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.

Aja Lathan, Queen of Diamonds

WHOAH. Check out this sneak preview photograph of Aja Lathan as The Queen of Diamonds from a shoot for the San Francisco-based Five & Diamond collective by Allan Amato. Lathan is adorned with a breathtaking array of pieces crafted by various indie and alternative designers associated with the 5&D store/gallery:

Aja Lathan as The Queen of Diamonds for Five & Diamond / Photography by Allan Amato / Art Direction by Jessica Atreides / Styling by Ricardo Felix / Makeup by Medina Maitreya / “Pharoah” Headdress by Monica Wallway / Gold Neck Coil by Tawapa / Crystal Necklace by DUST / “Ruff” Ruched Scarf by Radio Cloth / Studded Bra / Axis Waist Cincher by Steam Trunk / Burlesque Skirt by Miss Be / Leather Gloves by Sparrow / Rings by Jungle Tribe / Shot at Purebred Pro Studios

“The Five and Diamond Design collective is a collaborative project created to promote local artists and designers while providing a resource to San Franciscans and beyond for unique, artistically designed apparel, jewelry and accessories.”

This shoot was obviously a massive group effort. (Bravo!) Keep an eye on 5&D’s twitter for more information about this shoot and other lovely stuff.

We Got A Badass Over Here: Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Science and Social Responsibility (via Geekquality)

Happy birthday, Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson! Here’s a fantastic piece all about the internet’s very favorite (bada)as(s)trophysicist, written by Rick G. and cross-posted from Geekquality. ~M

Astrophysicist Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In the latter half of 1958, two events occurred that would have a profound effect on the science of astrophysics: one was the signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which authorized the creation of NASA as a civilian space agency; the other, much more humble of the two, was the birth in the West Bronx of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Born to Cyril deGrasse Tyson and Sunchita Feliciano Tyson, Neil grew up in the Skyview Apartments, a prophetically-named complex located in the relatively well-to-do neighborhood of Riverdale. His father, himself a son of immigrants from the Caribbean, was a sociologist and activist; his mother was a housewife who would later earn a Master’s degree in gerontology. That the Tyson family lived in a middle-class enclave was rather remarkable for the late 1950?s, especially since there had been protests from residents at the time to keep Black families from moving in. Though the family was fairly well off for the time, Neil was acutely aware of how fortunate he was, and how difficult things were for many other people of color in America. During Neil’s childhood, his father’s career centered on collaborating with city officials to create employment opportunities in the inner city for urban youth.

“Year after year, the forces operating against this effort were huge: poor schools, bad teachers, meager resources, abject racism, and assassinated leaders… I was watching America do all it could to marginalize who I was and what I wanted to become in life.” (1)

In a piece written for NASA’s 50th Anniversary, he describes his fascination and excitement about the space program in the 1960’s, an excitement tempered by the knowledge that he could never be an astronaut:

“[T]he vicarious thrill of the journey, so prevalent in the hearts and minds of others, was absent from my emotions. I was obviously too young to be an astronaut. But I also knew that my skin color was much too dark for you to picture me as part of this epic adventure.”

NASA personnel at Mission Control during the Apollo 11 launch.

As a matter of fact, NASA was only integrated by a direct Presidential order from Lyndon Johnson to Wernher von Braun, rocketry pioneer and first director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. And, while President Johnson’s mandate instructed NASA to work with Alabama A&M and Tuskeegee University to locate qualified candidates to work with the space program, the idea of a Black astrophysicist was essentially unheard of.

Young Neil deGrasse Tyson.

It’s a good thing that no one bothered to tell young Neil, who wouldn’t be stopped from exploring the Universe even if all the astronauts were White.

Brief, Fulminating Ruminations on Jack Parsons

In the next room, tucked away in a fireproof lockbox, there’s a handwritten note from 1952, hastily scrawled down on looseleaf paper by a man named John (aka Jack) Whiteside Parsons. (My partner and I are both fascinated by the tales surrounding Parsons and his equally scintillating wife, Marjorie Cameron.) Purchased a few years back from a reputable private collector, it’s a short list of the books from Parsons’ personal library– the ones he planned to take with him when he relocated from Southern California to Mexico. Everything from biochem science to William Blake to Alice in Wonderland. Only… Parsons never made it to Mexico. Within days of writing that note, the man blew himself up amid persistent, weird rumors of ritual workings, sex magick, portals.

Sixty years ago to this day, in fact.

June 17th, 1952: a “brilliant young rocket scientist and occultist was killed in an explosion in Pasadena of origins that remain mysterious […] Five days later, Pasadena police closed the case and announced that he dropped a vial of fulminate of mercury onto the floor of his home laboratory  […] He was 37 years old and one of the country’s top chemical engineers, a founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the inventor of the solid fuel that would take man to the moon.”  (via)

Such a strange fellow, with such an utterly bizarre life trajectory! And for me, for whatever reason, something about that list of indispensable books feels more eerie and portentous than any of his “Do What Thou Wilt”/”As Above, So Below” writings. But in any case, thoughts of Parsons’ mythic Moonchild loom large in my sky tonight. His biography is one of the most compelling stranger-than-fiction stories of the 20th Century. Here’s some highly recommended reading for the newly intrigued:

Painting of Jack Parsons by Marjorie Cameron

“Survival is triumph enough.” –Harry Crews (June 7, 1935 – March 28, 2012)

Author Harry Crews. The tattoo is an excerpt from E. E. Cummings’ poem “Buffalo Bill”. (“How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mister Death?”)

A great and grizzled powerhouse of American fiction has left us. He was 76 years old. A wild Southern gent with a penchant for heavy drinkin’, Harry Crews wrote like he lived: hard, bloody, sharp, gritty. His ex-wife, Sally Ellis Crews –with whom he remained great friends after they divorced for a second time in 1964– informed the AP on Thursday that Crews had long suffered from neuropathy: “He had been very ill. In a way it was kind of a blessing. He was in a lot of pain.”

Crews wrote beautifully about pain. Speaking about his own books: “The smell of blood is on them […] the sense of mortality is a little too strong.” That may very well be true. But like blood, they are also as rich and vital as all get-out. If you haven’t experienced his world before, but appreciate the output of writers like Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner or Bukowski, you will likely find loads of gruff and stalwart reassurance in the work of Harry Crews.

A forthcoming memoir by Crews is slated to be published in the near future. Long before his passing, there’d been a lot of talk of reissuing his full bibliography in digital editions and beyond. Here’s hoping.

Visit HarryCrews.org, which features many essays, interviews and portraits. Some sagacious quotes from the hellion below.

Harry Crews. Photo by Oscar Sosa for The New York Times.

“I never wanted to be well-rounded. I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work. So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design.”

“If you’re gonna write, for God in heaven’s sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you’ve been told.”

“Writers spend all their time preoccupied with just the things that their fellow men and women spend their time trying to avoid thinking about. … It takes great courage to look where you have to look, which is in yourself, in your experience, in your relationship with fellow beings, your relationship to the earth, to the spirit or to the first cause—to look at them and make something of them.”

“There is something beautiful about scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.”

Harry Crews

Industrial Culture Handbook: The Movie!

That might as well be the title of Decoder, a German film that came out in 1984. Unreleased in the United States and forgotten until the Internet recovered it in recent years, Decoder is a fascinating relic of the early industrial ethos.

Written by Klaus Maeck, directed by Jürgen Muschalek, and based on The Electronic Revolution by William S. Burroughs, the film focuses on a lone audiophile who discovers that multinational corporations are controlling populations through muzak. By playing the mind-controlling, sedative non-music in elevators, fast food joints, lobbies and stores all over the country, corporations such as the evil H-Burger are able to produce a docile population of consumers. To combat this, our protagonist turns to industrial noise, and inspires a legion of “cassette terrorists” to covertly swap muzak tapes for sounds that are much more subliminally sinister, inciting riots all over Germany.

The film’s score was a collaboration between F.M. Einheit (Einsturzende Neubauten) and Dave Ball (Soft Cell), with contributions from Genesis P. Orridge and Alexander Hacke. In addition to scoring, F.M. Einheit, a.k.a Mufti, also plays the film’s protagonist. Other characters include cult film actor, scholar and artist Bill Rice, playing a sad-faced security official on a mission to foil the cassette terrorists’ plot, and inadvertent heroin-chic style icon/musician Christiane Felscherinow, playing an amateur herpetologist/go-go dancer who looks eerily similar to Rooney Mara’s Liz Salander. Cameo appearances include Genesis P. Orridge and William S. Burroughs. The film is sprinkled with many other references to items you might find in a 1980s-era RE/Search publication, such as the appearance of a Brion Gysin Dreamachine inside a secret nightclub belonging to an industrial cult, as well as a giant Survival Research Laboratories logo on the wall of the protagonist’s  studio.

One of the film’s most stunning features is the color palette. “Lensed by Johanna Heer,” writes Samantha Anne Scott,  “the film’s blunted, monochromatic color schemes — primarily red, green, and CRT blue — demarcate character, mood, and motivation … while doused with art house affectation, Decoder delineates a relatively cohesive narrative of corporatism, control, and the power of noise.” The full film is posted above.

[via wobbly]

8 Consecutive Nights of KRAFTWERK! (NYC MoMA, April 10th —> 18th)

Holy shitballs. New Yorkers, you lucky ducks, you get to have ALL the retro-badass fun! Via East Village Radio:

Kraftwerk –one of the most important groups in electronic music’s relatively short history– will be the focus of a retrospective taking place in April at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the New York Times reports. The band, featuring lone founding member Ralf Hütter, will be present and performing as part of the celebration named Kraftwerk-Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.  Starting April 10th […] Kraftwerk will perform over eight consecutive nights, with each evening dedicated to one of the pioneering group’s albums in chronological order, starting with 1974’s Autobahn.

The concerts will be held MoMA’s (appropriately retrofuturetastic) Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium. Tickets go on sale at noon, February 22nd, $25 a pop. (Zounds, they’re gonna go fast!)

A Muppet Wicker Man

Oh… um.

Wow. Yeah. So… this exists:

Via Jess Nevins.

That’s the video preview for a full-length comic book mashup of The Muppet Show and The Wicker Man by Paul O’Connell.

It’s… uh…

Well, words seem to be failing at the moment.

Really, what can one say when confronted with something like this, except:

Wingsuit Flyers, Hunan Province

Courtesy of Base-Book, some truly heart-jolting footage of wingsuit badassery, recently shot in China’s Hunan Province:

Via Jason Zendtraedi, thanks!

Previously on Coilhouse:

The Battleship Potemkin

One of the most acclaimed films of all time, and certainly one of the artfully made/broadly influential propaganda pieces created to this day, Sergei Eisentstein‘s 1926 feature film The Battleship Potemkin presents an exhilarating (not to mention highly dramatized, sometimes outright fictionalized) depiction of the 1905 mutiny of a Russian battleship’s crew agains their Tsarist commanding officers. Eisenstein made cinematic history with his development of the montage concept, and his unflinching use of realistic violence.

Via Jess Nevins comes word that we can watch the entire thing, uninterrupted, on teh YooToobz. It’s the version with the Shostakovich score, too. Pretty awesome (in the traditional sense of the word, even)!