Neon Knights: Q&A with Carpenter Brut

Along with the ubiquitous Perturbator, Carpenter Brut is one of the leading (neon) lights of the synthwave movement – and with only three EP’s and some contributions to the Furi videogame soundtrack to his credit, that’s saying a lot. Quality over quantity every time. His uniquely satanic sounds earned him an opening slot for Ghost last year, and the French artist is about to embark on his first headlining tour of the US. In case you aren’t familiar with his work (or even if you are), we reached out to Monsieur Brut himself at his home in an abandoned arcade.

Why did you choose synthwave as your medium? 

When I started making my music I didn’t know that it had a proper name. For me it wasn’t « synthwave » or whatever you may call it. I just got a couple of plugs in, a music software and I started to write songs in the spirit of Justice and John Carpenter. I started to hear about synthwave when my first EP came out.

Are there any specific artists or artworks you look to for inspiration when composing?

At the very beginning it was Justice, now I would be much more inspired by prog rock artists like Toto, Supertramp, etc. I’d like to have a more “prog” approach on the next album, more pop and less “violent”. Or much more violent then. I’ll play more on contrasts, it seems like an interesting step to reach now.

What equipment do you use to produce your songs? Why do you feel like you get the best results from those instruments/programs?

I use Ableton Live, mostly Arturia plugs and I bought some DSI synthesizers, some Roland Boutique that are really cool and an OP1, a really crazy synth. That allows me to widen my range of sounds and it’s always less frustrating when can turn real knobs. Then the best result doesn’t come from the equipment but from the one using it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a real synth or a plug: if my song sucks, it sucks.  

Why did you go with the EP format for your first few releases?

Because I wanted to have a Trilogy with 6 tracks on each EP. 666 sounded good to me.

Do you have any recurring characters or story elements in your songs?

They are mostly about love & violence with a serial killer involved, femme fatales or zombies.

How did you approach composing the themes for the Furi soundtrack? Was it different from your normal songwriting process?

When I compose for a video game, I am at the service of the game. I have to manage to fit the music to the game’s narration. I have to adapt the music according to the scenes that the video game designers sent me.  It’s a lot less free than to compose an album for yourself, there are codes and a timing to respect. you work on loops that can go on for several minutes if the player decides to stay in the same place, or has a hard time to kill the boss haha. It was a good experience but I’m not sure I’d do it again, I’m more interested in movies soundtracks.  

Why do you feel there’s been a surge in popularity for synthwave?

I really don’t know. Maybe because people are nostalgic of the 1980s. Because at that time people were more frivolous and free and there was, in my point of view, more creativity. But trends will fade anyway, because it will be used by media, commercials, cinema and people will get fed up. Grunge is the next step.  

How do you approach making your live show exciting? What can fans expect from you when they come to see your show?  

I always wanted a show with musicians on stage, video on a big screen and choreographed lights. It’s the idea that I always had of my shows. A place where people come to spend some good time to dance, sing along, sweat. A full hour where you’ll think about nothing else but having fun.

How was the reaction from the Ghost audience?

We had a very good reception from Ghost’s fans. Obviously, we knew that the majority of the crowd was there only for Ghost so they were pretty calm. Some were very curious about our music, some liked it (and we gained more fans) and others were just indifferent. We just had one “fuck off”, not so bad.

Are you working on anything new we can look forward to? 

A live album to be released this year and I’m currently working on my next album which will be out in 2018.

Download his stuff at Bandcamp.