Tactical Electronic Bodies: Noise and Mutation in Canadian Industrial Music

  • Jason Whittaker
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


This chapter places Canadian industrial music of the 1980s and 90 s in a North American and European context. Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, bands whose members overlapped in the small Vancouver scene which was the ‘cyborg heart’ of the movement in Canada, are Whittaker’s focus. He shows how, in the pre-Internet period when live shows and independent record stores provided an alternative to mainstream media, the Vancouver scene picked up on a culture already developed in Europe and the United States (particularly nearby Seattle) and formed its own which differs in its political commitments and aesthetic connections. Whittaker uses the theories of Attali and Bataille to understand the way industrial music deploys noise as a weapon, not in order to ritualistically sublimate violence, but rather to enact ‘squander and waste’ as the ‘truly sovereign act’. The European industrial scene had exaggerated the symbols of totalitarianism to create ‘chaos out of order’; Skinny Puppy used vivisection imagery as a way to disturbingly assert the rights of animals and the unfreedom of animal and human bodies, a vulnerability very different from the aggressivity that marks the European and particularly the American industrial. As both bands evolve, their incorporation of dance and techno connects industrial to cyberpunk: Whittaker argues, ‘by dancing to electronic music, the body becomes a cyborg’. He sees this ‘electronic body music’ as a way to go beyond the opposition between nature and culture, human and technology, without mistaking such a move for liberating transcendence.

Works Cited

  1. Spinrad, Norman. Science Fiction in the Real World. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  2. Straw, Will. ‘Characterising Rock Music Culture: The Case of Heavy Metal’. On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word. Ed. Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin. New York: Pantheon, 1990, 458–459.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Whittaker
    • 1
  1. 1.English and JournalismUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

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