Just like heroin, your first dose of
Whitehouse will probably make you feel sick. Taken again and again in increasing levels of intensity, you soon discover that you can’t live without them. After you become addicted, it’s difficult to find another band that hits the spot quite like they do.
The three-piece was formed in 1980 by Londoner William Bennett, a former punk who’d become bored of the punk rock movement’s short-lived ability to shock and provoke.
Named after an English anti-pornography campaigner Mary Whitehouse, as well as a low-rent porn magazine, Bennett’s main goal was to create a band that would “bludgeon an audience into submission,” by creating an overwhelming, violent noise.
At the start of their career, they used to book themselves gigs, describing their music as “synth pop with a jazzy feel,” then turn up and attack the unsuspecting audiences sonically, and sometimes physically.
Composed entirely on analogue keyboards, their music is made up of screeching feedback, white noise and horribly deep bass frequencies over which Bennett and Phillip Best scream of sadism, sexual violence, murder and coprophilia (one of their biggest hits is called “Shitfun”).
After pioneering the power electronics genre, which spawned art-noise losers like Masonna, they’ve since gone on to influence more high-profile artists, such as Aphex Twin who’s taken to playing one of the group’s latest songs “Cruise (Force The Truth)” to terrified ravers all over Europe. The track sounds like a million bees stinging your brain all at once while two scary men scream and shout directly into your face for upwards of six minutes. Strangely, it’s an extremely invigorating and enjoyable listen.
“There is no one simple emotion, but each moment is almost always positive,” says Phillip Best of the Whitehouse experience. “Excitement, euphoria, elation, ecstasy - sometimes melancholia, but never hatred, loathing, disgust or angst. Playing with Whitehouse always makes me feel good. Especially good.”
Because of their confrontational nature, Whitehouse have been bottled off countless stages, endured death threats, police intervention and a blanket ban by the world’s music press. On the surface, you can see why people might get upset. Their notorious 1983 “Right To Kill” album was dedicated to homosexual serial killer Dennis Nilsen and the subject matter on their brutal 1998 album “Mummy and Daddy” covers pedophilia and domestic abuse in uncomfortably amoral terms.
The group’s third member Peter Sotos creates the darkest part of the group’s work. The Chicago native makes audio collages of tear-stained TV interviews with murder victims’ families, crack whores and abused children. The results of his efforts have appeared on their last two albums and are deeply stomach-churning, if at times hilarious. Sotos claims to masturbate over them.
“To take delight in something “offensive” is of itself entertaining, and I suggest, a perfectly valid form of aesthetics” says Steve Albini, who’s worked on every Whitehouse album made after 1990. “Whitehouse are people with a full range of thought and creative impulses. They choose to examine unflattering or obsessive ones in detail, and the world is richer for it. Would you rather they re-wrote ‘Lady In Red’?”
For those of you who want more punishment, check out their latest studio album, the devastating Cruise. It’s out on their own label, Susan Lawly. You can also find out more by checking out www.susanlawly.com Approach with caution.