If you love EBM and industrial music then chances are that at some time you either have or even continue to frequent clubs.
Clubbing — paying cash to enter a licensed venue where people dance, party, drink and sometimes even talk — is pure indulgence at its glorious best. Your eyes get a sensual treat. If you’re into the music, so do your ears. It’s hedonism, adventure, debauchery and gratification all in one. And, you know, you’re young and cool.
On the other hand, it’s not like your health improves. Your finances take a battering. Staying up late and waking up tired doesn’t help your weekend (no wait, you’re still young and cool). And then for some there’s the whole finding oneself and searching for an identity, a phenomenon so prevalent in fringe counter-cultures — but that’s a discussion for another time.
There is of course nothing wrong with the gratifying pursuit of pleasure. It’s just that, as time goes on, all those late nights in dark rooms begin to blur. One can drink and dance and party but it’s the memories that matter. As Lemmy Kilmister once said: “All men are equal when their memory fades”. And as time progresses, they grow just that little more distant.
And yet, sometimes something from the club-days occurs that’s brilliant and memorable enough to stick with you. Like…
#1: That time the entire club danced to Skinny Puppy.
Not the actual club described here. The Das Bunker crowd was presumably more likely to dance to Skinny Puppy.
Call me jaded, but depending on the night there was a time when playing industrial music in small, dark, sweaty venues meant getting accustomed to seeing a great many of people — usually sitting down and standing by the side of the room and not dancing.
One could dedicate an entire study to the gothic paradox, whereby dressing up makes one feel fundamentally confident and dark and foreboding and shockingly anti-conformist on the crowded 11:55pm train into the city — yet somehow one feels uncomfortable about stepping out onto an empty dancefloor in front of one’s peers.
Whatever the cause (apathy? shyness? not wanting to be the first? the impracticality of an impossibly complex outfit?) the greatest dilemma for DJs at certain times once involved what to do with all that fantastic and new-but-as-yet-unheard music.
It was the age-old dilemma: play it safe and familiar, and risk condemnation for nauseating repetition or try something new and unprecedented, and risk emptying the dancefloor like draining bathwater (I personally witnessed this to spectacular effect when I thought I was being all progressive-like when I was the first to drop the Apoptygma Berserk version of Cambodia… they practically ran off the dancefloor).
It was the well-known spectre of keeping all the people happy some of the time, and some of the people happy all the time, but never all the people all the time.
Yet one evening the truly fantastical happened when an entire club got up to dance — to one track. It was Skinny Puppy (or rather, a Skinny Puppy cover) and for one fleeting, glorious moment, the whole damn club became everything that people who don’t go to clubs imagined it to be.
I might add that this was at a venue that was, in every sense of the word, underground. This was the Bunker Lounge, a windowless, single-room, shoebox-shaped subterranean cavity on Swanston Street. Entering first necessitated descending down stairs, whereupon one emerged into the secret space below. Seriously, industrial AF!
While a well-known track traditionally incites a portion of the room to stop what they’re doing and hopefully get up and move, at this precise moment there was something about the crowd, the vibe, the timing and whatever else that, quite simply, balanced out for there to something in it for everyone in the room.
Worth getting for the Skinny Puppy cover of Assimilated.
The track that made it happen was a Skinny Puppy cover — Assimilate by Malaise. In the chronological sense it was not new, being several years old at the time. It was, however, new in that it was uncommon to hear it get played.
Within moments of it kicking off, not one person remained seated as the whole room was up and jumping. In popular vanilla culture, when those CSI and NCIS agents investigate a crime from the seedy underground and they enter one of those dangerous alternative places, the mandatory scene that greets them is something out of Dante’s fetish party. Of course everyone is dancing, gyrating, leering viciously. And to totally emphasise just how sinister the whole shindig is, the music is usually some vanilla interpretation of whatever the TV producer felt would be a good match for non-conformist music (sometimes it’s even Marilyn Manson, assuming the studio could afford the licencing).
Industrial EBM goth-type club-goers know that the above scene is rarely a thing. But for one glorious moment, it was. Nor was a Triple J ‘alternative’ selection or cheesy ’80s pop track. It was Skinny Puppy (sort of).
And the rivet heads shed a silent tear.
- Next awesome club moment.