Q&A: Franck Hueso (Carpenter Brut) Slashes Synthwave Convention

Carpenter Brut

There’s nothing like France’s Carpenter Brut. Not in metal, rock, or pop. The group, formed solely around producer Franck Hueso, is a nostalgic nod to halcyon (aka violent) times as the late ’70s fucked the early ’80s with reckless abandon. With fellow French musicians Adrien Grousset [guitars] and Florent Marcadet [drums] — both from tech-metal masters Hacride — in tow, Hueso has positioned Carpenter Brut as the premier synthwave act. Actually, for new album Leather Teeth — a stunning front-to-back rager– Hueso takes his labor of love to places most synthwave artists will never touch. He’s combined the art of songwriting, static visuals, and a live show that is, in recent memory, unparalleled in its immersive, suggestive content.

Blown away by Leather Teeth and Carpenter Brut recent U.S. live run — with GosT — Decibel reached out to Hueso for yet another query into the Frenchman’s mad mind. What did it take to craft Leather Teeth, a veritable king’s run at a new genre already treading water, and the visuals behind it? How did Carpenter Brut get German artist Silver Strain to combine some of the craziest D-rated ’80s film, pair it with early ’80s Satanic Panic, and cut into the underground rock scene of the day to create a single, is-this-a-real-thing narrative? Only Hueso and Silver Strain know. With that, here’s Carpenter Brut. Bow to the Brutagram!

You were an engineer and producer before Carpenter Brut. What pushed you down the path of wanted to create your own music?
Franck Hueso: All the good — and probably also bad — advice I gave as a producer, I wanted to put it into practice to see if I wasn’t completely lame. And then I think that I also wanted to have my own project and no longer be dependent on those of others.

Did the engineer or producer positions influence how you approached Carpenter Brut from a technical side? How you envisioned the sound and the shape of the sound?
Franck Hueso: It certainly helped me a lot at first, when I had to learn to use new software that I didn’t know or didn’t know much about. Nevertheless, I already had in mind how I wanted the project to sound. The main difficulty was composing songs, something I had never done before, or very little for fun. So, I had to learn to make a song sound by its melodies and not by its mixing.

How’d you settle on the name Carpenter Brut? Gather it has religious contextual qualities.
Franck Hueso: The truth is that the name comes from Charpentier Brut champagne. But it also made sense with John Carpenter’s universe that I wanted to mix with the sounds of Justice (the French electro band). So, there’s nothing religious about it. The inverted cross is at the base linked to the one Justice uses upright on their visuals. It was nothing more than a wink. Afterwards, often in horror movies there is a relationship with the devil, demons, etc… So, we can see a link through the prism of this universe.

What kind of gear did you use to realize Leather Teeth, musically?
Franck Hueso: I work mainly under Ableton Live, with a lot of plug-ins from Arturia and Korg. And I’m also starting to equip myself in hardware with a lot of Dave Smith Instruments-like the Pro 2, Prophet 6 and OB6. To record the guitars, we used an FX Axis and Universal Audio guitar amps.

Leather Teeth is your first full-length. How do you separate Leather Teeth from the EPs structurally? I gather the long-form format gives more opportunity to express music and content themes.
Franck Hueso: I don’t think just doing EPs would have been a good idea. That said, the album is short and close to an EP format. Despite everything, it’s still an album for me. But on the other hand, I have difficulty to detach myself from the concept of the “trilogy.” Often the best licenses to cinema are trilogies. I like this concept, it allows to develop a story in three acts, with twists, etc… So, in the end, no matter how long the albums last if the story doesn’t stop at the first volume.

Leather Teeth is musically diverse. Redefines the whole concept of synthwave. When writing what do you consider musically appropriate for Carpenter Brut? It’s like a soundtrack to an ‘80s action movie from Italy between the birth and death disco, and shortly thereafter.
Franck Hueso: I took a little risk on this one by writing things more pop and “brighter” than before. I knew not everyone would like it. But I didn’t want to outbid “violence.” I’m not saying I won’t come back on it, but I had to take a break. And then it fit with the story. The story of a young geek who will become a serial killer. The beginning could not be otherwise than innocent and full of hope. [Laughs]

What was your favorite song at the start of the Leather Teeth project? And now?
Franck Hueso: All of them, and now none. And vice versa.

The guest vocalists on Leather Teeth are metal or formerly metal vocalists. How’d you end up with Garm and Mat [McNerney] on “Cheerleader Effect” and “Beware the Beast?”
Franck Hueso: For as long as I remember, I contacted Mat via Facebook, at that time he was Beastmilk’s singer. I loved their album, his voice so I wanna know him. I’m a big fan of his work on Grave Pleasures as well. As we talk regularly, we often talked about the idea of working together. It took a while but we still managed to do it. And I’m super happy with the result, and the song also seems to please people while playing live, so mission accomplished. For Garm, I met him through Kim of Neuropa label. They know each other well since Neuropa has released several Ulver vinyls, so I asked Kim to put us in touch. And we finally met at the Roadburn and that’s how it started. I’m a huge Garm fan. His voice is one of my favorites.

Were there other well-known musicians you had considered for guests? I gather Adrien [Grousset] and Florent [Marcadet] don’t count.
Franck Hueso: Adrien and Florent are family. They’re the first ones on the list to play on my records. I’d like to work with the Cardinal or Papa Emeritus (need to know which of the two is more available), Chino Moreno, David Eugene Edward, Maynard James Keenan, Chelsea Wolf. There’s a lot…

The Michael Sambello “Maniac” cover is pretty creative. What was it about this song that prompted you to cover and interpret it?
Franck Hueso: I was looking for a cover for the concert at La Cigale (a venue in Paris), and as it is one of my favorite songs, and that it fits well with the ’80s spirit, I tried it.
It’s Yanf Ligné from Klone who’s singing on it. It’s the song everyone’s waiting for live. It’s funny. For me, it remains the best track of the set. [Laughs]

Moving on to your live shows, are the background videos and graphics all custom created? Incredible production values, really.
Franck Hueso: No, the real strength is that they’re just montages made from old films a little forgotten or that only mega movie fans know. I owe it to Silver Strain who I’ve worked with since the very beginning of the project. He’s the best in the business, in my opinion. I send him anything and he makes a great thing out of it. Moreover, the videos for the live show tell the story of Leather Teeth whereas obviously the film does not exist. But I was the first impressed when I was watching his montages, so impressed that I was convinced that the film really existed. [Laughs]

What does it take to sync up the videos and graphics to the music? The timing of music to the video was impeccable.
Franck Hueso: It’s work, a lot of work. Silver Strain spent sleepless nights working on it, just in time for the tour. Everything was done very quickly between the beginning of the composition and the beginning of the tour barely six months ago.

During the cinematics, we observed other magazine parodies for Leather Patrol. Why not Decibel? Next time, maybe?
Franck Hueso: I don’t know, maybe because it’s not easy to make a joke with your name? You have to ask Silver Strain about that.

Any plans to bring Carpenter Brut back to the states?
Franck Hueso: I’ll be on tour with Ministry in November and December and then we’ll be back probably in March 2019.

** Carpenter Brut’s new album, Leather Teeth, is out now on No Quarter Prod. It’s available HERE, on CD, LP, and digitally.

** For more Carpenter Brut/Decibel action, check out THIS interview with Decibel’s synthwave guru Jeff Treppel.