Whitehouse (band)

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Whitehouse live 2006.jpg
Whitehouse (William Bennett & Philip Best) live at Consumer Electronics Festival, 2006
Background information
Origin United Kingdom
Genres Power electronics, experimental, noise, avant-garde music, dark ambient
Years active1980–2008
Labels Come Organisation, Susan Lawly, Ramleh
Associated acts Come, Sutcliffe Jügend, Cut Hands, Consumer Electronics, Ramleh
Past members Philip Best
Peter Sotos
Kevin Tomkins
Glenn Michael Wallis
Peter McKay
Paul Reuter
John Murphy
William Bennett

Whitehouse were an English band formed in 1980, largely credited for the founding of the power electronics subgenre of industrial music.


History and personnel

The name Whitehouse was chosen both in mock tribute to the British morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse, and in reference to a British pornographic magazine of the same name.

The group's founding member and sole constant was William Bennett. He began as a guitarist for Essential Logic. He wrote of those early years, "I often fantasised about creating a sound that could bludgeon an audience into submission." [1] Bennett later recorded as Come (featuring contributions from the likes of Daniel Miller and J. G. Thirlwell) before forming Whitehouse in 1980. The group began performing live in 1982. In 2009, Bennett claimed that his pre-eminent inspiration was Yoko Ono: "Yoko's amazing music was by far the biggest influence on me, and Whitehouse, in the formative years (despite what some would have you believe)." [2]

Philip Best joined the group in 1982 at the age of 14, after running away from home. He was a member on and off ever since.

The group was inactive for the second half of the 1980s. A "special biographical note" on the Susan Lawly website states, "All members of Whitehouse went to live outside London for varying reasons and pursued separate lives. There was a feeling in the group that all that could be achieved had been realised." [3]

Eventually, Whitehouse re-emerged with a series of albums, recorded by the American audio engineer, Steve Albini, beginning with 1990's Thank Your Lucky Stars . Albini worked with the band until 1998, when Bennett took over all production duties.

Through the 1990s the most stable line-up was Bennett, Best, and the writer Peter Sotos. Sotos left in 2002, leaving the band as a two-piece.

The band had numerous other members in the 1980s including Kevin Tomkins, Steven Stapleton, Glenn Michael Wallis, John Murphy, Stefan Jaworzyn, Jim Goodall and Andrew McKenzie, though many of these participated only at live performances, not on recordings.

Bennett terminated Whitehouse in 2008 to concentrate on his Cut Hands project. He also has found success as an Italo disco DJ under the name "DJ Benetti". [4]


Whitehouse specialised in what they call "extreme electronic music". They were known for their controversial lyrics and imagery, which portrayed sadistic sex, rape, misogyny, serial murder, eating disorders, child abuse, neo-nazi fetishism and other forms of violence and abjection.

Whitehouse emerged as earlier industrial acts such as Throbbing Gristle and SPK were pulling back from noise and extreme sounds and embracing relatively more conventional musical genres. In opposition to this trend, Whitehouse wanted to take these earlier groups' sounds and fascination with extreme subject matter even further; as referenced on the sleeve of their first LP, the group wished to "cut pure human states" and produce "the most extreme music ever recorded". In doing so, they drew inspiration from some earlier experimental musicians and artists such as Alvin Lucier, Robert Ashley, and Yoko Ono as well as writers such as Marquis de Sade.

The signature sonic elements on their early recordings were simple, pulverizing electronic bass tones twinned with needling high frequencies, sometimes combined with ferocious washes of white noise, with or without vocals (usually barked orders, sinister whispers, and high-pitched screams).

In the early 1990s the band phased out the analog equipment responsible for this sound, instead relying more heavily on computers. From 2000 they began incorporating percussive rhythms, sometimes from African instruments such as the djembe, both sampled and performed in-studio.

Reception and influence

Whitehouse were a key influence in the development of noise music as a musical genre in Europe, Japan, the US, and elsewhere. The early music of Whitehouse is often credited with pioneering the power electronics (a term Bennett himself coined on the blurb to the Psychopathia Sexualis album) and noise genres.

The band's 2003 album Bird Seed was given an 'honourable mention' in the digital musics category of Austria's annual Prix Ars Electronica awards. [5]

As Nick Cain of The Wire put it,

By the end of the 1990s, power electronics was in a deep freeze. Fast forward a decade, and ... Whitehouse ... were enjoying an unlikely vogue, universally hailed by Noise makers from Peter Rehberg to Wolf Eyes ... and their work officially inducted into the avant garde canon through a collaboration with the German New Music ensemble Zeitkratzer. [6]


Studio albums


Live and other releases

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Come Organisation record label

Come Organisation was a record label started by William Bennett in 1979 as a way to release albums by his own band, Come, when he was unable to find a label willing to release them. It is best known for releasing the work of Bennett's subsequent band, Whitehouse.

Come was a British noise project which was founded in 1979 by William Bennett. In the short time of its existence it had such prominent members as Daniel Miller and J. G. Thirlwell. Bennett would later end the project in 1980 in favor for his then newly formed power electronics project Whitehouse, however a second studio album under the Come moniker was released in 1981 titled I'm Jack. The independent record label Come Organisation was created as a result of the lack of interest other labels showed in the group's recordings. They never performed live.

<i>Psychopathia Sexualis</i> (album) 1982 studio album by Whitehouse

Psychopathia Sexualis is the seventh album by Whitehouse released in 1982 on the Come Organisation label. It was on the liner notes for the album that principal member William Bennett first used the term "Power electronics" to describe the group's music.

Philip Best is an English pioneer of power electronics, who formed the band Consumer Electronics in 1982 at the age of 14. He joined the group Whitehouse, led by William Bennett, in 1983. After a nine-year hiatus starting in 1984, Best rejoined and remained with the group until departing again in 2008.

Power electronics was originally coined by William Bennett as part of the sleevenotes to the Whitehouse album Psychopathia Sexualis, and is related to the early Industrial Records scene but later became more identified with noise music. It consists of static, screeching waves of feedback, analogue synthesizers making sub-bass pulses or high frequency squealing sounds, and screamed, distorted, often hateful and offensive lyrics. Deeply atonal, there are no conventional melodies or rhythms. Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine produced a compilation compact cassette tape called Power Electronics in 1986 that was curated by Joseph Nechvatal.

Ramleh are a British experimental music group formed by musician Gary Mundy in 1982. The current line-up of the band includes Gary Mundy, Anthony di Franco and Stuart Dennison. Originally a part of the English power electronics and industrial music scene in early 1980s, Ramleh experimented with a more traditional rock format in their later releases.

<i>Total Sex</i> 1980 studio album by Whitehouse

Total Sex is the second full-length studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, which was released in November 1980 through Come Organisation, only a few months after the band's debut, Birthdeath Experience. The album was reissued twice, first on CD in 1994 through Susan Lawly, and again in 2008 on double vinyl format through Very Friendly. The original release was limited to 1,200 copies on vinyl, the first pressing consisted of 800 copies, the second consisted of 400 copies on translucent green vinyl.

<i>Thank Your Lucky Stars</i> (Whitehouse album) 1990 studio album by Whitehouse

Thank Your Lucky Stars is the tenth studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, released in 1990 through the newly formed Susan Lawly label. Recorded in September 1988, it was the group's first studio album after a period of inactivity during the later half of the 1980s and the first to feature contributions from writer and musician Peter Sotos and production work from Steve Albini. A special edition was issued in 1997 on CD format that contained bonus tracks previously released on other Whitehouse albums and singles.

<i>Halogen</i> (album) 1994 studio album by Whitehouse

Halogen is the thirteenth studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, released in April 1994 through their Susan Lawly label. The album's cover was made by artist Trevor Brown, who previously collaborated with the band on their 1991 album Twice Is Not Enough.

<i>Quality Time</i> (album) 1995 studio album by Whitehouse

Quality Time is the fourteenth studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, released in 1995 through their Susan Lawly label. The cover art was illustrated by Trevor Brown, who made artwork for the band's previous album, Halogen, and their 1991 album, Twice Is Not Enough. The album was reissued on vinyl format in 2009 through Very Friendly.

<i>Mummy and Daddy</i> 1998 studio album by Whitehouse

Mummy and Daddy is the fifteenth studio album by power electronics band Whitehouse, released in early 1998 through Susan Lawly. The album mostly focuses on domestic violence and is considered by many to be one of the band's darkest recordings. The cover art was illustrated by Trevor Brown, who previously worked with the band for their albums Quality Time, Halogen, and Twice Is Not Enough.


  1. Susanlawly.freeuk.com
  2. William Bennett, "The Inner Sleeve", The Wire 309, November 2009, p. 71.
  3. Susanlawly.freeuk.com
  4. "Interview with William Bennett". Decibel, 8 July 2014.
  5. ARS Electronica Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Nick Cain, "Noise", The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, Rob Young, ed., London: Verso, 2009, p. 31.