Our favourite artists dig up five records that they consider “Essential” by any definition they like. This week, Odonis Odonis leader Dean Tzenos breaks down the "Hard Boiled" industrial music influences behind the band's fantastic new record.
Dean Tzenos played an accidental joke on himself when he labelled the music on his first Odonis Odonis record, 2011's Hollandaze, "industrial surfgaze." Since then, just about every review comes affixed with the terminally catchy subgenre tag. But even though it's become their albatross, "industrial surfgaze" is also fairly accurate. Their new album Hard Boiled Soft Boiled cordons the two sides of their sound into two distinct segments: the heavy industrial-influenced Hard Boiled side and the dreamy, shoegazey Soft Boiled side.
"The whole idea, even from the beginning of the project, was to treat our albums like mixtapes," says Tzenos. "So I actually found one of the original mixtapes that I had when I was a kid. One of the sides was mostly industrial music, and the other one was bands like My Bloody Valentine, Jesus And Mary Chain, New Order, The Stone Roses and all these shoegaze bands that were starting to come up at the time, like Slowdive. I had that in mind with this album. I wanted to do both ends of the spectrum."
The thing is, maybe it’s hip now, but for most of my life it was never hip. It was outsider music.
Here's a peek at how the Chart Attack sausage is made: This past February, I had the brilliant idea to send Tzenos to interview Skinny Puppy. I was half-joking, but I've rarely seen a musician so simultaneously nervous and excited. It's no joke for him. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out. So I devised a Plan B: an Odonis Odonis Essential Albums that focuses solely on that "hard boiled" industrial side. And Dean more than obliged, devising a crash course in the genre from its proto-inception to commercial peak and beyond. He also made us an beginner's guide playlist, which you can find at the end.
Suicide, Suicide (1977)
Dean Tzenos: I don’t think Suicide quite knew what they hit on with that first record. But it’s also influenced a lot by the technology at the time. A lot of the drum machines and samplers were just coming in, so that springboarded everything. This is before what anybody knew what industrial music really was, but they were pioneering the whole thing.
Einstürzende Neubauten, Kollaps (1981)
Another big one. I heard it around the same time. You’d always hear that they’re the pioneers of industrial, so I had to check them out. I didn’t get what I was listening to, because it’s actually just machinery noises, which is what industrial music was supposed to be. They’re sampling actual saws and helicopter sounds. Just crazy shit. Literally industrial.
Cabaret Voltaire, The Crackdown (1983)
Foetus (Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel), Hole (1984)
These are the kind of precursors to industrial music. I think with a lot of genres of music, when you get into hardcore anything, there’s these bands that don’t quite really know... there’s no formula yet so they’re still figuring it out. I feel like all these guys cracked it all open. They're all influences on me, big time.
MEAT AND POTATOES
Skinny Puppy, Remission (1984)
The Skinny Puppy thing is cool because they’re a Canadian band and they’re one of the first ones I was introduced to. I picked the Remission record because it’s an easier entrance for people. The band got way darker and harder after that record. But Remission is kind of a staple. It feels like a good time to talk about it because they’re even seeing resurgence in that stuff right now. So their newest record sounds like their older '80s material.
[At their Toronto show at Sound Academy in February] they actually played a lot of the record live, which was really cool. They came out halfway through, they didn’t have all the makeup and shit, they just came out and hit it old school, 1980s style. That was actually my first time seeing Skinny Puppy. I only heard about their early shows secondhand, because my sister would go. My sister actually got trampled at a Skinny Puppy concert. She’s fine now, but those concerts from what I heard were pretty crazy. By the time I was ready to go, they were about to break up. I tried before that. I got a fake ID and I got busted.
Nitzer Ebb, That Total Age (1987)
Front 242, "Headhunter" (1988)
Ministry, Land of Rape and Honey (1988)
The first industrial record I heard and got into. I was blown away and still am. If you had heard Twitch or anything else like that, you'd hear there was a certain sound that was going on with industrial. But as soon as this record hit, it was a complete game-changer. I don’t think anybody had heard something that unhinged and that intense. Even the flow of the record is so chaotic. He’s not afraid to go into completely crazy experimental territory.
Even the way the guitars are used... a lot of industrial doesn’t really use that much guitar until the later 80’s. Then into the 90’s industrial becomes more metal industrial. Up until that point it wasn’t really there. Ministry blew the door open to that. It was also the heaviest thing I had ever heard in my life. I didn’t think anything could be that heavy.
Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
And then, you can’t not mention Nine Inch Nails. Any time you think of industrial, you think of Nine Inch Nails. You can’t really deny it. They basically commercialized the whole thing and opened to the door to everything else that came in the '90s, even though at the time (and even I remember this), to the hardcore industrial fans they weren’t really considered legit. There was a lot of backlash.
Then with Trent Reznor touring with Skinny Puppy at that time, [NIN] got booed off the tour because they weren’t badass enough or because they weren’t considered real industrial. They were kind of considered a fluff band. But I still think there’s so much merit to what he was doing at that time. I actually still really like [Pretty Hate Machine] even though it sounds like an '80s workout record.
Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (1994)
[Drummer] Jarod [Gibson] hadn’t even heard The Downward Spiral when he joined the band. I was like "What!? How did you not hear this record?" Some people just miss the boat on industrial stuff, and it’s kind of weird to go back to it. That was the funny part of showing the band [The Downward Spiral], actually. [Drummer] Jarod [Gibson] was literally laughing through most of the record because most of the lyrics are so ridiculous. The lyrics are basically high school level, which was awesome when you were in high school. But The Downward Spiral is awesome and seems like it’s standing the test of time 20 years on. I really think it’s still a great album. It’s still relevant and I can still listen to it and it sounds pretty fresh.
But I feel like from With Teeth on, it’s been pretty patchy. I’ll still listen to it, I’m still somewhat of a fan, but it’s just not there. That new record I could barely get through. There’s two or three songs I thought were pretty good, but it’s just... I don’t know, he has no edge to the music anymore, and a lot of it’s pretty formulaic. I have tons of respect for that guy though, his work ethic and the way he goes about putting the live show together. It’s an awesome show usually, and it still kills.
Cubanate, Antimatter (1993)
This is when they start bringing in power techno. They took it to another level. That's kind of when it starts getting into electronica territory, like hard, hard dance. I felt like that segwayed into Prodigy and those kinds of bands.
Wumpscut, Music For A Slaughtering Tribe (1993)
Steril, Egoism (1996)
The thing is, maybe it’s hip now, but for most of my life it was never hip. It was outsider music. I think that’s why there was such a backlash. The Nine Inch Nails thing broke and all of a sudden there’s this kind of sacred thing that all the outcast people had, it was eaten up by the mainstream and everyone liked it all of a sudden. It wasn’t theirs anymore and that’s when it kind of died for me. There’s a huge gap where I completely stopped listening to it. Then it came back around and I was like “hey, remember this stuff!”
When I started Odonis Odonis, I was busting out all the music in a nostalgic way, but I wanted to do my own take on it. Even though I was such a big fan of it growing up I was never really fully made an industrial record. That’s why I wanted to do the Hard Boiled side, to explore a lot of those elements in those songs for the first time.
It’s funny, I’ve been hearing a lot of industrial in the hip-hop world. Even in the new M.I.A. record, Kanye West record, Death Grips, they went back to all the stuff I was mentioning, in a new way. The Gesaffelstein record, the new Liars record. Without saying they’re industrial, they’re using the same tools that came out of industrial music.