Ghosts & Goblins 3 : Avery Bradshaw

Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins 3 PDF zine

My name is Avery Bradshaw. I am a Columbus, GA based visual artist, art educator, and musician.  I’m 28 years old. I’ve been drawing since I was 4, and have played music since I was 14. My full-time job is being an elementary school Art teacher. When I’m not teaching, I’m usually creating art or music. My concentrations as a visual artist are ink illustration and oil painting. My current solo music projects are:

Disquieting: Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient/Post-Rock
Ephemerus: Dungeon Synth/Ambient

I’m also the bassist and vocalist for Sludge/Death Metal band Giger. When I’m not creating art or music, I’m usually watching movies (particularly sci-fi, horror, or documentaries), listening to music, reading (particularly sci-fi), or spending time with my fiancée Samantha and our cats.

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

I don’t necessarily try to establish a specific story with a beginning, middle, and end within my art and music. Instead, I try to channel certain feelings and concepts into a look and/or sound that the viewer/listener can expand on what they are seeing/hearing.  Basically, I create the setting and theme, but how the narrative plays out is up to the viewer/listener.

The Ruins Of Conscience,” was meant to be an abstract story of what the listener would see and hear entering the mind of someone who has just experienced some form of death. What the listener experiences, and what kind of death the other person experienced (physical, spiritual, etc.) is ultimately up to the listener.

Empty Throne Amongst The Stars” does not specifically focus on one theme running throughout the entirety of the album. However, what I can say is the album artwork and title (that may apply to the whole album in a very abstract broad sense) comes from my thoughts about God and religion. The idea was for the viewer to be transported outside of linear time and space to experience divinity that can be found amongst the stars and the whole of the universe. The throne in the throne room on the album cover is supposed to be empty because it always was. God is not some giant old man that sits on the throne, granting wishes or punishing “evil,” but rather the entire experience of the universe itself, including ourselves. “You are the universe experiencing itself” – Alan Watts.  Overall, the goal is for the listener to have an audio interpretation of something bigger than themselves (though I’m definitely not trying to convert anyone to religion).

Ephemera1 + 11 is a meditation on time. Time continuously flows like the waves of the ocean, creating, destroying, and creating again. We can’t get out of the water right now, but instead of trying to resist it, we can go with the flow, letting the waves carry us wherever we need to go, watching the sun and stars change the colors of the sky and water in the meantime. When our time comes, and we wash up on the shore, we then can see the beauty of the whole sky and water.

For Giger, we approach a variety of different topics, such as history, war, religion, and death. My interpretation of where a lot of our music comes from in exploring these topics is living in a world that becomes more chaotic and overly-modernized as each day passes. We don’t try to create anything super high-concept or fantasized, but instead try to find roots and explore deeper and darker aspects of the human condition in the world we live in. ‘Welcome to the worst nightmare of all…reality’.”

Tell us about the art & design associated with your projects

Since I am a visual artist as well as musician, I felt it was important to create/use my own artwork for Disquieting and Ephemerus, as they are intertwined and work together to (hopefully) further express not only the ideas and goals I have when I create, but also establish more of a connection with whoever is engaging with what I create.

Disquieting has an overall darker and more melancholic sound, so I use my black-and-white ink drawings to further convey that sense of darkness. Ephemerus has more of a contemplative and not-as-dark sound, so I felt it was better to use color from painting for it. Color and Value are very important Elements of Art, in that they not only can make an artwork more or less realistic, but how the artist uses them can greatly affect the moods and themes of their work. While I try not to get too specific, as I want the viewer/listener to come to their own conclusions, I do have general imagery and sounds in mind that are connected and want the viewer/listener to have as the starting point for their experience.

What are some of your influences (musical and otherwise)?

Some of my favorite visual artists are: Giorgio di Chirico, Salvador Dali, H.R. Giger, Arik Roper, Junji Ito, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Mariusz Lewandowski, Gustave Dore, Albrecht Durer, J.M.W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich and Vincent Van Gogh. I also enjoy a lot of medieval art and Christian iconography. 

I listen to almost all kinds of music except modern country. My favorite genres of music are doom metal, progressive rock, and ambient. Some of my favorite bands are Red Hot Chili Peppers, Genesis, Crowbar, Acid Bath, Sleep, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Autopsy, Van Halen, Rush, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, and Joy Division. Some of my favorite electronic, ambient and dungeon synth artists are Brian Eno, Chihei Hatakeyama, Chords Of Orion, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Jaaportit, Vindkaldr, Mortiis, Secret Stairways, Thangorodrim, and Ornatorpet.

I’m also influenced by science fiction and horror movies and literature, particularly the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Philip K. Dick. I liked fantasy as a kid, but lost interest for a while. However, I’m starting to get back into fantasy as an adult, so some of the general themes/imagery from fantasy are also starting to come into my work.

My personal feelings and life experiences also have become an important part of my work, as creating art/music has helped me process things, especially the more traumatic moments in my life. On top of having a great support system of family and friends, creating art and music is part of what is helping me process the unexpected death of my mother. Mom didn’t always “get” what I was trying to do artistically, but she knew it was part of my purpose of being, so she was always supportive. I try to keep going for her. “Empty Throne Amongst The Stars” is dedicated to her.

Tell us about your creative space and process

Typically I wait for something to come to my mind before I start creating. Sometimes it happens quickly and semi-regularly, other times it takes a while. I try not to force it, as what I end up trying to do when that happens ends up looking/sounding forced and overall not genuine.

For music, usually what comes to me is a basic outline of a melody/riff first. I make sure I can play what I’m hearing in mind first, then gradually add other parts or layers to it. For Disquieting and Ephemerus, I’ll play that basic melody outline on one of my synths first, then from there play around with different melodies and layers. I’ll usually have the start of a song in (at least what feels like) not a lot of time, though it rarely ends up sounding how I imagined it once I’m finished; I feel this a good thing, as I’m not constricting the creative flow. For Disquieting specifically, I’ll arrange a synth part or two first before anything else. From there, the order I add instruments is acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, percussion, then any effects. For Ephemerus, I usually just jump around between different synth settings until something sticks, sticks being whatever doesn’t overpower what I started with.

For Giger, that initial melody/riff will come to my mind, then work it out on bass. I’ll see what other riffs I can come up with, then from there I get a basic idea of guitar and drum parts to show the guys. They both beef their parts up way more, add/take away parts, and we work out the rest of the song together.

For Art, I’ll have what I can only describe as quick flashes of other realms that exist outside of our perception of space and time. They rarely come to me in dreams at night, and instead will pop into my mind for what will only be maybe a few seconds of real-time. From there, I try to create a rough sketch with pencil, then add the specific layers and details with ink for drawing or paint for painting. Like with music, the final artwork rarely turns out how I initially saw it. 

Regardless of what I’m working on, I rarely set out with a particular theme in mind. Instead, I let the images/melodies come to me, then try to figure out what the theme may be later. I try to establish a theme that the viewer/listener can expand upon and ultimately interpret for themselves. The art/music feels more genuine to me when that connection is made.

I have two separate rooms in my house for working on art and music. What would be the den is the music rehearsal space. I find that whenever I’m working on music, I seem to have the most inspiration and best workflow when there is not a lot of light. Not completely dark, but usually just a light coming in from the kitchen that is connected. The guest bedroom in my house is also my art studio space, where I usually shut the door and have music playing while I work. I’m usually alone when I work on art or music, though my cat Buddy does keep me company sometimes. Maybe it’s because the den is the only room with carpet, but lately he’s been coming into the den more when I play my synths, so I’d like to think he likes the sound of them.

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

I’ve lived my entire life in the state of Georgia, USA. From the time I was born until I was about 14, my Dad was a state park ranger/manager, so I grew up on parks surrounded by nature. I look back on it fondly not only because of how beautiful a lot of it is, but it’s also so quiet and still. I’ve always been extremely quiet and introverted, so it was always nice to walk around through the parks without a lot of other people around to play when I was a kid, then start forming my own thoughts and opinions about the world as I started getting older. Specifically when we lived on a historical site, the sights of the old forts and buildings still stick out in my mind. I think being on the parks surrounded by nature instilled a sense of affinity for it, so I try to capture the power of nature as a force within my artwork.

However, I’ve never traveled very far, though I’ve always wanted to do so. I’ve never been farther north than South Carolina, and not farther west than east Texas. I’ve only been out of the country once, to the Bahamas on a cruise, which was nice, but we spent most of the time on the ship. I’ve always wanted to travel to the mountains and desert, and have also always wanted to go to Europe, specifically Iceland, as that is somewhere my Dad has always wanted to go. I have fond memories of him showing me pictures of Iceland in books that he has. I hope we are able to go together someday. All these places I have not been to have instilled not only a little bit of wanderlust, but also yearning for the fantastic, because those places seem fantastic in the original sense of the word. I want to bring that into my artwork and music.

An aspect of living in Georgia I don’t care for though is the weather. It is almost always not just hot, but extremely humid. My friends and I joke about how we are looking forward to the two weeks we get in the year when it is actually cold. I’ve always liked the cold, and while the sun being out is nice, I’ve always enjoyed the evening more, especially sunset/dusk.  My artwork and music provide a sense of escapism for me, so I try to create a sense of space within it that isn’t hot and humid, and instead is dark, cold, or doesn’t abide by the normal laws of physics period.

What does dungeon synth mean to you?

Dungeon synth is not a genre of music I thought I would be so involved in a few years ago. However, as I’ve learned more about it and listened to it, I realized that it was something I didn’t realize I needed. There’s really not any other music that sounds like it, and there’s so much to explore within the genre and all its various forms. It has had such an impact because, to me, it’s the sound of the metaphysical and the spiritual. It ebbs and flows like traditional ambient music, but uses melodic motifs and song structures that take the listener to emotional highs and lows the way metal does. Not to mention the possibilities of creating it are endless, and even dungeon synth albums I’ve listened to probably 100 times now still feel full and instill a sense of wonder because of the many layers within it. Now that I create music that can be considered Dungeon Synth, I feel as though I have more sense of purpose and artistic drive.

How would you describe the Dungeon Synth community?

The Dungeon Synth community is great. There are a lot of kind and talented people within the community, and all very supportive. In my opinion, it’s very difficult these days to find a community of people like those in the DS community. Specifically the artists within it are always looking to push the genre forward, without the elitism that can come with that sort of thing. I wasn’t sure how well Disquieting would be received, since I include other influences besides DS and other instruments besides synths, but the reception from DS fans and artists alike has really made a positive impact on me artistically and personally. The Melkor’s Dungeon server on Discord is full of great people. Specifically, I always give eternal thanks to Cursebitten. His music made me get further into dungeon synth. He gave me more of a platform as an artist and musician, because he commissioned me to
create the artwork for his first album, “Seize It With Thine Own Hands,” and had me on his Castbitten podcast twice. Some other dungeon synth artists whose music is great and are great people are Elyvilon, Forgotten Relic/Gray Friar, Ithildin, Angel, Willow Tea, Thanaphos, and Fogweaver.

Tell us about your gaming habits: video games, RPG, tabletop, other? Past & present.

I don’t really play games much these days unfortunately. There’s not a lot that interests me, and what little bit does I don’t have the time for. I will say that a lot of the artwork for video and tabletop games is really cool, but currently that’s all I’m able to say about it unfortunately.

However, as a kid, I did play a lot of video games, particularly Nintendo games. I loved several of The Legend of Zelda games. I played Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and The Wind Waker constantly. Those games were easy to dive into, but continued to challenge me. The world-building was so vast, everything looked so cool and unique. If I ever have the time (and extra money), I would like to get a Switch to play the newest Legend of Zelda games, Breath of The Wild looked great.

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

It’s hard for me to say, as I’m getting back into more fantasy now, because I wasn’t super into it for a long time. I guess I’d either want to go to Middle-Earth or the realm of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The Shire seems like a beautiful comfy place, though I’ve always thought it would be cool to sail around to different islands and explore old ruins. Also, while not fantasy, I would like to time travel to the far future. I’d like to see what humanity has (hopefully) achieved and finally get to explore the cosmos.


Facebook: Avery Bradshaw Art, Disquieting_music, Giger

Instagram: apb_art94, disquieting_music, & gigerbandofficial

Bandcamp: &

Wyrd Question Daze : Oliver Brackenbury

photograph by Ardean Peters

Hi there!
My name is Oliver Brackenbury. I write screenplays, novels, and short stories. I also host two literary podcasts (So I’m Writing a Novel…, and Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection), and I recently launched a career as an editor, with New Edge Sword & Sorcery Magazine.

That last one just had its first issue launch on the very last day of September, and I’d encourage people to check it out for free as an ePub/PDF download, as well as softcover & hardcover formats priced literally as cheap as possible, at cost. Our hope is to get people into this inclusive, boundary-pushing short fiction magazine with issue #0, so they’ll want to help crowdfund issues #1&2 in February. Our extremely low-intensity mailing list is a great way to make sure you’ll be the first to hear about new issues or crowdfunding campaigns for new issues.

And the fact that my intro is almost entirely creative projects does a fine job of implying, correctly, that I’m a very task & goal-oriented person…but I do try to make sure I pause to appreciate the world around me now and then.

Where did you come from and where are you going?

I’m from the small, Southern Ontario village known as Carp, where I grew up just around the corner from a now-defunct five story deep Cold War bunker the Prime Minister would theoretically flee to with his wife & cabinet if the missiles flew.

Nowadays you’ll find me in Toronto with all the other reprobates. Where am I going? Somewhere I get to dedicate as much of my life to writing – and editing, publishing, etc – as possible without having to starve, or fail to pay enough attention to other key things in life like nature or my partner.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Hahaha THE MAGAZINE. Wow, just so much mental bandwidth. Good thing I love it.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

Taste: Salted caramel.
Touch: Corduroy.
Sound: A strong breeze passing through leafy branches.
Sight: Looking straight down the middle of a long road, old trees leaning in from either side all the way.
Smell: Fall leaves on the ground

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

Recently my beloved little man, my little Siamese cat – Sam – died more or less of old age. The night afterward I had the most vivid, 8K IMAX etc dream about him sitting on his favourite footstool, leaning forward to nuzzle me as I lay on the couch. Knowing, in that way you know things in dreams, this was his visiting me from wherever he is now, I wished him well and let him know he was welcome to visit again any time he liked. Then I woke up.

Whether it was something fantastic or just my brain processing grief, I’m deeply grateful we got to say goodbye to each other one more time

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Honestly that dream felt a little uncanny, but I can think of one other thing. “Uncanny” might be pushing it, however when reading your question my mind went straight to an experience from eleven years ago where I stood on the end of a very long pier in California, at Venice Beach.

It was close to midnight, and the pier was long enough that I was actually free of pretty much all the light pollution. Looking out to sea you could forget what was behind you for a moment, and just focus on the vastness of the ocean, those inky black depths. I remember it really gripped my chest, this sensation of just how truly small one is compared to the Earth they live on, just how far down the surface of that ocean is. It was really something, as plain Jane as it sounds read off a page.

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

Well, it affects my mood, which of course feeds into whatever it is I’m trying to write. If you mean something beyond “Writing by hand in a nice park on a sunny day makes me write a bit cheerier than in my dark office on a rainy day”…I suppose it can help provide the clarity to express myself more accurately.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

I recently had cause to re-read the final chapter in Brian Murphy’s book Flame & Crimson: A History of Sword & Sorcery. That chapter is called “Why Sword & Sorcery?” and I find it quite inspiring, even moreso now I’m the editor of a magazine seeking to help give the genre a real shot in the arm.

It’s a whole chapter, so that’d be too much to quote here, however I will say that one key element is his discussion of the idea of Sword & Sorcery “re-enchanting” the world. To provide a condensed quote:

Fantasy fiction transports us beyond the boundaries of our normal lives…and upon returning enables us to see the world from a new perspective, through a process called re-enchantment. Re-enchantment is not false optimism, but is a stroke of lightning on the printed page, awakening readers to new possibilities and potentialities. As Ursula LeGuin wrote…fantasy offers somewhere else, a vision of other worlds that dispel despondency. “The literature of imagination, even when tragic, is reassuring, not necessarily in the sense of offering nostalgic comfort, but because it offers a world large enough to contain alternatives, and therefore offers hope.

This really speaks to some of what I hope to achieve with New Edge Sword & Sorcery magazine.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke

Hahaha, ah yes, a question that makes me freeze on the spot when asked it in person.
But I will say I’m a fan of this old joke from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

““Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”

Ghosts & Goblins : an interview with Elyvilon

Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins PDF zine

Please introduce yourself

In the Dungeon synth community I’m known by my alias Elyvilon, under which I write medieval and folk-inspired Dungeon synth, and have thus far released two albums: my debut “Nimueh’s Gift”, and my recently-released sophomore album, “Drums in the Deepwood”. I like to make my music as holistically-oriented as possible – music that captures a multifaceted picture of a subject or idea, whether the deep forest rituals of trollish folks, or the knightly sojourns of Arthurian heroes. For each release I write poetry that acts as a “primer” for the spirit of the album you’re about to listen to. Additionally, I write poems that accompany each individual track, highlighting the thought behind them, all of which ties back to the albums’ titles and art. A multidimensional representation of the ideas I’m trying to convey with the album, or so I’d like to believe…

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

The themes and imagery that I convey through the songs of Elyvilon are those themes and images that are the closest to my heart, and so to tell you of the world building of Elyvilon would be to spill to you the contents of my soul. For I believe that one’s tastes and passions aren’t chosen;  if you think about it, you don’t choose to like what you like, and I wouldn’t think that you choose to admire what it is that you admire. Instead, I would wager that it is more apt to say that you discover what it is that you have a proclivity towards, you uncover something you like. These feelings already exist, hidden within you until you have an experience that unveils them, that brings them to light. Bear with me here and allow my to spin for you a tale of the mythology of the Questing Soul. In my estimation it is not we who choose our tastes. In fact, it is none other than the soul within us that does. This choosing of tastes could be likened to that soul using desire as an incentive to lay out a path for us. 

In such an estimation, it would be natural to think that each human soul is unique, of inestimable valuable, and a work of true art… of profound beauty. But how could the soul reveal this beauty to the world? Wouldn’t it be right for such a beauteous work to be shown to all? Well, to do so, I would think that it would require a conduit, an avatar, a physical manifestation of its glory, so that it could be presented to all who reside within this physical realm that we inhabit. And so with that in mind, I would sat that the soul does what it can: it gracefully unveils to the conscious mind those things that resonate with its unique qualities, in the forms of your tastes and your more noble desires – those desires that your conscience knows to be true, everlasting, upright, and most importantly, correct. They feel right. And in doing so, the soul creates this path of sorts, one that is made up of proclivities and the places they lead you to, a path that can be followed by listening fully to your conscience. This path of course, is the path that will allow you to manifest your truest potential and become a physical body worthy of that soul within you. The true avatar. This path is a path of achievement, growth, wonder, and beauty – the adventure of life that, if unreservedly followed, will turn you into the person you were meant to be. 

Of course, such a path could never be an easy one; for what good to anyone is an adventure without trials, or a soul that has remained truly untested? No, a stroll is not what is needed, but instead something more pressing… an adventure with purpose. A quest, in fact! And this path, this quest, is something that the soul is curating for you. It is curating your tastes and ambitions to lead you towards those dangers that will test you in the most necessary ways, and point you towards the most suitable rewards – for who could know better what reward is most fulfilling than it who has singlehandedly forged your tastes and desires? And perhaps the journey is more about those dangers, as these are the aspects of the journey most likely to be transformative to the quest-goer. Perhaps the tastes are set in order to specifically urge you on, to fight those particular dragons who will best test your soul. So the dangers are set, the precursors and gatekeepers to these rewards. But fret not, as the soul is of course is prepared for these dangers – as the soul is armed with Nimueh’s Gift.

Nimueh in Arthurian legend and lore, is likely better known as the Lady of the Lake. The gift that she proffers to the rightful king of course, is Excalibur. Excalibur signifies the nobility of Arthur’s heart, the worthiness of his soul, and his right to ascend to the seat of the throne and lead the Britons to grandeur and glory. More than just a chunk of sharp metal however, this authority with which the Gift was given represents Arthur’s true claim to the throne, and it simultaneously provides him with the means to make this ascension. To cut, with discernment and prudence, so that he may strike out without hesitation towards what waits for him at the Questing Path’s end. Nimueh’s Gift is not the sword itself – Nimueh’s Gift is the courageous disposition needed for one to go tread down that path of terrors and still find wonder and beauty in the journey. This is what the sword represents. And what a noble gift it is – for that hero who holds Nimueh’s Gift is sure to wander far, experience much, and return a hero born anew.

Thus, this path became, in Elyvilon lore and mythos “the Questing Path”, and that glory-filled hero who treads it must surely have a Questing Soul within his breast – for he sojourns on the path of the Questing Soul, does he not? These esteemed archetypes – the Questing Soul, Nimueh’s Gift, the Questing Path, and the hero who sojourns down it are all manifestations of the way that I view my own path through life. In making the music, poetry, and artwork that represents Elyvilon, I am in my own way journeying down my Questing Path, and bringing the mythology of my soul to light. I believe that each one of us has such a path to take, and this is why I like to encourage everyone I can to always journey down their Questing Path. The power to make the world right and to live up to the light in your soul is within you! Just listen to what your heart has to say, and follow your conscience, for it surely speaks true.

Tell us about the art & design associated with your project/s

The specific imagery that I called upon previously in the first question is generally all Arthurian in nature, and such tales were a large inspiration for this album (Nimueh’s Gift), as it’s a topic that’s very personal to me. Outside of the realm of Dungeon synth my name is Tristan. This name was chosen by my parents because it is the modern English form of Tristram, with Sir Tristram being a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. Growing up I was keenly aware of this fact and extremely proud of it. I’m sure this helped to steer my interests toward knights, honor, fantasy and glory. As a result, Arthurian legend and lore certainly inspired a large portion of this album.

Much of the idea of the Questing Path was actually revealed to me while I was reading Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood. This book so effectively told the tale of one who strode down the Questing Path with joy and wonder in his heart, of one who in doing so irreversibly improves the lives of so many others in so many tangible ways. He is unafraid to fight for what he knows to be right, and never strays from that blessed path. This book resonated with me very powerfully, in a way that not many things had before. So, a few of the song titles on Nimueh’s Gift come from Robin Hood, and a great deal of the spirit does as well. Interestingly enough, Howard Pyle himself was a well-known American Illustrator, and he was actually the teacher of a very well-known American painter of Arthurian myths: Newell Convers Wyeth. And it was N.C. Wyeth who painted the Green Knight that ended up becoming the cover of my debut album, Nimueh’s Gift. An interesting coincidence, and one that to me, felt incredibly fitting.

My most recent album, Drums in the Deepwood, depicts a specific sojourn down the Questing Path – one that takes the hero deep into the forests of folklore, and simultaneously deeper into his own knowledge of himself. In this release I am bringing to light many of the tales and pieces of folklore I heard growing up, of the trolls who live in the woods and all the things that they might be up to out there. I grew up with a Finnish grandmother who would tell me these tales,  and set my imagination alight with them, and so this was my attempt to represent what my favorite folkloric creatures (trolls) and the stories that bring them to life, mean to me.

The name Elyvilon itself was taken from one of my favorite video games of all time – Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, where Elyvilon is the beneficent God of Healing. I thus fancy myself an acolyte of Elyvilon, some sort of knight-priest, looking to combat the darkness in this fallen world, and to mend and heal first, whenever possible.

Photography by Tristen

What are some of your influences (musical and otherwise)?

Musically, I am inspired by a huge variety of artists in many different genres. I’ve been musically-inclined since I was a young child, starting with piano lessons around age four or five. At a young age I fell in love with heavy metal, and metal has certainly always been my “first love” when it comes to music genres. But I also find myself regularly delving deep into other genres as well, whether it’s classical music, jazz, ethnic folk tunes, or of course, Dungeon synth. I specifically call out one album that I found to be one of the most influential in my musical development, and the creation of Elyvilon: the original Age of Wonders (1999) OST. I started playing this game at a very young age (probably too young), and this OST could potentially be my favorite album of all time. It effortlessly crafts such a wonderful and rich fantasy atmosphere, and I’m not sure that anything else quite lives up to it. If so, I haven’t found it yet. I would certainly see it as proto-Dungeon synth. And if it isn’t, then I wouldn’t call Elyvilon Dungeon synth: I want Elyvilon to be whatever this OST is.

Other than that, I found DIM’s compendium series of albums to be hugely inspiring as a “holy grail” of what is possible with Dungeon synth. For the new Drums in the Deepwood album, I was inspired by a variety of artists. I would say a third of those were Dungeon synth (Halberdier, Moukeprabbeli, Lunar Womb), a third were folk metal projects, and the remaining third were more ethnic folk songs and groups. 

Tell us about your creative space and process

My creative space is nothing special – a table in the basement with my computer and a few keyboards, constantly covered in several mugs of tea that I never bothered to clean up, and half-buried in hastily-scrawled notes pertaining to needed changes to songs and album covers that I’ve strewn about. I like to write songs that represent things to me, usually a vignette of some sort. Some idea or image. For example: a group of druids convening deep in the woods from all directions, coming together at the heart of the forest, where there sits a massive stone dolmen. They meet under this  dolmen, where they descend through a secret passageway into a secret meeting room… what they do there, none know… So anyways I start with a concept, something like that, and go forward from there, trying to achieve a sound that represents the theatrical ideas at play, and what that imagery sounds like to me. As a result of this, the way I write each song is different, although I do find that I generally emphasize melody and groove, and these are what I seem to enjoy most in music. From there, I build things out as much as I dare, and hopefully don’t make them too busy in the process! I also like to take as many live takes as I can and do minimal fixing and editing, afterwards so that the music sounds organic – I often like to improvise my parts as well; think of them as little “solos”. It’s a lot of fun, really.

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

 It’s hard for me to determine how much my “sense of place” influences my art, although I do think a great deal of the “Drums in the Deepwood” album was influenced by a sense of place associated with me spending a great deal of time in a more remote part of Northeastern Michigan. The woods here grow dark and deep, and although the album is inspired by folkloric tales from a different part of the world, I had the idea for this album while hiking through these woods. As I was besieged by the crashing waves of the great lake upon the rocky shore and took shelter in cedar groves so thick they were nearly growing on top of each other, I found ideas for musical themes and vignettes veritably crowding into my head. Moss covers everything up in those woods, and it seemed to me that a troll could be lurking under any decomposing log, or within each lichen-covered boulder. So this sense of place is what I was really trying to capture with that latest release. 

Nimueh’s Gift, on the other hand, was composed in a few different spaces over the course of about a year and a half, and thus I’m not sure there’s one such place that would I would associate it with. I believe more than a sense of place, that album was about me subconsciously injecting my art with the wise philosophies of my grandfather, just after his death. He had a wonderful and incredible joie de vivre that I don’t believe I’ve seen in anyone else, and his love of Robin Hood, knight errantry, honor, nobility, and fun light-hearted jokes were all tremendous inspirations for Nimueh’s Gift. In reality, that album is a testament to the role he played in my life as my ultimate role model. So maybe the sense of place in such a case would be those days of yore spent playing chess with my grandfather, and listening to his tales of valor. As such, this sense of place brings with it the cultural inheritance that he provided me with – the torch of this joie de vivre that he passed to me, and I hope to pass to those who come after me.

What does Dungeon synth (and related genres) mean to you?

To me, Dungeon synth and its adjacent musical territories have established the ultimate realm of musical escapism. The community at large is so open-minded and encouraging of experimentation and stylization that it really has created a playground of fantasy experimentation. It means wide open skies and endless lands, rife with adventure, danger, and triumph. To me, Dungeon synth is that place I never knew I needed, where I finally found those who I would call “my people”. For me, Dungeon synth is a home.

How would you describe the Dungeon synth community?

The Dungeon synth community is an interesting one. The sound of many Dungeon synth artists and albums would be something that I think many millions of people would really enjoy – certainly a huge proportion of fantasy gamers would, and they definitely number in the millions. And yet, the community is very small, very passionate, and comprised almost entirely of people who make Dungeon synth themselves, which I find to be fascinating. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that it’s such a niche community either, not at all – as this niche community has been able to establish such a unique identity, one that could be watered down with unchecked growth. Non dungeoneers (can I call Dungeon synth fans dungeoneers? It seems right…) look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’ve been collecting fantasy electronic music cassettes, but it’s these cultural quirks that it make the genre so lovely. That, and the community itself.

I’m not certain that all of the spaces that folks from the Dungeon synth community congregate are this way, but I have been absolutely amazed at how kind, welcoming, and open-minded the Dungeon synth folks I’ve interacted with have been. Through our love of fantasy music I’ve been able to make a plethora of friends from around the world, many of whom I would call close friends, even though I haven’t ever met them in person. The love and support that the community is willing to put out for artists, fans, and friends alike is really quite astounding, and it isn’t really something I’ve seen in any other musical community. I’m truly blessed to be a part of it. 

Tell us about your gaming habits: video games, RPG, tabletop, other? Past & present.

I’ve been a lifelong player of video games, and it should be no surprise whatsoever that fantasy games are far and away my favorite to play, and have been since I was very young. I generally find myself enjoying RPGs, roguelikes, and strategy games. As previously mentioned, the Age of Wonders series was foundational for me as a gamer and so I’ve come to love fantasy strategy games quite a bit as a result, especially the first Age of Wonders game. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is my favorite roguelike, of course, and I have been a “Soulsborne” player since the very beginning, as I stumbled upon the original Demon’s Souls game before Dark Souls had even been released and loved it.

I discovered Dungeons and Dragons in high school thanks to a friend of mine, and have been playing it on and off ever since – not much compares to that magical feeling you get when a D&D campaign goes just right in some way or another. I ended up starting an RPG club in my high school with said friend, where we played D&D and some other fantasy RPGs, all of which were greatly enjoyable. For the past two years I’ve been playing quite consistently with a solid group of friends, and have in the past 6 months or so even started my own first serious foray into DMing which has been a blast. I find the world building to have a similar sort of appeal to writing Dungeon synth music.

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

I would want to trod the paths of medieval England with Robin and his merry men. For nowhere else have I seen such a wonderful depiction of a life so noble, jolly, and beautifully-lived, for Robin and his entire band.

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