Into The Pit: 203: Beat:Cancer Festival – Electrowerkz, N1 – 18-November 2017

It is easy to forget, sometimes, that what we call “our scene” in the industrial world is not one homogenous entity. While bands that reach wider popularity will naturally appear on DJ playlists just about everywhere, there are a whole load of bands – either new or that have been around for a while – that will only be known to a smaller subset of fans of the music.

Into The Pit: 203:
Beat:Cancer Festival

Electrowerkz, N1
18-November 2017

Photos on Flickr

Bands playing

The Gothsicles
St Lucifer
Spawn of Psychosis

Much of that latter separation is down to geography. Even with the advent of the internet democratising how music can be accessed and distributed, to an extent many people are still relying on other “tastemakers” to hear about new music. I’m well aware that on occasions this website (or me, if you will) is sometimes referred to as one of those, but I’m only one of a good number of others, be that other writers, DJs or promoters. Or even bands, too.

Those of us that talk about new music – or older music, your call – can’t cover everything, though, and indeed some scenes may pass under our radars entirely.

Which is part of what I found out last night, at Beat:Cancer’s first “festival” show. I was invited along to cover the show, by way of writing and photography, although I may also suggest that you look out for photography from the show from Oh, Shi! Photography too.

The peril with shows that start early – this one had doors at 1700 or so – was that I am pretty much guaranteed to miss the first few bands. And on this wet, dreary November Saturday, this was indeed what happened. So apologies to both Spawn of Psychosis (who I’ve seen a few times before, and quite like live) and Jensen, who apparently have changed somewhat since I was rather critical of an EP a few years back on But Listen: 137, for not being able to catch any of either set.

Fortuitously, though, I was there in time to catch the bands on the middle of the bill, none of whom I’d come across before at all, and interestingly only one of the three bands offered any suggestion as their stylings through their name.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: St Lucifer

That was not St Lucifer, mind, who were my find of the night. Any band that has stickers with the provocative hashtag of #blackmetalgaydisco is going to grab my attention, that’s for sure. Ok, so they weren’t doing what The Soft Pink Truth did with their glorious trolling of black metal on Why Do The Heathen Rage?, but what they were doing was not your average electronic band.

This was a stark, intense sound that was built around groovy beats that had something of early EBM about them in their simplicity, but over that was guitar, bass, synths and Alex’s barked vocals. There is politics, hate and fury coursing through their songs, but crucially a realisation that you can also have some humour even if you are standing for something.

In addition, there were a few influences that stood out, but most of all, for me? There’s more than a bit of a nod to the electronic, punkish pioneering work of Suicide in their sound, and that’s no bad thing.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: Bitman

Very much less serious was Bitman, an artist that clearly had quite a following from the good-sized crowd when he took to the stage, and I suspect that his infectiously fun set resulting in him gaining a few more fans by the end of it. Like the band he comes from, CTRL-ALT-DEL, who were enormous fun opening Infest 2015 (Memory of a Festival: 024 refers), Bitman was simply plain entertaining. There was nods to chiptune, there was nods to hardcore techno, and some pretty brutal beats, but there were also songs about biscuits and a general sense that playing music onstage can be a whole lot of fun. As it should be – why play onstage if you look like you aren’t enjoying it? Fun is infectious, as this proved.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: DEF NEON

Also a heck of a surprise were DEF NEON. Like St Lucifer, they are another band signed to analoguetrash, the Manchester label that seems to be making quite a name for itself with a progressive approach to the bands that it is signing (and I’ll be looking at some of them in more detail in the new year – I have Plans).

DEF NEON, however, are not from Manchester, but from the Welsh border town of Wrexham, not a town I’d normally associate with alternative music. Whether or not there is a scene locally, it was obvious from the first song that DEF NEON couldn’t give a fuck about genre definitions. There were guitar solos, synths, electronic beats, and two contrasting voices. Synth and guitar-player Mickey, hidden under his hood, provided vocodered backing that provided an intriguing counterpoint to bass player and vocalist Emily, who had an extraordinary, soaring range that would happily have suited power metal and old-school rave music. Now that is musical flexibility.

There isn’t really any need for flexibility from Memmaker nowadays, mind. Now something of a scene veteran, Guillame’s project has been a notable part of the industrial landscape for a decade now, having initially made a heck of a splash with their debut album How to Enlist in a Robot Uprising, which was re-released some years later with additional tracks after Hive Records folded, and then last year the follow-up Let There Be Lasers finally appeared.

Memmaker setlist

København Robotic Youth
Doom Ray
Drop the Beat
Get Your Ass To Mars
Sex With A Robot (Are You Gonna Do It?)
Death Comes (Sale Traître)

It has to be said that Memmaker didn’t exactly fuck with the formula for the second album, much as you don’t fix something that isn’t broken. Dancefloor-friendly industrial dance music – at least of the style that Memmaker do – isn’t exactly in vogue any more, as techno with hints of industrial has taken over at the moment, not that you’d know it from the way that the entire, packed room went absolutely apeshit from the off here.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: Memmaker

This was a forty-five minute masterclass in how to keep a crowd engaged and interested, with a good spread of old and new songs, and wisely not letting the pace drop at all. But then, when you’ve got two-albums worth of belting, dancefloor friendly industrial, it is kinda difficult to fuck this up. That said, few other artists have songs as groovily fantastic as København Robotic Youth or Get Your Ass To Mars, or have the bass to move your feet whether you want them to or not, as in Machine.

In addition, this energy and brilliance was all the more notable for the fact that Guillaume’s usual partner in crime Yann was unavailable, so Mark from Beat:Cancer stood in and looked like he’d been in Memmaker forever. It’s been a while since I last saw Memmaker, and I rather hope it is a shorter gap until next time.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: ESA

After what seems some time since his last new material – Jamie Blacker has of course been busy working with iVardensphere in the studio and live in recent times – it was great recently to hear the impressive new single from ESA (with new album That Beast to follow in the new year). I’ve already seen ESA this year, mind, so the set wasn’t especially surprising to me, but as ever it was a solid one. Jamie has a very distinct, harsh style, but one that remains listenable, but still with an intensity and darkness permeating every moment of the sound. I’m very much looking forward to this new album.

Remarkably, I’ve not managed to see The Gothsicles live in a decade. I’ve missed a few shows, seen Brian in Chicago at various Cold Waves festivals over the decade, but I was beginning to wonder whether I’d ever see his band live again.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017: The Gothsicles

There is a reason why I was so keen on seeing The Gothsicles live again, and that is the abiding memory of Infest 2007 (Memory of a Festival: 004). They opened the festival that year, and rather rewrote expectations of opening acts by being so much fun, such that we are now rather disappointed if the opening band of the festival aren’t one that we’re going to enjoy, and get us pumped up for the weekend.

Brian – here accompanied by an Icelandic musician who’s been helping out on a handful of European dates – continued to gild his reputation here with a show of immense fun and catchy songs. If you’re expecting a serious industrial artist, go elsewhere, as The Gothsicles are not that.

If you’re new to them – what they are is an act that digs into digital – and gaming, specifically – culture, both retro and newer, and builds entire industrial-bleep-based songs around them, with elements of video game music and samples, and it is never, ever serious.

The Gothsicles setlist

4 Fat Guys
Harder, Blacker, Graupner
Drop Dead, Squid Face
Straight Up Otter Time
Magnetic Shield
Save Dat Mermaid

There were songs about video-game hockey (the glorious opener 4 Fat Guys), mermaids (Save Dat Mermaid, still as brilliant as when I first heard it) and monsters from the deep (Drop Dead, Squid Face!), all of which were bellowed back by the crowd.

Then there was fourth-wall breaking in the form of Ultrasweaty – oh yes, Brian was getting sweaty playing onstage, and so he wrote a song about it – and Jamie Blacker joined him for the wonderfully simple Harder Blacker Graupner. Oh, and one about Otter memes (Straight Up Otter Time).

It is genuinely hard to be critical about The Gothsicles – not that I want to be – but anyone without at least a passing knowledge in video-game culture, or industrial culture, for that matter, may leave somewhat non-plussed. But that said, there didn’t appear to be anyone present who wasn’t enjoying the fun.

Beat:Cancer Festival: Electrowerkz, N1: 18-November 2017

It was also an impressive way to end a long evening, one that had a serious cause that it was raising money for (as the title of the event makes clear), but amid the seriousness it was also recognised that fun can be had while raising money, and all of the bands appeared to be enjoying themselves as much as the crowd were – and the organisation was solid, such that any technical issues were quickly ironed out, and while things were running a little late, it was nothing to worry about, even with the tight schedule that the night was running on.

As alluded to at the beginning of this, too, this was a different subset of our scene for the most part. A younger, perhaps more excitable crowd, and it was clear that their interests are different to ours. Industrial, as I’ve mentioned many times before, is a broad church, and it has splintered and evolved so much over the years. And some of the bands playing here are being ignored by larger promoters, despite a clear fanbase and keen gig attendees that might well be useful to larger bands struggling to get the numbers in otherwise.

We ignore younger members of our scene at our peril, and it is high time that this was recognised more, as they are the future of what we do. Food for thought after an entertaining evening.

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