Monday, May 27, 2013

Interview with Curwenius of Mitternacht

Andrew: To start, though you've had several impressive dungeon synth epics since back in 2002, many readers might be unfamiliar with your material.  How would you describe your personal vision within this style of music for those who have never heard it?
Curwenius: Mitternacht’s first album (“The Desolation of Blendenstein”) was highly influenced by symphonic black metal keyboards, Summoning, dark ambient and, of course, Mortiis.  My aim was composing music with a lot of instrumentation, alternating passages of fast percussion and melancholic moments. After composition, it was a natural process to complete the music with a fantasy storytelling.
The second CD ("The Raise of the Secret Cities) followed the line of the first one with a more symphonic instrumentation component, keeping the storytelling.
The third release ("8 Visions of the Time Pilgrim") was totally instrumental, delegating in the track titles the concept of the album. There is a fourth album already composed and recorded, in which Mitternacht would return to the fantasy storytelling along the concept of the CD. Release date has not been scheduled yet.
Andrew: Your first two albums contain the vocal narration of lofty fantasy events, but this element is missing in the third.  Do you feel that dungeon synth as a genre is a good avenue for atmospheric storytelling?  Do you think it might be somewhat like opera when utilized in that way?  And is that storytelling quality diminished at all when it is purely musical, such as your third album?
Curwenius: Dungeon synth is perhaps the most adequate ambient genre for storytelling, even without lyrics. You can tell a story only with track titles: the composition of each track should be climactic enough to take the mind of the listener to the place you want to take it; being purely musical could impact (or not) in the quality of the storytelling. Of course, adding lyrics always lets you expand the story. But not the kind of storytelling in opera: I think that in opera the story has much more preponderance over the music, and the music (beautiful or not) becomes a tool for a theatrical piece, under my point of view. I understand that is not the common opinion about opera.
Andrew: I notice that your third album, "8 Visions of the Time Pilgrim," based on the song titles, seems to be dealing with historical themes, essentially covering primordial earth until World War II, but channeled through a fantasy lens.  What are your thoughts on contemplating history with a fantastical mindset?
Curwenius: When I was conceiving the concept of this album, I wondered what could be the impression of mankind's behavior for a completely external observer. Of course, that impression could not be good. And, what if that observer could watch different moments of mankind's history? That is the reason for the album title: "8 Visions of the Time Pilgrim". That "pilgrim", an external observer (a fantastic creature, a space traveler, whatever), would testify the rapid movement from mankind against nature to mankind against mankind. That was what I tried to explore with this concept.
Andrew: What are your thoughts on the relation between fantasy and the real world?  Is pure escapism a noble path?
Curwenius: I don't consider fantasy to be escapism. In fact, they are even antagonist concepts. Fantasy, in an artistic context, is the most daring way of facing reality. I mean, the fantasy in art allows people to face their most feared feelings, situations, and monsters, and for "monsters" I'm talking about the self's dark side and the others'. After the artistic creation, those fears and monsters would take shape as werewolves, nightmare creatures, evil spirits, forest goblins, and so on, in a sublimation process.
Hedonism, addictions, consumerism, snobbery: under my point of view, those are the real forms of escapism.
Andrew: Do you make this music mainly for yourself or for others, and why?
Curwenius: I make music for my own enjoyment and for others to listen. I think the joy of making music cannot be completely fulfilled if there is none to listen it. It's like writing a story that is not going to be read by anyone.
Andrew: What is your typical composition/recording process, and what equipment do you use?
Curwenius: When I want to start a new work, usually the idea of the concept and the composition line appears simultaneously. Once I've started, perhaps the initial idea is discarded and replaced for another one that I could consider better. That counts for the concept and for the music.
So, when the structure of the theme has a clear shape, then comes the process of making melodies and choosing instrumentation, keeping in mind if this track would include lyrics, sound effects, voices or all of them. Now, with the composition finished, it starts a process of correction that could modify (deeply or not) the track. After that, I finally record the music.
For recording, I've utilized my own digital studio (not expensive but useful), including a specialized audio card and a midi keyboard. Also I use some well-known PC based recording, mixing and midi tools.
Andrew: You're certainly the first South American dungeon synth artist I've communicated with, and as far as I can remember at the moment, the only one I know of.  How do you feel your locality in Argentina influences your taste and creativity?  Was it through the internet that you were able to familiarize yourself with this style, or is this sort of music present in your local metal underground?
Curwenius: I think my locality has no direct (positive or negative) influence in my musical taste. I've listen most metal genres since I was very young, always looking for more existent subgenres of this music. Eventually, I met dark ambient. I was always more attached to keyboards than guitar and bass (I like both anyway), despite my metal roots, so Mortiis, Pazuzu, Die Verbantenn Kinder Evas, Dargaard were real findings to me, and by 2000 I've decided to start my own project, Mitternacht.
At this point I must make an acknowledgement to Furias Records. First for letting me easily reach many titles of every underground music genre, most of them very difficult to find here and, after that, for taking the chance of releasing my albums. That was just before the internet explosion, at least in my country. Since then, internet has been an incredible source of valuable information (just like your blog).
Andrew: What are your religious and political stances?
Curwenius: I'm not a practicant or a churchgoer, but I'm a baptized Catholic. I think religion is a good thing for the human intellect (therefore, for his life), in spite of the fact that they have been presented, religion and intellectualism, as antagonists.
Regarding to my political instances, I'll just say that I don't like politicians and I think that politics and ideologies are bad things. I've heard that just saying that is making a political statement and having an ideology. I disagree, I believe in good deeds made by good people, not in a platform of ideas. Instead of politics, I like to think of civic-mindedness.
Andrew: Do you have any concern for whether the internet will harm this style of music, since it seems to have found somewhat of a home online?  Do you think shining a light on the darkness might break the spell to some extent?
Curwenius: If I correctly understood the question, no, I'm not concerned. In opposite way, I think that Internet is a great channel of diffusion for this style of music. This is a way that could lead more labels to take the chance of releasing albums devoted to this genre. Thanks to the Internet we can discover without delay that a musician, no matter in which country they live, has composed a work that we not only like, but would buy also. This interview and the way we got in touch is a perfect example. I was thinking that dungeon synth styled dark ambient music hadn't found a specific group of listeners, but I've found your blog, and thanks to your blog, I've discovered a lot of dungeon synth projects, some of them superb, and I must say it's encouraging to me for composing more and more music, exploring more and more deeply this and other genres of dark ambient music.
Andrew: Are there any final words you'd like to add?
Curwenius: First of all, I would like to thank you for taking into account my work, for considering it involved with dungeon synth music, for giving me this space for expressing me and finally for your initiative and your great work in the dungeon synth blog.
I hope more labels, in the future, take the chance of releasing alternate subgenres like dungeon synth.
Andrew: Thank you very much for your kind words and for speaking with us.

You can purchase the albums from Furias Records, where one may also find Curwenius' pagan black metal project, Heulend Horn (sample track).


  1. Good to see you're still doing this blog

    1. I'll probably never stop, but there will be slow times and more active times. I'm going to try to get caught up in addressing comments and emails and such in the next month or so. I apologize to everyone for being out of touch lately.

  2. A very interesting interview, thank you.


  3. Thanks for a chance to get to know another artist. I took a listen through the discography and have to say the first effort was quite bad but the next was much better and the latest best so far. I prefer this sort of music with minimal or no vocals at all.

    1. Yeah, I can see how the vocals on the first two might be off-putting to some, but I personally think they give the music a unique primitive sort of charm that just really works for me.

  4. I listened to bands like Mortiis, Grabesmond and Summoning in the mid-late nineties and am only now starting to appreciate this obscure style of music again. Your blog has proved invaluable to this rediscovery. For that I thank you!

    Also, I wonder what you make of Burzum's 'Sôl austan, Mâni vestan'? I'd be very interested to see a review.