Sunday, August 27, 2017

Essay: Tobe Hooper, Laibach and Martial Industrial Music

On Saturday morning, August 26th, influential horror director Tobe Hooper passed away.1 Hooper was legendary for his film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which is a landmark film in its influence on the horror genre. Hooper directed many other films, such as Eaten Alive (1977), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), and many episodes of horror and scifi television series through the 90s and 2000s.

While Hooper’s influence on cinema is legendary and well documented, it should come as no surprise that his influence was felt in other media as well. Industrial music has had a long relationship with sampling dialog and sound clips from films and incorporating them into compositions. Such sampling has been a hallmark of various industrial music genres, a practice that Simon Reynolds recognizes goes all the way back to Cabaret Voltaire2 and many of Hooper’s films have been used in such a fashion.

Skinny Puppy, the Canadian outfit who solidified sampling as an industrial staple due to their prolific usage of the practice, visited Hooper’s work in a handful of their songs. Their song, “Blood on the Wall” from Bites samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,3 while both “Shadow Cast” from Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate4 and the live version of “Dig It” from Ain’t it Dead Yet?5 samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Front Line Assembly makes extensive use of sampling sound effects from Lifeforce in their songs “Modus Operandi”6 and “Paralyzed”7 both from Hard Wired, and the dialog in “Circuitry (Complexity – Remix by Haujobb)” from the Circuitry EP.8 Xorcist follows suit with the heavy Lifeforce sampling in their songs “Pray”9 and “You are the One”10 from Damned Souls and “Be With Me” from Phantoms.11

In the realm of martial industrial music, Tobe Hooper’s presence can be felt via genre progenitor group Laibach and their album Kapital. Kapital, released in 1992, saw Laibach shift way from pure martial percussion to embrace more electronics. The album, released shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, repurposes Karl Marx’s themes. Per an older incarnation of the unofficial Laibach fanpage: “Laibach turns its attention away from totalitarianism and warns the newly freed Eastern Bloc of Capitalism. Kapital is Laibach's rewriting or sequel to Karl Marx's Das Kapital to make it relevant again for the future.”12 The album is certainly an oddity in Laibach’s repertoire, perhaps showing the band at their most experimental between their bombastic martial-industrial of the 1980s to the more Wagnerian-techno and Neue Deutsche Härte sound of the latter 90s. The album contains a rap song, “Hymn to the Black Sun,” (an oddity in the industrial scene), the songs on every version of the album (vinyl, cassette and CD) differ from each other, and the release is almost purely electronic with a substantial quantity of lyrics being sampled from films. All the dialog/lyrics from “Le Privilege Des Morts” is taken from Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965, Godard),13 while “Regime Of Coincidence, State Of Gravity” is made up predominantly of samples from THX-1138 (1971, Lucas).14 The various versions of “Wirtschaft ist Tot”15 opens with a foreign language newscast of sorts.

Laibach's Kapital and Wirtschaft ist Tot from personal collection. Photo by Michele Brittany


Much in the vein of Front Line Assembly and Xorcist, Hooper’s presence on Kapital is felt in the song “Young Europa Pts 1-10” in that the song is entirely made up of samples of both dialog and sound effects from Lifeforce.16



Young Europa Pts 1-10” is a hallmark song on Kapital in that it is probably Laibach’s first purely danceable, techno song in a traditional sense. The linear booklet notes list no lyrics for the song (not even the lines of dialog from the film), but instead the 10 parts of a Young Europa:

  1. Volga
  2. Zest
  3. Diminuendo
  4. Mémoire
  5. Nacht des Traums
  6. Meat and Dream
  7. Mezza Voce
  8. Masha
  9. Faith in Ferro-Concrete
  10. Pro/Forma17


The song edits, loops, and repeats the the vampire’s line “Come, be with me” over and over, with the song ending with the line “Our bodies are not important.”18 A Marx reading of this song could be taken in a few different ways. The title “Young Europa” could refer to a newly unified Europa, after the fall of the wall, much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. The early 90s Europa was a new, re-birthed, and in essence “young” in this regard. The vampire’s lines, “come, be with me” said seductively, can be seen as the alluring nature of capitalism and commercialism in which the Eastern bloc would be flooded with as new markets for the West had now been opened up. And yet, the lines are said by a vampire, and thus giving into her (and by extension, capitalism) will have negative consequences. The danceable nature of the song adds a courtship element as well.

Laibach has always been known for their subversive nature in their music, in particularly their martial covers of Queen’s “One Vision” and Opus’ “Live is Life” released as “Geburt einer Nation” and “Opus Dei” respectively from their Opus Dei album in 1987. Kapital sees Laibach continuing their modus operandi of subverting meaning from other works into something new, but in this case, rather than covering songs in their iconic fashion, they turned to sampling instead. Tobe Hooper was given the distinctive Laibachian-honour in this regard, as elements (dialogs and sounds) from his scifi horror film were re-appropriated into something else. “Young Europa Pts 1-10” has a distinction of being an accessible Laibach song. Prior to this, Laibach’s abrasive martial and bombastic percussion, combined with totalitarian imagery made the group intimidating. Kapital, and songs like “Young Europa Pts 1-10” would see the group shift into more commercial and radio-friendly sounds, as would be seen on the next albums NATO and Jesus Christ Superstars. In this regard, Laibach certainly gave into Hooper’s vampire’s tempation.

Come, be with me.”

Endnotes

1. Pat Saperstein, “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74,” Variety, last modified August 26, 2017, http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.

2. Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984 (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 101.

3. “Skinny Puppy- Blood on the Wall,” YouTube video, 3:00, posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” Novemeber 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

4. “Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast,” YouTube video, 4:23, posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

5. “Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live),” YouTube video, 6:26, posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

6. “Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi,” YouTube video, 5:50, posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

7. “Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed,” YouTube video, 5:31, posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

8. “Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb),” YouTube video, 7:35, posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

9. “Xorcist – Pray,” YouTube video, 5:24, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

10. “Xorcist – You Are The One,” YouTube video, 5:18, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs.

11. “Xorcist – Be With Me,” YouTube video, 5:17, posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

12. “Kapital,” The Unofficial Laibach Site, accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

13. “Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014,” YouTube video, 5:38, posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

14. “Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity,” YouTube video, 7:27, posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

15. “Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot,” YouTube Video, 3:46, posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg. The official video for the song is taken from the
Wirtschaft ist Tot (Metal Mix – Short Version)” which is found on the single and is a shorter, differently mixed version than what appears on the CD album.

16. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10,” YouTube video, 6:14, posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

17. Laibach, Kapital, Mute, MUTE 61282-2, 1997, compact disc.

18. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.”



Bibliography

Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1965. New York: The Criterion Collection, 1998. DVD.

Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb).” YouTube video, 7:35. Posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi.” YouTube video, 5:50. Posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed.” YouTube video, 5:31. Posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

Kapital.” The Unofficial Laibach Site. Accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

Laibach. Kapital. Mute. MUTE 61282-2. 1997. Compact disc.

Laibach. Opus Dei. Wax Trax! WAXCD 030. 1987. Compact disc.

Laibach. Wirtschaft Ist Tot. Mute. CD MUTE 116. Compact disc.

Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014.” YouTube video, 5:38. Posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot.” YouTube video, 3:46. Posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg.

Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.” YouTube video, 6:14. Posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity.” YouTube video, 7:27. Posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

Reynolds, Simon. Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Saperstein, Pat. “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74.” Variety. Last modified August 26, 2017. http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.g

Skinny Puppy - Blood on the Wall.” YouTube video, 3:00. Posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” November 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live).” YouTube video, 6:26. Posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast.” YouTube video, 4:23. Posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

Xorcist – Be With Me.” YouTube video, 5:17. Posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

Xorcist – Pray.” YouTube video, 5:24. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

Xorcist – You Are The One.” YouTube video, 5:18. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs

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