Benedict Sinister tells all: music, life and Serge Gainsbourg

French /Australian music artist, producer, poet, video creator and ‘anonymous entity’, Benedict Sinister released his third single, “I’ve Come to Tell You I’m Going Away” on 16th October via the label Music For Sapiosexuals.  The single, a translation of the 1973 track by French musical legend Serge Gainsbourg written whilst he was recovering from his first heart attack, is Benedict’s homage to the great break-up songs.

The Gainsbourg song references romantic poet Paul Verlaine, and in turn Sinister has added a new spoken word part which name checks 10 artists who have memorably addressed break-ups, from Hemingway to Lana del Rey. The accompanying video shows Gainsbourg’s house in Paris over the course of a decade, showing as each year passes a new covering of graffiti replaces the artworks underneath – a visual testimony to the impermanence addressed by the song.  There are clearly many layers to explore with the nameless and faceless artist. We decided to find out more…

Benedict Sinister- thanks for speaking to us today!

No problem. Before we start though I sincerely hope your American readers got off their butts and voted. It’s elimination time on The Masked Singer !

Why do you prefer to be anonymous and instead choose a pseudonym?

Because my name at birth was Bradley Pitt. I changed it because I got sick of the looks of disappointment I’d receive every time someone looked up after hearing my name.

How did you get into music?

I won a talent contest and was singled out as the best male singer, dancer and musician, as well as the best looking boy with the best hair. My grandmother was so proud, even though I was the only boy entrant, and she was the only judge.

What kind of music, writing and art has inspired you over the years?

My new single is a sad song, a break-up song. For anyone who has a taste for that kind of negative esthetic, I would recommend the incomparable novels of Marguerite Duras (especially Blue Eyes, Black Hair and The Lover); the paintings of Mark Rothko, who slit his wrists and bled out on his studio floor (go to Houston to visit the Rothko Chapel if you ever get the chance); the aphorisms of Emile Cioran in books like A Short History of Decay; and Joy Division’s album, Closer.

Are there any contemporary artists or writers that you rate highly?

Lana Del Rey – or “Sister Del Rey” as I call her in the song. I also feel a deep void in my life as Rihanna has not put out a single for three years. Why are you neglecting me Riri? I need to hear your voice….

If you could collaborate with anyone – living or dead – who would it be and what would you work on?

Lisa from Blackpink – I’d like to do an aggressive EDM track and let her unleash her inner Yolandi Visser, and I’ll be her Ninja. Or Jennie from Blackpink – I’d love to play Lil Wayne to her Nicki Minaj. Or Rosé from Blackpink – I could see her as an Aussie Karen Carpenter, and I’d be her brother Richard. For Jisoo they should bring back Circus of the Stars. I’d be her assistant, standing next to her, pointing at the stack of objects she’s balancing on her head.

Tell us about your latest track ‘I’ve Come to Tell You I’m Going Away’ – what made you choose this Serge Gainsbourg track to cover?

For me, adapting a song into another language is like being a groupie – it’s an act of obsessional love, but instead of getting into the artist’s pants, you get into their heads.

There’s a cool spoken bit in the middle – what was the idea behind that?

I’m all about the meta. I wanted to make it a song about the art of the break-up and the most beautiful, painful and tragic examples of the break-up in art, like Paolo Nutini’s “Last Request” which Zayn Malik recently covered on IG. And Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” which I misquote just to irritate GQ editor Dylan Jones. Jones wrote a whole book about the song including reminiscences of drunken sing-alongs with his mates.

The video features Serge’s house in a kind of time lapse over the year – was the concept your idea?

Yes – I visited the house many times over the years, and eventually it occurred to me that it would be possible to show the evolution of the graffiti over a decade, as a visual metaphor for the impermanence of love and life. Then I felt I needed to end it the video with a provocation worthy of Gainsbourg – painting over the whole wall with monochrome grey paint was my Rothko moment.

What can we expect next musically from you?

An homage to another one of my song-writing heroes, Debbie Harry. I’ve always loved that combination of sexy-cute-clever lyrics and her affectless delivery, all the more powerful knowing from her autobiography about her depression and heroin use.

What will life be like if Benedict Sinister ruled the world?

I’d hire the team in charge of selling toilet paper during the lockdowns to do my marketing, so everyone in the western world would have massive stashes of Benedict Sinister songs and merch all over their house.