To many people, power electronics means Whitehouse but there were many other bands working at the same time, both in the UK and Europe, and amongst these was Ramleh. they were just as much at the forefront of this new form of music and yet they don't seem to have received the same amount of recognition as the infamous Whitehouse.
Gary Mundy was the driving force behind Ramleh's noise assaults. And, not only was gary a member of Ramleh but also behind their label, Broken Flag, which he set up to release their material as well as that by like-minded artists such as MB, Satori, JFK and Putrefier. He also met up with Philip Best who, at the time, had his own band, Consumer Electronics (later he joined Whitehouse), and, similiarly, had established his own Iphar cassette label. Together, Gary and Philip collaborated on the Male Rape Group project. This, in turn, was the precursor of the new, revivified, Ramleh of 1990 onwards. No longer a power electronics outfit, ramleh are now working in a 'noise' vein, although utilizing the same force and energy.
The following interviews took place over the period of October 1991 - January 1992.
(Interview with Gary Mundy)
GH: You were part of the groundbreaking power electronics genre of the early '80s as a member of Ramleh and also ran your own record label/distribution service/production company, Broken Flag. What did you consider the purpose of the confrontational music/philosophy of power electronics?
GM: I just wanted to give music a kick in the teeth. It had all become so tame and mediocre that I thought a loud shock to the system was the only answer.
GH: How did this music come about? It was contemporaneous with the industrial scene, with Throbbing Gristle and SPK et al, but far more extreme and brutal. Were you at all influenced by art movements such as performance art and happenings or was the music a reflection of the times in the same way as punk, for example?
GM: As said, music at the time was very mainstream, with no sense of excitement and nothing to make you want to become part of it. I saw it as a rubbishing of the existing scenes -- a kind of anti-rock and pop notion but without the avant-garde connotations.
GH: Was there a collective aim, a united front between ramleh, Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend and Consumer Electronics, to name a few of the bands, to attack the conventional... to attempt to deliberately provoke people? I ask this as it seems to me that there is a parallel with Dada and the Surrealists. Would you agree?
GM: there was no collective aim. Some of the bands played together and would sometimes to to upstage each other with increasingly violent stage acts, but I saw no united front. I saw Ramleh as a very separate thing from the other bands although we shared a common audience.
GH: Did the Ramleh lineup of yourself, Roebert Strudwick and Jerome Clegg stay the same in your power electronics phase? What are they doing now?
GM: Robert Strudwick and Jerome Clegg were with Ramleh at different times, but both during the 'electronic' phase. they both gave up music after leaving Ramleh.
GH: In an article in FLOW MOTION, you are quoted as saying: "It is so very easy to see our actions as sensationalist. They are not. They are essentially brutalist." Can you tell me about these "actions" and define what you mean by "brutalist"?
GM: I was talking here, I think, about our performances and musical output and packaging and, basically, saying that there was a kind of raw, basic, natural element to it which was what made it special to us. It wasn't pure attention-seeking (although to deny that side completely would be foolish). The violent imagery was deliberately shocking because it went hand in glove with the whole idea of Ramleh -- it just fitted somehow. We were interested in fear and terror and used the things that disturbed us to influence the mood of the listener -- to call up some kind of raw emotion. That kind of gut-reaction music and style worked for me then like nothing else could and made me glad to be a musician once more.
GH: CONTROL, another of the zines around in the '80s covering the experimental scene, featured a short piece by you entitled "Belief Beyond Ramleh -- extrakt, THE INFLUENCE," in which you mention "the new confidence onslaught." Can I infer from this expression that Ramleh had a doctrine or manifesto? What was this?
GM: The writings simply added to the mood of the music and were written in an arrogant and urgent style. There was no manifesto and, ultimately, I found it unnecessary to do this. The music was all that was really needed.
GH: How do you/did you react to FLOW MOTION's assertion that Ramleh's stance was essentially a "racist" one? To quote: "Their first release, 21/5/62/82, was recorded exactly twenty years to the day after the execution by hanging of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. To Ramleh, Eichmann is a man to be admired."
GM: This is one of those "you had to be there" answers. At the time, this all fitted in with the audience-baiting and obnoxious attitude of the band -- deliberately taking opposite standpoints just because it was irritating to do so. We enjoyed getting up people's noses and found it amusing to be accused of things which were simply untrue. We were never a racist or right-wing band. Indeed, no members of Ramleh ever had any affiliation with any political party, but this kind of game is ultimately futile and childish and I became more aware of the danger involved and decided to call a halt. We had made our point although, I guess, it's very easy to see why nobody understood it.
GH: All Ramleh's releases, with the exception of one tape, were released on Broken Flag. The exception being ONSLAUGHT on Philip Best's Iphar label. He described this as "a cassette of agonizingly dominant hate, sheer contempt.... The first in the new Iphar era of White Power." How did this association come about and what did he mean by "the new era of White Power"?
GM: Again, I know what you're getting at here but there was no right-wing viewpoint to any of the stuff -- we made an error in judgment in testing out the bounds of offensiveness. There was certainly no "movement" of any kind. Since those days, we have made sure that we do not fall into that trap again and go out of our way to avoid being promoted by magazines and record labels as any kind of political band -- we never weere, and never would be. It is interesting to point out that the kind of organizations we were accused of supporting would certainly never tolerate the kind of people we really are. Having said all of this, I still stand by our music of that era as being genuinely unique and exciting.
GH: Can you tell me about the Male Rape Group collaboration with Philip Best? Firstly, what is the significance of the name? Why did you want to collaborate?
GM: This is still related to the same period of antisocial behavior. Male Rape is not about women at all, as many people thought. It is the term used for the rape of a man -- obviously, this was still a pretty dumb name but, again, we wanted something startling and controversial and, I suppose, ambiguous. Plihip and I lived together at the time as well, so it seemed obvious to collaborate since we worked in roughly similar areas, musically.
GH: You released a tape, LIVE AT MORDEN TOWER, 12/10/83. Con-Dom's ASSAULT 19 and the New Blockaders' LIVE 13/7/83 were also recorded at this venue in Newcastle. Was this a significant place to play at the time? Of course, Nocturnal Emissions and Zoviet France are also both from Newcastle. Any connections?
GM: Richard Rupenus and the New Blockaders organized the Morden Tower shows, and several bands appeared there. However, the night Ramleh played, we arrived very late from London, went straight to the stage and then left for the train home. I think my stay in Newcaste lasted around two hours, so I have very few memories of that night!
GH: When did the original Ramleh cease to function? Did you become disenchanted with power electronics or did you feel it had reached its logical conclusion?
GM: Ramleh took an indefinite break in the middle of 1984, with the intention of resuming activities when the time was right. I felt that thiings had stagnated. the scene that had built around the music of bands such as ramleh was not an enjoyable one by then. I hated most of the people and felt like we no longer served any useful purpose. At our final show, I spent most of the performance so fed up that I sat in a chair and did the absolute minimum. Jerome carried on playing while I began to pack up the equipment midway through the set.... Not a good night.
GH: Why do you think that there has been a resurgence of interest in power electronics? For example, William Bennett set up the Susan Lawly label to release/reissue Whitehouse product, and there are new bands such as Dominator. Does it still have significance?
GM: the so-called "power electronics" bands of today do not interest me and I have no contact with them, although I have no problem with them performing that stuff. It just doesn't inspire me anymore.
GH: When did you start to get involved with Skullflower? their first vinyl appearance was on your label. How did this come about?
GM: I played with the band Total as a kind of guest guitarist and this then mutated into Skullflower. As I had a record label, I released the first two records.
GH: I also know that you are a member of the pop band Breathless. This is a big contrast with the rest of your musical activity. Why did you get involved?
GM: I was asked to play guitar on a temporary basis which then became permanent. It's a good discipline as the two bands are totally different and I am interested in creating various types of music. I didn't want one band to diversify to the extent that each record would sound like a combination of different bands. The crossover point is that I believe that the two valid types of music are music that gets the adrenalin pumping and music that sends shivers down the spine. I get both of these from both bands for different reasons.
GH: You seem to be similar to Justin K. Broadrick and Alain Jourgensen, in the sense that you have had several projects running simultaneously. Where do you get the energy/time to do so much, and why do you do it?
GM: It doesn't seem like a lot to me. I just enjoy doing everything I do. I feel like I have to do it, too. I can't imagine ever feeling like stopping. Moving on, maybe, but never stopping.
GH: To bring us to the present, the new Ramleh have released two LPs and a 7" in their own right in a guitar noise/drone vein. What brought on your interest in this form of music, and how did you get Philip Best involved? Is there anyone else in the group?
GM: I worked a little in this vein in the mid-ous on cassette releases, and then with Skullflower, but I wanted to combine it all with the Ramleh sound. It all came together properly on the BLOWHOLE LP and "Slammers" 7". I'd wanted to work again with Philip (who hadn't recorded for years) but we'd stayed friends and, eventually, he was lured back. Philip and I are Ramleh now, with our engineer Ian McKay an honorary third member for his essential contributions and for achieving the impossible when we ask for it.
GH: Ramleh have also contributed with MTT on two LPs; the first of these featured additionally Nurse With Wound. How much input was there from you and NWW? What links did you have with MTT?
GM: The new LP, PAID IN FULL/CRYSTAL REVENGE, is one side MTT, one side Ramleh. The other, CAUGHT FROM BEHIND, is MTT with tapes supplied by Ramleh and NWW (although I can only vouch for Ramleh's input). I've known Mauro for several years now, having released cassettes of his on Broken Flag originally.
GH: Are the new Ramleh purely a studio group or will live performances take place? I know they have been planned, but you seem to have encountered difficulties....
GM: If, in the future, the right opportunity presents itself, Ramleh will return to live work. We are just waiting for the right event.
GH: Finally, your forthcoming plans include the release of the "long lost" SHOOTER'S HILL LP and a collaboration with Skullflowre. What can you tell me about these? Will this mean that Broken Flag will be reactivated as a label?
GM: SHOOTER'S HILL is ready for release and will hopefully see the light of day soon. More Ramleh releases are due this year also (back catalogue CDs, etc.). Broken Flag still exists but when I am ready I will reactivated the record label side of things as, ultimately, there is no substitute for complete control.
GH: Were you involved in music prior to the formation of Iphar, in 1982?
PB: I was 14 years old when I formed Iphar, so there wasn't really any musical involvement up to that point.
GH: Who was Mar D, who was involved with the label?
PB: There's a song about Mary D(owd) on THE RIGHT TO KILL album, called "Tit Pulp."
GH: Your early manifesto was called "At First They Were Seven." Can you give me an outline of this? How did your philosophy change/develop?
PB: Was it? No. Obviously, my philosophy has changed in that I no longer feel the need to issue manifestoes.
GH: Was Consumer Electronics a solo project? How long did this last? Was the C.E. LP, due in '83, ever released?
PB: Pretty much so. John Murphy (Associates/Shriekback) did a gig with me in 1983. C.E. lasted about 18 months. The LP was shelved due to my involvement in Whitehouse; what we did instead was remix a recording of a C.E. gig at the Centro Iberico and put that on the other side of A RETURN TO SLAVERY.
GH: How many Public Attacks did you perform? Was the response to these always one of disgust and rejection? Surely, this is what you expected, so did you feel that your audience was "provoked to think"? Is that possible?
PB: "Public Attack" sounds so pompous. You make me sound like a patronizing sociologist "provoking" the masses to "think," and I can see how that impression could be formed. If I made one mistake in those days it was my believing that my mission was a didactic one. The audience reaction to our gigs was often hostile and not unreasonably so. After all, we were loud and unmusical, and gigs are traditionally conservative events.
GH: What was your involvement with Come Org?
PB: Well, I wrote for KATA, appeared in the videos, recorded with Whitehouse, spread the word generally. William Bennett was the prime mover, however.
GH: Did the publication of INTOLERANCE, with its avowed intent to include propaganda of unbelievable extremity, lead to problems with the law? How many issues were there?
PB: Like many other young people, I had problems with the law; more especially with the thought police at Rough Trade and the NME. there were five editions.
GH: Was the "Iphar Clinic" something real? Why did you choose this name?
PB: There was/is an Iphar Clinic in Germany; something like that medical establishment in the Lindsay Anderson movie (IF....)....
GH: Manningham and David Mosley appear only to have recorded for your label. Can you give me some details on who was involved, and their music?
PB: I wish I still had that Manningham tape because it had some incredible noise on it. The guy who did it was a prat though. Ditto Oswald Mosley.
GH: Why did you join Whitehouse? You had your own group, together with Male Rape Group and your label. Did you feel you could achieve more by being a member of the "leading exponent" of power electronics? How long did you stay a member?
PB: Because WIlliam Bennett asked me and I also have great respect for his music and ideas. It wasn't the musical equivalent of playing for Liverpool as a footballer. I wasn't a member for particularly long (about 18 months) but I suppose it was the group's busiest phase in terms of live action. William dismissed me when I recorded the "From Hell" section of the STATEMENT album against his wishes, although we had pretty much fallen out towards the end of our second visit to Germany.
GH: Do you think you achieved your objectives of extending the barriers of perception, making people think about things that are regarded as objectionable? Or do you think that this was impossible to achieve in this country, given its long-lasting obsession with tradition and the conventional?
PB: I think that after Whitehouse anything was possible in music. I know that bands like Swans and Big Black were in some way inspired by us but whether that was a good thing is, of course, hugely debatable. I don't know if I would agree that Britain is necessarily "traditional" and "conventional." Music itself tends to display these attributes and, if anything, certain power-electronics groups embodied a conformity of non-conformity. Whitehouse attempted to transcend this and I believe they did through their sheer originality and steadfast refusal to act like social workers.
GH: What made you wish to collaborate with Gary Mundy again; this time, as Ramleh? Were you already interested in the "noise scene" of bands such as Skullflower and Godflesh?
PB: Personally, I agreed to reactivate Ramleh because I despaired of ever hearing a halfway decent record again. I've never heard Godflesh but it would be true to say that Skullflower's "I Live in the Bottomless Pit" certainly inspired me enormously. Matthew Bower is a guy I would definitely pay money to see.
GH: Finally, is Ramleh your current only involvement with music? Why did you choose to discontinue Iphar and your other activities?
PB: I discontinued all activities in 1984 because I rally couldn't see where to take it next. Ramleh seems to be the right way now, though.