Sunday, 16 January 2011

Goth's closest relative? Rivetheads and the Industrial subculture

Industrial music is closely associated with the Goth scene - many events are billed as 'Goth/Industrial'; festivals cater for Industrial tastes as well as Goth; and in some cases Goth and Industrial music fans may be visually almost indistinguishable from each other. A Goth may listen to a lot of Industrial music, and I don't doubt that there are Industrial fans who also listen to Goth.

To those who are not involved in either culture, the two may be thought of as interchangeable. But whilst the two scenes are very closely interlinked, each is definitely representive of a separate subculture in its own right.

Industrial music developed during the same era as post-punk, and could be described as 'experimental', 'challenging' and 'harsh'. The Allmusic website defines Industrial thus, "the most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music"; "initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments (tape music, musique concrète, white noise, synthesizers, sequencers, etc.) and punk provocation." Lyrical content is often dark or disturbing, spanning topics from fascism to serial killings. Modern Industrial music often includes military themes. Early Industrial musicians incorporated art forms such as performance art and art installations into their production.

The term 'Industrial' came about when seminal band Throbbing Gristle began their own record label, the creatively-named Industrial Records.  Nowadays there are many subgenres associated with Industrial, such as electro-Industrial (a combination of Industrial with cybergoth-beloved EBM), power electronics, aggrotech and harsh or terror EBM.

Industrial music fans are often known as rivetheads, a name they earned because of the sounds of machinery and changing gears often sampled in their music of choice. Rivethead fashion has a futuristic feel to it; it tends to be monochrome, macho, and rough-round-the-edges. It is often simpler and more minimalistic than many commonly-seen Goth fashions.

Fashion expert and co-author of Gothic: Dark Glamour Valerie Steele's description of the subculture seems to be a reasonably accurate one: "In contrast to the old-style Goth look, which was androgynous, the male industrial look was tough and military, with a sci-fi edge. Industrial men often dated Goth women. The men wore goggles, band T-shirts, black trousers or military cargo pants in black, military accessories, such as dog-tags, heavy boots, and goggles. Their hair was short. Industrial women, who were fewer in number, tended to wear waist-cinching corsets, small tank tops or 'wife-beaters,' trousers, and sometimes suspenders hanging down off the pants. They also wore goggles and sometimes shaved their heads."

Industrial-inspired fashion from Plastik Wrap
Visually and often lyrically, Industrial can seem violent, misanthropic and sometimes totalitarian; and yes, it's probably fair to say that rivetheads are a tad tougher than most Goths. However, as musicologist Bret Woods states, "It is important to note that some industrial artists use Marxist, socialist, and/or communist imagery in a shocking and satirical way to represent tyranny and their protest against tyranny. These are not to be seen as endorsements of particular ideologies, but are to be taken in context to their intent, a commentary on oppression." It's a bit like Goths dressing like the undead and listening to music about death - but not actually being suicidal or death-obsessed. We just don't like pandering to a society that insists on everything being happy and cheerful all the time!

'Industrial metal' bands such as Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails are often associated with this subculture (they are also often incorrectly labelled 'Goth' - many Goths enjoy this type of music, but it doesn't actually fall into the Goth category). I'm not about to get into the 'are NIN Industrial or not?' debate that seems to be permanently raging on many forums both Goth and Industrial (for starters, I am not yet well-informed enough about Industrial music to make such judgements), but otherwise the association with these bands seems to be a musical misconception akin to the public and media associating Marilyn Manson and Evanescence with Goth (aka, "Some of us may like it and listen to it, but please, don't call it Goth").

Dark subcultural siblings like Goth and Industrial obviously share some similarities between their followers; most obviously a predilection for stompy boots, long leather coats and the colour black;  and dark music, often with controversial or provocative themes. There are, of course, Goths who have a strong interest in Industrial as well as Goth, and consider themselves 'Industrial Goths' rather than rivetheads or 'Industrialists'.

Many rivetheads are only interested in the 'Industrial' aspect of 'Goth/Industrial' and do not consider themselves affiliated with Goth culture, despite the strong bonds between the two scenes and the large number of crossover events. It probably doesn't help that due to the futuristic qualities of rivethead fashion and Industrial music, rivetheads are often linked with the cybergoth sub-genre; however Industrial music tends to be harsher, heavier, and more military-inspired than the bleepy and often bouncy synthpop and futurepop genres commonly associated with cybergoth. Rivethead fashion has a more post-apocalyptic and again military feel to it than the skimpy neon spandex sported by the cyber tribes, and bright colours are rarely, if ever, seen. Stereotypically, although not necessarily in fact, rivetheads are not overly fond of their cybergoth 'brethren'. 
Not so much the two lovely ladies, but the guys in this picture (particularly Mr. Second-From-The-Left) have a very rivethead-ish look about them.
Source: Photobucket

Readers who are interested in delving into the dark realms of Industrial music could do worse than to check out the following bands, which are often popular amongst Goths as well as rivetheads: Throbbing Gristle (arguably the 'Bauhaus' of Industrial), early Cabaret Voltaire, Einsturzende Neubauten, Assemblage 23, Skinny Puppy, Das Ich, Front Line Assembly, KMFDM, Laibach, Nitzer Ebb, Noisuf-X, Tactical Sekt, Suicide Commando, Wumpscut and X Marks the Pedwalk. Ministry and Nine Inch Nails might also be worth a listen; they are commonly associated with both Goth and Industrial, although they are probably most correctly labelled as 'Industrial metal'.


MissGracie said...

I had a sudden urge to listen to NIN after reading this so I made an industrial Pandora station :) When I feel bitchy in the morning I tend to dress more industrial for the day. I like it every now and then.

Laurel said...

I love learning! Question--I always hear that "Goth music isn't found on your local radio.", does the same hold true for Industrial? NiN is found on my local radio, along with Gothic metal and All About Eve--which is all well and good, just like finding things for my wardrobe at Walmart. But it makes for very confusing.


Yr post reminded me that my philosophy teacher (10th grade) once told us to listen to an album of Bach and then to an album of NIN. He knew most of us would hate both but it was a crucial 1st step into understanding the diversity of culture and to appreciate what binds it together: Quality.
I totally agree that Rivetheads are Goth's closest cousin and I liked that you focused on what binds them together as well as on what drives them apart. Being a subcultural fanatic myself, I really appreciate the music suggestions.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Laurel - I think it depends on where you are and which station. I've heard both Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure on the radio whilst I've been shopping.

@ ETERNITY KIDZ - very welcome =D

@ Miss Gracie - it's not entirely unknown for me either, although it worked better when I had short, undershaved hair...

Jess said...


But tell me, how can I be a true rivehead? I mean, i'm dont want to be a poser, but I do love the musics and styles, and I feel myself connceted to the ideology...

Do u know a way to not sound pretentious?

Anonymous said...

The song Reptile by Nine Inch Nails is a great example of industrial music. Industrial came about as people tried to make a musical statement with the harsh (industrial)sounds that were springing up around them (Jackhammers, traffic, t.v., you name it).

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