Article and interview by Gareth Birckbeck for the Australian Vertigo magazine (unedited version).
Whitehouse are one of the greatest musical endeavours to have emerged in the late 20th century. Since their inception in 1980, they have continuously produced music unmarred by mediocrity or compromise. Primary creators of extreme electronic music they have fearlessly taken sound and emotional expression to a previously unreached apex. They have recently released their first album for the new century: "Cruise" - a work possessed of both piercing brutality and moments of great subtlety and wit. It is a work that rips modern music from its cliched restraints and hoists it towards total bodily experience. It is impossible to listen to a Whitehouse record with indifference, their work commands a reaction. "Cruise" hits your stomach, your groin - slices into your mind like some furious digital scream of existence. The first track "Cruise (Force the Truth)" attacks the senses, ascending chords of noise crash over your brain like arctic waves. The unbridled fury of William Bennett (the guiding force of Whitehouse) screaming with increasing hysteria, the words grab your throat and begin squeezing. The pure visceral energy as the music spits "RIGHT NOW I'M SERIOUSLY FUCKING SICK OF IT" takes hold of your psyche like an epigraph to the 21st Century. I know of no other music I've yet heard that supercedes the intensity of such pieces as "Princess Disease" or "Scapegoat". Then suddenly the storms reach moments of calm, but within that calm lie dark and menacing shades, the collage of violation of "Public" and the insidious and horribly amusing "Dance the Desperate Breath".
I was recently granted the opportunity of an interview with William Bennett, I asked first off if he had begun Whitehouse with a definite goal in mind and whether the objective of his art had changed over the years...
William Bennett: Before I began making electronic music I had a vision of making a bludgeoning, tyrannical sound particularly in a live context. My goals now are simply ones of the most absolute and purest creativity possible - I'm not content with reusing the normal paradigms and I want my work to be beyond discernible influence. When someone picks up Cruise, I want them to wonder where the fuck it came from. What the hell is this about? Most listeners will probably feel they don't belong there but some people will be attracted to it.
V: In performance and recording, is it the purity of the music that you are aspiring to - would you say it was a positive experience rather than catharsis or is it a combination of both?
WB: I don't personally see it as a form of catharsis - positive, yes, but obviously much much more than that. It's a positive experience enjoying a good cup of coffee in the morning - but coffee doesn't uplift you and make you want to shake your fist at the sky or fill your whole body with a surge of electricity or any of the other amazing feelings you can get from music.
V: The music of Whitehouse could possibly be misconstrued as languishing in misanthropy and violence, you do indeed investigate the extremes of experience, would you say there was an aspect of humanity or human civilization that angers or disturbs you?
WB: I tend to take humanity as it comes, there seems to me little point in getting upset about human agendas and moralities. People waste entire lifetimes on such issues and, if they get old, cannot then come to terms with their own overwhelming sense of nihilism. I don't see humanity as being anything other than animals like all the rest. Perhaps one interesting characteristic humans have is that of a deep awareness of our own mortality which ultimately affects our behaviour both as individuals and as communities.
V: Would you say there was an overall purpose or aesthetic that informs the latest work "Cruise"?
WB: One of stretching the listener's patience, tolerance and creating a space wherein their own reaction forms part of the musical effect.
V: Are there any aspects of contemporary rock music that you find pleasing, or that appear to share in your aesthetic?
WB: None at all. Rock annoys me intensely - I don't know, it represents everything I hate about music - it's conservative, smug, believes it can change the fucking world; it sounds awful, you know guitars and drums are loathsome wanking instruments. It's depressing - just the word 'rock' or 'metal' or whatever, it's for old people with old minds, although that never stops another bunch of wannabes from posing in front of a camera to try their luck. Cliché upon cliché upon cliché. Pick up an issue of Rolling Stone or Q or Spin and you'll see them every week. I've heard it all before and don't want to hear it again. I've seen them come and go like a croupier watching some pathetic gamblers at a blackjack table. Also I've really enjoyed monitoring the last decade or so as machines and faceless programmers and producers with their computers have steadily completed their domination of music - music's better now than it ever was. It's nice to witness 'rock and roll' dying, and it's a pleasure to try and help it on its way.
V: With the extreme content, both lyrically and conceptually, in your songs, and despite your involvement in such events as the "Extreme Music from Woman" project, do you find you are still being misrepresented as misogynist thugs?
WB: People have a tendency to believe what they want to believe - all of us in life are misrepresented to a greater or lesser extent by others. I don't try and rationalise or justify what I do, one way or another. People are quite capable of making up their own minds. Misogynist thugs or art faggots? I'd be proud to be labelled as either but it doesn't make either any less or any more true.
© Gareth Birckbeck 2001
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