Saturday, April 21, 2012

Interview with Abandoned Places

Andrew: You have just released a new album, so could you tell the readers of this blog a bit about it, and perhaps a bit about Abandoned Places as well?
Abandoned Places: I have just released my second album, titled With the Dead, in the Language of the Dead. Like my first album it is a collection of dark fantasy synth pieces, often dissonant, played with various rich and nostalgic FM-synthesis timbres.
Andrew: What country are you based in? Is the question of locality even meaningful for a genre like this?
Abandoned Places: I live in the United States. The question of locality in music only has relevance if the genre is pervasive enough to spawn regional varieties (i.e. Colombian brutal death metal, southern hip-hop). Given the scarcity of dungeon synth artists I doubt the question is relevant, but perhaps someday it will be.
Andrew: Are there any artists you can point to as being primary influences for your music?
Abandoned Places: My primary influences are Burzum's two synth albums as well as a lot of music from old DOS RPG and adventure games, specifically Eric Heberling's music for Daggerfall and Aubrey Hodges' music from Quest for Glory 4, but also including a lot of old dungeon crawlers. The foreboding and solemn atmosphere of traveling through dungeons and tombs is very powerful in these games and I have tried to recreate that atmosphere in my work. I attempt this in part by using FM-synthesis timbres similar to those used by such games - FM-synthesis creates very deep, complex tones that I prefer to sampled instrument sounds. Although Mortiis is the progenitor of dungeon music outside of games, I had not heard his work until after releasing my first album, and it took me by surprise. Compared to the grim severity of Burzum's ambient albums Mortiis' work is lush and expansive, conjuring images of fantasy landscapes more than decrepit underground spaces. I hope to incorporate elements of Mortiis' style into my future work.
Andrew: You bring up a point I have often wondered about, what is the relationship between old rpg/adventure game music and dungeon synth? A lot of it is downright indistinguishable, so at what point should the line be drawn between the two genres? Or should they even be considered separate at all?
Abandoned Places: I'm not interested in making sweeping categorical statements, but I do think that some dungeon synth is more closely related to game music than others. The long tracks of early Mortiis have no parallel in old game music, as far as I know (I would love to hear counterexamples). those pieces exploit long track lengths to project and develop ideas over large spans of time. That kind of long-term structural planning is not relevant within the 2-5 minutes accorded to most game tracks, especially since those tracks are designed to loop. Burzum's two synth albums, on the other hand, tend towards cyclical structures even in the longest tracks, and it's easy to imagine them looping in a VGA dungeon. I do not believe that one method is superior to the other, and I believe they represent two extremes of a continuum rather than a binary choice. I'm sure there are dungeon synth artists and video game soundtracks that lie on all possible points within this continuum, and I suspect I'm oversimplifying the issue anyway. The two Abandoned Places albums currently available lie closer to the "Burzum" end of the continuum (shorter pieces, cyclical forms) but I plan to explore longer forms in the future.
Andrew: Even though the sounds of your synths have the nostalgic quality of those old games, your music is certainly more dissonant. In fact I'd even say it's more dissonant than Burzum's first ambient album. Why did you choose to make your music so dark and distressing?
Abandoned Places: The harmonic palette I'm most interested in working with for Abandoned Places is highly chromatic but still tonal. I often (not always) find purely diatonic or modal music cloying to listen to and unfulfilling to write. I chose to make the music dark, inspired by the music I mentioned earlier, and befitting my conception of "dungeon music" or music for a harsh fantasy realm. While I accept your interpretation, I intend the music to be not "distressing" but austere.
Andrew: How important is complexity and musical theory to your work? And also what do you think about the simplicity seen in most dungeon synth albums, considering that some of it is intentional minimalism, but most just derives from lack of musical knowledge and experience? Do you think anything of unique value can be found in the work of raw instinct and naivete?
Abandoned Places: My work is pretty simple, as is the dungeon synth that inspires me (and maybe all dungeon synth). In dungeon synth it can be difficult to determine if simplicity is due to intent, or ineptitude, or knowing imitation of ineptitude. All these approaches are valid - the result is what matters. Ineptitude can result in unusual musical choices, some of which are very good, because "failures" can become new creative avenues to explore and the inept are likely to "fail" often.
Andrew: A lot of your song titles appear to be fantasy names made up by yourself (unless I'm not recognizing the references). What can you tell us about those? Is that just for the concept of the music, or do they have some deeper meaning or use for you?
Abandoned Places: Some of the titles are invented or drawn from literature, but most are locations from old DOS RPGs. In some cases I have not actually played the games, only consulted their maps to find inspiring or fitting titles. I use the titles to evoke an atmosphere of fantasy, not for any specific connotations they might have.
Andrew: What are your thoughts on physical music vs. downloadable music? And what about piracy?
Abandoned Places: As an artist, downloadable music is much easier to deal with than physical music, though I can't deny a certain pleasure in holding a physical copy of one's work. As a consumer, I have purchased music in both formats. I suspect that as time goes on the relevance of physical releases will continue to wane and I have no problem with that. While I offer all my music for free at my site, I have nonetheless seen it pirated occasionally. These pirates do me a service by helping my music reach more dungeon synth listeners and I am grateful for their efforts on my behalf. I know that if it were not for piracy I would not have heard several of the albums on your list. I think that if dungeon synth is to survive (and I believe it will flourish) it will be in no small part due to the pirates who help preserve these obscure gems for future artists and listeners.
Andrew: Do you have any future plans for Abandoned Places?
Abandoned Places: I will continue exploring the possibilities of the genre and releasing more albums. At some point I may consider releasing physical versions of my work, but digital versions will always be available pay-what-you-will at my site.
Andrew: Any final words?
Abandoned Places: Thank you for the interview and for your invaluable contributions to this music.
Andrew: The pleasure was all mine.

The albums of Abandoned Places can be downloaded at any price and quality here.


  1. dark hailz....
    nice albums bro...:)
    visit back my page ya...
    follow i'll follow you back...:)
    greetings from indonesia... thank you so much....

  2. Hey Andrew! Just stumbled across this blog and it's great! I'll be reading. You may like my blog on D&D and synthesizers:

  3. Enjoyed the interview and also purchased the first album - ancient RPG soundtracks and influences in general are something I appreciate as a nerdy old fart. I better grab the new one too.