Industrial Music was Always Gay (Now Deal with It)
My discovery of the industrial music genre happened completely by accident. I’d heard some of the acts that took heavy inspiration from the genre such as Marilyn Manson and Emilie Autumn, but I’d never heard the original, raw and real model. Someone told me the original Coil soundtrack for the film Hellraiser had been deemed too frightening for Hollywood. I immediately began the hunt for their entire discography. I spent the next eight hours in bed staring at the ceiling while every album from Horse Rotorvator to Musick to Play in the Dark blared and droned from my crappy laptop speakers. It was the closest I’ve ever had to a religious and spiritual awakening. If you’ve never blasted “The Anal Staircase” at full volume, do so over and over again until the music becomes ingrained into every muscle you have.
I was enraptured with how damn queer these angry and haunted noises could be; as the kids might say today “the thirst was real.” I devoured everything I could including all the genres that had birthed its way out of the industrial scene. I was hungry for everything from the neo-folk of Nurse With Wound and Current 93 to the more electronic-inspired shenanigans of Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy. The only gay musicians I’d ever been introduced to at the time were Adam Lambert and Jeffree Starr. No offense to either musician but their music sounds like the very stuff that industrial was created to mock and parody; factory-produced drivel.
I had no idea queer music could be so raw, emotive, and experimental. There was nothing quite like that out there for this teenager who’d nearly choked to death growing up on a meager diet of Christian Rock and emo music. It opened my eyes to what I could be, and even more to what I could actually create. A lack of representation can ultimately hinder one’s avenues for creative expression.
And for the record, industrial music is gay as hell. I’ve already mentioned “The Anal Staircase,” an ode to male-on-male buttfucking, but it’s more. It’s Nitzer Ebb thrashing about in the rain half-naked and wearing white football shorts that in the torrential downpour leave little to the imagination. It’s the fey and femme Marc Almond of Soft Cell lending his vocals to haunting melodies by both Coil and Current 93. It’s Genesis P-Orridge, who god damned invented the genre and is a transgender/queer icon. Even non-queer artists still frequently pull lyrical inspirations from the writings of William S. Burroughs, a noted queer author. Queer people invented this genre and then perfected it. We have always been here.
Maybe that’s why I was shocked at how damned homophobic the industrial music fandom could be. I wandered into a forum at 21, young and naive, expecting to find other brooding angsty homos like myself only to be met by a deluge of homophobic slurs and other bigoted garbage. I was even called a poofter at one point for some antique, well-preserved bigotry.
Something happened in the period I suppose I missed, while I was still a kid and mildly tolerating the nonsense that is Third Day and Audio Adrenaline. I missed that moment in the 90’s when Industrial-inspired acts like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson melded the genre with their own metal inspirations, inviting a mainstream audience. That’s as close as I’m able to pinpoint when the homophobes came riding in. The aggressive masculine posturing and rejection of any and all femininity is an issue that’s always prevented me from enjoying modern metal of any kind and it’s also caused me to sneer at most modern industrial acts.
To be fucking frank, I’m still pretty bitter about this. Every time I watch a Death in June video on youtube, there’s always some needle-dick in the comments who is all “I enjoyed the song but I wish the singer wasn’t a faggot.” I’d like very much to tell them to sit on a cactus, but I’ve lost the energy or will to engage with these morons on the internet anymore.
That’s why I’m making a call for queer artists to begin experimenting within this genre again. Industrial, rock and roll, metal, ALL of it could stand to be that much gayer. There’s something queer people bring to these genres of music that is far more frightening and shocking than anything you corny motherfuckers could come up with.
I’m seeing you with your lyrics that trawl endlessly about rape and murder as if those aren’t subjects you see constantly now on your local cable soap opera. Misogyny and homophobia don’t push societal boundaries, they enforce them. Modern industrial music seems to absolutely revel in it. Let’s not get started on the irredeemable shit-show that is trigger warnings for depictions of sexual assault on women. I’m not sure what more I could expect from a band fronted by a guy who likes to wear confederate flags.
Queer people can bring a truly authentic rage and power. Diamanda Galas’s opera about the AIDS epidemic is far more punk rock than anything the Sex Pistols ever put out. A trans woman who dares exist publicly on the internet is more defiant than anything you’ll ever do in your life. We have seen true horror as loved ones are ripped away from us, and face a real terror every time we leave the house wondering if this is the day that some asshole is gonna murder us for existing.
So maybe next time you think about bringing your snide, small-minded opinions to this community and this genre remember that we were here first. Remember that you are but a puddle in the ocean of torment we have suffered, and we are still here, forged in barbed wire and ready for vengeance. I want you to hear us, and feel fear.
Now, go listen to 20 Jazz Funk Greats and have a nice fucking day.