

  32. jimmyjoe snark III Says:

    Thanx for the very interesting article which, I hope, will make people react some about the very, very sad state of mind in industrial music.
    Unfortunately, this dying genre is where you’ll find these days people who want their dosis of testosteroned football anthems with a synthetic beat, not groundbreaking music nor shattering sonic adventures: just steady decerebrated beats serving as layer for moronic lyrics.
    Stupidity and misogyny loves to walk hand in hand.

  33. cubby2113 Says:

    All the gender differences which actually exist are more like tendencies on a sliding scale. Societies always end up exaggerating and mandating these differences. It is unfortunate that a genre like industrial, which used to be so primal and thoughtful at the same time, has devolved into a darker mirror of the status quo. I become so irritated when I see an industrial band depicting women in much the same way as the mainstream, but I find it appealing in some ways at the same time, which is part of why it agitates me so. I enjoy much of the fetish aesthetic which industrial incorporates, but despise the way in which it is usually incorporated.

    I used to envoy much of the 4/4 beats, and those beats are some of what sparked my further interest in “industrial.” I found myself working backwards through many artists’ catalogues, and never going back the other way. Suicide Commando is a good example of such a band. I can hardly stand Johan’s newest work, but love the atmosphere of his old stuff. The lyrics have never been great.

  34. Tesca Says:

    Nadya, thank you for your thoughtful response.

    “But this blog post was mostly about the visual culture (and secondarily about the lyrical content) of industrial’s most modern incarnation. All the most egregious examples I cite – the Suicide Commando video, the Nachmahr and Combichrist album covers and videos – happen in 2008 or later.”

    Well, what I was reacting to was the skipping of several decades before identifying a situation as “new.” The title says misogyny in industrial music, not recent industrial music, and I know this sounds nit-picky, but I don’t think it is. I’ve had oh-so-many men tell me how awesome the industrial scene is for women citing our founding “parents” of TG and then cherry-picking through industrial history to find a tiny handful of bands that “prove” that argument. [Incidentally, it is always the exact same bands that are drudged up from 30-40 years ago to justify arguments about how our scene today is also queer friendly. Why is Leather Strip never part of that group I wonder? He is one of the most feminist male industrial musicians, and he’s been around for _decades_. Anyway, back to point…]

    Yes, some of those bands are awesome and may even have fought against misogyny. But a few bands is not at all the same thing as the culture of a scene. For starters, people can believe and promote misogynistic things without realizing it.

    This is the argument I’ve always heard about Revco. That they don’t mean to be sexist and thus I shouldn’t take them that way. No one wants to hear that I fucking hated Revco as a teenager up to about 24/25 because guys loooove to talk about how awesome their show was where they had sexy women serving them grapes on stage or some other thing that objectified women just because they could. And because they wanted to make male audience members happy by doing so. As a girl and then woman, hearing this constantly from my male peers was incredibly insulting and off-putting. I ultimately ignored a good bit of Chicago industrial as a result. It was all tainted by Good Ol’ Boys. They’re just in it for a bit of fun. What’s wrong, ladies? Can’t take a joke? Why are you so serious? I’m serious because barring Coil, it’s never ever naked men. I’m serious because it’s never ever women getting to perform as part of the band–even if the singer, we’re always supposed to be the sexy, hyper-feminized side-show.

    This is not just limited to Shows I’ve Gone To. This is even in Shows That I’m Helping Put On. Where I have to fight to get even one male dancer against many other voices who can’t see what’s wrong with just having “sexy” women up on the stage. Where the thought of having a shot-“boy” is unthinkable but a shot “girl” is somehow a necessity. She also can’t just be any female member of our scene. Unlike male djs for example, women are expected to have put a fair amount of money into their wardrobes as well. [Not that men can’t and don’t, but they aren’t “teased” frequently with, ‘oh, i see you didn’t feel like getting dressed up tonight’ just because they wore a band tee, combat boots, and combat pants to dj in.] I’ve seen this objectifying obliviousness take place at both regular and queer clubs and with other queer, feminist folks being some of those voices.

    This is going to be a terribly long post, isn’t it? I’m sorry. I’ve been frustrated by this problem for awhile. I wish folks in our scene would actually bother to read gender theory occasionally (shit, read a blog that deals with gender issues, a feminist twitter stream, _anything_) and keep themselves a bit better informed. It’s our culture to be political. Why are acceptable topics of politics in our scene never about women’s rights or queer rights? Why aren’t there songs about that? If male artists really want to help, how about starting there? Why don’t they move their own asses out of the Boys Club? Why don’t they fucking burn down the Boys Club?! Let’s torch that motherfucker and march through the ashes!

    Let’s be ugly together. Let’s write a women’s history of industrial.
    Let’s make our industrial parents proud. Where is the pride in coasting on others’ achievements?

  35. J.Strauss Says:

    Great article. I have shared it a lot; it really answers the questions I’ve been asking myself about why the scene doesn’t do it for me anymore.

    I also made a parody song, dealing with the bands in question. Enjoy and spread the word:

  36. Nadya Says:

    J. Strauss:

    AHAHAHAHAHA. Oh my god. That was… amazing. Wow. I think I love you.

    I hope that it becomes a club hit. :)

  37. J.Strauss Says:

    Haha, thanks. It was actually this article that made me do it, I needed the spark to voice my thoughts. The singer of Nachtmahr actually replied to it and said ‘he liked it a lot!’. Don’t know if he got the message, really.

    Several DJ:s already asked me for it. Here’s a download link, just in case.

    Keep up the good work!

  38. Nadya Says:


    Yeah, I agree that the title of this piece could’ve used some work. Good point.

    It’s interesting that you mention Leather Strip, because I actually interviewed Claus Larsen for this article! He had some wonderful things to say, but I wasn’t able to weave them into this already-sprawling article. Here are some great points he made:

    “For me there has to be some substance behind the ‘madness’ and imagery for sure. It could be satire, horror or something sexual. I guess it’s an ego thing, the young generation seem to be getting their confidence in their life from a completely different place than I did back when I was an angry young man. It’s like they get it from what other people see in them and not from the love they should have for themselvs in who they are and what they achieve in life. the popular term might me ‘the X-factor generation’. It’s all bout being judged by when you think are your peers. It’s sad.” However, Claus was critical of the “We Demand Better” video: “Personally I think that was a bad move to ‘out’ his view that way at Kinetik festival just before the bands he focused on in his video was playing the same stage, same night. It made it seem like more than a promotion stunt for his own project, and I feel divided people more than start a discussion, which I think was his actual goal. But in general I agree with a lot of what he tried to bring up, just now the way he did it.” I disagree with Claus there – I think the video was a wonderful provocation – but I definitely see where he’s coming from.

    And yes. “Let’s be ugly together.” I like the sound of that. <3

  39. Tesca Says:

    i agree with claus about the broadcasting of the video. for precisely those reasons i would have been immediately turned off both bands if i hadn’t already been familiar with the artists. i don’t think the format was appropriate either for the venue or for communicating the message. the video wasn’t some crazy creative art/music fusion. just some powerpoint presentation so that we could all have a Serious Talk afterwards but no wait, there was no serious talk afterwards because it’s a music festival and bands were playing afterwards.

    the call-out’s stunt-like manner is in fact what set up my back about the developing mansplaining tone of things. it is what made me feel that those guys aren’t really serious, or at least that they haven’t put alot of thought into their message and the best way to go about influencing others with that message.

    j.strauss, that’s the kind of shit i’m talking about. we need at the very least more songs like that.

  40. Aladar Says:

    Wait, wait, wait, wait.

    So it was okay when Throbbing Gristle sang about raping a woman and cutting a fetus out of her womb, it was okay when Whitehouse sang about raping little girls and abusing women, it was okay when Monte Cazzaza sampled women screaming in pain and trailers for exploitation movies that were all about torturing women (and I can go on).. but suddenly, 40 years later, it’s suddenly a pressing issue that we all have to be super angry about?


  41. Tesca Says:

    heh. well, there’s a reason i don’t like mc and whitehouse (and why i’ve become a bit soured on the power electronics front). and this is why i’m saying that misogyny’s something that’s been there this whole time, really.

    yes, why can’t a man screaming in fear be in more samples? ah, that’s right. the audience is assumed to be male and thus a screaming female is supposed to be more provocative/scary/unnerving. men aren’t sampled crying/sobbing nor do lyrics talk about male rape because that’d be too scary for guys. that’d be too fucked up because everyone knows it’s women that are supposed to be raped. that’s the “normal” order. guys don’t want to identify with the sounds, they want a bit of distance. but you know, it’s okay to make women have to identify with victim after victim.

    industrial doesn’t make music for women. most bands appear to make it with heterosexual men in mind. that’s why scene assholes can claim that if the women want to be part of the scene, they should learn to deal and become complicit in scene misogyny by denying its reality. it’s always women that need to grow the thicker skins. poor modern men, always suffering because of their fragile bodies and crises of masculinity! why don’t women understand how hard men have it?!

  42. Nadya Says:


    Throbbing Gristle was an assault on the audience in every way imaginable; from the “music” (like Gen choosing to play the bass because it was the thing he was “least qualified to do”) to the visuals (concentration camp footage and suggestions of child pornography) down to even the low-fi recording methods. No one had ever created such harsh anti-music before. I’m not saying in my article that you should never have misogyny in your work, or that violence against women must categorically be presented as something bad; I’m just advocating for intelligent, contextualized uses of it, and I think that TG used it – along with many, many other horrific elements – to reflect an ugly mirror to the world they were living in. As did many of their early industrial counterparts.

    As John Doran puts it in a wonderful review of TG’s catalogue, “I personally don’t think that TG are, or were, Nazis or Gypsy killers or paedophiles or ‘wreckers of civilization’, and I don’t think most other people do either; at least they don’t when they stop and think about it. So if they’re not mocking little girls, gypsies, burn victims and suicidal coastal ramblers, where is all this scorn being directed? Could it be that it’s us? At the average buyer of so called ‘alternative’ music? That they’re simply laughing at people who do nothing to resist their pre-determined roles in a post industrial, late capitalist society?”

    On the other hand, Combichrist or Nachtmahr would never sing about violently despising the “little clits” and “little tits” of 10-year-old girls, as TG had done. They would never put an actual photograph of an emaciated Holocaust corpse onto an EP cover. Because that’s probably distasteful to them. Because they want to make music that will get them tours and fans (a totally reasonable goal for any working musician). It’s clear from their music videos that they think that what they’re doing is edgy and cool, and that they know that their fans will dig it, also.

    Monte Cazzaza was just straight-up *weird*. He was known to walk around San Francisco dressed as an old woman, a loaded revolver in holster around his waist, carrying a small suitcase containing a dead cat and bottle of petrol inside. I honestly don’t know enough about him, except that he was really odd. It would be really amusing to do a feminist reading of his work – perhaps an essay for another time. I do know that he collaborated with queer feminist artist Michelle Handelman at length. He helped produce Bloodsisters, her documentary on the SF leatherdyke community. And the two of them wrote a funny essay analyzing Breakfast with Barbie together, an excerpt of which can be found here.

    However… you are right, and a lot of people pointed out, that this article fails to convey that industrial music has included racist, sexist, homophobic and douchey artists from the very beginning; Boyd Rice, Whitehouse, elements of the Chicago scene, etc. That is totally a fair point. I felt that others had discussed this in the past, and wanted to focus on this most modern incarnation of the problem, which I feel is more insidious precisely because it is more “pop.”

  43. Aladar Says:

    Tesca: I think you should calm down. Sorry to be assuming here, but you sound like one of the guys/girls that try too hard to shift everything around. It may be the music I was subjected to, but I for one have heard probably more EBM/post-industrial songs about female domination and female superiority then songs about degrading women. Honestly, I can’t think of any other projects than Combichrist that would openly sing about degrading women. Hell, even Nachtmahr has songs about dominant females, why don’t you point that out?

    Why is it okay to have a band gimmick centered around serial killers, singing about ways to torture and kill people, and have on-stage persona of a blood-splattered psychopath, but not having a band whose gimmick is centered around being a macho alpha-male singing about “feminist cunts”? If you ask me, both of those subjects are highly controversial and “vile”, I see no reason why one should be put above the other.

    Nadya: I know that TG was an assault in every way. I am definitely not trying to shoot TG down as a one-trick-pony without any relevance – I love their work, and I absolutely admire the way they changed music forever by going where no one else thought – or dared to – go, but, do you really think when Genesis wrote Slug Bait or Very Friendly, (s)he was thinking of some kind of higher art? Because, sure, they have some very thought-out songs, but they also have some purely exploitative ones, so I think that should have been mentioned as well. Ultimately, the only difference between Very Friendly and Die Motherfucker Die, for example, is that Very Friendly was performed by a band of near-genius minds that revolutionarized underground electronics, while the other was done by a one-trick-pony artist, but that doesn’t make the song itself different.

    And yes, Monte was weird, maybe even borderline psychopathic, thinking nothing of others’ property and maybe even lives (cyanide in soup incident), but isn’t that a reason why he should have been mentioned, seeing as he may have actually have the misoginystic tendencies?

    Really, I don’t know why this is such a big issue. After all, the scene itself feeds and encourages this (did you ever see how the girls dress and act on shows and parties?), and it only applies to few bands. Most of the bands in the scene are not like this. It’s like accusing death metal of being shocking – yes, it is, but that’s how it’s been for years, the fans love it, and it’s all just pretend. I really don’t think art should be criticized for it’s content.

    Lastly, you should separate the artist from the art. Look at it this way: if you didn’t know him, would you think that Peter Christopherson, the calm, unbelievably kind and loving buddhist is a person who was wearing nazi uniforms, making music about all kinds of twisted, sick things and sexual fetishes, and made multiple movies depicting rape, torture, mutilation and death of adults and minors? The same with William Bennett: I met him this January, and contrary to all my expectations, he was just a very nice, poetry-loving middle aged intellectual who loved art and his fans..

    So, really, just because Andy and Thomas sing about subjects like these, it doesn’t mean they are rapists, sexists, or anything else, especially when they both have other, “normal”, PC projects..

  44. Tesca Says:

    nadya, why are y’all closing up coilhouse again? i can’t remember the last time i’ve read such interesting posts _combined_ with such thoughtful responses.

  45. Tesca Says:

    “Tesca: I think you should calm down. Sorry to be assuming here, but you sound like one of the guys/girls that try too hard to shift everything around.”

    What exactly do you mean, “shift everything around”? Also, calm down? Really? Did my sarcasm hurt your feelings? Or was it the reality of having to see things from a different perspective?

    “It may be the music I was subjected to, but I for one have heard probably more EBM/post-industrial songs about female domination and female superiority then songs about degrading women. Honestly, I can’t think of any other projects than Combichrist that would openly sing about degrading women.”

    But see the thing is, there are several different guys who made several different types of very offensive videos. It’s not just about openly singing. It’s about it seeming like a fantastic idea to these guys to make these kinds of videos. that means it’s more of a cultural problem, not just some rogue jerk.

    “Hell, even Nachtmahr has songs about dominant females, why don’t you point that out?”

    Actually I have pointed that out on another forum, since I happen to really like some Nachtmahr, particularly Maedchen in Uniform. The dominant female thing is definitely something I’ve always liked since I’ve always been into kink. However, there is a difference between fetishizing all women as sex objects (i.e. imagining women only in terms of them being your Domme or them being your submissive/fucktoy) and allowing women to be just as capable as men of doing non-sex based things.

    i know there isn’t a bechdel test equivalent for music, but that’s the basic idea. do women just show up in the song to look hot? are they there because they are supposed to be attractive scenery to go with the men? are they supposed to be an audience for the men to perform for? are women only imagined in stereotypically feminine clothing? in songs that don’t deal with sex, are there any women mentioned or is it specifically guys/men that are called out to action? are women seen to have any desires outside of love/romance/sex (and this includes revenge based on broken relationships)?

    “Really, I don’t know why this is such a big issue. After all, the scene itself feeds and encourages this (did you ever see how the girls dress and act on shows and parties?), and it only applies to few bands. Most of the bands in the scene are not like this. It’s like accusing death metal of being shocking – yes, it is, but that’s how it’s been for years, the fans love it, and it’s all just pretend.”

    So, what you’re saying is that women be crazy and that women are just asking for it by the way that they dress/act. Oops, that was “girls” though right? Right, of course it was. Well, I’m glad to know that whatever the Scene decides to do, it’s totally great and totally acceptable. You didn’t really read Nadya’s article at all, did you? Maybe you should go back and do that.

  46. Aladar Says:

    Tesca: good to know I was right, you’re just another drama queen looking for something to get mad and offended about. Please, go ahead and live in your delusional state where all men are degraded to slaves, everything is dominated by women, and all art is regulated to be absolutely PC and all doves and kitties. I’ll just assume you know nothing about industrial (yes, industrial, not EBM) culture, and go ahead and ignore you from now on, while I wait for people that don’t feel the need to communicate on level of Billy the Redneck. If nothing, I very much enjoy the discussion with Nadya, so I would like to ask you not to address me from now on.

    Last thing though, maybe you should do something else than get mad on the internet. Like, I don’t know, make your own art that you like.

  47. Aladar Says:

    By the way, I believe you didn’t even answer my question that was directly asked, but never mind that, I don’t think I even want to know anymore.

  48. off and ghone Says:

    The bottom line is that the industrial/gothic “scene” no longer harbors the musical and artistic talent it once did, as evidenced by the necessity of evening having this necessary but ridiculous discussion. The scene is not taken seriously by anyone outside of it, nor does it deserve to be. It is telling that the most innovative electronic artists these days are in fact female (Grimes, Planningtorock, Myths) or instrumental hiphop producers like flying lotus. There is actually a serious dearth of experimental electronic music with male vocals, a void that could potentially be filled by aspiring musicians of an industrial bent. Then again, what talented young musician making their way in the world today would want to be associated with these hot topic rejects? You can cite artistic freedom, irony, BDSM fetish aesthetics all you want, but the music and images are derivative, exploitive crap.

  49. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    “You can cite artistic freedom, irony, BDSM fetish aesthetics all you want, but the music and images are derivative, exploitive crap.”

    Yep. Pretty much.

    Nadya, sorry I’ve been quiet, but I’ve definitely been reading and grokking a whole lot from this post and the ensuing thread. Brava, my friend. Nailed it.

    A gentle reminder to all: Coilhouse might be on hiatus, but Nadya and I are both still moderating comments. Let’s all try to steer further discourse in this thread clear of direct, personal name-calling and insult-hurling, yeah? Thankee kindly! :)

  50. Musings n’ shit: Hey Ladies, The Vintage Caravan Wants You to Make them A Sandwich And Fuck Off Afterwards (Allegedly)… « Reykjavik Sex Farm! Says:

    […] I’m just getting tired of it all. But in a wonderful piece by Nadya Lev on the creeping sexism and misogyny in goth, industrial, and other forms of music, she confronts […]

  51. Sinead Says:

    Well, having seen how much the Goth scene itself change from the late 80s through the 90s, I blamed much of what it became on the synthpoop-industrial of the 2000s. What once was much more fluid in gender, became much more cis-hetero-normative but with spiky hair and goggles. Fat nerdy kids and gender freaks kinda became the strange ones in the back of the clubs that darted out only when the token Bauhaus song was played, and like the bats they were, retreated into their little caves when the oontz-oontz-oontz started up again.

    Even though a lot of the misogyny, douchebaggery, and cis-hetero-normative stuff was always there, it wasn’t what drew people to it. I feel that the days when you couldn’t tell who was a boy or a girl and didn’t care are gone and long forgotten.

  52. Strigiform Says:

    Sinead, there are those of us who still celebrate those days by living them! Keep it real.

  53. andrew Says:

    i don’t listen to nachtmahr or combichrist for the lyrics. i mean jeez, who can hear it over all the effects and the AMAZING music? now that i know it is so “bad” it can be my new guilty pleasure, like smoking or something. why don’t focus on banning cigarettes rather than the music of nachtmahr? they kill more people, that;s why! :)

  54. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Andrew, take some gingko biloba supplements and reread, please. No one here has called for the banning of shitty EBM, or said anything to that effect.

  55. april Says:

    I am a girl, and I’m not very big. Seeing videos like “Throat Full of Glass” and hearing lyrics like “Shut Up and Swallow” made me think somebody understood the way I felt, the subtle message the world manages to give loud and clear. The most aggressive and sexist guys I have met don’t listen to music expressing sexism towards women, they listen to mellow tunes that talk about peace and love, they have no awareness of their own nature, behavior and feelings towards women.
    Also in the pictures at the end, Snoop is lording over the women, in the second picture one of the women are almost as tall as the man. The last picture the male in the center is looking away arms crossed in front, to me looks vulnerable despite the gear. I do not think they are they are the same message, I do agree more context could be inserted and more of an attempt to do away with cliche macho sexism could be made, however the pictures are not void of evidence of change and awareness of hurtful and degrading attitudes. I apologize for how poorly written this is.

  56. Iduru Says:

    I think there was an important point that was overlooked…..Throbbing Gristle was accused of being misogynistic! Also Throbing Gristle received criticism and accusations of fascism and Nazism for their use of pictures of the incineration ovens at Dachau. And the bands logo being inspired by a design on a can of Zykolon B, the gas used by the nazi’s in the gas chambers. By the standards of this artical some of their songs have “misogynistic” lyrical content. It’s funny how things that are older are always held up as being some p.c. example, as if somehow in the lapse of time they become staid examples. Also I think it is important to note the writer of this clearly express a distaste for industrial music “,Ultimately, we shouldn’t be too worried about the future of “dark music.” It doesn’t belong to these Confederate-flag-waving assholes. It may not even lie in the industrial genre, but with musicians such as Spoek Mathambo, Fever Ray, Light Asylum, HTRK, Chelsea Wolfe, Cat’s Eyes, and Kate Stelmanis”. Anyone who is at home in the industrial genre knows that satire, even satire to the point of being almost imperceptible from the real thing, is standard for industrial music. The wonderful thing about industrial music is we can have many different types and flavors. Nahctmar, Combichrist and Suicide Commando are parts of a sub-genre of industrial called “Agro-Tech”. Agro-Tech is certainly not representative of all industrial music any more than “Gangster Rap” is representative of all Rap music. “Agro-Tech” has a posturing of a “FTW attitude” it does not even particularly single out women, and lyrically has as much, if not more, violence directed at men. I agree discussion is always important, but censorship is extremely dangerous! And personally if you are worried about offending people, you have no bisness in industrial music, as a fan or an artist! Industrial has a long, long history of adopting controversial attitudes, ideas, lyrics and imagery. But I personally as an industrial fan think this is done as a way to make people pay attention to issues and get people talking.

  57. Zakuwając nuty (Kiosk 1/2013) | Ziemia Niczyja | Mariusz Herma Says:

    […] niektórych punk zaczął się w Peru, inni wyśledzili mizogonię w industrialu oraz związki dubstepu z metalem i funkiem. Dubstepowe zmainstreamowienie opisał Spin, a […]

  58. dj refugium Says:

    There is so much good in this conversation.

    Love the comment about female DJs being given crap for not dressing up while the guys can just show up in anything…. Oh, been there… but thankfully it happens very rarely. I also think that I’ve always defined myself as a DJ first and eye candy second- like almost all female DJs do, because we take ourselves and our art seriously. I dress only if I feel like it and that’s what my beloved patron/esses have been led to expect, and that is a deliberate choice on my part. It would probably be different if I wasn’t running my own night or I was competing for a club slot in LA, or or or….

    Through the evolution of the G/I scene, which I’ve been actively part of since about 1985, one thread that I’ve seen over and over is that some of the artists involved are actually expressing misanthropy, not necessarily misogyny- they hate everyone, not just women. (Actually Douglas P of Death In June is very up front about this in his response to accusations of racism- he “hates everyone equally”, and I kind of credit him with this realization.) But the problem is that hate in and of itself is boring. There are Combichrist and Nachtmar songs that I won’t play because I want people to feel comfortable on our dance floor, not as though hate is being spewed at them. But I also won’t play The Act by Clock DVA which predates these bands by 20 years, for the same reason, even though I myself love that song. A lot of early industrial is literally uncomfortable to listen to, and intentionally so, and that confrontation aesthetic is a big part of what gives it value. That being said: an art exhibit is different than a club night. The mood I want at my night is creative and eccentric, not redundant and predictable. The place I want to create is an escape from the outside world, not an in-your-face “ironic” rendering of it. It should be full of beauty. It can still be.

  59. On Misogyny in Industrial Music…. « ghosthouseeug Says:

    […] On Misogyny in Industrial Music…. […]

  60. De la misogynie et du machisme dans la musique industrielle… | Don't believe the Hype Says:

    […] Je ne peux que conseiller la lecture de cet article excellent, écrit par Nadya Lev (en anglais) sur  http://coilhouse.net/2012/11/on-misogyny-in-industrial-music/ […]

  61. maus Says:

    “(Actually Douglas P of Death In June is very up front about this in his response to accusations of racism- he “hates everyone equally”, and I kind of credit him with this realization.) ”

    Except that this is never the case in practice. People who use that as an excuse to be terrible to women and minorities TOTALLY COINCIDENTALLY take special outrage to women and minorities.

    They take special offense to when people call out their protected and privileged groups, ala MRAs.

  62. [review] Goth Craft: The magickal side of dark culture by Raven Digitalis | Of Thespiae Says:

    […] as I did in Virginia, a friend of mine who’s a Goth/Industrial DJ semi-recently cross-posted a blog entry from Coilhouse lamenting how the average Industrial music show, and specifically naming… (as an aside, Digitalis, factually, points out that Industrial is a genre of dark alternative music […]

  63. Tim Wright Says:

    Someone above said Industrial has always been hateful. I call bullshit. If anything, the ‘Industrial’ I loved (long, long ago) was a pointed stick against all the hateful things in the world, and drawing attention to these things in an oft ‘controversial’ way, controversy being the most effective spark for conversation – as in ‘here’s what’s going on in graphic detail you may or may not be aware of…and what do you think about that horrid shite?’ Not passing judgements (and if they sometimes were, you could always appreciate the info without having to agree with it), not being fascist, but certainly laying it all out for the mass autopsy to commence. Suicide, TG, Coil, Skinny Puppy, Clock DVA, Fad Gadget – these acts were shining a light on various disturbing aspects of the human condition, sometimes (perversely) using pop music to get their message across to folks who just wanted to dance and maybe didn’t want to know – not unlike Rowdy Roddy Piper trying to get Keith David to put those sunglasses on in ‘They Live’. A spoonful of sugar…

    I’d love to hear a great new ‘Industrial’ band, I really would. But for all those that get the sound “just right” – circa 70’s, or 80’s, or (fuck!) the 90’s – and all those doing a spot-on Ogre/Peter Murphy imitation over a techno-house beat – I offer this timely reminder: Industrial, like Punk, was never intended to be a ‘genre’. It was simply a group of individual artists with somewhat similar sensibilities who got lumped in together by the music press. Who are not artists any more than the fashion conscious goth/industrial rip-offs who make up most of the scene today, still offering up the same ‘shocking’ subject matter while clearly reveling in it. Party down, dudes!