Front 242 is a pioneering Belgian electronic music group that came into prominence during the 1980s. During their most active period (effectively ending in 1993 with the albums 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off) they influenced many electro-industrial and electronic artists.
When industrial music developed in England in the mid-1970s with Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, these groups used electronic instruments, percussion with found objects, and looped samples of "found" soundbites, elements later taken up by Front 242. These techniques can be seen as an extension of the use of electronic sources of sound as musical instruments and percussion with found objects by composer Edgard Varèse.
Front 242 was created in 1981 in Aarschot, near Brussels, Belgium, by Daniel Bressanutti and Dirk Bergen, who wanted to create music and graphic design using emerging electronic tools. The first single, "Principles", was released in 1981. The band's name came from a variety of sources. UN Security Council Resolution 242 was the first to call on Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian Territories, and 242 was a motor used in some Fiat cars. The front part of the name comes from the idea of an organized popular uprising. Perhaps more to the point, after the Second World War, 242 Belgian citizens were condemned to death for collaboration with the German occupiers.
Patrick Codenys and Jean-Luc De Meyer had separately formed a group called Under Viewer at about the same time, and the two duos joined together in 1982. Bressanutti, Codenys and De Meyer took turns on vocals at first, until they settled on De Meyer as the lead vocalist (early recordings with Bresanutti on vocals have recently been released). De Meyer came to write most of the lyrics and Valerie Jane Steele also wrote several tracks including "Don't Crash". They decided not to use the regular waveform settings on their synthesizers, arguing that creating the waveform for each note was part of the creative process.
Their next single, "U-Men", was released in 1982, followed by the band's first album Geography that same year. These first releases were cited as influential to other artists in the genre; however, they were not strong and hard-hitting as the group's later efforts. In 1983, Dirk Bergen left the band to pursue graphic design, and Richard Jonckheere, referred to as Richard 23, joined as vocalist.
Front 242 became a popular musical group in Belgium. Their next album, No Comment, released in 1984, was the first to introduce the term "Electronic Body Music" in association with their sound. Front 242 signed with the Wax Trax! label in 1984, and started their first tour in the United States with Ministry. This tour led to the creation of Revolting Cocks by Richard 23, Luc Van Acker, Alain Jourgensen of Ministry and others.
In 1987, Front 242 signed with Wax Trax! Records in the U.S. and Red Rhino in Europe, and released Backcatalogue and Official Version,.
In 1988, Front by Front was released, and in December of that same year, "Headhunter" (with a video by Anton Corbijn), became the band's first club hit, reaching #13 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart.
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