There were no boundaries to what was possible. Nothing shocked us, nothing was outside the possibilities of the group. It wasn’t that we went to the edge of anything, it was simply that we didn’t have an edge.
Lines of flight, for their part, never consist in running away from the world but rather in causing runoffs, as when you drill a hole in a pipe; there is no social system that does not leak from all directions, even if it makes its segments increasingly rigid in order to seal the lines of flight.
Deleuze & Guattari
In 1973 a group of young artists from Sheffield, England, named themselves Cabaret Voltaire after the famous Dadaist site in Zürich. Cabaret Voltaire pioneered a musical genre that would, by the end of the 1970s, become known as industrial music. Cabaret Voltaire and other first-wave industrial music groups, including Throbbing Gristle (London), NON (USA), Z’EV (USA), SPK (Australia) and Einstürzende Neubauten (West-Berlin), followed in the footsteps of the Dada movement and 1960s and 1970s avant-garde art. They used electronic and synthesised sounds or pure noise produced by machines or home-made instruments, and stated that they played anti-music: they saw their performances as disconcerts and portrayed themselves as non-musicians (following Brian Eno of Roxy Music who saw himself as a non-musician and anti-musician). Since these bands share a philosophy and interest with artists such as Monte Cazazza and Mark Pauline, the much broader term industrial culture has been applied.
Industrial music followed the short-lived punk movement and undertook a comprehensive exploration of the decay of Western consumer capitalism. Industrial groups declared themselves independent and recorded for their own labels. They saw their music and performances as a form of discussion and made heavy use of extra-musical elements such as films and videos to intensify the “access to information”. Cabaret Voltaire and Psychic TV even produced their own television. Industrial music shared similarities with 1960s psychedelia, especially in terms of sensory overload and obsession with extreme sound effects, but it replaced hippie utopia with hopeless, dehumanising brutality. Industrial music is “psychedelia inverted: one long bummer trip”, a dark side of the 20th century with torture, cults, wars, unusual murders, concentration camps, psychological techniques of persuasion and psychological suffering.
Industrial musicians were theoretically up-to-date, making direct references to Walter Benjamin, Marshal McLuhan, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. The phrase “post-industrial society”, established by Daniel Bell, was picked up early. Although the music was labeled industrial, it mainly described the decay of industrial societies and the rise of the societies that would follow. They frequently referred to an “information war” that is going on, and to “control”, a term they took from William S. Burroughs and which was later applied by Deleuze in his writings on societies of control. Industrial musicians also acknowledged a debt to authors such as Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, who write about consequences of technology and the media. Before the 1980s cyberpunk literature and films they strove for an understanding of the society that would eventually replace the old industrial societies.
This article analyses the shock tactics employed by the early industrial music bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s using the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Industrial music functions as a socio-theoretical experiment, as a philosophy put into practice, or as art turning into philosophy and critical thinking. In art, Deleuze and Guattari see the opportunity to transcend boundaries and open new ways of approaching reality. Art demands that artists put themselves in the state of becoming, in-between realities. “The artist: the first person to set out a boundary stone, or to make a mark”, Deleuze and Guattari write. This exploration of the boundaries involves the risk of destruction and disintegration. Industrial music functions precisely as this kind of risky line of flight.
Performance art as a line of flight
Dada and avant-garde art had a huge impact on cultural ways of exploring the edge. The performance art of the 1960s and the early 1970s especially affected the punk movement and industrial music. Some of the most radical performances were conducted by Viennese Actionists (Wiener Aktionisten), whose main principle was to use the body as material. The body of the artist becomes an artistic medium. The Viennese Actionists Otto Mühl, Herman Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Günter Brus radicalised the idea by making the body a site of violence and torture on a scale that the art world had not seen before. The body was reduced to an object that could be tortured, manipulated or cut. The performances by Viennese Actionists have been interpreted as a violent reaction against Second World War cruelty in the context of the conservative Austria of the 1960s. Günter Brus explains the situation:
At the start of my career in Austria, this country had not been “abandoned by God”, but by the rest of the world. Nowhere else in Europe, except in the Eastern Bloc and in Franco’s Spain, were young artists confronted with such regressive and repressive conditions… Austria not only produced the man whose foundry gave rise to National Socialism, but it also put the tin-pot lid on top of his creation.
For Actionists, direct action meant, in their own words, “throwing the dirt into people’s faces, spoiling art for them … no more eroticism … instead anti-pornography, chopped off genitals, bloody ears.” The group used abjection as a strategy and tried to break every taboo and cultural value possible, their targets being state, religion and sexual norms. One of their best remembered actions Art and Revolution (Kunst und Revolution, 1968) at the University of Vienna sentenced Günter Brus to a six-month prison sentence for degrading the symbols of the State. Brus had been mutilated himself, urinated into a cup and drank it, defecated, masturbated and sang the Austrian national anthem. Similar actions were also performed by Otto Mühl who provoked ever-greater extremity in his actions. Schwarzkogler displayed bodies subjected to terrorising wounds. His suicide in 1969 gave rise to the myth that he had amputated his own penis during one of these actions. This was, however, a staged event (The Third Action, 1965).
Nevertheless, Hermann Nitsch’s performance actions form the most powerful and vivid recollections of the Viennese Actionists. Nitsch used both Christian mythology and Dionysian rites as a basis and crucified living human bodies and slaughtered animals. In his own words he celebrated a “drunken ecstasy of life” and a “liberated joy of strong existence without barriers.” Nitsch published his six day bloody sacrificial ceremony Manifest das lamm (The Lamb Manifesto) in conjunction with the 1964 Biennale in Venice. He had been influenced directly by Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. According to Artaud, theatre should be total and seek to explore the limits of nervous sensibility: “the unendingly repeated jading of our organs calls for sudden shocks to revive our understanding.” Artaud compares theatre to plague:
Theatre, like the plague, is made in the image of this slaughter, this essential division. It unravels conflicts, liberates powers, releases potential and if these and the powers are dark, this is not the fault of the plague or theater, but life.
Artaud is one of the prime examples of the avant-garde search for limits. He demanded that “real blood is needed right now to reveal this cruelty”. Real blood was in plenty more than enough brought to the stage by Viennese Actionists who turned the exploration of the limits into a destructive trip. Vincent Kaufmann writes about how they went too far, Rudolf Schwarzkogler committing suicide, for example: “It is essentially a question of dosage: it is crucial to take risks, since the authenticity of experience is measured by a risk taken – but not taken too far.” Later performance art involves the same element of risk in practice and theory when artists literally put their lives in danger. American performance artist Chris Burden was shot in arm with a rifle in a performance (Shoot, 1971). Marina Abramović reduced herself to object in Rhythm 0 (1974). The text on the gallery wall instructed the audience: “There are seventy-two objects on the table that can be used on me as desired. I am the object.” The concerned spectators halted the performance after six hours. Her clothes were sliced off, her skin mutilated and a loaded gun had been pressed against her head.
The transgression set conducted by the Viennese Actionists, Artaud and other performance artists forms a rupture in the social system. Deleuze and Guattari call these lines of flight. They are paths of escape, breaking points, differences and new beginnings that are – as noted by Artaud – potentially monstrous. Lines of flight differ from the lines that outline, border and segment (molar lines) and supple lines that cut across and mutate (molecular lines). The more rigid a segment in a society is, the less possibility there is for a line of flight, but as Deleuze and Guattari emphasise, every society has its leaking points. Lines of flights are neither symbolic nor imaginary; they have nothing to do with “signifying breaks”, but are realities. This is to say that art that seeks lines of flight is not merely representing the world, but becomes actively involved in the world in the event through which the movement of life becomes.
Performance artists do not represent a social critique by torturing their bodies; rather, they become embodied vehicles of the critique and act micro-politically as paths of escape in the social system. The same self-affirmation might well be self-destructive in many respects. Art traces lines of flights and makes them happen. Deleuze and Guattari often praise the exploration of boundaries, the lines of flight. In a sense the idea of the avant-garde is integrated into their philosophy, which draws its examples and some key concepts from Artaud and other similarly-minded people. There is a tension between the romanticism of the artist and the demythification of individuality in Deleuze’s philosophy. A similar paradox can be found in the works of the Viennese Actionists who were reducing the body to a mere object while stating that the very search for boundaries was a way of self-affirmation. Industrial music carried on this kind of paradoxical quest for authentic “pure” self.
The music of 1984
The first band labelled ‘industrial’, Throbbing Gristle, was originally a musical project of a British performance group, COUM Transmissions, which had been absorbing direct influences in performance art from the Viennese Actionists and the American Fluxus group who were less violent in their performances. The other influence was the New York experimentalist rock group The Velvet Underground, active between 1965 and 1973. The Velvet Underground depicted a bleak and hopeless view of urban life and introduced a new degree of social realism and sexual kinkiness into rock lyrics. The band unapologetically dealt with hard urban realities and described the use of heroin and amphetamines, sadomasochism and decadence. The thing that many found disturbing about The Velvet Underground was their lack of a moral stance. In many respects, this was a starting point for industrial music.
COUM Transmissions had adopted slogans such as “COUM are fab and kinky” or “COUM: the greatest human catastrophe since Adam got a hard on.” Their early 1970s performances included taboo-breaking activity similar to what Viennese actionists had already performed in shamanic improvisations including self-mutilation, bodily excrement and sexual intercourse with anal penetration. These might have gone extremely far, such as trying to find out bodily limits by eating poisonous plants and having been taken to hospital. Genesis P-Orridge recalls: “I remember being in emergency room… one of those typical “near-death” experiences where the doctors were saying THERE’S NO PULSE–THERE’S NO HEARTBEAT.” COUM had a punk attitude, seeing performance art and punk as having same roots. Many of their ideas were subsequently picked up by the Sex Pistols and became part of punk aesthetics.
COUM caused a scandal at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London with their Prostitution exhibition in 1976 and were subsequently unofficially banned from exhibiting in galleries in England. Prostitution documented performances by COUM and especially the pornographic model career of Tutti Fanni Cosey, a member of COUM who was blacklisted by the sex magazines’ editors after the exhibition, whose purpose was to comment on methods of economic survival for the arts and make an artistic statement by bringing material produced for pornographic magazines into the art gallery. The exhibition provided a critical commentary on pornography and the aesthetics of representing the female nude.
Prostitution gained COUM the reputation of being “the wreckers of civilisation”, although they were not necessarily particularly interested in wrecking civilisation since they saw it as already corrupt and having descended into barbarism. Punk culture had seen a rise in the face of mass youth employment, IRA terrorism, growing street violence and racism and the enervation of pop music. However, punk quickly became commercialised and integrated into mass-culture. Punk was followed by various post-punk bands (including industrial music), which began in a social context squeezed between paralysed Labour humanism and the imminent cynical victory of Conservatism. Post-punk became a disruption of the category of rock and roll, and it was characterised by desperation, frustration, anger and rejection of the possibility of order and community: “The result is a music that is oddly detached and yet furiously energetic and affective.”
Throbbing Gristle played their first disconcert at the opening of the Prostitution exhibition. COUM transformed themselves into Throbbing Gristle not only because they were fed up with the art life, but also because standard rock music and even punk rock had proved to be disappointing. Genesis P-Orridge stated that “rock & roll is for arselickers”, because it is based on popularity. Throbbing Gristle and other bands later called industrial had no intention of pleasing people; rather, their goal was to make people think differently. However, the crossover from the COUM to Throbbing Gristle was never smooth, since the popular press ignored COUM and classified TG as experimental art rock, and the art press ignored TG and still classified COUM as performance artists.
Imagine walking down blurred streets of havoc, post-civilisation, stray dogs eating refuse, wind creeping across tendrils. It’s 1984. The only reality is waiting. Mortal. It’s the death factory society, hypnotic mechanical grinding, music of hopelessness … Disturbing, cruel, inexorable, yet calming if you hold on brief for life. The music of 1984 has arrived.
(Genesis P-Orridge’s press release for Throbbing Gristle)
Throbbing Gristle saw their music as a soundtrack to George Orwell’s dystopia 1984, which includes the themes of psychological manipulation and technological control of information. A few years earlier the book had inspired David Bowie’s proto-punk album Diamond Dogs (published in 1974). Throbbing Gristle were trying to create a soundscape that would match the urban decay. Performance artist Monte Cazazza later coined the slogan that would match this anti-music: “industrial music for industrial people.” The term ‘industrial’ was also a reference to Industrial Records, which Throbbing Gristle had founded in 1976. There is, however, a strong ambiguity related to labeling experimental groups. So-called industrial music groups avoided and criticised the labels used by music journalists. Blixa Bargeld of Einstünze Neubauten opposes strongly against labels and categories:
We don’t play industrial music, we don’t play music at all … Well I hate musicians, I hate artists, and I hate the industrial music … the idea of music needs to be destroyed as well. For example, the idea of music is the idea of oppression, of pressure … it’s another idealistic and moralistic way to keep things the way they are.
V. Vale and Andrea Juno state that industrial is “the grim side of post-industrial Revolution society – the repressed mythology, history, science, technology and psychopathology.” The Hippy and Love Generation were past and mutated in post-psychedelic trash. Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were seriously interested in Charles Manson, a cult figure who portrayed the dark side of the hippy era. The murders committed by the Manson group inspired Otto Mühl’s performance The Death of Sharon Tate (1969) and later the Throbbing Gristle song “Slug Bait”. If Viennese Actionists brought the idea of total destruction into art, the same was also done by industrial musicians. There were no taboo subjects. Musicians were keen to survey every aspect of human misery. Throbbing Gristle called their East London studio ‘Death Factory’, named after Warhol’s Factory, but according to Genesis P-Orridge this was also a comment on life in consumer societies.
Throbbing Gristle flirted with fascist imagery. Their Industrial Records had a logo featuring main ovens of Auschwitz, which, according to P-Orridge, represented human stupidity. The group’s logo was based on the lightning-flash insignia of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The Stooges had already performed in Nazi uniforms to shock their audience. Punk culture later popularised the use of the swastika as counter-cultural symbol – an activity that can be interpreted as a semiotic guerrilla action or as the manifestation of a cultural trauma of caused by the Second World War. In the media, the punks’ appropriation of the swastika was read as a link between them and the resurgent British Nazis. When the racist National Front started to march on the streets of England’s biggest cities, Nazi-imagery soon lost its popularity in the punk community. Even Throbbing Gristle, who were into shocking people, took a relatively direct stance against NF and stated that their use of the symbolism was ultimately to be anti-fascist.
The idea of total mass destruction still appears in industrial music today, addressing themes such as serial killing, mass murder and atrocities. It is about annihilating everything, every edge and boundary and even the very production of music and art itself. Throbbing Gristle presented information without moral judgment. According to Simon Reynolds there is a fuzzy line between an anguished awareness of horror and morbid fascination with evil. What often makes industrial music disturbing for people is that they claim that there are fascist traits beneath Western consumer culture. Genesis P-Orridge states: “Everybody lives in their own concentration camp … What we’re saying is: be careful, because it’s not far from one to the other. The human race is the biggest masochist in the world.” He continues in another interview: “I’m concerned about the human race being stupid right through history. Therefore we use all the archetypes for human stupidity.”
Shock and control
Greil Marcus notes how punk took one of its key ideas from the Situationist International. Boredom had become a social pathology of consumer society. The Stooges sang about a life that was a repeat cycle in “No Fun” (1969). Clash claimed that they were bored with the U.S.A, while the record sleeve of the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant (1977) portrayed two buses with the destinations Boredom and Nowhere. Genesis P-Orridge crystallised this punk attitude by stating “there’s no fun if there isn’t risk.” He continues the risk theme in another interview: “Basically, we’re trained not to take risks. We are afraid of what any risk may do to us.” According David Le Breton, while the freedoms of choice have increased in Western societies, so too have the uncertainties, which produces the paradox of freedom: freedoms that necessarily have nothing to do with the feeling of freedom per se. J. G. Ballard highlights this notion in his novel Crash (published in 1973), a cult book of industrial culture:
The week after the accident had been a maze of pain and insane fantasies. After the commonplaces of everyday life, with their muffled dramas, all my organic expertise for dealing with physical injury had long been blunted or forgotten. The crash was the only real experience I had been though for years … After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.
Ballard’s Crash and his other book Atrocity Exhibition (published in 1970) diagnose mediated societies where affects are explored through car accidents. Many artists had used the car-crash theme, including Warhol (the Death and Disaster series 1963–1964), Godard (Week-end, 1967) and Jim Dine, who organised a car crash happening. The music of Throbbing Gristle provides a soundtrack to this theme: songs such as “Hamburger Lady” (1978) and “Dead on Arrival” (1978) describe fatal accidents or sounds of crash scenes. The accidents are described clinically – the style that Ballard himself preferred. Even COUM preferred as clinical and neutral a style of documentation as possible, recorded “like traffic accidents”, as Nitsch had instructed the Viennese Actionists.
Walter Benjamin had already connected the idea of shock with the modern lifestyle in the 1930s. Benjamin saw film as a medium that enforces shock: the Dadaist shock methods were present in the films showing changing perspectives which demand constant awareness from the audience. In an essay on Charles Baudelaire, Benjamin analyses the stimulus bombardment of modern life. The subjects build up armour against shocking stimulants. This eventually leads to repetition that might lead to boredom. In other terms, the boredom becomes an essential way of controlling the lifestyle of subjects. This is the idea that interests industrial musicians: subjects are being misled in our societies and have to be re-programmed.
If we have any enemy at all then the Control Process is that enemy. It is vital to short-circuit that control process. It is a very invisible, subtle process. In a sense it has become a part of each human being’s metabolism. (Genesis P-Orridge on control)
William S. Burroughs, the father of the concept of control, had already portrayed the social control systems in his classic Naked Lunch (published in 1959). Narcotics addiction becomes a metaphor for the processes of control in the sense that every place in the human body where there is communication is a potential place of addiction. Desire, or what Burroughs calls “the algebra of need”, enables control to be incorporated into the economic system. Burroughs analyses control further, in particular in his book The Job, which is acknowledged by the industrial musicians who cite the idea of control in their songs and interviews in the 1970s. According to Burroughs, the systems of control are practised through newspapers, radio, television and magazines, but also in terms of state institutions that serve to homogenise people. Control functions to deactivate people, to kill dreams, to modify them into dull existence. What is crucial in Burroughs’ ideas is the change in the logic in which the power functions.
Old-fashioned power, the generalissimo shooting a provincial governor across the desk, has self-limiting goals, and at least a measure of self-preservation. To confuse this old-style power with the manifestation of control madness we see now on this planet is to confuse a disappearing wart with an exploding cancer. You might as well expect a measure of moderation, or at least self-preservation, from the virus of rabies which dies when you do, mission accomplished. What we see now is power exercised for purely destructive purposes.
Burroughs’ dystopian vision was praised by Throbbing Gristle, NON and Cabaret Voltaire, among others, who used music to fight against processes of information control practised in society. Political activity is not a solution, since the standard democratic politics are just another control system. Instead of dogmatic politics, Throbbing Gristle, for example, saw themselves in line with the 1960s anarchist movement. Australian industrial group SPK advance the control theme in their manifesto on post-industrial strategy (1983). Their name derives from West-German radical group of mental patients called Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (Socialist Patients’ Collective) who produced the slogan “Kill Kill Kill For Inner Peace And Mental Health.” The idea of therapeutic control is advanced in SPK’s manifesto. Their detailed and theoretically well-formulated manifesto involves an analysis of sensationalist media, commercialised sexuality, the obsession with the new, hyper-capitalism and the failure of the hippy generation. The authors cited include McLuhan, Benjamin, Foucault and Baudrillard:
Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: the mechanism of social control has changed from liquidation or interment to therapeutic. Criminals or the insane are now simply recycled and turned into normalized homogeneous citizens. Both the right and the left wish to feel responsible for these problems and to reintegrate the deviant. We must not do this. Our interest in social deviance must be to maintain and extend the disability of the system to keep its margins under control … Furthermore it is foolish to think that a social code which created the unconscious is not able to inscribe and control it, just the same as it manipulates our conscious lives. Indeed this is the most effective method the code uses for its perpetuation. Psychic liberation is the very form of the system, not a radical solution as the drug experimentation of the Sixties showed. Changing individuals does not necessarily change societies. (The Post-Industrial Strategy of SPK)
Deleuze later adopted the concept of control from the same sources that industrial musicians had already used in the 1970s. His main inspirations are Burroughs and Foucault, as well as the theories of Paul Virilio on technology. Deleuze’s theory of control societies is a re-reading of Michel Foucault’s concept of “disciplinary society” in the light of the change in society involving the increasing use of information-technology in the late 20th century. Control involves technologically amplified speed and constant informational monitoring. Deleuze and Guattari discuss some of these changes in Mille Plateaux. In the history of the work process, there is a shift from the human being as a component of the machine to the human being as a worker and the user of a machine. Cybernetic and informational machines form a third age, a social subjection that is based internal communication. These might, according to Deleuze and Guattari, bring back a certain degree of enslavement in the form of control through normalisation, modulation, modeling and information that bear on language, perception, desire and movement.
Deleuze later notes that the freedoms of control societies are paradoxical. They might involve control mechanisms as rigorous as the harshest confinement in disciplinary societies. Disciplinary societies exercise power mainly through institutions, but in control societies the control is everywhere. According to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri the biopolitical power in control societies is not restricted as in disciplinary societies. Power becomes entirely biopolitical, affecting the depths of consciousness and bodily subjectivities. The change from discipline to control is not necessarily clear-cut. Eugene W. Holland notes that social control today operates through a combination of long-term discipline and high-speed control. However, even disciplinary institutions have started to work according to a new logic based on the mutation of capitalism and intensification of sales, markets and bonus systems, business being present everywhere in society.
Burroughs, industrial musicians and Deleuze all share the view that control functions through desire and is fundamentally targeted directly at the human body and brain, which is integrated into the larger social machinery. Burroughs writes that “brainwashing, psychotropic drugs, lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery; the technocratic control apparatus of the United States has at its fingertips new techniques which if fully exploited could make Orwell’s 1984 seem like a benevolent utopia.” If control operates and codes minds, these minds can be also decoded, according to industrial musicians. People will otherwise “have to go through a process of de-control” as Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire states. Coil crystallises the shock-tactic approach of industrial musicians in their classic album Scatology (1984):
Using fear as a key, as a spur, as a catalyst to crystallize and inspire. It is about performing surgery on yourself – psychic surgery – in order to restore the whole being, complete with the aspects that sanitized society attempts to wrench from your existence. A murder in Reverse. (Excerpt from the record sleeve of Coil’s Scatology.)
Deleuze also writes that it is always possible to resist control if new weapons are found and there is enough creative energy put into play. Technology itself is neutral and can be put to use in alternative ways. Genesis P-Orridge comments that technology makes it possible for them to disseminate their ideas and information more easily than before. Industrial music does not appraise the technology itself, although technological devices are used to produce sounds. They address the question of social change, but are far from being nostalgic. “I hate nostalgia”, Genesis P-Orridge emphasises, “all forms of nostalgia.” Throbbing Gristle, however, are not like the German electro-group Kraftwerk, who claimed that they had become machines or robots (“Die Roboter”, 1978). Instead, Throbbing Gristle aimed to make people conscious of the two-sided nature of technology, as machines are “both dangerous and fun”.
The noise politics
Punk had taken their DIY principle from the Situationists, as is apparent in Mark Perry’s direct instruction on how to form a band in Sniffin’ Glue magazine in 1977: “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band.” Genesis P-Orridge wanted to open up a gap between Throbbing Gristle and the punks by stating that “you can start with no chords”. DIY was still relevant for early industrial musicians, who often built their instruments themselves and used innovative methods of making sounds. Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were inspired by the cut-up methods William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin had developed in the 1960s in order to cut and re-organise texts and music. According to Burroughs these cut-ups could be used to break down the control systems. Similarly Throbbing Gristle adopted a self-made sound as an offensive weapon.
Anti-musical sounds already had a long history, since the first electronic sounds were produced in the 19th century. The first electronic instrument or synthesizer is said to have been Elisha Gray’s Musical Telegraph, invented in 1874. Futurists became interested in new ways of creating sound. The painter Luigi Rossolo writes in The Art of Noises (L’arte dei rumori, 1913): “Ancient life was totally silent. The 19th century, with the invention of machines, gives birth to the Noise. Today the Noise triumphs and dominates sovereignly the human sensibility.” John Cage, one of the pioneers of electronic music, created a manifesto, The Future of Music (1937) in which he emphasises the quality of noise: “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise … Whether the sound of a truck at 50 mph, rain, or static between radio stations, we find noise fascinating.”
Alongside Cage, Edgar Varèse’s works play a relevant role in the history of avant-garde music. Varèse manipulated sound electronically, and is sometimes related to the history of electronic music. According to Ronald Bogue, Deleuze and Guattari incorporate much of Varèse’s vocabulary into their discussion on Modernism. Varèse was interested in the alchemical concept of “transmutation of elements”: “he sought means of transmuting sonic matter, transforming the temporal flow of sounds into spatial blocks, planes and volumes.” In Varèse’s music Deleuze and Guattari saw the possibility of lines of flight. The task of modern music was to render inaudible forces audible. The potential of music lies not only in creating affects but in producing lines of flight and becomings. Deleuze and Guattari write that “It is clear that what is necessary to make sound travel, and to travel around sound, is very pure and simple sound, an emission or wave without harmonics.”
I think I created something that would run all the thought out of people’s heads… I wanted to create a form of stimulus that would bypass the mind, a form not rooted in the mind that would hopefully give rise to an experience more primal in nature. I wanted to do something directed toward the organism as a whole. (Boyd Rice on his The Black Album)
“We’re trying to create a sound that is equivalent to the experience,” Genesis P-Orridge says in an interview in 1978 for Search & Destroy magazine. Industrial music used sound possibilities reduced from the meanings of traditional music. They used sound as sound. Boyd Rice of NON utilised shoe-polishers, broken tape-decks and his own instruments to create new and strange sounds. Einstürzende Neubauten used cement mixers, angle grinders, pneumatic drills and shopping trolleys to produce noise. The influences, however, came not simply from the avant-garde artists. Industrial musicians owe a debt to German groups such as Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, who pioneered the use of electronic sounds. Unlike these early pioneers of electronic music, however, industrial musicians were not into pleasing people. Early industrial bands often reported having being attacked by the distressed audience. Their soundscapes were like weapons or, as Benjamin would put it, like shocking bullets. Cosey Fanni Tutti explains the sound politics of Throbbing Gristle:
[A] Lot of the things that TG did, the ones that were hard and industrial, were all born out of gigs. They were all born out of the hostile reception that we had to try and fight against on stage. So it was like a battle – a sound battle, trying to win people over. We used to have to win our audience’s attention and the only way we could do it was with violent and aggressive music. We couldn’t shout at them or physically abuse them ‘cause it would have just ended up in a brawl. The only way that you can do it is with sound.
Burroughs, who sees music playing an important role in the control process, is interested in new ways of using the sound, mentioning for example the use of infrasound as a possibility. Throbbing Gristle built soundscapes as they would build machines. This was done in order that the audience “rediscipline their brain to listen to it as sound, blocks of sound, units.” Throbbing Gristle used infrasound played extremely loud, for instance. Chris Carter explains: “We used audio frequencies in a live situation, like a very high powered low frequency audio signal to make people do things that they wouldn’t want to do – making people feel ill and dizzy and stuff.” Boyd Rice mentions that his NON performances almost caused riots among angry audiences, induced acid flashbacks in his audience or caused them severe pains and made audience plead “More pain! More pain!” Heavy strobe lighting is also used to stimulate people, sometimes causing epileptic fits.
The use of sound has a directly political purpose for industrial musicians, functioning as part of their re-information process. NON, for example, calls his performances “de-indoctrination rites.” Genesis P-Orridge and Boyd Rice, who later became a priest of the Church of Satan, are among those industrial musicians who were also into occultism. Genesis P-Orridge describes their interest in the ideas of occultist Aleister Crowley in various interviews and how their music serves as ritual or how they used the forces of “magick”. Genesis P-Orridge states that Mark Pauline and Z’Ev are modern alchemists. P-Orridge had noticed that Throbbing Gristle had become a magnet for various freaks and he got the idea of forming an organisation which was between a fan club, a religious sect and a secret society. This temple was named Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, following Psychic TV, the name of his follow-up band after Throbbing Gristle.
Genesis P-Orridge describes experimentation with sound and noise as involving total immersion: “It was primarily deconditioning and building a sense of separate unity in order to be effective doing the alchemy with the music.” Industrial music is even portrayed as a musical rite of passage or “second birth.” The ritualised form of industrial music often involves altered states using drugs or technological/neurological devices. The industrial music of the early 1980s by Coil, Psychic TV and Einstürzende Neubauten in particular was created in a state of “amphetamania”, the speed amplifying the music’s apocalyptic atmosphere. Genesis P-Orridge notes how they were testing the different sound possibilities by trial and error in the 1970s, and using their own bodies as guinea pigs. Similarly Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten saw his whole life as an experimental case, ready to squeeze his body like a lemon:
Amphetamines had an influence on my life and that had an influence on my music, but amphetamines aren’t psychedelic. What makes them psychedelic is that you can’t sleep. I attended studio mixing sessions that went on for seventy-two hours nonstop. But we got a perfect mix, ‘cos we were able to concentrate on something really stupid for ages, like a particular drum sound.
Industrial music set the bodies of musicians violently in the line of flight. Blixa Bargeld, for example, treated his body with absolute disregard, a method reminiscent of Artaud’s theatre of cruelty. Sometimes he becomes an instrument himself: his ribcage was miked up and the sounds were the effects of blows dealt by his band-mate Mufti. He became a body reduced to musical noise and his body to be violated in becoming music. Ronald Bogue discusses the theme of musical destruction in his article on death, doom and black metal that also sought similar destruction. Bogue connects them to what Deleuze and Guattari call a body without organs. The soundscape of Einstürzende Neubauten explores the limits of body without organs. Industrial music takes the destruction even further than extreme metal music, which is still rooted in regular time signatures and rhythm. Industrial music performance served as a dada experience, less as music and more as a wall of noise, where even the sound of a washing machine could make great song. This is the deterritorialisation industrial music conducts. Sound becomes being which is political.
Industrial becomings – concluding remarks
Music is never tragic, music is joy. But there are times it necessarily gives us a taste for death; not so much happiness as dying happily, being extinguished. Not as a function of a death instinct it allegedly awakens in us, but of a dimension proper to its sound assemblage, to its sound machine, the moment that must be confronted, the moment the transversal turns into a line of abolition. Peace and exasperation. Music has a thirst for destruction, every kind of destruction, extinction, breakage, dislocation. Is that not its potential “fascism”?
Early industrial music was never intended to become commercially successful. It constantly transformed itself and forms ways of expression that militated against becoming popular. The wall of noise it created served to shock people and activate them, and if people became accustomed to noise, it would be time to do something else. The musicians of Coil, for example, note in the middle of the 1980s that themes produced by Burroughs on control have been done to death. Early industrial music remains as an interesting artistic line of flight produced by various bands and artists before cyberpunk, which took some of its key themes from 1970s industrial music. Industrial music used sound as a means of inducing altered states of consciousness. These early developments in industrial music later led to more drug-orientated music. Genesis P-Orridge and his Psychic TV group invented the concept of acid-jazz that would anticipate the ecstasy-fuelled rave culture of the 1980s and 1990s.
The second-wave industrial bands of the 1980s continued the “information war” that the first-wave bands had declared. Canadian band Skinny Puppy, for instance, critically addresses themes such as pollution, chemical warfare, rape and cocaine addiction in their 1980s albums. Unlike Throbbing Gristle, SPK or Cabaret Voltaire, who saw society as too corrupt for conventional politics, the British group Test Dept took ideas directly from the Left, and were against the neo-liberal politics of 1980s Britain, solidarity being one the main themes. The industrial music of the 1980s became less involved in original avant-garde ideas. As Csaba Toth notes, deviance, shock and abjection were simply no longer enough, and bands were not paying so much attention to the physical body of the artist. They still remained critical and consistent with cultural criticism. This involves even Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, who made their commercial breakthroughs in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
One of the best examples of the controversies and misinterpretations that circulate around industrial music is the Slovenian band Laibach, who produced their Laibach Kunst Manifesto, framing the new direction in terms of popular culture: “Laibach builds the system of propaganda and functional mechanism of information as a system of control to be realized through mass culture.” Laibach are part of the controversial art community Neue Slovenische Kunst (NSK), who have declared their own micro-state (established in 1992). Laibach uses totalitarian symbols and deconstructs them. This is often confusing for the audience, and the band has variously been accused of being far left and far right. According to Slavoj Žižek, the music of Laibach is more pertinent than ever in the 21st century. Some of the themes of early industrial music are still applicable, on this view, to the current cultural and political situation.
Deleuze and Guattari state that music has a thirst for destruction. This is what industrial music is all about. It is a line of flight and an opportunity to think differently. Following Williams S. Burroughs, Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire says: “Being in a state of paranoia is a very healthy state to be in. It gives you a permanently questioning and searching non-acceptance of situations.” Industrial music argues differently – against control and the ways of thinking that are rigid or oppressive. In control societies the problem lies in finding new weapons against control. As Deleuze and Guattari write: “We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present.” Industrial music is an example of the ongoing battle against lack of creativity via the exploration of risk-laden lines of flight.
 Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978–84 (London: Faber and Faber, 2005), p. 224.
 See Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1973).
 See Gilles Deleuze, Pourparlers: 1972-1990 (Paris: Minuit, 1990), pp. 229–247; Gilles Deleuze, Deux régimes de fous: textes et entretiens 1975–1995 (Paris: Minuit, 2003), pp. 291–302.
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? (Paris: Minuit, 1991), p. 161.
 Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: logique de la sensation (Paris: Seuil, 2002); Gilles Deleuze, Critique et Clinique (Paris: Minuit, 1993), pp. 9–17; Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, (Paris: Flammarion, 1996), pp. 54–58.
 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 348.
 Valie Export, “Aspects of Feminist Actionism,” New German Critique, no. 47, pp. 69–92.
 Stephen Barber, The Art of Destruction: The Films of the Vienna Group (New York: Creation Books, 2004), pp. 7–8; Tracey Warr, The Artist’s Body (London and New York: Phaidon, 2000), p. 12.
 Cited in Barber, The Art of Destruction, p. 21.
 Roswitha Mueller, Valie Export: Fragments of the Imagination (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994), p. xviii.
 Barber, The Art of Destruction, pp. 41–44.
 Thomas McEvilley, “Art in the Dark,” in The Artist’s Body, ed. Tracey Warr (London and New York: Phaidon, 2000), pp. 222–227.
 Antonin Artaud, The Theatre and Its Double, trans. Victor Corti (London: Calder & Boyars, 1970), p. 66.
 Ibid. 21.
 Ibid 67.
 Vincent Kaufmann, “Life by the Letter,” October 64 (Spring 1993), p. 98.
 François Pluchart, “Risk as Practice of Thought,” in The Art of Performance: A Critical Anthology, eds. Gregory Battcock and Robert Nickas (New York: Ep. Dutton, INC.), pp. 125–134.
 Warr, The Artist’s Body, p. 125.
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mille plateux: Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2 (Paris: Minuit, 1980), pp. 245–252.
 Ibid. 225.
 Ibid. 249–250.
 Claire Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), p. 56.
 Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 54.
 Dana Polan, “Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation,” ’ in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, eds. Constantin V. Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski (New York: Routledge, 1994), pp. 229–254.
 Mikal Gilmore, Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll (New York: Doubleday, 1998), p. 109.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 2.6, 3.18.
 Julie Wilson, “As It Is,” in Painful but Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge, eds. Nick Mamatas, Maggie Balistreri, Ellen Moyhinan and Don Goede (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2002), p. 69.
 Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (London: Faber and Faber, 1991), pp. 250–251.
 RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Art: from Futurism to the Present (London: Thames & Hudson, 2001), p. 182; Richard Metzger, “Annihilating Reality: an Interview with Genesis P-Orridge,” in Painful but Fabulous: The Lives & Art of Genesis P-Orridge, eds. Nick Mamatas, Maggie Balistreri, Ellen Moyhinan and Don Goede (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2002), p. 42.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 6.19, 6.24, 9.16.
 Ibid. 6.17.
 Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 117.
 Lawrence Grossberg, “The Politics of Youth Culture: Some Observations on Rock and Roll in American Culture,” Social Text 8 (Winter 1983–1984), p. 120.
 Jon Savage, Time Travel: From “Sex Pistols” to “Nirvana” – Pop, Media and Sexuality 1977-1996 (New York: Vintage, 1997), p. 50.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 5.17.
 Ibid. p. 6.17.
 V. Vale and Andrea Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, Re/Search, 6–7, (San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1983), pp. 10–11.
 Ibid. 16.
 Cited in Carla Mureck, “’ Die Hölle ist da, feiern wir das wärmende Feuer’: Zur Musik der Industrial Culture, Destroyed Music, Krach- und Geräusch-Music,” in Partitur der Träume. Über Musik un Klänge, eds. Andrea Hoffmann and Kim Riemann (Tübingen: Konkursbuch, 1990), p. 134.
 Vale and Andrea Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 6.17.
 Savage, Time Travel, p. 52.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, pp. 7.18–7.19; Mureck, “Die Hölle ist da,” p. 137; Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 62
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 7.19; Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 232.
 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1979), pp. 116–117.
 Umberto Eco, Trattato di semiotica generale (Milano: Bompiani, 1975), p. 199.
 Jon Stratton, “Jews, Punk and the Holocaust: from the Velvet Underground to the Ramones – the Jewish-American Story,” Popular Music 24, no. 1 (2005): 79–105; Jon Stratton, “Punk, Jews, and the Holocaust – The English Story,” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 25, no. 4 (2007): 124–149.
 Marcus, Lipstick Traces, p. 117.
 Chris Ott, Unknown Pleasures, (New York & London: Continuum, 2004), p. 24.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, pp. 7.19–7.20.
 Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 232–234.
 Simon Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, 7.18–7.19; Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 232–232.
 Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 11.
 Marcus, Lipstick Traces, p. 51–52; Greil Marcus, In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music 1977–1992 (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 19.
 Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 16.
 Charles Neal, Tape Delay: Confessions from the Eighties Underground (London: SAF Publishing, 1987), p. 230.
 David Le Breton, Passions du risqué (Paris: Métailié, 2000), p. 12.
 J.G. Ballard, Crash (London: Vintage, 1995), p. 28.
 See J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition (London: Flamingo, 2001).
 Mikita Brottman, “Introduction,” in Car Crash Culture, ed. Mikita Brottman (Palgrave: New York, 2001), pp. xi-xliii; Steven Jay Schneider, “Death as Art/The Car Crash as Statement: The Myth of Jackson Pollock,” in Car Crash Culture, ed. Mikita Brottman (Palgrave: New York), pp. 267–284.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 3.16.
 Walter Benjamin, “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit,” in Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften I: 2 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974), pp. 502–503.
 Walter Benjamin, “Über Einige Motive bei Baudelaire,” in Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften I: 2 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974), pp. 605–653.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 9.6.
 Marcus Boon, The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 75–76.
 William S. Burroughs, The Job: Interview with William S. Burroughs by Daniel Odier (New York: Grove Press, 1970), pp. 34–36, 51, 68–69, 95.
 Ibid. 52.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 9.6.
 Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 94; see also SPK, Aus der Krankheit eine Waffe machen (München: Trikont, 1973).
 Cited in Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 103.
 Deleuze, Deux régimes de fous, p. 299.
 Deleuze, Pourparlers, pp. 229–247; Deleuze, Deux régimes de fous, pp. 291–302.
 Deleuze and Guattari, Mille plateaux, p. 570–573.
 Deleuze, Pourparlers, pp. 241–242.
 Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: Harvard University Press), p. 24.
 Eugene W. Holland. “From Schizophrenia to Social Control,” in Deleuze & Guattari, New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy, and Culture, eds. Eleanor Kaufman and Kevin Jon Heller (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press), p. 72.
 Deleuze, Pourparlers, pp. 240–245.
 William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine: Selected Essays (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1993), p. 117.
 Vale and Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 45.
 Deleuze, Pourparlers, p. 239, 242.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 9.6.
 V. Vale and Andrea Juno, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Throbbing Gristle, Re/Search, 4–5 (San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1982), p. 87.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 7.16.
 Cited in Iain Chamber, Urban Rhythms: Pop Music and Popular Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), p. 177.
 Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation, p. 7.24.
 Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 154–155; Vale and Juno, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Throbbing Gristle.
 Burroughs, The Job, p. 19.
 Cited in Caroline Tisdall and Angelo Bozzolla, Futurismo (Milano: Rizzoli, 2002), p. 135.
 Cited in Goldberg, Performance Art, p. 123.
 Ronald Bogue, Deleuze on Music, Painting, and the Arts (New York & London: Routledge, 2003), p. 45.
 Deleuze and Guattari, Mille plateaux, pp. 423–426.
 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 380.
 Cited in Brian M. Clark, “Introduction,” in Boyd Rice/NON, Terra Incognita: Ambient Works 1975 – Present (2004), CD, Mute Records.
 Savage, Time Travel, p. 52.
 Brian Duguid, “A Prehistory of Industrial Music”, in EST Magazine (1995), http://media.hyperreal.org/zines/est/articles/preindex.html (accessed in September 1, 2011).
 Benjamin, “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit,” p. 502.
 Cited in Neal, Tape Delay, p. 217
 Burroughs, The Job, p. 19, pp. 54–56.
 Savage, Time Travel, p. 53.
 Neal, Tape Delay, p. 222.
 Vale and Andrea Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 54.
 Neal, Tape Delay, p. 222.
 Vale and Andrea Juno, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Throbbing Gristle, p. 84–85; Metzger, “Annihilating Reality”, pp. 47–48.
 Vale and Andrea Juno, The Industrial Music Handbook, p. 15.
 Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 476.
 Metzger, “Annihilating Reality”, p. 45.
 Mureck, “Die Hölle ist da,” p. 143.
 Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 482.
 Metzger, “Annihilating Reality”, p. 45.
 Blixa Bargeld cited in Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again, 484.
 Neal, Tape Delay, p. 52.
 Ronald Bogue, “Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black”, in Deleuze and Music, eds. Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), pp. 95–117.
 Neal, Tape Delay, p. 221–222.
 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 330.
 Neal, Tape Delay, p. 120.
 Wilson, “As It Is”, p. 84.
 Duguid, “A Prehistory of Industrial Music”; Neal, Tape Delay, p. 164–167.
 Csaba Toth, “Like Cancer in the System,” in Gothic. Transmutations of Horror in Late Twentieth Century Art, ed. Christoph Grunenberg (Boston: The Institute of Contemporary Art & The MIT Press, 1997), pp. 86–85.
 Cited in Neal, Tape Delay, p. 225.
Alexei Monroe, Interrogation Machine. Laibach and NSK (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The MIT Press, 2005).
 Slavoj Žižek, “Foreword: They Moved the Underground,” in Alexei Monroe, The Interrogation Machine, p. xv.
 Deleuze and Guattari, Mille plateaux, p. 367.
 Cited in Neal, Tape Delay, p. 157.
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Trans. Janis Tomlinson and Graham Burchell III (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. 108.