Mixing the gene pool

Adding something new to the existing musical gene pool is always good and necessary to keep the scene alive and healthy. The last time I have noticed such a musical change as the one we call now ‘Industrial Pop‘, was the song ‘Inhuman‘ by ‘Aesthetic Perfection’. A track that would certainly have been stamped as ‘Industrial’, but there was so much more to this song.

Thomas Frenken Press Photo 07/2017

Thomas Frenken
Press Photo 07/2017

‘Inhuman’ is in the same amount cold and hard as a typical ‘Industrial’ track, but comes along with the same catchy dance beat as a radio friendly Pop song. “Pop elements in an Industrial song?”– you may wonder. For die-hard Industrial fans a no-go and at the same time too hard for a stereotype Electropop fan.

So where is a target audience for such a hard to pin down music style? According to the Electrozombies maxim ‘Undead And Open Minded’, I personally care little to maintain an image. If I like something, I listen to it. And in this case, I especially loved this genre for its unique combination.

Our definition of ‘Industrial Pop’

Let’s dismantle the song and define the specifications of its new born genre. The hard industrial elements are easily recognizable in the basic features. Cold and crisp sounding beats accompanied by harsh screaming vocals. In terms of content, the lyrics are mostly of the emotional kind. Furthermore they tend towards Gothic and the more serious, profound themes, which forms an exception to the ‘Industrial’ genre.

Perhaps Industrial Pop is a bastard genre, but to me it’s awesome music for open-minded people.Thomas Frenken

However, the catchiness of the songs is particularly striking and characteristic. The chorus is usually an earwig and actually is radio friendly. The tracks focus on danceability. This is quite an asset because especially the scene’s younger generations, such as Cyber Goths,  love to dance. So a more agile kind of music meets their needs surely more than those of a good old Waver from the 80s. Although this music may transcend quite some generation gaps.

An alternative definition

Another approach in the definition would be that ‘Industrial Pop’ consists simply of the most popular and catchiest tracks inside the Industrial genre. They function as a door opener to the Industrial genre in general for music-interested and open minded listeners. Assuming that this combination of genres is kind of paradox, it works at least 100% for the microcosm of our music scene.

Four pioneers on their vantage points

As we decided to start writing an article on this topic, the major plan was simple. Just write a few paragraphs about our point of view and add a 10 track playlist to have some lively content on the page. But the plan changed because of the enthusiastic and extensive support of four very special artists. We’re very proud to present to you some of the “Industrial Pop” Masterminds’ opinions on this very fresh genre: Daniel Graves (Aesthetic Perfection), Sami Mark Yahya (Faderhead), Jacquelyn Dady (Nyxx) and Tominous and Gabor (Formalin).


The artistic philosophy of Daniel Graves (Aesthetic Perfection)

Daniel Graves - Promo Photo by Nyxx

Daniel Graves
Promo Photo for ‘Rhythm & Control’ by Nyxx

Daniel Graves explains: “To me, #IndustrialPop is less about how the music sounds, and more about the mindset of the creator. My music is firmly rooted in the goth / industrial scene, but there’s so much more music out there that I love and appreciate.

So many other scenes to draw influences from. I don’t want to stifle my creativity with restrictions about the kinds of drum rhythms, chord progressions or sounds I can use. I don’t want to limit myself visually to looking like the standard ”dude in a goth band”.

I don’t know how it happened, but our scene has become so insular and restricted in terms of what is and isn’t cool or acceptable, that it’s now some fucked up mirrored version of the mainstream. Bands are encouraged to regurgitate the same old music while people dance in the same way while wearing their overpriced outfits created for them by trendy “goth” fashion designers.

Any deviation is met with disgust and rejection. How is this any different than the hollow mainstream? Isn’t this the kind of thinking we were fleeing when taking refuge in the underground? What happened to DIY? What happened to just being yourself?

Industrial Pop is a paradox. How can something be mainstream and underground at the same time? I embrace the paradox.

For me, that means I mix my love of catchy melodies with my love of raw and authentic art. Combining the dark with the light. The chaos with the harmony. If someone were to copy my sound and style, it wouldn’t be Industrial Pop because they’re not following their own artistic intuitions. They’re just trying to fit a mold! Industrial Pop is about defying convention and breaking molds.

If I should name bands that fit in the Industrial Pop genre, then in my opinion it’s ‘Empathy Test‘, ‘Night Club‘ and ‘Nyxx‘.”

The typical ‘Daniel Graves Sound’

“I’ve been around so long I probably do have people that were inspired by me, but I don’t have the ability to hear my music objectively, I don’t know what it sounds like as a whole. The Daniel Graves ‘sound’ apparently exists, but I don’t know what it is or what it sounds like. The only method I have for discerning music similar to mine is to know the artist and the intent behind their creations.

Industrial Pop is about embracing contradictions and expressing yourself honestly.Daniel Graves

When I began to create a song, I tried to be very calculated. I said “I want X to sound like Y”, nowadays, I just sit down with my guitar, or at my keyboard or computer and just follow my instincts. After doing this for so many years you begin you get a feeling for what’s right and wrong in the context of your own creative process. If it sounds good and feels authentic, keep it!

Industrial Pop will exist as long as it needs to. Maybe it’s just a cultural phenomenon and will die out in a couple years after it stops being provocative or useful. All that matters to me is that people in the future recognize this point in time as one of great music. I want to inspire collaboration and the destruction of the rigid genre expectations that hold us back!”Daniel says.

A short interview with Sami Mark Yahya (Faderhead) about the topic

Faderhead - Press Photo 2016

Faderhead – Press Photo 2016

What is for you personally Industrial Pop and how would you explain this genre to someone who does not deal intensively with our music scene?

It’s Pop music for people who want to think that it’s not Pop music. And it might have a bit heavier vocals. But that’s not a requirement.

When did you first get to know the genre Industrial Pop and what kind of artists or bands have significantly influenced the genre?

I invented it in 2007 but never named it ‘Industrial Pop’. Everyone hated it and called me ‘not true Industrial’ or ‘Pop fag’ or ‘too Hip Hop’. There are literally no other bands right now who do this genre except Aesthetic Perfection and Faderhead. Everyone else doesn’t have the hookiness and radio-ish sound in it.

As with many other music genres, the roots and their impact are only visible in the retrospective. Is ‘Industrial Pop’ still in its infancy and has the genre a long-term future?

As I said, for me it has always existed. Pop will always exist. It just gets dressed up in different clothes.

Industrial Pop has more hooks than a butcher shop.Sami Mark Yahya

You are musically very varied. Would you include some of your tracks in Industrial Pop and if so, which ones?

Yeah, almost all of my tracks. If you only look at the “FH2” record there are: Girly Show, Break Apart Again, Sentimental Again, Friday Night Binge, Dirtygrrrls/Dirtybois, Losing For Real, Coke For My Ass, Mono Man. And on every other Faderhead album after that approximately 2/3rd of the songs.

Deep insights of Nyxx’s opinion about Industrial Pop

Nyxx (Promo Photo)

Nyxx (Promo Photo)

Nyxx: “Industrial Pop, to me, is a fusion of passions: the song structure and glossy, percussive beat of Pop with a healthy coating of dark, haunting, mechanical synths. It is individualistic and experimental.

For me, it’s exciting, liberating, and cathartic, but endlessly frustrating. For the most part, I’ve hit it off with those who love Pop in the goth scene or those not in the scene that are intrigued by the ‘dark and unknown’. Yet, still I feel not accepted in the Pop industry and also not quickly welcomed into the Industrial scene. Quintessential outsider disposition.

However, this ‘new’ genre feels like a place where I ‘fit’. I love Pop music, thoroughly. I also love Industrial, Metal, and really parred down Blues. For those of us writing what is classified as ‘Industrial Pop’, we are combining styles, genres, and sounds we love consciously and intentionally, all the while doing it unabashedly. That should be celebrated and encouraged in artists. Isn’t that what the goth scene is about?”.

The musical, the lyrical and the attitude

Musically, Industrial Pop is a beautiful spectrum. It can be more Pop, more Industrial, or equal parts of both. It’s edgy, for a lack of a better term. Traditionally ‘Industrial’ sounds, heavy synths, distortion are undoubtedly present and in the forefront of the song. The compositions are complex and layered with toppers and hidden nuances that make your brain and ears tingle. It makes you dance.

Lyrically, I would say that the subject matter is definitely darker than conventional, top 40’s pop. Our lyrics often consist of macabre metaphors and stigmatic topics.

Attitude… That’s hard to describe for the whole genre. The artists included in the scene definitely have a mystery about them. Powerful and fearsome. It’s the resurgence of an untouchable idol, at least as an artistic persona. However, the Goth and Industrial scene can sniff out a phony immediately. It has to be authentic.

I do believe an artist needs to display these characteristics across their body of work to be considered a truly ‘Industrial Pop’ artist.”Nyxx continues

We’re going deeper into the vault

Nyxx explains: “I describe my music often as ‘Goth Pop‘ to individuals not familiar with Industrial. Nearly everyone knows what Pop is and they have an idea of what Goth is, even if that’s a hyper stereotyped, invalid idea. So, they can grasp what I’m about without hearing it.”

Industrial Pop is Pop music encased in the raw, crunchy grit of industrial.Nyxx

“I get compared to Britney Spears and Nine Inch Nails a lot. Both are amazing, flooring compliments. I am a huge Britney fan. I know all the choreography to the ‘Slave’ tour. I hold a deep, deep respect for Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor, but never really listen to them. I wish I could crank out the amount of work he does. He is a self contained machine. I am striving everyday to become a musician to the likes of Reznor.

All bias aside, Aesthetic Perfection is by far the pioneer of this scene and has been for years. They are Industrial Pop. Daniel, whom I am fortunate to have become both musical peers and friends with, is the “Dr. Luke/Max Martin” of Industrial music.

Other artists… Porcelain Black. She doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how cutting edge her music is. Her Tramps days are more Industrial Pop than most artists I can name. Gary Numan’s new stuff is on the heavier end of Industrial Pop. I would consider IAMX Industrial Pop. Kanga.

One of the things about Pop is that is already such a varying genre. There are all sorts of layers to different kinds of Pop, but Industrial is pretty straight forward. You know an Industrial artist when you hear one. I think that’s part of what makes Industrial Pop so interesting.” – Nyxx proceeds.

The musical development of Nyxx

Nyxx tells us: “My music has evolved so much since I first started writing around age 10, along to instrumental music, usually meditation CDs. I was drawn to the elements used in it. (Birds, rain, atmospheric sounds, etc.) As my interest in songwriting grew, I picked up a guitar and wrote very bad, acoustic Pop music, later developing into a much better written, acoustic Pop duo with my friend, Kacie Durso. She taught me to rein it in, to follow a structure, taught me harmonics, and encouraged me to be myself, where as I was previously stifled by my high school peers. Up until then, it was organic.

Moving to LA, I began working with producers and songwriters. I thought I needed to plan my sound. I had an specific idea of the sound I wanted: Bluesy Hair Metal mixed with Pop. I struggled to produce work that I liked. The last trickle of those days can be heard in my song ‘Wicked’, written with my Turkish Pop producer friend, Sabi Saltiel.

I learned quickly I couldn’t rely on other people to help bring my songs to life. I taught myself Logic and began writing and producing songs on my own. Thus, bringing my sound you hear today to fruition. I stumbled into my sound by finally just putting my real self out there and doing things myself. That was necessary and it opened the flood gates.

I believe it is still new, but the artists doing it are not. I think the infantile roots of Industrial Pop can be traced back to the formative years of the Goth scene, but as we are defining Industrial Pop today, I’d say it really started getting it’s thing together in the 2000’s.

As with anything, the genre will grow. There are some Pop artists who experiment with Industrial sounds: Grimes, Halsey, Rihanna… I don’t foresee Industrial Pop remaining out of mainstream for long. Longevity? I see it morphing and growing, becoming more prevalent and more definitive.”

Industrial Pop from Berlin: Formalin speaks its mind

Formalin - Press photo 2017 by Gili Shani

Formalin – Press photo 2017 by Gili Shani

What is Industrial Pop for you personally and how would you explain this genre to someone who is not deeply involved in our music scene?

Tominous: “Industrial Pop is characterized by the fact that the extremes of the Pre-Industrial are used as stylistic devices, but are connected with catchy song structures. This unifies two opposing musical paths.

Industrial was originally very spontaneous, chaotic and characterized by the idea of DIY. ‘Industrial Pop’ pours those raw sounds into song structures that are finally smoothened and produced. Chaos and spontaneity are certainly present in the early songwriting stages. The results are subsequently refined and made mass-appropriate in a certain way.

Melodic vocal lines and a special arrangement leading to the chorus are certainly typical for ‘Industrial Pop’, but not for the original form of Industrial.”

How would you describe ‘Industrial Pop’ in terms of music, lyrics and attitude?

Gabor: “Industrial Pop doesn’t necessarily want to shock. It’s more about writing a really good song. A song that is musically so rich in content that one could even play it on accoustic guitar on a camp fire. At the end of the 1970s, it was certainly exciting to get loud and extreme sounds from electronic devices. Today, 40 years later, we have heard it all and there seems to be nothing new.

The exciting thing about ‘Industrial Pop’ is to bridge a gap: Between raw electronic aggressiveness and an emotional, musical guideline, which can be followed not only by scene devotees, but also by people who actually listen to Pop music.

We like underground music as much as music from other origins. We don’t hate Pop music. We just don’t like uninspired music or lyrics composed of empty phrases. A vast part of today’s Pop music is uninspired and has meaningless content, but there are also many good things outside the scene.”

Tominous: “A feature which distinguishes an Industrial attitude from Pop is not only the creation of a product that is as successful as possible, but to be characteristic and authentic, with lumps and bumps. Pop nowadays creates music for masses and moods, based on targeted marketing and analysis.

Session musicians, songwriters and the artists create a high-polished product. Meanwhile, in the Industrial scene, authenticity is important. It’s not about being compatible, but about being authentic. A band in the Industrial world is shaped by the characters of the individual members. In Pop, often whole teams back up a production, with changing musicians and producers. Through this, the work’s soul gets lost pretty soon.”

How would you describe your music style? Does it fit in the genre ‘Industrial Pop’?

Tominous: “We just try to write good songs. This is above all – even above the sound itself or the demand to belong to a certain scene. We produce these songs with a harsh, aggressive sound, simply because we love it. We also try to work out musical contrasts – f.e. a very emotional melody which floats above extremly distorted drum sounds.

This freedom is only maintainable as long as you don’t limit yourself and this is probably what you could call ‘Industrial Pop’. In our song ‘Wipe It Out’ for example, you can discover influences from Hip Hop, Acid, Break Beat and Industrial, while our chorus is very catchy and almost Pop-like.”

What bands, in your opinion, are characteristic for the genre ‘Industrial Pop’?

Gabor: “A lot already happened in the 90es with ‘Nine Inch Nails‘ and ‘Marilyn Manson‘. A whole lot of American Industrial bands do have pretty Pop-like refrains. Transitions are seamless. At what point is a band still ‘Industrial’ or already ‘Pop’? The more a band establishes better sounds than a demo production and the more it creates structures in their songs, the more you could place them in the area of Pop.”

Unite contrasts: Catchy melodies and extreme electronic sounds!Gabor (Formalin)

How would you describe the way your music evolved? What influences played a role, is the development planned or was it created widely by chance?

Tominous: “It has a lot to do with what we like ourselves. We broaden our musical horizon, listen to very different kinds of music. By doing so, our music reached a wide variety over the years. In the past, we were content with some sounds and a basic mood for creating a good song. Meanwhile we got more ambitious and take care of a lot more details. But what stays the same is we do the music we’d love to listen to ourselves.”

As with many musical genres many years later the roots and their effects can still be recognized. Is ‘Industrial Pop’ still in its infancy? Do you think, the genre has a long-term future?

Gabor: “For me, ‘Industrial Pop’ is an occurance in a timeline which emantes from the late 70es in England. As long as ‘Industrial’ keeps on evolving we’d have a chance that it will be listened to in 30 years in one way or another. Most likely, it won’t be called ‘Industrial Pop’ anymore by then. But the core of its idea will help to keep ‘Industrial’ as alive and new over the times to pass as it is now.”

Tominous: “A music style fades and dies, when its artists keep on looking back and constantly repeat themselves. A contemporary development may not always be met with love and empathy from every fan, nevertheless it is necesssary to keep the characteristic styles alive.”

The Electrozombies selection of Industrial Pop tracks

Listen to this DJ set to guide you through the aesthetics and attitude of Industrial Pop. Please keep in mind that we don’t define all these bands as typical Industrial Pop bands. But we think it’s a good overview of the characteristic elements for a popular Industrial track.

What’s your opinion?

Do you think we missed a typical Industrial Pop track?

Please leave us a line in the comment section below. We are curious about your favourite tracks that combine Industrial elements and catchy tunes.

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4 Responses

  1. chris

    This whole “industrial pop” thing is eerily similar to when Apop and VNV started calling their sound futurepop. It truly did revive the scene and inspire about 1,000 copycat bands, so it’s not all bad.

    Today, I think Stephan Groth and Ronan Harris are a bit embarrassed about the coining the phrase and they don’t use it any longer, and I suspect in 5 or 10 years once “industrial pop” has run its course that Daniel Graves and Faderhead will feel the same way.

    Reply
  2. Carlos

    I think music evolves constantly. Sometimes we like it, sometimes not.
    The Dark Scene needs new music now, as there was NDH or Harsh Electro during 90’s an 2000’s.
    These two genres are dying nowadays ’cause it sounds always the same, and people who like it is getting older and older. Something new as Industrial Pop must be welcome today in the Dark Scene.

    If Gothic people has something to say for sure, is that they dont listen just to one style of music (Industrial, Goth-Rock, Electro-Dark, Synth-Pop, EBM, Metal…). Industrial Pop is for me, a good chance to revive this dark side, and to get new audience.

    In addition, I have to say I liked this article, and loved the playlist. It would be great if you share it by Spotify 🙂

    Reply
  3. JX

    I like what they all had to say. I get it, but it’s hard for the elitists in the scene to accept change. Eww hip-hop in an industrial track… get over it.

    Is Ronan Harris, Eskil Simonsson or Tom Shear available? Those guys pretty much paved the way for these bands you interviewed. Would love to hear their input on this. Interesting label from calling it Futurepop to Industrial pop.

    Reply
    • chris

      I sorta insinuated the same thing on AP’s Facebook page, and Daniel Graves scoffed at the idea that “industrial pop” was similar to those futurepop bands. I think he’s very intent on looking forward and creating something new in the scene, which is cool.

      Reply

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