Happy New Year you damn dirty apes! Smoke if you got 'em!
Wouldn't it be great to be able to hop into a time machine and go back to the late 70s/early 80s to experience the goth subculture in its heyday? You could talk to goth icons before they made it really big, corner the vinyl market, maybe even bring some money with you to finance giving that obscure artist you love that big push you feel they always deserved. You may even end up in some of those iconic photographs from back in the day. Oh how wonderful it would be...
You know what's coming next. It may be a new year but my intros always lead to a "or is it?" moment. Do I have to say it. Really?
If those silly new colour text squares are good enough for Facebook then why not here too? Except black text in a better font. Because goth 'n' shit.
There, I hope you're happy. Now we have that out the way lets talk time travel. Or in this case (as actual time travel doesn't exist yet) trying to re-create the things that have been today and why it never works.
Ultimately even the most well-intentioned attempt at doing this won't work unless you keep your greasy little future world opinion out of it. While traveling back in time allows you to pollute the timeline, your future world view will pollute a re-creation of it today. Only if you take it from a sterile, fact-based perspective will you come close to getting it right and even then you still have the benefit of hindsight that people living through it back then never had.
A modern insight means you can cherry pick what you decide to put on show, most likely influenced by what became historically popular and very likely what you choose to highlight from that based on personal preference. So even if you do it purely by the facts, you end up only choosing the facts you want to show. This can create a false image of what things were really like back then.
If I were to re-create a picture of goth cultural history I know ethereal would be given a seat way at the back of the bus (I'm not a fan), coldwave would sit closer to the front (I am a fan), the Batcave's importance would be reduced (or everything else elevated to match it because they were all important) and the 90s would actually be respected and much more prominent (thats my era). All of it based on facts and evidence but it certainly paints a different picture to what most people accept to be what goth was like in the past. All because of how I see it and what I prefer.
This is Suspiria. A 90s goth band.
If it were up to me they'd be worshiped more than Rozz Williams.
Opinions (even my own) taint everything. My perspective comes from a different place to everyone else. But that doesn't mean different opinions and perspectives aren't important. What is important is to listen to as many as possible and never assume one "expert" should have more say than anyone else. If the things many people say match up and are evidenced in historical facts, its likely to be true.
I have said it once and I'll say it again - consult multiple sources and make up your own mind. Don't let a single source decide what goth and the goth subculture are for you. Seriously, if you aren't even willing to do a little research into this thing that you "love", "is where you belong" and "is a part of you" then why the hell are you here?
Boy have I seen a lot of this going on of late. But its nothing new. People have been trying to do this for years, often out of ignorance, sometimes to push a personal agenda. But not always. Sometimes something that happens locally will influence how they think history must have happened before they came along. This can be done in positive ways, negative ways and applying modern standards for either.
The positive way (ie - seeing the world through bat-coloured glasses) is to over-emphasize the importance of certain things or to apply positive modern standards to the past.
A local example (for me) is Proscenium - the "goth" club in Adelaide which ran from early 90s to early 2000s. A lot of younger people today hear stories and assumed it was a goth haven where everyone dressed in black and it was 100% goth 100% of the time. The reality is at best it was goth one night a week (Thursday) and had some goth played on Saturday which was mixed genre. The Friday night was indie night and a mostly different crowd went to that. They tried an 80s night at one point on a Wednesday but it never worked out. They also used to have huge events like raves and hip hop nights (often in place of Saturday nights which pissed off the regulars as they were never announced to us in advance so we knew to stay away) because they made a ton of money. If it wasn't for the owner treating it as his hobby farm/tax write-off it would have closed years before it did. Also a lot of people dressed in colour. It didn't really start doing the sea of black thing until around 2000 when the punks disappeared and all the metalheads turned up.
See? Bat-coloured glasses. The modern standard is people assume it was like how things are today. They don't realize things like metalheads being rare at goth clubs in the 90s because most metalheads usually hated goths and goth music. Also (at least in Adelaide) punk maintained a stronger influence up until the late 90s. That positive modern standard tends to think it was more inclusive than people perceive the goth subculture to be today. I would say the mixed genre stuff was very inclusive (it covered all things alternative) but the goth nights were not.
Lets put it this way... you don't tend to see dance-based attacks or glasses and billiard balls thrown at people the locals deem as being unworthy anymore. I would know - I was one who was deemed unworthy.
Re-writing the negative way... I'm going to start by expanding on the bat-coloured glasses thing. Seeing the past as being too good creates an impossible standard even the real past couldn't live up to. This is how legends are made. Mostly bullshit, a little "I heard someone say", very little fact. So people listen to these stories and think "Why isn't it like that today?!?"
Isn't it obvious? Its all a lie. We can have something pretty awesome today but while people view history with their bat-coloured glasses on, it can never come close to living up to expectation. And thats with a smaller population in the goth subculture in most places now and more things competing for our attention that existed back then.
Modern standards applied back then assume people could find goth music and information about goth bands through word of mouth, zines and mixtapes easy. A lot relied on where you were located. Stuck in a town with no one else into goth? There is no internet to help you learn and find new music. No decent DJs in your town to help educate you? You grow up thinking goth is one thing only to learn its something else years later. Local record stores only stock popular music? You might get a touch of goth in there but nothing beyond the basics. It is nowhere near as easy as it is now. I don't think modern goths could hack it and most of those who lived through it wouldn't want to go back.
Then there is outright making shit up. No, there was no conspiracy for industrial to take over the events in the 90s. The club managers lumped goth and industrial together as they were semi-related and had some crossover appeal when numbers for each were dwindling. It just happened that industrial was on top for a while. Depending on the event, goth can be on top. Depends on the DJs and the crowd. Or even better put goth and industrial in separate rooms. Everybody wins!
Music collecting is easier than ever. Streaming lists, MP3s, cheap CDs on ebay because no one likes them anymore, vinyl for the truly pretentious goth point collector and even cassettes are making a comeback.
Fucking cassettes! Why??? I get why people like vinyl but cassettes? Myself (and many others) lived through the pain in the arse cassettes are. Everything about them has been made redundant. Magnetic tape can be erased by just sitting next to your phone. Moving parts in cassettes break. You have to fast forward/rewind to find a song you want. Making mixtapes took way longer than making an audio CD and you needed a double tapedeck or two single ones and hope the background noise didn't make it sound too shitty. Then there's waiting for the songs you want to come on the radio and missing bits of them because of DJ chatter, tapes ending or hitting record late. Cassettes were used out of necessity only. Plus for Walkmans because vinyl isn't remotely portable.
Do I want to go back to outdated tech options like that? Absolutely not! The past can keep those old relics where they belong. Even as a DJ I prefer digital and CDs. DJing with vinyl is truly an art but an art not worth my learning. Besides I don't own any vinyl. Nor do I want to. I prefer the sound and practicality of CDs.
So cold. So sterile. So beautiful.
DJing with cassettes would be nigh impossible unless you used nothing but singles. I guess vinyl DJing is pretty much the same single-wise but without needing to manually find songs by spooling them up and rewinding.
Everyone says the goth subculture is evolving and moving beyond the past. I partically agree and disagree.
I agree that change is inevitable. I agree technology moves forward and that has an impact on the goth subculture. I agree the internet in particular has been a big game changer. The internet has made goth a lot less local and more of a worldwide community.
Where I disagree is where people think its evolving. Pastel Goth and Nu Goth are not the new evolutions of goth, just as industrial (which is its own thing older than goth), cybergoth, gothic lolita and steampunk were not evolutions of goth. Sure, some goths like these things but it doesn't make them goth by default. Nor do they define one as goth. I've seen a lot of things like this come and go over the years. Even the deathrock revival didn't last.
New goth music is still being made by bands old and new. The evolution is happening from within as it always has. 2016 was a fantastic year for new goth music. Don't believe me? Listen to this . And this . And this. In fact, just listen to all of them in the series and Google the bands you like.
Go on, tell me goth music is dead and needs to evolve now. What, you can't? Good.
As for the goth subculture itself, in many ways its evolved to be stronger. I would say in general the participants are more well informed than they used to be because its easier to learn. Sure there is a lot of bullshit out there but you can weigh up multiple sources instead of trusting in the local DJs or elite to dictate how it is. You don't have to rely on being lucky if your local scene gets it and if they don't you can help shape it. People used to put up with a lot more shit from those at the top than they do now. Thats a good change.
The history of the goth subculture is just fine as is. If we want something better then build it today. Pining for the past accomplishes nothing. Would I travel back to live the glory days of the past?
Almost forgot! A few articles ago I mentioned how I was bleaching my hair for something in the future. Well here it is...
That happened at Cybermorph at the new venue in November. I even played an appropriately Immortan Joe themed set that night. You can listen to it here. Fun fact : I haven't had my hair dyed black in over a year. I'll likely remedy this soon. Or go ToiletGoth again.
-Aytakk has been active in the goth scene since the mid 90s both online and in real life. He firmly believes in the old line "if you don't get the joke, you are the joke". As well as this he produces music for a couple of music projects: Corpulence On The Catwalk (goth/darkwave/coldwave) and Hypnophile (aggrotech/power noise). He is also a club DJ and nemesis of DJ Jelly.