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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions About Goth

  • What is Goth?
  • What does "underground"/"alternative" mean?
  • Where did Goth come from?
  • Why is it called "Goth"?
  • Where did the Goth look come from? Why do they wear black?
  • Why are Goths depressed?
  • Why are Goths focused on death/darkness?
  • What is Goth music like?
  • What's the difference between Goth Rock and Gothic Metal?
  • Where can I find Goth music?
  • Is Marilyn Manson Goth?
  • Is Goth Satanic or Pagan?
  • What religion are Goths?
  • Is Goth a Cry for Help?
  • Do Goths drink / do drugs?
  • Are Goths sexually deviant?
  • Aren't Goths school shooters?
  • Why do people become Goths?
  • How does one become Goth?
  • Can Christians be Goth?
  • What do I do if someone becomes Goth?
    What is Goth?
    Goth is an underground music subculture. It is a community that is centered around shared musical and clothing tastes. Goths are those who listen to Goth Rock, which sometimes includes Post Punk, "Deathrock," and New Wave music.
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    What does "underground"/"alternative" mean?
    Underground means that the music is not mainstream. You will rarely see a Goth Rock band in the news or on MTV or in a contemporary music store. Goth is alternative because it is a minority scene that provides an alternative to modern mainstream music and fashion.
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    Where did Goth come from?
    The words "Goth"/"Gothic" were first used to describe a Germanic tribe during the Middle Ages that helped bring down the Roman Empire, the terms were later applied to a style of architecture used in building cathedrals, and then it was applied as a term to describe a type of literature from the 1800's (like Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, etc.)
    The term "Goth" as we know it today was coined by several different early Goth Rock bands in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Goth Rock bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and UK Decay were called "gothic" enough by the music media, that eventually the label stuck. In 1979, Tony Wilson, on the BBC program "Something Else," described Joy Division's sound as "gothic in comparison with mainstream pop." In the same year, Siouxsie Sioux made the comment that her band's music was moving in a "gothic" direction.
    These were the first major uses of the phrase to describe that kind of music.
    The Goth scene was first popularized in dance clubs like The Batcave in London. Many Goth bands got their start on a BBC radio program hosted by John Peel.
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    Why is it called "Goth"?
    The term "Goth" as we know it today was coined by several different early Goth Rock bands in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Goth Rock bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and UK Decay were called "gothic" enough by the music media, that eventually the label stuck. In 1979, Tony Wilson, on the BBC program "Something Else," described Joy Division's sound as "gothic in comparison with mainstream pop." In the same year, Siouxsie Sioux made the comment that her band's music was moving in a "gothic" direction.
    In 1981, during an interview with UK Decay, the lead singer Abbo described his music as "gothic," which, he explained, is what they called their style of music in England. After a highly successul gig, UK Decay was interviewed by a journalist named Steve Keaton in Belgium. Keaton told UK Decay that their style of music was "gonna become a movement," to which UK Decay responded: "Nah, we'll be gone in six months." Keaton pressed them to give a name to the movement, saying: "It's not punk, it's not dance, or alternative or new pop or mod." Abbo answered, saying: "We're into the whole 'Gothic' Thing," and then proceeded to joke about how his band should have gargoyle-shaped records and only play gigs at cathedrals.
    Also, the lead singer of an early Goth Rock band called the SexGang Children, Andi SexGang, used to appear on stage in a big, gothic, warchief outfit. He acquired the nickname "Count Visigoth" because of a joke made by Southern Death Cult frontman, Ian Astbury, and the fans of his band (and ultimately, the fans of the entire genre) came thus to be called "goths".
    These were the first major uses of the phrase to describe that kind of music.
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    Where did the Goth look come from? Why do they wear black?
    The Goth Rock culture came out of the 1970's Punk movement. In that movement, it was often popular for fans of a certain band to dress up like the bandmembers (and the bandmembers usually had some pretty unique outfits). Many of the early Goth personalities like Peter Murphy, Siouxsie Sioux, Ian Astbury, and Robert Smith for example, dressed in monochromatic clothing (blacks, greys, and whites), usually had wild spikey hair, and wore pale face makeup with dark eye shadow and lipstick. Consequently, as these early Goth bands gained fans, the early Goth fans began to dress like them. The Goth style started out as very punky and horror-esque. Later, there were some movies that influenced fashion in the Goth culture as well, like Edward Scizzorhands, The Crow, and The Matrix. Into the 1990's, the Goth look has become more genteel for the most part, incorporating a lot of more elegant, Victorian garb.
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    Why are Goths depressed?
    Not all Goths are depressed, just as not all cheerleaders are airheads, not all nerds are ugly, not all surfers are bums with long blond hair. These are stereotypes, which are often very harmful to other people. Granted, some Goths are depressed, but so are non-Goths. There is no empirical data that suggests that people who are involved in Goth culture are more depressed than people involved in any other culture.
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    Why are Goths focused on death/darkness?
    There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the Goth aesthetic. Generally, Goth music is distant, brooding, cynical and somewhat hollow sounding. But keep in mind that Goth Rock is an extension of Punk Rock, and so usually Goth music is pretty up-tempo and lively, yet introspective nonetheless. Many Goth Rock bands don't aim to "scare" or "frighten" or "depress," but the music is meant to be unsettling. Siouxsie Sioux said that one of her main goals with her music was to "create tension". This style of music is often misrepresented as being all about "doom and gloom". Most Goths, in fact, have a very good sense of humor, as does a lot of Goth music.
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    What is Goth music like?
    Goth music is a sub-type of Punk Rock and heavily borrows from Post-Punk, New Wave, and Indie music, so actual Goth bands are usually quite up-tempo and lively. Their sound is often somewhat somber and hollow. The singing is usually either very low (like Andrew Eldritch from Sisters of Mercy) or very high pitched (like Andi from the Sex Gang Children). This singing is mostly accompanied by piercing and jangling guitar melodies. And all this is almost always supported by heavy, throbbing tribal drum rhythms. The drums were usually played in a quick, metronome-esque style -- "slow, but fast" as Joy Division's producer, Martin Hannett, infamously put it. Cold, distant synthesizers are thrown in occasionally for good measure. The best way to describe Goth Rock is as a mix between Punk Rock and African/Native American tribal dances. Many Goth Rockers borrowed a lot from Native American culture (Andi Sex-Gang in his warchief garb, Southern Death Cult's song "Apache," and Siouxsie Sioux's monicker for instance).
    Goth Rock is not to be confused with the thundering and growling of Hardcore Rock and Black/Death Metal, the loud heaviness of Industrial and EBM, or the obscenities of Shock Rock and some Metal acts.
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    What's the difference between Goth Rock and Gothic Metal?
    A big one. While Goth Rock is a sub-type of 80's Punk Rock that originated mainly in England, Gothic Metal is related to Black/Death Metal that came mostly from Los Angeles, USA. The two are often confused because of the similar names and the similarly dark aesthetics. However, the musical style is vastly different. While Goth Rock is usually lively, introspective and employs a relatively normal singing style, Gothic Metal is heavy, frightening, and aggressive and employs growling, screeching vocals. Gothic Metal will often have soft, ethereal female vocals mixed in with the thundering male vocals. Examples of Gothic Metal bands include: Cradle of Filth, Theatre of Tragedy, Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, Tristania, and Anathema.
    Of course, there will always be those bands who have traversed the genre gap. Lacrimosa is an example of a band who started out playing Goth Rock and eventually moved to Goth Metal. However, this does not mean that the genres are one and the same, or even related for that matter.
    Those in the Goth Metal culture, it must be noted, are not technically "Goths," as that was a term invented for followers of Goth Rock. The two are not to be confused.
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    Where can I find Goth music?
    As time passes, it seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find actual Gothic music. Stores no longer have "Goth" music sections and are now flooded by mistakenly goth labeled bands like Cradle of Filth and Good Charlotte.
    Real Goth music can still be found however. The best places to find it are your local used CD stores. You can also find a substantial amount of Goth music at FYE and Circuit City. A handful can be found scattered throughout the music sections of Walmart Supercenters, Best Buy, and Sam Goody (once again, the used CD rack is probably your best bet). The most commonly stocked Goth/Post-punk/New Wave bands you'll find will most likely be The Cure, New Order, Peter Murphy, Dead Can Dance, or Siouxsie & the Banshees. Adam & the Ants (or sometimes just called "Adam Ant"), a Goth/New Romantic band, is fairly common to find also. You might get lucky at Target, Pamida, or other small-time shopping centers, but not very often. "Alternative" stores like Hot Topic and Spencers are actually some of the hardest places to find actual Goth music and they are usually quite pricey, so they are not recommended.
    And finally, the easiest place to find the Goth album you want is online. Sites like Amazon.com and Ebay.com have virtually every CD you could ever want. The only downside is that you usually have to use a Paypal account or a credit card, and many people are wary of doing that. However, if you can find a safe and secure website to make transactions, you'll find a plethora of wonderful music at your fingertips. You can also download specific songs for around a dollar per song at sites like Mp3.com.
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    Is Marilyn Manson Goth?
    No, Marilyn Manson is NOT Goth. He is a Metal Shock Rocker and has never claimed to be Goth. Many people (including fans of Manson themselves) mistakenly believe that Manson and his music are Gothic. However, contrary to what angsty little teenagers and misinformed media may say, Marilyn Manson is NOT Goth and any true Goth will tell you the same thing. Other bands that are sometimes called Goth but are actually not Goth are: Slipknot, Incubus, Korn, Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, Lacuna Coil, Alice Cooper, KISS, Cradle of Filth, etc. None of those are Goth bands. In fact, most of those bands are often on MTV or in popular music media, and thus are not underground, and thus are not Goth (because Goth is an underground subculture).
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    Is Goth Satanic or Pagan?
    Goth music and Goth clothing do not come from Satanism or Paganism. Most Goths are not either Pagans or Satanists. Some Goths may happen to be, but many non-Goths are Satanists and Pagans as well. Goth is an artistic movement centered around music and fashion.
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    What religion are Goths?
    Goths come from every walk of life and from every religion. Goth itself is not a religion, it is merely a type of music and a style of clothing and appearance. Some research indicates that the majority of Goths are actually Christians, at least nominally.
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    Is Goth a Cry for Help?
    In short, No. Goth is not a cry for help. However, one must be careful in dealing with people who may be trying to get attention because they are suicidal or depressed. Some real cries for help to watch out for are: Long-lasting depression, losing interest in favorite activities, giving away massive amounts of their possessions, a feeling of utter hopelessness about the future, constant putting down of self, etc.
    Unfortunately many of these real warning signs are passed up because people are too focused on music genres and clothing styles. Wearing black and listening to Goth Rock is rarely a cry for help, it is mostly just a matter of personal preferences. Www.metanoia.org/suicide/ is a great site to visit if you or someone you know is suicidal or depressed.
    There is no empirical data that shows that suicide or depression are more common amongst Goths than amongst other people.
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    Do Goths drink / do drugs?
    No, there is no empirical data that shows that those involved in Goth culture do more drugs, drink more alcohol, or smoke more than non-Goths.
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    Are Goths sexually deviant?
    There is some confusion here because some of the clothing fashion in Goth culture is also used in Sex or Sado-Masochism culture. Collars, bondage clothing, chains, straps, and buckles are often worn by Goths, but not as a symbol of any sort of sexual deviance. It's all just a matter of style and what the person thinks looks good. Granted, there are some Goths who are sexually deviant, but there are just as many non-Goths if not more.
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    Aren't Goths school shooters?
    Once again, this is a common misconception and a dangerous stereotype. After the Columbine shootings, the media had to quickly find a short, easy answer as to why this happened. They overlooked obvious causes like the fact that these kids were picked on and rejected by their peers, they had easy access to weapons, they were involved in dangerous philosophies like Naziism, and the fact that they were very angry and hopeless for the fact that they wore black trenchcoats. First of all, trenchcoats and the color black are certainly not limited to Goth culture. Many other movements incorporate these things like Metal, Industrial, Ravers, etc.
    It doesn't take much common sense to see that there are infinitely more non-Goth murderers than there are Goth murderers. In fact, Goths in general are very tolerant, accepting, and passive, not aggressive or angry.
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    Why do people become Goths?
    Some people choose to identify with Goth culture because they enjoy the music, because they enjoy the social life and the other people involved in the culture, and because they are attracted to the Goth style of clothing. Depression and suicidalness does not attract people to Goth, simply because most bands are not depressing -- introspective, unsettling and strange perhaps, but not depressing.
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    How does one become Goth?
    There are no ceremonies or rituals that "make someone Goth" or initiate someone into Goth culture. In fact, many people aren't even sure what it is that makes a person a "Goth". Some people might listen to Goth music, but not dress Goth. Some may dress Goth, but not listen to the music. Even many Goths are unsure of what makes them Goths. Most generally agree that it is a combination of being a fan of the music, having a certain appearance style, being knowledgeable about the Goth culture, and being socially involved in the culture. And of course, one could still be all of those things and not be Goth, because being Goth involves a self-declaration. If someone doesn't want to be Goth, then they're not, but they can still listen to that style of music and dress in that way. A Goth has to actually want to be called Goth.
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    Can Christians be Goth?
    Yes, Goth is amoral, meaning that it does not make someone either better or worse. It is just a matter of personal preference -- musical and fashion tastes. Goth itself is not a religion and there is no one religion that all Goths follow.
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    What do I do if someone becomes Goth?
    My suggestion is to support them in that decision and to try to objectively understand their tastes and preferences. Please do not use misconceptions and stereotypes that people have fed you over the years to decide your viewpoint concerning someone who becomes a Goth.
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  • Ministering in the underground community since March 28, 2003
    Copyright 2003-2006 Goths for Jesus







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