Body Memory Body, A Stripping of a Musical Material

“Steal! Just steal! There’s nothing real in this world, so take what you want– Just steal!” –Leaether Strip “Steal”

In an effort to add more material to this thing, I have decided to write about little snippets of my life. It’s the details I am obsessed with, usually, as it is the details that combine to create a whole; a whole that is enjoyed by everyone else. But there are those of us caught up on the little things, enjoying the whole range of tastes and sensations life has to offer us. Naturally, it’s easy to get hung up on details and the little things– which is what I am doing right now.

So, let’s get hung up on one small detail from the exciting drudgery of my carbon-based existence.

Head like this hole

Head like this hole

A long time ago, in early 1994 to be exact, I was 18. There are a whole bunch of stories to be had during this time period, but I will stay focused and just mention the facts as they pertain to this particular flashback. I had– still have– a friend named Donovan, and he was really into industrial music like me. If you are unfamiliar with what industrial music is, or elektro, EBM, darkwave, etc, the internet is truly your friend right now. But in short, it is a form of music I am most interested in and have been since I was around 16. I’m almost 38 right now, so that should tell you something.

Like me, Donovan scoured record shops and scavenged whatever he could in order to find new music. New industrial music. That distinction was very important. One day he found a serious score: Leaether Strip’s “Material” 12″ on vinyl. It was  discovered through a record shop called 4000 Holes, probably still around today, in Spokane, in the great state of Washington, Americaland. To say this kind of discovery was rare would be a severe understatement. The owner, Bob I think his name was/is, had a habit of selling promo product (that is, product sent from record labels free of charge to play in nightclubs or at the store to promote sales)… which might sound lame, but when you think on it a bit, it was pretty nice of him. He liked to take advantage of the goth kids, but we got to have awesome music we would have to order from shitty catalogs we managed to get our clammy, nail-bitten hands on otherwise.

leaetherstrip_material_record_side_A

This 12″ record was certainly a one-off promo. We didn’t care. Donovan informed me of this Great Find quickly. We had heard of Leaether Strip through Cleopatra Records catalogs and compilations. I used to call Cleopatra “Queen of the Comps” and for good reason, as that label made its entire reputation on its myriad and mind-blowing array of compilations it released over a couple of decades. Back in the 90’s, if you lived in North America, Cleopatra was almost always your introductory label to the goth-industrial scene. Then you picked up some issues of Industrial Nation, eye-liner, tights, camo pants, a leather jacket, a surly attitude, some combination of all that, usually, and you were set.

It was a process, really. I know Skinny Puppy said that their album “The Process” was named for some groupy groupthink art organization outfit, but I like to think it was named for the process in which you dive into a scene, a group, a gang of like-minded individuals. Wait. That’s what The Process as a group is! Well, nevermind, then.

Strip’s Material EP was a part of this process. At this point in my life, the guy behind Leather Strip was some kind of mysterious robot alien that made awesome music. It wasn’t until I heard his release “Solitary Confinement” shortly after finding Material that I fell in love with his brain.

Donovan and I listened to that EP over and over. Later that year I became a club DJ, which is a fun story in of itself, involving insults, injury, and nails (and another guy named Steve). We’ll save that one for a future installment, alright? Anyway, my buddy and I loved the shit out of Material. We would play that sucker over and over and talk and smoke cigarettes and play it for friends. It was an anthem for our souls. Sure, we liked industrial music, but here is a guy who got us. Who got what we wanted. And once I heard Solitary Confinement, Claus Larsen, the biological organism behind Leaether Strip, became my favorite musical artist of all time.

It’s odd to think that, you know? The Beatles, The Doors, or Bob Dylan should be at the top of my “greatest musical bards of all time” list, not Leaether Strip, Laibach, and Front Line Assembly.

Okay, Neil Diamond, too– hey, he’s the fucking MAN. He’s my Johnny Cash; and I love Cash, too.

What also made Material a standout to me are the live tracks. They sounded as good as studio tracks… which I later heard and was underwhelmed by. Take the song “Japanese Bodies“, for instance. The album cut of that just doesn’t resonate with me. The Material version is the one I think of, have played in clubs, and is the version I prefer. It is harder, meaner, darker, and better as far as I’m concerned.

Alas, we were so goddamned young. The record ended up in my stuff somehow, and I didn’t even know it, thinking I had given it back to Donovan after I had DJ’d it a bunch. I had a tape recording of it (well, three, actually– I liked my bases covered) and didn’t even know it had been lost in the Teen Adult Shuffle of Youth until it was re-discovered one day in someone’s truck, partially melted and warped. It seemed a fitting end for that record, reflecting our souls in some meaningful, poignant, and utterly cliche way.

leaetherstrip_material_image

Today I was notified via email that Claus has released the Material EP through Bandcamp. You can go listen to it whole, in all of its early-90’s, groundbreaking, elektro-EBM glory. I have listened to “Body Machine Body” nine times now. And the transition into Japanese Bodies still gives me chills. It is a prime example of industrial electronic body music. I do have all of these tracks in various forms on a whole bunch of different kinds of media, but there’s something about listening to it from the official release. To me, anyway.

Yeah, I know you may not be into this sort of thing. But I am. The least I could do is dedicate a bit o’ writing to one of the pieces of plastic, representing but a fragment of an amazing human being, that shaped me into the person you see today.

All of this leaves me with one final thought: “I wonder how Donovan is doing… haven’t heard from him for a while…”

leaetherstrip_material_zoth_image

Postscript: I can’t mention Strip without mentioning Zoth Ommog, the brilliantly named record label from Germany that brought us all these fantastic bands. Thanks, Zoth. Thanks for everything.

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2 Responses to “Body Memory Body, A Stripping of a Musical Material”

  1. Hi, I check your blog on a regular basis.
    Your story-telling style is witty, keep up the good work!

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