Week 7: Whilst you have the Right to Kill, I must inform you that you are infringing my trademark
I was never a big collector of power electronics and have little to add to what is said by the anonymous author of Bang Out of Order. Noise is something which has always interested me, but even at the height of my fascination with sonic extremity I avoided immersing myself in the work of its muckiest exponents.
I saw Whitehouse at their “come back” gig in the back room of a south London pub in 1990. It was hugely loud and violent, but I didn’t feel the need to experience it again. It is perhaps indicative that the only Whitehouse record I have ever owned has been a fake one which was sent to me at the turn of the century. I’d filed it away after getting a mate to review it and only remembered its existence during a recent conversation with Martin. He assured me that power electronics fans were both rich and gullible enough to want it.
The record is allegedly a “cover version” of an unreleased Whitehouse track which was faked up by northern noise pranksters “Smell & Quim”. I once saw them do a gig with Headbutt and it was fucking bedlam with about 30 people on the stage going mental in various different ways. However I managed to find some speculation on the web saying that it was all the work of legendary Japanese noise-meister Merzbow, so I hyped that up in the auction instead.
It is a cliche that a lot of this stuff is more interesting to think and talk about than it is to actually hear. Next to the “Whitehouse” record was an early 7″ by NON and Smegma which is best known for having two holes drilled in the label to allow more variation in the sounds on the tracks. I recall playing that one at least once.
I also dug out a few fanzines which featured material by Whitehouse-related artist Trevor Brown. I still quite like his earlier stuff – all stark monochrome draftsman-like line drawings. Less keen on his later full-colour work featuring injured girls.
The only power electronics group I had any real knowledge of was The Grey Wolves. It seemed like every letter I received in the early 90s featured several of their tiny flyers. They did “bleak” very well, although after a while their endless parade of totalitarian imagery proved wearing.
What I liked best about them was that they seemed relatively down to earth people. As with Andy Martin of the Apostles/Academy 23 you could write to them and get nice letters back. There was a kind of proley punk aspect to what they were doing which was some distance from the aloof artiness of Whitehouse. Yes, they were named after a turkish fascist group and used runes, skulls and images of blokes with balaclavas and rifles more than was strictly necessary, but they at least were able to make unambiguous statements about not being fascists themselves. Maybe the years between me seeing this stuff and the satanic-nazi chic material of the mid-90s makes me look back on the Grey Wolves with rose-tinted specs, but I see more depth there.
I remember the music as being quite good as well, but their cassettes have long since been disposed of. One compilation album remained (including tracks by “names” Ramleh and Con-Dom) on it went.
I also found reams and reams of printed matter by ye Wolves. If I remember rightly one of them actually had a photocopier in his house which I found kind of amazing in the late 80s. Lots of booklets (mainly reprints of suitably bleak material from text books or tabloids) catalogues and posters.
A small auction of flyers and a letter from USA power electronics “unit” Intrinsic Action generated this entry on their blog: “borders on the disturbingly stalker-ish side of things… personal letters, and all…”. Disturbing the composers of “Sado Electronics” was something I found quite funny.
Intrinsic Action’s work has always been in the shadow of the godfathers of the genre, and this carried over onto ebay. It gave me enormous pleasure to receive the following just two days into the auctions:
Dear John Eden,
Thank you for your recent auction-style listing on eBay. Unfortunately, these items breached one or more of our policies and had to be removed from the site:
230098214766 – WHITEHOUSE (?) – Sweet Tooth / 5.57 7″ RARE MERZBOW
Your eBay fees for this item have been credited to your account and all bidders on this item have been notified of its removal.
The rights owner, Susan Lawly Recordings, notified eBay that this listing violates intellectual property rights. When eBay receives a report of this type of violation, we remove the listing to comply with the law.
Why was your listing removed?
Misuse of trademarks, brand names and logos is illegal and therefore against eBay policy. A trademark is a unique sign (such as a name, word, phrase, logo, or symbol) that a company uses to identify its products or services. Trademark misuse includes inappropriate comparisons to a branded item, selling counterfeit or replica items and keyword spamming.
The rights owner for the item you listed sent us a signed legal statement telling us that your item infringed their copyright, trademark or other rights. We were therefore legally obliged to remove the listing.
If you have any questions about the removal of your listing please contact the rights owners directly.
Please note: It’s illegal and against eBay’s policies to use a brand name as part of your listing to falsely imply connection between you and the brand owner, or a false sponsorship or endorsement of your listing by the brand owner.
We encourage you to contact Susan Lawly Recordings directly if you have any questions. You can send an email to:
I was initially a bit irked at this as my auction listing had made it pretty clear that it the item in question wasn’t by Whitehouse but was a “tribute” or cover version (I can’t recall which, and the listing has been removed).
Obviously William Bennett (head honcho and I assume only employee at Susan Lawly) has a duty to protect his trademark, as does any small-businessman. In fact, in the case of Whitehouse this is probably more important than for any other cult pop group. The reliance on mystique is paramount. It is a bit of a toss up though, whether the mystique is more damaged by piss-taking “tribute” records, or by Bennett spending his working day trawling through ebay for unofficial Whitehouse product.
Having said that, his intervention reminded me to register at the Susan Lawly discussion forum to hype the living daylights out of my remaining auctions, which lead to a very agreeable number of additional bids.
I certainly enjoyed the process of setting up ambiguous situations and seeing what the reactions are. A bit like power electronics, but without the godawful noise and shouting.
It made the actual monetary value of what I was flogging much less interesting.