Interview with The Dark Atom

A few weeks back, thanks to a friendly tip, I came across the work of The Dark Atom. It was the graphic design and visuals of this project that immediately caught my attention, and then upon discovering the solo, France-based and djent/electro nature of the artist, there was no choice but to jump in and listen. A recent release System Shutdown, is a masterpiece of heavy, modern, technical and atmospheric genius. I’m still working my way through the artist’s back catalogue, but couldn’t help myself from inviting Florent, the creator, to have a chat with us!

Hi Florent! I’m really excited by your music and the opportunity to do this interview mate. It is hard to know where to start, because I have so many questions for you. Already, just through your music and our brief messenger conversations, I feel a great connection to your work. For our readers, could you start off by telling us something interesting or unusual about where you are living a the moment? From your Bandcamp site, it seems like you’ve been recording for this project for around four years now. Can you let us know what started it all, and perhaps what you were up to musically, before The Dark Atom came to be?

I currently live in Dijon, and I must say that there is one thing that is weird, everyone seems to like wine, maybe it comes from the fact that it is the most vinified region of all burgundy, I don’t know. To come back to The Dark Atom, I started this project after the end of my previous band, I was tired of nothing happening, some 9 compositions in 7 years made me feel that it was possible to do better, so I started scratching my brother’s Gibson SG and decided to start the first compositions for myself, without really knowing how to take it, but I knew one thing, I took a lot of pleasure in it! I must even say that today, I prefer composition to practicing drums, because I am above all a drummer, which led me from the beginning to use drums MIDI elsewhere!

I’m curious what your recording and composition process is with this in mind. Do you tend to record your drum parts first, and then add the MIDI instruments for everything else? Or is it the other way around, that you create all the other sections on the computer first, and then add drums in as needed afterwards? Or perhaps a mixture of the two depending on how things are going? For System Shutdown and its three tracks, how long did it take you to record and assemble all these? I ask because as a fellow solo musician, I can appreciate the time and great effort that it takes to compose works all on your own! The upside of course is being able to work independently without all the struggles and drama that can go alongside the logistics of trying to make music with others in a more traditional “band” structure.

As for alcohol, we are kind of culturally tied to it here in Australia (for better or worse), though I expect the wines produced in France would be far better than a lot of the paint-stripper that gets passed off as “a good drop” over here 🙂

I could play most of my drum parts on a “real” kit, but that would take too much time which I don’t have of course. Usually I start with a melody, which develops into rhythm guitar, which I often copy paste on the bass and several synths. I then go to the drums by copying and pasting the impacts of the rhythm guitar and I create a second melody to add a background sound! This is then gone again to have up to 4 min of music, before reworking the whole thing for consistency. I think a 4 min song takes me around 4 to 8 hours depending on the level of  inspiration at the time.

Thank you for sharing this with us! I see that you’ve got another three tracks releasing on the 2nd April, so just had to dive in and give Robotic Manipulation a listen. It’s incredible!! I love piano and djent blended together, and the pace and complexity of this work makes for a really exciting listen!

How long did it take you to craft your process, and find / create / tweak the virtual instruments that you use in your work, to get the sounds that you want? There must have been quite a period of experimentation to get everything to sound so well balanced, punchy, and atmospheric.

I integrated Native Massive X into my compositions 2 years ago, and I immediately found the presets that make up my current sound. To compose about 12 min of music, I spend about 10 hours on it, which allows me to release 3 singles per month, and working in MIDI saves me a lot of time. Previously I was still recording guitars and basses, and I must say that I really couldn’t care less about editing all the tracks because of my mediocre level on the guitar… but it’s for the best because after the discovery of other work processes, everything seems to have opened up before me.

As for everything balanced together, I use a lot of automation, and find that the copying of the bass onto some synths to bring heaviness to the music, also hides the mechanical nature of the MIDI guitar. Reverb plays a big role in the compositions as well, almost every synth has one, and they are specially checked with the enhanced stereo tickbox.

I wanted to ask you about promotion next. Your graphic design is really original and exceptional, and really illustrates the theme of The Dark Atom’s music so well. As a solo producer, I’m assuming that your method of creating music means that it would be very difficult to perform to a live audience? What do you to so promote your great music? I see that you have really nice merchandise as well.

Thank you for all the compliments! Everything, I mean absolutely everything, is created by me, from the smallest cover to the logo, the merchandise and of course the music!

In terms of live performance, it would be rather complicated, unless I do a concert in DJ mode and that’s it! I’m not sure that the public would be there. For the promotion, I force myself to post a video every Sunday evening to show what I compose, and the rest of the week I post small news and memes. I must say though that it is a lot of time invested for little return, but the few people I managed to conquer is enough for me, I do all this for myself and the music, so the money does not matter, everything that I did like the merch or even my patreon was made because someone asked me, I never did these things with a hope to get rich or famous.

So by now of course, I’m very curious about the man behind the music. Would you mind sharing with us what you like to do with your free time, when not writing music or working on the visual side of the project? What are you other interests and passions? What is your profession? I’m also curious what you music tastes are, and what initially drew you towards a heavy, progressive and “djent” style of complex music?

Apart from music, I play a lot of video games, my 2nd passion, since I was 6 years old (so 30 years ago) and the arrival of Nintendo with us, I’ve never stopped! I make it a point of honor to finish any game I start and I think I have now finished more than 500 in total.

I am also a cinephile and watch a lot of movies and series, and I love science fiction! I often tell myself that I would have liked to have been born at a more advanced time…

As far as musical influences are concerned, I started with the classics, Nirvana, Manson, Led Zep, Yes etc… Then one day on MTV I discovered Korn and it was a huge revelation. It was really what I wanted to listen to! Then begins the Slayer period, Pantera (no Metallica sorry I can’t stand Metallica).

After that there was a small period of black metal and melodic speed metal with Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Rhapsody, Hammerfall and the like. Then came the deathcore and metalcore period with Job for a Cowboy, August Burns Red, All Shall Perish, Trivium, Beneath the Massacre, Humanity Last Breath.

In the end I arrived at Periphery, which once again marked a turning point and a big slap in my face, so I branched off onto Animals as Leaders, Between the Buried and Me, Intervals, Mestis… I really love anything that stands out and the more crazy it is, the happier I am!

Today with almost 25 years of listening to metal, I must say that I can no longer find much that is refreshing, everything looks the same and very few albums manage to make me say”hold on, that’s original”. But with time, and the east access we have to music today, I think it’s normal to have gone around a bit! As a job, I’m a carpenter but really I don’t care at all, it’s absolutely not what defines me! Work helps me live my life, not the other way around!