TR00 – Self identity and the Genre wars

We as humans are tribal folk. It’s a defence mechanism built into our DNA that says “Safety in numbers” when with your own kind.

Previously in more smelly and furry times it was essential to not being eaten but in the modern world the chances of that happening are pretty slim and so we look to our emotional defence instead.

I made a pack with myself to consciously avoid anything and everything with the word “True” attached to it. It’s a word which is flung around by elitists left right and centre simply to try and build a mental wall around their chosen interest. This is usually done out of some insecurity and so to create self validation you make rules which naturally apply to you and also which others must adhere to otherwise they aren’t allowed in your group. It’s a form of control manufacturing whereby the grasp on other parts of life may be a little loose and so an anchor within the ego is created to create a sense of purpose and to feel in charge.


I’d probably consider myself a rock and metal guy before anything else simply due to the fact that it’s what I maybe listen to the most often, but that’s not all that is in my collection.

I didn’t start out instantly loving or knowing everything about heavy rock or metal. Indeed I was actually quite pop orientated in my earlyish teens enjoying a wide variety of chart nonsense and it was only later on when I started to get into the more darker and extreme side of metal. This gave way to a deeper appreciation of layers and textures which replaced the traditional need for melody (often cited as the turn off for some people) and so all the growly death metal vocals, washy blasted crashes and what seemed like just a bunch of noise suddenly made sense. It didn’t need a chord progression, it didn’t need a vocal melody. The raw power and blunt aggression was power giving and surged through the veins like lighting. This often misunderstood definition of “anger” is actually an extremely calming and endorphin releasing method of relaxation.

Electric Sun

Electronic music has always been an interest stemming back to when I was an avid user of the Commodore Amiga home computer. The Amiga was a machine way ahead of it’s time with some phenomenal sound capabilities and so it became a favourite tool for composing by the many, many EDM musicians out there who would make albums and demos on floppy discs to be played with one of the computer’s many Tracker programs. Amiga magazines of the day used to carry coverdiscs on the front and these would usually be a demo of a game, some graphical program and of course music dems from some European artist, most of which were melodic upbeat dance/House numbers. Due to the compatibility of the music files almost all of the games made for the machine at that time were pretty much club/dance orientated and the were fuckng good too.

Electronic music has been around since the 50s, probably earlier in fact. Indeed it was the seminal sci-fi film Forbidden Planet (1956) which was the first ever film to feature a completely electronic soundtrack instead of a traditional orchestral or contemporary score.

The 1970s saw some ultra experimental Moog based synth music coming out as well as the disco scene incorporating fat bass lines mooched from various keyboards of the time.

Wendy Carlos, the famous transgender electronic composer (Tron, A Clockwork Orange) was doing this shit as far back as the 60s and was a true pioneer in the world of syths and electronic music.

The 80s of course saw the first incarnations of what is known these days as Synthwave as well as pop artists beasting the fuck out of drum machines and twinkly Korg bell patches.

The late 80s and early 90s saw the rise of Techno which contrary to popular belief isn’t what the neds on the street corner listen to. Techno was a Detroit originated genre which personified the rise of machines and automation. Pioneers such as Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (AKA The Belleville three) often cited Alven Toffler’s book The Third Wave as a major influence on it’s feel. Techno focused on dystopian themes with the music depicting a cold futuristic and machine like world with dark, often atonal repetitive and minimalistic sections which progressively build apon one another. Artists old and new like DVS1 or Rødhåd all incorporate this ethos into their tracks to create stunningly sinister works. Far from the fluffy Ibiza club numbers of later years or the Mad Dog swilling Happy Hardcore of the Neds, Techno was melancholic, sparse and utterly bleak.

Genre War

Popular music is just that, it’s popular but one can’t deny that pop is now an almost completely separate genre of it’s own. The term “pop” now commonly refers to anything produced by the music industry machine which includes X-Factor one shots, boy/girl bands and clones of whatever is “in” at the moment. Indeed there is nothing inherently bad about pop music in itself. A good tune is a good tune no matter what style it’s done in yet some people can’t see past their own genres to appreciate that. The genre wars have been raging for ages and the aforementioned tribal mentality in music is probably hundreds of years old but it’s reached annoying levels in modern times.

If you listen, and I mean REALLY listen to some pop music or classical and them some metal music and then again to some disco music and so forth  you’ll find that most of the notes, chords progressions and melodies can easily be interchanged by switching the instruments and altering the beats a bit. Still though people will stand there and say “That’s pure shite!” while simultaneously listening to other music which, at it’s core is identical.

This raises the question that certain people are actually more interested in the genre rather than the music itself. Seeing as a genre is nothing really more than an identity tag to which they wish to associate themselves with it would stand true that they really don’t care about the music at all. I call them “Genre warriors”. The psychology of the genre warrior isn’t hard to understand. It’s deliberately divisive, almost always aggressive and utterly ego based. Don’t know every single word to a band’s back catalogue? You’re FAKE! Don’t have that rare 12″ vinyl recorded on one synth that came out in 1982? “You’re FAKE! and you’re not allowed in my group because I say so.

Here, the Freudian concepts of Es Ich and Uber-Ich (Id, Ego & Super Ego) interplay in a battle with almost extreme feeling of inadequacy leading to super-ego perfection led aggressive overcompensation where every piece of knowledge will be absorbed in case of a potential challenge of authority or questioning of loyalty (This is of course not to be confused with genuine interest and topical/historical knowledgeability for one’s self). Of course the effort poured into the often draining activity of knowing everything about everything with a defensive ‘just in case’ attitude can often lead to unprovoked self triggering outbursts which are intended to present to people the impressive knowledge bank of the individual’s mind, quite often expecting an Id driven “Wow!” or “You’re clever!” right after to satisfy one’s own base need for validation. It behaves much like a mental pressure cooker whereby you load up the mind so much with facts that it’s almost impossible not to burst and mention them in general conversation. Almost all of this generally has nothing to do with actual appreciation of the subject and amounts little more to name dropping and compliment fishing, again a sign of underlying insecurities. These traits an also be found in other intolerant groups like racists and homophobes though usually without the desire to absorb knowledge.

Another side of the coin are those who generally stick to an easy genre, not digging too deep yet shunning most everything else. A classic example of this is the “in” crowd. You know the type, the popular group at school who always are on the cutting edge of music or fashion. These people lap up what is in the current charts yet they also discard them as soon as something else comes along. It’s not all their fault though, the radio conditioned population have had their minds and wallets nudged towards buying music industry dirge for years and you know what…that’s fine. However try to get any of these people to listen to anything else and they’ll instantly scream ” Oh I hate that!” even though it’s guaranteed that 95% of them have never seriously tried listening to anything at either end of the more extreme musical spectrum. Their own tribal and judgemental mentality comes in and the decision making is based on a fear of association with a stereotypical image of a group and hence more walls are built and assumptions are made.

You of course get a third group. These are the people who constantly claim to be the eclectic type with a wide variety of styles in their musical collection. This seemingly appealing and interesting person often turns out to be eclectic but in a socially acceptable and confined genre box of their own. The sides of this box perhaps brush the extremes for show yet the top and bottom delve deep into dinner table topic styles like jazz variants or retro electronic new waves neither of which will be particularly original and will probably be money based with some sort of quid pro quo of using vintage and often expensive gear in order to be again “true” thereby cutting down the competition by using financial privilege dressed as skill.

So everyone’s just a dick then no matter what they like? No, not quite. I think the best compliment someone can pay you is if they randomly see you at an event or catch you listening to/doing something then saying “Wow I never expected that of you!”. Quiet appreciation of things which you love (yet without shame) can be the most rewarding  and often brings with it an automatic respect of others without the need for forced compliment mining or feather puffing displays of knowledge.

Of course being publically excited about something which emotionally touches you is to be wholeheartedly encouraged.

Radio Gaga

A great example of all this is an argument I’ve seen recently about an article of Lady Gaga talking about how much she loves metal and how Iron Maiden are her favourite band. Of course this was INSTANTLY dismissed by the “true” metal fans as being some sort of fake or poser move. I mean the insult that a pop princess could know anything about metal was just laughable. It’s ironic then that Lady Gaga’s very name is inspired by the Queen song Radio Gaga and there are a million photos of her at metal concerts and actually with Iron Maiden. She likes metal, she’s open about it and she goes to the concerts.

I’m really not sure what else is actually required of a fan?

All this is elitism in it’s purest form where one doesn’t have to know anything about a person or do any research on history but simply take a fleeting glance at their genre association or look and decide that “You know nothing!”. One could argue that seeing metal t-shirts being sold to teenyboppers in H&M is a form of annoying cultural appropriation but there’s also a good chance that some of them may look up the name on that top they got when they were 13 and discover a whole world of new and exciting music. For the genre warrior though unless you were born on a flaming anvil into howling unwashed denim fused with Iron filings and Manowar spunk this would still be unacceptable and not a proper way to discover the works of heavy metal. I’m actually unsure of the proper way myself and I’ve been at it for a while!

So what?

I bought Lady Gaga’s The Fame album when it came out and it sits next to my Michael Jackson collection and other pop classics (which sits just up the shelf from such lovely albums as Cannibal Corpse’s Butchered At Birth or Burzum’s Filosofem). It’s a triumph of melody and production values being crammed with super catchy songs which you could EASILY metal up in a second. I have her other works on digital download and it’s all brilliant stuff which is what happens when you get a quality producer who’s hired not just to copy the latest thing but to help you CREATE the latest thing.

All I can say is that if admitting to owning one pop album destroys 20+ years of credibility by writing, recording playing and performing in the extreme metal community then it can go with the popular crowd, hipsters and other associated wanks and stick it up it’s arse. The same goes for those folk out there who happen to pick up a metal album yet feel embarrassed to admit enjoying it due to having vaginas masquerading as friends.

Go with what moves you and ignore the noise from outside.


Author: Kitsune Mifune


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