William Bennett interview by Judith Howard - February 2002

Q: First of all, I'd like to ask you how you felt about the way Cruise was received. I've seen most of the reactions, most of them very varied, and wondered what you thought.

A: I have two points to make about this: firstly and most importantly, and this is often overlooked by many people, Whitehouse belongs to the type of art where the reactions become an important and integral part of the effect. That's not to say we don't take the creative side seriously - personally, I do to an often pedantic degree. Sometimes futilely perfectionist. But naturally, as with all music, people will react in a wholly personal and individual way - music is the ultimate nominalisation in that sense but these reactions, as you mention, form an integral part of the process. I judge the success of 'Cruise' by its capacity to polarise and this brings me to my second point. Polarisation is desirable because it's more likely to make people reveal their true selves, it reveals more of their truth even if it says little about the work in question. While for some this is a wholly positive experience, for others it exposes the enemy in the mirror.

Q: So in that case, how did Cruise manage to achieve this 'polarisation' as it obviously did?

A: Well, that's an interesting question, one can never be sure, but some of the factors may have been the atypical musical approach on tracks like 'Princess Disease'; 'Public' as the album's centrepiece; maybe the rather mischievous reinclusion of 'A Cunt Like You'; maybe the homosexual implications of the album title; maybe the general tone or subject matter of the lyrics. I don't know, but as I stress, this is post-analysis - these things aren't taken into consideration at the time of creation, I'll have to live with these albums for the rest of my life and an inordinate amount of consideration goes into getting everything right.

Q: Overall it seemed dark even by Whitehouse standards.

A: Yes, you know, I certainly favour an extreme form of asceticism these days. The true beauty of minimalism is deliberately denying or removing what you have had and enjoyed, denying yourself or removing skills you are quite able to do - the true aesthetic of nihilism. Minimalism without these criteria is simply incompetence and you see that everywhere.

Q: How did you feel about its press coverage?

A: We've never actively solicited media attention - I'm very grateful for all that we get, usually by some very supportive individuals. If some magazines choose not to review it, that's their prerogative. I usually take it as a vindication that there are some publications that will conspicuously fail to review our or Susan Lawly products.

Q: Like The Wire for example?

A: For example. It's not a magazine I often look at. I know nothing about free jazz but with regards to electronic music I do know my shit and I find it often rather misinformed and undoubtedly revisionist in tone. I recently noticed the ludicrously overblown review of MB's bedroom demos - hats off to whichever writer managed an entire page on that without mentioning TG or Whitehouse more than once.

Q: They gave Stockhausen a rough ride over his supposed WTC comments.

A: That's right - while ignoring the fact that he was horribly misquoted, it's nice to see the old guy can still offend the institutions.

Q: So how are the new recordings?

A: I'd say about half of the new album is now recorded, and, you know, there are definitely aspects to the sound people will find mildly shocking. There's more musique concrete and it's even acoustic in places - unimaginable to many but, trust me, this new material is very very intense and shamelessly grandiloquent. But you know I'd rather wait till people hear it before saying any more about that. At present we have the title track 'Bird Seed'; 'Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel' which is coming out soon as a 12" single in its own right; 'Why You Never Became A Dancer'; and 'Philosophy' which is a new version of a track from 'Mummy And Daddy'. It'll get released later in the year when it's finished. There's been an incredible amount of interest in this album from all sorts of unexpected quarters and I believe it will be a classic of the genre, and well, well worth the wait.

Q: Why the title Bird Seed?

A: Maybe it's a bit obscure but all will become clear when it comes out.

Q: Some new topics of interest were evident with Cruise - is there anything new this time around?

A: Well, without going into too much detail, and in my permanent obsessive quest for moments of inspiration I've been devouring various aspects of art, hypnotherapy, self-help, women's magazines, the mythology of Christianity - I'm becoming quite an authority in this field now! - plus the usual twisted diet of foreign-language books and films and all the other usual fixations.

Q: Anything else new planned at Susan Lawly this year?

A: Yes, there is, quite a bit actually. There's work going on towards remastering and reworking the video archives, there are the aforementioned Whitehouse releases, also there are sketchy plans for another volume of the Extreme Music CD series.

Q: Extreme Music From?

A: Some ideas have been floated but no decision's been made yet.

Q: What about live performances? What was the story behind the cancelled show in Akron last November?

A: It was most unfortunate and very disappointing - being a one-off show it couldn't have come at a worse time. Apart from our own difficulties, it wasn't convenient for so many others who were planning to fly in for the performance. We are presently trying to arrange another one-off special in the States now however, possibly in New York this summer, we'll see.

Q: What exactly was it that happened at the Leeds show last year?

A: I'd rather not dwell on that - objectively it was a great concert, but unfortunately not one I can derive as much personal satisfaction from as I'd like. We really don't want to go down the path where the audience have predetermined expectations of us. As I once stated, this isn't going to turn into some GG Allin-type circus.

2002 Susan Lawly - this interview may be freely used in part or in full for copying or publication.

 

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