Today we continue our interview with Bard Algol of Cernunnos Woods and Dark Age Productions, a band and label that has recently reawoken from a 20 year slumber, to a world rife with synthesizer wielding young escapists performing dungeon synth. Yesterday, we discussed the past of the label and the band. Today, we’ll have a look at the present and the future.
You have recently decided to resume activity, and both Dark Age Productions and Cernunnos Woods have resurfaced. What made you decide to take these steps?
I guess for one, my disappointment with myself and the music scene that I experienced when I decided to shutter DAP had finally dissipated. Some people had contacted me over the years asking about the possibility of reissuing the Cernunnos Woods material and I began thinking about it: “what if I had just stuck it out with DAP through the losses…” since I was already running a new label I’d started in 2012 called Metal Hell Records. Then somehow, I’m not quite sure how, I was introduced to the idea that Cernunnos Woods and some of the old DAP bands were being lumped into a new genre being called “dungeon synth” with a small scene developing online around this kind of music so I decided it could make sense to make the reissue people were asking about and resume DAP activities and see where it could lead. Currently it appears that DAP may overtake Metal Hell’s activities for 2017, so it’s very exciting to be back releasing music of a unique and adveturesome nature.
Why do you think “dungeon synth”, as it is now generally known, has had such limited success, even in the underground? While much of black metal makes itself publicly impossible, what with the criminality, the religious and especially political radicalism and so on, much of the D.A.P. catalog is quite accessible. It might not be music for the masses, but it’s really not that extreme and alien either. Is this a marketing issue? Perhaps we actually want it this way, come to think of it.
Lack of promotion. Not just from labels but the bands themselves who believe obscurity or being unapproachable is still a good thing. Many artists today are quite young and not all of them come from an underground metal background so they don’t have the understanding of how to write a proper bio or concept description of their project nor how producing and promoting a release works. It’s not great to remain hidden in this day and age if you want to bring more attention to what you’re doing. Fans expect to be able to visit their favorite bands facebook page and occasionally interact with the band. It’s free guys, get on it!
Additionally, many of the bands and labels seem averse to sending out links of their material to any media outside of the small clique of websites particularily devoted to this music. There is nothing wrong with those sites and some are quite impressive and may become the cornerstone tastemakers of the genre but this is a dramatically small number compared to the sites covering black metal, post metal (whatever that is, I see it a lot! Ha ha) electronic music blogs and other possibly receptive places. I just feel the scene is missing out on reaching a number of potential fans by not promoting its releases to places which may be receptive to it. One never knows what the response will be until you try. Unlike the old days of mailing out physical promos, it costs nothing to send out a link. Certainly there could be some pushback from people who will be dismissive to it but I feel the scene is really selling itself short in this respect. Especially some of the more musically accomplished projects. Another reason is the ultra limited editions of 12, 24 or 50 copies so many of the labels are doing. In today’s music world it doesn’t make sense to press 1000 of most albums right off the top but beginning with at least 100-300 copies allows there to be some potential reach beyond the extent of one’s own friends online.
As far as extremism goes, DAP avoids releasing bands who publicly meddle in politics. I feel that politics are great for punk rock and I love old school 70s/80s punk but I don’t have any desire to promote any kind of politics through the label. Artists are extensibly a reflection of the label and vice-versa, so I have rejected a few bands based on their iconography or participation on various political leaning matters. This is because I don’t see it as fitting for a label concentrating on escapism through fantasy, ambiance and ritual to be seen to have any public affiliation to political ideologies. There are labels who don’t care or are openly accepting of such materials and I don’t have any problem with them pursuing their vision.
There is a small but growing dungeon synth scene globally at the moment, which should make it possible for D.A.P. to find a number of artists to release quite quickly, so long as some of these people also buy music rather than just make it. What is your view on all this new stuff? Do you have any favorites among the more recent dungeon crowd?
It’s true there are new dungeon synth bands emerging all the time and I’m always excited to hear what newcomers come up with. However, I must confess I don’t enjoy a lot of it. Much of it I find to be either too simplistic and slapdash or simply too lo-fi for my own tastes. It may be a selfish or even amateurish idea but I always seek to release music that I personally enjoy listening to and not just what I think might be a good seller. I can’t state specifically in general what makes me like one album over another but I know it when I hear it.
I do find it funny to see some of the online arguments over how it “should be recorded to sound old” or “needs to have warbly tape sound”, etc. Getting a lo-fi or poor quality recording is not what our goals were in the early days, even though it was often an unfortunate by product of the primitive equipment many of us were recording with at the time.
There were no DAWs or VSTs that were even slightly accessible to underground musicians back then. The only somewhat underground album I can remember from the mid-90s being recorded totally on computer was Manowar’s “Louder Than Hell” using MOTU (Mark of The Unicorn) software and at the time it was big news that it could be done, but still it was done in a big studio. Nowadays you can download the resources and produce a decent home recorded album for very little cost on your PC. So I think artists should concentrate on creating a stunning piece of audio and visual art instead of releasing half a dozen rather uninspired releases a year with some image they swiped off from google. If that sounds snippy I don’t mean it to be, these are just the things I’ve been noticing and well, you asked after all! Ha ha
Are there any negotiations to finally do what Cruel Moon possibly could have done, and arrange for the CD release of some of the old (now absurdly expensive) D.A.P. tapes? I would buy a CD version of An Dorcha Crionnacht in a second.
I am in negotiations with some of the old DAP bands to reissue on Cassette and CD their original albums remastered with new art and packaging. I would like to name names but until papers are signed I should remain quiet. I can say however that I will be very excited to be able to issue them again along with a good selection of new artists who have piqued my interest. Some of the old DAP bands, I have no idea how to contact them these days, so some things will probably forever remain hidden or in the realm of the collector.
What plans and ambitions are there for Dark Age Productions and Cernunnos Woods at the moment, in case that hasn’t been exhausted in previous questions?
I guess not too much to say except I look forward to making 2017 a very productive year for DAP and hopefully I will have a new Cernunnos Woods release completed as well.
That would be all. If I’ve missed something fundamental, feel free to fill in any blanks here. If not, I’d like to thank you very much for the opportunity of doing this interview, and wish you best of luck with all your endeavors.
Thank you very much for this interview and interest in my activities. All the best to you and your publication!