The panther signifies darkness, death, and rebirth; a symbol of power, beauty, and grace. In “Darkness,” the new single by The Sweet Kill, the band takes the imagery of the powerful cat and transforms it into a metaphor for the proverbial ”dark night of the soul,” when two fated karmic contracts fuse together and self-destruct. The extravagance of this murky chemistry is polarized in the lyrics of this cinematic and sensual banger; shining a light on dreams, and providing solace in the dangers of the underground world.
The gothic post-punk song is driven by cold synths, atmospheric guitar and melodic bass, as vocalist Pete Mills channels the romantic lamentations of The Cure with the rawness of vocals reminiscent of Ian Curtis. There are also elements of Interpol, Editors, and The Horrors in the track’s sound. “I wrote Darkness to uplift and inspire those lost in the shadows of life,” Mills explains. The accompanying video for the song, directed by Jamie Mitchell, features a seated figure in a straitjacket helplessly observing writhing dancers in PVC bondage gear. The panther represents the animalistic hunt of lust, and our powerlessness in its force.
The song was self-produced at Shadow Zone Sound, Mills’ studio. “Darkness” is out now via Young & Cold Records (Germany) as well as Shadow Zone Records (USA).
Post-Punk.com interviewed Mills about the new release:
What is your background in music?
I wrote, produced, and played guitar for a Glam Punk band and then for a female-fronted New Wave band. After, I decided to start fronting and singing for my own creative project, The Sweet Kill. Developing my production and collaborating skills, I was asked by local bands to help them crystalize their visions. When all these acts signed record deals, local labels started to hire me as a producer for massive amounts of recordings. It’s been challenging to balance my art with helping others with theirs, but luckily The Sweet Kill album DARKNESS has been taking a life of its own, having signed at the beginning of the year with Germany’s Young & Cold Record label.
What did you listen to growing up?
A lot of 80’s music. I was down with pop but always felt more drawn to rock and a massive amount of new wave. I didn’t know it at the time, but the official genre “Darkwave” was my main source of inspiration.
You seem to be a multifaceted artist and musician that understands every aspect of making music. Is this correct?
Yes, thank you. I remember certain aspects of sound sticking out to me, like the snare drum in the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” and the cinematic depth of the Cure’s “Disintegration” album. Naturally, my curiosity about the craft and technique to achieve these sounds pulled me deep into engineering and production which bled into mixing and mastering. I got my start when a local artist had an investor that gave me a blank cheque to get started on his record. I didn’t have any equipment at the time, but the artist’s confidence in my leadership and attention to fidelity (essentially producing). I asked for a cash advance to purchase compressors, a mixing console, and microphones. Then, magically, as I said before, everyone I recorded signed record deals.
And if so, is that what led to your work in production and forming Shadow Zone Sound and Records?
Absolutely; since my stylistic proclivities lean towards Darkwave, Post-Punk, Coldwave, and New Wave I named my studio Shadow Zone Sound and decided to have an exclusive North American imprint for The Sweet Kill entitled Shadow Zone Records. There are 2 other brands under the Shadow Zone moniker, which involve live performances entitled Shadow Zone Night as well as a Spotify playlist entitled Shadow Zone Playlist. The playlist is a community showcasing new Darkwave and Post-Punk acts as well as the classics. I update it regularly to keep a good blend of modern and throwback flow. The live performances were a weekly endeavor but when the negotiations with Young & Cold Records started, the focus became completing the DARKNESS album for its release.
When did The Sweet Kill start?
Right after the singer of my new wave band died, I started the project, but it wasn’t at the level I needed it to be at as I was moving from Canada to America at the time and all lots of the local labels like Capital, Geffen, Universal, Cleopatra were hiring me to do production. Therefore, I was unable to crystalize the vision of The Sweet Kill, so I took an extended hiatus but now with the 2022 release of DARKNESS I am fully back and verify the integrity of the material and look forward to the record release party at Bar Sinister November 26, 2022.
There seems to be a mélange of rock influences in your music, perhaps stemming from The Cure and Joy Division, but are there any unsung heroes or unconventional bands inspiring the sound of The Sweet Kill outside of the confines of post-punk and darkwave?
Joy Division and The Cure complete me, but yes, the other stylistic influences that inspire me are the romantic period of classical music as well as the dark aspects of pop. ABBA’s “Summer Night City” and “The Day Before You Came” and the moody cinematic songs from Nine Inch Nails like “The Frail”, and “The Four of Us Are Dying”. Even dark ambient scores for movies like Annihilation’s “Cell’s Divide” (Ben Salisbury) or pretty much anything Hans Zimmer.
What do you think is the most essential element of songwriting, in general, and for music that can be classified as post-punk or darkwave?
Great question, cold sounding synths that leave you wanting the warmth of a lover to the melodic bass that varies from aggressively rooted rhythmic syncopation to high, up on the g string, drones, and hooky (Peter Hook) type orchestrations. Let’s not forget the essential flanged out harmonic counter point guitar and massive verbed out snare juxtaposed with an intimate 909 dry snare with the emotive angst of unrequited love lyrics and delivery.
Can you tell us more about the song Darkness and why you chose it as an album’s title track?
I wanted to codify the other songs, and I felt the overall arch was under the realm of dark and gothic. The song DARKNESS gave me the feeling of lovers ruling the underworld. The upside-down element of Stranger Things or the spiritual aspect of closing one’s eyes to see inspired this concept. I wanted DARKNESS to describe the vampire lifestyle of an artist and the lorn of lovers tapping into the sacred and lost elements of love that have been recorded in the history books as supernatural events and unexplained theories.
The song’s melody is a captivating mix of darkwave, old-school post-punk, and the 2000s post-punk revival. Was there any special approach in writing the song?
Yes, I wanted the purposeful dirge drumbeat in the verse to be juxtaposed with an asymmetrical drumbeat in the chorus. This pulled me into the post-punk chorus bass line, which inspired the cold synths and created the need for a “Cure” type delay affected guitar breakdown. These key elements inspired the lyrical concept, which led to my vocal delivery with the intention to be the most haunting vocal I’ve ever recorded.
Can you tell us anything about the music video for Darkness?
I’ve always been fascinated by panthers and PVC so naturally combining BDSM elements and the primal power of the animalistic hunt was my goal. Naturally, I’m caught in shackles in between the two. I just wanted to create the scariest, most visceral video possible cutting between these three tropes.
I love the choreographed dancers. And thematically, it reminds me of that scene in legend where Lily (played by Mia Sara) gets turned by Darkness (Tim Curry), with a bit of the Nastassja Kinski film Cat People thrown in and Bat for Lashes’ video for Daniel.
Thank you I really appreciate the eclectic comparisons. Tim Curry is the best, and I’ve had a few conversations with Nastassja’s daughter Sonja Kinski. Yes, the secret and whispered successions of love eternal. I believe that the fountain of youth ignites when the tantric principles are explored and embraced. My creative purpose is to start a conversation about this subject that drives the soul of man from the dawn of time.
Is there a prevailing theme to the album?
I wrote DARKNESS to uplift and inspire those lost in the shadows of life. To emphasize the exploitation of an alternative lifestyle creating a search and curiosity beyond this 3rd-dimensional finitude. Inevitably collapsing one’s own enabling system evoking a purposeful existence.
Can you tell us about how you connected with Young and Cold records for the vinyl release?
I sent them an email with a private SoundCloud link with 4 songs 1) Darkness 2) Closer 3) Cold 4) Heart Attack. They were super supportive and offered an EP or the option of a full-length record. This inspired me to write the rest of the album under the theme DARKNESS including the Nine Inch Nails cover of Hurt infusing the Cure’s Fascination Street as well as the ever so moody Rain, Die, Love, Satellite, and Sea of Fate. I can’t wait for the world to hear the new and the work-in-progress album “Nowhere,” but for 2022, lets all embrace the DARKNESS.
DARKNESS. This album is out now on Young & Cold Records (Germany) and Shadow Zone Records (USA).
To stream the album and pre-order the vinyl and CD, go here:
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