“How do you pick up a goth girl?”
“With a crane.”
–Book of Proverbs
It’s no secret that the common perception of those who choose to align themselves with the darker/ more macabre facets of culture, what laymen might refer to as “goths”, is one of slovenly unkemptness. Regardless of the truth of it, say “goth” and the image conjured up is Blobbert Smith and the cover of the first TRUST album.
Which, I guess, is fine. You do you, bae. But it’s not a totally accurate portrayal. Think of it this way: the more our generation feels disenfranchised, the more our generation flocks to the darker side of art and culture. And, thusly, naturally, the less that population is able to be generalized.
Ugh. I sound like a sucky sociology textbook. Let me put it this way: “Goths”, or people into darker music, art, culture, etc, also are now turning to exercise, fitness, and the gym. Why? I don’t know. There are many many publications that would try to sell you on the concept of Healthgoth, a “movement” out of Chicago that ostensibly serves as both rallying cry and originator of merging fitness and the macabre. I have to digress for what might be more than a minute, and call bullshit for what it is: bullshit. Health Goth, properly space and punctuated, began and still exists as an internet aesthetic. It’s a great term, right? Everyone loves a good label for a sub-culture. I love it. Health Goth. I like wearing my NVR MND sweats when I go to the gym.
But, but but: the Health Goth that is being sold in the New York Times and everywhere else as a “thing” is, in fact, a problematic non-movement. The faces of it, what I’ll call Health Goth Inc, are noted homophobic assholes (I’m not going to name names) who are out for a quick buck (and one of them broke my damn laptop at Santos several years back when he neglected to bring anything, at all, for a paid DJ gig he was booked for so the promoter asked if he could use mine). Please stop talking to me about those people, linking me to articles about those people, etc. They’re terrible humans.
So, here’s the thing: Health Goth? Yes. Healthgoth/Health Goth Inc. and that whole crew? Fuck that. Being healthy and goth? ABSolutely. When I say “Health Goth” in a positive way from here on, I mean those who walk the darker path but also take physical health seriously.
Which brings me, Mr Healthy Gothik In The City, to my new religion.
Part of what I’ve enjoyed in the rise of Health Goth in popular culture has been the ability to associate exercise, an intensely moving and personal ritual in and of itself, with other rituals, signs and signifiers that are meaningful to me, not some Madonna-ized Kabbalah-type shit. It’s that type of stuff that kept me away from, say, SoulCycle, or most fitness classes buoyed with whispers of “it’s so transcendent”. I’m a practicing occultist, I have a Bret Easton Ellis tattoo, and I hate most people. Listening to Salem’s “King Night” makes me feel like I’m on ecstasy, or as the kids these days call it “molly”. So, when the concept of Soho gym The Monster Cycle, ostensibly a pitch black cycling class torture chamber of horrors, reached me, my initial response was “oh fuck yes.”
That would soon turn into a “Hell Yeah!”
Let me say this, up front, about Monster Cycle: I am a student of marketing and branding, and everything they do, they do right. From the logo, to the merch, to the way they handle their social presence, everything is designed to entice, to incite, to draw in. Like, in many ways, a cult. No one joined the Manson family bc they thought Charley had a wonderful way with spreadsheets.
While Monster Cycle has a growing roster of instructors with their own flair, the one everyone whispered about to me, and by everyone I mean the goths on the secret goth chatline that you’re not invited to, was Michael, the originator of The Monster Cycle. So his was the class I first took, and his was the class that converted me.
Not to spoil anything, but The Monster Cycle is equal parts inspiration, perspiration and scarification. It’s workout that’s become, for my jaded ass, a way of life in the past month. I’m literally decked head to toe in Monster Cycle apparel that I paid for myself, and let me remind you that I hate most things, especially things that anyone else does. And as The Monster Cycle grows in notoriety, as awesome things do, more people have been showing up, and so the tiny little gym, or “bass-ment” as they call it, is filled, constantly, to the brim with people wanting to sweat and burn and hurt and work.
The thing is, I’ve (on more than one occasion) had a stupidly therapeutic moment at The Monster Cycle, in ways I have never had throughout all my other trainers and sessions and classes (sorry, You Know Who You Are On Broadway). I don’t know to what extent the songs played are proprietary, but I’ve legit cried my eyes out, head down on the bike, to a recent Robyn song, sweating out the bullshit of the past two years of my life.
Which brings me to the most recent Monster Cycle special event: The Goth Pop ride.
As I write this, I sit in recovery from The Monster Cycle’s first ever full-on Goth Pop class, a night that actualizes the Health Goth aesthetic in a way that I’ve yet to see done to this level of completion anywhere, really. Opening with the silliest/best Rob Zombie song ever, ‘Dragula”, and culminating in the hardest workout I’ve ever, ever had, to two video screens playing 35 simultaneous showings each of the video for NIN’s “Closer”, The Monster Cycle’s first Goth Pop ride (which, by the way, reminded me that we need to start a #FREENATALIAKILLS movement to get Madonna to let her out of the basement) was the most fun I’ve had on a Friday night since, well, since I stopped raving for days on end.
And there’s something to be said for fitness being the new nightlife. So let’s give thanks and praise to the true Health Goths: Monster Cycle, and dig through the ditches, burn through the witches, and all that jazz.
Ed. note: here is Russ’ first Healthy Gothik mix exclusively for BYT: