White Stains were a ”band” in a very literal sense. Many people were active in making many forms of music. Many wills affected change. Many minds contributed to many experiments in communicating with many audio structure spirits.
The band as such existed between 1987 and early 1994. Around ’87, I was interested in making music but didn’t really feel up to it all by myself. And the music I wanted to make demanded more people than just myself: people playing guitar, bass and drums.
I’d previously played drums in some garage punk bands, but now rather wanted to sing. So I got together with my friend and ace noise guitarist Jan Ekman, toyed with various ideas and brought some mutual friends in. And that was that: a mess of sonorous overload in dingy basements. My singing-cum-screaming barely heard in Jan’s solid walls of devastating distortion and frantic feedback. Somewhere I could faintly hear drums, a beat, but couldn’t decide if it was actual drums or my brain being forced out of my skull.
It took some time. And a great many rehearsals. But in the end we actually managed to play our own compositions: noisy, psychedelic rock that, if more talented people had been involved, could have been quite OK.
Eager to record, we did just that. There was a nice and cheap studio at the place where we rehearsed. The outcome of these first sessions was the 12″ ”Sweet Jayne” and a couple of other tracks. In the spring of 1988 we went into another studio to record ”It’s yours if you want it”. This, in my mind, is the finest piece of work that this first incarnation produced: loose, sparse, psychedelic and dynamic music.
Jan and I continued to develop musical and artistic ideas. The philosophy, we agreed, should be to always use what was available at the time, no matter how cheap or simple. We acted accordingly and recorded our next single just the two of us, during an enchanted evening of mellow insanity. We borrowed a four-track Fostex portastudio from Stomachmouths singer/guitarist Stefan Kéry, and after we had recorded a Casiotone drumtrack, one bass and one HEAVY guitar, I also borrowed Stefan’s bathroom to record the vocals. Nice natural reverb there.
The result was ”The Energy”, the first in the series of three singles released in only 93 copies. This particular song has the (possibly) loudest guitar solo ever heard and has since generated some acclaim within the usually quite conservative circle of acid rockers around the world.
In 1989 we added bassplayer Peter Bergstrandh to the lineup, something which inspired considerably more musical creativity in our ranks. I’d known Peter for some years and had admired his musicianship for almost ten years at that time. He had been in the legendary band ”Lustans Lakejer”, a band that turned utterly pathetic after he left them. So it must be in him, I thought. And I was right.
We recorded the next single with a friend of his, Tomas Tibert. This guy had a studio at home: JOY! And he turned out to be another very essential ingredient in the White Stains-stew. Ultratalented, he later went on to create a successful international empire of sample CDs and audioproduction, aptly called ”Sounds Good”.
We recorded two singles, ”The awareness” and ”The result” with this new constellation. I was very pleased with the increased quality, now that we had one musician and one studio owner in the band!
Come late ’89, me and Tomas ventured into our first ambient oriented project. Genesis and Paula P-Orridge of Psychic TV were coming to Scandinavia for a PTV Spoken Word-tour. Having known them since the mid-80’s, and admired their work, I suggested we record together. And that’s how it happened.
Tibert and I prepared soundsacpes and ambient scores during the autumn of ’89. The P-Orridges came over and we recorded Gen’s reading and Paula’s tape mixing. A couple of months of mixing later, we released the first White Stains CD, ”At Stockholm”. It received fine critical acclaim and we felt (and still feel) that it’s a masterpiece of sorts.
Jan had now dropped out to pursue a painter’s career, so I brought in gotherburgian artist Per Svensson on guitar instead. His own band, ”GOLD”, was a neo-Stoogean outfit and Per knew the old trad-blues-riffs quite well. So now it was me, Peter, Tibert and Per. We recorded the next album, ”Dreams Shall Flesh”, during 1990 and it was released in 1991.
From a positive perspective one can say that it’s a very multifaceted album, with songs of pure pop, atmospheric ballads and some misanthropic rock’n’roll. Sometimes it feels a bit schizophrenic and sometimes… perhaps ”dynamic”. We also included tracks from Anton LaVey and The Hafler Trio, to spice things up a bit.
Having this kind of accessible sound, we wanted very much to play live. One lineup included Ronny Svensson on drums, of art prog-rockers Kai Martin & Stick. We played live with this lineup only once, which is a shame. Ronny is such an excellent drummer and I would have love to have played more with him. Nowadays he’s a famous TV personality in Sweden and must surely think back on his brief stint as member of White Stains with bewilderment and confusion.
After the breakup of yet another live lineup (which included Christer Hellman, also from Lustans Lakejer, on drums), Peter and I said ”fuck it” and decided to work less with people and more with technology.
We recorded the next album, ”Misantropotantra”, in my small apartment in Stockholm, in drunken stupour and with great noir-inspiration. At about the same time, post Radium 226.05-label Anckarström released a CD with soundtracks for various films that Tibert and I hade recorded over the years, called ”A somewhat lost horizon”.
Peter and I carried on recording, developing our preference for dark and sinister atmospheres. It didn’t take long before we had material for another album, ”Why not forever?”. This CD was released in early 1994.
Some time in early 1993, I had dinner in Stockholm with Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters of Mercy and Rodney Orpheus from Cassandra Complex. The Complex were going on tour at the end of the year and Rodney asked if we wanted to support. Which, of course, we did.
Three weeks through Germany, Austria and Chzechia gave us a chance to play a bit more accessible electronic material live, and it was great fun. Most of the”grufties” (goths) found us a bit weird (!) but seemed to enjoy the experience anyway.
When we returned home, tired and broke, we decided to take a break from performing and recording. That break is still active today, five years later. Peter moved on to other musical projects and I focussed on a new one too. But that, as they say, is an entirely different story. Or was it song?
– Carl Abrahamsson, Stockholm, 1999