It is with an extreme sense of pride and accomplishment that Archaic Triad presents an interview with one of the fathers of the variety of experimental atmospheric music which is now known as dungeon synth. Bard Algol has hardly been one of the more prolific artists of this or any other genre, but his role in starting up Dark Age Productions in the 90s, as well as his recently revived project Cernunnos Woods, makes him absolutely pivotal to what may be the most underappreciated music scene today. The interview took off and became very lengthy, so it is divided into two parts. The first half aims to clear up a number of questions we and many others have had for years about the past of Dark Age Productions and Cernunnos Woods. We think it succeeds. Enjoy!
Hello, Bard. How is it going?
I am well thank you for asking.
Care to give us a few words about yourself. Age? Maximum limbo depth? Whatever you want to share.
I’m 41 years old. It seems strange to be this age and still doing the same sort of things as when I was leaving highschool. Limbo depth? Hmm probably not too far. I fell off the back of a flatbed tow truck some years ago onto the curb of the freeway, so I don’t bend too far backwards anymore if I wanna come back up! Ha ha
Would you please give us a fairly lengthy description of the history of Dark Age Productions? As far as I remember and understood things, it was started as 7th Key Creations, but quickly changed its name, and released some of the absolutely greatest experimental work ever to come out of the US. How did it come about, who were involved apart from you yourself, etc? What about these different “towers” that existed online for a while? Please give us as detailed a history as is reasonable.
Dark Age Productions was started in Minnesota in 1994 for the release of the Cernunnos Woods demo “Tears of the Weeping Willow” and after that I began receiving demos from other bands making this strange new music. So I thought it would be interesting to have a label which focused on this new kind of avantgarde music that was coming from folks involved in the black metal scene.
Sometime after that Mike Riddick (of …The Soil Bleeds Black / Yamatu) asked if I would be interested to have him join his 7th Key Creations to Dark Age Productions as the “Eastern Tower”. He was a very upstanding and motivated individual and our ideas aligned well so we began the co-operation. Later Proscriptor of ABSU wished to open a “Southern Tower” for releasing some metal related items.
Dark Age Productions had some connection to the guys from ABSU. You released the amazing early work of Equitant, and the DAP/Cold Meat collaboration label Cruel Moon also published a vinyl with Proscriptor’s solo project on vinyl, along with a The Soil Bleeds Black DLP and the Cernunnos Woods CD (all absolutely essential releases). Do you have a personal history with some of these guys, or did you just click musically/conceptually for a while?
If I recall correctly Proscriptor saw a flier in his mail and ordered the Cernunnos Woods tape and we began a contact by mail (no email then) sharing our music and ideas. Through him I met Equitant. When Absu came through Minnesota in 1995 as part of a tour with Enslaved and Incantation I met up with them and gave them the rough mix of “Into Glory We Ride” to use during their stage intro which got a huge response and they ended up placing the track on their Mythological Occult Metal compilation album under the name of The Great Battle Moving From Ideal to Actual. Enslaved was made up of some very funny guys to hang out with, if I remember it correctly, Grutle was very adamant about wanting to see the newly built “Mall of America” near the airport. He did eventually disappear for a while so I guess he did finally find someone to drive him over there. Ha ha
About Cruel Moon. How did this project come about, and why wasn’t more done? I remember having high hopes of seeing CD and vinyl versions of some of the D.A.P. tapes, and while we did get those few masterpieces, then things just ceased. What happened?
Cruel Moon International was created by Karmanik of Cold Meat Industry. When he received the Cernunnos Woods demo and decided to release the album. From my understanding Mortiis had a hand in urging him to get it started. Cold Meat had never released a US band before and I guess it was his idea to separate Cold Meat and Cruel Moon artists.
As for why it ended, I’m not sure how things worked out on Karmanik’s end but having the releases put out on two labels created a competition in the rather limited market for this kind of music and this made it difficult, if not impossible to sell off some of the releases DAP made. No sales meant no new releases could happen. This crashed DAP label on my end and so I took my leave for a little while to pursue other activities… just for about 20 years! Ha ha
On to Cernunnos Woods. How did this project come to be? What were your early influences, and what were the ideas behind the project?
Cernunnos Woods was created because starting a metal band here in my tiny town was not working out so I put down my bass guitar and began playing around with a keyboard. I had always liked the intros and outros on black metal albums, things like Beherit’s H418ov21.C, Equimanthorn’s debut album on Unisound as well as soundtrack LPs for movies like Legend, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings (the Ralph Bakshi animation), Indiana Jones and Conan the Barbarian… I thought that making a release of this kinda music with lyrics & narrations would be an interesting experiment.
The first age of Cernunnos Woods took most of it’s concepts from the scant information I was able to cull together on Celtic druidry and related folklore. These days finding things out is only a click away but back then it was an independent research effort. The new Cernunnos Woods will still have a framework of folklore but not be slavishly connected, allowing me the freedom to explore other concepts when I wish.
To say that the sum of Cernunnos Woods is more than the parts would be an extreme understatement. All instruments and vocals are quite clear, and at least most of the time very straight-forward. Still, I think I am not alone in thinking that a track like “Echos Of Knowledge In Ancient Stone” is among the best atmospheric music there is. Do you know yourself exactly what made the early Cernunnons Woods stuff work so well?
Those are some very fine words and I’m not sure I deserve them. I can just say the early material was done purely on inspiration and improvisational basis with no concerted effort to “write” music but just do what I was feeling would be interesting at the time. Now that I know more about music and I have a particular vision of how I want things to sound writing and trying to produce something I am happy with is much harder
We will continue tomorrow, moving on to the present and future of Cernunnos Woods and Dark Age Productions.