Something’s Going On: Cut Hands
Interview with William Bennett, Cut Hands.
Cut Hands is the latest incarnation of William Bennett. The latest sonic venture from a man who is quite simply a true icon of the British underground. Spanning several decades and a multitude of genres and sonic terrain, William Bennett is something of an enigma, a mystery, who is forever pushing new boundaries in the realm of sound and experimentation. Cut Hands performs at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork on March 3 2013.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Before Cut Hands, there was UK noise group Whitehouse, who Bennett is the founding member. Formed in 1980, the aim was to create “the most extreme music ever recorded”. Several albums and legendary live shows followed, placing the group as mythical figures in the experimental and noise scenes. The sheer ferocity of Whitehouse’s sound was put to the extreme, pushing the limits and at all times, challenging ears and minds. What has proved a constant over the past years is Bennett’s single-minded determination to do what he wants to do; to create art on his terms, as he sees fit. I think this is a rare quality to be seen in any form of art and what is most inspiring about the icon that is William Bennett.
Cut Hands is the natural evolution on from Whitenoise, which Bennett himself has dubbed “afro noise”. Rhythm lies at the core of the compelling African-influenced poly rhythms and compelling beats. The latest album, ‘Black Mamba’ showcases one of Bennett’s most accessible, yet rewarding works, in my opinion. The title-track itself is dark and menacing. I feel the gravel-throated voice of Tom Waits will ascend upon the mix at any moment. The tempo rises and falls, culminating in a magnificent climax of sinister synths and beats.
Take ‘No Spare No Soul’, taken from ‘Black Mamba’, recently released on Blackest Ever Back. There are infinite subtleties immersed in the mix, with its hypnotic, slow-tempo rhythms unravelling your very consciousness. The Haitian and Jamaican traditions and cultures resonate powerfully through the wall of intense sound.
My personal favourite Cut Hands track must be ‘Impassion’ from 2011’s ‘Afro Noise 1’, an album eight years in the making. It’s one of those tracks that casts a magnificent spell upon you and makes you ask, just how was this made? An ambient layer is re-configured throughout; flowing effortlessly amidst hand percussion rhythms and compelling noise.
The Cut Hands live concert is an intense exploration of these sounds and William Bennett’s forthcoming appearance at the Triskel Development Centre is a rare opportunity to witness this innovative artist.
William Bennett Interview.
Congratulations first of all on your wonderful solo sonic venture with Cut Hands. Please discuss the background to your love of African music and your fascination with Africa, in terms of culture and tradition?
I used to know an amazing Cuban santería priest while living in Madrid about 20 years ago, at about 30 he was pretty young; he’d spent a couple of years in the Congo, was familiar with Kikongo language and tribes there, so much comes from his influence and the Caribbean islands tradition in general, particularly Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica.
How do you feel the experimental and noise scene has changed during the 27 or so years you were at the helm of Whitehouse and how do you see it as of now?
as with most contemporary musical scenes (for want of a better word), its fate has become determined by the evolution of technology and its opportunities and its limits; Whitehouse could never have existed before 1980 without the EDP Wasps becoming available, and you’ll find this kind of technological imperative is true of most forms of modern music, experimental and noise is no exception – furthermore, now that there’s such a crazy wealth of choice, and whether performer or listener, the real art has become one of being able to curate your experience; there’s really lots to be excited about right now.
There is a large cross-over in your work, and as an artist this is represents success for you in pushing the boundaries at all times. ‘Black Mamba’ is hugely influential on the British techno and industrial scene. Where do you see your music of Cut Hands belonging to and how do you see it develop in the future? (what musical avenues would you like to explore next?)
it’s really nice to be able to operate in different domains, by definition I guess this wouldn’t be possible if you belonged to one exclusively: who knows where this is all going, I’ve never had the wish to sound like anyone, even though you can be deeply inspired by them; every day I spend hours looking for sounds that can give you that special feeling and the smile of recognition, and hopefully there’ll be somebody else that likes it too
An entire musical spectrum is inherent in your music, both present and past, under the guises of Cut Hands and Whitehouse. What are the obsessions for you as a music collector?
it’s a pretty eclectic collection and I had to think specifically about this for a talk on collecting I did at MACBA, I managed to identify 4 main subdivisions (read ‘obsessions’): experimental, Italo disco, African/Caribbean, film soundtracks – then beyond West Coast rap and 80s Chicago house originals there’s almost nothing else.
What are your current inspirations?
as such a voracious reader and consumer of films and music, too many to mention
for example, this week I’ve spent watching some obscure Frederick Wiseman documentaries, reading Mary Daly, books on Gestalt therapy, listening to Skull Disco – it’s all great inspiration even though musically that translates itself in weird mysterious ways!
The Black Mariah and Plugd Records present: Cut Hands; live at the TDC SPACE in the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork on Saturday March 2. Doors 9pm and tickets are €15, on sale from Plugd Records (Tel: 00353 (0)21 4276300). DJ Bennetti AKA William Bennett (his italo guise) will also play Sun March 3 at Gulpd. Priority Boarding to ticket holders to Cut Hands show.
The following is the full listing:
KENNY HANLON (APARTMENT RECORDS)