Underhive Pound
18th Oct, 2010

'Pound' is a genre of music found in underhives of 40K. It is popular with gangers, scum, and mutants. My first thought of this type of music it that is would be some kind of hard core techno. I quickly dismissed this when I thought about the economy and resources of the Underhive. Modern techno uses sophisticated instruments, amps, and gear that I doubt those in the Underhive would have access to. If they did have access to such gear I suspect if would be rare and not common enough to found a genre of the Underhive music. We are so used to modern technology it is often hard to over look it and think of a world without it. I think the music of the Underhive has to be limited by resources. Back to basics.

Thinking of the types of instruments these Underhivers could have, or make, I assume they would have to make it themselves. Stringed instruments are quite difficult to construct, but not impossible. It's a question of raw materials. Drums are more likely and fit the idea of 'pound'.

If we look for inspiration of human ingenuity in our modern world, the type of music those with nothing make (no money, limited resources, often scavenged materials), is defined by what they can get there hands on. Street drummers who make drums made from containers seems like a good start. I sure the Underhivers could scavenge discarded containers from dumps and convert them to drum.

All this would be noisy, yet kinda quiet compared to what I imagine Underhive pound to be like. It needs some serious base. So I figure an old fashioned megaphone/ horn on a massive scale, a 'megahorn', would amplify the sound to a suitable level. In keeping with the 40K theme these megahorns could be constructed from scraps of metal with an Ork like aesthetic, riveted together. The sound source could be a drum, perhaps an opening on a large container/ vat, or merely someone pounding away at an iron girder with a club-hammer. There could be multiple megahorns, with many sources all working together, to amplify the faster drumming sections of the troupe (like the street drummers mentioned earlier).

The other instrument that is common is the human voice. Obviously something beautiful is a bit out of place in the underhive, so no gospel choir, or opera. Perhaps wailing like a banshee down a megaphone? Drug induced howling from ingesting LSD mushrooms?

All combined the Underhive pound could be a mix of booming base, street drumming, and siren like wailing of mind altered singers.

How the audience reacts to this type of music is anyone's guess. While pondering this type of music, and performances, Homer popped into my head and reminded me of 'Stomp' ('stomp, clomp or some piece of crap' as Homer put it :P). Which made me think of how the audience could interact in the performance. Perhaps something like the Native American Stomp dance.

Together with this pounding baseline the audience are stomp dancing. Perhaps they are tribal? Maybe this event has spiritual significance, with some falling into trances? It may introduce the ideas of Voodoo, and perhaps the deep south of America (possible chaos influence too!).

In thinking about this we can start to imagine how an Underhive club is put together, that is may be more than a mere 'nightclub' to blow off steam, and it may be a spiritual focus for the underhive community. For an RPG we could start to imagine roles, and possibly NPC careers. Singers and musicians would be more akin to priests (High Pound Priest). Which fits the 40K vibe.

With so much tribal carry on, emotion, stress, trances, it would be hard to resist adding in a little chaos influence. All this noise reminds me of the noise marines, and perhaps all the emotional energy produced feeds Slaanesh? Slaanesh may augment the sound on a particularly good night. Certain constructions of megahorn: materials, shapes, and decoration, may please Slaanesh more than others, and this may influence the sound is obtained. PCs who listen to it, may be affected in unusual ways.

I hope this gives a deeper idea of what something as simple as a throw away line as 'pound' could be really like in the underhive, and perhaps something your Players were not expecting - after all: 'how different could an underhive nightclub really be?'


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5 Responses

Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in, you are most welcome!

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  1. Malika says:

    But why would amps and other gear be so rare? Look at the whole gabber and techno scenes, which were often based in squats, which aren't known for the economic wealth. With hip hop we see the same. I doubt Pound would be that different in that regard, I'd imagine Pound producers would use retrofitted Vox Casters and other equipment to produce their music. Other instruments could just be industrial equipment, drills, hammers, chain equipement, etc. Try to think stuff like Einstürzende Neubauten, Der Eisenrost, Chu Ishikawa, and others. might even look into noise music, so very distorted stuff like Merzbow and what now for influences for Pound.

    If we are going to introduce this into Sciror, I would imagine that this kinda music would be made using old equipment supplied by the Machines of the Supremacy.

    • Philip S says:

      If the under-hive were like our world I would agree, but Philhammer dives down a rabbit hole and dies deep in the earth. We have to adjust our thinking to the nightmare reality of under-hives. That border the sump. In our world, the poor have access to modern discarded tech, there is a tremendous turnover of technology, and with the internet, anyone can learn. Whereas in Philhammer hives this is not the case. The internet, if a hive has it, will have nothing about technology. The Ad-Mec will filter that out. All technology has stagnated, so all (advanced) technology is treasured, and supplied by the Ad-Mec in service agreements. No one is discarding Ad-Mech technology, everything is reclaimed and recycled. To compound the issue, Ad-Mec technology is far more advanced than electronics (optoelectronics, bio-photonics based cortex, and repurposed biological brains) and harder to figure out. If someone can figure out Ad-Mec tech, or have an implant, they have skills everyone will want: especially organised crime syndicates and Dark Adeptus. This all leads to the idea that the under-hive music should be primitive, and tribal, like the 'drums in the deep' banged out by Goblins in the Moria mines. That's not to say a story character cannot be in the under-hive with tech skills. This would be an exception rather than the norm. This article is more about the default, the base template, of what to expect in the under-hive in regards to music.

      I do like your idea though, but I think it would have to be further up the hive. It would be more appropriate for hive-spire adolescents, but it would with the consent of the Ad-Mec. Music, as you describe, could be part of a decadent party. This seems to fit, and perhaps a commentary on first world perceptions. Throwing parties, and playing with amps, is a little decadent compared with working in a field as a peasant farmer. I'm sure a North Korean farmer may be shocked that musicians can do this in the west, and still live. What we think of as 'poor', and 'rebellious' these days is a little twisted, perhaps getting very close to Slaanesh? 🙂

      In Sciror we would have some leeway depending on the era. While ‘Stare into the Abyss’ would follow the above, the Psidemic might not, and the Supremacy definitely not. Though the theme of decadence may endure. Where the music provides the thrill for the ‘rich’. A rally cry for their hate of their parents and stifling expectations, rather than the harsh reality of scratching a living out of the dirt?

  2. Topher says:

    I have to say I really like the "Drums in the Deep" idea of all this. I can just picture a newly-minted Arbites Enforcer, brought up on some faraway world (as they invariably are, according to the fluff) and having never seen a Hive, being given the grand tour by his watch commander at his new posting at the Underhive Border:
    "The pounding? Oh, that's what passes for music in the Underhive, son. Makes 'em crazier than normal, and out for blood. We double the watch when the pounding starts..."

  3. Kage2020 says:

    The use of drum in "shamanic" ritual has long been an acknowledged powerful feature associated with human psychology.  I seem to recall that something similar was printed on the dustcover of music that was popular when I was younger, though I cannot remember whether it was some gothic rock band, or something a bit more ambient... or even something like Engima or Oldfield.

    On the other hand, while the aesthetic might continue towards everyone that isn't rich being "covered in s**t" ala Monty Python's Holy Grail, the idea that they wouldn't have access to the kind of technology that is used to produce "trance" music is, at least in my mind, pushing it somewhat.  It reeks of the dubiousness of the official Warhammer 40,000 RPG where all the common citizens of the Imperium sound like they come from rural Yorkshire, Lancashire, the Black Country, the East End, or perhaps even Devon.  They might even come with a flat cap, walking stick, and clothing liberally patched with the leftovers of Mrs Miggins from the pie shop.

    I don't think that anyone expects the 40k universe to be sanitised, evoking the kind of late '70s and early-to-mid-'80s sci-fi where we were given the clean lines and beep-disco of Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but even if you go with steam punk imagery there is little reason other than personal preference why the aesthetic/ergonomics must necessarily reflect the underlying principles.  Similarly, the adoption of Steam punk as all but the de facto aesthetic for FFG's Rogue Trader, which blends Age of Sail adventure and Conquistador swagger to such an extent that I hear Abney Park in the back of my head, doesn't mean that only the rich and powerful are "airship pirates," with the rest being muck-grubbers and ground pounders if little consequence.

    With that said, I found what you wrote interesting even if I was not lured in by the particular arguments in question.  Dystopic nightclubs, on the other hand, drawing from cinematic imagery encompassing anything from Blade to Doomsday, Flash Gordon (sorta) to A Knight's Tale (again, sorta), perhaps even throwing in some of the opening scenes from Daredevil... 😉

    It once again reminds me that a look at Imperial Culture would be interesting, especially if one could extricate oneself from the broad-brush strokes of FFG and the crutch that "every world is different."  Instead of concentrating on the differences, perhaps it would be interesting to consider the similarities that are accepted without pause for some aspects of the 40k universe and then readily ignored for others.


    • Philip S says:

      I think what you are describing would dovetail nicely into my ideas of the main hive. To me the underhive is far more desolate, with a transient population moving from dump to dump, with a strong tribal vibe in organised areas (maybe even mining or farming) and desperate homeless people in others. I imagine that the basic pound, as I've described, could filter up and influence the main hive above.

      I like the idea that the underhive generates massive base pounding away that may be heard, and even felt, in the lower parts of the main hive. This could be disturbing in some ways, a bit like a civilized fortified town hearing the clash of drums, or spears on shields, of the savages outside their walls (a bit like the goblins of Moria in the film of LOTR, with the dwarf stronghold higher up and goblins in the deeper levels).

      The line between fortified underhive tribal strongholds and main hive areas may be grey, with some being a mix of both. Some main hive areas may have links to the underhive, as this would allow covert passage to other main hive areas, and may include smuggling roots.

      Getting back on topic, I like the idea that the underhive tribes may have naturally developed pound as part music and part warning. To remind those above they still endure, and not to enter. I also image the upper hive will have hunters which may love the idea of adventures in the underhive.

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