I spent my sophomore year of high school steeped in Grunge music, but throughout my junior year I was getting more and more into industrial music. My close friend McKenzie had introduced me to Nine Inch Nails, my girlfriend Missy had brought KMFDM into my life, and a former friend Chris had made me listen to Ministry, though at the time I wasn’t ready for it. I was looking to explore this new genre a lot more. The only question was how. In trying to be hip and cool, I had picked up a couple of issues of Rolling Stone magazine, but they hardly ever had anything about the bands I wanted to know more about. It was then that I found Spin magazine. Spin magazine had far more music from the fringes, though they covered mainstream bands a little as well. I started getting issues of it now and then, in an effort to know more about the alternative bands on the horizon, and hopefully get a better grasp on industrial music and possibly find more bands.
It was in one such issue that I found an advertisement for a new box set called Black Box – Wax Trax Records: The First 13 Years. I was intrigued, because it listen Ministry and KMFDM and Trent Reznor as artists on it. Maybe this was the lead I was looking for. If a record company had worked with all of those bands, surely there were more indutrial bands in that collection for me to find. In that very same issue, there was a review of the box set, and they had some very positive things to say. Additionally, they confirmed my suspicions that there was more industrial music lying in wait for me to find on it. So the next time I was at Media Play, I looked to see if they had this set. Sure enough, there it was, but it was $35, which I did not have. But I was able to drop enough hints to my parents that I ended up getting it for my birthday.
A couple of Saturdays later, I decided to give it a spin. I had nothing much to do, so I would read the accompanying booklet and listen to all three discs. I read, I listened, I learned and was entranced. This was the best compilation I had ever listened to. I was introduced to so many new bands. It got me more into Ministry, and taught me about RevCo and all of the other Al Jourgenson side projects.I learned more about KMFDM. I discovered Front 242 and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Many bands that have been listening staples of mine for years came from this simple three CD set. And the booklet was awesome, giving me the early stories of these bands. It opened a really big door for me.
I wasn’t one of those kids who had a summer job. I did some odd jobs around the house for a little extra money, and I always had a couple of trips or activities planned for the summer, but mostly my summers revolved around sitting around the house, reading comic books and listening to music. This summer revolved around the Black Box. I spent a lot of days listening to it over and over. I would go to my room, put one of the CDs in my stereo, and listen to it while I did other things. Sometimes I would write. I was trying to develop my own comic at that point. I would create characters and map out storylines, all the while Coil and Front Line Assembly were playing in the background. Sometimes I would organize my Overpower cards and build decks that I thought either had a cool theme or were sure fire winners. For those of you unaware, Overpower was a collectible card game featuring Marvel Comics characters, and I was a Marvel Comics guy (huge fan of the X-men and most of the related mutant books, I wasn’t as in to the Avengers or Spider-Man). So I would have my cards all laid out all over the floor and I would be decided what combos would work best and which themes were the most unique, and I’d gather piles into decks and divide my power cards among them. Meanwhile Meat Beat Manifesto and Chris Connelly played at top volume around me. Sometimes I would pull out some of my old toys and play with them. I will admit it, I forgot to grow up at some point. I had a whole bunch of figures and vehicles from the Mattel StarCom line of toys. These were little astronauts with spaceships and magnetic feet. A lot of the toys ran on little motors, some triggered by the magnets, some by a button. I would play out epic stories of space adventure while Psychic TV and Sister Machine Gun poured out of my speakers. When I grew bored of my tales of daring astronauts, there was always my collection of Mega Force toys. I would create epic tales of the war between the noble yet aggressive Triax empire in their ages old struggle with tech-savvy and misunderstood V-Rocs republic. I created a rich back story for these two factions in my head, and I would play out these Game of Thrones levels of intrigue with little plastic and die-cast tanks and planes while listening to The KLF and The Young Gods.
I have very pleasant memories of just sitting in my room and endlessly listening to the Black Box. I would eventually move on from it, and pick up albums by a lot of the artists on it. I would get mail order record catalogues from TVT Records, the company that bought Wax Trax. As years went on, a lot of new albums were listened to in a similar manner. Just me and the music, and maybe some of my old toys or the new comics I had bought, holed up in my room until I was done with it. I miss that experience a little, but I’ll always have the memories of it.