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  • Writer's pictureForest Summoner

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

utilitarian simplicity.

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

from it.

“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.


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

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Jan 05, 2022

Stygian is one of my new favorite dungeon synth bands!

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