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!