For our first interview dedicated to musicians of the Synthwave universe, we decided to contact the Swedish composer Johan Bengtsson, the talented Mitch Murder. After many releases on various labels since 2010, EPs, LPs, Soundtracks including a very remarkable passage in the fantastic short film Kung Fury by David Sandberg, the producer returned recently with a new EP called « The Real Deal », released on DX Seven. A good opportunity for us to know more about this timeless genius who is now a master in the art of electronic music inspired by the 80s. Happy reading to all!
Space Master: Could you tell us a little bit about your musical training?
Mitch Murder: Well, I don’t really have any. I went to guitar school for a while in my early teens, that’s about it. I’ve just been messing around with music on the computer on and off for the past 20 years, and eventually got better at it i guess.
Why do you prefer Renoise over other DAWs such as Reason, Fruity Loops or Ableton Live?
I’ve used trackers since day one. A friend showed me Scream Tracker 3 at some point in the mid 90’s and I just couldn’t let it go. I eventually moved on to Impulse Tracker, and then Renoise when it came out in the early 00’s. I’ve just always prefered the workflow in trackers over conventional DAWs. I can’t really explain exactly why. To me it just makes the whole process of composing on a computer more fun, faster, and it almost feels like you’re programming the music, since ~90% of the work is done using nothing but your computer keyboard.
« I just get inspired a lot, and often, and I need to dump all that inspiration into something, which usually results in a new track »
For the release of your first album « Burning Chrome » in 2010, why did you choose the label of Miami Nights 1984 & Lazerhawk, namely Rosso Corsa Records?
I can’t really say I specifically chose Rosso Corsa over anything else. Back then there were hardly any labels at all that focused on cheesy 80’s synth (terms such as outrun or synthwave hadn’t been coined yet). I remember searching MySpace for weeks looking for other artists doing this type of music (this was in late 2009 I believe), and eventually I came across MN84’s profile, realized he ran a label and instantly messaged him, we started talking and the following year my first album was released. Rosso is still a great label though, and they’ve got some cool stuff in the pipeline in the near future.
Promo video for BURNING CHROME
In the past 8 years you’ve put out 3 albums, several soundtracks and more than a dozen EPs. Not to mention the many reworks of themes from your favorite movies or video games. How do you explain this musical hyperactivity?
I just get inspired a lot, and often, and I need to dump all that inspiration into something, which usually results in a new track or two. I don’t put out a lot of random tracks on soundcloud every other week like I used to, but I still love what I do, and for a while now I’ve been doing it for a living. Last year I mostly worked on bigger projects though (2 video game soundtracks) so most of my energy went into that, rather than one offs here and there.
Your track « The Touch » was remixed by one of the princes of the « French Touch » genre, Lifelike, who worked much with legends such as Alan Braxe (1/3 of Stardust). What do you think about French Kings of electronic music such as Daft Punk, Justice or especially Kavinsky and College?
I’ve always been a fan of french music in general, from 1930’s « Gypsy jazz » to 60’s Yé-yé style pop like Françoise Hardy or France Gall to early electronic music like Space and The Droids to more relatively recent acts like Air, Phoenix, Cassius, Daft Punk, Breakbot, Sébastien Tellier and of course Alan Braxe and Fred Falke. I could go on and on. There just seems to be a never ending stream of good music coming out of France. I didn’t discover Kavinsky and College until I saw the movie « Drive » though, with which they did a damn good job.
Let’s talk about the adventure « Kung Fury », how did you get to know David Sandberg, its genius director? Why did he choose you to integrate your musical touch into his fantastic short film?
David contacted me out of the blue one day in 2014 and told me he was a fan of my music and asked if I wanted to score his short film. That’s about it. I started out by doing the main theme for the trailer which was to be used in the Kickstarter campaign, and after that took off i started working on the rest of the stuff for the actual short film. As for why he chose me, you’d have to ask him. He has said before that he listened to a bunch of my music while writing the movie and working on the trailer, so that may have something to do with it.
On your Discogs profile picture, we see you with a « HTC Vive » virtual reality helmet. What do you think about this new technology? Are you a big gamer?
I’d been excited about modern VR ever since the Oculus Kickstarter launched in 2012, and I ended up pre-ordering the Vive as soon as it became available. It’s one of my favourite toys for sure. Not only for gaming either. Google Earth in VR for example is insanely cool. As for being a gamer in general, sure, I’ve played games for as long as I can remember (my first console was the Magnavox Odyssey², which my parents got in the late 70’s before I was born), and right now games are a pretty big part of my « professional » life as well.
« right now games are a pretty big part of my « professional » life as well »
You have just released a last EP named « The Real Deal » on the label DX Seven. What can you tell us about these new tracks?
It’s a « business themed » EP with a bunch of cheesy 80’s « how to succeed on wall street » or « management training video »-like music on it. That’s what I had in mind when compiling tracks for it anyway. I think it turned out ok. DX Seven is a really cool new little label started by a friend of mine, and the amazing cover art was made by the super talented Mark Norman, aka « Johnny Panic ».
Do you have plans to perform live anytime soon?
I haven’t played a live gig since 2013, and I’ve yet to decide if it’s something I want to do or not. It’s weird. I keep getting requests for it, but at the same time I hear how a lot of people don’t want to go see live performances with nothing but a dude and his laptop on stage, so it’s somewhat of a dilemma, since I don’t actually play any instruments. I’m a bedroom producer, not much of a performer. But who knows, I might pick it up again some day.
What are some upcoming projects you could tell us about?
As for upcoming stuff, right now I’m mostly working on new Mitch Murder material, along with some random non MM-related side projects. Then there’s « The Real Deal » which just recently had a vinyl release, and also « Impact Winter », which is a video game i scored that’ll be out on April 12th (on PC / Steam. PS4 and Xbox one later). Its OST is quite different compared to any Mitch Murder stuff I’ve put out in the past. Darker, much more slow moving, less drums, more focus on atmosphere etc, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received. I’m sure some people will be disappointed due to it being different, but hopefully some will like it too.
« later this year there’s the soundtrack for Impact Winter (a game i scored). It’s quite different compared to any Mitch Murder stuff I’ve put out in the past »