We’re back with our weekly series with Digitally Imported, The Digitally Imported Dial, where we highlight some of the best channels and shows available on the Web’s premier electronic music streaming radio platform. Every channel is curated by hand, so we’ll hear from the men and women behind the scenes how they bring us the music we love.
This time we’re talking about a sound and channel our LessThan3 readers may be less familiar with, Electronic Body Music (EBM). The channel curator, Steve Eagle, perfectly lays out exactly what EBM and the ways the genre manifested both in its early days and today. Get ready to hear about a host of artists you may have never encountered in your electronic music journeys before.
Steve comes straight from the fabled early rave days in the Northeastern United States:
I was born in central Connecticut in 1981 and like many other music freaks I got my start very early on. It was 1987 when I first heard Need You Tonight by INXS on the radio, and even though I was only six years old, there was something about that electronic sound that resonated with me. Soon after I was on a mission to listen to everything I could in my father’s vinyl collection. I loved it all, but it was in 1988 when my older brother played me Information Society and Nine Inch Nails that the real musical journey began. About five years later my brother exposed me to another new sound — the European techno & trance that was coming into the States by way of the New York rave scene. I will never forget the impact of seeing the early X-Mix videos and especially hearing the compilation Trance Europe Express 2, where I discovered what would become some of my favorite artists. But there were two albums in particular that convinced me I was going to be involved in electronic music for the rest of my life: Accident In Paradise by Sven Väth and Tyranny For You by Front 242. The deep, trancey textures of Väth and the dark, mechanical energy of 242 became not just my favorite styles of music but also the inspiration for my own sound as a producer.
After a few years of soaking in all the electronic music I could find, I decided it was time to start producing my own. I went by the name Fabrik Nos (a combination of my first online screen name and the German word for “factory”) and joined the growing ranks at mp3.com in 1999, which at the time was the best source for new and underground electronic music. My style was a mixture of my techno & industrial influences, and I got a reputation for dark and hard dance music. After a few years of releasing material on mp3.com and other music portals, I created my own label, Heavy Industries, in 2002 with my friend Simex. The idea behind the label was to have a home for our own music, and to also spotlight excellent techno producers. Right after starting the label I became on-air host and producer of the show Revolutions on 88.9 FM in Boston which is where I got my first chance to DJ. The next year I moved to Los Angeles and met the founders of Droid Behavior while doing a live show on Vibeflow Radio. I began collaborating with them on tracks and remixes and got more involved in the techno scene out here. I also got involved in promotion, organizing underground events with talent like John Tejada, Magda, Matthew Dear, and Frankie Bones.
These days I am continuing to DJ around the Southern California area at intimate events, and usually I’m playing a mixture of techno, tech house, progressive, and progressive psytrance. I maintain my industrial alter ego through the Digitally Imported EBM channel as well as releasing new industrial DJ mixes when time allows.
We asked Steve to provide a definition of EBM for our readers:
EBM, or Electronic Body Music, is a term made famous by the Belgian band Front 242 in the early ’80s to describe their style of music to the press. It was a very energetic electronic sound, with hard drums, angry vocals, aggressive basslines and militaristic visual themes (they used to perform shows in military garb!). 242 was heavily influenced by ’70s industrial artists like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, but also the electropop sound of Kraftwerk, and their music incorporated elements of each. The German band DAF also needs to be mentioned in the conversation as they too were making EBM at the very beginning, and had strong industrial roots as well. Both these bands set the stage for everything that was to follow. Honorable mentions also go to Die Krupps, Absolute Body Control, Nitzer Ebb, and Ministry.
EBM has grown from a more localized scene to a global movement over the decades:
Historically, Germany, Belgium, England and the US have put out the most recognizable music in the genre, but the scene has had a lot of time to grow beyond those core countries. I try not to let the geographic location of listeners or artists dictate the curation process. It’s basically a matter of whether it’s good enough to make it on the channel.
Steve hosts his own show on the Digitally Imported EBM channel, as well as Oliver Chesler, aka The Horrorist:
I’m really proud of the regular rotation but also the shows we’re doing with The Horrorist (Kunst Krach–every second Wednesday at 10 a.m. PDT) as well as my own show which is just starting (Lessons In EBM–every fourth Friday at 12:00 p.m. PDT). The shows bring in the human element, which is a nice break from the regular music. It’s a chance to hear from artists that many of us wouldn’t have much opportunity to hear from otherwise. For a genre as old as EBM, that’s a pretty unique thing.
The DI EBM channel is a balancing act between catalog tracks and newer releases:
I try to play as much newer music as I can to keep things fresh. EBM has been around for a long time, so obviously there’s a lot of older stuff on the channel too. A lot of fans prefer the old, original music and that’s all they want to hear, but there’s also a newer and maybe younger group of fans that you want to appeal to as well. It’s a balancing act for sure.
When asked for which artists he features regularly, Steve gave us a fairly comprehensive list:
Front 242, DAF, Nitzer Ebb, And One, VNV Nation, Absolute Body Control, SA42, Front Line Assembly, X Marks The Pedwalk, Covenant, Autodafeh, Spetsnaz, Haujobb, and Orange Sector all make frequent appearances.
The new wave of EBM is known as “Anhalt”:
There’s a very strong revival going on called “Anhalt” or “oldschool EBM.” These guys are reviving the original EBM sound for a new generation of listeners. Some notable examples include Jager 90, Frontal, NZ, AD:Key, Ionic Vision, Darkmen, and Container 90. There’s also been a resurgence of EBM here in Los Angeles, with bands like Youth Code and Pure Ground picking up the torch and getting some well-deserved attention. Finally, I have to give a shout out to some of the oldschool artists who have made a really powerful return in recent years, especially Die Krupps, SA42 and Portion Control.
He named Autodafeh as a new EBM act to keep an eye on:
I’d say some of my favorite newer finds would be from the Swedish band Autodafeh. Too many tracks to list, but Make Us Believe and Lessons To Learn are two of my favorites. Super oldschool sound but with wonderful modern production.
Steve uses the Digitally Imported EBM Facebook page and upvotes, downvotes, and comments to make the channel as pleasing to listeners as possible:
I run the Digitally Imported EBM page on Facebook, which has been a great place to chat with listeners and also find out what artists they’d like to hear that may not be on the channel yet. I also monitor the channel every day, seeing what tracks are being upvoted or downvoted, and I constantly tweak the playlist based on this kind of feedback. While you can’t make everyone happy all of the time, I’d say for the most part the feedback has been very positive and people seem to dig what I’m doing.
A DI Industrial channel may be on the way with Steve at the helm:
There has been talk over the past year of starting up an Industrial channel on DI, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. This would definitely be the darker and harsher side of electronic music, featuring pioneers like Einstürzende Neubauten, Whitehouse, and SPK as well as some more mainstream artists like Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM. I’ve had a playlist in the work for months, but I’ve been so busy with the EBM channel I haven’t gotten back into yet. Hopefully that changes soon!
Listen to the Digitally Imported EBM channel here.
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