Love or hate the name, synthwave seems to be here to stay. Although many of the artists associated with the genre appear to reject the label, there is no denying the appeal for seventies/eighties soundtrack inspired electronica is on the rise. In amongst the throng you can find the mysterious Carpenter Brut: a French artist who gives very little in the way of interviews, and who has risen the synthwave ranks lately when his 2015 Trilogy– a compilation of his first three E.Ps I (2012), II (2013) and III (2015)– began to gather attention through word of mouth and internet streaming sites; helping to build on his already strong existing fanbase. With tracks like the compelling Disco Zombi Italia, Turbo Killer and Le Perv hitting all the right dark, pulsating, retro notes, it is not surprising the Brut’s success continues to grow. Diabolique Magazine were fortunate enough to catch up with the artist for an exclusive interview.
Diabolique: How did Carpenter Brut start life?
Carpenter Brut: It started in 1231.
Diabolique: Do you enjoy working under a certain level of anonymity?
Carpenter Brut: I do. First, I avoid wasting my time shooting promo pictures, which is always a risky task. You can quickly look like a clown. I also think that whoever is behind the music actually doesn’t matter. I like the concept of bands like Ghost or Daft Punk. If anonymity is well kept, it makes the concept stronger. Of course you can’t prevent people who will open their mouths and ruin everything. I really want to bash those who, in my case, ruin the concept by throwing my name in a review just to brag “hey I know something you don’t know”. It might not be a big deal for them but it is for me, and they could at least respect that. Now it is different for live shows, as people can see my face, but they still don’t know who I am.
Diabolique: Tell us about the horror influences in your work
Carpenter Brut: I actually no longer watch horror movies; I’m not in the mood anymore. I have watched a lot of them when I was a kid, even if that meant waiting they were broadcast on TV or available at the local VHS rental store. I don’t remember all of them but they must have printed my brain somehow. I clearly remember Nekromantik for instance. I have always considered horror movies a public utility, like porn movies.
Diabolique: What are some of your favorite soundtracks?
Carpenter Brut: I didn’t really listen to horror soundtracks. They tend to be not much about music, more about weird strident sounds. They clearly work within the movie but not really without. But there are themes that stand out such as Creepshow, Maniac Cop, Friday 13th etc. And of course the classics from John Williams, John Carpenter, Alan Silvestri, James Horner etc. You see, nothing groundbreaking in my taste.
Diabolique: How have they inspired your work?
Carpenter Brut: I have no idea. I guess without I realized it, like images from movies. I don’t seek to copy so I definitely don’t listen to soundtracks before I compose. I let the past memories do their trick. But in some way these soundtracks probably pushed me to make music so maybe I give them an unconscious and awkward tribute [laughs].
Diabolique: Do you work with an overall concept in mind, or are your songs unconnected?
Carpenter Brut: I start with a main theme for each EP and I try to keep some coherence in the sequels. Invasion AD and Escape follow each other, yet I composed the latter first. I try to close the loop: Invasion, escape.
Diabolique: Do you consciously identify with any scene, and if so, why?
Carpenter Brut: I don’t. People talk about dark synthwave; sure why not. When I started I didn’t know that scene. I just wanted to mix music from John Carpenter and Justice, that’s it. Then I got labeled « synthwave » and I discovered the genre. But I like it, even if at the same time I don’t care.
Diabolique: You have done some video game soundtracks, can you tell us a bit about those?
Carpenter Brut: The dudes from Hotline Miami 2 and The Crew directly contacted me to use songs already existing. So I didn’t have much work to do. But it definitely helped me to get a name (I thank them!), even if now some people think I composed the tracks for Hotline Miami [laughs].
For Furi now, I composed 3 original tracks. I actually wrote riffs for specific action moments in the game and then I wrote the tracks. Each track matches a level and a boss. It’s a harder job than creating a song. You’re not talking about verses and chorus but about game sequences. I don’t know if I did what I really wanted to do but for a first time I think I did o.k.
Diabolique: Would you like to broaden scope that into film?
Carpenter Brut: I did a quick OST for the Deka Brothers for their short movie Father and Son and I enjoyed doing it. When I’m fed up with Carpenter Brut, I will probably score more OST, I’ve always loved doing that.
Diabolique: How have you found touring as a live act?
Carpenter Brut: We are three people on stage. Absolutely no question to be a « spacebar DJ », I would get bored and so would the audience. There is a drummer, a guitarist and I’m on keyboards. We also have a visual background made of cool and cheesy old school movies.
Diabolique: What has been the reaction from fans?
Carpenter Brut: In general people seem happy and have fun. There are gamers, metalheads… It’s a pretty diverse crowd and I like that. It’s always a good time. We’ve even had girls showing their tits occasionally. This contributes to write History, doesn’t it ? [laughs]
Diabolique: Have there been any challenges involved in adapting to playing in from of a live audience?
Carpenter Brut: I modified the songs so there’s no pause and it’s non-stop for an hour. We had to blend the guitar in, as there are no or very few guitars in the original songs. Same with the drums; my drums patterns are pretty basic so our drummer had to rearrange them to bring his own groove and breaks. In the end, there are 2 somehow different versions for each song: studio and live. You like it or not, but we offer something different live, in order not to bore our audience and to have fun on stage.
Diabolique: What are you working on at the moment?
Carpenter Brut: I’m taking some time off before starting touring again in September and I’m also thinking about a concept for an album. It’s quite hard because I have many ideas but I need to pick the good one, the one that will keep the concept fresh when I play it live.
Diabolique: What can people expect from Carpenter Brut in the future?
Carpenter Brut: We are working on touring in Europe and North America. It’s not easy to find gigs for now because synthwave is still very confidential and few promoters are interested. So I often get comments on Facebook by people who want to see us in their place and think we don’t want to go there [laughs]. Reality is quite different. We will not tour the whole world but we have some cool gigs coming up so be patient (well, at least those of you who want to see us!).
I hope to release an album at the end of 2017 if everything goes as planned. No rush. No way I’m putting out something I like only 99%.