Erang was my introduction in dungeon synth. Naturally, I was very excited when he agreed to an interview. To begin dungeon synth is a relativity new genre of bedroom ambient music which has roots and history dating back to mid 1990’s black metal and dark ambient. The style grew out of black metal bands whose members started made solo projects exploring the same atmosphere just with synth. This combined with Burzum’s prison records all gave dungeon synth its start which would eventually find its name and broader recognition more than 10 years later. Due to the very personal nature as well as black metal’s penchant for fantasy, this style of music began embracing fantastic narratives and became a mode of transport to far and distant worlds. I found Erang’s records modestly priced on Bandcamp which came packaged with maps, illustrations, and stories all revolving around a constructed world called the Land of the Five Seasons. If anyone knows me personally, this sort of thing is what I dream of and Erang’s aesthetic and discography was a perfect time to not only loose oneself in another world but also get connected with a small yet feverous community of dungeon synth musicians and their loyal fans. Time works strange for dungeon synth musicians and Erang is celebrating his 10th record in a few short years.
Bedroom music is always something which has fascinated me for its intimate nature between the creator and listener. The music is inherently escapist and is made so even more when its creators pour themselves into fictional worlds. Erang has been creating a silent world for little over three years and its narratives and emotions are set to the slow tune of its soundtracks. Like most worldbuilders, Erang’s lands act as a tool for not only expression but escape. Dungeon synth is the sound of silent comfort where one person can be alone with their thoughts and let imaginations wander. Because it is still a small genre obscured even by standards of the internet, with the divide between fan and creator is small to the point of nonexistent. Talking with these musicians and being apart of their small social media groups is a rewarding experience. Erang may not be the biggest musician I have ever interviewed but despite relative fame, the intensity in which I have followed his work in the last year has been astounding and the connection I and others have made with his music is something special to the point of being magical.
I know this maybe difficult but can you give a summary of everything that has happened in the 10 albums you have devoted to this fantasy world of yours?
Musically speaking, I actually hope that a lot happened. What I always try to do (and I wish that people notice) is, for each release, to keep the basics of what Erang is made… but with small change here and there, adding some new sounds and new elements. Not only the songs but also concerning the artwork and covers. When you listen to Tome I and then to Tome X, I want people to notice the differences but also say that they both belong to the same world.
Tome X is your tenth record in a very short time but you made mention that it was to be last in the Third Age. Was there any motivation to start a new age other than hitting a celebratory number?
It’s not only a celebratory number. In my mind, there really are three ages and, being the music, the cover art or the titles of the albums, the first four Tomes or albums really fit together, then it’s the same for the three others… and the same thing with the last three. Each time I start or finish a new age, it is because in my mind a musical period is done and I need to start a new one.
Who is Erang? There was a funeral for him in an earlier record but he may have appeared on the cover of your last record? He seems to have particular significance in the story.
That’s a difficult question because it all comes from there… Erang is a place: a fictive one, a Kingdom in the Land of the Five Seasons where I let my imagination wander far from our reality… but in my mind it is also a secret place from my childhood. Something very personal that I keep for me and will say nothing about. That being said, it is my name when I make music and also the name of a character from my fantasy world, that appears on many cover of my records… The track “ Man With No Face “ on Tome IV is about him for instance… I guess he’s like the ghost, or the last trace, of things we use to love but no longer exist.
When you began making music, where you aware of Dungeon Synth as a genre? What are your thoughts on the relatively small scene of musicians which play the same style of music? Have you connected with anyone in particular since starting this project?
Yes, I was aware of it but, back in those days, they were really few bands to label themselves under the genre of Dungeon Synth. Of course, many musicians were making this kind of music for a long time before but it was usually labeled as “Ambient”, “Neoclassical” or others names etc. It was through the Andrew’s Dungeon Synth blog that I found this name for the first time so when I released my first album, I deliberately called it “Dungeon Synth” music because to me, it was the perfect name and exactly what I had in mind while composing… and we were very very few to name our music “Dungeon Synth” at this time.
I, of course, have connections with other musicians but I’m not really a sociable person or a “community” guy. I don’t want to offend anyone here but this is just simply the way I’am… Nonetheless, I would like to drop here some names of others musician which I think have interesting Dungeon Synth music and strong identity : Lord Lovidicus, Arathgoth (first album), Foglord, Taramis, Valscharuhn, Hedge Wizard, This Mortal Night, Iamí, Hrungnir, Splendorius, Murgrind, Grimrik, Darkstroll, Wintercry, Kashmar, Elador, Medhelan, Raev Jäger, etc. However, names and tags are mostly useful on bandcamp, Youtube, etc.… what matters in the end is obviously the music. And my freedom is what matter the most to me. When I make music I do what I want and I don’t care about any “rules” of any “genre.” similar to one of my album titles, Within The Land Of My Imagination, I Am The Only God.
This style of music feels very escapist and personal. Do everyday events and people make their way into your world or is it created as a shelter to this world? Do you want to share what your life is like outside of music? Are there people who are completely unaware of what you do in your free time?
It is mostly a shelter and when “everyday events” make their way into my music, it is only personal and intimate events… often to name a song or a place from my fictive land. My life is totally normal. I will never be a rockstar and I’ll never want to be one. I have some friends, my family, and I just try to manage my way into this world without hurting people around, trying to be happy and fulfilled as much as possible… and because it is not always possible, I’ve made my own fantasy world to let my imagination wander.
I asked you once if there was any sort of timeline for all of the events in your world and you made mention how you like to keep things sort of hazy. How involved do you get in worldbuilding. Do you ever think you could begin charting the lore similar to Tolkien or other worldbuilders?
Tolkien ? Well, if I had only half of an inch of his talent, I would maybe think about it haha… Truth is I love to create world and creatures but I’m not a man of details. A bit because I don’t have enough patience but mostly because I don’t like to give too many clues to people… You know, really, for me, imagination is a big deal and a very strong thing. So I would answer to your question by saying that I’m a worldbuilider with a lot of imagination, but not a detailed worldbuildier. I can add that I’ve started to work on a short novel recently, taking place in the same world as my music… I don’t know where it will go or if I will ever end it but it is really exciting for me, right now.
Have there been any instances of playing live or would you be opposed to playing a festival if ever a dungeon synth festival was organized?
Never say never but, in my mind, Dungeon Synth is really a thing to experience lonely and not in the middle of a crowd… you need to be relaxed and on your own to truly experience the magic of this music, in my humble opinion. Maybe, with a small audience in a dedicated place with the right atmosphere, etc. something could be done… Anyway, at least concerning Erang, nothing is planed for a live right now.
I am going to ask a bunch of nerdy questions regarding your world in rapid succession
1. What is the fifth season in the land of the five seasons?
2. Is there anything which lays outside of this large island?
3. How does your three pointed compass work?
4. If you were to give us a in where the underwater kingdom would be on which coast would we start on?
5. When life gets you down, is there any place within the Land of the Five Seasons where you find most comforting, atleast the idea of?
1. If I ever end my novel, you’ll maybe know the answer
2. The ones who tried to discover it never came back…
3. Latitude, Longitude…. and time!
4. Look at where the sentence about it is written on the map… then use the compass
5. Definitely the Enchanted Wood of Mayoo… or maybe the Emerald Forest… but if I can give you an advice : avoid the Steppes of Kolm…
Since your work is influenced much by tabletop / videogame RPGs, do you currently play any or have in the past?
Currently, not at all and only for a question of time. Besides my family and friends, I spend almost 100% of my free time for my art : music, drawings, writing, etc. But if I had more free time I will definitely play tabletop or videogames RPG a lot!… I would love to get involved in Dungeons&Dragons or Magic the Gathering. Same thing with Skyrim : it looks awesome… But back in the early days I use to love Dungeon Master on my Atari computer, Zelda III and Secret of Mana. I also have fond memories playing Stormbringer or Middle Earth Role-Playing.
Say I am running an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign and you sit down to play? Who is your character? What is your motivation?
I will probably choose a “dark” character with magic… and the style of the one that appears on the covers of my albums.
Will fantasy be everything for you or are you interested in other forms of fiction such as science fiction, horror, and westerns? Can we ever expect sountracks to a crime thriller?
That’s a very interesting question and I’ve thought a lot about that… But I don’t want to mess everything up so it has to be related to my universe. I still need to figure out how but it definitely is something that interested me a lot.
What can we expect in the fourth age in the Land of the Five Seasons?
Right now I’m focused on the release of my last album “ Tome X “, trying (and it’s hard, trust me) to spread the word around about it. Speaking of that, I take the opportunity here to thank all the people who help and support me and my music: you’re just awesome and knowing that you’re here around is truly important to me!… So, about what we can expect, I just need time to think about what will come next… but be sure of one thing : the Kingdom of Erang will never die.
Tome X is the 10th record from Erang and comes with maps and drawings related to The Land of the Five Seasons. Erang also manages a small Facebook Group with daily discussions about things related to the Kingdom of Erang and the Land of the Five Seasons. For now the internet is the best place to find dungeon synth related material. I hope for the day when I can see Erang and other musicians play live, perhaps in a forest, but for now these albums are my best vehicle for lands far away from here.