Music was seminal for the Goth scene at the beginning, and after the initial poignant and melancholy style of Goth music, Goth tastes ran to New Wave, industrial music or even rave. Goths vary in musical tastes from the haunting Darkwave to more industrial groups like Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails. Goth music has given birth to a progeny of styles such as EtherGoth, ElectroGoth, Orchestral Gothic Metal, GothPop, PerkyGoth, GlamGoth, Zombie Rock and others (Voltaire, 92). It is now increasingly tricky to identify what Goth music is, or to link one kind of musical style to Goth (Voltaire, 2).
Goth has been around long enough for some Goths to consider the original Goth movement - the Old School -- as the true Goth period and themselves as the only true Goths. Subsequent claims to Gothdom by a younger generation are rejected as fake or at least inferior by the older generation. Those who may look Goth but fall short of the real thing are called poseurs. Author Kilpatrick notes that being Goth is not a phase: "For most goths, a goth is a goth for life" (Kilpatrick, 24).
One area where a split on what constitutes Goth is seen is with rocker Marilyn Manson. While many teens identify Manson as Goth, many original Goths tend to dismiss him as a mere shock rocker. Many Goths reject Manson because he is considered too commercial, his music is not truly Gothic, and he achieved fame and popularity. Popularity is antithetical to Goth (Voltaire, 90-91; Kilpatrick, 89). However, With his black clothes, bizarre trappings, industrial type music, avowed rejection of society's mores, ties to the Church of Satan, and outcast persona, however, Manson continues to draw teen fans who consider themselves Goth (although many of his fans are increasingly mainstream).
Manson fans say they like him for being an intelligent individual who does not try to please society. They say that he reveals the hypocrisy and artificial veneer of our culture. Manson once said that he gets the kids America throws away, and this resonated with a lot of teens. One fan wrote, "I love the music, it tells the truth. You just have to be smart enough to know how to interpret the songs" (Wendell, email message to author, Jan. 19, 2002). Another admirer said, "One of his main messages is to not follow the calls and boundaries of others, but to make up one's own mind" (James, email message to author, Jan. 5, 2002). And yet another explained what Manson is all about: "He builds himself up like a symbol of all bad, corrupt and fake things in america, and sings lyrics with ironical themes but with true meanings. When the christian american mothers says they hate him, he just replies: Well, then you hate yourself, because i am a imitation of you...(pretty smart i think)" (Julian, email message to author, Feb. 1, 2002).
Goth musician and writer Voltaire humorously designates several types of Goths with names such as Romantigoth, Deathrocker, Cybergoth, Candygoth, Goth-a-Billy, and the Vampyre (Voltaire, 4-9). Another Goth writer categorizes Goths into groups such as blood drinker, cemetery goth, corporate goth, Diva, industrial, elder goth, fetish, graver, kindergoth, punky goth, Ubergoth, Vampire, Christian goth, Pagan/Wicca goth, and several others (Kilpatrick, 18-26; Kilpatrick does not capitalize "goth").
Goths often take a special Goth name; for example, transforming from Laura into "Raven" or from Jeremy into "Dark Angel." They might borrow names from vampire or Gothic novels, or from historical figures such as Poe or the mad Russian monk, Rasputin (Voltaire, 37). The purpose is to have a name to suit their Gothic persona, and ideally, the name should be "dark, mysterious, sexy, and romantic" with extra points it if evokes "an air of nobility" (Ibid.).
Spiritual beliefs vary widely, with agnosticism seeming to predominate. However, there are Goth Pagans, Goth Wiccans, atheists, Goths involved in Eastern beliefs, a very small number of Satanists, and Christian Goths. Goth Pagans and Goth Wiccans are becoming more common. The category of Christian Goth might surprise Christians, but Christian Goths in many cases were Goths before becoming Christians and find they still relate to the Goth style and outlook (. For extensive information on this topic, see http://www.christiangoth.com/ ).
Can there be a dark side to Goth? Yes, it is vampirism. Vampyres are a subset of the Goth scene, though many Goths reject vampyres as such and dislike being associated with them, finding it embarrassing (The spelling "Vampyre" is preferred by many to distinguish them from the fictional and stereotypical views of vampires; however, there are those who consider "vampyre" to be pretentious and prefer the original spelling). Vampyres may dress in capes, play a live action role-playing game such as "Vampire: The Masquerade," wear artificial fangs (or even have their incisors sharpened so they look like fangs), and may or may not drink blood from a voluntary donor. There are vampyre games that incorporate their own mythology and religion.
There is disagreement among vampyres as to what a real vampyre is. Some merely play the part in clubs or in games, or are into fetish scenes. Some belong to groups, called clans. Vampire role-playing games often designate several types of clans, each with its own special attributes and talents. The term "the Kindred" is used in some games to identify the players. There are those who claim vampyrism is a medical condition that causes them to shun the sun or crave blood. Others believe that a true vampyre is initiated by another vampyre, often through a blood-drinking ritual. Still others believe that one is born a vampyre. Some vampyres do not drink blood and reject this as a part of vampyrism, while others claim it is essential. Evidence and testimonies from this group indicate that blood is provided by voluntary donors only. Then there are the psychic vampyres who allege that they gather their "life force" from psychically feeding off people's life energy or emotions. The psychic vampyres often email me to insist that they are the true vampyres, while the blood-drinking vampyres do the same.
Some vampyres believe they are not human, and that they have reached a state of immortality. This non-human status is possibly an ironic reaction to, or comment on, our fast-paced and increasingly impersonal society, where shifts in relationships are casual and constant. The vampyre seems to say, if society treats us as non-human, then non-human we will become. Sometimes the vampyre guise is a way to reject others before others reject them, or a way to hide pain under a seemingly forbidding persona. The vampyre underground, although it is an extreme form of Goth counterculture, does exist, despite the fact that it is not commonly known, and despite the fact that society may not want to believe it exists. [For further information, see the CANA article, "The Vampyre Underground"].