The Belgian electronic body music group Front 242 is one of my all time favorite bands. Anything before the album Tyranny for You was incredibly original and creative. Like many great bands that continue to make music there is a cut off where things changed. The early albums which focused on Jean-Luc De Meyer vocals and military aesthetics had me fully hooked. Anything after that time period I simply can’t listen to. The canon of “good stuff” they recorded is large so I’m really not complaining. In the late 80s I collected every piece of 242 music and memorabilia I could find. Back then there was no eBay so Manhattan record stores were the hunting ground. The most rare thing I own is a Front by Front DAT Cassette. Every few months I still check eBay to see what 242 stuff is there. Once I saw the arm bands then someone bought them and I never saw them for sale again. Some friends (Pet Duo) of mine went to see them live in Berlin last night so I decided to look around online for old 242 stuff. Amazingly I found a blog called Front 242 Collector that has great photos of the arm bands and all sorts of finds.
“this is without a doubt one of the most collectible and hardest to come by Front 242 items: the Front 242 armband! Back in the day, before Transmission 242 there was the 242 Propaganda Unit. This was one of the “Propaganda Supports.” You can see 242 sporting this armband on the Official Warfare Tour and in videos. The armband was offered for sale in the Propaganda Unit catalogue (I will post this someday as well). The cost for the 242 Armband was 50 BF in Belgium, 70 BF in Europe, and 100 BF in other countries (+ postage). Today, when they do come up for sale, expect to pay upwards of $200-$250 at times! The armband is made of leather with beautiful “242″ stitching and attaches to the arm with velcro. The Propaganda Unit logo is stamped inside and I believe they were numbered? This example happens to be #63.” – target242
Nitzer Ebb’s early and wonderful EBM track Isn’t it Funny How Your Body Works? reproduced by a DIY modular system. So here’s my proposal to the builder Henrik Nydell… make me some original patterns and I’ll scream for you! Imagine taking that beast live?
“My DIY MFOS modular – the Modulator – playing Isn’t it funny how your body works by Nitzer Ebb. The 16-step sequencer’s gate outputs trigs two ADSRs for bass drum. Clock out is sent to slave 10-step sequencer and to two ARs controlling filter cutoff and VCA. 16 step seq CV out gets patched to both VCOs. The stereo auto panner is used during the last few seconds.” – hnydell
I’ve listened to Nitzer Ebb’s first two albums That Total Age and Belief countless times. If I ever want to get revenge on someone in their car blasting hiphop I play the track Let Beauty Loose full volume. It’s exciting to see some very early footage of the band. A few years ago I got to meet the lead singer Douglas a few times. Just as when I met Depeche Mode and Front 242 I purposely kept the talking short because I didn’t want anything to get in the way of how much I love their music. To be a great musician you have to be a great fan first.
“Here you go. I put this video together back in ’84 or thereabouts. It features clips from a couple of their early gigs (parts of which have already been uploaded) along with some library footage I had access to at the time.
This was filmed at “The Hermit Club” in Brentwood Essex, sometime in the early 80s. The fight was caused by someone off camera to the left, disconnecting Bon’s mic. He responded in a fairly reserved way by laying into the aforementioned geeza with an iron bar. Fight (off camera I’m afraid) ensues. You can hear Bon’s sister screaming. She was pregnant at the time and had been pushed to the floor. Happy days. They don’t play Crane anymore. Enjoy Folks.” – pipey1512
Before techno hit the world it was songs like Vomito Negro Raise Your Power that made me turn off the headlights of my 1987 Nissan 300ZX and speed faster than fast through the night. My Sunday Sounds message to you: Stay pissed people. Stay sharp or die.
“Raise Your Power Now. Raise Your Power!” – Vomito Negro
Nothing was better than the underground 80s. Music was way out there lyrically and humans were taming electronic synths and drums in unique ways. I always thought and still feel EBM (Electronic Body Music) was a great genre. The bassline below in these videos are clearly EBM even though they are simply 16th note patterns. It’s the notes and feeling that classifies them.
“This thing can really make some nice EBM basslines!” – sampleandhold
I once also owned every single Front 242 record. I wish they still made song structured songs with Jean Luc DeMeyer on lead vocals. Even still, I am glad for the amazing albums they gave us such as Official Version and Front by Front. I saw them perform at the Palidium in the late 80s. It was awesome.
“Belgian industrial group Front 242 were at the crest of the Electronic Body Music wave, carrying the baton from groups like Throbbing Gristle and Caberet Voltaire, combining their post-punk aesthetic with strong backbeats, slices, samples, and ominous vocals. Their raw sound is married with strong militaristic imagery, chopped-up scenes from television, and even evangelical leanings.” – redbullmusicacademy.com
ReGen is a USA based EBM, Synthpop and Goth magazine. Since last October (2009) they have been putting out a free one hour mix of music. I like to grab it and scan through the audio to pick out a gem here and there. Where’s my black nail polish?
“An hour of the best in industrial, goth, EBM, synthpop and alternative and electronic music, downloadable every Monday provided by ReGen Magazine.” – regenmag.com
Here’s a song I recorded in Berlin and finished in New York. It will be on a next Industrial for the Masses compilation on Out of Line music. Later I will release it with remixes and several other new songs on Things to Come Records.
Here’s a few notes about the production: Sequenced in Ableton Live, Kick Drum is a Jomox MBase01, Bassline is Audiorealism ABL Pro, Melodyne created the vocal Harmonies (with help from my friend Richter), lots of horn and string samples through various hardware distortion pedals (external). It took about 3-4 weeks total to create.
In keeping with a new tradition on Wire to the Ear called “Sunday Sounds” where I post a music playlist each week here’s the next installment: Electronic Body Music. This is my personal favorite music genre. EBM is creative, powerful and mostly electronic music. You can find some sophisticated song arrangements and vocals in a lot of EBM. The genre almost disappeared in the early 90s but it’s back with new blood. Even the old guys are back on the show circuit.