The Racket Makers [2007-07-06]Whitehouse are one of the true noise originates as synonymous with the genre as the likes of Merzbow. They’ve been making extreme sounds since the early 1980’s, always independent through-out their long career releasing everything on their own label Susan Lawly. Their new album Racket(review here) sees them incorporating African rhythms, drones and cinematic textures. One half of the duo William Bennett kindly agreed to give me an interview.
m[m] what made you decided to become more musically and textured with Racket?
WB I'm not sure if there's been any conscious decision in this regard, I think most of the sound on Racket is a pretty logical evolution of how things have been developing on the last few records. Musicality and texture I would define as highly subjective experiences..
m[m] There’s a lot more instrumental tracks and longer instrumental non vocal section in many of the tracks on Racket- Can you see your self doing a total vocal-less Whitehouse album?
WB I think they're rather more prominent because of their position on the album, in actual fact, we've always done a lot of instrumental pieces of one kind or another, some of more experimental nature, and it's an aspect that's often overlooked for various reasons - and to pre-empt your next question, they do have a certain cinematic quality this time around.
m[m] A lot of the tracks on Racket have a cinematic quality-Have you ever been approached to do any soundtrack work and is it something you’d be interested in doing?
WB There have been offers made - and which were resisted essentially because I have such a passionate belief in the potency of music as an aural medium in its own right, it doesn't appeal to me to have it subjugated into the role of a mere backing track for visuals.
m[m] How did you come across the wonderful and odd sleeve painting for Racket?
WB Thanks, delighted to hear you like it as much as I do - I've been in touch with Stefan(Danielsson) for some time now, and have long been a great admirerof his amazing paintings, and since we share such similar obsessions and interests it seemed the perfect opportunity to liaise
m[m] In recent years there has been much interest in noise in genral thanks to people like Wolf Eyes ect, do you think this has help noise or has been detrimental?
WB The proposition implies that 'noise' is a cultural phenomenon or community that needs to be nurtured in some way, or given further exposure or popularity, and personally, I don't see music in those terms. That may indeed happen, and that's fine; speaking as an artist
however, I let that take care of itself and keep focusing on making the best records we can.
m[m] Has the way you construct and make tracks changed over the years? And how do you go about writing tracks?
WB We are constantly trying to do things differently to avoid the trap of falling into comfortable patterns - so in terms of locations, equipment, and the logistics of recording there really is no set way that won't be thrown away or completely revised for the next song. As far as the lyrics go, we each write our own, and I'll also re-edit Philip's, without compromising their original intent and detail, but to optimise them for the musical context..
m[m] What first spurred your interest in making noise?
WB A combination of the inherent beauty of abstract unfamiliar sounds, and the strong desire to get away from artistic conformism. Where a band like TG (or others in the late 70s) might tinker at the edges with these experimental sound forms (mostly through lack of options), they were soon abandoned as they began to acquire rudimentary understanding of their instruments in favour of the mainstream templates and as the rock dream seductively and tantalisingly beckoned. We have moved in entirely the opposite direction, where I began with classical music, then played guitar with Essential Logic and then things from there quickly became entirely abstract.
m[m] Will you be touring with The racket album and if so how will go about recreating the African/drone elements of the album?
WB Yes, there are going to be a number of live shows incorporating much of the newer material, and most of it will have to be recreated electronically for now; that said, I do see a stage in the future where this could be done acoustically and that's an exciting prospect.
m[m] What got you first interested in Using African elements & can you see you using other 'world' elements in the future?
WB To answer the second part first, I'm open to using anything - the key is doing things with these elements that aren't simply variations on pre-established traditional thematics - it's as if you were going to a place where music hadn't even been invented yet. And this is all stuff I learned from Raul several years ago - Raul was an amazing guy from Cuba I met in Madrid, a santeria priest who had lived in the Congo, and when you begin to appreciate the music that is made in countries such as Haiti or Ghana, no analogue vs digital, Mac vs PC bullshit, with nothing more than a few stones, some metal tools, djembes and doundouns, that could be so emotionally intense and stirring that it puts most Western music to complete and utter fucking shame.
m[m] Some years ago there was talk of you doing a solo album- is this something you’d still like to do?
WB Most of the tracks from that project (initially entitled 'The Asceticist') eventually got morphed back into Asceticists 2006 - I will be involved in a solo way with much of the Afro Noise releases that will be coming out soon.
m[m] Tell us a bit more about the Afro Noise release you mentioned & when is it due out?
WB I think it's been clear for a while now how the Whitehouse sound has been taking on board these elements, and now my plan is to take this passion and endeavour much further with the pursuit of an open-ended genre that I've dubbed afro noise. Essentially to consist of obscure African percussion elements in free-form work-outs with almost any other type of (genuine) sound experimenting. It's already in evidence in some of the latter-day Whitehouse tracks, and I believe there are incredible and exciting possibilities here which will also serve to draw a firm line between - what seems to me at least, and I've said it many times before - the utterly staid, conservative, conformist, and ageing'noise' genre.
m[m] Are you still shocked by anything? What most appals you about England at present?
WB I'll never get used to the kind of small-minded attitudes that not only plague the UK but elsewhere too - and there are a lot of people that I really love and respect, but as a species, human beings have a capacity for incredible unpleasantness, and not only to each other..
m[m] What’s the most bizarre item you’ve been sent or giving by a fan over the years?
WB How about the time I was 'given' a girl slave by one guy in particular (she happened to be his girlfriend)? I hasten to add she wasn't sent through the mail.
m[m] Have you plans to releases anymore none Whitehouse releases on Susan Lawly?
WB Yes, in addition to the Afro Noise project, there is another volume out this autumn of the Extreme Music series, this time Extreme Music From Israel.
m[m] Where does the labels name originate from ?
WB This is often asked and is from on an old in-joke between me and Steve Stapleton of NWW, I also consciously didn't want some macho 'industrial' label name like everyone else had at the time.
Thanks to William for his time and effort with the interview. For more infro on Whitehouse, Racket or to buy direct go here. Pictures were taken at the IV Congresso Post Industriale April 2007 in Prato – Italy- if you took the pictures- Please get in contact and I’ll mention you here.Roger Batty