Archive-Name: uk/gothic Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-Modified: 2015/11/07 Version: 1.2.37 URL: http://gfaq.ogive.org/ Maintainer: Dave H <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The UK Goth Mini-FAQ is an unofficial Frequently Asked Questions document for the gothic subculture in the United Kingdom. It hopefully provides some useful information in a succinct manner, although it doesn’t attempt to detail every facet of the scene. Comments and updates are welcome; please use the maintainer email address listed at the top of the document. Alternatively, comment by following-up posts of the FAQ to the uk.people.gothic newsgroup.
Note: Please contact the author (via email or uk.people.gothic) if you’re interested in taking over the maintenance of this document.
From version 1.2.36:
From version 1.2.35:
The original Goths were an ancient Germanic tribe which split into the separate Ostrogoth and Visigoth tribes in the third century. The Visigoths secured their place in history in the year 268, when they invaded the Roman Empire and swarmed over the Balkan peninsula.
Post-Roman invasion, the word “Gothic” became used to describe the uncivilised, ignorant or barbarous. The Renaissance humanists of Italy used this negative sense to describe a style of architecture prevalent in Western Europe, which they detested. This resulted in the term becoming synonymous with the dark and ominous, like the architecture itself. Its use expanded to cover the macabre in the 19th century, when it was used to describe writings such as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.
The term “gothic” became increasing used throughout the 1980s to describe both a style of music and a movement growing out of the ashes of punk rock. By the late 1980s goth had become mainstream, with bands such as All About Eve, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim – all labelled as gothic rock by the music press – finding commercial success. A distinctive and arresting fashion had developed too, with long crimped hair (dyed black), voluminous velvet dresses (black), tight jeans (black) and leather jackets (also black) all forming part of the staple goth look.
As the music media lost interest in goth in the early 1990s, it started to shrink from view. However, united by a common love of dark music, a network of fanzines and friendships held the scene together. Goth nights sprung up around the country to play the music more general alternative nights would not.
Goth re-established itself as a bona fide underground scene, rapidly finding new fans and exploring different directions in both look and sound. Bands from the 1990s such as Rosetta Stone and Children on Stun explored electronic music to a great degree, whilst still maintaining a distinctive guitar-driven gothic feel. Many goth nights were also havens for industrial rock, which resulted in a certain amount of crossover between the scenes.
Bands popular in today’s scene include The Birthday Massacre, The Crüxshadows, Inkubus Sukkubus, The Last Dance, Manuskript and Partly Faithful (ex-Screaming Banshee Aircrew). Electro-industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music) projects such as Combichrist, Front Line Assembly and VNV Nation are also popular with many, especially the contingent known as “cybergoths”. Many cybergoths also enthuse about rhythmic noise; sometimes known as power noise, its sound is typified by projects such as Converter and early Noisex. A host of post-punk and new wave bands such as The Soft Moon and Tropic of Cancer became popular with goths in the 2010s, as did a form of lo-fi ambient electronica known as (post-)witch house.
The scene is alive and active, supported by its own infrastructure of promoters, designers, manufacturers and musicians. Furthermore, goth shows no sign of going away; it has an irrepressible persistence, much like its namesake, the ancient Goths.
The term “gothic” emerged in 1979 to describe various post-punk bands. Joy Division’s sound was described as gothic by their producer Martin Hannett, and by Factory Records co-founder Anthony H. Wilson. Meanwhile, Siouxsie and the Banshees used the term to describe their Join Hands album.
Other important “gothic” bands from the early 1980s include Bauhaus, Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult and UK Decay. Abbo from UK Decay inadvertently identified an emerging goth movement in a 1981 Sounds interview, and Ian Astbury (Southern Death Cult) used the term “goths” to describe Sex Gang Children fans.
For more information, see An Early History of Goth by Pete Scathe.
The goth scene is rich in religious imagery, including symbols such as ankhs, crucifixes and pentacles; however it is neither a religious nor an occult movement. It is seldom an issue in the goth scene, and there are goths who are atheists, agnostics, Christians and Pagans, as well as other beliefs too.
Religion is not a major theme for most goth bands either, even though many do have members who are religious. The Pagan group Inkubus Sukkubus are an exception to this, and have loyal fans in both goth and Pagan circles. For an example of a Christian goth icon, look no further than Nick Cave; he describes how he came to embrace religion in the essay The Flesh Made Word, which can be found amoungst the pages of King Ink II (Two Thirteen Sixty-One Publications, 1997).
There are practically no links between the goth and vampire scenes; they are two different subcultures with a very small amount of crossover.
When the mainstream media covers goth, it invariably involves vampire and witchcraft undertones for the amusement of the general public. Interestingly, Peter Murphy (Bauhaus) has intimated that the seminal single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – named after the Count Dracula actor – was released as a joke; unfortunately Bauhaus, and goth, has had to live with the punch line for a very long time.
Acts like Cradle of Filth (which the media tends to put in the “goth” camp, even though they are closer to black metal) use both vampire and gothic imagery; this only adds to the confusion.
Up until 1999 the goth scene in Britain had largely escaped any media-triggered moral panic. The horrific Columbine High School killings in Denver, USA, changed that, with the press emphasising an apparant association of the killers with the gothic subculture. The impact in Britian, however, was not as strong as in parts of the United States, where goths found themselves as one of several minority groups singled out in an ensuing media witch-hunt.
Make no mistake: violence, fascism and racism has never been tolerated by the goth scene. Venue managers often comment positively at the lack of violent or rowdy behaviour at large goth events. Unfortunately sensationalist journalism often seems determined to portray goth in a sinister manner, and the subculture is given little or no opportunity to defend itself. Sadly little can be done about this.
By the 2010s the media stance has mellowed considerably, publicising a number of cases in which goths were attacked by gangs solely on the basis of their appearance. Many people now recognise that goths are more likely to suffer at the hands of violence than be perpetrators of it.
In any given month, there’s a large number of events of interest to goths taking place up and down the country. See the Events section of netgoth.org.uk for an accurate guide on what is happening when.
See the next two questions below for information on Whitby and other major festivals.
The Whitby Gothic Weekend is the UK’s longest running goth festival. An extended weekend break, it’s a place for goths both inside and outside the UK to watch bands, discover new music and generally have a good time. Another important part of the weekend is the Bizarre Bazaar, which is an excellent place to find those essential goth and cyber wardrobe items.
The first WGW was in September 1994, when Jo Hampshire (Top Mum) invited her friends on a seaside holiday. The idea was more popular than she anticipated – two hundred black-clad people turned up! Sensing she was on to a winner, the gothic weekend became an annual event situated in and around the Spa Pavilion. Since 1997 there have been two WGWs a year, usually held around April and November. Anywhere between 1000 and 1500 people turn up.
For information on getting hold of a ticket, consult the WGW website. The best tip for finding somewhere to stay is – book early! Whitby Tourist Information can be contacted on +44 (0)1947 602674, and they have computerised availability. Other useful websites include Visit Whitby and Whitby Online.
Beyond the Veil is a goth, darkwave and neofolk festival run by the people behind the Black Veil club. It runs every Easter weekend, with the main bands event being on Easter Sunday. Held in Leeds, it brings a wide range of international acts to the UK; past headliners have included ASP, Bella Morte and Diva Destruction. (Note: Beyond the Veil is currently suspended, but may return in future.)
Infest describes itself as the UK’s premier festival of alternative electronic music. It is held every August at the University of Bradford Students’ Union, and plays host to a variety of projects ranging from the futurepop of Assemblage 23 or VNV Nation to the harsh technoid rhythms associated with labels such as Ant-Zen and Hands Productions.
DV8Fest is a four-day alternative/goth festival held in York across multiple venues. It caters for a wide range of musical styles, from goth and EBM to rockabilly, punk and steampunk. There are also alternative markets held across three of the days.
Flag Promotions run a number of all-day events in London, including Gotham in May and Elektrofest usually around April or early May.
Unscene is a relatively popular UK goth magazine, published every six months. They carry a large number of band interviews, along with reviews, alternative photography and whatever else captures their interest. Unscene can be ordered by cheque, PO or via PayPal (details on website).
Fanzines are also popular, but by their very nature it’s difficult to know which ones are in circulation at any given time. They can often be picked up at gigs. Despite their lower production qualities, many exhibit a humorous irreverence that other publications can’t match.
The mainstream music press generally ignores goth. Terrorizer is an exception, carrying goth coverage in a separate supplement named Dominion. Rock Sound is another exception, and seems to have a genuine interest in independent alternative music. Classic Rock has some limited goth coverage. The NME, meanwhile, becomes more irrelevant with every passing year; they generally do a clueless “goth revival” piece every six months or so.
Worldwide Gothic (IMP Publishing, 2011) is a complete chronicle of the goth scene, from the tail end of punk in the late 1970s through to the beginning of the 2010s. Written by Natasha Scharf, it travels from the UK to explore the deathrock scene in the US, Japan’s Visual Kei movement, Germany’s Schwarze Szene, and more. Engaging and packed full of colour photographs, it is the most enthusiastic and relevant book about the current scene.
Natasha’s second book, The Art of Gothic (Omnibus Press, 2014) delves into the wide world of dark art, from record sleeves and novel covers to cinematography, fashion, and fine art.
In many ways the most interesting book on the goth movement is Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture, by Paul Hodkinson (Berg Publishers, 2002). Written from an academic perspective, it explores the identities, practices and values of the goth scene, and examines how it fits in with the rest of society. It’s not a modern guide to goth, but instead provides a complete ethnographic study.
Music to Die For (Cherry Red Books, 2009) is the latest guide to the scene by Mick Mercer. Taking an international view, it provides an extensive guide to goth-related bands, and is complete with discographies, line-ups and contributions from many of the groups themselves. This is Mick Mercer’s fifth book on goth.
The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (Saint Martin’s Press, 2004) is a passionate examination of the goth scene by Nancy Kilpatrick. Ninety-five goths contribute quotes and opinions as the book provides an insight into the past, present and potential future of the movement; as the work progresses it covers subjects as diverse as absinthe, architecture, club culture, fashion, gardening and marriage.
What is Goth? (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004) is a humorous goth-spotting field guide. It was written by Voltaire, author of the Oh My Goth! comic book series. Within its pages you will also find advice on finding your goth name, how to generate a gothic poem, and how to accomplish difficult dance floor manoeuvres such as “pulling the evil taffy.” Paint It Black: A Guide to Gothic Homemaking (Weiser Books, 2005) is the similiarly tongue-in-cheek follow-up.
Goth Chic: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Dark Culture by Gavin Baddeley (Plexus Publishing, 2002) is another attempt at exploring gothic culture. It has a much wider view of what goth constitutes, covering everything from horror comics to vampire cultists. Although quite interesting it’s not as relevant as the writings of Paul Hodkinson, Nancy Kilpatrick or Mick Mercer.
The Dark Reign of Gothic Rock: In The Reptile House with The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and The Cure (Helter Skelter Publishing, 2002) by Dave Thompson gives a good insight into the history of gothic rock, although it’s only indirectly relevant to the present movement.
One of the best places to pick up goth music is, of course, at goth events. Having said that, here are two good stockists of goth and electro-industrial:
High street shops such as HMV usually stock mainstream goth music, such as Bauhaus, the Cure or even Clan of Xymox; however it’s rare for more obscure bands to trickle in. Independent alternative music stores are often a good bet; note that Resurrection Records are now mail-order only and have closed their store in Camden, London.
The much loved alt.gothic.fashion FAQ (which contained all manner of information on where to get goth clothes, how to paint your leather jacket, how to have more vibrant and impressive hair than the rest of your peers, etc.) is sadly no longer updated or available.
If you’re anywhere near London, it's worth checking out the Alternative Bring and Buy Sale, which is known for a friendly atmosphere.
Building up a large goth wardrobe takes time and imagination. There are many different styles of goth fashion, ranging from deathrock (black-clad punk), to vintage and Victoriana, to futuristic and cyber clubwear. The trick is to find a look which suits you, and then to tailor it into something unique; you don’t want to appear identical to the person sitting next to you!
Specialist goth clothing stores can be fantastic if you’re able to get to them, but you shouldn’t ignore high street clothing stores, especially during the after-Christmas sales. Interesting items and accessories can turn up in the least likely places. Beyond that, there are second-hand shops, antique clothing specialists, fetishwear suppliers, army surplus stores, and more, all of which may or may not have something that fits into your personal look.
If you’re new to the scene, and are unsure of what to wear to a goth night, often the best advice is just to turn up in “normal” black clothes (T-shirt, jeans, dress, etc.). A safe minimalist approach is preferable to a gothic fashion disaster, and still shows you’ve put some effort into your appearance. This is usually enough to satisfy a “gothic dress code,” though it would be advisable to double-check for large events.
In order to keep your black clothes black, use a dark or colour clothing laundry detergent such as Dreft Dark. Avoid washing liquids that contain bleach or whiteners.
Do not put too much detergent into a wash – one capful will normally be enough – and never wash at more than 40°C. Sunlight is also a powerful bleaching agent, so dry clothing indoors if possible.
If you find tiny white specks appearing on your clothing when you enter a club, it is caused by the ultraviolet lighting. The best way to get rid of these filaments is with a product such as Sticki-Mitts.
If you’re interested in redyeing your black clothes, see the Dye It Black FAQ.
Participation in the goth scene is still feasible if you live in a remote area or a town with little alternative night-life. The Internet along with the various magazine resources make it possible to explore the culture, discover new music, and find out about events within travelling distance. Forums like uk.people.gothic are useful for finding out whether there are any friendly goths in your local area.
Visiting goth nightclubs in the larger cities can be fun, but that doesn’t mean travelling goths should abandon all hope once they return home. Many adopt a local alternative, indie or rock pub/club, and are able to exert a little influence over the CDs in the jukebox. Additionally, DJs can be more willing to take requests at the start of an evening, especially if no-one outside the goth crowd is dancing.
The term net.goth was coined as a joke by Sexbat, in a posting to the alt.gothic newsgroup. A modern definition for the term could be as follows:
With Internet access now ubiquitous, and with the dramatic fall in popularity of netnews, the term is used less and less.
netgoth.org.uk is the largest web portal of the UK goth community. It contains a wealth of useful information, constantly updated by its visitors. Amongst other things, it’s the home of:
The netgoth.org.uk server is run by Sam (Samoth on netgoth IRC). There is also a team of five moderators (Dave H, Davefish, Phono Paul, Sheridan and Victoria/Batty) who approve incoming site contents and generally try to keep things up to date. The current version of netgoth.org.uk was originally created and hosted by Dishmop Dave, and many other people have helped out over the years too.
(Note: much of netgoth.org.uk, including the login system, has been unusable since around March 2014 when there was a problem upgrading the PHP software which powers the site. Currently there's no clear date for when it might become available again.)
Usenet is the name of a world-wide discussion system. It consists of tens of thousands of “newsgroups,” which are organised underneath various hierarchies.
alt.gothic blinked into existence around Halloween 1991, and may have been the first online discussion forum specifically for goths. (Amusing historical note: it was a spin-off of Dominion, the electronic mailing list for The Sisters Of Mercy.) Areas such as gothic music, art, clothes and clubbing were all considered appropriate topics for alt.gothic. The formal charter for the group (which is stored at <ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/control/alt/alt.gothic.gz>) states:
alt.gothic is a newsgroup for the discussion of the gothic subculture. The gothic (or goth) movement is dedicated to things mournful and dark. It does not refer to the historical Gothic movement, i.e. the ravaging of Asia by the Visigoths.
alt.gothic was a phenomenal success, and in June 1995 uk.people.gothic was created to offer a more UK-focused discussion. (alt.gothic is for international discussion, but is very US-centric.)
Other newsgroups which may be of interest include:
Usenet can be accessed through a web interface, such as Google Groups; however for a much better experience you should use dedicated newsreader software such as Forte Agent, Microsoft Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird or Turnpike.
(Charters for many of these groups are squirrelled away by Internet Systems Consortium at <ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/control/>.)
Please read Configuring Your News Reader to Post to uk.* for information about newsreader software and guidelines on how to post to Usenet. Here are some good tips for posting to uk.people.gothic and similar newsgroups:
Incidentally, Martin Oldgoth maintains a UPG Gallery for anyone curious about what uk.people.gothic posters actually look like. You may also be interested in the original (no longer maintained) uk.people.gothic FAQ, although please note that much of it is now out of date.
Internet Relay Chat is an interactive way to communicate with people over the Internet in real time. By connecting an IRC client program to one of several IRC networks, you can join one or more “channels” and exchange text messages with people all over the world. Popular IRC client programs include mIRC and XChat. For a full introduction to IRC, see <http://www.irchelp.org/>.
netgoth.org.uk has an Internet Relay Chat section, better known through the name of its main channel, #uk_goffs. It can be reached either through its own web browser interface, or through IRC client software. A chaotic and often downright strange environment, #uk_goffs can require thick skin. It also sometimes takes time for the regulars to accept newcomers.
You can connect up with IRC client software by joining channel #uk_goffs on the host irc.netgoth.org.uk, with a port number between 6665-7001 <irc://irc.netgoth.org.uk/uk_goffs>. There is also channel #quiet <irc://irc.netgoth.org.uk/quiet> for when things just get too noisy. In the event that the main server is down, try #uk_goffs on irc2.netgoth.org.uk <irc://irc2.netgoth.org.uk/uk_goffs> instead. If that too doesn’t work, try ports 6660-6669 on irc.darker.net <irc://irc.darker.net/uk_goffs>.
Please read the net.goth chat rules and tips before getting stuck in.
The Miss Jinny Show is an online radio show that highlights goth, dark electronica and industrial techno. It can be heard on Monday nights from 9pm until 11pm. The show regularly features guests.
Intravenous Magazine is an online magazine covering gothic rock and electro-industrial. In addition to album reviews and interviews, it also has a podcast section.
Nemesis To Go is the webzine of London-based Uncle Nemesis. Covering his “misadventures in modern music,” it has a stack of witty live reviews, album reviews and more. Similiarly, The Mick provides an eclectic mix of old and new reviews, and is written by Mick Mercer.
I Die: You Die and Dark Divine Magazine are two excellent sites for an international perspective on dark alternative music. Post-Punk.com covers the entire breadth of post-punk music, from classic bands to the modern post-punk revival.
LiveJournal is an online diary (“blog”) and social networking tool, and is remarkably addictive. (Sometimes it can be entertaining; at other times it is more akin to watching a car crash in slow motion.) LiveJournal gained a lot of popularity amongst goths around 2002-2003, with usage of alt.gothic and uk.people.gothic declining as a result; it still remains popular, though many have since migrated on to Facebook.
Myspace continues to be used for its music-sharing facilities, and has been recommended as a way to discover new bands.
The UK Goth Mini-FAQ was originally written by one of the Daves. Thank you to all the denizens of uk.people.gothic who have offered positive feedback. The following people all helped to shape the FAQ: BitBat/Trish, Certic, Corwyn, Dave (Exile), DLoN, Enigma, Flavio, Jim C, Jodi, Jozafeen, Kev, Marge, Markus, Martin Read, Mel, Michael Johnson, MoonDog, Morph, Natasha (Meltdown), Oldgoth, Pete French, Pyromancer, Rachel (Tinygoth), Wamphyri, Whisky-Dave and Zotz. Thanks also to Dishmop Dave for mirroring this document on darkwave.org.uk. Apologies to anyone we might have missed.
Copyright © 2004-2015 Dave H. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/>.