Hailing from Bordeaux, the winemaking region of France, Carbon Killer delivers his dark synthesised music, infused with cyberpunk and electronic rock, straight to our ears and souls. I found out about his life and interests, and learned more about his band members and upcoming live album, Midnight Mass.
RETROWAVER: Hey Carbon Killer! Greetings from Russia and thanks for the opportunity to have a word with you! Let’s begin with the basics. Can you tell us your story: who are you, where are you from and what influenced your choice to work in the genre of synthwave?
Carbon Killer: Hey! Just call me Carbon, my name doesn’t really matter. I’m from Bordeaux, France. I’m not really original, I come from the rock scene, I’m a huge fan of a certain sci-fi aesthetic and I wanted to go electro. Typical pathway I guess?
Can you tell me about your background a bit? Which music genres did you start with?
As I said, I come from the rock scene. I was a guitarist, singer, and composer in various bands from RATM-like fusion to post-rock. I also went to jazz school for some time! In the electronic music field, you could say I started with some kind of French touch house, but I quickly drift towards something closer to synthwave.
Your name “Carbon Killer” sounds really awesome! What’s the story behind it? I know that you have some kind of lore.
When I started the project, it wasn’t only something related to music for me. I always had pictures of a complete world in my head.
I chose this name not because I find it cool, but because the lore I was creating at this time revolves around those characters, the carbon killers. They’re some pro-human integrists from a cult that hunt down artificially produced humans.
What place does music have in your life? How much time do you spend on writing music each day?
I quit my job to focus completely on music last year. But working on music is unfortunately not only writing music. I spend 4 to 12 hours every day on this project, but I spend the most of my time editing video, contacting venues, submitting folder, working on live scenography…
I have a bit of a funny question. At first glance your mask looks pretty monolithic. Is it made from real carbon fibre? Can you see and breathe in it? Reveal the secret to us.
100% carbon fibre. I think saying it looks monolithic is a huge euphemism. It literally has no face, no eyes, nothing. It’s plain blank neutral carbon fibre. It’s pretty hard to see and breathe in it, I’m suffocating during every single gigs, and I’m pretty sure the polyester resin is reducing my life expectancy, but hey, it looks pretty rad, doesn’t it?
From what sources do you draw “cyberpunk” inspiration for your tracks? Like movies, books, videogames etc.
Most of my inspirations can be related to the extended cyberpunk culture. Karel Čapek’s drama Rur, Auguste de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam’s book Ève future, Tarkovski’s movie Stalker are some of the more uncommon cyberpunk related inspirations I can give you!
You belong to the stunning French synthwave scene. What French producers do you have good friendships with?
I’ve had the opportunity to be in touch with most of them, they’re all pretty nice people! But I’d say Volkor X is the one who I spent the most time with the past few months.
Which producers do you feel influence you whilst writing your music?
You can feel some post-rock inspirations on the Carbon Inc EP. You will find some Vangelis, Carpenter Brut, John Carpenter or Perturbator inflences in my music as they’re like the standard measure for our musical field…
Since you’re a cyberpunk-synthwave producer, I can’t help but ask if you liked the gameplay in Cyberpunk 2077? What are your thoughts about this game?
I’m both really excited by this game and really nervous. The first gameplay footage looks really nice, but I would really them to dig the theme of transhumanism more than the classic sci-fi megacorporations-and-robots scenario. I’ll go with “hyped, but with a touch of anxiousness”.
“Midnight Mass” will be released soon. Where did the show take place where you recorded the album?
Midnight Mass is a live album we recorded and shot this summer at the french festival “Jalles House Rock”, near Bordeaux.
Was that your first live concert?
The first show as Carbon Killer, if I remember correctly, was at Retro Synth Fury 6 in Paris. I have no idea where was my first show as a musician was though…
How did you come up with the idea of writing and performing a live album?
Since the beginning of this project I always had in mind that I wanted to focus a lot on the live performance aspect of it. I like to write and produce tracks but playing them live is a completely different experience.
I worked a lot on creating a show with a specific aesthetic, and a special scenography. So as I wanted to put the emphasis on what we’re doing in concert, I naturally came to the idea of recording and shooting a live album, as it would be the best opportunity to show what we do IRL to the largest audience.
Was it difficult or problematic to record live album?
It was not the easiest thing in the world but the challenge was also rewarding. We had to invest in specific gear to do it, and to articulate our live performance in a way that was compatible with the recording goal.
Can you introduce the guys who play with you at your live shows?
First you’ve got Adrien Tisseraud, who’s French guy from Berlin. He’s a developer by day and superhero/music producer when the sun goes down. He is also one half of the electro band Taylorythm. He’s playing keyboard in CK, but he’s also heavily working on the arrangements and the mixing/mastering for the project.
Then there is Théo Begue, my accomplice from my town, Bordeaux. He’s the drummer in the band but he’s also in a crazy amount of others! His main band is Hypno5e, and a few of you may know them from having toured with Perturbator for a while.
I noticed one track on “Midnight Mass” which, to me, seemed to have quite a funny name – “Lavender Brut”. Is it somehow a reference to Carpenter Brut?
Yup, it’s mixing my two passions in life: Pokémon and Carpenter Brut! Jokes aside, it’s a filler track in the album that covers the Lavender town theme from Pokémon in a kind of darksynth way. This name made me laugh and we decided to keep it because we knew we wouldn’t be the only ones finding it funny, heh!?
You collaborated with Elay Arson and Aya on some of the tracks on “Midnight Mass”. Everybody knows who Elay Arson is, but can you tell us a little bit about Aya?
Everybody knows Elay Arson, but it’s never too much to repeat how nice this guy is, for real!
About Aya, she’s a French singer that I really like, who’s also from my hometown, Bordeaux. I met her when I was hanging out with some artists that she was collaborating with, and we immediately got along well.
Her personal work is really vast (but pretty hard to find online though…), from electro dance pop, to insane trip-hop. She’s pretty discreet on social media, but following her work is totally worth it.
Who else would you like to collaborate in the future?
I don’t know, I would really like to work with lots of people, but it would have to be someone who I can match with their artistic personality. I’d have to say, Turbo Knight, Straplocked, Powernerd, Volkor X, We Are Magonia, amongst others.
I’m a guitar player myself. So I’m really excited about one thing – your freaking awesome neon guitar! Can you tell us more about it?
Pretty fabulous, isn’t it? That’s a full acrylic guitar, custom made in China, with LEDs inside the neck and body. It’s incredibly heavy (the heaviest guitar I’ve ever played, and I played double neck ones), it’s barely playable.
I mounted a Seymore Duncan nazgul and invader on it, so it sounds like hell on earth. Which is nice.
Since we started on this topic, tell us about the other gear you’re using. And what DAW and software plugins (VSTs) do you use to create CK’s sound?
We used to play with a lot of hardware (moog’s minitaur, arturia’s microbrute, prophet 6 etc.) but now we focus on the use of software to make our live easier when touring (or even when composing!).
We exclusively use ableton live 10 for everything: composition, stage performance, mixing. U-he repro, Native instruments komplete, Arturia V collection are the main VSTs we’re using.
My favourite question to ask synthwave producers: What’s your opinion about “darksynth” in general? Do you think it’s evolving now and will evolve even further?
I love darksynth. I don’t think we can say « darksynth is evolving ». I mean, darksynth is a genre that corresponds to something. What we can say is that some producers that used to produce darksynth are now going to try other things (whilst still using the same kind of synths).
I’m notably thinking about Perturbator’s New Model, that is an excellent industrial EP, and his upcoming release seems like it’s going to be coldwave/post-punk, from what he shows on his social networks.
What kind of music are you listening by yourself?
Ok. And what about synthwave?
Oh, Boucle Infinie is awesome.
Yeah. It’s a perfect match between my cravings for post-rock, IDM, and synthwave, haha.
One question is bothering me a lot. Since you’re called Carbon Killer, how much carbon have you killed? 😉
Do you have any things to announce right now? What can Carbon Killer fans expect in near future?
More concerts, including shows outside of France.
Well, thanks for taking part in this interview man! Finally, please leave a few words for all the readers of this article.
Thanks a lot for this interview. Thanks a lot to people supporting the scene, by sharing, liking, buying, coming to the shows etc. You’re the best, and we genuinely love you!
Interviewer | RETROWAVER
Respondent | Carbon Killer
Photographs | Gaëtan Abgrall
Edited and published by | Jonny Farmer, Steel City Collective