As a completely fake doctor, I am not very ‘essential’ right now. I, like most of you, am doing my part to ‘flatten the curve’ and keep myself and others safe. These are crazy, weird times – times that not a single person alive was prepared in how they would personally respond or react to this. Times where the term ‘social distancing’ is part of everyday dialect, where the roads are primarily filled with DoorDash and UberEats drivers trying to help keep restaurants in business, and where the world is hushed quiet with the absence of social gatherings, club nights, and concerts. Dark days, indeed.
What is awesome, though, is seeing the power of technology and creativity drive people to stay connected, stay positive, and, perhaps most importantly, stay sane. One thing that connects every one of us reading this right now is the power of music – specifically, the sweet sounds of INDUSTRIAL MUSIC. I have watched DJs live-stream sets to cut back on the boredom of not performing in clubs, I have seen artists on lockdown perform for ‘crowds’ on Twitch, we have had brand new music released by bands who are creating while also dealing with this global crisis themselves (and likely bored out of THEIR minds). We saw Bandcamp do something righteous – they removed their cut of the artist’s music for a few days, giving 100% of purchases directly to bands and artists. Also, on the topic of Bandcamp, we saw a TON of scene artists changing their music costs to ‘pay what you want’ to increase their sales and put some extra money in their pocket during times it is desperately needed, while also helping all of us get through things a little bit easier.
I do want to touch on that for a minute – as most of you likely already know, no one gets rich off of industrial music. It is one of the things I adore about this scene; pretty much everyone, from artists to promoters to fans, is involved because they LOVE THE MUSIC. It is a cycle that exists and thrives only when all parties are involved – artists make music, they sell music, people buy or stream music, promoters book shows, artists play shows, sell merch and music, fans buy merch and music, make new fans of music, who buy and stream the artists content, which allows them to get booked and paid more by promoters to play more shows…and the beat goes on. We are living in times where this cycle has been temporarily broken. Artists CAN’T play shows, promoters CAN’T book shows, and fans CAN’T attend shows. This puts a massive financial strain on a scene like ours that doesn’t have a lot of cash flow running through it even in normal circumstances. The cycle can’t survive on music purchases alone, either – ask a musician friend you know how much they make from Spotify or Bandcamp and you’ll quickly learn that there’s no chance even the top dogs in the industrial scene could make a living wage on these channels alone. Bands and performers make the most money off of performing shows and selling merchandise, and as of right now the world has no clue when that will be able to happen again.
This creates a lot of uncertainty and doubt and I’m certain some anxiety for all involved. However, despite the craziness of the times, there are ways to at least mend the cycle until we make it through and the world comes back around. Tune into those livestreams; let the artists know how much you still care about their content – these are not only difficult times financially, but isolation from things you love (like performing) can take a toll mentally as well. If your favorite bands have a Patreon page where you can subscribe to gain access to their creative process, exclusive releases, or more intimate interactions, and you can financially do so, consider this now more than ever. These pages generate a monthly income for artists to allow them the financial means to continue to create! When it comes to local clubs or venues, the impact is very direct – they simply cannot exist right now. This could be crippling for a small business that relies on ticket and bar sales, so if your favorite spot happens to have a GoFundMe or some other crowd funding fundraiser set up, consider donating – especially if you often attend these clubs and are saving money right now on cover charges and drinks! Also, if financially able to, purchase music on Bandcamp and pay a little extra to the artists when given the option. This is probably the easiest way to directly support your favorites and gain some new tunes in return to help get you through your isolation.
On this note, I wanted to make a few ‘recommended doses’ to you all – I may not be a real doctor, but I do have some prescriptions that can help your earholes feel less isolated for the time being. I normally do this at the end of the year, but there truly isn’t a better time than now to share some music than when we all could use it. These are all on Bandcamp, so if you’re interested, pay what you CAN for them to help out the artists!
The Doktor’s recommended doses (from new music released in 2020 so far, in no particular order):
ESA – Burial 10
Seriously – if the primary emotion you are feeling throughout this panic is anger, then put this record on and go punch a heavy bag or something. Raw power and guttural noise blended with stellar production; it is a noisy assault on the senses that runs you through a gauntlet of emotions. Jamie Blacker did something I didn’t think was possible – put out a record that matched the ferocity of ‘That Beast’ but evolved the ESA sound even more. It’s an undertaking to listen to, but you will be rewarded in the end. It’s an early contender for my favorite record of the year and one of only a small handful of albums that I have ever listened to three times in a row.
Klack – Catching up with Klack
If you haven’t checked out Wisconsin’s KLACK (side project from Matt Fanale/Caustic and Eric Oehler/Null Device), this is the time to do it. They’ve collected their three EPs together in one full length album of EBM/New Beat goodness. The retro synth sounds and tongue-in-cheek approach that this project brings is a breath of fresh air we need right now. I have highly recommended the EPs to anyone who would listen, and now I will do the same for this collection. All of their releases have been ‘pay what you want’, but if there’s been a time to pay for some music, it is now. Worth a few bucks for the Depeche Mode parody cover art alone!
And speaking of parody, Klack also pulled a ‘Weird Al’ on their song ‘Discipline’ (available off the above mentioned release) and re-wrote the lyrics to create a post-COVID-19 world anthem ‘Distancing’:
Rotersand – How Do You Feel Today?
I have been a fan of these guys since the Dalek-sampling in “Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy” – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that camp. They have actually been pretty active since that 2005 club hit, releasing 5 albums and a handful of EPs over the last 15 years (HOLY CRAP IT’S BEEN 15 YEARS SINCE E.A.D. CAME OUT I SUDDENLY FEEL OLD AF). This album is what you would expect from Rotersand – catchy club hits while also stretching themselves and using different production arrangements, instrumentation, and vocal styles. It was a massive disappointment when they couldn’t perform at last years’ Mechanismus festival, but fingers crossed they can come to the US eventually and perform some of this excellent new material.
Amelia Arsenic – Deathless
A 4-track EP that marks Amelia’s first new music since medical issues kept her from performing and recording for nearly half a year. She claims that music brought her back to life, and this 4 track banger is definitely full of life. Dripping with that industrial bass influence heard on recent releases from Moris Blak and co-written by Shiv-R mastermind Pete Crane, these tracks will make you long for the club and have you grooving in isolation. There’s something poetic about listening to music that Amelia used to get through her tough times while we work through our own.
Pete Crane – That Annihilated Place
Speaking of Mr. Crane – he put out his first release under his solo project (creatively titled “Pete Crane”) and it is simply excellent. Sharp production that you’d expect coming from the man behind Shiv-R, but he absolutely creates something different here. Sticking primarily to instrumental tracks with sampling, as well as purely electronic instrumentation, Pete creates a record dripping with psy-trance, synthpop, acid, and techno influences – truly differentiating it from any Shiv-R releases without alienating fans of that project. As an added treat, for all of you producers out there, he also released remix kits for every track on this album on his website – fight off the boredom of quarantine with the power of REEEEEEEEEMIXXXXXXES!
George - Lovecraft
This is a local shout out – Spokane resident and all-around spooky guy George recently put out a collection of songs heavily influenced by synth-heavy projects like Priest, Carpenter Brut, and Perturbator. It’s fantastic mood music that would sound right at home behind a John Carpenter flick or on a dark synthwave mixtape. George has been a big supporter of the local industrial scene in Spokane and actually won a drawing to attend last year’s Mechanismus festival. Many of this other recommended music is something you likely would have happened across on Spotify or elsewhere, so I wanted to prescribe something you may not have ever heard before.
Leæther Strip – anything
I had to put this on here for reasons many of you may already know. Industrial legend and all around doll of a human being Claus Larsen makes 100% of his livelihood off of his music, and his husband Kurt has been suffering from health problems over the past few years that have created considerable expenses for their family. Being unable to perform shows, coupled with his husband’s vulnerability to the coronavirus, have made recent times especially tough. Claus has put out a consistently great catalog of music over multiple decades, and his Bandcamp page contains some special releases he did specifically to raise money for Kurt’s care, as well as his latest Æppreciation collection of cover songs (including covers of Depeche Mode, Bjork, Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, and Billy Idol tracks). Pay what you can – all of the proceeds go to helping Claus and Kurt and their quality of life together.
Hopefully, those prescriptions will be enough of a dose to get you all through for a little while longer. Let’s all continue to put our heads down, get through this, and save up all that energy in order to go WILD at the first show that you can when this is all over – fingers crossed that this blows over by the summer, so perhaps that show could be the Mechanismus festival? But until then – stay safe, flatten the curve, and support the scene so it can live on forever!