Saying Goodbye To A Song or How Industrial Music Came Into My Life

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i still recall the taste of your tears
echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears
my favorite dreams of you still wash ashore
scraping through my head 'till i don't want to sleep anymore

you make this all go away
you make this all go away
i'm down to just one thing
and i'm starting to scare myself
you make this all go away
you make this all go away
i just want something
i just want something i can never have

you always were the one to show me how
back then i couldn't do the things that i can do now
this thing is slowly taking me apart
grey would be the color if i had a heart
come on tell me

you make this all go away
you make this all go away
i'm down to just one thing
and i'm starting to scare myself
you make this all go away
you make this all go away
i just want something
i just want something i can never have

in this place it seems like such a shame
though it all looks different now,
i know it's still the same
everywhere i look you're all i see
just a fading fucking reminder of who i used to be
come on tell me

you make this all go away
you make this all go away
i'm down to just one thing
and i'm starting to scare myself
you make this all go away
you make it all go away
i just want something
i just want something i can never have
i just want something i can never have

“Something I Can Never Have” – Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine

I don’t usually include song lyrics in my writing. Personally, I like to have an original take on a well founded idea, expressing my own version or variation of the theme. The individualist in me, the snarky little punk rocker that won’t go away, the artist looking for his creative outlet doesn’t like being overwritten by someone elses words and reproducing them here causes a minor crisis of faith in myself and my abilities. Do I really have so little to say about something that I have to use someone elses thoughts to express my true feelings?
When I was a DJ at Keene State College radio, a friend of mine introduced me to industrial music. I was completely clueless on the subject up til then. My life at that point was a whirlwind of punk rock, celtic, ska and the Boston music scene. I had never heard of the concept of industrial music. What did that mean?
My life was quickly saturated with the heavy, noisy, angsty and downright dirty nasty beats of the industrial scene. Many bands flowed in and out of this genre, most prominently:
KMFDM, Front Line Assembly, Front 242, Ministry, Einsturzende Neaubauten, Laibach, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, The Revolting Cocks, Meat Beat Manifesto, Sister Machine Gun, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Pigface and of course, Nine Inch Nails. I fell in love with the intensity of the music, the noise, the distortion, challenging what really constituted a song. They introduced elements into music that were sometimes shocking but ultimately infectious and satisfying. Heavy use of looping, drum machines, samples, sound effects and simple things like a trash can being smashed across the stage entered into my little world of music. Next to techno and house music, this was far far from my safe roots of the simple 3 piece punk bands I had grown up with. The live stage presence of bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (8 members, sometimes more) compared to the pared down presence of alot of industrial bands was at first confusing to my punk rock sensibilities.
When I saw KMFDM for the first time, En Esch was prowling the front of the stage while Sascha stood surrounded by a bank of keyboards and samplers. That was when I got it. Industrial was the new disco!
Ok, all you haters out there, don’t kill me just yet. Let me explain.
Early industrial, before it’s inevitable foray into and co-opting by the metal scene, was all about style, a look and a ferocious dirty beat. At it’s core, it was exactly like disco. The music was there to move your ass! And where disco stopped at telling you to shake your money maker, industrial music took it to another level. They cranked up the volume, added in more beats, co-opted the s&m culture and created a whole world unto itself. A subculture was born that encapsulated this dark angry electronic music and gave a voice to the s&m scene, thrusting elements of that scene into the mainstream. I’m not much of a fan of the whole s&m thing, although I do own a pair of hand cuffs and have been known to wear a dog collar back in the day, but thats beside the point. 🙂 I fell deeply in love with this music.
I was still a punk rocker at heart but industrial music had laid claim to a portion of it. Within a year, I was the DJ for the industrial music show on the college station. The “Soundstorm” was born! Ok, I know it was a cheesy title, but what else would you expect from a self involved brooding artist college kid? As the official “industrial” dj, I had the opportunity to talk to labels and scored tickets to see and interview different bands. My first big show? Ministry!
I was awestruck by their amazing live show. Two drummers! Three People on guitars, one bass player and 3 on samples and keyboards. And next to them, a revolving door of vocalists from Al Jourgansen (the lead singer) to Chris Connelly and even my old punk rock hero Jello Biafra. It was an amazing experience. The opening to the song “Breathe” is basically Bill Rieflin and Martin Atkins doing their version of “Dualling Banjos” but on drum sets! The incredible noise of that Ministry show blew me away! I was a fan of metal bands to an extent ( saw Metallica 4 times during the Justice for All Tour) but never had I seen or heard a fusion of metal with the programmed nastiness of industrial music and boy did Ministry nail it. This show, this line up, this amazing piece of music was a simple taste of things to come. The merging of metal and industrial music seemed almost inevitable: the style and flash of both genres, the driving beats, the noise, the guitars, the pomp and circumstance…it was all there! Ministry perfected it! Then Trent came along and took it one step further….

Pretty Hate Machine entered my life at one of the worst and the most opportune times in my little life. I had just had my first ‘real’ breakup. It was a heart wrenching, unfair and downright cruel breakup. I was left totally depressed and angry. I wanted to lash out at everyone around me, but instead, I bottled it up. I kept it hidden. I couldn’t face how things had fallen apart.

Then, late one night, I was doing an overnight shift at WKNH. The General Manager made a request and went into the library and pulled out Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine. I played “Head Like A Hole” and immediately fell in love with the music. The next morning, I went out and bought my own copy and played it non stop for about a week or so. NIN soon became a regular staple of my first show and the song “Something I Can Never Have” became my official “woe is me, I done been dumped again” theme song. Reznor had created an album full of heartbreak and anger that was painfully human in it’s approach to industrial music. From the mechanized militant march of bands like KMFDM and the all out sensory assault of Ministry, NIN dug even deeper and attacked your heart and soul. He managed a feat that few other artists had ever managed up to then: his music made me cry.

Over the years, I come back to this album over and over again. Whenever I feel down. Whenever something went wrong in my life. Bad day at work? Pop in a little angry NIN and the day was that much darker and I wallowed in my own self pity. But most of all, I came back to this album after a bad break up. And for all the angry, pissed off posturing on this album the one song I cling to when my heart is broken is the simplest song of all. The caustic, accusatory lyrics of “Something I can Never Have” are the penultimate of self indulgence and self pity. It encapsulates a total mental breakdown and a damn you and fuck the world attitude that we all love to wallow in when our heart has been handed to us. I’ve always embraced this, no matter how old I get, when my heart gets ripped out of my chest, I fall back to that angry little punk rocker kid wrapped up in his black trench coat, headphones on, pumping the NIN, blocking out the world. These past two weeks, I revisited this attitude for a bit….

I found myself re-reading the lyrics to “Something” and it suddenly dawned on me: why am I listening to this? It was like something inside me snapped and slapped me in the face. “Why are you depressed and angry? NOTHING is worth this much sorrow!” My eyes were opened and I realized, for the first time in a long time, that I have an amazing life, full of wonderful family and friends and I have no right and no excuse to wallow in self pity. It is an insult to everyone I know, everyone I love, to sit here and feel sorry for myself when they have made my life so wonderful.

So I made a hard decision….It was time to retire this song.

I’m sure somewhere, there is an equally dissaffected youth looking for a soundtrack for their depression. And let me tell you, I can think of no better theme song than “Something”, but for me…I’m letting it go. I do not want something I can never have. I want to appreciate and love what I do have in my life, starting right now.

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