How Goth music changed my life and made it better
Finding my people in the shadows
In 1990, two things happened that would change the course of my life forever. One. I heard the Nine Inch Nails song, Head like a Hole, for the first time . The second thing that happened was I told my friends that I liked it.
Up until this point, I had been a kid of the eighties and early nineties. I liked a lot of the hair metal and a lot of the pop music that was around at the time. But there was something about the sound of this song that just drew me in and made me want to hear more.
And so when I told my friends that I had been listening to Head like a Hole, they were like, oh, You like that? Have I got something for you. This Is when my world of music expanded and changed, and I got into a lot of genres I had never thought about before. I started listening to punk music, had a friend introduced me to the Dead Kennedys, and TSOL. The True Sound of Liberty. And the more he realized that I liked that band, especially songs like. Darker My, Love, the more he started introducing me to other bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, and eventually, we got into the really amazing goth music of Christian Death.
There are so many bands I could list here. There's so many bands that I could talk about that really helped foster this change in my musical taste. And it's hard to say exactly what it was about this music that called out to me. It may have been the atmospherics. It may have been the tone. The sarcasm that's most of the singers delivered their lyrics with.
It's hard to say exactly what it was that drew me first into Gothic music, but I can tell you what held me there, and what converted me into the scene and into the subculture. And that was the album Rise by Nosferatu . still to this day, one of my absolute favorite albums.
From it's haunting intro track, to the title track Rise, Lucy is Red, I fell in love with the sound, the storytelling, this world that was being open to me. The more I got involved with the music, the more I got involved in the scene. The more I started dressing the part, playing around with the makeup.
What I found in goth music was a community of like-minded individuals that had a sarcastic view towards life, a morbid curiosity, and who joked about death.
I always find it funny when I hear people talk about goths and goth music, because they tend to confuse us with other scenes and other crowds. And I get it. The aesthetics are similar. But that's all that they are, aesthetics. Goth music is an umbrella term for a whole bevy of sub genres from coldwave to shock-a-billy, and everything in between. . It arose from the post-punk scene and took a lot of its cues from the New Romantics.
Whether you believe the genre started with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, or Magazine, there is one band that was at the forefront of the sound, and that was Bauhaus. Most people that have any familiarity with the goth scene, are familiar with them from the haunting sparseness of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, to She's in Parties, to the myriad beautiful albums that Peter Murphy did after leaving the band.
There's a haunting quality about goth music and it speaks to something deep down within you. It's not about telling our stories. It's not about connecting to real feelings.
Goth is a dark fantasy world, where monsters lurk in the shadows, where technology is out to get us and to rob us from some of the simple joys of life.
It's a genre that refuses to die, and continues moving on even to today with bands like. Vision Video and Male Tears. Though they aren't together anymore, O Children is one of the best goth bands of the last, maybe 10 years. Disco Dancers Dead is a quintessential goth track that if you haven't heard it, you need to check it out. It's a good entry point into the genre .
And it's hard to explain exactly what the music is, because, like I said, it's an umbrella term for a lot of different genres. Shock-a-billy is rockabilly, think Elvis if he was a regular guest, on Elvira's show, talking about all of the splatter flicks and creature features that were coming out.
Cold wave takes on the aesthetics of new wave music, but. It makes them more distant, more echoing more haunting, and of course, more synthesizers. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out if you wanted a really good example of this genre to check out the Frozen Autumn's wonderful song. I love you, but I've chosen synthesizers.
And in that song, you get a sense of what I'm talking about. This sense of humor that pervades the Gothic music, from Christian Deaths. Jesus, if you love me, where's the sugar.
To the sarcastic love songs, Spectre (love is dead) by Christian Death.
There is. Just a macabre tongue in cheek humor that fills. All of the music. And unites the scene together.
Now, if you ask two goths to define goth music, you will get four to five different answers, and that again is a problem because it's not one genre. There are many debates as to what actually constitutes a Gothic genre. And I feel like I should say since I started out talking about how my entry point to this world that led me to goth music was Nine Inch Nails, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson are not goth. They may share a certain aesthetics, especially in their early music videos. But. They have nothing to do with and no connection to the musical aesthetics, and goth is after all a music scene.
When I first started thinking about writing this post, it came about because my friend, Megan McCarthy who writesis writing a post about her love for Emo, and my initial ideas for this post were, quite scathing of Emo because. Goth and Emo are both very different genres of music and they're often confused for each other. Again, because some of the visual aesthetics are the same, even though the lyrical content and the just style of instrumentation is so different. And so I have grown to have a distrust and a subtle dislike upon hearing about any emo act, or emo band. I'm getting better. I'm not as bad as I used to be about it, but it persists and it's still there.
The biggest problem that I faced in writing this essay was asking myself, why does it matter?
There are so many ways I could have approached this. I could have broken out the dynamics of the music and done a tear down of all the genres. I could have listed all of the bands that you should check out and I will list some I've already listed a few.
But I think the most important reason for me to write something about goth music is just to say how much it's meant to me. Not just the songs. While, there are some songs that have over the years taken on a very special meaning to me.
Time of Legends by Nosferatu
Black Planet by Sisters of Mercy
Almost anything Rozz Williams ever recorded for Christian death.
The music and my love for it is important, but what goth really gave me was a sense of community.
In so many ways goth music works like a shibboleth, if I mention a goth band that I like or a goth song that I really, really love, and I see somebody respond to it, while we may not be best friends forever, I know that we have certain things in common, and this is somebody I want to talk to. In fact, I've made a lot of friends over the years that way.
Or people will be talking about music and something that they really love, or obscure bands that they're into that most people haven't heard of and I'll bring up like Clan of Xymox or Alien Sex Fiend, Virgin Prunes. And amongst people that are not in the scene, they start geeking out about the names of quite a few of these bands. But when somebody reacts knowingly. I know that I can have a conversation with them.
We probably share certain aspects of our sense of humor in common. We've probably read a lot of the same books, watched the same movies, and have a similar taste in common. That goes beyond just that band.
Got music is a scene after all.
And that sense of community has been so important for someone like me who has a hard time making friends. I am not a big fan of talking to strangers. I am fairly introverted and don't like putting myself out there. And to have this kind of a shorthand, where I can just mention something in conversation and see where my people are. I've done this with other things too, with Star Trek and Star Wars and some of the other literary and film and TV franchises that I am fond of. But goth music has been much more consistent in bringing my attention to people that would become valuable, and integral parts of my life. People that I would talk to for years, decades. Build longterm relationships and friendships with.
And I'll forever be grateful. To this dark, moody and broody genre for bringing that to me. Because it seems like such a paradox that a music genre known for its obsession with death and murder, and vampires, and demons, and dark stories. Would be able to bring people together, and to bring them together in ways that are so fulfilling. But it happens.
Now don't get me wrong, not all goth scenes are perfect, or good. And there are a lot of toxic goths out there. There are toxic people in every scene. But to this day, my love of all things, goth and Gothic, has not only inspired my art, brought comfort in the darker times in my life, brought me humor in the good times, and brought me friends. When I needed the most. It's been a gift.
And if you're not familiar, maybe you should check it out. It's not for everyone, but if it is for you. You know what? We might have more in common then you think.