The Rehabilitation of Whitey

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The story of Nathan White, AKA Whitey, and his music career is a complicated, and often, frustrating one. A lot of what I’ve heard and learned over the years owes much to hearsay and fabrication*. His first album, The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train (2004), was released about 18 months after his breakout single, Leave Them All Behind, and if I remember correctly, was victim to a poorly coordinated marketing campaign that ran way before the album had even been produced.

As if that wasn’t enough, his second album, Great Shakes, was deliberately and significantly leaked a few months before its release and caused the first real casualty of the download generation when Whitey was forced to cancel its release and was dropped from his label, 1234. At this time an album leaking en masse was unheard of and effectively put an end to any album sales because the concept of getting music for free was like a gift from the heavens. 1234 were probably the wrong label for Whitey to begin with, they released great 7″s by great bands but an artist like Whitey had global potential, which leads me to believe that the release would never have received the push it needed, let alone the drive to counter the effects of the leak. This may similarly explain the 18 month gap between Leave Them All Behind and The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train, the plan was never really comprehensive enough to give him the real breakthrough he needed.

There were also rumours of bad blood during his search for a label, and with the odd journalist along the way; that it was them who had orchestrated the leaks. But, bringing a man’s career close to ruin is not in the music industry handbook, because apparently we are all supposed to be united by a love for great music, regardless of who makes the signing.

Even after all of this had blown over, his later releases were subject to cancellation and postponement. 2008s Stay on the Outside was never released and supposedly included tracks from the leaked Great Shakes album. 2010s Canned Laughter was self-released but failed to garner the press attention it deserved (really deserved), whilst its second part was shelved due to lack of funds for completion. Whether or not this new album is the second part of Canned Laughter is unclear at the moment.

Whitey was London’s very own James Murphy. At the time they were on a par, on different ends of the atlantic doing their own unique thing, making intelligent electronic music which sounded nothing like the commercial house that dance music was back then. Artists like Whitey, Soulwax, Peaches and Clinic, with Erol Alkan’s Trash club at the the centre, were spearheading a much more serious continuation of what we now look back on as electroclash, bringing together indie and electronic music in one hot dance floor friendly mess of churning bleeps. It made indie kids across the land sit up and take notice of synthesisers and sequencers in a serious way. It was that awakening in 2001 (when electroclash really kicked off) that is still being carried forward and the reason electronic music is such a dynamic force today, because it stopped being about people like Paul Oakenfold and opened up to a bunch of kids who would otherwise have been in bands.

It was more than unfortunate that Whitey’s career took the turns it took, it was a travesty, because he was a genuinely nice guy with an honest love for music and the scene in general, not to mention and incredibly diverse and talented producer and his contribution to that early scene is integral. I sincerely hope this can be his rehabilitation; his second chance. Because God only knows he’s paid his dues double what they were worth and he deserves it more than anyone else.

Whitey’s new album has a US deal for release but nothing for Europe. He is our prodigal son so someone give him a European label deal, right now.

Here’s a brief rundown of his best moments:

*by definition I must apologise for the facts of this article as the fine details are very much open to speculation. I’m going on what I remember from the time and some wise words from those who were in a position to know the intricacies of what really happened. So, I would hazard to say that this is largely accurate but there may be some inconsistencies, if you have a significant issue with this article please email marcus@mintmagazine.co.uk and we can discuss redaction.

Words:

Marcus Harris

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