Against a World Without Dragons – RævJäger interviewed

As second wave dungeon synth keeps growing as a genre, receiving attention even beyond the small Facebook groups, blogs and forums that originally were it’s only abode, certain names start standing out. S:t Petersburgian RævJäger is one of those names. Comparatively happy tunes, old school RPG hand drawn illustrations and a non-apologetic approach to Fantasy themed escapism all serve to make RævJäger an excellent representative of at least one of the strains of modern day atmospheric synth music. We shot off a bunch of question, and got these cordial replies. If only more people dared take a stand against attributing any lasting relevance to a world that doesn’t even have dragons in it, we might all be happier people.

First of all: do you prefer Ræv Jäger or RævJäger?
Hello! Ræv Jäger is a name of my character, the main hero of all music stories, and RævJäger is the name of a project. So both of variants are correct, but when searching for my music on google, you better use the second option.

Mind giving us some basic biographical data? How old are you, and what’s your backstory for creating dungeon synth? Do you have a history with black metal or other electronic music, for instance?
I’m a 46 years old Scandinavian pagan warrior, who comes from the depths of Black Metal madness. I started making DS during a dark, unholy winter night while walking in the forest, alone in dark depression! Just kidding. Actually, I’m 27 years old. I came to the genre from Power Metal, not Black Metal. Maybe that’s why most of my music is more lighthearted and fun than many others’. And hey, I’m not even categorizing myself as a pure dungeon synth act. Actually, I don’t categorize myself as any existing genre, because I don’t know what my genre is. The dungeon synth community loves me (I hope), and I do make music with DS influences, and that’s cool. But I prefer to leave tagging to others. About my musical history, I started to compose in 2005, I went through such genres as Power Metal, Heavy Metal, Melodic Death Metal and Folk Metal. RævJäger’s music as you know it began at the end of 2014.

Tell us how you started up RævJäger? What was it that lit the spark?
Well, I have a wide experience with playing in bands. This experience has taught me one Important Wisdom Lesson: bands suck! There are too many different opinions and views. I’m an individualist in music, and compromise isn’t my way of doing things. So. at some point I decided that to be a solitary composer would be the wisest choice. I tried my hand at composing many genres of electronic music, indie video game music etc. But in 2013 I first heard Evilnox, and a little later Murgrind. Then I understood that this was it – this is the team I want to play on.

Do you listen to much of the “first wave” of dungeon synth? Mortiis, Cernunnos Woods, Burzum and such? Any lesser known names you’d like to share?
Yeah, I love 1st wave, but actually, I don’t listen to any of the guys from your list (please forgive me Bard Algol!). If I need to name bands from that period I love, I would say: Mournlord, Pazuzu, Secret Stairways, Lunar Womb, Depressive Silence, Solanum, Gothmog, Corvus Neblus, Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, Jääportit and Nazgul (Hello, herr Grimrik!).

Dungeon synth is an ever growing genre, even if its artists and labels are still way too shy and almost don’t promote themselves outside of small forums and Facebook groups. Which new artists (except for yourself) do you think bring something nice to the genre?
If I would name every good or cool project, it would be an enormous list. So, I will name those new (i.e. from the last few years) projects, who have their own musical script, and don’t obviously follow someone else. Simply bands that create their own unique style.
Verminaard, this guy has precisely a unique style, and makes fast progress from release to release. Check out his latest album (especially the second half, it rules!).
Oldenhelm – very unique, really pure dungeon synth, sad and dreamy, majestic and mysterious.
Sequestered Keep – this talented guy has a release speed that seems unreal to some people, but his music has an awesome, adventurous charm.
Faery Ring has an awesome musical concept mixed with very poetic views and a Mortiis/Arath/Morketsvind like mood.
Svarograd – this Witcher guy has created an absolutely unique music genre: he mixes synthwave and DS in one mind-blowing magic potion, and he does it extremely well, not like some synthwave pussy hipster. Speaking about hipsters, Gentle Fish Mumbling may look like such, but their work is just amazing, unique, talented and very “fairy tale”. Just how I love it!
Finally some honorary mentions of cool projects that may not be so new, but deserve much more attention: Evilnox, Khallanar, Tarkin Turfer, Mądrość Płomieni, Theoroth, Soltri and Isåedor.

How do you go about composing a track? Do you start with a title, an idea, a musical theme, or something else entirely? How long does it usually take?
Well, it all begins with the track’s conception, an idea. After that, I start composing. The final track title is chosen towards the end of the musical work. How long? Very different. It can be one evening or 2 weeks. It’s strongly connected to inspiration.

Like many other dungeon synth bands, your work draws heavily on Fantasy for its inspiration. Would you explain a little about why and how you do this?
It’s simple. Fantasy rules, real life often sucks, haha. I love fantasy in many different forms, and I’m actually a big nerd. Some may think that this is very childish, and that music must be more serious, but I don’t care. This is my way of doing things, I do it well and I can do it honestly. My main inspiration is RPG game music, and both of my favorite composers (Kirill Pokrovsky and Nobuo Uematsu) are video game composers. In fact, I’ve written my own fantasy stories and based them on my music. Every album is a fantasy adventure of trickster Raev in the big Multiverse.

How important are role playing games, computer or table top, to your concept? I’ve noticed a Kipling quote on the Bandcamp page for “The Lord of the Fairies”, so it’s obvious that literature plays a part as well for you.
As I said above, role playing games play a major part for me as far as inspiration goes. Books too, but they are secondary. I hope to make my own indie RPG at some point in the future, with my own soundtrack and a lot of guest composers.

You’ve worked with a couple of labels, Obscure Dungeon among others, and done some very limited tape releases. Has there been any discussion about doing somewhat larger editions, or perhaps vinyl and/or CD?
Haha, I’m not so arrogant a bastard to talk about vinyl at this stage. I adequately value my popularity. In addition, I understand that I’m too young, as a composer, and not popular enough. So let’s leave the vinyl for the genre mastodonts and mammoths. But answering your question – my next and 3rd album will be released on 4-panel digipak CD. Very beautiful original design by Jaxens (who worked on the Lord of the Fairies cover art). I hope that folks will like it. It is my first CD release.

To many of its listeners, dungeon synth is a mode of escapism. Is this the case for you and if so, what are you escaping from?
If we’re talking about my music, I think that it isn’t my escapism, but rather a product of it. I mean, my escapism is a creating the music and the story conception. The final version, the recorded and mastered album, is not escapism for me, but rather the portal to another world for others (at least I’d like to believe that). What do people want to escape from? Well, from a boring mode of life, from hordes of stupid people, from dumb laws, from their fat wife/husband, eventually. And hey, this world haven’t even got dragons in it! That sucks, man.

You live in S:t Petersburg. How is life in Russia now, for you personally? We generally don’t dive too deeply into politics, but I would imagine that the sanctions imposed a few years ago might affect life over there?
I’m a lucky bastard. I live in the most European city in Russia, and I have a good job, so the sanctions don’t hurt me that much. But a lot of people have real problems. Prices have risen 2,5 times! I want to believe that God-Emperor Trump will make the situation better, but I understand that this is very naive.

Do you have any long-term plans for developing your sound in different directions, or anything special you would like to do as an artist? Play live, perhaps?
Yes. In the future, I want to cooperate with computer game developers to make a huge soundtrack for some very cool RPG. About live performing, I think that my music is better as a soundtrack for Roguelike games, or for walking in dreams. Not for the concert hall.

What about more immediate plans?
Absolutely. My 3rd album Raevult! is already finished, and awaiting the final CD production for official release. It may be be my most complex, high quality and heroic album. It contains all the good RJ features from the first two albums, but with a new and fresh sound.

That was it from us today. If we forgot to ask about something you find important, please use this question to talk about that. Otherwise, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
Thank you for this talk. I urge all your readers to keep their chins up, and remember that good stories never end. Magic exists, and we make it come true!

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