goth, n. flock of black sheep

so said an unknown denizen of aus.culture.gothic

"...sounds like it's come full circle..."

i've gone from nervous, clueness newbie; to a regular; to someone who knew everyone in the room; to someone who'd never seen half the people in the room; to someone who knows the people who came with him in the car.

perhaps if i had to classify myself now i'd say.... well, me. i get called goth; fair enough - i have a very large amount of black clothing and very little colour. i listen to goth, industrial, trance, plus a lot of other stuff. i go to the occasional 'goth' club, despite them being of a consistently average quality in this town. if i had to classify myself... cybergoth has felt right for a long time, but it's only just coming up on the list of possibilities that people cite.

i can't help but think this is all just a symptom of getting older. i'm not a teen anymore; and although my life now has realities like coming up with rent and car payments every week, i'm glad i don't have that sheer bullshit level of hormones anymore. i don't feel that angst - i'm now one of those people i used wonder about on the scene. the happy ones, the ones that seem to want to be happy no less. the shame! not a shred of angst on that sleeve.

well ok that's crap, but 20-something angst smells different and there's less hand-forehead-nail involved. eventually i stopped caring about "what is goth" because i had long since realised that - like most things in life - goth is exactly what each person thinks it is. there is an overall picture which others can see and goths should just admit and move on. it really doesn't matter and nothing drives that home like a big dose of reality.

move out, get a degree, get a job, get a loan, get yourself into a whole new phase of life. then try to figure out where the hell the goth scene fits in - because at the end of the day your friends are a group separate from anything else you or they do, and they're the people that matter. not the scene as a whole.

there's a certain freedom to that... it's an interesting change from hoping you "look right" to not giving a shit because you're wearing what you like; and on top of that, you know your friends will still be pleased to see you no matter what you're wearing. freedom from the very scene you originally thought was freedom from conformity :)

there are two sides to the conformist coin. one; the goth scene as a whole is nonconformist when compared with the theoretical "mainstream". two; inside the goth scene is an entire culture complete with some surprisingly unbending 'rules'. neither side makes it valid or invalid - it just is. let goth be goth and other pseudo eastern philosophy.

but at the end of all this, what of the scene if you end up finding you really do care more about individuals after all? well, what of it. the scene is a place where i've met some howling looneys and general fuckups; but in between i've met people who are intelligent, wonderful, gentle, accepting, adventurous, affectionate and talented with a good dash of hedonism thrown in. amazing people, who don't need the approval of the masses to live their own lives. people who saw the sheep and realised they were different. black sheep, living their lives in authenticity.

it's all good if you're happy in the end.

2001.09.21 and half a glass of JD Old No.7

a new perspective

march 2000

Much time has passed since i first donned black jeans and docs. It feels very strange to think of my first clubbing experiences. i recently saw a photo of myself and the group i went with to my first club.... man, we were so wrong. I don't mean to sound harsh, but that's how i feel now. i like to think we grew a few clues since then :)

Times following that night were strange days... For many reasons, i went through a period of great change around the same time as i started going to goth clubs. Luckily the goth scene in BrisVegas was pretty friendly; when i rocked up on my own i was able to meet a large number of people simply by going up to their table and asking if they'd mind being joined by a complete stranger. i sometimes wonder what it's like to wander into the scene these days... you can't really be objective about it when you walk into a lot of clubs and know half the people in the room :) [note: that says a lot more about the size of the scene in Brisbane than it does about me]

I digress.

The point i'm pondering is the way in which i became concerned with definitions of "goth" (etc); and what was acceptable, what wasn't, and where the lines were. i guess it was a hangover from highschool combined with the attitudes i was encountering.

"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standards of nonconformity."

- unknown

It's eternally astonishing the way members of a supposedly tolerant subculture can be so incredibly intolerant of difference and individuality. This is not to say that your average newbie doesn't make some clangers, or that a certain level of newbie-bashing doesn't have its place. There is an element of finding out who's serious enough to hang around, and who's just read their latest Cleo and discovered that "goth" is sooo in for the next half hour. But wholesale newbie roasting for the sake of it is just stupid; as is the attitude that everyone in the scene should subscribe to the same exact style of dress and music.

People and scenes evolve (to some degree) whether you like it or not. Someone who has been part of the goth scene since it was the punk scene (goth history buffs can debate the validity of that statement elsewhere :)) will not like the same music and have the same dress sense as someone who came into the scene around the NIN Downward Spiral era. Their influences are totally different. Hell, the newbies have grown up with computers and internet; it only takes a difference of a few years for one sibling to grow up in a different world to another - in the same family.

Sure, you average mansonite/scary kiddie is pretty clueless, but that doesn't mean that they will never discover other bands and lighten up a tad. Hell, people thought NINies would never change, but plenty of us did ;) Total and exclusive worship of one band does not really constitute being part of the goth scene anyway. I understand that I'm leaking hypocritical vibes here; but I do think most manson kiddies act like idiots. So long as they don't try to tell me that MM invented goth, then I'll leave them alone - I can see myself a couple of years ago, just with different shirts and better music ;)

But here's a little hint for all you old-school ubergoths out there: being pretentious, expecting newbies to be exactly like you and generally acting gother-than-thou will only make people think you are a prat. Telling them how you were sinking snakebites when they were in nappies does nothing more than give away your age under the pancake makeup.

I'm not trying to encourage a scene separation here; i do not want to see a club like a high school dance, with the boys on one side and the girls on the other. I don't want to see total non-communication between older goths and newer goths; I can tell you from experience that there's no real reason why the two groups can't be friendly. When I rolled - alone - into a club for the first time (not counting the new year's eve outing), I ran into someone I'd met at uni. We struck up a conversation, had a few drinks, some more conversation, some more drinks. Pretty soon we were good friends, despite an age difference of about 7 years.

People really should try talking to each other a lot more.

What's in a name?

Call it Neo-Gothic, New-wave Gothic, or whatever version you'd like to create. That'll stop these smart-arse fuckwits who like to say how real goths existed centuries ago and had first names like "visi", or that it's a style of Architecture. To such people: grow up for fuck's sake, it's such a stupid "argument" to try to use - irrelevant and playing stupid. Piss off until you have something worth saying.


Not All Goths Are Gothic

I forget who it was who originally came up with the flock of black sheep idea (somebody on aus.culture.gothic I think) but it is by far the best "definition" I've come across. I put that in inverted commas because, well, it's one hell of a contentious issue. Nobody can come up with just one definition, but I suppose that's part of living with goth... and yes, the "living with the neighbours from hell" inflection is intentional.

Goth is a strange beast. It seems to me that the word goth could be used almost synonymously with "pretentious fuck city", because that's how it tends to be a lot of the time. I'm told that the PtF (Pretentious fuck) population is unfortunately high in Brisbane; an opinion voiced and supported by many people who've been in the scene a lot longer than myself (having only come into gothdom a bit over a year ago) But then, just when I was about to renounce my "gothic" ways and hang up my trenchcoat (well OK I'm a trenchcoat addict, maybe I would have hung up my velvet waistcoat or something), I realised that in amongst the PtF's are some wonderful people.

I guess goth is what it means to you personally. It's a pity that people just can't take that suggestion as fair. The problem with the scene is that the older more "established" (well, it's usually the older ones - with some stunning exceptions) goths have their own pet idea of it and cannot accept that not everyone has that exact same definition. Basically, they want everyone to be exactly the same as them. Rather than accepting that goths are a collection of people who, for one reason or another, find "the mainstream" isn't for them. It's unreasonable to expect those people to all be the same - they are after all a flock of proverbial black sheep.

Now, I got into the whole gothic thing by a fairly natural progression. I'd been getting into industrial music for some time and had been listening to the cure and depeche mode for years (fuck you at the back saying it's mainstream), so for new year's eve I went with some people I know to the new year's MIDIAN : Necromechanikal. What can I say? A night with NIN, PWEI, Sisters of Mercy, Ministry, the cure etc etc and lots of people in black. I sat there most of the night going "Wow" and "I've gotta get one of those" (like most newbie goths).

So, for the next six weeks I worked a shithouse job: full time, 5 1/2 days a week, $5.84/hour selling schoolbooks to SHPOSs (sub human pieces of shit) who didn't look like they could speak a full sentence without grunting. With money I got from that, I went out and bought docs (again, fuck you), black jeans, a blue german velvet waistcoat and some buckles for the docs. Since then, the black content of my wardrobe has kinda grown and I've been back to the ol' Normanby Hotel many a time.

What amazes me is the reactions I got from some other people; not just the older people but even some who'd "been goth" for... let me see... a couple of months longer than me. Phew, hardcore! To be fair, yes they had been there before me. But when you realise that they were not 40km from the nearest public transport and basically unable to go clubbing like I was, I don't think their attitude towards me and many others was justified... that old classic: "You're not a fucking goth".

So I've stuck with it, because in the end I realised (after a lot of soul-searching) that I didn't START wearing black and listening to industrial because of other people, so I sure as fuck shouldn't STOP for that reason. Of course, I no longer think I'm "gothic"; it's what I get called by normals and I'm happy with that, but with other goths I suppose I'm part of the "Industrial Swampie" set. IS being a term local DJ Starfish used when he addressed the issue in his monthly mag. Black is still the overriding theme, but in a different way to the classic goths... and the music is different, but even with this I don't fit into the subgrouping of industrial. I like industrial, goth, 80s, punk, good techno like Prodigy, ambient and even a little deephouse/trance. Try fitting that into a subculture :) it just doesn't go...

I guess with the "gothic" subculture, as we're dubbed, it comes down to the fact that - as part of the scene - we can see the sub-sub-cultures that normals can't really see. However, we are all in the same general region of life, and should just be keeping the words "friendly fire" in mind. Maybe the Gothic goths need to lighten up about Industrial goths, but far more likely we just need to collectively say "We're just goth, OK?" and all lighten the fuck up.

So I'm goth because that's where I gravitate to. It's the closest thing to cultural home I've found and that'll do me... besides, I really fucking love trenchcoats, boots, velvet waistcoats, silver buckles/jewellery etcetc.

I guess I've strayed way off "what is goth" but on that I'll just say this.... whatever goth is, to you or to everyone, it should be hell of a lot more fun than it often is. Sure, the whole angst/mopey/depressed thing is a part of it, but the idea is - or should/could be - that you can have that realist/non-shinyhappy view of the world and still have a good time. Fuck, I'm a cynical bastard a lot of the time but it doesn't mean I have to be depressed EVERY hour of the day. Another important thing to remember is that gothdom is dynamic; just like every other scene it changes. Without change comes stagnation, and with that comes boredom. Just ask Johnny Rotten ;) You've got to float with change sometimes, and not destroy the whole scene because it's not the same as when you started out within it.


As an afterword, I've become fairly sick of analysing it - no matter how intelligent the points raised are, gother-than-thou's will never give up their view.

I feel that nobody should every "try" to "be goth", as much as I must admit I used to. Just be yourself, if that happens to be goth then so be it. Don't conform either way. If people can't handle it, fuck them... which is pretty much why you'll still see me in a bright blue CUSTARD shirt at times, or one of my baggy long-sleeve T-shirts. I don't give a shit if it's not all black all the time, or if I don't measure up to someone else's pet little idea of what it's all suppose to be and how I should dress/act or what music I should listen to. I'm sick of hearing it, I don't care anymore about some ultra-pretentious git's view of what's "goth as fuck" (ie themselves). I did once, but I saw the light (maybe that should be half-light? :)).

For the non-pretentious goths out there... especially newbies deciding if it's for them... There are some wonderful people out there in that strange goth world; people you can relate to, who can accept you as you are. Ignore the rest of them, selectively.

For the pretentious fucks out there... tell someone who cares. I have little time for you or anything you have to say.