Doktors Prescription: It’s Just A Side (Project) Effect
Ah, industrial music. Unique in so many ways - too many to list here – and most of you probably are familiar with them anyway. Being a fan of industrial makes you feel like you’re in an exclusive club (sometimes literally), but that doesn’t mean that the music is exclusive to one sound. In fact, one of the most unique elements of industrial music is how the artists and bands themselves don’t always stick to one sound – but to maintain the sanctity of their original artistic visions, they form the almighty SIDE PROJECT.
“Side Projects” are not a beast unique to only industrial music, but they are known by other more common names in the outside world – supergroups (bands such as Audioslave – with members of Rage against the Machine & Soundgarden) or collaborations (like the recent “Jack-U” album by Skrillex & Diplo). Typically in more popular music, the additional project forms out of the ashes of former, disbanded groups or just out of creative boredom, but in its most common form we see in the land of industrial, the side project is seen as an additional sonic flavor from the artist or artists and most of the time it exists simultaneously to the ‘main’ project.
When it comes to digging in deep to industrial side projects, you can find all sorts of interesting connections and facts. At times it seems that some artists have so many side projects you wonder how they get anything done, and it also seems that for years there was only a small handful of people musically involved in the rise of industrial in the 90s, just helping each other out along the way.
In this article, I would like to highlight a few of the side projects that ended up making quite the impact on the scene (some even bigger than the artists original projects), as well as a sampling of my personal favorites. Side note – for ease & cleanliness of the article formatting, I will not link to any external pages or imbed links. YouTube search the tracks, ya lazy bums! Anyway – onward we march!
Delerium (Side project of Front Line Assembly)
Possibly one of the more well-known acts outside of industrial, Delerium was the brainchild of Bill Leeb & Rhys Fulber of FLA, and was a more trance & ambient influenced electronic project formed in 1987 and is still active today. Considering the range of sounds that Front Line produced over their still-going career, it’s almost a surprise that they felt the need to produce under a different name, but after listening to them you can see why - the biggest difference being the lack of Leeb’s signature vocals, which has been the one consistent sound through all of FLA’s releases. Delerium featured primarily guest female vocalists, entrancing melodies, and is downright calming at times. A far cry from “Kill For Kicks! Resist The Command!” and worthy of the side project label for certain. With over 15 albums spanning 20+ years (including a new one on the way in September 2016), Delerium was and remains a breath of fresh air from the harsh noise of Front Line Assembly.
Best known song: “Silence” featuring Sarah McLachlan (from their 1999 album ‘Karma’)
It’s strange to think about Sarah McLachlan and her sappy sad ballads doing a song with a guy that used to roll with Skinny Puppy, but here we are. This song is by far their most famous and got much more play outside of the ‘scene’ than any of FLA’s works ever came close to. It is largely considered one of the greatest trance anthems of all time & worthy of a listen if somehow you’ve never came across it.
Excessive Force (Side Project of KMFDM & My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult)
EXF was formed in 1991 by Sascha K. of KMFDM & Buzz McCoy of TKK. We could probably write this entire article around side projects that formed out of current & former members of KMFDM (EXF, <PIG>, Slick Idiot, MDFMK, KGC, not to mention solo projects from En Esch, Tim Skold, and Lucia), but I’m limiting it to one feature in this article – mostly because it was one of the few KMFDM projects that didn’t just feature current or former band members. We got another 90s industrial pioneer to mix it in with Kap’n K – the raunchy kings of disco-industrial My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult & their lead noisemaker Buzz McCoy. It didn’t last long, but what we got was one great album (“Conquer Your World”) that featured a true blending of KMFDM & TKK musical styles while not being too much of either. It was awesome if you were a fan of both groups and even cooler if you weren’t because it opened a door for you. EXF would continue after that album but only as a solo project of Sascha K, releasing a second album called ‘Gentle Death’ ; it suffers from sounding too much like KMFDM – even to the point where Sascha just started using EXF riffs & hooks into newer KMFDM releases.
Best known song: “Conquer Your House/World” (from the 1991 album ‘Conquer Your World’)
It’s tough to pick a ‘best known’ song from such a short-lived project, but I’m going with this one simply because there were THREE versions of it on the release (which was re-released in 2007) – “Conquer Your House II” was way more like TKK w/ KMFDM influence, and “Conquer Your World” was the other way around (and a third one – “Conquer Your House III” – that sounded like neither).
Revolting Cocks (Side Project of Ministry & Front 242)
Oh, Uncle Al and his many side projects; similar to KMFDM, we could probably pen a whole article around things that Al Jorgensen was involved in (and I’m not talking about all the drugs, just the bands). Anyway – RevCo was founded in 1985 when Richard 23 of Front 242 & Luc Van Acker started collaborating in the 80s & met Al from Ministry. They created an interesting blend of sampling, EBM roots, and even some hip-hop & hard rock influences and the end result was a couple of albums that definitely aren’t for everyone, as it seemed at times the goal of Revolting Cocks was to actually become Revolting Cocks and create some offensive and obnoxious music at times. That being said – RevCo’s ‘IDGAF’ approach to their art definitely created an extremely unique chapter in this dark book of industrial. The group went through several changes and is actually still performing off & on under a completely different lineup.
Best known song: “Beers, Steers, and Queers” (from the 1990 album ‘Beers, Steers, and Queers’)
Referencing the line from ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (I know right? Think of how many less industrial jams we’d have if this movie wasn’t made?!) – this song best captured everything about Revolting Cocks in one 6 minute assault; heavy samples, crunchy EBM beats, hip-hop style scratching & vocals, and a whole lot of noise!
HONORABLE MENTION: Pigface – (Side Project of basically every industrial band in the 1990s - the closest anything in the scene gets to ‘supergroup’)
Pigface was an interesting situation…it was a project founded by Martin Atkins and Bill Rieflen, who individually have worked with hundreds of bands. They met several other scene musicians on a tour in the early 90s when they were both working with Ministry and decided create a group with ‘revolving door’ of musicians willing to be experimental. Because of the sheer volume of artists working on the project at any given time (including Trent Reznor, Danny Carey, En Esch, Nivek Ogre, cEvin Key, Paul Barker, Chris Connelly, Groovie Mann, Buzz McCoy, Jello Biafra, Chris Vrenna, Flea, Douglas McCarthy – the list goes on – it’s a ‘who’s who’ of 90s industrial/alternative names), there was very little continuity to the music and any individual Pigface song could sound completely different than another. The most famous ‘nugget’ to come out of the Pigface camp was the song ‘Suck’, which was written & sung by Trent Reznor – but you may be more familiar with Trent’s re-recorded version on his ‘Broken’ EP.
There is also a sidebar to the side project (see what I did there?) – the SOLO project, which typically results in an individual artist breaking off from a larger band to do his own thing, which sometimes ends up with entire new bands forming from this. Perhaps another article since this fucker is getting long and I’m not quite done…
Bonus: A couple highlights of some of my favorites I’ve discovered over the years:
Am Tierpark – side project of Leaether Strip & Mirland – This was one I found on a sampler a while back and while it maintains Claus Larsen’s trademark voice, it strays away from the body music aggression that Leaether Strip is best known for and trades it in for catchy synthpop beats. Worth your time!
Recommended song: ‘The World Will Smile At Me’ from the album ‘Uncaged’ – very ‘And One’ style groove and extremely bright & shiny vocals & sound compared to Leaether Strip’s darkness.
Surveillance – side project of Assemblage 23 – Ok, I’m breaking my own rule here. I said no solo projects on this article, but this one is worth mentioning quickly. It’s Tom Shear’s venture away from his synthpop/futurepop stylings as A23 and into a darker, dancier, more EBM realm. Buy it if you haven’t. That is all.
Recommended song: ‘Rise’ from the album ‘Oceana’, but the whole thing is good. Just get the record. Moving on!
Hardcore Pong – side project of the Gothsicles & Angelspit – If you’re familiar with either band, you know what this brings to the table. Glitchy beats, nerdy video game overtones, and a whole lot of chaotic noisy fun. Not the danciest music you’ll ever hear, but a true collaboration from two very unique bands in our scene.
Recommended song: ‘Excitebyte’ from the album ‘Hardcore Pong’ – the best example from the album of this wacky, chiptune heavy noise that you’re in for with this group!
I am 100% certain this list could go on for pages…but I’m sure you all have much better things to do than read about crap you COULD be listening to! Go put on some music and see what else you discover. Feel free to drop any comments my way & stomp on, and let me know if I left out any of your favorites! Remember – this prescription may cause side project effects!
The year was 1998. The movie was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (terrible film, by the way). The soundtrack, however, was a different story.
I was 17; still in high school, working a job after classes to pay for my boat of a vehicle (’76 Ford Granada if you care) and using the rest of the cash to buy whatever I wanted. One of those things I always wanted was music – but of course, this was before the Internet was fast enough to stream or download anything; we were still a year or so away from Napster and the birth of music piracy (SHAME).
So we resorted to the ‘record store’, where it was all about getting the most music for your money. With no way of truly knowing what was good and what wasn’t, you had to count on unreliable resources, such as the ever-enticing album art..
Which, for the record, is how I ended up with a “Bolt Thrower” album – I assumed it was metal of sorts but it could have been jazz-funk classics for all I cared – seriously, look at this art:
It looked like the back of a G.I. Joe action figure box and the cover of a D&D Manual all in one, then they made a baby with a set of Warhammer miniatures. I bought it based on nothing else…and I remember it being ‘meh’ at best (even for a metalhead like I was at the time). But the system worked for Bolt Thrower – they got my 10 bucks!
Anyway – so when it came to picking tunes, I had to base my selection on something. Buying a full album was dangerous ground; if you didn’t end up liking the artist (or the direction they chose to go with their music), then you were shit out of luck – you had 12 more tracks to suffer through and 10 less dollars to live without!
So – that being said – soundtracks ended up being the way to go. You could sample different bands, hear different stuff by bands you’d heard of, and sometimes (SOMETIMES) get more bang for your buck.
It was on all of this seriously hardcore logic and thought that I ended up with a USED copy of the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation official movie soundtrack. I was young, liked video games, and heard that earworm of a title track in the movie (you know the one – MORTAL KOMBATTTTTT!!!!! – which, on a side note, is performed by the Immortals, whom I did not know until a MUCH later point in my life was a side project of Lords Of Acid formed to do basically this ONE song…probably the one song they ever did without all the bust increasing and fucking up the you-know-what stuff. Fun fact!)
It was here I got the first taste of what I later learned was generally classified as ‘industrial’. After the CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY FINISH HIM stuff and the Rammstein track that I was familiar with (discovered them on another soundtrack a year before– truly a proven method), came the bass synth line that I would never forget. As KMFDM’s “Megalomaniac” pumped through possibly the shittiest car speakers ever designed, my whole world changed. It was my first hit; my gateway drug to industrial music and all that came before it and after.
There were a few other gems on that disc – my first taste of the German hardcore techno overlords Scooter (FASTER! HARDER!) and the incomparable Juno Reactor – but those KMFDM guys; they were just the COOLEST motherfuckers in the world at that moment outside the Dairy Queen. It wasn’t rock, it wasn’t techno, it was just AMAZING. It was the Ultra Heavy Beat as I would later learn. All that talk about being megalomaniacal and harder than the rest. It was as if I’d never heard music before this moment – I had formally lost my aural virginity. I would soon take a trip down the rabbit hole into an addiction I would never recover from.
With discovering KMFDM, my official gateway drug (against war? HAR HAR) into industrial music, came the next logical step – buying KMFDM albums. From here I discovered the 745 other artists that early KMFDM used to work with, which prompted me to spend several evenings on my dial-up internet for research (while it sure wasn’t fast enough for music downloads, I could still download words to read with moderate speed – while some retro things are kind of fun and kitschy, dial-up internet is NOT one of those things. May that stay dead forever). This led me to scene-familiar names such as Ogre, Raymond Watts, En Esch, Bill Rieflen, Skold, and so on, which naturally led me into the great side project oblivion and so on and so on until I became a full-blown ADDICT.
Sidebar: them industrial guys sure enjoy their side projects – “oh, well this song has a flute in it and so it’s probably not agro enough for my main band CyberStabb, so I’d better start a side project to release my flute song…let’s go with “Flutewave Synthesis” and put this out so no one thinks we went soft”. Gotta love it. That’s another article for another time.
That’s the one of the coolest things about industrial music, in my opinion – how you discovered your first “hit”. You didn’t hear FLA on the radio, or Front 242 on the MTV, or hear KMFDM in the movies (well except for Bad Boys – anyone else remember hearing Juke Joint Jezebel in the club scene?). It was just like an illegal drug – you couldn’t just go shopping in a normal store or ask some random person for it. You had to discover it on your own because it wasn’t anywhere easily accessible. But once you found it, it was sweet ecstasy. It’s definitely not for everyone, but you knew it was for you – so good for you. And everyone out there has their own version of this story.
Regardless of how you got your first taste, we are all addicts now. A room full of industrial junkies who can sit around and debate the use of dubstep elements in the most recent Front Line Assembly record or get geeked out by the nasty old-school vibe that Youth Code brings to the scene or lament over Combichrist’s decision to go heavy metal. These are conversations that only a select few people will ever even begin to understand or appreciate. It’s like trying to describe to someone who has never been high what it feels like to be high. Don’t waste your time. Enjoy this noisy, stompy, gritty, dirty musical gift the world has given you. Just remember that it all started with a gateway drug. What was yours?