The Whip: Manchester Rampant in the 21st, Persistence in Destination

Text by Markus von Pfeiffer
Photography by Okeedokee

There is no evading Amsterdam. No jitterbugging your way through that town. It beams a primal, irresistible homing beacon straight to the hypothalamus. I was connecting through the city on my way home from the forests of Gabon, where I’d collected specimens of the rare butterfly Charaxes acraeoides, when I received notice that The Whip would play that evening at the infamous club Melkweg.

The band offers a pupil-dilating blend of the arcane and the progressive: mid-career New Order (1987-ish) with its linear, candy-coated railgun caddishness hurled against a wall of digitally augmented guitar and post-electro buzzbomb melodies. The new Manchester is the old Manchester on steroids. Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, 808 State, all be damned.

At Melkweg, a former dairy “factory,” conversation with co-founders Bruce Carter and Danny Saville turned to Nylon Pylon, the group in which they first collaborated. “We spent two years making a record with various producers and God knows who else, and after all the studio work it sounded worse than it had at the start,” says Saville. As NP disintegrated under the weight of its own inertia, perilous times indeed loomed ahead; however, Carter and Saville soldiered on in a blood-thinning gyro of day jobs and nightly rehearsal/recording sessions in a pub basement. “On certain parts of ‘Trash’ you can pick out bits of karaoke coming from upstairs,” says Saville.

“It was brutal. The songs on this record are about the frustration of work and reality getting in the way of making music and being a full-time band,” says Carter. Along this roily path they added bassist Nathan Sudders and drummer Fiona Daniel—who at press time was the only female drummer in an otherwise all-male outfit, my team of researchers at NASA were able to verify. Finally, tastemaker Kitsuné Records released “Divebomb”—ears and curiosities were piqued, the bowels of success began to loosen and X Marks Destination was born.

There are two hyperion keys to success in music, and The Whip has them both. One: although virtually nothing is unique any longer, whatever particular brand of sausage you’re bringing to the butcher block must have some novel element in it. Two: you must separate yourself from the dumbbells, hacks and cheap masturbators with persistence. Saville puts it succinctly: “After initial success, it’s up to choosing a mindset. You can think, ‘This is going to end at any moment and I have to get everything I can out of it,’ or ‘I want longevity, I want a career out of this.’” Doomed hedonism or ubiquitous moderation.

As the duo took the stage, I grabbed the nearest waitress and ordered the strongest of “whatever you got,” speaking out of the corner of my mouth-like a movie gangster. As the Peter Hook-spawned bassline of “Frustration” rent the sine waves and the girl next to me burst into superlative, coruscating blue flame I realized, “Either this band has got it, or the phosphorescent liquid I just drank was spiked with weapon-grade narcotics.” Maybe both.