A big reason Rammstein is on our Weird 100 List at all—let alone at No. 1, a spot they’ve occupied for several months now—is because of their music videos, which range from the absurd to the action-packed to the downright disturbing. So it’s about freakin’ time they compiled all their greatest clips into a single collection. That collection, Videos 1995-2012, arrives Jan. 15th and features over seven hours of Rammstein visuals, including 25 music videos and 24 behind-the-scenes clips. If anyone makes it through the whole thing in one sitting, let us know. Me, I’ll be sticking to lighter fare like Walking Dead and Intervention marathons.
To celebrate the arrival of this monumental collection, Rammstein have released two new videos for the previously video-less 2001 track, “Mein Herz brennt.” The first, a piano-only remake of the song, just features frontman Till Lindemann emoting for the camera in what appears to be Joker makeup and a black strapless evening gown. The second…well, just watch the clip and see for yourself. You might not wanna watch it alone, though.
For more on Videos 1995-2012, visited Rammstein.de.
“Mein Herz brennt” (piano version):
“Mein Herz brennt” (full version):
If you still haven’t submitted yourself to the awesome power of the totalitarian pop/industrial band Laibach, this might finally be your chance. Laibach’s U.K. label, Mute Records, is releasing a compilation of some of Laibach’s most distinctive cover songs, in a collection called An Introduction To… Laibach/Reproduction Prohibited. It’s available now in Europe and the U.K. and arrives here Nov. 6th.
Laibach have become justly famous for their many covers, which are by turns haunting and hilarious, thanks to their Wagnerian arrangements and frontman Milan Fras’s sepulchral growl of a voice. An Introduction to… omits many of Laibach’s most notorious covers, like “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” in favor of more mind-blowing oddities like “Bruderschaft,” an original Laibach tune done in the style of Kraftwerk, and “Geburt Einer Nation,” their nationalist spin on Queen’s “One Vision.” Also included: Laibachanized versions of two Beatles songs, Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and their definitive, epic version of Europe’s “Final Countdown,” which they transform into the mock-operatic techno jam it was always meant to be.
You can watch the trailer for An Introduction to… here, but we’ll leave you with this video to “Final Countdown,” which invites you to become a citizen of NSK, Laibach’s art collective/micronation and self-proclaimed “first global state of the universe.” You used to be able to get an NSK passport online, but they had to stop issuing them because some scam artists in Nigeria were selling them to unsuspecting African nationals looking for ways to emigrate to Europe. And no, even though NSK passports do look convincingly like official travel documents, you can’t actually use them to cross international borders. The awesome power of Laibach is not quite that awesome.
Have we mentioned lately how much we love our readers? Well, it’s true. You guys rock. Thanks to you, we have a backlog of weird bands that should last us until at least 2013. So stick around, people! Or just go to our Submit a Band page, which is basically just one long spoiler for which bands we’ll be populating the site with over the next several months.
One reader who rocks especially hard is Mr. Ian Frost, who recently flooded the Comments section with a raging torrent of serious weirdness. Of all the bands Ian mentioned, the one that really jumped out at us (we’ll get to Buckethead soon, Ian, promise) was a British band called Whitehouse, who back in the early ’80s invented their own spin on industrial music, which they dubbed “power electronics.” And as anyone who’s read our posts on witch house, pornogrind and pagan Celtic folk metal already knows, there’s nothing Jake and I love more than peeling back the layers on an obscure subgenre. So let’s dive into this whole power electronics thing, shall we?
Power electronics uses synthesizers less as musical instruments than as pure noise-making devices, taking advantage of their wide frequency range to pump out ear-splitting, high-pitched shrieks coupled with bowel-melting bursts of bass. Over the top of this, they scream lyrics that are often just profanity-laced tirades—not unlike the sort of invective your neighbors will probably hurl at you if you play this stuff on anything louder than a well-insulated pair of headphones.
The man behind the band Whitehouse and power electronics is a fellow named William Bennett—no, not the former Drug Czar for the George H. W. Bush White House, although that is indeed a pretty excellent coincidence. No, this William Bennett was a teenaged guitar player in a post-punk band called Essential Logic who, around 1978, discovered early industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle and became intrigued with the idea of creating music that could, in his words, “bludgeon an audience into submission.”
While on tour with Essential Logic, Bennett met synth-punk pioneer Robert Rental, who sold the young guitarist “an uncontrollably vicious beast of a synthesiser which subsequently became the heart of the Whitehouse sound.” We’re pretty sure the synth he’s referring to is a strange little gizmo called the EDP Wasp, which was famous for having a black and yellow “keyboard” that was completely flat and therefore virtually impossible to play by touch. But for Bennett’s purposes, it was probably ideal, since he was mainly just interested in mashing down several keys at once and then twisting the knobs to get the most atonal squall of electronic noise the little keyboard could muster.
After releasing a single in 1979 under the name Come, Bennett formed Whitehouse in 1980 and proceeded to go on a recording tear, releasing seven albums over the next three years. He coined the term power electronics in 1982 in the liner notes for Whitehouse’s seventh release, Psychopathia Sexualis, one of several Whitehouse albums dedicated entirely to the subject of serial killers. You see, it wasn’t enough for Bennett that his music be brutal; he wanted the lyrics to be brutal, as well, even though they were usually completely unintelligible over the roar of all those maxed-out synths. Early Whitehouse track titles include “Shitfun,” “Rapeday” and “Dedicated to Albert de Salvo – Sadist and Mass Slayer,” a heartwarming tribute to the Boston Strangler. He was kind of a dark guy, that Bennett.
By 1983, Whitehouse had added two new members who would go on to be highly influential in the power electronics scene (and yes, by this point, it was a scene): Kevin Tomkins and Philip Best.
Although Tomkins contributed to two of Whitehouse’s most extreme albums, Right to Kill and Great White Death, he pushed the power electronics envelope even further with his own band, Sutcliffe Jügend, named after one of England’s most notorious serial killers, Peter Sutcliffe, and the Hitler Youth (“Hitler Jügend,” in German). This is one of their gentler numbers. As one reviewer of their 1998 album, When Pornography Is No Longer Enough, quite aptly put it: “SJ’s music would make for an extremely effective CIA interrogation tool.”
Best joined Whitehouse when he was just 15 and (being, you know, 15 and all) dropped out again just one year later. But he was a steady member of Whitehouse from 1993 to 2008, after which he quit to focus on his artwork and his own musical project, Consumer Electronics. From 2003 to 2008, Whitehouse performed frequently as the duo of Bennett and Best and underwent what one writer called “an unlikely vogue,” getting invited to lots of experimental music and noise-rock festivals and frequently cited as a major influence by younger, trendier noise bands like Wolf Eyes and Black Dice. They also developed a fondness for taking their shirts off—which is normally the worst kind of rock-dude cliché, but coming from two scrawny guys screaming things like “You look like a fucking bat, you old slut” over dentist’s drill synths, is downright confrontational and more than a little creepy.
Speaking of creepy: The other semi-constant member of Whitehouse, from 1983 to 2003, was Peter Sotos, an American-born writer whose work mostly explores brutal crimes committed against children. It’s probably to Sotos that the group owes its frequent use of spoken-word passages sampled from interviews with serial killers, rape survivors, and the parents of murdered or abducted children. Where Bennett, Best and even the rather intense Tomkins seem to be drawn to gruesome subject matter mainly for its shock value, Sotos seems genuinely, pathologically obsessed with it. There’s no proof that the man ever did horrible things to children himself (he was convicted of possession of child pornography in 1986, but the evidence was sketchy and his sentence was suspended), but he’s sure researched the subject with enough zeal to make you wonder if it’s all he talks about at dinner parties. Bennett has said that he and Sotos parted ways over “a notable difference in lifestyle attitudes,” which is kind of ominous coming from a guy who titled his band’s fifth album after a Nazi concentration camp.
A few other fun random factoids about Whitehouse: Their name is a reference both to Mary Whitehouse, a British conservative activist who did quite a bit of railing against indecent TV programming (like, you know, Dr. Who) in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and to a pornographic magazine and website, Whitehouse (formerly on Whitehouse.com), that satirically named itself after the famed prude. All of their ’90s albums were produced by Steve Albini, best known for his work with the Pixies and Nirvana. Currently, the band consists of Bennett and a young woman named Mimsy DeBlois, who may or may not be the same woman who appeared with Whitehouse under the name Loulou at a concert in Portugal in 2009. Here’s a clip from that performance. In a 2010 interview with British mag The Wire, Bennett revealed that he and DeBlois are changing Whitehouse’s name to Bad Girls Get the Fuck Over It (the interview’s not available online, but Bennett confirmed the name change on his blog). Or he might just be yanking our chains a bit.
Bennett has scrupulously documented every single Whitehouse performance—he calls them “Live Actions”—and cataloged all 178 of them on the website for his record label, Susan Lawly. We’ll leave you with a vintage video clip from Live Action 39, which apparently took place right here in Los Angeles back in 1984 at a now-defunct record shop called Bebop Records. That’s Kevin Tomkins and Peter Sotos working the Wasps and a very young William Bennett doing the screaming. This is supposedly taken from a documentary called D.U.I.—if anyone knows anything else about it, we’d love to hear from you. When we searched “D.U.I.” online, all we got were a bunch of Bobby Brown articles.
In News of the Awesome: the makers of the Nazi sci-fi comedy Iron Sky have just confirmed that the film has a U.S. distributor, and it will premiere in America on March 10th at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The film features music from our favorite Slovenian pop-industrial band Laibach, as well as what appears to be enough eye-popping special effects and Nazi regalia to send sci-fi buffs, History Channel junkies and steampunks alike into a frenzy of anticipation.
Iron Sky‘s premise is ingeniously simple and more fantastically far-fetched than Snakes on a Plane: In 1945, a contingent of Nazis secretly fled Germany to establish a base on the dark side of the moon. By 2018, they’ve built up a big enough fleet of space jets, space zeppelins and jackbooted space soldiers to launch an invasion of America—now led by a very Sarah Palin-like President who thinks the whole thing is actually kinda cool. Which it is, of course.
To support the film, Laibach are embarking on the “We Come in Peace” tour this spring and summer, on which they’ll play portions of the soundtrack as well as older material and some new stuff from two forthcoming albums. So far they’ve only announced a handful of dates in Northern Europe and the U.K., but it sounds like they’ll be adding more—including, we hope, a few American shows.
As you can see, the new Iron Sky poster lists the film’s opening date as April 4th, but we’re not sure if that includes the U.S. It sound like it’ll be coming here soon, though. You can even “demand” that it screen somewhere near you by entering your ZIP code on the film’s official website. I doubt that guarantees anything, but hey, it couldn’t hurt.
We’ll leave you with the film’s official trailer—though if you want to hear more of Laibach’s score, this teaser clip features it more prominently. The music was done in collaboration with Ben Watkins of the electronic group Juno Reactor, but it sounds like pure Laibach to us.
We thought it only fitting that on September 11 (or “America! Fuck Yeah! Day” as I like to call it), we flex our democratic muscles here once again at TWBITW and add a new band to the Weird List that was voted in by you, our freedom-loving readers. And you came out (pun totally intended) in favor of Army of Gay Unicorns. It’s a beautiful thing, really.
Now don’t let the name fool you: Army of Gay Unicorns sound neither particularly gay nor particularly unicorn-like, unless maybe we’re talking leather-daddy gay with a serious power-tool fetish. Songs like “Cranial Fragmentation Unit” and “Disintegration Codec” will take that unicorn horn and skull-fuck you with it till you’re begging for mercy. Then again, “Persistent Vegetative State” is actually kind of soothing and pleasant—though no so much in a gay unicorn way. More like in a morphine-drip, eating-through-a-straw way. Hence the title, I guess.
The dude behind all this is a reader of ours from the U.K. named Richard, who wrote in about a month ago with a link to his music and a question about whether we knew of any good GG Allin tribute bands (we don’t; any suggestions, kids?). To give you an idea of where Richard’s head is at, here’s an excerpt from one of his emails:
“i like to imagine that there’s an alternative universe where every year in vegas they have GG impersonator conventions, with GG’s of all shapes and sizes meeting in their thousands to share the love. and the poopoo. a midget GG dueting ‘bite it you scum’ on stage with a Japanese GG. it’s a beautiful vision that makes me feel sort of fuzzy inside.”
We honestly know almost nothing else about Richard and maybe that’s just as well. Anyone who gets warm fuzzy feelings from thoughts of GG Allin impersonators, you probably want to keep at a safe distance.
This is usually the part where we insert a YouTube video illustrating just how weird this particular band is. But AoGU has no YouTube videos, and that’s okay. A lot of the weirdest bands out there don’t. Their music is so weird that no visual accompaniment is really needed. They probably don’t play out much, either. Which is too bad, because “Army of Gay Unicorns” would look pretty sweet on a club marquee.
Anyhow, to hear more from Richard and Army of Gay Unicorns, head over to his Jamendo page. If you want to jump right into the deep end of his self-described “sonic dirty protest against a world gone numbingly stupid,” we suggest starting with a track called “The Aborted.” Play it really loud and we guarantee your neighbors will never speak to you again.
(Photo copyright Thomas Rabsch)
It’s been awhile since we blogged about an oldie but goodie here on TWBITW, so we thought it was high time we give a shout-out to Einstürzende Neubauten. While these German art punks didn’t actually invent industrial music, they probably influenced its development as much as earlier acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire–maybe more, actually. Guys like Trent Reznor and Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy definitely took a few style tips from Neubauten’s tormented, black-clad frontman, Blixa Bargeld.
Einstürzende Neubauten–whose name means “Collapsing New Buildings”–started in Berlin in 1980, and right away, they brought a scary intensity to their music and their live act that made the British industrial acts seems almost polite by comparison. Blixa and his co-conspirators, N.U. Unruh and Alexander Hacke (the most constant members in a rotating cast), liked using power tools and found objects as percussion, and they sometimes took their use of such objects to some pretty wild extremes. Early Neubauten shows tended to look more like construction sites than rock concerts: band members would drill holes in the stage, set fires, swing huge oil drums suspended on chains out over the audience, maybe do a little arc welding–oh and play some distorted, detuned guitar and yell a lot, too.
Eventually, Einstürzende Neubauten’s sound became a little less chaotic and by the mid ’90s, they were producing records like Ende Neu that employed actual recognizable melodies and instruments–though always with plenty of weird noises created on specially made instruments (like the “bassfeder,” a giant steel spring struck with sticks to create a twangy, bass-like sound) and always with Blixa’s distinctive, cadaverous vocals. But it’s those crazy early live shows and wildly experimental, almost unlistenable albums like 1981′s Kollaps that earn them a spot on The Weird List.
Speaking of Kollaps: here’s a video
from that album for the Kollaps song “Sehnsucht” from a 1986 film called Halber Mensch, shot while the band was in Japan, that pretty neatly sums up the early Neubauten vibe. (Thanks to reader “tertius” for pointing out the source of this video…our research dept. was clearly falling down on the job when we originally posted it.)