When in the company rock musicians it is often hard to avoid thinking of Rob Reiner’s fantastic mockumentary, or ‘Rockumentary’, This is Spinal Tap. The film so accurately parodied the attitude of all those who think they’re rock stars that even now, 26 years later, it’s next to impossible to find a band who haven’t been guilty of at least a few Tapisms. What I should have realised, of course, is that the satire and parody of Spinal Tap is equally applicable to all walks of musical life.
While listening to an interview with William Bennett I was struck by the similarity to the scene in Tap where the lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, played exquisitely by Christopher Guest, is being interviewed while playing a piano piece he had written. The interviewer, played by Reiner himself in the guise of director Marty DiBergi, compliments Tufnel on the beauty of the piece, and the guitarist then extols on how it was written as part of a trilogy of works far loftier in scope and ambition than Tap’s usual fare, and says how he sees himself compositionally as sitting between Bach and Mozart. “What do you call this piece?” asks DiBergi, and without missing a beat, and perfectly deadpan, Tufnel replies, “This piece is called Lick My Love Pump.”
William Bennett is about as far from the image of Nigel Tufnel as it’s possible to get. His band, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, is called Whitehouse (I’ll provide a link to his label, Susan Lawley, but be warned; their website doesn’t go in for anything so vulgar as ‘design’) and he pedals what can be best described as, for want of a better word, Noise Music. I’m using the word Noise here in the way The Wire¹ and Paul Hegarty would use it: as an academic concept worthy of scholarly study and much beard scratching. The interview in question was one he did about five years ago with Edinburgh’s student radio station Fresh Air (promoting his album of the time, Asceticists) and in it he talks as great length and with great alacrity about the music he makes. He is clearly an intelligent man, and he makes short work of a poor, under-prepared student interviewer; it seems every question she asks misses the point of his work entirely (in his view), and he calmly and politely corrects her with great aplomb.
The part that had me doubled over with laughter (not something you want to be doing too often when your walls are as thin as mine) was about five-and-a-half minutes in, when after a lengthy explanation of his artistic method and expectations from listeners, he calmly, and without any apparent sense of mockery, introduces one of his tracks as, and I quote, Dumping the Fucking Rubbish.
I’ve included the interview below (with the tracks removed, sadly), so I recommend that you listen to it, and absorb Bennett’s calm, rational, charismatic discourse on his art, then listen to the track in question (also included below). Bennett is, to all outside observers, totally serious, yet I can’t help but wonder if this softly-spoken man has to fight the urge to burst into howls of laughter every time someone else takes it seriously…
Whitehouse – Fresh Air interview
Whitehouse – Dumping the Fucking Rubbish
¹ The magazine, not the TV show.
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Posted on June 14, 2011 by Tom