I'm not sure what got me thinking about this, it must have been listening to something when I got home last night. But in a quiet hour I started on a list of albums that inspired me, got me interested in something new, triggered something…hopefully you know what I mean. So here it is. I'd be really interested to know what inspired you, too…
The Real Thing
This is perhaps the album that is to blame for me getting into alternative music, really – and yes, it was Epic that started it all, after seeing the video. The album sounds pretty damned good, still, too, after nearly 18 years…
…and these two albums are where I started with industrial. Again, it was videos that started it – Headhunter and Millenium respectively – and after seeing these I started delving into the murky world of industrial and EBM. Front By Front remains the EBM benchmark, while Millenium hasn't dated a day.
At the age of 14, when I first heard this album, obviously I had no concept of the personal hell that spawned it. Still, it sounded somewhat unique then, to my young ears, and still sounds great now. And of all the grunge albums that I bought and listened to, this is the one that stuck with me.
Vulgar Display of Power
A vicious, snarling beast of an album, this was one of the first thrash albums I ever heard, and it remains one of the most visceral. The cover is one of the most apt ever – a fan being punched in the face (and he offered to do it, as legend has it). The album sounds like being in that fan's position for the length of it. Metal never really sounded as thrilling as this again, in some respects.
GVSB were another band I first discovered thanks to the joys of mid-90s MTV, when Kill The Sexplayer ended up on rotation, and I became a firm fan quickly – their use of two bassists set them out from the crowd, and live they were (and still are) awesome. Labelmates Brainiac were like their odder, younger brother, mixing in New Wave and Electronics into a sound like no other band then or since. These guys I discovered supporting GVSB in Leeds in June '96, at one of the best gigs I have ever seen in my life. Brainiac were the band that made me realise indie/alternative didn't have to be just guitar rock – it could be something so much more thrilling than that. And Hissing Prigs In Static Couture is the very pinnacle of this.
Sounding like it was beamed in from another world, when I was first played Kissing The Sun from this album I was immediately hooked. A mix of industrial and ambient electronics, nothing is quite as it seems with this band…
The band that I have seen the most live (13 times), and this was the album released around the time I first saw them live. It was the beginning of their experiments with drum'n'bass – which they perfected to thrilling effect on the following album – but there moments on here that still bring a smile when I remember how fanastic they sounded live.
This appeared on release just weeks after I first moved to London, and it was the soundtrack to many a walk or tube journey around the city. It's desolate, detached and introved feel fitted my mood exactly at the time, and it remains a firm favourite all these years later.
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
I still vividly remember the (slightly odd) party I was at where I was first played Swans, back in late-'96 in my first year at University – and I'd never heard anything like it. I probably still haven't.
Post-rock falls well outside my DJing remit, but then I've listened to bits of it for years. Particularly these two bands, who approached a similar idea in very different ways. While Godspeed soundtrack the looming of the end times – and they never got it as right as this again – Mogwai seemed intent (at the time) on bringing about the end times by sheer force alone. At moments shocking (Like Herod's monster riffage that comes from nowhere, and no matter how many times you listen to it you can't predict the exact moment it appears) and in others exhilarating (Mogwai Fear Satan: two chords, sixteen minutes and a whole lot of noise), Mogwai grew up and calmed down somewhat after this. A good thing they still play the best bits live, then.
Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise
Until I heard this, I always thought Black Metal was something of a joke. All trying to be "evil" (with obvious real exceptions), with crap production values all in the name of keeping it "true". This, however, was something else entirely – an extraordinary blast of densely-layered black metal, with a production that meant you could hear everything, even the vocals – and it still sounded black as pitch. Emperor disbanded upon release of this, and who can blame them – how do you follow something this good? Oddly enough, it also worked as my "way in" to Black Metal, and it made me see other, less well produced stuff in an entirely different light.
This was where my interest in industrial noise started – a stupendously intense hour or so of industrial rhythms, twisted, raging effects and pure dancefloor violence (Death Time remains one of the most extreme tracks I have heard played on a Goth/Industrial club dancefloor, as opposed to clubs that play industrial/noise).
Perhaps this is worrying, but the only album of the past five years that has truly inspired me is this. By the time this arrived in spring 2005, I had long thought we had seen the last of what used to be a thriving industrial scene in the US – it turns out I had just been looking in the wrong places. Taking influences from all over the place – the first you notice, though, of course is Front Line Assembly – this is a meticulously produced and programmed album of industrial (metal), with sheets of guitars adding additional power to the programmed beats and glitches. Two years of tirelessly carping on about them and playing them to all and sundry has meant that I have helped in spreading the word, as have many others. This album gets an expanded re-release shortly, and I for one can't wait.