The Cries of the Ghosts: A Chat with Einhorn

As the dungeon synth explosion keeps engorging the globe, soon perhaps reaching a point when the fans outnumber the bands, new takes on the genre have begun to appear. For a genre heavily dependent on nostalgia and a sense of authenticity, innovation is not an easy thing. Radical technical improvements in composition or production easily takes projects out of the dungeon and into the realms of soundtrack music or other electronic and/or classical genres. Izaac Cooper and his project Einhorn have solved this conundrum by placing themselves among the foremost proponents and creators of “dungeon noise” – mixing lo-fi harsh noise with even more lo-fi DS. It sounds goddamn spectacular, and we simply had to know what was moving in the brain responsible. The result of our efforts lay before you, in the form of a lengthy interview with Mr. Cooper.

First of all, we’d like to know a bit about your musical background. I know you’re, involved in at least one other minimalist dungeon synth act aside from Einhorn, and a few noise/HNW projects. What are you up to, generally?
Right now Einhorn is my top priority as far as my creative life goes. I’m a graduate student so I don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of things, so really most of my free time seems to go to listening and making music. None of my other audio projects are terribly active currently so I generally spend most of my time listening to DS and the rest making it.

Would you consider Einhorn a harsh noise take on dungeon synth, or a dungeon synth take on harsh noise? Or something else entirely?
Einhorn is a ”dungeon noise” project, which basically is a marriage of DS and noise. Whether it’s more noise or synth is hard to say, but I’ve been trying to get a really good fusion of both. I want to create highly textured and crackling DS, beyond just being DS with noise in the background.

An interesting thing with Einhorns music is that the harsh noise element takes out what we at Archaic Triad have always felt to be one of the major problems with much new dungeon synth: the clinical, over organized sound that comes from modern computer DAWs and VSTs. Was this something you thought of intentionally, or just a by product from doing this type of thing?
Well I started my earlier DS project, Tyrannus, as way to get that sort of lo-fi hiss that I love in old school DS material. That was a really basic and simple noise, and I saw that as a more direct way of recreating that old school sound. Then through online discussions, the notion of putting more emphasis on the noise came up so over the course of a few weeks the idea just sort of all came together. Einhorn is a less overt way to recreate that old sound, but it is directly evolved from that mindset, in a way.

You’ve released two tapes (also on digital) with Einhorn so far. How has it been received? I’ve seen some grumpiness on the DS board, and I suppose many a harsh noise purist recoils from the idea, but I do hope there are people who get it.
Yeah I mean I always knew there was going to be criticism, and I accept that, but I still find myself frustrated when people don’t seem to understand the concept. I’m more understanding if they don’t like my execution, but I find it really vexing to be met with a lack of comprehension regarding the basic premise itself. I mean to me, my love of noise emerged from my love of black metal, so noise has always been somewhat of a ”kvlt” experience. I guess I should spend less time getting annoyed and more time trying to find out how to articulate my ideas better, but for some people it seems to click with no explanation required so at times it seems tempting to simply forget the ”haters” if you will.

What is Pagoda Mast? How much of the stuff released there is made by you and you alone, and how much is done by others?
Pagoda Mast is (was?) my initial foray into harsh noise. I was really inspired by naval warfare and WWII, so that’s where that came from. That’s all my own material, made by me, although I’ve done splits with artists like Bug Catcher and Harsh Noise Movement which of course make their own stuff. I’m not sure if I intend to make more stuff under that name…Einhorn has really captured my heart for the time being so I want to focus on that for a bit longer.

Time for name dropping! Give us three classic dungeon synth projects, three new dungeon synth projects and three harsh noise acts of whatever generation we really have to listen to. Explain when necessary.
Well as far as classic DS goes my picks are obvious: Lamentation, Sagenhaft, and Caduceus. Lamentation’s desolate sound is a big personal influence, and the same goes for Sagenhaft (whose sound is less desolate of course but it’s still pretty minimal and still very influential for me). Caduceus is less of an influence but it’s very fun to listen to Middle Ages and I think that’s an album everyone should experience. All three have influenced my visual style.
As far as new DS goes, I’m going to have to first and foremost mention Abandoned Places/Erdstall (and all side projects) which I sort of count as one collective modern DS entity. This stuff is hugely inspirational for me and I love it. The next modern project I’ll mention is Ranseur, who I feel makes awesome music in a similarly noisy vein to me, although that project has of course been around longer. I also love the artwork. I love Mausolei too, also largely for the art. I love hand drawn art like that, and I’ve been trying to draw more myself. Anyway, all six aforementioned projects are wonderfully atmospheric and extremely enjoyable for me. I’d say any fan of the genre should check these out because I think these acts really encompass a lot of the different shapes the genre has taken and highlight a lot of great diversity. Additionally they really capture that whimsical spirit the genre is based on.
In terms of noise, I’m not going to wow anyone with anything too obscure here, but the three projects are Ahlzagailzehguh, The Rita, and Nkondi. The first and third projects on this list play rather dynamic and interesting noise, with a lot of fabulous movement and activity that is really engaging and enthralling to me as a listener. They have a lot of great artwork and I think really capture the visceral intensity that draws a lot of people to harsh noise. The Rita is, of course, a HNW god and probably my all time favorite noise project and biggest inspiration as a noise maker. When I first heard The Rita it really resounded with me in a similar way that atmospheric black metal does (I’d say the same thing about Gate to Gate’s I Turn Black Keys), in that there’s just this steady, menacing noise that creates this wonderful ambiance. It’s just fantastic. I mostly love hardware noise, although I listen to some digital stuff too. I work on hardware and it just has a special place in my heart.

How far do you see yourself going with Einhorn? In an artistic sense, rather than a commercial one, that is. Combining noise/industrial with dungeon synth should really make it possible to create all sorts of awesome atmosphere, and it’s possible to imagine both more and less restricted/controlled/edited approches giving rise to very interesting material.
I definitely want to continue to push the envelope in various ways. Einhorn is becoming my primary expressive outlet and so I want to do the name justice and make music that I can continue to be proud of. It’s hard to say where that will take me, to be honest.

What equipment do you use? It sounds very much like analog feedback stuff, with some synth attached, but since you have e-mail and upload your music to the internet, I assume there is at least some little digital involvement.
Yes my noise for Einhorn I do using a fairly simple no input mixer setup. Heavy reliance on distortion pedals here. I’ve used mostly MIDI and DAW type stuff for the synth components so far. I recently picked up a Yamaha keyboard however which I intend to incorporate heavily. I’d like to phase out using MIDI if I can, since I find working on this keyboard way more comfortable than the MIDI controller. I may find some way of incorporating it though. I tend to merge the noise and synth sounds in a DAW and mix and master it digitally as well, just since it’s easier for me. Some components of the creative process I find easier to do on the computer and some I prefer to do with equipment. I’m not super opinionated regarding how one should make their music, so I’ve just been drawn towards what’s enjoyable and pleasant for me to do.

Your first tape, and now your second if I’m not mistaken, was released by Wulfrune Worxxx. Has there been other label interest? Sometimes, I find it very annoying that extremely interesting stuff like yours stays almost completely off the grid, while tons of useless junk gets released on pro-CD and lauded to the skies.
There’s been a bit of other interest but really the reason I don’t have more physical media out there is probably more my fault than anyone else’s. I haven’t put as much emphasis on the physical media as many artists have and really it’s more me not following through and not being more assertive on this front that’s the main problem. But I foresee more physical media in the future and it will all come together ultimately. I’m not concerned. I think of all the old DS tapes that got very limited circulations back in the day and how they remain classics now, and I feel that the music can speak for itself enough, and that its legacy will be through how it impacts people more than how well marketed it was. If people enjoy the music then it will endure and if it impacts no one then no amount of distribution and advertisement can make up for that.

What is in the immediate future for Einhorn? Is this a project you prioritize somewhat, or is it just one among many?
Einhorn is certainly my priority for now, but things seem to change in an instant. I have a few more releases scheduled but then after that, who knows? Perhaps I’ll just fade into obscurity. More likely I’ll probably annoy everyone with an extended catalog of music no one asked for. Regardless, I’ll be sure to do what I want to do and I’ll appreciate any support I can get along the way, haha.

Did we forget to ask anything? If so, you can bring it up here. Other than that, we’re done here.
Well I guess in closing I’ll just say thanks for taking an interest and thank you all for the support so far. I want to give special thanks to Chaucerian Myth and Nebulosa, who have been excellent comrades on my dungeon synth journey so far. And a message to all the nonbelievers out there: noise surrounds you! It is everywhere! It is the scraping of stones and the rattling of chains and the howling of the wolf and the wailing of the wind and the cries of the ghost and the snapping of branches beneath the feet of hooded sorcerers. Noise is the babbling water and the roaring fire and the clash of steel and the shifting of the earth. Embrace it!

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