Nan Morlith, a small spur of mountains in Northern Mordor and one of the best up and coming dungeon synth artists, has fast become a favorite of mine. When I need to relax: Nan Morlith, when I want to get into a writing mood: Nan Morlith, when I want something to read to: Nan Morlith. I got to ask a few questions of the man behind the mask about fantasy, nature, and the connection between black metal and dungeon synth.
Resounding Footsteps: Why do you make music? Of all the ways to express yourself, why did you choose music?
Nan Morlith: Personally, I find music to be the ultimate form of expression. Some years earlier, I used to paint and draw regularly.
However, nothing compares to the sheer weight of expression conveyed through music. It can take you to the furthest depths and soaring heights in a way other art forms can’t.
RF: What was your experience finding dungeon synth? What do you think makes it different from all the over forms of music?
NM: Like many, my first experience with D.S. came through Mortiis. For about 3 years since discovering ‘Ånden Som Gjorde Opprør’, I never really new there was an entire codified genre that held this sound.
Until about a year ago I wasn’t even aware of the term ‘Dungeon Synth’. Once I discovered that term however, it opened the door to a vast array of artists.
D.S. draws its uniqueness in a manner similar to B.M., ultimately, there’s no real boundary in sight; You have the base rulebook, but, like any good RPG, your imagination is the only limitation.
RF: What do you think influences you and dungeon synth on a whole more, nature or fantasy?
NM: When it comes to writing B.M., such as with GAOTH, nature is definitely the ruling force. However, when writing D.S., the realm of fantasy rules 100%.
RF: What do you think the draw is to the genre?
NM: For me, the draw is similar to D.S., an ultimate rejection and escape from our contemporary world. There’s also that inescapable sense of nostalgia; the feeling you’ve heard this before somewhere, but at the same time you’re experiencing something new.
RF: Do you have any quirks when writing music? (for example when I write I write in the freezing cold and often stand up to swing a wooden sword at things while drinking copious amounts of beer)
NM: *Hahaha* Funnily enough, my process behind writing music of any sort is completely banal. I need form, order, structure.
For example; I can’t write unless my immediate surrounding is clean and tidy, I’m not hungry, tired or suffer from any physical discomfort.
That’s about it really. I told you, banal… (Maybe I’ll have to try your method!)
RF: What would you consider your greatest achievement in music thus far?
NM: Personally, I would have to say it was the release of GAOTH’s debut in July. I spent 2 years on that album, writing, performing, recording & producing everything.
To see that it’s done so well thus far is an enormous reward. And there’ll be some great news coming soon from the GAOTH camp, stay tuned!
RF: Do you think more fans of black metal should embrace dungeon synth? Or at least take a look into it?
NM: Absolutely, to fans of B.M. I would say ‘Imagine an entire album full of those classic synth intros, interludes and outro’s found in the old Burzum, Darkthrone/Isengard, Satyricon albums. If that sounds pleasing, then you’re 99% sure to enjoy D.S.’
RF: What are your top dungeon synth albums so far?
NM: Undoubtedly, that would be Lord Lovidicus’ outstanding ‘Forgotten Ruins’, ‘Kydill Og Stien’ & ‘Wondervogel Des Waldes’. (Huge L.L. fan here).
Of course there are many others, such as ‘Daudi Baldrs’, Mortiis’ ‘Ånden Som….’, and in more recent times I’ve greatly enjoyed ‘Grim Ages’ & ‘A Time When the Moon….’ by Ancient Boreal Forest.
Also ‘The Lair of Warlords’ by Unguth Vaentron. There are too many great releases to name!
RF: What can Nan Morlith add to the genre?
NM: Ultimately, with Nan Morlith, I hope to explore some of the lesser known stories & characters found in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, there’s a world of sagas that have largely been untouched by D.S. or B.M.
RF: What programs/equipment do you use when writing your music?
NM: For D.S., I exclusively use Garageband, it’s perfectly acceptable, and easy to use. I don’t own a midi keyboard, so the virtual keyboard function is very useful, even if it doesn’t give you much more than an octave to use. There are plenty of sounds to choose from.
It’s everything you need really.
RF: What are some things you’ve learned about music since Nan Morlith began?
NM: Hmmm, that’s a hard one. Probably that you can keep things very simple, yet still highly entertaining to listen to.
I haven’t thought about that one much, I am probably the worst person to ask when analyzing my own music!
RF: Tolkien or Jordan?
NM: Tolkien, easily! I very much enjoy Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series (I’m currently on book nine), however, I have kind of left it a few times because the story was not so entertaining in places.
I’ve never experienced that with Tolkien, every time I pick up LOTR, The Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin, I end up reading them cover to cover.
RF: Regarding music you listen to, is it an escape or is it lens to look at the world differently?
NM: It’s a bit of both, but probably leaning towards and escape. I don’t have much time for the vast swathes of people ‘blind’ to the system at work behind popular governance and social movements. It’s extremely disheartening at best.
Music is an escape from all that.
RF: Where would you like to see dungeon synth go? Do you think it could ever act as a soundtrack? If so what film(s)?
NM: Hmmm, I’m not sure If I’d ever like to see D.S. used as a film soundtrack. Most of its appeal for me is the escape into a realm of imagination.
If we put that to moving images, then we sort of lose some of the mysticism. I often use D.S. when reading fiction or as background music to an RPG.
Much like D.M., if you try to quantify and qualify it I think it would lose one of its most important qualities.
RF: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve encountered with writing dungeon synth?
NM: None, so far, I’ve enjoyed every second of it, and it’s come as second nature.
RF: How much does your previous work on Gaoth influence Nan Morlith?
NM: Probably more than I realize, as it’s given me ample amounts of technical skill to express my musical ideas through a computer program.
In a way it’s quite liberating, to escape the confines of the physical shape of a musical instrument (for example, your hands always ‘fall’ into some sort of natural position when performing on a guitar or keyboard), writing on a program, you don’t get that.
RF: Do you have a preference when it comes to format (CDs, cassettes, etc.)
NM: For 99% of music, I’d say CD’s, however for D.S. I think tape is 100% the way to go. This is nothing to do with recording sound or quality and everything to do with nostalgia and ‘presence’.
Âdhûn and Fangorn are available here!