Industrial music is about as sonically diverse as other genres, like post-punk, jazz, rock and roll, and so on. Much sonic ground, for example, separates industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle from industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails. And while the genre’s groundbreaking artists often weren’t creating actual industrial sounds per se (unless they were a band like Einstürzende Neubauten), such machine noises could be simulated or suggested either through sampling, synthesizers, tape loops, effects, and other techniques.
Beyond musical approach, industrial music is also a conceptual aesthetic and mindset. While sounds are variously rhythmic, dissonant, and harsh, the lyrics and visual presentations can often be transgressive, inspired by experimental science fiction authors like William S. Burroughs and J. G. Ballard, or even a film like David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. You can see a lot of this aesthetic at play with the early work of a band like Einstürzende Neubauten, which had the sort of ramshackle, post-industrial and apocalyptic vibe, but in a place where music met performance art.
With that in mind, here are a few musical approaches to creating industrial textures with Trash 2. By no means is this a definitive or exhaustive approach to making industrial music, or even a catalog of the genre’s most popular sounds. Instead, what follows are a few ways of thinking about how to warp and distort sound in your music—whether you want to work within the genre itself, or want to incorporate some of the sounds or textures into your existing musical repertoire.
Make drones metallic
Another seminal industrial band is Coil, which featured John Balance and his partner Peter Christopherson, formerly of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Coil experimented with all sorts of sounds, but on their 2000 album Time Machines, the duo created deeply hypnotic post-industrial drones. It’s really not industrial in the traditional sense, but there is a certain metallic quality to parts of these songs.
To create a sound similar to Time Machines, but also something like the more drone-based tunes of Gescom (an Autechre-related project), program your synth or sampler’s sequencer to play notes with slow attack and decay, and long sustain and releases. Use an LFO to slowly modulate frequency, resonance, pitch or other parameters, and use effects like distortion, chorus, reverb, and delay. The key is to experiment.
For this clip, we repeated one note on the first step of each bar of a 64-step sequence, using an Elektron Digitakt. We then ran the sequence through Trash 2. We used the plug-in twice on our track. The first instance was set to Convolve’s FX - Copper Buzz, while the second instant features processing from the Remember Gak preset, which includes Trash’s Fuzz - Wrecktifier, Convolve’s Devices - Metal Barrell, and Dynamics. All of this works to give the drone a more metallic, industrial quality.
Create dark, pulsating basslines
A major element in many industrial artists’ arsenal is the dark, pulsating bassline. It’s an approach that has much in common with the electronic music of Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and it works whether you want to explore the sounds like Cabaret Voltaire or industrial metal like NIN or Ministry.
The clip below features a galloping bassline sequence. While it’s already got a moody hue, we wanted to make it a bit darker and harsher.
We used three different settings in in the plug-in: Trash, Convolve, and Dynamics. Trash is set to Distort - Electric Trash to give it some grit, while Convolve is set to Body- Intimate, which simultaneously seems to brighten the sound and give it the feeling that it is in a room with considerable space. We used the compressor in Dynamics to control some blistering at the top end.
Glitch things out
Another common ingredient in industrial music is glitch. You can hear this in early Throbbing Gristle work, or even in something like Nurse With Wounds’ 1986 album Spiral Insana, which seems to revel in error-like sounds. A more modern touchstone for glitched-out industrial and electronic music would be Oneohtrix Point Never, whose 2015 album, Garden of Delete, is stuffed with glitch and error, and borders on industrial music at times.
A good place to start is with random sounds, whether they’re your own or found in the public domain, or even sampled from YouTube and warped beyond recognition. Get these sounds sequenced, or play them live by triggering them on a keyboard or sampler’s drum pads. From there, run them into Trash 2.
Our clip below features several samples randomly sequenced on an Elektron Digitakt, with some delay and reverb on some of these samples. We decided to process this glitchy sequence using Trash 2’s Convolve and Trash settings. In Trash, we applied Saturate - Grain distortion to give it a grainy quality, while Convolve’s FX - Electric Gate gives these glitched-out sequences of samples a more uniform tonality. It might not be a full song, but this could serve as an interesting intro or interlude.