VOYAGE DANS LA CITE ENFOUIE : INTERVIEW AVEC ARSULE - DUNGEON SYNTH - FRENCH/ENGLISH
Je pense que c’est pour l’instant mon album le plus abouti musicalement. Il y a une certaine douceur dans les mélodies, un caractère épique et aussi cette magie que beaucoup reconnaissent à mon projet. Je ne sais pas ce que ça vaut mais dans l’ambiance, on compare souvent mon style à celui de Summoning.
INTERVIEW WITH ARSULE
Hello Arsule! You're a young girl from Nantes who practices Dungeon Synth... Can you tell us a bit more about you ?
Hello Pierre. I'd say I'm an effervescent and calm creator, rather indomitable and passionate. When I put my mind to it, I'm efficient. Between music and drawing, I work with leather embossing, I paint, I do linocutting, I make all sorts of objects that I sell partly on the internet, I do a little photography and above all I write, mainly poems. Eventually I would like to write books, but it will have to be "something". I am very demanding about writing, I will take as much time as I need. I love the French language too much, I wouldn't want to spoil it with an insipid book. I think I have the soul of a poetess at heart, I often see things through this sensitive eye, it's part of my personality. Sometimes I have what I call "fulgurances". They are jewels to be preserved that I am always afraid of losing, thus creating tension. I have a rather vast universe and I have almost no constraints in terms of style or mediums. However, despite a great variety of creations, you can recognize "my paw" from quite a distance. I don't really do it on purpose. I experiment a lot in my compositions, I also feel my way around. In Arsule, the albums are all very different from each other, but my signature remains. In short, I spend most of my free time in these solitary activities, which often require patience and meticulousness. It's only when I'm with others that I get bored! But anyway, I still enjoy them, haha.
As a teenager, I frequented the "making" community, passionate amateurs who create their own video games. Some composed their own music. That's how I discovered a free and cheap MIDI software called Anvil Studio. For several years, I was composing very occasionally on this software, the style was quite strange. I discovered the dungeon synth a few years ago, it's a friend of mine who showed it to me and told me that I would like it. So I started with Fief, then one thing led to another and a whole world opened up for me. It was my meeting with Stuurm in 2018 that led to the creation of Arsule. He listened to my MIDI sketches and encouraged me to switch to a more professional software, FL Studio. He himself has a very nice synth dungeon project called Gargoylium. It's quite naturally that I turned to this genre, even if my very first compositions were more in the order of the mysticism of Ancient Greece. It must be said that I didn't really have any other string to my bow: I didn't play instruments and the composition was a distant dream for me. I have always admired the work of musicians, and I still do.
Thank you! Indeed, I love the Middle Ages. I love old stones, gothic cathedrals, roman churches, castles, medieval cities with their half-timbered houses. These places make me travel, feel their life from the depths of time. I have a strong need to escape and this time inspires me, I sometimes have an uncontrollable thirst for medievalism, which led me to imagine the latest album "Qve Torment Face Grace". The illuminations, this goldsmith's work which offers a symbolic and often religious reading, are jewels of humanity. Alchemy and heraldry are also symbolic languages that speak to me and interest me. I admire the know-how of the craftsmen of the time, as well as that of the journeymen builders. The Middle Ages is a rich, inspiring period that lasted more than a thousand years and which was long underestimated. I also enjoy listening to the reminiscences of old legends of local folklore, which one of my friends tells to perfection.
I am just as fascinated by the period of antiquity, as much with the Celts or the Scandinavians as in Greece or Mesopotamia with the Sumerians. Mythological legends, writing, craftsmanship and lifestyles interest me more than wars or great feats.
Older women either, by the way. For a very long time I've been evolving in predominantly male circles. I've been playing video games since I was very young, games that are mostly designed for boys. I've never had a big brother, but you could say that the internet has been my big brother, through online friends and all the knowledge available. I've made a good part of my culture thanks to the internet. As a teenager I started to discover music through it, it was more metal (doom, sludge, sympho, a bit of black and death), gothic music (coldwave, post punk, batcave, ...), then industrial and experimental music. I didn't know anyone to talk about music with at the time because I had rather atypical tastes. When I started going to concert halls, there was an overwhelming majority of men. I also pursued my "geekeries" in a board game and role-playing association where again I was almost exclusively male. Unsurprisingly, in the dungeon synth, it was exactly the same! For my part, I never really asked myself a question like "What am I doing in there? ». My tastes are what they are and I've never deprived myself of loving something. I'm always fairly well accepted in these predominantly male circles, even if I'm not always taken as seriously as I would like. Nowadays, I have a lot of girlfriends who are a bit "out of the ordinary" and have atypical tastes like me. I dared to get into dungeon synth just like anyone else and without much ambition. It's part of the spirit of dungeon synth, it's the stuff you tinker with in your room, with the curtains closed. I've given up my perfectionism through music, otherwise I'd never have been able to get anything out. When I compose or create, I forget who I am, I forget that I'm a woman, I'm neither a woman nor a man.
On the other hand, I never really understood why all these things attracted less female audiences and why female artists were even rarer in these circles. Dungeon synth seems to be a pretty accessible genre to me though. I don't know very many female artists, maybe some of them don't promote it? In France I could quote the excellent Dame Silú from Mordomoire as well as Rêvoeil and in the US the late Morrowdim...
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I have the impression that women are generally less go-getter in this environment. There is a plethora of projects, almost exclusively male and of varying quality. The women who "dare" to take the plunge really have "something in the belly" and that translates into their own sensitivity, originality and quality. Moreover, dungeon synth is very much linked to black metal and geek/fantasy circles where women are already under-represented.
The message? The message is to make you dream, to transport you a little bit out of this abrupt modern world. I was quite badly at the time of the composition of this album, it was an outlet, it was like a wish that I was making, the one that the torments stop (and today it's much better fortunately). As I said earlier, this album also responded to a visceral need for medievalism. I needed to live in another time, a time that was a bit fantasised and embellished. I was violently repulsed by today's world. There are certain tracks on the new album which are more free, less medieval. As I have no real notion of musical theory, I tried to make it sound medieval, without it being medieval music in the strict sense of the word. Like most of my albums, this one's a journey, but not as narrative as others which are composed as stages of a story. I provided the track "Oiselle" with a clip that transcribes a little the visual universe of this album. It can be seen on Youtube. As for the cover, I designed it in a slightly naïve style reminiscent of medieval illuminations.
I think it's my most musically accomplished album so far. There's a certain sweetness in the melodies, an epic character and also this magic that many people recognise in my project. I don't know what it's worth, but in the mood, people often compare my style to Summoning.
Just so. I've been listening to a lot of black metal in the last few years. It's even my favorite kind of metal. I listen to it much more often than dungeon synth for example. I'm particularly attracted by the keyboard black second wave, the epic, pagan or viking and medieval black. But I don't exclusively listen to albums in these genres, I allow myself a lot of discoveries. Strangely, in general, the albums that touch me the most are the first albums of the bands.
I do a lot of gigs to support the stage, as well as some fests.
Less than I'd like. I often think I don't read enough. Heroic fantasy is full of universes that speak to me, mainly through movies and video games. As far as fantasy literature is concerned, I've mostly read Terry Pratchett's Annals of the Record World, which I've devoured! It's very rich and absolutely funny. It's going to sound pretty classic, but I love the incredible richness of Tolkien's universe. In another style I love Lovecraft or even Conan the Barbarian. Otherwise in romance literature I'm rather classical: Flaubert, Proust, Camus, and Giono, where the name Arsule comes from. Giono is beautiful. You have to read Regain, it's the poetry of rurality. As mentioned above, I also belonged to a board games and role-playing association where all this is very present. In my music I explore a mix between these influences and the romantic universe that I would symbolize by the "melancholy of the ruins".
It's very variable. I go a lot by feeling. Sometimes I have an idea in the back of my mind, a song title, a precise atmosphere to transcribe and I put myself in this desired state of mind to compose. In "La Cité Enfouie" and "Fumeterre" I had determined in advance the structure of the album, the stages of the journey, with names and a precise atmosphere. Then, on each track, I advance little by little. I make the arrangements as I go along, before I finish the track. That explains some sometimes abrupt changes and a continuous evolution, full of twists and turns in my songs. I tend to be very creative, I have dozens and dozens of songs in stock, finished or unfinished, that will never see the light of day. As far as the composition of the melodies is concerned, sometimes I go in blind, but often I have melodies in my head that I try to transcribe. I work exclusively by computer on FL Studio and I compose each note with a click, without playing first. Sometimes it takes several tries before I find the right note, but it's usually done quite intuitively. So I don't have much of a real musician!
When we listen to you we feel like an accomplished musician...Is there a musical apprenticeship behind all this?
Thank you, that's very flattering. No, I compose mainly by ear. And if I learned on the job and acquired some basic notions as I experimented, I'm still very far from knowing music theory. I have a grandfather who was a multi-instrumentalist and who played without any knowledge of music theory, I like to think that I inherited a little bit from him for the ear. However, I am not resistant to the idea of learning theory, it's a project, one might say. But for the moment I can continue to compose like this, depending on my mood and it suits me very well.