As founders of Healing Tales, we have been heavily listening to Dungeon Synth which comprises of a subgenre of dark ambient music that developed with the medieval influenced lo-fi interludes of black metal craftsmen like Mortiis or Summoning.
Dungeon Synth has a wide range of sub-branches however generally assigns melodies that cause the audience to feel like they're in a medieval/fantasy dream scene; from enchanted fairy woodlands to the most obscure and darkest dungeons. Most of our preferred artists are represented by Out of Season label: one of the pioneers of Dungeon Synth genre in North America and Europe. Along these lines, we needed to connect with them so as to pose a couple of inquiries and they sympathetically acknowledged. You will find the entire interview's transcript right below.
Interview with Out of Season label
First of all we would like to thank you for allowing us some of your time. Being absolute fans of your work, it is with great honor that we are interviewing you for Healing Tales. Many of the artists present in your label are huge influence to us and to the spirit and soul of the brand.
When did the first idea of creating the label come about? Could you describe your team?
Mid 2015, I decided I wanted to start a new label which focused exclusively on Dungeon Synth, Dark Ambient and Black Metal. I wanted to keep my scope limited to have a dedicated focus - people would know what they are getting if they bought a release from me blindly. I was heavily into black metal from the early 00's on and running another small label in that time, so I would sometimes get tapes or CDs of artists like Elffor, Vinterriket, which I always loved due to their fantasy and ambient atmospheric qualities and wanted to strictly focus on this kind of music. Since I had prior experience running a small label, it made my ability to start a new label much easier than if I had to figure everything out from scratch, like how to get stuff manufactured, distributed, etc.
I don't have a 'team' really - Out of Season is a one person operation and has been since the beginning... I'm now in year 5 of operation and I'm proud to be a 100% independent and DIY label still! For the time being, it still works to do things this way but it is a lot of work on top of my regular job, at times! But I cannot complain - If I didn't like doing the label anymore or it wasn't exciting anymore, I would just stop.
The label is not tied to my ability to make money personally and pay my personal bills etc - that's what my regular job is for. So, that gives me a lot more of a freedom to stay true to my core ethos and not just release something only because 'it will sell' and be profitable.
Is Out of Season the first label to be covering Dungeon Synth in North America? Could you give us some insight on how you found out about Dungeon Synth?
I wouldn't ever claim to be the first label to release "Dungeon Synth" in North America, as it would be incorrect. But, I will say, there was a lack of a label in North America who specialized in releasing this kind of music explicitly when I started.
This style of music was re--emerging in 2013/2014/2015 with a small group of very dedicated individuals. But aside from a few labels like Deivlforst Records, Wulfrune Worxxx, Lighten Up Sounds to name a few, no one really was carrying this kind of music for sale. Even when it was for sale, the editions were extremely small runs of 25-50 and they would take a long time to 'sell out' even with such low numbers. So when I started it was just a passion project really, with no long term goals other than just releasing this kind of music and trying to get it distributed more widely. My very first releases were 100 copies each and that was a very big number at the time and they took about a year to sell them all!
When I first heard of this style of music it wasn't "dungeon synth" - it was just "dark ambient music made by black metal musicians" - that is how I first became aware of this style back in about 2002-2003 after reading 'Lords of Chaos', in which various side projects of these infamous Norwegian black metal artists were discussed, like Mortiis (Emperor) and Wongraven (Satyricon).
These are all keyboard driven, dark, atmospheric synth works and provide the backbone of the genre known today as 'dungeon synth' - a term which was coined by Andrew Werdna in 2013 when he started dungeonsynth.blogspot.com. I had a few of these classic releases over the years since first learning about the style, but really started getting heavily into this kind of music around that time Andrew was posting regularly, thanks to his blog and other pages like the original facebook Dungeon Synth page, which was run partially by Grimrik from Deivlforst Records (Germany). Speaking of, any history of our label would not be complete without mentioning Deivlforst. This label had a huge influence on me wanting to start my label, as they were one of the very few releasing 'dungeon synth' music back in 2013/2014 era, along with black metal releases,too. I still draw a ton of inspiration from this label, and am very proud to have collaborated with the owners Grimrik and Murgrind on a number of projects at this point.
Your records are currently available in Europe, North America and Australia. Do you have any plans on reaching a larger audience? For example in Africa (places like South Africa, Nigeria etc.) or Asia (places like Japan, Korea etc.)?
I would love to have my music available everywhere, but to date I dont have much interest from places like Asia or Africa. I do have a few customers in Japan/China, and i'd love to expand there. I'm always looking for new distribution partners, but overall I try to make my releases widely available.
What other distribution channels do you use? (Apple, Spotify, social media etc.)
You can find us on Youtube, Bandcamp, Instagram, and Facebook currently. I don't plan to expand much beyond that - We want the label to be focused on physical releases first and foremost and they are the core of our operation.
I do not offer our works on Spotify or other streaming services etc currently... but all my releases do come with a Bandcamp redemption card for stream/download.
If you get the Bandcamp app on your phone, it is an extremely easy solution to listen/stream. You can also know that if you support in this way, the artists and label are being fairly compensated, which may not be the case with some of the big streaming companies unless you are getting millions and millions of plays which I do not expect would ever happen, given the small scope of the DS 'scene' currently.
What is your relationship with medieval and fantasy aesthetics? Have you grown up influenced by that particular genre via literature? If so, please share with us the books or movies or that have had the most impact on you.
Of course this is a big influence on me and the label in general, and you can see it reflected in many of my releases. I grew up reading many fantasy and mythology books, my favorites being Tolkien (of course), Greek & Norse mythology, Robert Jordan, RA Salvatore, books about the middle ages, arms/armor, etc. Dungeon Synth kind of goes hand in hand with fantasy and rpg perfectly.
Where do you find such talented and ambitious artists?
At this point, 5 years into the label, we have a small but dedicated roster of artists who we have worked with for a long time now on multiple releases. Our roster of artists know they will always be treated fairly, and that OoS will always release a high quality final product to present their art in the best light possible, and also help to get them distributed far and wide.
Other than that, I am always on the hunt for new and interesting works. Sometimes I may want to reissue an album to a wider audience that perhaps only had minimal distribution previously, or was something from 20 years ago that is under the radar.
Basically I just know what I like, and trust my instincts - I release items that I personally would want to own myself, and I'm happy if anyone agrees with me and wants to own it too.
There's a wonderful job behind the packagings and the overall look of all your releases. Are you thinking it through conceptually with each artist?
A lot of my artists do their own artwork and have a piece already suggested. I'm totally open to this and we typically work together to finalize the layout, so it's a very hand in hand approach, which I think is appreciated. I'm sure some labels just 'sign' an artist and they have no say in what the final product looks like, which must really suck from an artist perspective, so I would never operate that way. I like to collaborate on these.
Acquiring a release from Fief really made us delve in nostalgia and brought us back to the old days of amazing packaging. Are you a collector yourself? What would be your favorite art cover?
Yes I am a big collector and keep a copy of almost every item I distribute, so that grows my personal collection all the time. I have been collecting vinyl, tapes and CDs since the late 90s and love physical media. Not just because it's what I grew up with - I think it's important to still produce and be able to hold that item in your hands to get the full 'essence' and spirit of the release.
Favorite cover art.... So hard to say just one... but some of my favorite cover art recently have been done by Dan Capp, Silvana Massa, Igor Mugerza, Ainul Ilbis, Jesse Jacobi, Paolo Girardi, to name a few…
Could you give us an insight on what the future holds out for Out of Season?
Well, I just released FIEF "V" and GARGOYLIUM "Mon Royaume" on vinyl (Aug 2020) so that is a big milestone for me. This year we've done our first vinyl releases and hope to make more in the future. Up next will be the SHADOW DUNGEON / FOREST TEMPLE split tape, SKARPSEIAN & MEDHELAN represses, MOURNFUL MOON demo tape, SEQUESTERED KEEP reissues, ANCIENT BOREAL FOREST and more... i'm always planning something…
For producers out there sending in their demos via emails, what are some tips you would give them on professionally sending in their track to you?
Don't rush your work. Take time to craft. Treat it like you're a band recording an album, who would go back and make tweaks after listening to it a bunch of times. Bands dont release 10 albums a year. They release one and have it be as good as possible. Quality over quantity is key, but that is just my opinion personally.
I especially suggest artists to send a physical tape or CD to my PO box. This might sound outdated, but this can make you stand out in 2020. It will immediately get attention, because i'll have it sitting on my desk looking back at me, instead of just a link in an email folder, you know? It also shows effort and dedication on your part to do so.
You sign an artist to Out of Season. What happens next? Can you give us a very brief overview?
Everything is dealt on a case by case basis, so there is not a one size fits all approach, but I always work in conjunction with my artists and share previews of the art/layout etc along the way to make sure they are happy with the work too, not just me. It's important that my artists have a chance to shape the final product, too, since it is their creation after all.
Thank you for answering our questions and for your time, we are really honoured!
Cheers, thank you for the thoughtful questions. You can find us at the following: