With his big single Kiss or Kill Me due out this week I couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to this weekend. For those that don’t know already, unTIL Ben is a French songwriter from Bayonne, France, and his ability to compose tightly woven synth tracks is uncanny. Kiss or Kill Me is his most ambitious work to date and it had me hooked from the get go. The track is a synthwave/synthpop hybrid with spot on vocals, a hook that never dies, and keeps you coming back over and over again. It’s due out October 18th but you can get your pre-order in (including a very limited run of physical CDs) over at Bandcamp. The single includes a who’s who list of remixers, including: Microchip Terror, Stilz, Bionic Resistance, and Nightrun87. Kiss or Kill Me is one of the best stand alone singles of 2017, but what makes this release special is the wide range of sounds you get from these remixes. It’s pretty much a must own.
Thanks so much for talking to us! For new listeners, what can you tell us about yourself?
You’re welcome. I’m Ben from Bayonne, France. Under the name of unTIL BEN, I produce what I like to call Spacetronic music, blending genres like synthwave, electronica, space music and synthpop.
You’ve got new music hitting soon! How do you feel about Kiss or Kill Me?
Kiss or Kill me is a track I’ve been working on since summer 2016, when I made a music sketch quite different from what I had made before, because it was more funky, with a dance feel to it. I posted the sketch on Facebook and had some great feedback. That motivated me to improve and slowly “upgrade” the music with vocals and aggressive parts. It ended up with a 7 minute long track I had to cut a bit. The result is a complex piece of synthwave/synthpop with a verse, a chorus, and a lot of variation. I like it because it has many sides that fit well together. But I’m not objective; you have to listen to it and judge by yourself.
You landed some pretty big artists for remixes. How did those come about?
I felt that the track was a bit too different from my other work to land on an EP or LP. Furthermore, I already had a great experience with people remixing my tracks from “the Ray”, my first album last year. So the idea to let people remix the track came quickly.
Fortunately, I’ve been in contact with amazing artists in the synthwave scene, each in different subgenres. While Microchip Terror is from Singapore, Stilz is from Canada, Bionic Resistance from Germany and NIGHTRUN87 from Poland: a real mix of culture. The fact of having them accepting to remix “Kiss or kill me” was really exciting because I was sure they would produce great different things, which they effectively did 🙂
What is supercool is that it all ended like an LP release. More than 30 minutes, 6 tracks with very different vibes that have their own soul. You can listen to them without having the feeling to hear the same song again and again.
What was the inspiration behind the single?
Talking about the music by itself, it’s hard to summarize where I found inspiration because I had nothing particular in mind when I wrote it. I wanted to put some 80s influence by using recognizable synths and drums sounds from that period. For the “aggressive” part you’ll probably notice the influences of darksynth people like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator and those of my teenage metal years too.
Regarding the lyrics, I like to build a scenario where I set a place, a time and some characters. Kiss or Kill me is the tragic story of a professional killer trapped by falling in love by the killer a company hired to kill him. That is not that far from killer movies I love like Le Samourai by Jean-Pierre Melville or The Killer by John Woo
Who does your amazing artwork?
Amir Zand with whom I’ve been in touch for quite some time now. He already worked on some of my releases last year. I love his work. He specializes in big sci-fi landscapes with only one or two characters. He definitely has a digital painting style on his own. A great artist. I recommend you to check his impressive portfolio: http://amirzandartist.com
What is your recording setup?
My recording setup changes from projects to projects:
To write this track, I played on a Push 2 controller in Ableton Live and a Roland Aira System 1 synthesizer. I used software synths like Uhe Hive and Arturia stuff. I recorded my vocals in my studio room with an AT5050 running through a UA preamp. Then I mixed and mastered the music in Cockos Reaper with software plugins.
When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?
I play music a lot. Relying on a computer to play your track is great to write but frustrating for a musician. So I love to play guitar and synthesizer directly. One day, I should record my jams, it could be interesting. Apart from music, I love to play video games like Starcraft or Mass Effect, but it’s too time-consuming. After a few hours, I always feel like I should have played music instead. Also, I’m actually reading sci-fi books I can advise: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and The Saga of The Meta-Barons by Jodorowsky/Jimenez.
It’s almost Halloween! Favorite horror film?
The Texas chainsaw Massacre is undoubtedly a reference for me, more because of the bad unhealthy feelings and discomfort you get during the whole movie than from the classic horror slasher scenes.
What is your favorite record you’ve heard this year?
That’s a tough one because, nowadays, with streaming services, we don’t listen to music the same way as before. From the CD I bought, I’d say the last Depeche Mode. They may no longer be the trendiest band in the world, but there is no shortage in the way they still craft music with authenticity, strong songwriting talent, up to date synth sounds and of course the stylish darkness that characterizes them.
And as we were evocating horror, I rediscovered this summer how good the track “Thriller” by Michael Jackson was: groovy, catchy, perfectly sung, arranged, produced, mixed… There is everything in this track. Much better than some recent covers…
Anyone you’d like to shout out or thank before we go?
Thank you, James, for the interview and your excellent and wonderful blog
And a big shout out to my mates on this release: JY (Microchip Terror), Chris (Stilz), Mirko (Bionic Resistance) and William (NIGHTRUN87). Listen to their music; you be disappointed: