Interview: William Bennett (Cut Hands, Whitehouse)

Could you explain the concept behind Cut Hands and Afro Noise?

It’s been obvious for a over a decade and a half my fascination with African (and Haitian for that matter), especially in terms of the music, language, and art – the inspiration has been utterly invaluable, and my plan is to take this passion and endeavour much further with this 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 been in evidence in some of the latter-day Whitehouse tracks going back as far as the “Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel” single and beyond; I see 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 before – a staid, conservative, conformist, and oh-so-boring ageing ‘noise’ genre.

Several tracks have already been completed for the Cut Hands project. When do you plan to release them?

We’re just working on completing the artwork for the vinyl and CD editions of the forthcoming album, it really shouldn’t be too long (even though I’ve been saying that for what seems like an eternity now!)

Some of the tracks completed for the new project (“Bia Mintatu”, “Munkisi Munkondi”) have already been released under the Whitehouse name. Are these being re-worked or will they remain in their original forms?

Aside from minor tweakage, they’re pretty much in their original forms. Interestingly, both tracks were also recorded with Berlin’s experimental classical music orchestra Zeitkratzer – it was pretty amazing to hear how they coped with those pieces with their instrumentation.

Could you describe the composition and creation process behind the new tracks? How does it differ from working on music for Whitehouse?

Not as much as one might think since the integration of acoustic intsruments on recent Whitehouse projects, and certainly not in terms of the traditional process utilised proceeding from one of pure imagination to realisation – in actual fact, there is a fairly seamless progression from one to the other; I go out of my way not to make music that sounds like other artists – and I hope that these new works also fulfil that criterion.

You’ve been developing a collection of African instruments for use in the project. Do you spend a lot of time experimenting with how best to incorporate these into the music?

Yeah, absolutely – the kinesthetic pay-off from playing them is such that it’s a lot of fun working on stuff, even though it’s way too easy to get sidetracked in that sense of pure enjoyment.

In what sort of environment do you tend to create your music? Is there a time or setting that works best?

Anything really. Once you start I find it really difficult to stop till the job in hand is completed – this obsessiveness can involve non-stop sessions that might last 36 hours or longer. Once everything’s tied up, it’s then left completely alone for at least a couple of weeks in order to pass the vital test of not falling too much in love with one’s own work – I find that distance of time very effective in curbing that temptation.

How does Cut Hands work in the live setting?

The main focus is on special live visuals of rare African footage of one type or another – I’ll try and stay as much in the background of that as possible, although sometimes I’ll do an introductory talk of around 10 minutes’ duration with the hoped-for intent of heightening the trance state of the music/visuals for the audience.

How do the audience tend to react or behave at Cut Hands performances?

I’ve learnt that before making any such generalisations that so much of any audience’s reactions is dictated by transparent concessions such as their own group dynamic and other environmental considerations – in a word, there’s no expected or set type of response, and of course, that’s great.

How did you get involved in Vice’s Liberia documentary?

I believe the invitation was an indirect result of a piece I wrote on Sierra Leone for Bizarre magazine at the request of its editor Andy Capper (now of course of Vice itself, and one of the filmmakers); in fact, the article may even have had a part to play in the film’s original conception.

What’s next for yourself and your music?

I’ve been working on re-adapting the “Extra-linguistic Sequencing” project designed for the Tate Britain gallery in London – a bizarre exercise in creepy dark mass hypnosis.

William Bennett’s blog –

Cut Hands myspace –

Susan Lawly –