1. ACCESS TO INFORMATION

"Today there is no reality, or everything is real and everything is unreal. Today the object no longer refers to the real or to information. Both are already the result of a selection, a montage, a taking of views ... Thus the control problem is not one of surveillance, propaganda or paranoia. It is one of subjective influence, consent and extension to all possible spheres of life" Graeme Revell (S.P.K.) [1]

Industrial music was fundamentally a music of ideas. For all its musical power and innovation, the early industrial groups were much happier talking about non-musical issues than about musical ones, a direct result of the fact that few if any of them had any real musical background or knowledge. The Industrial Culture Handbook is packed with contributors' book lists; titles listed by Genesis P-Orridge include books by Aleister Crowley, William Burroughs, Philip Dick, Adolf Hitler, the Marquis de Sade and Tristan Tzara; SPK's Graeme Revell shows a more "intellectual" background with titles by Michel Foucault, Samuel Beckett, Jacques Attali and Pierre Proudhon. Of those who list records, Boyd Rice shows his obsession with 50s and 60s kitsch; Z'ev turns out to be a fan of Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and Otis Redding; only Rhythm & Noise admit to any knowledge of the avant-garde music tradition, citing the likes of Todd Dockstader, Gordon Mumma, Michel Redolfi and Iannis Xenakis [2].

Of all the "major" industrial groups, Throbbing Gristle were the most directly concerned with access to information, having accepted what had been obvious since the early sixties, that an increasing area of the world lives in an information society, and that military and economic strength are no longer the only important forms of power. Gristle's frontman, Genesis P-Orridge (born Neil Megson) took the view that control of information was now the most important form of power. This is on the not unreasonable grounds that if the average person does not believe (or is unaware) that a possibility exists, they are clearly not free to choose such a possibility. Although such a conclusion was a commonplace to the post-modern philosophers and political theorists, it was an unusually sophisticated concern for a musical artist. As Orridge has said: "The idea: to heal and reintegrate the human character. To set off psychic detonations that negate Control ... To exchange and liberate information ... We need to search for methods to break the preconceptions, modes of unthinking acceptance and expectations that make us, within our constructed behaviour patterns, so vulnerable to Control" [3].

Other industrial groups, particularly Cabaret Voltaire and S.P.K. espoused similar views. Genesis P-Orridge went on after the break-up of Throbbing Gristle to make the dissemination of information and the attack on information-based methods of control the focus of his work, through the group Psychic TV and the Temple ov Psychick Youth organisation. The general approach was simply to publicise the existence of transgressive literature on the grounds that the social definition of "taboo" or "transgressive" was just another method of control, of persuading people not to examine certain choices. Even for groups who weren't particularly interested in informing people about this sort of information (and ultimately this probably applies to the majority of industrial groups), the awareness of it clearly influenced their music.

The literary counterculture, dating back through the Beatniks via Surrealism and mavericks such as Celine or de Sade is a major tradition that informed many of the industrial groups even if they weren't part of it. Experimental literature had peaked in the 60s, and the importance of the industrial groups' awareness of it was primarily their role as disseminators and popularisers. Obvious examples of this include Industrial Records' issue of a record of William Burroughs cut-ups, Nothing Here Now But The Recordings.

Although their importance in publicising such literature, and other "unconventional" information, is undeniable, industrial music made no real contribution to the ideas of the counterculture. Genesis P-Orridge's writings mostly consist of borrowings from Burroughs, Crowley, and Leary, although the connections he has made between the cut-up technique, magick, and deconditioning are original.


Endnotes

  1. The Post-Industrial Strategy, Graeme Revell, in Re/Search #6/7, op.cit.
  2. Re/Search #6/7, op.cit.
  3. Behavioral Cut-Ups and Magick, Genesis P.Orridge, in Rapid Eye #2 (Annihilation Press, 1992)