First off, could you sum up to our readers what Sombre Soniks & Sombre Soniks Studios are about?
P23 > Hello there... Firstly, Sombre Soniks Studios was started to provide a mixing & mastering service for artists, specialising in thee darker forms of Muziks, which of kourse spans anything from Dark & Ritual Ambient to some sub-genres of Metal to some forms of Dance and Hip Hop. Sombre Soniks was then set up after this as both a platform to showkase thee artists that I am working with and my services as offered by SSS... From this it has now expanded to inlklude thee free kompilation releases that I have been organising and also other works from artists that I feel have a genuine, strong Ritual or Ethnomusikologikal atmosphere and/or way of approaching their sounds.
Are you the sole person working behind the two entities?
P23 > There is a Network of allies that help with thee releases and promotion, etc inlkuding thee Dutch visual artist Fabian van der Meer, who has provided some excellent promotional short films for thee kompilations, thee Danish artist Madguten and his excellent mirrored processing of some of his paintings to kreate thee 23 ‘info kards’ for each of thee Dark Ambient kompilations and Marc Hoyland who has been helping with thee kreation of thee promotional flyers and artwork for Alchemist and Plaguewielder). I also rely partly on thee artist themselves to help with thee promotion, etc as part of thee ‘kollaborative’ ethos that I try to follow with thee label...
Dark Ambient is rarely the first musical thing a person gets involved with, be it either as something to listen or something to create. How did you originally drift into the fields of dark ambient, and more specifically into ritual music?
P23 > I have always been drawn to ‘darker’ and more ‘extreme’ Muziks and, through this, I diskovered thee works of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Virgin Prunes, Psychick TV, etc... A few years after this I was introduced to thee early Muziks of Hybryds, Sigillum S and Zero Kama when a new aquaintence likened my own Muziks to some of their releases. This was a perfekt blend for me of thee soundskapes that I had grown so fond of, plus a strong Tibetan/Eastern feel, which was another interest of mine. I have always had a strong interest in thee traditional Ritual Muziks of various kultures and this study led to my Final Major Projekt whilst studying a Music Production kourse entitled ‘'Thee Ritual Muziks of Non-Western Civilisations'. Through this I was able to explore thee tonal qualities, instrumentation, alternative muzikal skales, overtone theories and thee psykoakoustiks of a variety of kultures inkluding Tibetan, Indonesian, Tuvan and Mongolian as applied to their religious rituals.
I know you have a long history working with your ritual/ambient-act Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, but what other working experience, studies or training have you had?
P23 > I have personally been working with both thee kreative and teknikal aspekts of sound for 22 years, exploring and developing my knowledge and skills. I have a 'Ritual Ambient' projekt, 'Akoustik Timbre Frekuency', for which I have had 17 releases and 5 re-releases over thee last 10 years. I have also kreated exklusive kompositions for over 30 kompilation albums. I have gained experience in mixing and mastering various Projekts over thee years including work for Vuz Rekords (Germany), Quartier23 (Germany), Le Crépuscule du Soir (France), Zos Kia Sounds Recordings, Naturmacht (Germany), Hoyland (Norway), Melankolia (USA), Druhá Smrt (Czech Republic), Spagirus (Amerika), Sound Skrapes (Amerika), Ouroboros (Italy), Snowfade (Italy), Black Sun Temple (Holland) and Tamerlan (Serbia).
I gained some experience in beta-testing new audio software over thee years, utilising my expertise with komputer Muziks software. At thee end of 2003, I was part of thee beta-testing team working for the Sonic Charge software team for thee new MikroTone drum makhine program. I also helped to beta-test thee Propellerheads Rekord software. I also got thee opportunity to help konstrukt and work for 7 years as a studio engineer for both an analogue rekording studio and digital produktion suite. I took part in thee design and build of thee analogue and digital studios and dealt with thee general maintenance of these. I also supported and supervised thee rekording, mixing and mastering processes as well as setting up and maintaining Mac Pros, iMacs and Mac Book Pros (running Reason 3.5, Logic Studio 9 and Final Cut Pro) and PCs (running Premiere Pro, After Effekts and Audition).
I have studied a formal two year ‘Music Production’ kourse in thee past which kovered many subjekts inkluding Computer Music Production, Sound Creation & Manipulation, Modern Composition, Studio Production, Audio Recording, etc.
I am presently kontinuing my studies with a BA degree in Creative Music Production.
How do you find and choose the bands which you'll give a release on your label? What is it that a band must possess to be a part of your roster, and are there some certain no-factors you won't allow? There's a huge mass of dark ambient-groups, both good and bad, so I would assume it takes a lot of effort to pick up the best ones from the mass.
P23 > I just know... I feel it, straight away... If I get that feeling... Then I take note and see if they would be interested in kollaborating with thee label... That simple really... I have had thee same feeling thee first time I heard Alchemist, Druhá Smrt, Plaguewielder... It needs to bring something extra to thee usual sounds and themes associated with thee genres they work within, whether it be thee quality of thee produktion, thee Muziks themselves or even thee methodology behind their kreative processes. In this respekt, I must give special mention to Druhá Smrt , who I have had thee privilege of following through their next release with Sombre Soniks, scheduled for November. Thee Process involved is something to be respekted for its genuine approach to thee ‘Ritual’ side of Muziks.
Thee recent release by The Grave Dominion is another good example as this kombines an expert ability to transition between genres effortlessly with a minute attention to detail when it komes to thee produktion side of their material.
Does Sombre Soniks perhaps have an ideological basis? I've come to understand that you're a practitioner of occult yourself, correct?
P23 > Thee main ethos is purely to Ritual workings and Ethnik Muziks that I feel deserve more attention. Thee label itself has no specifik ‘okkult fokus’, it is left open for thee Artists to express themselves within thee ‘belief-system’ they see fit.
I am indeed also very interested shamanik/okkult working personally and have been experimenting with various systems for over 20 years now kulminating in thee synthesis of my own personal way of working, but I try not to let this kolour thee ethos or feel of thee label. I strongly feel it is up to thee individual to diskover their own path and not to blindly follow thee ramblings of another... Another ideal that seems to be held in high regard by thee more Ritual-based Projekts I have been working with under thee Sombre Soniks banner.
Generally, do you contact the bands, or do they contact you? If someone reading this interview is interested to get his/her material released on your label, what should they do for it to happen?
P23 > I have kontakted all of thee artists that have been released on thee label so far... As I said, I am always listening to others work and will usually kontakt thee artist if I like what I hear to either kollaborate on a release through thee label or participate on one of thee kompilations that thee label also releases.
When you were founding the label, was it obvious from the start that it'll be a digital label, or how did you make the choice? Will the future releases all be digital, or do you have some physical releases being planned?
P23 > Finances and konvenience have been thee deciding faktors so far for thee label... I feel bandcamp is a great tool for online distribution and more tools are being developed all thee time – so why not take advantage of these? Having said this, I am planning to start to work on some physikal digipak releases in thee future, starting with full album releases from Plaguewielder, Alchemist and Ulug-Khem using thee CD manufakturing service offered by AngenturThiel, a kompany I am working klosely with as an audio engineer, giving thee option to mix, master and manufakture your finished release for your projekt.
Thee Temple Ov Azathoth sister label will also be releasing a series of Lovecraft based CDs in kollaboration with Will Connor (Seesar/Vultures Quartet) & Simon Marshall Jones (Spectral Press).
Further, will your label focus solely on music, or do you have any intentions on releasing written or visual art, videos for example? Something closer to concept art, so to say.
P23 > I am open to these ideas but, for thee moment, I have been koncentrating on thee Muzikal aspekt. Although, of kourse, there is also thee visual work from thee residents artists for thee promo films, flyers and release artwork. I like to think this offers as much of a promotional platform to these artists as thee Muzikians...
Do you help the bands in providing the artwork, and are you perhaps a visual artist yourself? Have you turned down any cover artworks, or do the bands have complete freedom in choosing them?
P23 > Thee Projekts have komplete freedom over thee artistik output of their releases and so are welkome to submit their own material for this. As mentioned before, there is also a network of visual artists working with Sombre Soniks that kan provide help if needed. Granted there would be some koncepts or images that I would rejekt, but I think that this will not be an issue with thee choices I have made so far for thee label. I personally think there is a place for pushing thee boundaries of what kan be done regarding this, but that is not one of thee aims of Sombre Soniks itself and, in fakt, I kould see it distrakting from other aspekts of thee label, artists and works themselves.
One of the main things (in my opinion) you've done with Sombre Soniks is the series of Dark Ambient-compilations, which recently had its third part published. Each of the lengthy compilations has 23 tracks by differents artists and groups. You've mentioned that you started the series in order to promote otherwise unnoticed ambient-acts. This of course leads to the question of how have the compilations been received?
P23 > I have been extremely happy with thee great reception Sombre Soniks has had from both fans and artists alike, as well as some really good support from thee media via press and radio.I must thank yourselves, Aural Apocalypse, The Chestnut Tree, Xiled Radio and pan.o.ra.ma journal for their kontinued help with promotion, etc. I also have to mention thee Abismo Humano network in Portugal, who have recently offered to promote thee future releases from the label through their radio show, ‘Human Abyss’ and thee ‘Abismo Humano’& ‘Heaven Is Not Too Far’ zines .
Does it bother you that the bigger names might take attention away from the all-unknown acts on the compilations - or is their function moreso to bring more attention to the compilations' existence?
P23 > Yes, I like to have a mixture of new and established akts for this reason. If I send out a promo pak for any of these kompilations I feel it kan work both ways really – thee newer artists benefit from some exposure they may not have experienced, but also some of thee bigger, older akts kan attrakt a new listening audience that maybe had not grown up knowing of them.
One of your releases is called "Do What Thou Will," which features 34 groups remixing and otherwise editing a song by your own brain-child Akoustik Timbre Frekuency. It's easy to think that this release would be one of the highlights for your label, maybe even your musical career. How did the release come to be, and, of course, were you satisfied with the results?
P23 > Thank you for your kind words. I must whole-heartedly agree with you, DWTW was an amazing projekt and, I feel, highly underrated haha... It started with the idea to send out a gift of a raw, purely akoustik rekording to some friends and it wasn’t long before I was approached with thee idea of various artists sampling and utilising thee material... From this I decided it would be a great opportunity to kollaborate with some of my favourite artists and friends and asked people to kreate something with thee piece... When asked what they kould do with thee akoustik session, I found myself repeating ‘Do What Thou Will’ over and over and, from this, thee title was kreated...
Other than that, what've been your highlight moments with Sombre Soniks?
P23 > Everything so far really... It has been a great challenge and also given me thee opportunity to work klosely with some extremely talented artists.
Do you have other theme-compilations coming up or being planned, akin to the mentioned "DWTW"-release?
P23 > I am in thee very early planning stages for another Ritual kompilation release along thee same lines as this, but that is all thee info I kan give at this time... It is okkult afterall... ;)
Can you yet reveal any releases you have coming up on the label? I'm particularly interested in the next Alchemist-EP.
P23 > Lots of artists lined up for thee koming months, inkluding thee highly anticipated Alchemist ‘Earth’ ep to komplete thee ‘Elemental’ series of works for thee label. In thee koming months I will also be releasing material by Colossloth, Pauahtun, Grey Light Shade, Babalith as well as a series of Vulture’s releases based around their kollaborations with various traditional instrumentalists from around thee world .
You've mentioned founding a sub-label "Temple Ov Azathoth," which would be focused on works focused on or influenced by H. P. Lovecraft's works and the Cthulhu mythos in general. What is the label's current situation, and what do you have planned for its future?
P23 > This is an extremely exciting Projekt, that will konsist of a series of ten releases featuring readings of short stories, from both Lovecraft and more kontemporary prose, with akkompanying bakground atmospheres kreated by a range of artists.
Thee first in thee series will be kreated by my own projekt, Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, and Will Connor of Vultures Quartet with thee talented aktor Jake Harders providing his excellent vokal skills for thee readings.
Thee literary side of this Projekt will be in thee very kapable hands of Simon Marshall-Jones, from Spectral Press, and thee release itself will konsist of a CD, with both instrumental and narrated versions of thee kompositions, plus a small booklet with all of thee relevant writings inkluded. We are in thee process of rekording thee first release at thee moment, with thee sekond already in thee planning stages!
To me, it's clear you have quite a lot of experience from the field you're now working in. What was it that originally gave you the idea that you should start offering mixing & mastering services on a professional level?
P23 > I decided it was time to try to leave thee studio work and koncentrate on working with Projekts that I kan identify with and relate to and, through this, offer a service that is komplimentary to some of thee more obskure genres & sub-genres involved within thee ‘dark music scene’. It also offers me an interesting and challenging experience rather than thee usual ‘make it loud’ produktion that is prevalent within some of thee more mainstream genres.
You've mainly done mixing & mastering work to groups playing dark ambient and ritual music. Is this a matter of your personal preference, or perhaps a result of old acquaintances and thus the mere beginning stage of your work? In other words, do you see yourself doing studio-work for groups playing other types of music (metal, punk, whatever) if you're contacted by a such group? Noting the name "Sombre Soniks," though, I would assume your aim is to work with darker music.
P23 > I would have to say it is partly through aquaintance, partly through wanting to offer a specialist service for this side of things as I mentioned before. I am open to other forms of Muziks though, of kourse, and have experience working with everything from Metal to Hip Hop to Pop to Dance through my years working in rekording and produktion studios.
How does it feel to be responsible for the end result of some artist's work and vision? Do you ever get nervous or scared when working on someone else's album? I could ask the same about the remixes you've done for some artists, such as the ones you've done for Alchemist's EPs.
P23 > It is thee best and worst experience haha. Happy to give my best, but always thinking there must be that something extra I kan do haha... I always want to do my best for thee artist, whether it be for a release on thee label or thee produktion work for release elsewhere.
I really enjoy working on these releases, like thee Alchemist ep’s for example, and losing myself kompletely within thee sounds. I like to try to augment what is already there within thee works and so try to ‘live’ thee releases for thee period I am doing this.
Regarding the above, what kind of discussions do you have with your "employers" when you're working on their material; what kind of methods do you use to understand what the artist's going for? How is the overall process; do you send files forth and back throughout the mixing, or how do you go about it?
P23 > There is usually a lot of diskussion between myself and thee Projekts involved to make sure I am fully aware of what is expekted from thee work that I do and what ‘sound’ they are trying to achieve. I will also send several versions of thee finished master so that thee kustomer will have a choice of masters, each with a slightly different emphasis on thee sounds and instrumentation within their kompositions.
Have you done any additional instrumentation for the albums you've worked on? You have a long history of working with various acoustic instruments, so I wouldn't be too amazed if some would've asked for your contribution.
P23 > I was invited to kreate thee vokals for thee new Plaguewielder ep, which was a lot of fun, and will be working klosely with them on this in thee future. I also form half of thee ‘Ulug-Khem’ projekt, with Timur from Tamerlan, utilising a variety of my akoustik intruments to provide thee bakground atmospheriks for his wonderful guitar pieces.
I asked the same regarding your label; what does a band need to do to get you to mix/master their works?
P23 > They simply have to kontakt me via thee main website, email or my Facebook page. From there we kan sort out thee details and start to determine what is expekted from thee service, etc...
Whose material are you currently working on with SSS?
P23 > Recently I have kompleted thee mastering work for thee debut ep by Druhá Smrt, released on thee Sombre Soniks label. I have also had thee pleasure of mixing and mastering thee latest Melankolia release, ‘III’, to be released on Quartier23 in June and have been booked to work on thee next Tamerlan full release for thee same label.
I have been taken on as an in-house post produktion engineer for thee European sektion of thee Zos Kia Sounds Records label and, for my first assignment, I am in thee process of mastering thee next Vulture’s Quartet release for a vinyl release later this year. Also, I work with thee AgenturThiel kompany in Germany as an audio engineer for their CD manufakturing service, specialising in small runs of digipak format releases.
If you have something to add, advertise or what-not, do it. This paragraph is for whatever you want to say.
P23 > Firstly, I’d like to thank all of thee Projekts that have taken part and helped support Sombre Soniks so far, both through thee kompilations and main releases with thee label, and look forward to working with them all much more in thee future. There are already many more interesting releases lined up for thee rest of this year and thee expansion to physikal produkts is going to be a great step forwards, so I am hoping for a very positive future for thee label and studio itself...
Thank you for your time.
P23 > Many thanks to you at DBL for this opportunity and for your kontinued support.
- Priapus23 / Sombre Soniks Studios