A Cave Dweller Music Interview With Frostgard


Coming off the back of Urulókë having a rerelease through Out of Season, Matt caught up with Frostgard to talk about the North East Dungeon Siege, the appealing mystery of Ancalagon, The Black, and being an observer of their own dark elven dungeon synth

Interview by Matt Lynch

Firstly, thank you very much for taking the time out to have a chat to us here at Cave Dweller Music. It’s greatly appreciated.

What turned me on to your music was the record that came out last year, Urulókë. For those who don’t know, each song on the record is based around a specific dragon from Tolkien’s writing. Your love for Tolkien is well documented, with thanks being given on almost every release you’ve put out. I’d like to split this question into two parts. Firstly, what is your origin story with regards to reading Tolkien and how’d that translate into your music?

I started reading Professor Tolkien’s works when I was very young, around the age of ten, and I was immediately captivated by his fantasy storytelling. Tolkien’s ability to transport you to magical places, always with nature on the axis and friendship as a key ingredient in each of his stories, has been and always will be my main source of inspiration. Therefore, before I started recording my music, I knew that it would be inspired by the stories of Middle-earth, and especially by those of the Silmarillion, as I always felt curiosity and admiration for the great stories that this book hides, one of the darkest, saddest and most unknown of all Tolkien’s works.

Secondly, what lead to the decision to focus on his interpretation of dragons for the most recent record?

The figure of the dragon as a mythological and fantastic being has always impressed me a lot, from the dragon Fáfnir in the story of Sigurd to Ursula K. Le Guin’s description of the dragons in Earthsea, they have always seemed to me creatures worthy of admiration. Tolkien’s dragons immediately caught my attention because some of them are very unknown. Apart from Smaug, whose story is told well in The Hobbit, and Glaurung, whom we know from The Children of Húrin, the rest of the dragons remain in the shadows. It is this curiosity to know more about their stories that led me to compose music about them, as well as the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the stories of the Silmarillion.

Out of all the dragons that are mentioned on this record, I always found Ancalagon the Black the most interesting because it has so little written about it but is talked about with such fervour and interest. Do you think that mystery surrounding leads itself to spurring on the imagination?

I totally believe it. Ancalagon the Black is a fascinating dragon, but we know little about him. It is known that he is the mightiest of all the dragons created by Morgoth, and that he played an important role in the War of Wrath. We know that he was slayed by Eärendil with the grace of Thorondor, and all the atmosphere around this story is what I tried to capture in the song. The beginning of the song tries to narrate the despair caused by the war, the sorrow of the Elves and the Valar, then continues with the appearance of the terrible black dragon, and finally ends with the battle in which Thorondor appears in the sky.

But there are even more unknown dragons than Ancalagon, for example Lhamthanc and Gostir, of which only a few words are mentioned, leaving the door open to the imagination.

A lot of the artworks used for the releases were photos taken by your friend Daniel Ricarte, if I’m not mistaken, and those photos are often of the scenery around the Girona province where you’re currently living. Do you find that including those personal elements into the Frostgard project injects some personal connection into them?

Daniel Ricarte is the illustrator of Frostgard. Daniel and I have been friends since school and he knows how to capture the spirit of my project in his illustrations. His artworks are inspired by Professor Tolkien’s own illustrations, as seen in the album ‘The Last Letter of Winter’, based on Tolkien’s Father Christmas letters. The rest of the covers are mainly inspired by the stories of the Silmarillion, always with the character of Sisslith as part of the illustration, all with a simple and old school drawing style, which is the one I like.

The photos where I appear in different places around Girona and the Pyrenees have been taken by different friends and people around me who have always supported me with my project, and they are photographs that usually accompany the release of my albums as an aesthetic part of my work.

I think that the union of both things (illustrations and photographs) gives Frostgard a point of uniqueness within the common practice of composing music based on the world of J. R. R. Tolkien.

To contrast with that personal inclusion of working with your friend and the province you’re from, there’s this character Sisslith that is present throughout all the releases and you’ve described them as a Tom Bombadil like observer where the origin is murky and they’ve always been there. To you, what does Sisslith mean in terms of the music you release?

In terms of music, Sisslith is me and they’re also the character who composes the music I release. It is the “music maker” inside me, my most personal, dark and unknown part. As you say, I like to think that it is a kind of bridge that connects me with the fantastic worlds that inspire my music, like a kind of muse. I see Sisslith as a character who observes stories and translates them into another type of art, as you say, a kind of “Tom Bombadil” who rarely intervenes in the designs of the world and mostly learns from the facts.

Earlier this year, you performed in America as part of Northeast Dungeon Siege with an enormous amount of dungeon synth artists. Off the back of successful Kickstarter to get the festival up and going, how did you find performing there in Worcester?

It was a great adventure. I really enjoyed the experience. It was my first trip to the United States and everything was very new for me. It was also the first time I played live in front of an audience and this made me quite nervous, since I am a shy and somewhat insecure person. Josh, Shane, Tirith Moon and Rei (the organizers) helped me a lot, they lent me a keyboard and a gong to play, and thanks to them everything was much easier. It was great to be able to meet so many friends that I only knew through social media, and it was also incredible to meet so many artists that I admire in person. It was a great experience to visit some forests around Worcester and to do a photoshoot with Peter Beste and Erang in an old cemetery too.

Focusing on the performance, I think it was well received by the audience. I like to take great care of the composition and interpretation of music, but also of the aesthetics and atmosphere that is created in the performance, and I think I achieved the result I wanted in Northeast Dungeon Siege. They were very happy days and I would like to come back someday.

Is there a similar festival to Northeast Dungeon Siege in Europe?

I think the most important Dungeon Synth festival at the moment in Europe is the Dark Dungeon Festival, which takes place in April at Anthisnes Castle in Belgium. I have had the opportunity to attend both editions as audience and, in my opinion, it is a great festival, with a lineup very oriented towards the old ways of Dungeon Synth, with artists as iconic as Depressive Silence, Old Tower or Mortiis, with performances that is worth seeing once in a lifetime. On the other hand, the environment in which the festival is held is very appropriate, the atmosphere of the castle, the small villages in the countryside and the nature make this festival a very special event that I recommend to any fan of Dark Dungeon Music.

During your interview with Italian website, The Black Chalice, you mentioned that you find winter to be the season that you are most creative in. Why do you think that is so?

I’ve always been a winter person. I think it is the most introspective and silent season of the year, and the one that inspires me the most to create music. Snowy mountains and forests, as well as dark days and rainy afternoons, always invite me to sit in the studio and compose something new. I think there is a kind of connection between the melancholic and nostalgic tone of my music and the seasons of autumn and winter, and that is why I like them so much.

Furthermore, the festivities celebrated at this time of year have always seemed very inspiring and related to nature to me, and this atmosphere is very much present in the little towns of Girona and the Catalan Pyrenees. The small artisan markets, typical foods and the smell of firewood, chestnuts and pine are always a constant at this magical time of year.

After the release of Valaquenta, you began collaborating with other Dungeon Synth projects such as Deep Gnome, Eternal and Arcana Liturgia. What’s the process like for you during these collaborative recordings?

It has been an honor to collaborate with different artists during these years. In the case of Deep Gnome, I asked him to make a song for my album “The Last Letter of Winter” and he immediately accepted and made a very appropriate theme, inspired by old winter days. He is a great artist and I was very happy to have his collaboration on this album. With Eternal, we decided to do a split, making three songs each and putting them all together in a single album, which we titled “Purple Moonlight“. This work is something different from the ones I have made before, and I was able to explore this more melodic record thanks to the help of this great artist. Finally, Lord of Time from Arcana Liturgia has always been a great friend and support for me, he has always given me good advice regarding music and it was a great opportunity to have his voice for the last song of “Tales from Nan Elmoth ” which tells the story of Aredhel and the fall of Gondolin.

I’ve seen talk regarding a split you’d planned to do with Arcana Liturgia, do we have any update of when that is set to come out?

Yes, we are working on it right now. During my last stay in Belgium I had the opportunity to do another photoshoot with Peter Beste and Lord of Time, in the old castle of Franchimont, where we took some incredible photos that we will use for this split. The theme and characteristics of the songs will be revealed in due course, and the release is planned for within one or two months.

On the topic of Valaquenta, the release of it was done in two parts. What was the thought behind putting out the record over two parts?

When I started recording Valaquenta I, I didn’t think many people would be interested in it. I did it more for myself, not really knowing where this project would take me. When I shaped it and saw the final result, I knew that I had to complete the cycle by making another album about the rest of the Valar, so that the work would be complete. I remember with great nostalgia the days when I recorded these albums, whose songs I composed many years ago, they always bring back good memories.

From what I can see, a lot of your release have come via Out of Season label. How’d the partnership with them come about?

It is a great honor for me to work with Out of Season. It’s a great label and I love the way they work. They contacted me in 2022 to release a vinyl and CD version of my first two albums (Valaquenta I & II) and I have been working with them ever since. They also released my recent album Urulókë on cassette and we have some projects for the future.

What’s the plan for near future and or the rest of the year?

My new album ‘Coranar’ based on the Elven seasons of Middle-earth is about to be released, probably by mid to late June. I’m working on my split with Arcana Liturgia and a split with Grimdor is in the works too. Also, I will be performing at a live festival in November, which is going to be announced soon. There is a lot to do and I’m very happy to be able to continue creating music in this Dungeon Synth niche.

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