A brief history of Punk Rock, Industrial Music, Goth Rock and Rave are discussed as a matter of identifying a cultural and musical transition as a result of technology.
For quite some time there has been a cultural dissonance with the so called “dark scene”. For those unfamiliar with the topic and the stereotypes, one will find use in reviewing the Black Waterfall site's 23 categories
. The central focus of the debate these days is on the “traditional goth’s” disgust for raver influenced dress style and music. For people who have found music to be a huge part of their life, purity in all forms from style to sound may be the highest virtue. The result of this has become a cultural clash at clubs, festivals and in cyberspace where multiple styles converge in the same location.
For musical history in this matter, one must pick a relatively recent moment in time, as to go back too far would show more similarities than differences. Perhaps the best decade which created the seeds for what things are today is the 1970's. During this time there was the punk rock movement (mid 1970's), Industrial music movement (mid 1970's), the “post-punk” goth rock movement (late 1970's) and the arrival of affordable Synthesizers. Generally speaking, none of the labels “punk,” “industrial” or “goth” are adequate today for the music that falls into them as a result of over simplification and innumerable sub-genres. Each of these different movements had their own unique musical elements and at times, dress styles.
Punk was noted with fast, short songs containing political and anti-establishment lyrics having strong emphasis on DIY (do-it-yourself). Self producing music, unpolished electric guitar based sounds and an emphasis on grunge were common elements in Punk. Punk music was a rejection of what had become “rock 'n' roll” to the mainstream and had its origins in the United Kingdom, the United States and even Australia. To some extent, the music was a reflection of the economics at the time because much of the youth in the United Kingdom was out of work with a lot of political opinion and time. Some of the bands in this movement's beginning were The Sex Pistols
, the Ramones and The Clash. Some of the dress style for the punk movement derived from the rockabilly scene in previous decades, wearing motorcycle jackets and jeans. Eventually punk took to be more disturbing of mainstream culture and started to include the Mohawk, tattoos, piercings and self made clothing which embraced more DIY culture ethics.
Industrial music was by nature, experimental and the term “Industrial” to describe music derived from the founding of Industrial Records
with bands like Throbbing Gristle, SPK and Cabaret Voltaire. In many ways it was an insult to what punk rock claimed to be rebellious, making art in spite of art. There was no unifying aesthetic, the rejection of reproducibility by having unique live performances was key. The use of dead animals on machines to make them seem alive, vandalizing billboards and use of totalitarian imagery were parts of the movement. Musically there was no unity, making machines into instruments or using instruments like a guitar or synthesizer in unconventional ways producing feedback, not even claiming to be “music” was at times common. The only thing sacred was the mind of the individual and the fulfillment of their dreams, this included interest in dictators, murderers and cult leaders who seemed to simply be fulfilling their personal ambitions. The movement took place predominately in the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States and could be summarized as being “harsh and challenging” on all fronts with awe of military and social technologies and their ability to direct the “information wars.”
Goth, better known in its origin as “goth rock” was much more focused on a dark aesthetic and arguably came from punk as it started to fade out. Goths often wore heavy makeup, fishnets, with partially shaved heads having black hair with a heavy interest in extreme white skin and pure black everywhere else. Some of the bands in this movement were Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, and The Cure. Unlike punk, goth included some use of synthesizers, longer songs and more introspective lyrics. The subject matters addressed with the movement were morbidity, romanticism and religion. Gothic architecture, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths from history are not related to this musical movement although they have a similar name and may have at times influenced the religious undertones in goth. This movement was most popular in the United Kingdom.
In more recent times, arguably in 1980's to 1990's, there was the establishment of house, techno, acid, trance and rave music which was purely electronic. Unlike punk, industrial and goth it appeared much happier, with bright colors and during its peak, usage of drugs like ecstasy and a generally hedonistic standpoint. Throughout the United States and Europe there were raves which featured heavy use of large light shows including smoke machines in big warehouses with common drug use and glow stick spinning. Unlike other counter culture movements, rave was apolitical, non-violent and focused on dance with a hippie-like message of peace, love and community. Some bands in this era include The Crystal Method and The Chemical Brothers with many different DJ's.
Now we are nearly forty years past the rise of punk, industrial and goth as distinct movements. Today there are many varieties and hybrids which have taken on the electronic side, even giving birth to what many call “cybergoth,” "cyberpunk" or "cyber/industrial" (musically also "industrial rave"), which on a surface level appears as one color mixed with black. The “dark scene” has shifted to a much more electronic focused style for many these days and to some extent is not the best label as it implies the use of black with goth morbidity. It is at times quite difficult for some to see the bright colors of ravers mixed with black or the use of little to no black at all in dress style when trying to enjoy music that is supposed to be harsh.
As time progresses, so too does music and culture but the transition is not easy or without an identity crisis for some. The technology dependent lives we now lead have brought us to a merging/ hybridization of punk, industrial, goth and rave in message, sound and style in some regards due to the Internet's easy accessibility of information and music. We find ourselves both more individualistic yet increasingly distanced and lacking the camaraderie that previous musical eras enjoyed. While the inevitable bickering from purists about how much better “it was” will surely continue, it seems now more than ever is there the need for a common ground and shared identity in the "dark scene" or a perhaps a redefinition of harsh music culture as a collection of sub-cultures or even still, individuals.