Ghosts & Goblins 3: WereGnome Records

Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins 3 PDF zine

The WereGnomes

Greetings my friend. The name I was given is Nicholas and I have been called a multitude of names, some of which shall remain unmentioned. You may refer to me however you prefer. I was born in the great wasteland that is Flint, Michigan. Where the winter snows soak up the industrial remnants and remind you that the opportunity shall never be there. A place that is known for its undrinkable water. More so a place that is known for nothing special. From an early age heavy metal and video games became an easy outlet and welcoming form of escapism. That path led to not only the creation of multiple musical projects (most of which have been lost to time) and WereGnome Records. Well enough rambling, let’s get to the questions.

What inspired you to start WereGnome Records?

It was born from a combination of restless creativity alongside the Covid shutdown. Like almost every other human on this Earth, we found ourselves sitting inside of our home and reflecting on what we were doing with our lives. The appeal of releasing on tape cassettes and making small little batches of the weirdo music I wanted to create was irresistible. Like a call to destiny, everything made sense and the pieces seemed to fall in perfectly.

What have you learned since first starting the label?

Oodles. I’ve learned how to properly ship things via USPS to other countries. I’ve learned that hand cutting j-cards is not only rewarding but also incredibly time consuming. In fact, running a label is all consuming. All free time is spent either preparing releases, packing orders or just promoting anything. Most of the time it’s a thankless venture. You find yourself locked away from the world and those you love as all available energy is focused primarily on it. Yet, as the hours and days mush together and time keeps it’s constant marching, I love it beyond words. Final note for American labels, sign up for Pirate Ship if you haven’t.

What is it about the DIY method that appeals to you?

Just having the ability to have complete control over a vision. From start to finish, you are in the captain’s chair. While resources and finances can be a weakness, you find how to make it work. Finding clever ways to make the rusted pile of trash you create shine and sparkle by using your hands and heart. The label itself can only take part in a limited amount of DIY things anymore, due to our volume and limited time, but when we can it’s rewarding beyond comprehension.

Tell us the story/themes/world building behind your project

Hermit Knight is simply an outlet for my bipolar. Having suffered from this from a young age, I’ve often found putting how it feels to words impossible. The music translates exactly how I feel in my ups and downs. With minor victories that really can just be getting out of bed in the morning or taking a shower. Just making it in general is a feat itself. As I envision the project this is the best I can give as an example:

The Hermit Knight wanders the wilds alone in the forests, forever dedicated to simply surviving in a harsh and lonely world. No giant epic quests, no tales sung at pubs in their honour. Just a person keeps pushing on against the battle that is life.

Hermit Knight

Art & design associated with my project

As it began, the first two EPs I went for a childish and simple design. Black and white with nothing spectacular. But as Hermit has been evolving, so has the aesthetics. The latest album I’m working on at the moment will continue that. With each step, it takes upon a new form and represents the mindset I am currently in. The latest will take a darker overall vibe, where I’ve been struggling in the depths of my depression for months, but not too dark. It’ll still have that lightness that is known with Hermit Knight.

What are my influences musical and otherwise?

In the synth realm, Hole Dweller & Fief dominate. Followed shortly after emotional projects such as Precious and Wych Elm. The music I love has a ton of heart and depth to it. Beyond that, I’m all across the spectrum. With a few examples here of my recent driving playlist: Belle & Sebastian, Orville Peck, White Ward, The Pogues & The Prowlers. So I really bounce about depending on the mood I’m in.

Tell us about your creative process:

Since the project reflects largely on the mental state I’m in, I tend to just try and transfer the feeling. Usually with myself playing on the Midi keyboards with various sounds and layering little riffs I find of interest. When it comes to writing, I just take my time with no worry to finishing an album. Just alone in the office, spending hours and layering drums and tweaking the smallest thing that no one will ever notice. I want it to be right. I want it to be true to myself and not hurry up and cut corners or rush the album.

A lot of the main writing is free association and letting the music create itself. The hours spent after is just cleaning it up and adding a bit of flavour to the whole song.

I also am a huge fan of layering melodies. If you sit and take apart the most epic points of my songs, there are usually at least 3-4 opposing leads that work against each other and somehow fit. Isolated they hold no substance but combined they form into something magical (at least to myself and honestly if you aren’t writing for yourself, you should be).

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

It depends completely on what project is being focused on, or even the label. Hermit Knight I tend to need a tidy and cleaned space, leaving all of my energy placed on the music itself. Other projects the chaos around really helps drive the music. Finally, WereGnome is run so chaotically as I am working on at least 17 things at once, it only makes sense to have so many things haphazardly tossed about. Always taking the time at the end to fully clean and organise the office and it feels so great after a job is done.

What does Dungeon Synth (and/or related genres) mean to you?

For myself, it’s the ultimate escapism. It’s a chance to dive head first into another’s story and find yourself on an adventure. My taste, for the most part, takes more root in the “fantasy ambient” fields. I found myself into Dungeon Synth and its perspective subgenres from finding DnD again. As I was seeking more music to play for the games I had planned, I found myself more often than not stumbling into this genre. So, the transformative nature and exploratory concepts found themselves deep in my brain. Simply put, I suppose, it is the freedom of imagination. It means I can dream again. Whether that dream is light with some comfy synth or a brooding dark set piece that can constitute a nightmare with the trve.

How would you describe the Dungeon Synth community?

In any microcosm of a community such as this, you would expect the gates to be held firm and the majority to be ultimately defensive against outside efforts and influences. While it can be found, my total experience has been a positive one. I have legit made friends with folks all across the world, meeting some in person (and look forward to hopefully more at the next dungeon siege). I have found a large group of like-minded adventurous folks who are just like myself. I love it here. I am not leaving anytime soon. There can be those who don’t agree with you, but you just find your little corner where your friends reside and many others. Whether it be specific FB groups, Discord chats or on other forms of social media.

But I would put that the community itself is a group of wondrous, highly talented and huge hearted creatures. They never stop creating nor do they ever stop dreaming.

Tell us about your gaming habits?

I have played video games as far back as I remember. I began my journey on the NES with such wonderful titles as: Zelda, Crystalis, Final Fantasy and Uninvited. Finding comfort in RPGs and their freedom to play how I want in a not so linear fashion. My real heart lies with the best console in my opinion, the SNES. With games like Secret of Mana, Link’s Awakening and the best game ever: Earthbound.

From the years spent gaming, I continued my journey and found myself loving either turn-based RPGs or world builders such as CIV. I had dabbled in MTG as a youth and recently just played it again for the first time in about 20 years. Finally, I love DnD. Now I just need to add more hours to the clock to make more time for these. Between the label, full time work and school, not often I get to play as much as I like.

If you could step through a portal to any realm of fantasy, what would it be?

This is a difficult thing to answer. For easily I would choose Middle-Earth, as I am just a little chubby Hobbit anyhow. Yet, it’s rife with danger for a halfling. I could choose Thra, but honestly it is only because I want a pet like Fizzdig. Lets just go with Discworld. Get weird and goofy with it all. Because much like Rincewind, I have no magic, no real skills nor need for heroics. Yet, the burden always falls upon those who want it least, correct?

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