Industrial Metal – My Accidental Part in its Rise

Here are some potentially unrelated facts:

  • I build guitars – from wood. I built a guitar in my early twenties. It had a giant hunk of brass embedded into its solid Queensland Maple body (a now seldom seen wood with similar tonal characteristics to Brazilian Mahogany), to mount the wrap-around Badass bridge, as an experiment in achieving sustain maximisation.
  • I love distorted guitar sounds. Tom Scholz from the band “Boston” inspired me. In my twenties, I had an early 80s Fender 75 valve amp (which owes more than a passing resemblance to the circuit design of the Mesa Boogie Mk IIc), driven hard into a Tom Scholz Power Soak, then into a home-built, open-backed speaker cabinet I built myself, loaded with a re-coned Electro-Voice EVM12L twelve inch guitar speaker. That rig screamed and with my home-made guitar, sustained like you’ve never heard before. It was a bit of a unique sound.
  • In 1987, I worked at Fairlight Instruments. I was good friends with my colleague Tom Stewart, a musicologist that lovingly created and maintained the Fairlight factory sample library.
  • One night, after work, I brought my rig and my guitar into the Fairlight Studio, cranked it up to “quite dangerous”, miked it up closely with a virtually indestructible, little-known, criminally underrated, Audio Technica ATM21 dynamic microphone (now discontinued and considered “vintage”) and sampled it. I still have that microphone.
  • Tom took the sample tapes from that evening and created samples with those sounds, for the Fairlight Series III standard factory library.
  • In the late 80s, a band called Ministry, out of Chicago, was redefining its sound. Originally a synth pop act, the record company had complained about the less than distinctive sound of their records, which hadn’t sold particularly well. They were heavily into sampling and synthesis and recorded at a studio that had a Fairlight.
  • In 1988, Ministry released a track called Deity, heavily laden with distorted guitars. It changed their sound quite radically and so, rejuvenated their career. They became pioneers of a genre of music that came to be known as Industrial Metal.

That was all more than 30 years ago. I left Fairlight long ago and got on with the rest of my life.

Very recently, my wife, who is interested in articles about Fairlight, because that’s where we met, found this interesting piece:

What’s interesting about that article is the author’s assertion that the guitar solo on Ministry’s song “Deity” sounded awfully like some of the distorted guitar samples in the standard Fairlight factory sample library.

I decided to have a listen.

It’s a long time ago, but I believe the guitar solo on that track (at 2:51, if you’re interested) was indeed made by using my guitar samples, or else a guitar that sounds awfully like my home-built, one-of-a-kind, out-of-control, screaming, saturated, sustain-maniacal guitar and amp setup of the early 1980s. The string bending is sort of characteristic of the way I typically bend notes, too, as my playing was also heavily influenced by Brian May, in my formative years. I always bend in a languid way, to try to play like Brian.

So, it’s possible, though I don’t know for sure, that those distorted guitar samples I made, with an enormous amount of Tom’s help, one late night after work at Fairlight, played a small part in helping a new genre of music, Industrial Metal, to become a thing.

That makes me smile.

Before this year, I had no idea.

Those samples were donated to the factory library. I wasn’t paid anything at all for the session or any royalties for use of the samples. Fairlight was my day job. There was a gap in the factory library, and I wanted to fill it with a guitar sound I thought was novel and which I cared about. It’s just nice that other musicians might have found those sounds useful.

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure the broken chord strums in the chorus of Art of Noise’s “Yebo” is also my guitar, sampled that same night. I don’t know for sure, but it sounds awfully like it. Lots and lots of sustain, bordering on feedback. Who knows?



About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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