|FORMED: 1982, Chelmsford, Essex, England
Before the majority of industrial acts added guitars and became the heavy metal of the 1990s, Nitzer Ebb produced hard-hitting electronic music with the Teutonic bent and abrasive edge of early industrial music, plus the vocal chanting and beat-heavy flavor of the late-'80s alternative and Balearic dance scene. Formed in Chelmsford, Essex in 1982 by vocalist Douglas McCarthy, drummer Bon Harris and keyboard player David Gooday, the group began experimenting with synthesizers and drum pads, fusing their affinity for dark goth and punk rock with the emerging technology. After several popular shows around London during 1984, PWL producer Phil Harding began working with Nitzer Ebb and recorded their first single, "Isn't It Funny How Your Body Works," which appeared on the band's Power of Voice Communications label in 1985. Three more singles followed during 1985-86 before Nitzer Ebb signed to Mute in late 1986; the first Mute recordings were the singles "Murderous" and "Let Your Body Learn" in early 1987, just before the release of their debut album, That Total Age. After the single "Join in the Chant" was remixed by producer Flood (Nick Cave, Erasure), it became one of the crucial tracks in the growing alternative/Balearic dance scene, played out alongside Chicago house, Detroit techno and Northern soul.
After the release of This Total Age, Nitzer Ebb toured Europe with Depeche Mode, and the pop sensibilities appeared to inspire them. By the time of their second album, Belief, Gooday had disappeared (to be replaced by Julian Beeston) and Flood had taken over the producer's role from Harding, nudging Nitzer Ebb closer to the dancefloor and shearing away the militaristic bent of much of their earlier recordings. Singles like "Hearts and Minds," "Shame" and "Lightning Man" were loaded with the cold aggression of earlier recordings, working well on dancefloors as well as college radio stations; the 1990 single "Fun to Be Had" even reached number two on the dance charts. The following year's Ebbhead further consolidated their position with alternative audiences, with at least two well-known singles, "I Give to You" and "Godhead." As a whole, though, the album showed Nitzer Ebb a bit confused as to where industrial music was going. Nitzer Ebb virtually disappeared from active music-making for the next four years, finally reappearing in 1995 with their fifth album, Big Hit. ~ John Bush, All Music Guide