A brief history of the band goes something like this. They were founded in 1997 by front-man Andy LaPlegua (fact: his real name is Ole Anders Olsen). They eventually became a three-piece and released three influential EBM-duff albums: Serenity Is The Devil in 2000, The Soul Is In The Software in 2002, and Machines Are Us in 2004. In 2005 they released a remix album, after which things became real quiet.
The inactivity had a lot to do with the fact that Andy LaPlegua was rapidly becoming fabulously successful doing his Combichrist solo project — while somehow still finding the time to release some excellent music as Scandy (the only Scandy full-length, 13 Ways To Masturbate, is one of my favourite electronic albums) and Panzer AG.
The other two members of IoC also dabbled in various projects. Sebastian Komor produced music under half a dozen or so project monikers including Melt, Squarehead, Zombie Girl, Monofader, and Komor Kommando. Unfortunately, he just never quite seemed able to land the same recognition or commercial success as his counterpart. The third member, Christian Lund, eventually began making music as NorthBorne, an obscure little bleepy project that seems to have a small but strong cult following.
So for a while there it looked like IoC was finished and their exceptionally catchy and danceable music seemed destined for obscurity and nostalgia. Back in the day there was hardly a goth industrial player-of-other-people’s-music who didn’t at the very least have the better known IoC tunes in their collection. But no more. Die-hard fans had their worst fears confirmed when in 2006 the band re-issued their three albums.
Jump forward a few years and IoC are unexpectedly back together for a show or two. A few shows turned into a few more shows which turned into a tour, which is how I found myself seeing the re-formed band on the Australian “Halloween 2011” tour, the line-up also comprising Komor Kommando and Northborne. So began my night at the Hi-Fi Bar & Ballroom, but not before we got to experience record quantities of Melbourne rain on our way into town, a meteorological phenomenon that would “dampen” attendance for the night.
Christian Lund was first on the bill with the quirky and repetitive bleepishness that is NorthBorne. Bedecked in a hoodie and vague terrorist-like mask he seemed very energetic despite the venue’s general lack of punters. Thankfully, a few die-hards were having a boogie at the front, which seemed to keep him motivated. I’m not a muso but I can imagine that nothing would suck more than playing a large-ish venue to an empty floor.
More people filtered in by the time Komor Kommando started but it soon became apparent that this was going to be one of “those” gigs — a small crowd (I’m told final attendance was just 100 in a venue with a capacity of around 900) but one hopefully bursting with appreciation. In my experience these sorts of gigs can go either way because the small crowd can result in a show that is fantastically intimate and awesome… or plain embarrassing for all involved. I would find out shortly…
Sebastian Komor’s show turned out to be the biggest surprise for the night. As with NorthBorne, I was surprised by a vocal and highly enthusiastic element in the crowd. “These peope are in the know,” I thought to myself. “Good on ’em.” But as he kept playing I really felt that this was going to be unexpectedly special. My personal “wow” moment arrived when I felt the first spectacularly cheesy strains of what I thought for a moment was an Ennio Morricone cowboy anthem.
“This is his interpretation of every corny Western film ever made, complete with gunshots and horse noises,” a good friend informed me as it really got going. And boy was he right. The tune (Hasta Luego — below) single-handedly made my night. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculously cheesy, catchy and funny-epic and it’s been on repeat ever since — much to the annoyance of my fiancée.
Having said that, I’m less sure if his tongue-in-cheek attempt to “resonate” with the Aussie crowd by looping AC/DC went down so well. Personally I loved its awful tastelessness, but I just didn’t see it going off for some of the more “serious” punters. This ochre block of true blue Aussie rock did, however, gave rise to my favourite line for the night, and one which I would be repeating during the lulls between songs for the rest of the night (again, much to the annoyance of the “serious” attendees). “Play some fucken Barnsey!”
Incidentally, at a similar gig some weeks later I would have this party trick backfire on me when the singer, in all seriousness, yelled back: “What? Play something bouncy?”
Icon Of Coil
The highlight of the evening was naturally going to be the main serving comprising all three members doing their thing. Front-man Andy did an excellent job of working the crowd and basically being very imposing, but even so, the performance wasn’t the sheer aggression and hateful craziness of the two Combichrist gigs that I’d seen in years past. Instead, he came across more as the singer in a cohesive unit, albeit one made up of guys playing pre-recorded music on synthesisers and laptops. Of course, one of the downsides to having all your music sequenced is that when the house audio controls go down unexpectedly, your entire performance disappears with it. In mid chorus there was an odd pop whereupon everything went dead. “Welcome to Australia,” cam the immediate response from crowd.
Thankfully, this technical issue got sorted quickly and it was on with the show. As I mentioned before, back in the day just about every industrial DJ carried a good number of IoC tunes in their repertoire, the reason being of course that this band was responsible for releasing so many great songs. Sadly, one of the things about a band not being in your face all the time and fading into nostalgia is that you’re more likely to forget what made them great in the first place. My logic is that a band that releases rubbish at least reminds you of the good old days when they were still releasing quality. I think the effect of the evening was succinctly summarised by my good friend Abby, a massive fan from way back and also the person who kindly provided the photos in this post.
“What did you think?” I asked in my croakiest post-cheering-til-I’m-hoarse voice.
“You know, I love Icon Of Coil, but I forgot just how many great songs they had. It just kept going and going. It was awesome!”
It certainly was. And it was a heck of a lot more than mere nostalgia. The small but exceptionally enthusiastic crowd did its best to ensure that this evening would be a top night. Plus that extra room on the floor left plenty of space for all to dance their arses off.
Now if only Andy LaPlegua would revive Scandy. That’d be brilliant. Or at least get back to making another decent Combichrist album.
And finally: a word on musicians…
What is it about musicians and their capacity to be so exceedingly harsh to their own kind? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to be a particularly prevalent phenomenon when someone becomes commercially successful in what was previously a small pond. Or maybe it’s just the good old fashioned Aussie tall poppy syndrome?
The goth industrial world and the success of Combichrist is a typical example. There’s a reason why the inlay notes to the Get Your Body Beat EP — the first release to follow Combichrist’s first commercial-breakthrough, Everybody Hates You— contained the words “With success comes bitching.”
Two comments from people I talked to on the night really stuck with me, both of them from seasoned musicians.
One was from a talented young chap who listens to a lot of harsher, twisted electronics. He’s a lovely bloke who takes his music producing very seriously and I genuinely hope that one of these days he can take credit for one of his own breakthrough releases. “I’m only here to see NorthBorne and Komor Kommando,” he announced to me. “Fair enough,” I thought, seeing as IoC is not everyone’s cup of tea. “Will you be leaving straight after Komor Kommando then,” I asked innocently.
Oh of course not, was the reply, and I left it at that. But I had to wonder why someone felt the urge to go out of their way to make it clear to me that they weren’t here for the main attraction? What’s the objective there? I don’t know.
The other comment was from a seasoned musician with a load of projects and quite a few gigs under his belt. I explained to him how awesomely bad and brilliantly cheesy and catchy Komor’s previously mentioned Hasta Luego track was.
“It just goes to show,” he said. “You can have the shittest song but people will still like it if you get the layers just right.” I was tempted to disagree but again I left it at that. What makes a good song, I wondered? If the effect of a song is that it’s enjoyable and good fun, does it really matter how it’s produced?
Fun is why we listen to this music and why we dance to it. Fun is why some people take the time and effort to produce it. Fun doesn’t have to be complex or inaccessible or take time to develop. Fun should be just that — fun. Let’s not forget that.