Post Reply What IS Goth?
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Posted 4/2/09 , edited 4/3/09

The "What IS Goth?" FAQ
-by Sean Osborn

Alright, I am disturbed about the amount of people who are clueless or misinformed about what exactly 'Goth' is, so I took the time to write this FAQ.

What is Goth?
'Goth,' in context, refers to a subculture of people who are fans of a subgenre of post-punk called "Gothic Rock."

Then what is Goth Rock?
Goth Rock was a derivative of the Punk subgenre called "Post-Punk."

Post-Punk, A subgenre of Punk Rock, was popular in the mid-late 70's. Popular bands included The Smiths, Morrissey, Public Image Ltd, The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Joy Division.

With Joy Division's Rimbaud-inspired lyrics and stylistic approach to the genre, a new genre was inspired. Goth Rock, originally called "Positive Punk" referring to less the less chaotic and negative subjection, was dubbed as such due to the inherent inspiration from Gothic literature and romanticist poetry like Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Rimbaud, William Wordsworth, George Gordon Byron, William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, John Milton, and even Friedrich Nietzsche.

Bands such as Specimen, Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Sex Gang Children, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Marche Violets, Danse Society, The Cult, Alien Sex Fiend, and even New Order gathered in clubs such as the famous London Batcave and a culture was born.

Okay, so what exactly is a Goth?
A person who is a fan of the genre Goth Rock and who's lifestyle embodies the aesthetic, poetic, and philosophical concepts conveyed by said music.

I thought Goth was about wearing black and dressing scary, so what about fashion?
In terms of fashion, some goths took after the styles of their favorite band members, others dabbled in fusion, and still others wore anything from all black to bright yellows and pinks to white Tshirts and blue jeans. Contrary to belief, Goth in itself is not a fashion nor was it ever. However, the fashion style that is related to the real 'goth' scene is 25% Victorian/Renaissance inspired, 30% Fetish inspired, and 40% Punk inspired. It's not uncommon to see a goth girl dressed in a corset and skirt combo adorned with safety pins, a ripped leopard-print tank under a spiked and/or studded DIY'd leather jacket, ripped fishnets under combat boots, and a spiked or o-ringed collar and cuffs. Does this make "Goth" a fashion? No.

What ISN'T Goth?
Sadly in the mid 90's the culture became vastly misunderstood due to the spreading ignorance of what were labeled "Mallgawfs."

Mallgawf; A grouping of poseurs who were inspired [fashion and musical tastes] by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Cradle of Filth, Evanescence, Slipknot, and various other Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, and Doom Metal bands. They claimed to be Goth and thus ushered in an age of ignorance.

To any who would claim Goth is about mopey, melancholic, morbid, or 'dark' matters, I offer to you to listen to "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure and be rightfully corrected.

As for those who believe it to be about non-conformity, just look at some of the bands that make up the genre and be corrected. Non conformity is a silly and flawed concept in that one really just conforms to another set of ideals and norms.

Goth may be more to some people and less to others but the fact is that through it's etymology and thus very definition, it will forever and always be about the music.

Are there different kinds of Goth music?
Yes, there are a handfull of Goth subgenres in existence. Goth comes in two big categories, bands with a first generation sound and bands with a second generation sound.

Batcave, named after the club where Goth Rock got it's start, refers to the original bands which formed what Goth became today. Examples are The Cure, Bauhaus, Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Sex Gang Children, and arguably Joy Division
Deathrock was the first generation of Goth that developed in America. Of all the subgenres its the closest to Punk. Famous Deathrock bands are Christian Death, Kommunity FK and 45 Grave.
Gothic Rock is Goth with some Hard Rock influences, usually with deep male vocals. The most famous bands are The Sisters Of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim and The Mission.
Dark Wave is Goth with some ethereal and electronic influences added. Examples of "Gothic Dark Wave" are Clan of Xymox, Cruxshadows, and Frozen Autumn.

Isn't Metal and Rock like Nightwish, Cradle Of Filth, Evanescence, Marilyn Manson, Within Temptation,... Goth?
No, I'm afraid not. Completely different kinds of music. Even Gothic Metal is in fact not Goth, its just a name. This music gets confused a lot cause its also very dark themed. And because a lot of its fans (usually Metalheads) wear black clothing too. Which makes them similar in look to Goths for the casual observer, but in fact even the fashions are completely different.

Isn't electronic music like Combichrist, VNV Nation, Grendel, Covenant, Front 242,... Goth?
Again no, completely different kind of music. This music or its fans (Rivetheads and Cybers usually) don't really resemble Goth anyway. This music gets confused with Goth cause it gets played side by side with Goth on a number of clubnights and festivals. Although this is getting more and more rare.

What other musical genres and prominent bands are wrongly confused with Goth?
• Gothic Metal
• Black Metal
• Death Metal
• Nu-Metal
• Industrial
• Synthpop
• Futurepop
• “Emo”
• Pagan/Folk Metal
• Symphonic Metal
• Symphonic Power Metal
• Dark Ambient
• Visual Kei

Bands that are mistakenly confused for Goth: HIM, A Perfect Circle, Dimmu Borgir, AFI, Combichrist, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, Nightwish, Wumpscut, Evanescence, Marilyn Manson, Cradle of Filth, Slipknot, Korn, Emilie Autumn, Andrew W.K., Children of Bodom, Good Charlotte, Hatebreed, Jack Off Jill, In Flames, Kittie, KoRn, Linkin Park, Ministry, Morbid Angel, Mudvayne, Murderdolls, My Chemical Romance, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Rammstein, Rasputina, Razed In Black, Skinny Puppy, Tool, VNV Nation, Wednesday 13, Deathstars,...

Why didn't I know this yet?
You have been lied to by the media who is mostly ignorant about the subject. In the 80s everyone knew perfectly well what Goth was, even the media. Cause the music and subculture was as good as mainstream for a period. In the 90s when Goth went back underground the trouble started. The media started to confuse Goth with other dark themed music. Or even with anything dark like Vampirism, Satanism and school shootings. Because of that most people today stay completely ignorant of what Goth is. Fortunately you stumbled across one of the few reliable sources here.

Additional Passages

When most people thing "Gothic" they immediately think of dark gloomy depressing things wearing black and worshiping vampirism. This is a blatant misinterpretation.
Gothic Rock was originally called "Positive Punk" because it had a much warmer sound and a less negative subject matter as punk did. The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" and "Just Like Heaven" are examples of songs that are far from gloomy.

The fashion was not unlike punk albeit a bit refined. Roz Williams and Siouxsie Sioux were among the few more extremes in the fashion. Victorian fashion also found its way into the scene.

Gothic Rock is named as such as it relates to the Romantic movement in the Victorian era. An era which saw the Gothic Revival and the dawn of Gothic Literature [Which was more about love and tragedy than death and doom] and is as thus what some lyrics are inspired by. The philosophy is quite opposite than the widely accepted and distorted version. The philosophy of it is more about finding beauty in all aspects of life. It's realism in a wide perspective.

Dawning in the late 90's, a large contributor to the distortion of the image of Gothic Rock, was the ever annoying 'Gothic' Metal [Though technically listed under 'Alternative Metal' and 'Extreme Metal'] that saw bands like Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Cradle of Filth, and the like. Their associated image brought themes like death, darkness, morbidity, and such into the picture, dressing up like vampires and the like.

Thanks to them you see kids on myspace wearing pentagram shirts, baggy bondage pants, and other cliche'd aspects of fashion, trying to look all evil and shit. And hence they call themselves "Goth" and ruin it for everyone else.

Then there's Marilyn Manson. I am not going to go into his music too much. He isn't the most talented person, he can't sing, but he sounds decent pulling the raspy talking off. Some of his songs are very entertaining no-doubt, and he seems quite the intelligent person. If only he'd mature past trying to shock or offend people for the sake of enjoyment, he might be found to be a great guy.

However, many of his fans were the ones to destroy the image of the original Goth Rock. They are often called "Kindergoffs" or "Mallgoffs" because they are usually Hot Topic [a mall-brand selling alternative fashion] shopping kids who call themselves "Goth."

The knowledge of the oldschool Batcavers have been completely raped forever thanks to these people. An entire musical genre filled with brilliant and imaginative artists have been destroyed my uneducated children who want to piss off their mommies and daddies.

And might I add; emo has absolutely no relation or even similarity, for that matter, to Goth. There's plenty of those ignorant of the subject who like to group them together. I don't even truly know what Emo is and admit my ignorance of it, but from what I know about the whining teenage angst it's about and the examples of suburban brats claiming their life sucks and how everyone hates them, they want to die, blah blah etc, I doubt I want to know.

This is no insult to those who like the whole emo thing, it's just my observations and as I have already admitted my ignorance on the subject of emo, the only valid source of knowledge I have is from my own observations.

The Progression of Goth

What is Goth? I speak not of the germanic barbarians who sacked rome at the end of the age of antiquity. I speak not of Gothic Literature or Architecture. However, for one to understand what a Goth is one must first understand the music that inspired a culture...

The Music
Punk. It was loud. It was chaotic. It was great! Bands like Sex Pistols and The Ramones cited inspirations from The Who and Iggy Pop.

However, in the mid 70's Punk lay dying. You see Punk had a purpose, a specific focus, a goal. Whether that may have been a call to arms against Margarat Thatcher or a call for pure anarchy, that goal had been marginally achieved by this time and so for the spirit of Punk to live on, it had to evolve.

And so the spirit of Punk dawned new clothes and lived again in a new genre, Post Punk. However such an existence was as ill-fated and short as it's previous incarnation. Why? Well post-punk was dreary and the same bland sound was regurgitated out over and over again. It was crap. However one could not estimate that such a genre would go anywhere.

One could be so wrong.

Then one bright young man from Manchester would soon change the world forever....

Ian Curtis, the disturbed yet creative young man suffering from epilepsy and the lyricist and frontman for Joy Division had ushered in a new age and a new sound.
Joy Division, was a post-punk band.

Joy division had started a new sound, but they were still Post-Punk. Post Punk could not live as this new sound was destined for great things.

Then came a revolution..

The Bauhaus was formed and only 2 months after formation they had a hit. "Bela Lugosi's Dead" was as the bands title implicated, "Stylish, Daring, New."

The spirit of Punk was rejuvenated, but this time it was no longer Punk. It had evolved. And the fans of this music were thus christened "Goths."

Bands like Specimen, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Sex Gang Children, Siouxsie Sioux and The Banshees, The Mission, The Damned, UK Decay, Alien Sex Fiend, had molded what was to originally be called "Positive Punk" but later renamed "Gothic Rock" inspired by the poetic romanticist movement of the victorian age. The music was thriving. Even The Sex Pistol's former frontman Johnny "Rotten" Lydon joined in with Public Image Ltd.

Goth was alive and well. A whole club was dedicated to honoring and cultivating this sound, it was called "The Bat Cave." Subgenres such as Deathrock, Darkwave, and EBM sprouted out and gave birth to even more subgenres.

Example of Goth
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Posted 5/4/09 , edited 5/4/09
Wow, you wrote a perfectly great essay on this. Great job!
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34 / M / In your dreams...
Posted 5/9/09 , edited 5/9/09

PrincessIshtar wrote:

Wow, you wrote a perfectly great essay on this. Great job!

Thanks. ^^
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Posted 5/9/09 , edited 5/9/09

Ice_Blue_Eyes wrote:

PrincessIshtar wrote:

Wow, you wrote a perfectly great essay on this. Great job!

Thanks. ^^

You are welcome. Atleast now people would stop saying werid or mean random stuff about Goths.
Posted 7/12/09 , edited 7/12/09
Woaw thanks there .))
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Posted 7/22/09 , edited 7/22/09
I think after ice blue eyes' post, no one is brave enough to write anything else
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