Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins 3 PDF zine
Hello and thank you for granting me a few pages of your fantastic zine! My name is Guillaume and my dungeon synth project is called Ithildin (https://linktr.ee/ithildinmusic). I am a musician, graphic designer, illustrator, video editor, music fan (and collector), art enthusiast, catlover, nature lover, cinephile and most importantly, proud father of 2 little baby gnomes. I am also a French speaker, so please forgive if my answers seem a bit simplistic or sound weird.
To stay on topic, I started dungeon synth when I learned that was going to be a father for the second time and that I was going to have to leave my previous band, Perséide, where I occupied the drummer seat. Above all, my daughter had a lot of sleep problems, so I had to be awake most of the night. I bought a synth and started messing around with it, with just one of the two headphones on one ear, the other being available in case my daughter needed me. It was a way to make the night more pleasant. Now, she sleeps very well and I’m still awake at night to keep making music. Still no sleep.
Ithildin on Bandcamp
Tell us about the story / world building / themes behind your project/s
Within the dungeon synth community, Tolkien-themed music is very popular and not original at all, but where I come from, in the province of Quebec, it’s not so common, so I felt not too bad about going that way. Furthermore, I wanted to stay true and honest to myself and if I had a fantasy music theme choice to make, it was between The Legend of Zelda and The Lord of the Rings. Koji Kondo, composer of the soundtrack from Zelda, is one of my favourite composer and I found it intimidating to walk in those steps.
I chose to make a debut album that focuses on the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings. Both in the book and the Jackson movies, this chapter is of paramount importance to me. I will always remember this moment: I must have been 9 or 10 years old, I was at the cinema… the scene of the unveiling ofThe Shire with the arrival of Gandalf and the magnificent music of Howard Shore. Damn. It was still abstract inside me at that time, but I knew deep down that I had just opened a treasure chest.
Also, I believe that with my Arda’s Herbarium series which goes into the “forest synth” branch, I may have dug a less exploited vein of the Tolkien-themed music. I’m very happy about it.
But you know, in the end, the theme is only a lens by which we can perceive an album… and in the end, the only thing that matters is the feeling and the music. It doesn’t matter if I put a Hobbit theme on something. Does it makes you feel something or not? That’s the only point that matters.
It is not excluded that I leave the Tolkien universe to do something else, even though it could happen much faster than you think. Nevertheless, I will keep it under the name Ithildin because it suits me very well and I don’t have the strength and patience to manage multiple names and identities.
Tell us about the art & design associated with your project
The art part is very important to me, to the point where I wonder if I’m not releasing albums just to be able to design a layout for them. I draw and design the layouts for all of my releases, but I love having guest artists for the visuals. Sometimes, I feel it takes the personal touch of a specific artist to make the visual representative of the music.
Example, for my EP Amusettes pour hobbits, I felt it was better to have a nice coloured and textured Hobbit, but nothing flashy. Something beautiful, sweet, dreamy. So I asked Loomie Adams, an artist and author from the province of Quebec whom I respect a lot and who is, by the best of luck, a fan of Tolkien. The fit was perfect.
For my Arda’s Herbarium series, something totally unpredictable happened. One morning, while having my coffee, I decided to write to the artist who inspired my series and got me into forest synth, Ellis Green and his project Sunken Grove. Both in terms of his music and his illustrations, he is one of my favourite artists. The most crazy part is that he agreed to do it. And the result is there, I couldn’t be more proud of the Herbarium visuals.
For an album not yet announced (or will it be when this interview comes out?), I have also worked with a very talented artist from Trois-Rivières, Camille Limoges, who works in the comic book and illustrative style. I CAN’T wait to share this artwork with everyone:
What are some of your influences (musical and otherwise)?
I listen to a lot of music from all walks of life, so the list of my influences could be endless. I will try to be concise and stay to the basics.
Having been a rock and pop drummer for ten years, I can’t deny that classic stuff like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Genesis or Neil Young will forever have a strong influence on me. The fact that I’m more of a drummer is also influencing my music a lot… Sometimes, I tap on my synth like it’s a drum set to create dynamic and percussive melodies and I put a lot of percussions in my music.
My passage inside the band Perséide, lead by my friend Louis-Philippe Cantin will also follow me forever. It’s a coincidence, but Louis-Philippe’s lyrical themes are really close to the dungeon synth themes : nature and magic. I don’t know if he knows it, but his vision and perception of things and life is influencing me a lot in what I do as an artist.
Also, I must admit that there are quite direct influences for each of my albums.
A Long-Expected Party has been influenced a little by Philip Glass, Robert Wyatt and dungeon synth composer Diplodocus. The Hidden Door to Dwarrowdelf was influenced by Fogweaver. As strange as it may seem, Amusettes pour hobbits was influenced by Frank Zappa.
But I think where I gathered the most influences is for my Arda’s Herbarium series. It is strongly influenced by Sunken Grove, Mort Garson, Vangelis, Trail Guide, Vale Of Pnath, Koji Kondo and Stevie Wonder (his Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants album). It’s also based on the book The Flora of Middle-Earth by Walter S. Judd and Graham A. Judd. The dedication of Walter S. Judd for the world of Middle-Earth is unbelievable. His book is the main guide of my series and his dedication gave me the will to do this project.
I said I would try to be concise. I failed.
Show/tell us about your creative space and process
For my way of working, I was a band musician for more than 10 years, so I rarely perform alone, even in the solitary universe of crafting dungeon synth. I worked a lot with my friend Louis-Philippe from Perséide. He mixed my first album, played a synth track on it. He is also the biggest LOTR geek in the world… He did an elven monologue on a track and also Black Speech on a still unreleased track. He helps me with a few liner notes on the tape releases.
Also, let me introduce you to a the hidden force behind Arda’s Herbarium : Pierre Brouillette Hamelin. He’s a fan of Mort Garson, gardening and of unusual ways of recording and exploring music – he has another way of perceiving it. I send him my finished but unmixed tracks and just let him record anything he feels on it. The funny thing is that he hates LOTR, but I think the “plant music” part convinced him.
I also never mix my music, I prefer to have the perspective and skills of someone else to do it. Once again, I surround myself with talented people for that like Louis-Philippe Cantin, Vincent Lepage or Tristan Feilla (known as Elyvilon in the DS community).
Another noteworthy collaborator is my cat Lucy. She forces me to record again and again by stepping on the keyboard while I play. She’s always around during every moments of creation, recording or drawing.
For my creative space, I have a shelf full of old synths and percussions on the left, a drum and a synth stand in the middle and a tape deck, a MIDI Controller and my computer on the right. Rather effective. Maybe I should decorate a bit more…
How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?
Seasons and weather do affect the way I express myself, but other than that, not really. I think I have a great sense of escape. I started recording Arda’s Herbarium in my previous apartment located in the middle of a city, in a little dark room without any windows. Everything was emerging from a book and my instrument, not by what was surrounding me. Boring like that.
When I’m in nature or in a place that I love, I try not to think too much about the creation and the music and just enjoy the moment. Not always easy, but I try.
What does dungeon synth (and/or related genres) mean to you?
This is a very good question that I had never thought about. For me, it doesn’t really mean the classic themes like medieval stuff, castles and the clichéd image of it.
It’s more a kind of music where I can be free to do what I want musically; with all my tastes that can be a little different than the average person’s… and then this music can go to other people who are as offbeat as me. And all without having to go through big studios or own expensive musical instruments, because DS fans focus on the artist, on the emotion felt or a theme they love and even appreciate the fact that it was recorded in a “DIY” way. It’s also good to be away from criticism and the social pressure generated by the shows or the fact that our music is successful or not.
Despite the fact that dungeon synth is practiced sporadically around the globe, it’s also a musical genre where there is a good proximity between the one who records and the one who listens. Something I really appreciate.
How would you describe the Dungeon Synth community?
Lovely. Seriously, I have known several scenes over the years and I have never been welcomed so quickly and warmly. I released my first album out of nowhere, without knowing anyone in the community before. 2 weeks later, people were writing me words of appreciation and were chatting with me on the web. After that, I met Paul from the label Voices of the Ainur and we quickly started working together. It felt so great diving into this world.
The most supportive and kind community ever. There is really a feeling of honest and palpable mutual support that you cannot find elsewhere. I also find the exchange of tapes and albums between people really great. The short-runs too. A nice answer to the commercial market of music and useless mass production.
Tell us about your gaming habits: video games, RPG, tabletop, other? Past & present.
Currently, I have 2 young kids, 2 cats, a job, responsibilities and I keep my little spare time for friends or recording or drawing, so… I play to like, 1 game a year? The last I did was The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, which I really enjoyed.
My favourite video game, the one that is most precious to me, is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, maybe the darkest of the Zelda’s series. I played it a lot when I was a kid and it stayed with me. It strongly marked my imagination.
A game where your worst enemy is time, people that act differently depending which mask you are wearing, an impending catastrophe that everyone denies in the middle of climate changes and pollution on many territories. The more I think of this game, the more I love it.
Another game I’m really in love with is Shadow of the Colossus. Very poetic, mysterious and solitary experience. No other game are like this one. Kow Otani did an amazing job with the music on that game.
I’m also a fan of real-time strategy/historic games like Age of Empires, Civilization, Empire Earth, Rise of Nations…
RPG? Runescape. Played it way too much when I was 11-12 years old.
I’m also a little bit of a retro gaming enthusiast. I have a NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 plugged in and always ready for a little game session, even if this happens rarely. With classic games like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Zelda, Star Wars, Yoshi or less known games like Battle of Olympus or Joe N’ Mac.
If you could step through a portal to any realm of fantasy, where would it be?
Well, to stick with what I’ve said before, I should choose between Hyrule, Termina or Middle-Earth. Ok… Again, sorry for this clichéd and unoriginal answer, but I’ll have to go with The Shire. This is where the fantasy was born in my mind, you know. It’s almost home. My first move would be to visit the Mathom-house in Michel Delving to see if they need a new employee.