If you're a Nine Inch Nails fan, you most likely know of the "Happiness in Slavery" video.
In the video, a man (Bob Flanagan, famous body performer) walks into a dingy room filled with dead flowers, candles . . . and a dentist's chair. He lights the candles, takes off his clothes, cleans himself, and willingly sits in the chair. Immediately, the chair comes to life, strapping him in and inserting wires into his wrists. The chair proceeds to claw at him, poke at him, and finally . . . rip at him.
Grinders, more claws, being tearing him apart. By the end, he's a bloody mess. The chair enfolds him and grinds him into ground beef. Food for the worms occupying the space underneath the chair.
The room resets just as a young Trent Reznor walks into the room, about to meet the same fate . . .
I watched this video for the first time when I was 12. I was shocked. But inspired. I used to bring my friends over to watch it. People seemed to laugh it all off. But I was connecting with them with their shock, even if they left my house weak kneed and shaken.
Since then, I sought out more shocking media in the music realm. The 90's were ripe with it. From Manson, Rob Zombie, Pantera, popular metal videos at the time were all my parents would allow me to watch.
When an artist can shock their way into an audience's heart, truly, not just for shock's sake but to say something brutally honest, I personally find that to be my favorite form of art.
Now, popular music (including popular indie rock) is pretty tame. The 90's ended, post-grunge killed the dark side of music for awhile.
I feel like most artists try to play it safe within the confines of NOT OFFENDING. I think this fear is truly hurting our society. I want to see more outspoken artists, but there seems to be a tangible line most people don't want to cross. How can we break from this bondage?
But there have been notable little pop-ups here and there since.
Below are a couple of my favorites. They're not too bad, but I feel like they skirt the line the best between good taste and bad.
What do you think? Do they hit you hard in a way that makes you think or makes you give up and run for the toilet, never again wanting to deal with anything from that one artist:
HEALTH - We Are Water
JUSTICE - Stress
M.I.A. - Born Free
As an artist, especially with PATCH, I've tried my best to skirt that edge between good taste and bad.
We're currently making a concept that deals with a sailor running up a beach with a thousand other people hoping to make it to a bunker, only to be shot down by said bunker in explosively violent ways.
I'd like to play a conceptual show where the entire band becomes more bloody based on a failing heart symbolizing the connection between artist and audience. Our drums supply the pump, the people supply the blood. So the audience is basically controlling how much blood covers us by being inactive or active with their screams and enthusiasm. Less enthusiastic = more blood. It'll be interesting how people react to this type of show . . .
A man is imprisoned by a humanoid fly representing the decay of his art (it's all in his mind). The fly wishes to eat him. To do so, he seduces him with promising to visit him more frequently in his solitary prison box and not leaving him alone. They start to fall for each other. The fly actually begins to care for his prey, but the prey has defensive mechanisms that the fly can't eat. At this point, the fly turns to rape and insectile rage (see "In Hopes to Mend" on our first record SCHEMATICS).
How far is too far? It's fun to fuck with that line.