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    The History of Industrial Records

    A brief history of Industrial Records, the formative record label created by Throbbing Gristle in 1976.

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    In 1976, an avant-garde artist named Genesis P. Orridge and his band, Throbbing Gristle, established the Industrial Records label in London, England. The label’s music featured experimental and electronic compositions that often included noise elements, modified instruments, and performance art. Throbbing Gristle, composed of P-Orridge, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and Chris Carter, founded Industrial Records to explore the psychological, visual, and aural aspects associated with the term “Industrial.” The group’s associate, Monte Cazazza, coined the phrase “Industrial Music for Industrial People,” which ultimately gave birth to the genre.

    Throbbing Gristle
    Throbbing Gristle

    The band Throbbing Gristle, whose name is derived from a slang term for “erection,” emerged from the avant-garde COUM Transmissions movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This group was known for its use of shocking and grotesque images and performances, as shown in Figures 1 and 2. Monte Cazazza, who worked with Throbbing Gristle in their early days, was one of the most radical artists and performers of the era and contributed significantly to the scene’s atmosphere and protest. The extreme practices of the COUM Transmissions were influenced by experimentalism in various fields, including the poetry of Aleister Crowley, Dadaism, Futurism, the Fluxus movement, and Surrealism, as part of a larger experiment to push society’s boundaries. This experimental ethos led to the creation of highly innovative music and performance art. Despite criticism of their actions as hypocritical or non-artistic, Throbbing Gristle played a crucial role in paving the way for the British industrial sound.

    P-Orridge stated in an interview:

    “All culture is fed by the extreme. Throbbing Gristle, in 1975, printed a newsletter that we gave away free, and it said all you need is a cassette recorder with a condenser microphone and you can make an album. We made our first album that way. We put the tape on the table and we played live and released it as an album, which has never been deleted.”

    Throbbing Gristle’s instrumentation mainly consisted of synthesizers and electric/amplified instruments like cornet, guitar, bass guitar, and micro-monitor amplifiers. They employed various techniques to produce shortwave noises, loops of piano sounds, screaming voices, and feedback. The band served as the inspiration behind the Industrial Records label and the genre known as industrial music. However, other groups within the industrial culture took the industrial aesthetic and music in different directions. According to Genesis P-Orridge, “All of us were working before it became ‘industrial,’ and discovered each other and recognized that kindred spirit, that driving force, and that’s what made us all, if you like, ‘industrial culture.’. The term “industrial” has become a global phenomenon with record stores in Japan having separate sections for “Industrial Music.”

    Industrial Records Death Factory

    In an interview, P-Orridge, had this to say concerning the creation of their label:

    “Industrial Records began as an investigation. The four members of Throbbing Gristle wanted to investigate to what extent you could mutate and collage sound, present complex non-entertaining noises to a popular culture situation and convince and convert. We wanted to re-invest Rock music with content, motivation and risk. Our records were documents of attitudes and experiences and observations by us and other determinedly individual outsiders. Fashion was an enemy, style irrelevant.”


    Industrial Records worked with a variety of artists including Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire, Richard H. Kirk, Thomas Leer, SPK, Monte Cazzaza, and William S. Burroughs. After Throbbing Gristle disbanded in 1981, its members formed two new partnerships: Genesis P-Orridge and “Sleazy” formed Psychic TV/The Temple of Psychic Youth, while Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter created the Creative Technology Institute (CTI), later known as “Chris & Cosey”. Additionally, “Sleazy” and Jhonn Balance formed Coil, which ended with Balance’s death in 2004.


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    Industrial Records production almost ceased after the disbandment of Throbbing Gristle. However, the label continues to cater to the counterculture that has been its audience for over three decades. Recently, the band reunited under the Industrial Records label to release a compilation album titled The Taste of TG: A Beginner’s Guide to the Music of Throbbing Gristle (Mute 2004). After the label’s disbandment, many musicians became associated with Industrial Records’ ideology and sound within a year, leading them to become pioneers of the industrial music scene.

    The Industrial Records Story a compilation album featuring early industrial artists

    Over the past thirty years, the label has released a limited amount of media, which was actually the original intention of its founders. Their goal was not to sell music but to convey a message. Unlike the punk scene, where artists signed with major record companies to market their sound to a wider audience, Industrial Records remained committed to challenging the status quo:

    “Big records companies produce records like cars; we are connected to a contemporary social situation, not a blues orientated past style; we work hard for what we want, we are industrious; we parody and challenge large industrial companies and their debasing ethics and depersonalization; we work in an old factory; industrial labor is slavery, destructive, a redundant institution so we call it the Death Factory.”

    Throbbing Gristle established the legacy of rejecting the hegemony of large record companies and the mainstream. Even when Industrial Records began amassing a substantial fan base, they did not compromise their opposition to popularity.

    In an interview, P-Orridge highlighted that the term “industrial” resonated with both the artists and their audience for various reasons. According to P-Orridge, there was a certain irony in using the word “industrial” due to the existence of the music industry. In interviews, they would also joke about producing records at an industrial pace, likening it to the production of motorcars. Furthermore, the artists felt that music had been heavily influenced by blues and slavery and that it was time to update it to the Victorian era, which was marked by the Industrial Revolution.

    Throbbing Gristle’s first album, The Second Annual Report, recorded in 1977, was a significant release for both the band and the Industrial Records label. The opening track, “Industrial Introduction,” was especially popular among fans. Despite initially selling only 786 copies, the album was eventually re-released due to its high demand. In an interview, Genesis P-Orridge remarked:

    “It’s funny, because in a way it’s added a kind of romance to the urban landscape–urban decay in factories has become a kind of romance. I don’t like using the word “real,” but in a sense we were trying to make everything more real…and to portray, the same way that a Cut-up theoretically does: what it’s like to be in a house and go along the street and have a car go past or a train and work in a factory or walk past a factory. Just a kind of industrial life, or suburban-urban-industrial life. When we finished that second record, we went outside and we suddenly heard trains going post, and little workshops under the railway arches, and the lathes going, and electric saws, and we suddenly thought, “We haven’t actually created anything at all, we’ve just taken it in subconsciously and re-created it.” The funny thing is, we didn’t sit there to make industrial noises, per se. Afterwards, we discovered that one could actually sort of describe in a very documentary way, exactly where we’d created the sounds, in and around Martello Street…We were also being deliberately perverse by doing the opposite of everything everyone else said was feasible or practical or acceptable. Like everyone else thought it was an incredible breakthrough for a punk band to do a rock ‘n’ roll single on their own label. So we did a non-rock ‘n’ roll LP. Everyone said we must be complete mental suicides…I wouldn’t have seen the point of having a group that was just entertainment. I’d only have wanted it to be a group that would remain some kind of cult group like the Velvet Underground did–to have that kind of longevity, to be a seminal group. So although I find it on one level irritating or boring that it still exists, at the same time it had to be that way. But I’m really so disinterested in that now [September 1982]–it’s got a life of its own now.”

    The Second Annual Report Album by Throbbing Gristle


    Throbbing Gristle’s use of taboo elements in their performances and records was often ironic and contrary. Their album 20 Jazz Funk Greats included the song “Beachy Head,” named after a location in England where many suicides occur. Additionally, the label released a recording of Elisabeth Welch singing the mainstream song “Stormy Weather,” something unexpected from Industrial Records. Despite their status as a pioneering group in a specific musical movement, Throbbing Gristle is not mentioned in popular music studies such as the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians or Grove Music Online. This lack of recognition raises questions about their place in music history.

    Dedicated to Monte Cazazza
    November 13, 1954 – June 30, 2023

    Monte Cazazza
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