How do I make Industrial Music

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

Industrial music comes by its name honestly. Like a manufacturing plant or an oil refinery, the sound is dirty, gritty, and loud. The perfect counterpart to the glimmery hope of disco in the ‘70s. With growling lyrics and even growlier vocals, industrial acts like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and Einstürzende Neubauten brought new aggression to the musical landscape.

There wasn’t really anything remarkable about the industrial sound at the start, although the birth of a new genre is always going to be interesting. What really turned heads at an industrial show were the outlandish sets and “props” brought on stage. We’ll let you do your own research on that.

It didn’t take long for new acts (with close ties to older bands) to begin tinkering with this avant-garde sound. Skinny Puppy started giving industrial metal a direction, even if it was a gloomy, post-punk, emo direction. Of course, the theatrics were still there as their videos and live shows were constantly banned.

Who would have thought spurting fake blood during a show would be so off-putting? Still, industrial records began growing in popularity and hit the big time in 1987. Ministry’s Al Jourgensen teamed with Skinny Puppy’s Kevin Ogilvie (known by friends as Nivek Ogre) to create a dance track for RoboCop called “Show Me Your Spine.”

The futuristic, synthy instrumental was used during a scene at a nightclub. While Skinny Puppy and Ministry continued with a more guttural sound, the track showed that industrial music could be consumed by the masses. Bands like Nitzer Ebb and Nine Inch Nails produced more club-friendly music that still held that industrial edge.

Newer acts, such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, applied a horror movie aesthetic to their music and their shows. Front 242 went another direction, adding techno beats to the industrial sound to create dance-friendly “electronic body music.” But it was Nine Inch Nails and their frontman Trent Reznor that had the most lasting success.

Do the hyper-aggressive beats, fake entrails, and black lights speak to you? Do you want to become one of the “wreckers of civilization” as a conservative politician once put it? Do you want to make a soundtrack that powers nightmares? Read on and get ready to goth.

A Simple Start

Industrial music came forth from the primordial ooze with an urge to score bizarre performances from street artists. With advances in digital technology, today’s industrial music is a little more polished, but can still be made to send parents running to their congresspeople. It’s just easier now than it was at the beginning.

Armed with a computer and low-cost digital audio workstation (DAW), you can make guitars more screechy, bass more pulsating, and drums more pounding. With a microphone, you can growl at the world and dare them to growl back. Just make sure your computer has the processing speed to handle everything you’re ready to throw at it.

Which, we’re sorry to say, should be dialed back a bit at the start. You’ll need to whisper before you can scream – and you’ll save money doing it, too. Industry-standard digital audio workstations like Logic Pro, Pro Tools, and Ableton can run hundreds of dollars for the professional versions.

But you won’t need that much power at the start. There are plenty of free or inexpensive options on the market, including free scaled-down options, such as Ableton Live 9 Lite and Pro Tools First. This is nice because you won’t need to make a decision on which DAW to use right now. You can get a taste of these (or Cubase or Reason) and find what works before taking a financial plunge.

Once you’re set up with a DAW and a good set of headphones (for the neighbors’ sake), it’s time to learn. Luckily, digital audio workstations are pretty consistent with their configuration, so if you do decide to switch it up, you won’t have to start from ground zero.

Spend time figuring out how to set up a few tracks as well as adding an instrument, working the tempo, and lining everything up in the timeline. Even if it feels like you’re playing chopsticks, it takes time to become Mozart. The thought process is if you know the basics, you’ll be able to turn those basics upside down – an industrial music mainstay.

The downside to many of these beginner DAWs is the inability to save a lot of your music. While you may be able to save that one really good loop you made, you might not be able to save more tracks. That’s okay for now, but if you find it frustrating to delete good stuff, it may be time to upgrade your DAW. And maybe add a toy or two.

A midi keyboard can make it easy to add fast beats when you need them and a synthesizer will give you the flexibility to really stretch sound to industrial levels. But don’t pour it on – get your gear piece by piece, learning as much as you can before moving on. Soon enough, your studio will be decked out with just the gear you need.

Time to Start Wrecking

You’re ready to start producing your first song. The first step is to give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Whether it’s 24 hours or two weeks, when you hit that mark, stop. Find some friends to take a listen, throw it up on social media, whatever it takes to get some feedback. Will it be a masterpiece? Not really, but with the right criticism, it could be.

Don’t be discouraged. Take what people say to heart and try to incorporate their suggestions. It may be your music, but you do want people to listen to it, right? Just like it took time to learn how to make a kick drum kick, you’ll also need to learn how to tell the good advice from the bad.

Now, you may be all about the music. That’s great! But for many, going to see an industrial music show is about how it makes them feel both visually and aurally. We don’t recommend drenching your fans with fake blood at the start, but showing creepy, evocative images on a screen behind you would be a good start.

If you want to get regular gigs, you’ll need to develop a persona. The people want a show! You have to be able to give it to them. There is really only one rule to follow: know your audience. What you can pull off in an abandoned warehouse will be much different than a downtown concert hall. Adjust accordingly.

Once you have a setlist, start hitting up local clubs that cater to the industrial music crowd. Perhaps you’ve developed a following online, get the word out that you’re looking for a gig. You may not be getting prime slots in front of big crowds, but you can start learning how to prepare for a show, aspects you need and those you don’t, and how to play to a live audience.

Just show up on time and do what you say you’re going to do. The crowd could be dead, the room could be empty – play the whole set. That will show the venue you keep your promises, a very good trait to have.

It could take months, even years, to get to this point. Interested in ramping things up?

Recording Connection can help

From learning music theory to networking for shows, Recording Connection programs are designed to give our externs access and opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have in a traditional classroom environment. Our mentors are professional industrial music producers and engineers who will give you the one-on-one attention you want to make the most of your talent.

Sounds fun, right? It is, but you’ll also be expected to work. In addition to showing up for at least 10 hours a week, you’ll also be a comprehensive eBook to read and study from as well as quizzes, midterms and finals to complete. However, unlike conventional programs at colleges and universities, Recording Connection’s material is completely industry-oriented and is written by working professionals who know what you need to master in order to become successful as a music maker.

You won’t be able to fake your way through our Ableton Electronic Music Production or Logic Pro Electronic Music Production programs. Mastery and fluency only comes by giving it your all again and again. But it could pay off. Remember the opportunities we talked about? Our producers are already connected to local and regional venues and others on the industrial music scene. Our most successful graduates are able to hit the ground running but still have the ability to lean on their mentors even after finishing the program.

If that still sounds like fun, apply today.

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