White Zombie Week: Categorizing Music

I love organization. In some respects, I crave organization. Nowhere is this more evident than in my music collection. Artists are alphabetized and sorted as such. Soundtracks and compilations are broken down and the difference between “artist” and “album artist” is created to sort efficiently when I’m looking for a certain band. But while a lot of work went into making sure all artists, albums and songs were properly sorted and alphabetized, the real work went into genres.

There was a time in my life where I only believed in the major categories of music genres. It was rock, alternative (a term I have come to despise, since it is more an adjective and less a standalone term), metal, rap, country and r&b. I didn’t see anything outside of these super categories. White Zombie was the beginning of the destruction of that misconception.

By the time I picked up Astrocreep 2000, I had already added another super-genre to my rudimentary category system: industrial. But Astrocreep 2000 did not fit neatly into a genre. Part of me wanted to go with the simple answer, and call it metal. Part of me understood that there was more going on here than your average metal album. There was programming and sampling used, there were drum machines. There was an artificial beat. There were frankly a lot of bits that reminded me of industrial. So I was confused.

One of the only people I knew of that was also a fan of White Zombie was a kid in my art class named Kevin. Kevin was a weird dude. He used to quote Beavis and Butthead pretty consistently, mostly Beavis (both he and Beavis were blonde, so I guess that was enough). He used to paint his nails with Wite-Out and huff them. But he was still one of the only people I knew who liked White Zombie as much as I did. So I made the mistake of trying to talk to him about my genre conundrum.

At the mere insinuation that White Zombie was anything less than the heavy metal gods that Kevin perceived them to be, he flew off the handle at me. In fairness, it was a mistake to try and have a civil conversation with someone who said he needed “tp for my bunghole” on a daily basis in class, but we live and learn. He berated me as “not a real fan” for not recognizing White Zombie as metal. I tried to explain to him that their use of keyboards and sampling made them something else. I argued that they walked a line between industrial and metal, similar to Ministry. He offered that their use of slide guitar doesn’t make them country, so why should some keyboards make them industrial. Then he stopped talking to me for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, he was one of the people I had sign my yearbook. He wrote, “White Zombie is NOT INDUSTRIAL just because they use keyboards. If using keyboards makes you industrial, then so is Rush!” Then he drew an eight-ball and wrote “White Zombie RULES!”

I wasn’t correct, but I certainly wasn’t wrong. My biggest mistake was trying to have an intellectual discussion with someone maintaining their buzz on Wite-Out. Years later, I undertook a massive project to try and identify more of the sub-genres for artists in my collection. White Zombie didn’t end up as heavy metal, the didn’t end up as industrial or industrial metal. After research, the most apt sub-genre ended up being “groove metal.” There is a bit of opinion in that, and I certainly don’t think that I’m the leading expert in categorizing music, but I think just putting the effort in makes me a better connoisseur. And it was an obsession that started with White Zombie.


Mr. Tooduloo

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