The Full Spectrum Of Post Industrial Sound [2020-01-06]Being a fan of experimental or extreme music, sound, or, film was certainly a lot more tricky /time-consuming proposition before the onset of the internet in the late 1990s, which changed pretty much everything - for better or worse. In those pre-net days, the only way to find out about such things was by picking up fanzines, smaller print underground magazines, or wait for the next catalog mail out of your favorite cult mail-order company. One of the last great and far-reaching publications of the last days of underground printed zines was Spectrum- it covered a huge amount of sonic ground under the banner of Post-industrial music- which takes in the likes of dark ambient, noise, neo-folk, martial and industrial music. The zine was all the work of Melbourne based Richard Stevenson- who turned his passion for post-industrial sounds into one of the important/ impactful zines of the scene. This year Cult publisher Headpress released a wonderful compendium of the zine- bringing together the five published issues, the unpublished 6th issue, and new interviews/ insights. We caught up with Richard for an email interview.
M[m]: What are some of your earliest sonic memories - and do you think any of these hint at your later fascination with more experimental / extreme forms of music?
Richard Good question! As for my earliest musical memory it is of classical music and specifically Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf score. In essence it is a narrated children’s story set to orchestral music which my parents would play as a bedtime story when I was quite young. Then later in my early primary school years I remember being enthralled by the spooky ‘horror movie’ sounding elements of Michael Jackson’s song Thriller (as well as the video clip), and I liked a number of the melancholic and moody ‘minor key’ new-wave and synthpop songs of the iconic Australian band Icehouse. So, while musically speaking these earliest recollections did not hint at later musical preoccupations and obsessions, it is interesting to note that orchestral sounds, as well darker edged and melancholy elements have clear parallels to what I listen to today.
M[m]: What were some of the first more experimental/ post-industrial recordings you heard? And before this what type of music where you listening to?
Richard For a number of years in my pre-teens when I first started to actively pay attention to music (i.e. late 1980’s), I listened to mostly top 40 related music given that was being played the radio. With hindsight I guess perhaps I was searching for ‘something’ in music to properly latch onto, even at the time I did not have any clue to what it might be. But of that radio material I was listening too, I do remember having a love of the various singles released from The Cure’s album Disintegration which was a new release at the time.
But the biggest revelation was perhaps when I was around 12 when there was a huge explosion in global awareness of hip-hop music and particularly the Ice-T, Run DMC, Public Enemy, and later the likes of De La Soul, N.W.A., Boogie Down Productions, Eric B & Rakim, Geto Boys, 2 Live Crew etc. Even today I am still blown away by how creative and fresh Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back still sounds. Although I did not have an adequate musical perspective or frame of reference at the time, the fact that the album sampled the likes of Queen, David Bowie, James Brown and even Slayer (among literally dozens of others) is indicative of how creatively forward thinking and wide in musical scope it is. But I guess that can be put down to the album being made in an era before sampling legislation effectively sucked the creativity out of hip hop, meaning it is an album which could never feasibly be created today as it you simply would never be able to afford the sample clearance. Also interestingly Public Enemy clearly employed strong social commentary as well as slogans with a quasi-politicised edge, which draws a loose parallel to some of my current listening and particular with regard to select power electronics material.
Yet my obsession with hip hop was relatively short lived as by the time I was 15 I had leapt over to listening mostly to extreme metal and has disappeared down the rabbit hole of global metal underground. Starting with Metallica and Slayer it soon led to the classics of early Sepultura, then onto Entombed, Carcass etc, which was soon eclipsed by the second wave of black metal from around 1992/1993 onwards. It was then through the experimental tendencies of the black metal underground, and the propensity for dark-ambient side projects which actually was my entry point into experimental/ post-industrial music. It was Mortiis’ ambient keyboard albums which was a gateway, as with his signing to the cult Swedish label Cold Meat Industry it quickly opened up a whole new sonic world of post-industrial music with Brighter Death Now, Megaptera, In Slaughter Natives, raison d’etre and Stratvm Terror being particular groups I was initially obsessed with.
Thankfully a number of local importers were handling Cold Meat Industry releases (i.e. Dorobo and Modern Invasion Music), so it was quite easy to get hold of post-industrial releases through various independent record stores (Extreme Aggression, Peril Underground, Missing Link, Smoke Dreams etc). Although I then soon switched over to buying new release from international mail-order services so I could get new releases more quickly and cheaply (including making regular orders from Cold Meat Industry, Malignant Records, Red Stream etc). Around the same time through the tape trading underground I was introduced to other post-industrial projects such as Archon Satani, Lustmord, etc. So from these initial starting points it pretty much generated an all-out obsession where I began collecting as much information and as many releases as I could feasibly afford with income from my various part time jobs.
M[m]: I too was into rap / hip-hop around my early teens, enjoying similar artists as well as a few British rap projects like Faze One & Cookie Crew - where you aware of any Australian artists in the genre at that time?
Richard There wasn’t a huge amount, but there certainly some initial activity. Sound Unlimited Posse got quite hyped in the early 1990’s, but personally I was not into them due to their commercial slant. But in perversely relistening to their singles now, their overt message of positivity comes across as completely hackneyed and laughable in its adolescent optimism! Beside that there was some more underground stuff too, but most fitting into an ‘early demo recording’ quality (given the rudimentary sound / beats / production), as cheap home recording equipment was not readily available at the time. Def Wish Cast released one of the earliest underground hip hop albums in 1993, but I was already off into underground metal by that stage.
The Australian scene has since exploded in hip hop activity (as it has globally), but it is nothing I have ever regained an interest in, nor ever expect too. It was basically a ‘time and place’ scenario for my adolescent mind, which I simply don’t relate to today. Yet I did have a major chuckle when a local record store had a specific section for local hip hop catalogued in its own ‘skip hop’ section. Sarcasm and shit stirring in equal measures I imagine.
M[m]: You mention enjoying metal as a later teen - me too, do you still enjoy any metal these days?
Richard Yes I do, but in less and less quantities as the years go by, while conversely I keep digging deeper into all facets of the post-industrial underground. But if I am going to listen to black metal I tend to gravitate back to the second wave era classics. Although with reference to more recent stuff I have followed the output of Deathspell Omega, Bekëth Nexëhmü, Reverorum ib Malacht, Mgła and Portal. In their own way each band demonstrate an understanding of the role that dissonance and purposeful obscurity can play in creating a thematic and sonically transcendent aura, which is consequently far removed from mundane realities of our overexposed social media era. Speaking of, I recently saw mobile phone selfie shot of Marduk in full corpse paint, where the shot was taken in the reflection of a backstage makeup mirror. That was very much a WTF moment, and nothing I would have ever expected to see from them! Anyway, beyond black metal I have also followed the ‘post-metal’ groups Neurosis, ISIS and Cult of Luna, each of which have honed their own approach to widescreen and atmospheric but resoundingly heavy music.
M[m]: When did the idea of doing Spectrum first come about? and what were some of the other publications influences on creating the zine?
Richard The concept of Spectrum really has its original nexus in the period of 1995 to 1997 when I was assisting a close friend, Scott Van Dort, with his underground metal ‘zine Blood Inscriptions by providing artwork and reviews. It was this involvement that was pivotal in appreciating underground ‘zine culture and obviously sparked interest in creating my own magazine.
But it was upon hearing that the Audio Drudge ‘zine had folded (an underground publication produced by Jason Mantis of Malignant Records), that it generated a sort of personal sense of needing to fill the void left behind. Thus the concept of Spectrum Magazine was quickly launched where I set about creating a post-industrial magazine focusing exclusively on the music I wanted to read about.
As already mentioned, Audio Drudge was a huge influence for creating Spectrum, as was Descent Magazine (written by Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) and Tyler Davis of The Ajna Offensive) given the later issues extensively covered many post-industrial underground projects (along with the more typical coverage of black and death metal). I also purchased The RE/Search Industrial Culture Handbook at some point in the mid to late 1990’s, which was also a major influence for its in-depth coverage and provided a greater understanding of the development of industrial music since the late 1970s.
M[m]: When Spectrum first launched it was before the wider spread use of the internet kicked in- so how at this point did you get to hear/ buy releases?
Richard When I started Spectrum I was already quite a few years into my obsession with the post-industrial underground, where various underground publications were invaluable in pointing me in the direction of albums I should be tracking down, while to a lesser degree tape-trading networks I was involved in allowed me to sample post-industrial material being distributed in those circles. As mentioned key publications included Audio Drudge and Descent Magazine, as well as Fever Pitch ‘zine and a range of other smaller underground ‘zines.
At the time I was also already well connected with a number of local and international mail-order services, including: Dorobo, Cold Meat Industry, Malignant Records and Red Stream. Mail-order catalogues, flyers and label information booklets where effectively the norm to publicise and promote new releases in the pre-internet era, where I would then obsess over album descriptions in determining which albums to purchase in the next bulk order.
But I also guess that once you are on your way with obsessive music collecting, you tend to get pretty skilled in picking releases which suits your sensibility, and when with an established base of artists and labels your love, it is fairly easy to branch out, and take a punt on what you are likely to appreciate.
M[m]: You pretty did everything in Spectrum - writing reviews, do interviews, designing, and distribution- which part of doing the zine was the most difficult/ trying, and what did you enjoy most?
Richard In looking at each of the individual aspects of running a physical ‘zine, I perhaps liked conducting interviews and designing layouts the most, given that is the core aspect of any ‘zine. To then step down the scale of enjoyment, over the years I found the writing reviews became a bit of a laborious and tedious process, particularly as the promo count increased with each issue. That then created a degree of self-imposed pressure to try and include all new promo reviews in the latest issue to make sure it was the most up to date that it could be. But that meant spending many long hours listening to music while reviewing it, which absolutely took the sheen of listening to music for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Once the magazine was finished, there was always a fair degree of stress with organising printing and worrying whether then finished product would be turn out as intended. Likewise the final aspect of distributing the magazine was in itself stressful as the high postage costs sucked up most of my disposable cash.
But with a bit of reflection on the Spectrum era, I remember that when a new issue was nearing completion I would always have an intention to take a long break between issues. But after only a few days of getting a new issue out, my mind would immediately turn to the next issue which would inevitably soon get underway. I guess it was that situation alone which spurred me to release five issued in the space of 2.5 years.
M[m]: Over Spectrum six issues you carried out fifty-six interviews- please discuss a few of favourite interviews, and where there any interviews that were difficult to complete one way or the other?
Richard I never actually had any issues with getting interviews completed for Spectrum, and from memory all interviews for the five main issues were conducted in a timely manner from me submitting the questions. Perhaps I have been lucky on that front over the years, but I also like to think that as each interview is substantially researched and individually drafted (and never based on pro-forma questions), that it positively engages the interviewee to respond.
To talk of favourites, I guess I was extremely pleased with all of the interviews I conducted for the first issue, as it was effectively the start of my self-published endeavours. But to pick a favourite interview above all else, hands down that would go to the extremely lengthy and in-depth interview I conducted with Death In June, which was featured in Issue No.5. At the time I was astounded by how much effort Douglas P put into the interview with providing extremely in-depth and detailed answers to my line of questioning. Personally I feel it is still a fantastic read today.
As for others, I would have to also rate the interviews with IRM and LAW given the strong and forthright responses, as well as the extremely lengthy one with the late John Murphy regarding his musical activates over the years. It is the only such in-depth interview I have read from him, and is a wonderful document of his musical activities through to 2002 when the interview was conducted.
M[m]: Spectrum sadly only had five issues, the six and final un-published issue appearing in the excellent Spectrum Compendium on Headpress. Could you talk about how/ why the zine came to an end?
Richard As previously mentioned, I managed to release five issues in 2.5 years, so that was a pretty decent effort given pretty much everything was done by myself. But the reasons for issue six being planning and then cancelled warrants a brief description. Basically the fifth issue of Spectrum was released in May 2001, and only a matter of months before I headed overseas to live in London and travel around Europe. At the time I intended to be away for a year, but by late 2001 I had decided that I wanted to stay on in London for much longer. But in order to make that happen I needed to first return to Australia to tie up loose ends. Also, with all of my computer equipment was back in Australia, I had planned to head back to Australia in mid-2002 to tie up loose ends, complete Issue No.6 (and the planned compilation CD), and release it before heading back overseas. Specific plans to facilitate this was set in place in late 2001, where all interviews were sent out and interviewees advised that I needed their completed interviews and finished tracks to be submitted to me by the time I got back to Australia. But despite having put these plans into place, when I got home in mid-2002, less than half of interviews and compilation tracks had been provided. As it was then not feasible for me transport my bulky computer equipment from Australia to the UK, while I lacked the finances to purchase new computer equipment in London, I was really left with no option but to cancel the issue. This perhaps was for the best anyway, as at the time my life in the UK was focused on enjoying life and saving funds so I could travel as much as possible in Europe.
M[m]: What post-industrial albums still stand the test of time from the mid-to-late 1990’s- please select say ten or so, and talk about why you still they are impactful?
Richard In a nice example of synchronicity, for the tenth issue of Special Interests Magazine (from 2018) I contributed a list of 10 essential albums, which as it transpires, exactly matches the criteria of your question. The following text for each of my nominated essential 1990’s albums is exactly the same as that published in Special Interests, and for clarity these are listed in order of year of release, but not in order of preference or when I first heard them.
Lustmord – Heresy CD 1990 Soleilmoon Recordings
Although released in 1990, I did not buy this until 1994 and 1995, but was an album I regularly looked at in a local store and was completely intrigued by the artwork, description of recording locations and the vaguely heretical statement on the inside cover. It also took me far longer than it should have to purchase this, but that was was down to the exorbitant import price in the local record store. But once purchased for obvious reasons Heresy became a critical album at the time, and there is good reason as to why this remains a dark ambient classic which effectively set the template for decades to come. The fact that this was recorded on such limited computer processing power available at the time stands as a further testament to what can be sonically achieved within certain constraints. Even today this album still makes a mockery of much of the limp and bland music which passes for dark ambience these days.
Archon Satani – Mind Of Flesh & Bones CD 1993 Staalplaat
I first obtained this album through tape trading in around 1994 which quickly became a staple listening of my new interest in dark and strange sounds (incidentally years were to pass before I managed to track down a copy of the original CD). Having the audial equivalence of hellish factory conveyer belts and idling rusted machines (of ill-defined purpose), I spent hours immersing myself in the stilled loops, minimalist atonal rhythms, wailing textures, chanted vocals and general dank death industrial vibes. For many years I had assumed this album was recorded by both Tomas Pettersson and Mikael Stravöstrand before they split as a duo, but it turns out this was a solo effort by Mikael following the departure of Thomas. This has since been reissued by Cold Spring in 2006, so would not be difficult to track down.
Heavy Electronics: Two Days Of Agony – Various Artists VHS 1993 Tesco Organisation / Art Konkret
The Heavy Electronics festival was held in Ubstadt/Weiher, Germany in 1993 and featured the classic line-up of: Brighter Death Now, Advokat Ihrer Hoheit, Con-Dom, Deutsch Nepal, The Grey Wolves and Genocide Organ. Although the separate 3 x cassette release of live audio is perhaps the better document of this event, the VHS has made my essentials list as it was the only version I obtained at the time, and was the first time I could actually watch footage of projects performing on stage. Also given the limitation and rarity of early Genocide Organ output, my first introduction to the group was via this video document. Their live footage (featuring three tracks), it is the live versions of Klaus Barbie and White Power Forces which are complete standouts. Almost making a mockery of the term ‘brute force’, the sheer aggression of the live performance is completely over the top. As evidenced in the video the antagonism of the members in palpable, where two balaclava-clad vocalists attack chain wire mesh with baseball bats (the mesh separating performers from audience); self-mutilate with a scalpel; and deliver a rabid dual vocal attack to match the ferocity of the harsh, minimalist structured sonics. At the time I could barely comprehend it all, and although my initial impression was one of dislike, there was something in the totality of expression and lack of explanation or qualification of potential message which kept me coming back to watch it over and over until my understanding of it all ‘clicked’. Classic for a reason. Also while the footage of Brighter Death Now, Advokat Ihrer Hoheit, Deutsch Nepal and Con-Dom is nothing much to look at, The Grey Wolves tracks make up for this, and particularly the live versions of the classic tracks Victory Through Violence and Religion.
Brighter Death Now – Great Death 2xCD 1994 Cold Meat Industry
On the visual side of things, the double CD box-set is a collector’s dream to be behold, with the two jewel-case CD’s being housed in a gloss cardboard box with ‘necrose’ symbol forged in tin attached to the front. With the release effectively being a reissued of the classic first album (the vinyl only Great Death from 1990) and packaged up with Part II, while an enclosed coupon allowed the purchaser to obtain Part III only via the CMI mail-order. And for those who did, a further coupon was received with Part III inviting the purchaser to obtain the final part of the set, in the form of the Nordvinterdöd picture 7”EP. With this approach further stoking my collector fetishist mindset, this only added to the overall allure of obtaining the complete release. Musically speaking, the slow pounding and agonising death industrial atmospheres were complete revelation at the time, where I was equally enamoured with but also wondering what exactly it was I was listening to. Interestingly during my initial listening phase I completely missed the now quite obvious pitch-black humour display through the use of various samples. On this set Roger Karmanik had completely honed his morbid sound and approach, which while predominantly of an imposing death industrial style (which itself became a template of sorts), at times the music is extremely minimal and veering towards a death ambient sound. Yet to speak of specific moment, the pulsing harshness and bleak samples of Adipocere from Great Death II a bona fide classic, and this complete album set cemented my total ‘oBeDieNce’ to the cult of Brighter Death Now.
raison d'être – Within The Depths Of Silence And Phormations CD 1995 Cold Meat Industry
Of all dark ambient material out there, raison d'être has honed a particularly bleak, sacral and melancholic dark ambient style, which in the years since has been copied but rarely matched. However even within raison d'être’s discography the emotive enveloping bleakness of this album is breathtaking, where its emotional depths are conveyed through spartan musical motifs which are distilled down to their core essence. The album also perfectly demonstrates how sampling can hammer home emotional impact when used correctly, such as the selective use of Gregorian chants and some very bleak crime samples in selected tracks. If I had to pick only one dark ambient album in my collection, this is the one for me.
Stratvm Terror – Pariah Demise CD 1995 Old Europa Café
I first came to hear of Stratvm Terror through the raison d’etre connection, and I still remember the visual impact of picking up the oversized A5 multi-page booklet (presented in a graphic novel style), and the pungent smell of the paper and ink printing. Musically speaking Pariah Demise demonstrated Stratvm Terror to be far more than a ‘mere’ side project and I was completely taken in by the harsh but highly atmospheric blend of death industrial, occasional mechanical programmed beats and mid to higher range spitting tones drawing more from the power electronics end of the sonic spectrum. Self-described by the project as: “pulsing and beating, cold and doom power industrial electronics” this is a pretty good summation of what the project is about, with Skullbreeding being a particular album standout. To my ear Stratvm Terror’s sound was ripe for many other projects to emulate – but in hindsight there are few projects who followed.
Mz.412 – In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi CD 1995 Cold Meat Industry
My initial intrigue with the group was sparked by the partial adherence to an underground black metal aesthetic, but soon enough I was completely taken in by the harsh and hellish electronics; the heavy and occasionally polyrhythmic tribal beats; the general industrial cacophony; and the heavy dose of appropriately satanic themed dialogue samples. This is also the album which resulted in group being furnished with the ‘black industrial’ tag, yet in the years since no other act has come close to touching the sound and mood of Mz.412. God of 50 Names is a particular album highlight for me.
War Against Society – Various Artists 3xLP 1997 Praxis Dr. Bearmann
From packaging and presentation, and to not to forget its musical content, this lavish 3xLP compilation was highly influential both sonically and thematically, including contributions from notable artists: Militia, The Grey Wolves, Victim Kennel, Con-Dom, LAW and Streicher. The tensile and atmospheric noise of The Grey Wolves lengthy track Through Constant Decay is a particularly standout (both a standout on this set as well as within their overall discography based on its divergence in approach). Another clear standout track is Con-Dom’s Moor Rapist track, which with its raw and direct pounding structure and its clear, upfront vocals delivered in the first-person perspective, the initial impact it had on me can still be remembered today. Its theme raises a multitude of questions regarding context, message, and potential interpretation, and this is coupled with a blood boiling soundscape and is one of Mike Dando’s finest moments. The rest of the material is as raw and uncompromising – as should be expected from the overarching theme of the release, including suitable black and white ‘art-war’ graphic presentation (courtesy of each of the contributing artists).
Tesco Disco: Heavy Electronics II – Various Artists 4xCD 1997 Tesco Organisation
Another highly influential live document presented in lavish oversized packaging, which documents the Tesco Organisation festival held on the 13 & 14 October, 1995 in Esterhofen and Duisburg, Germany respectively. Performing artists included: Inade, Anenzephalia, Con-Dom/ The Grey Wolves and Satroi. The live recordings from Anenzephalia and Con-Dom/ The Grey Wolves are the complete standouts of the set, but equally this does not mean the Inade and Satori are second rate, as they are equally decent recordings. The oppressive and pulsating sound of Anenzephalia is quintessentially of a German heavy electronics type, while the Con-Dom/ The Grey Wolves set features the staple ‘hit’ of infrequent Grey Wolves live performances in the form of Victory Through Violence (among others). This track encapsulates everything I love about The Grey Wolves, which could be interpreted as middle finger ‘punk’ antagonism or a direct call for anarchism; the simple celebration of violence; or as something else entirely. However, the raw spite of the treated vocals would not be half as powerful if it were not for the rough, barely structured, pulsing industrial backing. Another classic document which can still be obtained for a reasonable price.
Anenzephalia – New World Disorder MLP 1998 Tesco Organisation
A mini LP featuring four tracks of brooding static minimalism and coupled with slow to mid paced pounding structures which are honed for maximum impact. With a gradually elevating tone across its four tracks, including the use of strong dialogue samples re-contextualised for added impact, the standout moment comes with the massive track Final Pulse – a track of modulated higher pitched noise, anthemic fist pumping ‘beat’ and static treated vocals delivered as terse deadpan proclamations. This remains a pinnacle release within a German heavy electronics sound, and if I was not already a convert to the ‘Tesco’ sound before this release came out, this MLP would certainly have done it.
M[m]: I note you don’t really mention any full-on noise albums from your favorites of the 1990’s - why is this? And do you have any love for the wider noise genre, and it’s sub-genres?
Richard It is perhaps important to firstly make a distinction between noise music and noise used as a compositional element in power electronics and industrial. Secondly it is important to note that I have never been into noise for noise sake, as all music I tend to gravitate to has a strong thematic focus, where the sound engages the ear, while the theme functions engages the mind. So, while I have listened to my fair share of noise over the years, I have always tended to gravitate to material with a vague or overt sense of form and structure, such as industrial and power electronics. This then differs from noise which often tends to be more freeform and chaotic. But for whatever reason, harsh noise has never sparked that ‘something’ in me to follow it in the same way that I follow other post-industrial genres. I guess it is a case of I like what I like, and noise and its variants has never been at the top of that list.
Also, for anyone who has read Spectrum Compendium and/or Noise Receptor Journal it would become reasonably clear that noise does not form a large proportion of my preferred listening. My first love with post-industrial music was dark ambient and death industrial, where clearly its sonic spectrum is based on the mid to low end. Noise on the other hard (and in a wide sweeping generalisation) tends to be based on mid to high end sonics which perhaps explains why noise as a style sits outside of my typical listening preferences. But in noting my innate preference for more structured or composted material, ‘noise’ as a compositional element does features heavily, and in that context provides both balance and juxtaposition to other employed sonics (depending on the project in question). As an aside, I developed low grade tinnitus around 15 years ago, and at some point it became apparent to me that I had been subconsciously avoiding listening to music with a similar tone and pitch (i.e. incessant high pitch tones and shrieking sustained noise), so consequently that tends to also exclude a ton of noise related music.
However, your question then perhaps warrants an explanation of why the Noise Receptor Journal includes ‘noise’ in the title. That is in fact a sly inside joke, given it can be interpreted to have multiple meanings. In brief a ‘noise receptor’ is a technical term for a human living in proximity to a mining site who may be impacted by noise from associated industrial activity. Therefore, the first and most obvious meaning is that I can be viewed as the ‘noise receptor’. The second meaning is that is a play on words that people who are not familiar with post-industrial music generally consider it to be ‘noise’, while the third meaning is an inside joke on the fact that I personally do not actively listen to or write about pure ‘noise’-related music. To my mind this multi-layered meaning aligns perfectly with the abstracted and ambiguous way that much of the post-industrial music chooses to operate.
M[m]: How do you feel the general post-industrial has changed between the 1990s and now? And what do you think are the pros & cons of each period?
Richard I would say that the core elements of the post-industrial underground remain steadfast – that being a small group of obsessive projects, labels and fans dedicated to the underground regardless of fame or financial reward. Music wise there is also a constant sound thread connecting the eras, albeit perhaps today in an slightly evolved and on occasion more refined musical form. Creatively speaking perhaps there was more openness and flexibility during the 1990’s, given the rules of various sub-genres were still being established or bedded down, which when compared today, there is perhaps more of a strict adherence to genre parameters or ‘rules’ which makes things slightly less new and exciting given you sort of know what to expect.
However, the biggest change between the two periods has been the rise in the dominance of the internet. Prior to the internet beginning to dominate every facet of life, it seemed that was generally more dedication to underground music, as following a particular music style was a badge of honour and very much a part of your identity, which flowed through the obsessive tendencies that fans / followers displayed. Also, even if contact with fellow listeners in many instances was only via international letters, there was still a sense of connection and comradery. During the early days of the internet it certainly functioned to bring together and strengthen these connections and with online email forums (such as the Malignant Records ‘TumorList’) it helped the post-industrial underground rise significantly in global prominence, activity and output. But in looking at the state of affairs today, the rise of various social media platforms seems to have dispersed the focus and attention of many, which with its distracting impacts has reduced focus and wider interest in the post-industrial underground. Where interest is shown, it is more at a cursory and shallow level, which is symptomatic of an ‘information overload’ scenario. Equally rather than a music scene / style / sound being at the core of someone’s identity today, it is more of a case the music merely provides the backing track to someone’s own blogged / tweeted / Instagram-ed / Facebook-ed profile, where they themselves are the star and main attraction. In essence this is all part of the rise of the ‘me’ generation.
So while not wanting to give rise to ‘an old man yelling at clouds’ situation, I can acknowledge that the internet has been very useful in terms of the easy access of information and communication globally. But at the same time it has not actually helped the post-industrial underground to grow and prosper beyond a particular high point in the early 2000’s. But then again, the true obsessives remain a core component of the global underground network, who will continue to follow and support the scene regardless of wider popularity of this niche corner of obscure post-industrial music.
M[m]: Tell us a little bit about how the Spectrum Compendium came about?
Richard In around 2015 Marco Deplano (of the project Wertham) advised me that a contact of his was working on a book about noise and power electronics and suggested that I may have something to contribute. That then lead to my introduction with Jennifer Wallis who was person collating and editing the book. Subsequently it was agreed that I would contribute two chapters and a number of reviews to the project, with the Fight Your Own War book being finally released via Headpress in 2016.
Following what I understand have been decent sales of that title, in late 2016 I asked Jennifer whether Headpress might be interested in publishing a collected archive of Spectrum Magazine back issues. With her encouragement I pitched the idea to Headpress who were clearly interested from the outset. After discussing some of the logistics with Headpress of how the book would be produced (i.e. reprints of high-resolution scans), a book contract was drafted and signed. It was quite an easy and straightforward process from concept pitch, to contract approval and onward to final publication.
Interestingly a few years prior to pitching the book to Headpress, I had pitched the idea to a handful of other publishers, but I never received a reply to any of my emails. So, I am certainly glad that my initial involvement with the Fight Your Own War book gave me the necessary introduction, and dare I say it positive reputation with Headpress, which lead to making Spectrum Compendium a reality.
M[m]: Please discuss how and when your follow-up project Noise Receptor Journal first came into existence?
Richard The original Noise Receptor blog came into existence quite organically and followed a period of around six years between 2006 to 2012 where I had not been involved at all with covering the post-industrial underground. But in 2012 I had made the decision to launch a Spectrum Magazine Archive blog, where PDF versions of Spectrum Magazine could be downloaded for anyone interested (PDF’s have been removed following the publication of Spectrum Compendium).
Basically I enjoyed the process of launching the Spectrum Magazine Archive blog immensely, and when completed it got me thinking about launching a review blog. That idea was also sparked by a close friend Scott Van Dort, who around the time started a music review blog of his own (as mentioned earlier Scott also had a role in inspiring me to create Spectrum Magazine).
With the launch of the Noise Receptor blog, the intent was to create a forum where I could recommence writing about underground music via an easily manageable online platform. So with little fanfare, the Noise Receptor blog came into existence in late 2012.
M[m]: In 2013 you started doing a printed version of Noise Receptor - please discuss why you decided to go down the physical route again, and how do you feel Noise Receptor differs from Spectrum?
Richard At the time of launching the Noise Receptor blog there was no plan or intention to make it into a printed ‘Journal’, and for the first months I was pleased enough with writing sporadic online reviews. But it was perhaps in early 2013 that I distinctly remember reading an online comment made by Mikko Aspa (of Freak Animal Records) where he said something like: ‘things which are not important remain unfinished, but that which is truly important gets done’. This statement was quite inspiring in its simplicity, and effectively got me thinking about moving Noise Receptor into a printed ‘Journal’, as around the same time I had started to feel that there was something missing in physical tangibility by only having online content (one of the chapters I wrote for Fight Your Own War is relevant here, as I talked extensively of the importance of physical media in documenting and recording current activities within the post-industrial underground). So with a bit of planning on my part, as well as relearning a computer design package, the first issue of Noise Receptor Journal was created and released in a matter of months.
With respect to similarities and differences between Spectrum and Noise Receptor Journal, clearly they are both created from the same motivation to cover the obscure corners of the post-industrial underground. Spectrum obviously took a slightly wider focus regarding genres covered, while Noise Receptor Journal has a slightly narrower coverage focusing on the harder industrial music styles I find most engaging today.
Design wise Spectrum was quite a bit more open ended, where the layout for each issue (and each interview for that matter) was created individually, where the presentation and design evolved over time. However, for Noise Receptor Journal I opted for a series of more strict and simplified design rules. In the first instance this was to differentiate it from Spectrum, while it also functions to ensure consistency of presentation between issues. In essence the simplified A5 booklet format of Noise Receptor Journal places the primary focus on the detailed and lengthy text, where the images are supplementary and secondary. It is very much a case of content over form, which respects the fact that post-industrial music functions as something beyond mere entertainment, and that artists have very interesting observations regarding their chosen concepts, working process, and all manner of other topics.
M[m]: I believe Headpress and you are presently working on a compendium of Noise Receptor- what can we expect from this, and when is it hope it will be released?
Richard It was in the months following the release of Spectrum Compendium in February 2019 that I had the perhaps inevitable thought of ‘what next?’ given the collation of Spectrum book had been an intensive labour of love over preceding years. An obvious answer to that question was found in Noise Receptor Journal, and particularly as the early issues were sold out or nearing being sold out. But rather than attempting to do a single ‘mega-volume’ like Spectrum Compendium, I thought it more appropriate to do a series of collated book ‘volumes’ of back issues, which would logically be issued when relevant series of back issues are sold out and no longer available. With this in mind, the intent is for Volume 1 to collate Issues No.1, 2 & 3 in book format, followed by Volume 2 to collate Issues No. 4, 5 & 6. Noting that Issue No.7 has only just come out (August, 2019), Volume 3 would come much later when Issues No.8 & 9 have also been released and sold out.
As it currently stands all content for the Volume 1 book was issued to Headpress in October, 2019, and includes a wealth of additional bonus content. Although I have not been advised of publication date, sometime in 2020 has previously been discussed. Now that the work on Noise Receptor Journal Volume 1 out of the way, I need to make a start on collating and finalising content for Volume 2. I hope to have that completed and submitted to Headpress in early 2020, where with a bit of luck Volume 2 might be out in late 2020/ early 2021. Besides all that, I also need to keep pace with preparing and collating material for Issue No.8 of Noise Receptor Journal, which at this stage is anticipated for release in mid-2020.
M[m]: Final comments?
Richard Thanks for the opportunity to outline some of my thoughts.
Spectrum Compendium: archival documentation of the post-industrial underground 1998-2002
Featured interviews: Bad Sector / Black Lung / Brighter Death Now / Caul / Cold Spring / Crowd Control Activities / C17H19No3 / Death In June / Der Blutharsch / Desiderii Marginis / Deutsch Nepal / Dream Into Dust / Endvra / Folkstorm / Genocide Organ / Gruntsplatter / Hazard / House Of Low Culture / I-Burn / Ildfrost / Imminent Starvation / Inade / IRM / Iron Halo Device / Isomer / John Murphy / Kerovnian / Knifeladder / LAW / Malignant Records / Megaptera / Middle Pillar / Militia / MZ.412 / Navicon Torture Technologies / Nový Svĕt / Ordo Equilibrio / The Protagonist / Raison D’être / Sanctum / Schloss Tegal / Shining Vril / Shinjuku Thief / Skincage / Slaughter Productions / Spectre / StateArt / Stone Glass Steel / Stratvm Terror / Terra Sancta / Tertium Non Data / Toroidh / Tribe Of Circle / Warren Mead / Vox Barbara / Yen Pox
• foreword commentary by: Klaus Hilger/Tesco Organisation, Justin Mitchell/Cold Spring Records, Mikko Aspa/Freak Animal Records, Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Bjorkk/MZ.412, Jason Mantis/Malignant Records, Rene Lehmann/Loki Foundation, Stephen Petrus/Murderous Vision/Live Bait Recording Foundation, David Tonkin/Isomer.
• detailed introduction covering the backstory of Spectrum Magazine.
• more than 600 detailed reviews of dark ambient, industrial, experimental, neo-folk and power electronics releases.
• 2001 archival interview with Spectrum Magazine’s creator Richard Stevenson.
• live performance photo archive, covering 40 artists at eleven underground industrial shows in Melbourne, London, Switzerland and Sweden between 2000-2002.
• personal correspondence archive, including selected letters, flyers and postcards.
Running to just short of 400 pages, the book is available in paperback and special hardback edition which included a bonus five track digital compilation of archival tracks (Toroidh, Navicon Torture Technologies, Militia, Isomer and Chaos As Shelter).
The special hardback edition (incl. 5 track digital compilation) is available only from Headpress directly, for the same retail price as the soft-cover edition.
Noise Receptor Journal Issue no.7
Noise Receptor Journal continues its adventures into the physical world, where this print venture constitutes the physical manifestation of the Noise Receptor blog, but also contains interview and art content to differentiate it from the already published web-based reviews. While Noise Receptor Journal is not intended to replace the website, it is however targeted at an audience who values the permanence of print media over the transience of web-content. Issue No.7 released in August, 2019
• In depth interviews with: Am Not, Cloister Recordings Himukalt, Ochu, Pterygium, & Tone Generator (of SPK & Last Dominion Lost).
• A series of six previously unpublished SPK group photos, taken at The Brickworks, Sydney, March 1982.
• Collage artwork by Richard Stevenson.
• 50 in depth music reviews (ambient/ industrial/ experimental / power electronics etc.).
• A5 Format.
• Professional print, colour cover, grey-scale throughout.
• ‘Perfect bound’ spine, with matt laminate, thick card stock cover.
• 94 pages in length.
• Limited to 600 copies.