DEAD AND BURIED?
THE STATE OF THE UK EBM/INDUSTRIAL SCENE
|The UK alternative music scene has been one that the whole world has looked at and admired from afar. Legendary clubs like the Slimelight London are world-renowned. But is this view of the UK scene accurate? Is it really the thriving burgeoning community that people from Europe and America think it is? I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but the sad fact is that the UK scene is actually far from thriving; its in survival mode. In fact, if something doesnt happen soon, it just might keel over and die. Sure, there are pockets of resistance, some first-class clubs and DJs who are still fighting the good fight. But if we dont stop the rot soon, the UK scene could fade into insignificance. |
My name is DJCYBERCHRIST and today I want to tell you about the fall of an Empire. What once was a proud and vibrant scene is being diluted and infected. It is being slowly poisoned to death.
I was born into the Golden Age of Industrial. I started going to clubs in about 1990. Bands like Ministry, Laetherstrip, Psychopomps, Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly, NIN, and Front 242 were the bands I heard at the clubs. It was the time of Zoth Ommog and Off Beat. People would dress up to go out; rubber, leather, PVC, fishnet. Stunning girls, thigh high boots. This was an age of voyeuristic pleasures. This was an age when everyone was passionate about the scene. Start clubbing on Friday and finish early Monday morning. That was what it was all about. Industrial music was your weekend. No infighting between groups; it was all for one and one for all. You were a Goth primarily or an Industrial nut primarily, but we all got on; we were all the freaks, the beautiful people.
Slimelight London was my hunting ground. I was a fresh-faced teenager, new to the scene and a voracious assimilator of all things Industrial. Slimelight was my home away from home; every weekend, my pipe and slippers club. I was the first person on the dance floor and the last person off. I loved everything about it: the amazing sense of community; the dressed up beautiful people; the dingy, slimy bare Industrial interior it was like a waiting room for hell.
The DJs were the best. They were the cream of the UK scene. They knew their music and they knew the scene. If something was released on Monday you knew it would be played on Saturday. It was all-new and all-exciting. That was Slimelight. It was the place to be. Slimelight built a reputation without any kind of marketing. No flyers, posting or advertising. It was strictly word of mouth. I knew about Slimelight and I lived 150 miles away. It was known throughout Europe as the place to visit, the place to come for the latest most exciting music, THE club in the UK.
The UK scene was thriving. More and more kids were turning to EBM/Industrial from Goth or from Metal. Crossover bands like Ministry, NIN, and later Marilyn Manson were bringing a new injection of fresh blood. The beating heart of the scene was Slimelight, but in the provinces clubs were already emerging: Death Culture and Contamination Club, Birmingham; Cyberpolis, Nottingham. It got to the stage that every major town and city had a Goth/EBM/Industrial club; the scene was building and the country was being taken over by the kids in black.
During the 1990s the scene grew and grew. It got to the point that Slimelight was rammed every week. It was heaving with people and the atmosphere rocked. It was dark, sleazy, slimy, and stinky. But when youve just topped up your intake of Amphetamines and Ecstasy what do you care? All you cared about was the incredibly loud music from hell being blasted at you in all directions. Music for the deaf. That was Slimelight.
Slimelight made a dramatic decision in the late 90s to open a Techno-Trance floor. It was symbolic for what was going on throughout the scene. Clubs successes had led Promoters and Runners to get greedy. They wanted more. They were willing to open up to outsiders what was until then a very closed and private scene. Suddenly, people came to the Industrial floor in white t-shirts and jeans. Up to that point, white t-shirts and jeans in fact pretty much anything not black signalled undercover police. Simple. The beautiful fetish feminine creatures that up until now had felt safe in their daring and revealing costumes felt threatened by the nasty, drunken voyeurism of the white t-shirt idiots. Sexy outfits became subdued and so with the opening up of the club came the death of the dress-up culture. Strike one to the outsiders.
With a new floor of pumping Techno-Trance music, the E-heads had a dilemma: to stick with the pounding raw energy of the latest EBM music, or to get off their heads to the new music. It was like a lethal injection. Lots of people left Slimelight; lots of people got caught by the dance music bug, traded in their leather and rubber for some loose-fitting jeans and trainers and were absorbed back into mainstream society.
Sure, Slimelight did eventually close the Dance floor, but the damage was done. No one dressed up anymore. And people still dont. One of the best things about going out had died.
I use the example of Slimelight because Slimelight is the UK scene to people outside the UK. It is at the cutting edge of the UK scene; it is the industry leader. Whats en vogue at Slimelight becomes the fashion throughout the UK. But let me shift my attention from Slimelight for a while.
Let us look at what I believe are the major factors contributing to the sad demise of the UK scene.
Right now the UK scene is more divided than it has ever been. No longer are we united in our differences, in our freakish exterior and penchant for black. We are simply divided, a country and scene at odds with itself. There is all out war: Goth vs. Cyber Goth, Electro vs. Noise, IDM, EBM, Dark Electro, Industrial, Electro-Clash, 80s, Drum and Bass, Techno, Trance, Dance; backbiting, bitching, gossiping dont the instigators realise that they are slowly sucking the life force out of our scene? Whereas before clubs worked together to get a bigger crowd, clubs in the same towns are fighting against each other for the few remaining club-goers. DJVoid and I and our club, Kaos, are a case in point. We were to fall fowl of this cruel backbiting culture when we were struggling for survival just last year.
In Wolverhampton there were two places to go: a pub, The Fox (everyday and weekly late night openings), and our club, Kaos (monthly, 10-3). Now I was shocked to find out that rather than work with us the owner of the pub wanted to fight against us for the few Goths/EBM kids in this small town. We were stopped from flyering at the Fox and stopped from flyering at the only Alternative clothing shop in town (which the Foxs owner also ran). With no way of accessing the Goth EBM kids in town, it was no real surprise that our club was doomed from the beginning. There was no imagination in her thinking and that is indicative of what is happening in the UK scene right now. No one is seeing the bigger picture; its all about fighting mini-turf wars, turf wars that are petty and insignificant but that will ultimately undermine and kill off our scene. If we had worked together with the Fox, then we could have drawn new people to the town and to both our clubs thats the sad fact, and its not an isolated incident. In virtually every town and city there are at least two clubs fighting and bitching to each other rather than working together to build the numbers coming to their clubs, and ultimately grow the scene. There is no camaraderie; there is no EBM/Industrial community anymore in the UK. There is no active network of DJs and clubs working together to help breathe life back into our diminishing scene. There is no master plan. As an outsider, I can see that this fragmentation, this in-built self-destruct mechanism, is working. The scene is breaking up, becoming ever smaller, and losing the fight for survival.
DJs the buck stops here
In the mid-90s a great glut of new clubs emerged. The DJs and promoters that set up these clubs cared passionately about the scene. They loved the music. They would happily seek out new music and saw it as their duty to spread the Industrial/EBM sound to the farthest reaches of the UK. Everyone wanted a slice and there was space enough for everyone; people worked together. The crossover bands were bringing kids into the scene, and the new clubs were playing a hybrid of Goth and EBM/Industrial. They were happy days, but now those same DJs still run those clubs, and the numbers have dwindled, as kids that would have entered the EBM/Industrial scene are now turning into New Metallers. Marilyn Manson and the Metal copy-bands he spawned have a lot to answer for, but then so do we, the DJs, because we havent done enough to keep the new kids happy. Those DJs have seen the numbers in their clubs gradually decline and provincial clubs that once got 200+ people now struggle to keep a regular crowd of 50. Those DJs have never handed over their crowns, have not developed new talent, and have not allowed new DJs into the scene. They dont really follow the music or the scene anymore. Sure, theyll get in the new albums by VNV Nation, Covenant, Apoptygma Beserk, Suicide Commando, Icon of Coil, etc., but theyre not buying new music or finding new bands. In fact some of them arent even into the music that they used to be so passionate about. I know of a number of DJs who run EBM/Industrial clubs who dont even listen to EBM/Industrial at home. Surely thats not right. If youre not into it, then hand over your mantle to someone who is. There are a lot of young DJs out there desperate for opportunities. They still have that passion, that hunger, and the time to find the latest bands and the latest releases. The older DJs that run this scene, theyre just not playing new music, and that is leading to the same old tracks being played over and over again: Dead Stars by Covenant anyone? Suicide Commandos Hellraiser (VNV Nation mix), sir?
The sad fact is that virtually no new music is played today in the UK club scene. Why? My controversial view is that DJs have just become lazy. I am shocked when I DJ in the UK. I see DJs with boxes full of copied CDs. DJs in the UK are downloading from Soulseek and other file sharing websites. Ask them for some of the new material and new bands out there and they dont have a clue. Once the passion dies from the guy whos running the night then how can we expect the scene to grow? If a DJ doesnt bother to buy the new releases and doesnt play them, then how are we to educate our audience and grow our scene? This reliance on age old club favourites rather than playing new material is highlighted in figures I took from the UKs leading EBM/Industrial festival, INFEST. At INFEST 2004 only 8% of the music played by DJs was released that year. Bearing in mind that the festival was at the end of August, thats really shocking. People are bored with clubs because the same old tracks and bands are being played over and over up and down the land. People are leaving in droves. The fact is that the number of CDs sold in the UK is going up, not down, according to UK number one retailer www.musicnonstop.co.uk, so the scene should be bigger and stronger than ever, but it is not. People are fed up with the clubs they used to go to. They still love the music, they still buy the music, but they just dont go out anymore. And why should they? DJs are no longer educating the audience and no longer serving this EBM/Industrial community. The fun has gone out of club-going. Sure, there are the exceptions: Steve Weeks at Slimelight is committed to buying and playing the latest releases along with the classics that we all want to hear; Clive and Lisa at Cyberpolis, DJ Gassman at Slimelight is always innovating with his Noise; and DJ Matt Implant is worth mentioning for bringing bands over here to play at his club. But they are not the norm. They are the exceptions. So people are staying at home. They are fed up with the bitchiness and backbiting in this scene and they are voting with their feet. After all, who wants to go to the same club and here the same tracks and bands over and over again? Surely that is stagnation. And stagnation in this ever-moving world means death.
The Noise Invasion
About five or so years ago, Noise began to take a toehold in the UK scene. Bands like P.A.L., Converter, and Synapscape were bringing a new kind of musical terror into our consciousness. It was to be a Noise invasion, a plague that has blighted