I first heard Perturbator almost exactly a year ago while editing a highly rated review for Dangerous Days at Heathen Harvest. The writer described a faux-retro synthwave album that melds cyberpunk aesthetics with the neon-cool atmosphere of Drive, with an evil supercomputer named “Satan” thrown in the mix. Being a long-time fan of electronic music, cyberpunk, and the films of Nicolas Winding Refn, I couldn’t help be feel like someone formed an album specifically for me.
Keeping my solipsism in check wasn’t hard. It turned out that Perturbator was doing quite well in the underground electronic dance scene. The project was getting excellent coverage in digital and print magazines, and had tracks included in popular indie video games Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. In many ways this reminded me of the faults of having musical blinders on. Being so focused on specific obscure genres of music almost had me missing out on what would become one of my favorite projects in recent years.
Over the following months I delved further into the world of Perturbator, Carpenter Brut (also highly rated on Heathen Harvest), GosT, M|O|O|N, and others. On May 2016 Perturbator released “The Uncanny Valley” (Review), further developing his unique aesthetic and prominently featuring Satanic imagery and symbolism. At that point I decided to reach out to his label, Blood Music, who were kind enough to put me in contact with artist and producer James Kent, the mastermind behind this Satanic Electro-Synth project. Being in the midst of a series of performances and remixes, our time was short but well worth the effort. It’s clear that James Kent is on his own path but a fellow traveler and there are many layers of Satanic influence in his art for our audience here to dissect. Enjoy.
An important magical idea in our religion is capturing the power of something from the past and creating total environments. One of the best ways of doing this is through art, using nostalgia to tap into this hidden force. I think this is what makes your art, aside from the pentagrams and occult imagery, relevant to our audience. You’re not just creating retro music, but creating a whole new universe, a cyber noir setting that combines the past with the future. How did the aesthetic concepts of Perturbator come about?
Perturbator started in 2011, at first it was sort of a little escape route for me. My personal life was on the low side, and my other musical projects were falling apart. The initial idea was to create something of my own. While it did more or less start out as a very blatant tribute to retro aesthetics and other movie or video game tropes, the more I was doing it the more I realized I could take some of those inspirations I had and reshape them to make it my own. Something more personal. I wanted to build a universe that would be familiar to everyone, yet still give it that mysterious and daunting vibe that anyone can feel when being faced with something strange or unusual. Tales from a hopeless future, occult elements. You might hear a track that reminds you of retro Italo disco à la Giorgio Moroder, but there is still an unsettling factor, this feeling that something is not right. Church bells ringing in the background… This sort of stuff. Of course most of it was inspired by borderline cheesy 70s and 80s satanic exploitation and science fiction movies. But I always try to give it my own approach and views of it.
And the symbols? You often use the pentagram and some other hidden occult symbols throughout your art. How do those relate to your work?
The pentagram is a very strong symbol. Some people believe I just use it in order to “cash-in” on the symbol itself, or just to attract metal music enthusiasts. Truth is, a pentagram can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. And while I am unquestionably an atheist, this particular symbol means a lot of things to me in many ways, including on a very personal level. I see it (and use it) as a symbol of power, a gateway to something otherworldly and a reminder that there are still forces beyond human comprehension.
This aspect is, of course, really important to my music, as I create it to sound powerful and aggressive. It always relates to the project and its themes as well. The fantasy world of Perturbator is one where science and religion are constantly colliding with one another. I always try to use symbolism in thoughtful ways, rather than use it as a vessel for ideology or attach a blatant message to it. There are many layers of interpretation. And the way people react to the imagery of Perturbator can also say a lot of things about themselves. Is that person easily scared? Or is he/she willing to embrace it? Or maybe it’s just indifference? It’s always very fascinating to me.