In a crowded room, bathed in muted blue light, William Control took the stage and instantly captured my imagination. Together with Kenneth Fletcher (guitar) and Ben Tourkantonis (drums), William Control creates an atmosphere of intimacy not often seen at live shows. He has the unique ability to make the people around you fade to the background, leaving the listener alone with William Control, hypnotized by the intricate tales he croons with a retro 1930’s speakeasy vibe.
Part One: Love hurts. Released in 2014, The Neuromancer is the first of three books authored by Control, which form the basis for each album. It is an age-old story of love and tragedy, with a twist. The leading characters embrace pleasure through pain, a concept often misunderstood by mainstream society. Lyrics from “The Filth and the Fetish” describe the relationship as, “Here we are in the midst of our own passionate adventure/The lies, the lust, the pain, the trust/here we can choose to lacerate and butcher all the sorrow deep down inside of us/and really live.” The characters find release from the constraints of society, and discover a way to exorcise the demons inside through carefully executed acts of bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism with a level of trust most people never experience. It is straightforward, controlled, and finite, unlike emotional pain which can be unending and destructive.
There is always a cost. The story continues as Vivienne is taken away and sent to Hell, leaving her soul mate struggling to reconcile life without her. He is given a choice: Join his lover in Hell where they will remain together for eternity, or return to the living without her. In a singular act of self-preservation, he opts for life. Control explains, “Vanity is the reason he comes back, which is the basis for all human desire, to be loved, to conquer. The reason why he comes back without her, instead of staying in Hell, is really because he’s just selfish.” But, as our leading man will soon discover, life is not always the best choice.
Part Two: Be careful what you wish for. He is alive, but the second book and album, The Hate Culture, describes a man dead set on his own destruction. He arrives in London to live out his last day of life in the carnage he creates. Words from the title track disclose, “This gift I’ve made to haunt/While searching for infinity/Some might say it’s wrong/I say it’s my own destiny.” He made the choice, but found that though he is alive, he has nothing to live for. It is compelling on its own, but the underlying theme that demonstrates our capacity as humans to ravage ourselves is astounding.
Part Three: To be announced. The last installment of Control’s trilogy has yet to be completed. Without offering spoilers, he did state that readers/listeners will find a resolution in the end. The book is written in conjunction with the music, following the plots closely. Control attaches his own meaning to the music he writes, but interpretation is an individual process, and one that Control respects and understands. He stated, “Probably the best thing about being a writer is writing something that means something very specific to me, then having somebody take a different meaning from that and relate that to their own personal experience.” He went on to say, “Connection is really what we are looking for. Music is such a strange connector for human beings. It’s not speech, it’s not an action. It is sounds and melodies, stuff written and put down, then heard by listeners.” Unlike other forms of communication that are exchanged, music is absorbed through the senses.
All alone with William Control. I enjoyed the close, personal atmosphere of the live show. Control’s voice soothes and incites, as he focuses on each person in the audience. It was an unconventional, yet mesmerizing night of musical storytelling at its finest. Sadly, William Control will go on hiatus after this tour ends to finish the last book and record. But, not to worry. Control is also front man for the wildly successful band, Aiden, which will be back in the spotlight with their signature punk/rock sound, a new album, and all the old favorites as well. I am keeping the music of William Control close by, for those moments when I need to step away from the demands of a busy schedule, and lose myself in a flight of fantasy.