Interview: William Bennett aka Cut Hands
The Whitehouse founding member chats about Ghanaian percussion, Japanese theatre and a Berlin power station
This article is from 2013.
You just came back from playing Berlin Atonal – how did it go?
It was an unforgettable experience – the Kraftwerk venue is the disused heat power station in the East of the city and they’ve converted it into an enormous, incredible brutalist cathedral-like space with a huge laser-sharp sound system, and visuals and lights to match. It’s an absolutely fantastic place for seeing live music.
What’s the plan for the Summerhall show – will there be any of the visuals from previous live shows (featuring African subtitles, voodoo and joujou inspired symbols, monochrome scribbles etc…)?
Oh yes! Since that last time, lots of new stuff has been added and adapted to many of those original themes and best of all is the recent exciting transition to full colour.
In your Whitehouse days, you once said you wanted to create, ‘a sound that could bludgeon an audience into submission’. When you first started Cut Hands what did you hope it would sound like?
Until I began learning more about my collection of Ghanaian percussion instruments, I was never really sure how it would sound. Only that the Haitian musicians I’d seen were making some of the most mind-blowingly intense music I’d ever experienced, with almost none of the electronic technology that I felt that I’d become addicted to deploying.
Last year’s Black Mamba was a very full-on, beautiful, polyrhythmic exploration of drums, ritualism, darkness and driving energy. How did it differ from your first Cut Hands record?
The debut album Afro Noise I could probably be described as more eclectic in scope and certainly has more abrasive noise elements, probably because it was recorded over seven or eight years, some of which were during the Whitehouse years.
What would you say were the themes influencing Black Mamba?
It’s very hard to distil all those individual often complex themes, however in general terms it is to make things happen that you previously thought were impossible.
Any plans for other releases coming up? As Cut Hands, or anything else?
The new EP, ‘Madwoman’, on the Downwards label, just came out this week which is exciting, plus some music on new film soundtracks too including the just-released Kings Of Cannabis documentary.
Besides your own record labels, which labels do you keep an eye on for interesting releases?
It’s really a golden age in underground music at the moment. In addition to Blackest Ever Black and Downwards, I also closely follow what comes out on Hospital Productions, Modern Love, Pan and others.
You seem like a tireless trawler of all kinds of musical styles to find new rhythms, artists etc – have you made any interesting discoveries lately?
It’s true, I’m constantly lusting after potential new inspirations. Most of that comes from the voracious consumption of books and films however, rather than the musical domain. Currently I am wallowing in the brilliant treatises of Zeami Motokiyo, the Japanese 14th century Noh playwright. Despite never being an actor, I love finding ways to apply the principles of drama across to musical performance.
Summerhall, 8 Aug, 8pm, £8 (£7), with support from Stefan Blomeier and Claire.