No stranger to industrial music, Blackhouse (not Whitehouse) has been around since the early 80's. The act pioneered (or preached) about being the very first Christian-themed industrial band on the planet. I actually think they are absolutely right. Nothing sounded like Blackhouse, either from the U.S. or Europe. While staying true to the unique sound (Rhythmic scrap-metal industrial and power electronics), the act has also constantly explored other electronic-and experimental based sub-genres. And the thing about Blackhouse is that they are STILL around, which actually makes them one of the oldest (and still active) industrial bands. So yes, God does move in mysterious ways. And as you all can guess, I was curious as to why the project is still active after all these years. Lucky for me, Brian Ladd, the sole protagonist of Blackhouse, agreed to have a video chat with me where we were able to discuss these issues and more. So ladies and gentleman, I give you our video chat transcribed for all to read.
Per Najbjerg Odderskov: Ok, You created/started Blackhouse way back in 1984. What brought it about? I can't recall any U.S based act that sounded like Blackhouse back then, only European based stuff.
Blackhouse (Brian Ladd): I did it to create something 'new'. I saw all these Industrial bands with their images of Auschwitz, dead bodies, gross sexual titillation... and I found it to be pretentious. People thought that trendy vile stuff was edgy. I found it trite. Whitehouse was supposedly banned by Rough Trade and I thought "what could be more offensive" than Whitehouse?" I mean... what would REALLY tick off the trendy industrial heads? Obviously, I was a fan of Whitehouse, and I was in contact with the band (and many other bands at the time), so, I decided to create Blackhouse. Like in a laboratory. It was an invention. I didn't want anybody to know it was ME, so I created characters for the band, made up their names, created a fake band history and sent out demos of the first recordings I made.
PNO: The first Blackhouse profile had a very Whitehouse/Sutcliffe-Jugend/Broken Flag kind of sound-aesthetic to it. Were there any American bands you also got ideas from?
BH: Minimal Man was probably the only US band that inspired me in any way. I got the Minimal Man "Shroud of" record from Subterranean records and got in contact with Patrick Miller from Minimal Man. We both liked what the other was doing.I was also very interested in the Residents - not just for their music, but also for their "theory of obscurity' manifesto. The idea that nobody knew who they were. It just seemed to click in my head.
PNO: Minimal Man was great. A punk rockish Throbbing Gristle kind of... Your debut leaned much towards classic power electronics and your second album, Hope Like A Candle, moved towards a more rhythmic scrab-metal industrial feel. What mad you move in that direction?
BH: On Pro-Life, the first album I did, the first side had NO RHYTHM and it was more like a Whitehouse-ish sound, and the second side had my trusty rhythm box and skipping records and stuff. I decided that I liked the PRO-RHYTHM material better and it suited my taste, so I kept it going. I didn't start Blackhouse to just "imitate" Whitehouse, it was more like a tribute, a spark. I wanted to move away from that & create a more rhythmic, powerful pushy sound
PNO: Most of the interest in Blackhouse, did it come from Europe or the U.S?
BH: There were many compilations that I contributed to. They were based in Europe. Here in the US, I was approached to do my first vinyl record by the Massachusetts label RRRecords. That record was called "Hope..." and it had a ... it was sort of a compilation of cuts chosen from both Pro-Life and Hope Like A Candle. The record ended in a locked groove which became a staple of my audio arsenal.
PNO: I doubt that bands who have been inspired by Blackhouse are primarily from Europe. Ever heard a Swedish industrial band called Mental Destruction by chance? One of my favorites, and was surprised to hear how much they owe to Blackhouse.
BH: I know Mental Destruction. They tributed their first cassette to BH.
PNO: Ok, I fell in love with their scrap metal and Christian themed brutality the first time around the same thing with Blackhouse. Although, you have also meddled with ambient and ritual music as well. Do you need to explore a certain style for every album?
BH: I enjoy many types of music and sound effects, and I experiment with different attitudes. I just do the music and see what's up. I am an experimentalist, really. The labels who release my music aren't necessarily experimental though. They stick with one kind of music in a lot of ways.
PNO: That's why you started your own label then?
BH: After the Hope album came out, I got a lot of publicity and appeared on many different compilation records and cassettes. Then I was asked to do records for labels in Germany and Japan and Belgium, and so on. It snowballed. But WHILE this was all starting to simmer in the pot, I was also working with my other band Psyclones and was getting interest on that as well. Really the Ladd-Frith cassette label was started before Blackhouse was ever conceived. We started our label to promote Psyclones and other bands. We liked ALL genres - punk, noise, po, Experimental, etc.
PNO: Again, not many of those cult labels in the U.S at that time. Had any controversial stuff happened with Blackhouse? How did people react to the Christian theme idea?
BH: As planned, some were totally offended by it!!! They were offended by Christ, but not by photos of dead bodies piled in mounds!!!!!!!!!!!! The offended one's despised Blackhouse BECAUSE of the Christian stance. They hated Christ. Their hatred controlled them. Some distributors actually banned me. I was blacklisted from many opportunities because of their bigotry. And those were haters. It still continues to this day. Some thought it was a clever joke - a put-on. They thought they were "in" on some cushy prank! And I allowed them to think that. I became more preachy... more overt... more blatantly Christian! And they thought it was crazy... and funny. And they loved the sounds for sure. That still continues to this day as well, no matter how much I reassure them that my mission is totally blatant & definitely NOT a joke. Other people were totally happy about it, because THEY were Christians as well, and they were glad that finally there was some over-the-top Christian band that not only represented them in their quest for Jesus music but sounded different than all other Jesus bands. That continues to this day as well. The rest, just like Blackhouse for the music and the Christian aspect doesn't matter to them one bit, one way or the other. They just like the sound without the politics.
PNO: Do you see a future for Blackhouse reissues? Boxsets?
BH: It just depends on who asks me. I would prefer to issue more new releases, but it's always a game to find a proper label. There are more than a few albums that nobody has ever heard or albums that never got proper exposure. The UK based label Contort Yourself will be releasing a very fine compilation called "One Man's Collection". It will be an LP of choice cuts and the brilliant cover art is by my Daughter. So I'm really looking forward to that. Also upcoming is the ROBOTS 7" record on the ATSLA label out of Canada. That one is all-new material recorded this year, just for that one project. It's got a real "old Blackhouse" feel to it, but it's certainly not an artificial construct. It's a very good record! I wanted the album art to be a tribute to David Bowie's album "Images" and this is it! The Robots 7" is brilliant cover art as well. It will be a picture disc.
PNO: Any more future plans regarding Blackhouse. Heard you did your fist live concert in Germany. Plans on doing more?
BH: If you don't have the Live In Leipzig CD, you should get it. It's a very accurate representation of the original Blackhouse "hits" - all recorded live. I've played live many times in Psyclones and all that, but I never did a solo live gig as Blackhouse, so it was very exciting to play at the Wave Gotik Festival in Germany. Will they ask me back? I don't know. We'll see. For 30+ years I refused to do any Blackhouse live event, so I'm not all hung up on doing live gigs, but I would take a proper opportunity to play live.
PNO: Any last words?
BH: Yes. I'd just like to say that Blackhouse is an art project. My art project and it's been a very delightful and exciting run. It's not a joke. It's a concept. It's a story. It's the story of my Life. Our lives. It's an evolving thing & not a stagnant, fixed idea. Even though it is an art project, I still stand by the things I say. I have pushed Christianity because I believe in it - because I believe in God. That is no joke or anything. And I'm glad it still manages to tick people off. And still manages to make people happy. Confuses them... makes 'em laugh. I'll do it 'til I die. And for 5 minutes after.
For music visit: https://blackhouse.bandcamp.com/