Monday, 30 September 2019

INTERVIEW: Torchlight

Haunting Dreams for Dying Kings
Torchlight first surfaced with the excellent Realms of Oblivion; a record that means a great deal to me due to its refreshing and mystical character. After emerging out of nowhere, the project has already graced us with a total of five releases. Its latest, Haunting Dreams for Dying Kings, was released on Bandcamp on the 17th of September this year. The time has come for us to sit down with this anonymous torchbearer, to find out if we can shed a light on his marvelous project.

Castles, ruins and other artifacts of an older civilization are richly scattered throughout the beautiful and diverse landscapes of Italy. With Torchlight hailing from Salerno, a port city just south-east of Naples - and very close to the green and mystical Valle delle Ferriere - I’m rather curious towards the way your local environment influences your music.

Yes, I live in a small town near Salerno, in a valley where almost every high elevation has a castle, a ruin or a hermitage. Every town in Campania (the region where Salerno is located) is rich in history, monuments, and mysterious charm. The place where I live certainly influenced my way of making music. Mountains are my dearest childhood friends and visiting abandoned castles, ruins covered with ivy, woods with stream and, tunnels of leaves and branches take my mind into the realms of imagination. I love solitude, and often I walk through these places, leaving everything behind, just to be alone with myself, to meditate.

I am lucky to live in such a place, remaining such strong roots with a distant past.
 A curiosity: the last album, Haunting Dreams ..., should have been called I was born between the ruins. It would have had other songs, another style, and another cover, fully dedicated to my native place. When I discovered that there already are albums with a similar name, I decided to postpone the project.

Your description of the environment sounds like a dream and - above all - very inspirational! I’d love to see a Torchlight record dedicated, both sonically and visually, to this rich and exciting area. Speaking of inspirational environments: Is there a national - or even local - Dungeon Synth community that you are aware of?

No, nothing at all, neither national nor local. Despite the affinity of places with the DS genre, I feel like a white fly in Italy. This genre is known to very few people here. The only communities with which I maintain contact and interact are the groups on Facebook, where there are people from all over the world who listen to this particular type of music. What to say ... sometimes even modernity has its positive sides!

Do you think that this absence of a physical scene could also be seen as a constructive element? For example: does this “solitude” evoke a certain character that couldn’t be achieved otherwise?

Good question! Probably yes, this solitude also has its positive sides since I have no pressure or external influences on making music. Torchlight could never have been a band or even a duo-project; its expressiveness comes from a single soul and must not compromise with anything or anyone. Creating with Torchlight is not a job and I only record when I’m inspired and when I have something clear in mind (or something that is becoming clear).

I listen to many Dungeon Synth albums a week, but there are times when I completely leave the genre, to return a few months later with renewed passion and with new ears. You need to follow your heart if you don't want your music to fall into the banality of "doing it because you have to do it". Probably a nearby DS community would unconsciously influence my way of doing, listening, recording, and the Torchlight project would not be the same as it is today.

There seems to be a gentle transformation going on throughout your music. Every album has its own character while maintaining a very specific “Torchlightean” sound. Is there an overarching theme to the project? Something conceptual that ties the entire project together?

Musically, Torchlight moves between fantasy, ambient music, and orchestral darkwave. I always try to keep an inner coherence between these two poles. 
Ideologically, I think that what holds the albums together, beyond the appeal for the past, is an attempt for psychological introspection through the symbols of myth. For example, The long quest is a search for knowledge about ourselves and the world, the quest of our "raison d'ĂȘtre" through the senses (many songs are about natural elements), and the track that closes the work is "Depths of unknown ". This means that the last truth about ourselves will always remain an unexplored mystery (and another curiosity, this cd was initially thought of as a search for gold by dwarves, but more or less the concept remained the same). 
Even Witchcraft, although to a lesser extent, hides psychological research, this time not of knowledge but of domination of nature’s forces through magic and witchcraft. Also, Realms of Oblivion and Haunting Dreams for the Dying King have their own ideology. 
However, this more conceptual approach should not distract from what is the core of Dungeon Synth music, which is the sense of mystery, wonder, terror and attraction to the unknown, nature, castles, ruins and the whole medieval imagery. Finding these themes in an album is worth more than any psychological or philosophical concept, however profound it may be. We are making music, not philosophy.

As a creator, how do you preserve this sense of mystery wonder, terror and attraction when you’re in the process of continually improving your craft?

I have always been attracted by the charm of the unknown, the thrill of fear, the irrational and the supernatural. It is not difficult for me to preserve this tension towards these things, because I am also made of these things and these things are me. I make no effort to create songs that evoke mystery and terror because my musical vein has these innate propulsion. I would never be able to create happy songs because it really isn't in my style and I wouldn't know how to do it. For me, music is a medium to transcend reality, and the passage must always be somehow painful and uncertain: in a sense, to pass the bridge that divides reality from the imagination, we must seek the death of the ego anchored to space and time, and this is never an easy thing. 
When I need inspiration I just need to watch a movie, read a book, take a walk, look at some pictures and my mind fills with ideas. Making music is only rationalizing the feeling of sublime that is stirred up within. I consider this a gift, no doubt, that I share only with those who can understand it because they too bear this gift, the ability to carry the “torch” and see everything in its “light”.

With Torchlight being a very, but not too productive project, would it be wrong of me to suspect even more material is in the making already?

I can't reveal much but I've already got a pretty long album that will be an RPG game soundtrack. Also, probably by the end of the year, the cassettes of both Haunting Dreams ... and Witchcraft will be produced, and perhaps a reprint of all the previous albums. Maybe also some co-operations. 
I’m planning to record a new EP shortly and I have many ideas for many albums.

Wonderful! My curiosity is fueled! Thank you for your time and very descriptive answers. The final words are all yours.

When I met the DS environment I was fascinated by the passion of all those who produced and listened to this music. I believe that within us there is a common language that we share, and it is not just a musical taste, because we understand each other despite the distance. This is beautiful because it feels as if we’re part of something ancient and profound, like a team, an army struggling to preserve the beauty of this world.
 We have never stopped dreaming and flying in the realms of fantasy. Surely, you know what I'm talking about. DS music has no lyrics, so what it wants to express is not caged by alphabetic language. The music speaks and allows us to meet in the realms of imagination. Long live Dungeon Synth!