Cold Waves, the industrial-rock/electronic-rock festival is looking to spread its once-dormant virus across three cities next month. The lineups feature old-school progenitors such as ohGr (featuring Skinny Puppy frontman Ogre), Front Line Assembly and former Ministry member Paul Barker’s Lead Into Gold, Meat Beat Manifesto and next-gen sonic apparatchiks HIDE and the Black Queen (featuring former Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato), as well as the slow-motion sludge of Author & Punisher.
Now in its seventh year, the festival is regaining momentum in a world where sonic brutality is no longer measured by “sick riffs, brah” and one’s ability to shred on guitars.
Beginning in NYC (Sept. 12-15 at Irving Plaza and Gramercy Theatre), arriving in the fest’s hometown of Chicago (Sept. 20-23 at Empty Bottle and Metro) and ending in Los Angeles (Sept. 26-29 at the Echo and 1720), Cold Waves’ ambitious aims were dictated by cities passionate for the kind of art and mania the festival represents.
Organized by Jason Novak six years ago as a tribute to his former bandmate Jamie Duffy, Cold Waves has been a flagship institution to celebrate various electronic strains of rock music from respected veterans to new acts putting their mark on electronic “rivethead” culture.
“When we bring bands overseas [to play the event], we have to bring them into New York,” says Novak about spreading the festival across America. “I’ve been doing bookings for Front 242 for a few years now, and when I would go to New York to greet them, I’d always see a lot of passion in the crowds.”
“When I asked friends of mine who were DJs and promoters, they thought the city would love [a festival],” he continues. “Personally, I’ve had the privilege of playing Irving Plaza often in my career, and a lot of the same people are still there. I think having Cold Waves there would be fun.” (Two of the four NYC nights will be at Irving Plaza, with the final night moving to the Gramercy Theatre.)
“We’ve noticed that for a lot of bands, the cost of immigration visas and overseas flights is really large,” Novak says. “So we try to book additional shows for them, and in the process, Cold Waves has become its own booking agency. It’s a lot of work for eight months. It’s funny: You lead up to it thinking, ‘I can’t wait until this is over,’ and the day it’s over, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to ramp this up again.’”
“Cold Waves audiences seem to be made up of people who are there for very specific reasons,” says Chris Connelly, the vocalist known for his contributions to electronic-rock avatars Ministry and its adjunct band the Revolting Cocks. “It’s an event rather than a tour. It’s social, and I feel honestly that there is a great blend of fresh talent mixed with music from the past being brought to life again. The general vibe is really great, uplifting, friendly [and] respectful.”
As a frontman for mid-’80s Scottish dance-rock band Finitribe, Connelly was on the ground floor when industrial rock grew out of a mere post-punk designation into a genre of its own design. Moving to the U.S. to record with Al Jourgensen—as a member of both Ministry and the Revolting Cocks—cemented his status in that musical movement, but then he spent the decades following that distancing himself from industrial rock’s tightened-fist clamor and mechanized tension.
Connelly will be performing with Novak at this year’s festival as the frontman of Cocksure, an outfit he describes as “gross, overblown rapid-fire comedy and filth, with a sweeping darkness reflecting and distorting the environment around us.”
“A few things brought me back,” Connelly admits. “The main thing was the Retrospectacle”—the 2011 homecoming series of shows by artists associated with Wax Trax, the legendary i-rock label—“which gave me the sense that I belonged, or did belong to something that was valid at one time, exciting and urgent. I realized how much I enjoyed it—which, when I was younger, was not always the case.
“I am also proud of what I did and feel that if there are people who want to listen, then I will play. That said, nostalgia gets old pretty quickly.” –Chris Connelly
“It’s complicated, like reconnecting with a friend who perhaps you had a misunderstanding with that separated you for years,” he continues regarding signing up for the Cold Waves dates. “I am also proud of what I did and feel that if there are people who want to listen, then I will play. That said, nostalgia gets old pretty quickly.”
Considering the futuristic vistas industrial rock’s meshing of guitars and electronics sought out, nostalgia isn’t high on the priority list. Then again, when you consider how ahead of the game the genre was nearly three decades ago, maybe it’s right on time for a forward-thinking renaissance. But while this year’s CW circuit feels like a “friends and family” plan, there’s a significant amount of mutative strain in the mix.
“I think there’s a similar open-mindness at Cold Waves like we had in metal and hardcore,” says Puciato, whose role as the ultra-confrontational frontman of the Dillinger Escape Plan was a different beast from the kind of beguiling, alluring textures created by his current outfit the Black Queen.
“When [the Black Queen] played in 2016, I was concerned we’d get in front of a crowd wanting KMFDM or Meat Beat Manifesto, and they’d be like, ‘What. Is. Happening?’” he continues.“But they weren’t. It was [the mentality] of the way you can put on a post-rock band in front of a hardcore band on most punk-rock bills.”