Greetings fellow Toilet and Dungeon dwellers! Today I have the great pleasure to present an in-depth interview with one of the world’s most popular Dungeon Synth artists, Erang.
The Toilet ov Hell has had a brief introduction to Erang in the past, but perhaps not an in-depth look into your world. As many here may be newcomers to your magical kingdom, what words of welcome or “prologue” if you will, would you offer?
I’ll say to newcomers: the Kingdom is yours!… What I mean is: even if all my inner world was already there with me (and will always be) when I was all alone, it is now such an important part of it to have all of these people from all around the world, emotionally connected to it. Everyone is a part of it and make this realm stronger!… so the Kingdom is ours!
2016 has been a most prolific year for you, at least as it seems from a consumer’s standpoint. To start off, you released Land of Five Seasons in February which was a step farther into the grandiose world building your catalog was surmounting to, yet taking a slight step down musically from Tome X. What mindset and mood were you in during this time?
Tome X was my 10th album and, at the same time, the last album of the Third Age of the Kingdom… That’s why with the following “Land of the Five Seasons” I needed to mark a new step into my world: this album was the first of a new batch of independent albums, non-related to any “Age” specifically. For example, Our Dreams are made of Dragons could have been from the First Age… and, obviously, ANTI FUTURE has his own dedicated futuristic age.
After Tome X did it feel like a relief to close that chapter of your world? You mention wanting to traverse new realms and facets. Was this out of artistic necessity and had you felt that you explored musically all that you could?
It is not a question of relief but more of coherence: in my opinion, you can very well separate the 3 Ages of the Kingdom. So it came naturally… but I’m far from having musically explored all I want to do (if that day ever comes).
A mere five months pass and we were gifted an ancient relic that is Our Dreams Are Made of Dragons, a self-described “throwback” to your early works. What cause was at the root of this decision?
As I said above: after the end of the THIRD AGE I took the freedom of releasing independent albums… and at that time I wanted to revisit my old sound because, albums after albums, my sound has slowly evolved into something a bit less raw and minimalistic… and as I love raw and minimalistic music, I needed to make this kind of song again.
Were there any other artists, besides your early work, that directly influenced Our Dreams Are Made of Dragons?
Not directly but, here and there, I know that some tunes are inspired by feelings I got from listening to other musicians… for instance, the opening track “Dreams & Dragons” is inspired by Lunar Womb works on The Sleeping Green which is a marvellous album… “Song to the Dragon” is inspired by The Dark Crystal OST… “The Twins Troubadours of Tadyar” is inspired by “Hermođr á Helferđ” from Burzum and the guitar at the beginning of “Children of the Frozen Forest” is inspired by some piano themes from Philip Glass but it’s all subtle references to music that I admire.
Finally, for this year, a new path was forged from the Erang Kingdom, a path to the future. Your 13th album Anti-Future is vastly different stylistically from the rest of your works. Rather than your grand Dungeon Synth stylization, you chose to dabble in what some might call “Synthwave”, another wide-spreading synth phenomena. Was this in any way influenced by the genre’s growing popularity?
After more than 10 albums of Medieval Fantasy themed music, I needed some “fresh air” artistically speaking… At that time I was listening to the second album of original tracks by the genius John Carpenter, Lost Themes II. That was a big inspiration as I’ve always been a fan of synth music and, more specifically, to John Carpenter’s music. I used to have a cheap CD compilation of his music (not originals tracks but re-played by anonymous musicians, in fact) when I was 13 yrs old and would listen to it on repeat. So I’ve started to work on it because I wanted to make this kind of album after Tome III but never made it for some reason. But to be honest, ANTI FUTURE is not really Synthwave. I use this Tag because it is convenient but John Carpenter is definitely my number one influence: my music is far from the music of, let’s say, Perturbator for instance. ANTI FUTURE is more on the “cinematographic” side of this music with atmospheric tracks like an imaginary soundtrack… it doesn’t have many beats in it and, damn, it even has a song inspired by the theme of Stephen King’s The Langoliers OST (the song is “Time Vision”)!
As a follow-up, why did you choose to release it under the name of Erang? Was it important to you to keep this part of your timeline?
I have much-unreleased material related to the Kingdom of Erang and the Land of the Five Seasons with timelines, stories, characters etc. So, in my mind, this dark and alternate future of the Kingdom already existed since a long, long time. So when I started to work on ANTI FUTURE, it didn’t take so long for me to realize that it fitted perfectly what I had in mind about this dark future world… and in my opinion, you can clearly recognize my “signature” in this album like in my others: they are from the same universe, definitely. Furthermore, many tracks names are linked to the Medieval Kingdom and various tracks from previous albums, for instance:
The Highway Goes Ever On = The Road Goes Ever On
The Dark Motel = The Dark Dungeon
Another Zone = Another World, Another Time
The Drunken Maniac = The Drunken Tyrant
Dawn of the Copper Giant = Dawn of the Stone Giant
I hadn’t made that connection! That is very well done on your part. Also, I greatly enjoy and respect how you do not consider Anti-Future as “synthwave.” While I do enjoy the genre, your album was deeply rooted in DS and your sound as a whole and I thank you for that. What other reactions have you received from listeners and fellow artists? Has it been generally favored by the community?
I mostly got very good reactions as people understood very well what I tried to do. Of course, some of them were surprised but again I guess that if you listen closely to ANTI FUTURE, you’ll notice how it fits right in the rest of the discography… That being said I don’t follow any plans when I create or make music: I just express what I need and want to express, despite others people’s opinions. Of course, I’m flattered and honored if many people appreciate my music but I will never change it to please more people… and I guess that those who only focus on the Medieval side of my music already got enough to listen to with all the previous albums haha.
This year has also been the debut of Erang music videos, featuring beautiful artwork you created. This is a very new territory for the Dungeon Synth genre as a whole, so I ask why you felt this was a good time to create and release these?
I create constantly and I dedicate all my free time to it… To me, crafting art every day is as much-needed as food and oxygen… Because I make a lot of music I sometimes need to change my mind with another medium. I wanted to release a video for a long time but never took the time to sit down and make it properly… That’s how it started.
For the videos, you chose 2 of your older songs from Tome II and We Are The Past. What specifically about them did you feel warranted music videos? Are these your favorite songs?
“The Dark Dungeon” was an obvious choice to me because I’ve always seen this song as some sort of anthem you know… Originally I even wanted to name it something like “Dungeon Synth Music” but didn’t manage to do so because, obviously, “synth” is not a very medieval word haha… It is one of my favorite songs and has, in my opinion, a very epic feeling to it even while being very minimalistic. So the choice of the music came first and the making of the images after.
For the second video, it was the opposite. I made the first picture of the video without knowing what I will do with it but I had this image in my mind, I couldn’t tell you why: a bright full moon with stars and trees made in papers like in an old puppet show… It was like a vision. After making this landscape I had a second vision of the flute player, inspired by the movie The Dark Crystal… then, the choice of “I Saw Your Ghost in the Woods” was an obvious one with the flute theme being very present.
The story within the video for “I Saw Your Ghost In The Woods” is fairly eerie, what influenced this?
As I said above, the character of the flute player was inspired by the movie The Dark Crystal. Concerning the story it takes place in the enchanted Woods of Mayoo (see the map of the Land of the Five Seasons) and it is inspired by the title of the song… I know what it is happening to the characters in the video, however, I deliberately made it a bit elusive and abstract so everyone could make his own story in his mind. This is something very important to me regarding any kind of art: I like when the artist leaves some room for the imagination of the viewer and don’t explain every detail of it.
That is a very interesting point you made about the artist leaving room for imagination. While many music genres are very straight to the point and descriptive, Dungeon Synth is quite the opposite. What initially attracted me to DS was the artist’s understanding of the audience’s imagination and their way of playing into that notion. Imagination is a key element in your Kingdom and the music takes a listener to many different spaces, so my question to you is this: where do you go when you listen to music?
That’s a hard question and I don’t know if it’s possible to reply with words… in fact, I think it is impossible to reply with words because if it was, music will lose its reason to exist and its very own purpose: what I feel and where my mind wanders when I listen to the music I love is indescribable and everyone has to experience his own journey, I guess… music is such an intimate art…
Jumping backward a bit, Erang is both you and the name of your Kingdom. You are constantly updating maps and storylines with your music and album releases. Is there any sort of “endgame” that you have in mind? Or will your world keep growing as long as you create music?
The only “endgame” I could see will be mine as a human being haha… and even so, my hidden dream would be to create such a lore that it could inspire others to create within it. That would be a dream comes true… Like a set of places and characters to inspire others imagination to make music, drawings, RPG, etc. I’m still far from it but I’m working hard to make it real: if I don’t believe in me, who will?
Can we look forward to any Erang literature in the future? Will we be treated with a High Fantasy novel or Sci-Fi pulp?
That’s one of my most important project for 2017, yes. I’ve started to work on a short High Fantasy novel taking place (of course) within the Land of the Five Seasons. I have many works to do right now concerning my upcoming album and my first CD’s release but right after that being done, I guess I’ll focus a lot on my novel… however as I always follow my instinct, I can’t tell you that I’m 100% sure I’ll stick to this plan but, at least, this is my plan right now. I already have something around 20/25 pages (A4 size). As I’m writing this answer, I’m really eager to already reveal many things about it but I can’t, sorry.
2017 is a bright new year for the Kingdom, what can we expect and what secrets can you share?
As I said I’m working on a new album of Medieval themed material [Released on Janurary 10th as King of Nothing, Slave to No One –BtR] and I’m really proud of the compositions: they are richer than ever in melodic terms and all the songs have several parts within them, with progression etc. some of them are quiet & soft while others have some “Summoning” vibes with epic trumpets & synth.
I’m also working on the physical release of this new album as well as… the physical release of my first album Tome I, on CD. This is an exclusive news as it’s the first time I reveal it. I think that, for my first CD release, it would a good thing to release properly my oldest album as well as the brand new one, like a musical loop you know… Concerning the release of Tome I, it will come with a bonus unreleased track of 7 minutes. The album will be released by me but will feature the Katabaz Records logo. About the date, I have not laid anything in stone just yet. Since there will be 2 CD’s, I want to release them at the same to avoid high shipping cost for those who’d like to have both: so Tome I is obviously ready but I need more time to finish the physical portion of my upcoming album.
Then, as I stated above, I’ll concentrate on my novel.
I also have the desire to make a more “guitar” oriented album but nothing is planned right now and I don’t know if it will happen.
The news of physical Erang music is very welcome, indeed! Thank you so much for sharing this with me here. As a collector, I look forward to these releases but must ask if we will see the whole collection out in the future? Also, was there any specific reason you chose CD? Cassettes seem to be a Dungeon Synth fan favorite.
As I said above I make things like I feel them… and usually I don’t make things how they are supposed to be done haha (like for instance by using obsolete software or with my merch and t-shirts with a free to use official visual)… I’ve always collected CD’s and I don’t even own a tape player anymore so I’ve simply decided to make it on CD… I don’t say that I’ll never release it on tape but right now it is not planned… but everything is always possible: I love CD’s but, at then end, the media is not very important (except for collectors)… what matters is the art, the vision and the music itself.
On that note, I believe we will bring this interview to a close so I must ask, what is your favorite Manowar album?
I must admit that I don’t know very much Manowar except a few songs here and there… So I’ll go with the song “Hail & Kill” as I like it very much… so the album would be Kings of Metal.
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