Synthwave Sunday: An Exclusive Interview with Carpenter Brut
Metal and dark synthwave go hand in hand like beer and weed; unmistakably different, but cut from the same cloth, and both will absolutely get you there. Though the music might seem decidedly un-metal at first listen, many of today’s top synthwave artists are metalheads who heavily lean on their influences to create music.
No artist in today’s scene embodies this close connection more than Carpenter Brut, who we’ve featured in this space before. His music’s vibe is unmistakably dark, his songs hit hard as fuck and his imagery is completely over the top and twisted. He’s even got songs called “Obituary,” “Hang ‘Em All” and “Turbo Killer,” fer chrissakes.
For more on the connection between synthwave and metal, we caught up with Mr. Brut himself via email, and he was so kind as to tell about his studio, his live approach and his future plans as well.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in metal? When did you start listening to metal? Were you ever in metal bands? Do you still follow modern bands in the genre?
I’ve been listening to metal for a long time now. Time flies! I started with softer bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth. Then, when I became a teenager, I had to find a good excuse to be rebellious so I moved to death and black metal. I’ve never been in a serious metal band. I don’t really listen to metal anymore now, except for some old classics, but I still follow bands like Meshuggah and Deftones. I’m completely out of touch with more recent bands, except Ghost. They’re not so old so I put them in the “recent bands” bag.
What do you think it is about synthwave/retrowave/outrun that’s so appealing to metalheads?
I think it brings something refreshing. Metal codes can be redundant, even if they evolve. The base is always the same. In synthwave, you change the instruments, but the structures and the spirit are more rock than electro. So the base remains the same; we’re still talking about building a rock song, but playing it with electronic instruments (which is usually a disaster when they’re mixed with metal instruments) brings something new. It’s not metal and it will never be, but I’d say dark synthwave could be its illegitimate child.
How do you try to incorporate elements of metal into your music?
I don’t try. I actually did everything I could so it doesn’t sound metal; I use no guitars, except for a few solos. I started Carpenter Brut precisely to do something other than metal. But I’ve been listening to metal for so many years that it became a part of me. So there are some rock elements and structures that are more natural than planned. I found that electro was lacking some of that powerful aspect when I listened to it. I like a track to be powerful or sad. What’s in between doesn’t interest me.
Tell us a little bit about your recording setup — the key gear you use to create your music.
I have a Macbook Pro, Ableton Live, Akai midi keyboards, Universal Audio soundcard, PMC monitors, a bunch of VSTi like Arturia, Diva, Native Instruments, Korg and a few hardware synthesizers like Prophet 6, Pro 2, Mini brute or recently a Modor NF 1.
Who does your artwork? It’s so fucking sick!
Førtifem. I have worked with them since the beginning. They created my logo as well as all the designs of the T-shirts and the trilogy. They’re my Derek Riggs. We have a great connection and we don’t hesitate to throw some fun in the visuals because all of this is of course for fun and should not to be taken too seriously. This is also a bit different from the typical metal picture where everybody always looks like they’re in a bad mood.
What’s a live Carpenter Brut show like? For most of us metalheads, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like with one dude up on stage twiddling knobs. Do you have a full band, or is it just you?
We are three on stage: a drummer, a guitarist and me on keyboards. I was actually on my own for my first shows and I was bored to death. There is no way I could have kept going that way. I asked two of my friends to play along with me and it’s working pretty well. We are happy with the result but we still try to improve, to make it even better. It’s a rather unusual mix so it’s hard to know if any choice we make is going to be good or not. Some people think there’s too much guitar, others not enough. But we have an eclectic group of followers, from geeks to metal heads. We like that, even if I know that some people don’t necessarily enjoy getting beer, greasy hair or feet in their faces during our shows.
Any plans to bring your show outside of Europe?
I don’t know if you have noticed but it is always easier for an American band to come to Europe than the opposite. It’s quite hard to organize something, except if an American booker is interested in doing it. I didn’t say impossible, but challenging. We can’t come to play only two gigs, which would be too expensive given that we are a crew of seven people. But we definitely want to make it happen, so it’s just a matter of time. Just have to be patient (and cross our fingers).
When can we expect new music? It’s been over a year since EP III.
Nothing expected before 2017. I’m a slow composer and things are very busy now. I have very little time to sit quietly with my keyboards and concentrate. But hey, Perturbator, GosT and Dan Terminus are releasing their albums soon so your stereos should be busy for at least a year! Haha.