Featured Artist Interview - Stygian
Thank you to Stygian for taking some time to be interviewed.
Forest Summoner: What first got you into writing dungeon synth?
Stygian: I’ve been obsessed with synthesizers since my Dad first played me the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas LP back when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old. My mom had this other LP that was Bach and Beethoven played on synthesizers and it was so cheesy and awesome.
More recently my friends who share a mutual enjoyment of black metal and extreme metal had shown me dungeon synth. It wasn’t until I felt a creative stagnation during quarantine that I decided to try my own hand at writing some, since it seemed approachable due to its
Forest Summoner: What inspired you to write Stygian's debut album?
Stygian: As a musician, there’s a rewarding aspect to creating and publishing
work, and because of the lockdown in the entire country, I had been
unable to work with bandmates, or really been motivated to make
anything for over a year. One of my friends suggested making music
and selling it on bandcamp to fund reforestation efforts, and
terraforming nutrient-less land out in the desert parts of Joshua Tree
and that sounded like such a rad idea, I knew I had to contribute.
Forest Summoner: How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Stygian: I am all over the place. I have a lot of studio projects and I also always
have at least 1-2 live projects that I am involved in. I think it’s
important to have both live and studio projects so you can get out
there and engage with other musicians and music fans, but also have
an avenue of creative freedom on your own. My music is reliant on
melody and harmony, but also tension and release. At the same time I
try to make each song project a mental picture to the listener.
"Making music and selling it on bandcamp to fund reforestation efforts... is such a rad idea, I knew I had to contribute."
Forest Summoner: What is your creative process like?
Stygian: I think there’s two main ways I create music, one is spontaneous – like
you’re walking in a store, or taking a shower and you get an idea or a
melody and you have to capture it somehow to go back and work on
later. The worst (and most common) is you get an awesome idea the
second you lay your head down to go to sleep. The other way is forced,
which isn’t always bad. But you deliberately sit down with the intention
to write or mix or add on to projects. So a lot of humming into voice
memo apps, but also a lot of pots of coffee and my wife and cat
wondering when I’ll be done in my music room so I can hang out with
them again. Ha!
Forest Summoner: How do you write your music?
Stygian: The first step is finding inspiration, and then once you have it you kind
of have to passively let your mind meander and randomly generate the building blocks of the song, while simultaneously using your conscious
mind to steer it in a direction that’s good and makes sense. I think that’s a
good way to put it!
Forest Summoner: I heard that each track is connected to a location, could you
talk a bit about that?
Stygian: The self-titled EP is thematically focused on the powerful elements of
nature present in my home, the Pacific Northwest. The first track
“Misty Coastal Redwoods” is about exactly that. It has an airy and
ethereal presence that reflects the often misty/foggy setting in the
wilderness of northern California. It also has set of chords that are
simultaneously upbeat and happy while having an undertone of deep
sorrow. That’s kind of how I feel when I am in big forests, because
people love and are in awe of nature, but also turn their backs on it
(and destroy it) so many times in favor of profit and production and
“The Sleeping Giant – Tahoma” uses the Native American name for Mt.
Rainier, and the sleeping giant referring to its ambiguous status as an
active volcano. I love the creepy and frightening dissonant ambient
works Aphex Twin created, and the busy and complicated tracks that
acts like Plaid are reliably churning out, I kind of put the two together
and it created a really cool atmosphere for this track. I default so much
into harmony and melody and pleasing sounds that it was really fun to
restrict that for myself creatively.
“Orick” is named after a ghost town that I went through on a road trip,
and has a sombre feel to it.
“The Ancient Hall of Mosses” is inspired by the Hoh rainforest on the
Washington state peninsula. I watched a documentary about it kind of
simultaneously along with composing it. I also used a field recording
“The Boreal Chorus Recurring” was a fun one to create, because I
busted out my old Korg MS-20 analog synth and I think spent more
time fiddling with programming the ideal synth patch, than I did
actually composing the song. But that synth is legendary and has a
thick, monolithic tone. I felt like it paired really well with a field
recording of boreal chorus frogs in Yellowstone that I found on the NPS
Forest Summoner: What does Stygian mean to you?
Stygian: The name is really not related to the music at all, but I sort of pretend
like I don’t know the definition of the word (since it means very dark, or relating to the river Styx). I guess technically the definition of the word is in line with the music, but when I was looking for a way to name the project the name popped in my head and I knew that it fit. The project itself has been good for me because instead of hunching over a guitar doing 78 takes to get a solo correct, or stressing about writing the perfect bridge, or song lyric – I can sort of meditate and relax while I mess around with my keyboards and whatever sounds the best, I can keep. It’s a lot less stressful.
Lauge and Baba Gohm https://laugebabagnohm.bandcamp.com/
The Flashbulb https://theflashbulb.bandcamp.com/album/opus-at-the-end-
Nils Frahm https://nilsfrahm.bandcamp.com/album/solo
Also check out the track “Emerald and Stone” on the album “Small Craft on a
Milk Sea” by John Hopkins and Brian Eno. It’s tremendous.
Also Selected Ambient Works II by Aphex Twin