Wearing the Melancholy

This Dungeon's for Hire, Even If We're Just Dancing in the Darkwave

So what then is Heckmann's most important market, if not radio? "Word of mouth," he says. "It's sort of spontaneous. A hundred thousand kids go to industrial clubs here in the U.S. They talk." Heckmann knows his scene has to change and is changing even as we speak. "Goth as we knew it is dying," he says, "except in Germany. The genre has changed. The gravelly vocals are gone. This label has to evolve. But it has always been underground and always will be."

Maybe so, maybe not. Mylene Farmer has never been underground; Enigma, too, has a worldwide fan base. Industrial has often threatened to become a mainstream genre even in the U.S.: KMFDM has drawn attention—some of it quite negative, unjustly—in America as well as in Germany. Still, one must travel to Quebec, or to Europe—or Japan, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, or Latin America, where all manner of disco-derived pop music genres get full attention from every medium—to hear played almost everywhere the sorts of techno-involved, danceable, and dreamy genres that Heckmann, based in the U.S., can only see as cult musics. Overseas, where fashion cliques gather as passionately as kids in America wear gang colors, there is a much closer interaction between clothing taste and musical texture. And clothing display is an integral part not only of darkwave fans' etiquette but of the music itself, with its love of intricacy, hue, and layering. Thus, the music and its clothing reinforce each other's popularity. This, too, derives from a disco invention: that music should accompany a display of goods for sale. Just as disco was the music that supported the strutting of fashion models on the runway, so darkwave accompanies the wearing of disguise and drag, of embroidery and embellishment: complex clothing for intricate emotions.


Swedish sprocket scientists Covenant
photo: Courtesy Metropolis Records
Swedish sprocket scientists Covenant

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