On the origins of goth

For most, the genre “goth/industrial” brings diverse musicians and bands like Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails to mind, but the more musically conscious may make a clearer distinction between goth and industrial. To a certain extent, both parties are correct in their classifications, mainly because of the constant molding and remolding of music by a number of key musicians who draw from an extensive palette of inspiration.

Goth and industrial started out as different types of music, but they both have roots in some form of social commentary. Originating in the early to mid-1970s, the term “industrial music” was coined by Industrial Records, a label created specifically for the release of experimental music by bands such as Throbbing Gristle. “Industrial,” at that point, was more of an ironic statement about how streamlined and formulaic music had become during that time, and these experimental musicians were not hesitant to use graphic and politically incorrect imagery alongside their music to make a social point — much akin to their cousin, punk music, which was itself in some ways the predecessor of goth music.

It may be surprising — but shouldn’t be shocking — that punk music preceded goth music. Punk, in all of its stripped-down structure, couldn’t possibly have survived in the long run. It was during this point that punk musicians started experimenting with more complex ways of expression through their music, particularly by developing an artistic sensitivity while still retaining a punk iconoclastic stance. As the moody middle child between punk and pop-electro music that was prevalent at the time, bands such as Joy Division (and subsequently New Order), Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Sisters of Mercy brought goth music out from punk/post-punk into gothic.

Today, goth and industrial have combined through shared aesthetics, subcultural survival, and even basic back-and-forth borrowing of styles. In this way, goth/industrial can be considered a single genre today. It draws from electronic music the most and, depending on the musician and amount of commercialization that the musician has been exposed to, the roots of goth and industrial can still be heard in the music.