Initially formed in Chelmsford, Essex by school friends Douglas McCarthy [lead vocals, guitar], Vaughn 'Bon' Harris [vocals, percussion, guitar] and David Gooday [percussion] in the mid 1980â€™s, Nitzer Ebb were influenced by the harder sounds of the early electro pop scene, but also distilled elements from several other genres until they had created their own identifiable sound characterised by powerful rhythms, minimal sequencer bass and hooklines and fierce, chanted vocals.
Signing to Mute Records (the UKâ€™s biggest electronic record label) in late 1986, they released the brutal beats of Murderous (1986) and international funk aggression of Let Your Body Learn (1987) as the opening salvoes in what would prove to be a long-term relationship with the company. The latter single was a smash hit in the clubs of New York, while their next release Join In The Chant (1987) was an early hit on the nascent UK acid house scene. Their subsequent debut album That Total Age (1987) neatly encapsulated the essence of the band, combining irresistible rhythms with controlled anger and energy to create a classic slice of hard-edged proto-Balearic techno. It became for many fans the definitive example of the Nitzer Ebb sound.
This infectious mix attracted the attention of fellow Essex lads and label mates Depeche Mode, who invited the group to accompany them on the European leg of a highly successful world tour, exposing them to large â€“ and appreciative - live audiences. Returning to the studio after the tour, they completed their next album Belief (1989) as a duo following the departure of David Gooday, while Mark â€˜Floodâ€™ Ellis became their new producer and steered McCarthy and Harris towards a more refined sound. With their own world tour now in the pipeline, they recruited Julian Beeston to assist them and he soon became a regular contributor both on and off stage.
The third Nitzer Ebb album Showtime (1990) revealed a less confrontational sound and an accessibility that appealed particularly to audiences in the US. The single Fun To Be Had (1990) even received a groovy remix by the grandfather of funk George Clinton and reached no. 2 on the US dance chart. For their fourth album, Ebbhead (1991), they showcased a more considered, orchestrated songwriting style that still threw in plenty of hard industrial beats and raw guitar samples. Promoting the album with a global tour that took them from the southern US to northern Siberia, they were beginning to enjoy the fruits of their truly international appeal.
Big Hit seemed to be the final release by the band, with all concerned beginning to concentrate on various solo and side projects, a practice McCarthy, Harris and Beeston had actually started in 1989 when collaborating with the German group Die Krupps. McCarthy has subsequently been a regular collaborator with both Alan Wilder (formerly of Depeche Mode) on his Recoil project and French electronic producer Terence Fixmer as Fixmer/McCarthy, while Bon Harris relocated to Los Angeles and worked as 13mg and as a member of Maven.
However, the turn of the millennium saw the likes of respected DJ/musicians such as Richie Hawtin, Derrick May and LFOâ€™s Mark Bell pay tribute to Nitzer Ebb by remixing some of their classic tracks for a series of 12â€ releases on NovaMute, while 2006 saw Mute honour their enduring influence with a CD/DVD retrospective entitled Body of Work. This coincided with the group starting to play live again, since when they have graced many festival stages, toured in their own right and recorded new songs.
Finally, almost 15 years after the release of their last studio album, Nitzer Ebb are releasing the fruits of these recent recording sessions as their brand new album, Industrial Complex, on the German label Major Records. A comeback after such a long hiatus is difficult for any act, with the inherent danger of sounding either dated if it veers too close to past glories, or irrelevant if new recordings are too different to previous releases, no matter how good the material may be. However, with Industrial Complex Nitzer Ebb have expertly mastered the challenge and delivered a piece of work that sounds fresh and modern but without denying their past. Musically and vocally diverse but without being uneven, they focus on the essence of each track (something theyâ€™ve always been particularly good at) and thus Industrial Complex works perfectly on the dance floor and at home on headphones. The album features several songs that have become staples of the bandâ€™s live set since its reformation, including the irresistibly energetic Once You Say (which features Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore on backing vocals) and marching rhythms of Payroll, while the dark, brooding Never Known has featured in the soundtrack to Saw IV.