We chat to ‘anonymous’ artist Benedict Sinister about the creative process and more…

French /Australian music artist, producer, poet and video creator Benedict Sinister has released his latest single ‘Spitting Rhymes From Debbie Harry’ – his homage to the Blondie icon, via the Music For Sapiosexuals label. These shocking lines “When I was dealing with depression / There was nothing better than heroin” are the opening and chorus to the track as well as a quote from Harry’s recently published autobiography ‘Face It – A Memoir’. The single is an instant punk pop classic. 

“Spitting Rhymes” is a term for rapping, and Debbie Harry’s 1980 science fiction themed homage to the New York HipHop scene, “Rapture” was one of the earliest rap hits. Sinister’s single quotes rhyming couplets from that alongside dozens of other Blondie and Harry solo hits, including “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me,” “French Kissing in the USA,” “Dreaming” and “Sunday Girl”.   An intriguing idea from a fascinating and boundary pushing artist…

Tell us about the record you have just released and what inspired it..

It’s a punk pop ditty called “Spitting Rhymes from Debbie Harry.” It’s a very divisive song – some people think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but in the pre-release market research a bunch of people gave it the lowest possible rating. I view everything I do as experimentation, so I’m curious to learn what the response from the public will be.

It’s hard to guess it from the title, but it’s actually an homage to Debbie Harry, the amazing song writer and interpreter, who with Blondie and her solo records showed the way to reconcile punk with pop, sex with humour, and heroin use with being an icon.

Tell us a little about your creative process…

I collect all the pieces of a song often over a period of years, then put them together like a jigsaw. For this song I instructed the musicians to get a sound like Blondie. Then I wrote down all my favourite rhymes from Debbie Harry’s songs and moved them around till it flowed. I usually record the track, then listen to it for  few weeks or months, then go back and re-do a final version. That’s how I decided to do the two vocal tracks on this song.

Define your sound in five words…

Genre-fluid, gruff, culturally literate, provocative.

What was the first song that caught your attention?

When I was seven, I used to dance around the living room to “Gee Officer Krupke” from the West Side Story soundtrack. I think the early exposure to Stephen Sondheim explains a lot about my subsequent career.

What was the first song you bought?

When I got my first iPod, I only put one song on it – “Groove Jet” by DJ Spiller and Sophie Ellis Bextor. It took me about a year to feel that other songs were worthy of joining my playlist.

And the first album?

“Alice Cooper Goes to Hell,” a bizarrely eclectic album from the original shock rocker, which contained the first pre-hiphop rap song I ever heard, the jazzy “I’m the Coolest.”

What was the best concert you have ever seen?

Concerts are like sex, the pleasure comes as much from how much you love the artist as from the virtuosity of their performance.

What did the experience teach you that you have translated to your own shows?

As I have few fans that love me and no skills as a musical performer, rather than giving concerts it’s better just showing people my videos – and having sex with them if that’s what they want!

What other artist are you most excited to hear from?

Like everyone else in the world, I’m excited to hear what’s next from Rihanna. I know she’s flourishing creatively and in business, but for me Fenty slides and vegan moisturizer are a poor substitute for new music….

If you could work with them, what would you hope to record?

I’d take Rihanna in a totally new and original direction – a duet about physical love and intoxication….

If you had to pick three artists to be filed next to, who would they be and why?

The Beatles, Elvis and Michael Jackson – because more people listen to them than any other artist, so that’s obviously the company I should be keeping.

If you could jam with one artist alive or dead, who would it be?

I’d be interested in collaborating with the Dutch visual artist and author Tinkebell, who has dedicated her career to exposing social hypocrisy. She famously made a handbag out of the hide of her cat, scandalizing a world that is accepting of bags being made from the skins of other animals. She also published the hate mail she subsequently received with detailed profiles of the people who wrote it emboldened by a presumed anonymity. I don’t know what kind of music and videos we’d make, but it wouldn’t be boring.

If you could have written one song by another artist, what would it be?

“Leave You Alone” by Young Jeezy – a beautiful song on my favourite topic of irresolvable love. It includes the fantastic line, “The earth is our turf.”

Someone is making a film of your life, who will play you?

Johnny Depp – he’s a terrible actor, but for his own good he needs to get back in front of the camera instead of the lawsuits.

Lastly, tell us one thing you have never revealed in an interview…

I have an amazing collection of fan art – boxes of it. Mostly drawings I did of characters from some of the true classic TV shows, like On The Buses, Manimal, HomeBoys in Outer Space, Cop Rock, and George and Mildred.