INTERVIEW: Midnight Syndicate

by Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Midnight SyndicateFor all those that find themselves adding imagery to their sounds and for all those that long for something to give them just that, come Midnight Syndicate. Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka have been providing music for years for those that want more than witty lyrics and the occasional interesting guitar riff. Mixed with a classical flair and talent beyond most artists today, this duo have created such soundscapes that befit a darker side of imagining. From Born of the Night to Realm of Shadows and now the forthcoming release of Gates of Delerium, they decide upon a theme for their music and then weave the sounds around it into a web of fear. Just prior to their release of Gates of Delerium, I was able to get them both to answer a few questions about how they design the music with which no other group comes close in the genre of classical based ambience. Both artists are present for this Q&A, and you'll find Edward's and Gavin's answers preceded by their initial. The group will build upon their other half's answers, just as they build upon one another's sounds within the studio. Let's read as this group break their otherwise vocal silence to give us an insight into their dark imaginings. And be sure to check out the full-length reviews from September 2000's Legends #102.

1. First we can of course start with introductions. Who are all the members of Midnight Syndicate and what are your duties, if they can so be defined?

E: Midnight Syndicate consists of myself (Edward Douglas) and Gavin Goszka. Together, we co-write and produce the Midnight Syndicate albums.

2. Admittedly, the music of Midnight Syndicate is an acquired taste and "off the beaten path" so to speak. How have you found the appeal to your work to be?

G: We've found it to have a very wide-ranging appeal. Our audience consists of people from all age groups and walks of life. The first three fanmails we ever received were from a teenage gothic fan, a lawyer in her 50's, and a manager of a haunted attraction respectively.

E: We write with our core fanbase in mind but have also found a lot of the general public are drawn to our music during the Halloween season. It's a time where everyone likes to explore their darker side.

3. The arrangements of your work is exquisitely detailed and uses much classical music overtones in its melodies and production. What kind of past experience and/or training do each of you bring to the whole?

E: Before Midnight Syndicate, I spent time in several rock bands and studied piano and guitar. In 1996, I directed and scored a gothic/horror film entitled The Dead Matter. Scoring the film was definitely the most rewarding element for me so shortly thereafter I put my focus solely on music. My video/film experience helped me produce the multimedia shows we did supporting the first Midnight Syndicate (self-titled) album. I'm sure it will come into play with any concerts/tours we assemble in the future.

G: I studied at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin-Wallace College for four years, minoring in piano and originally majoring in percussion. I also performed solo in a project called Lore for several years before becoming involved with Midnight Syndicate. The music of Lore also tended towards the dark side but involved lyrics and more of a rock feel.

4. Your work, both on Realm of Shadows and Born of the Night are meant to be listened to as a whole, a soundtrack to a nonexistent movie so to speak. Do you choose a specific theme to work around when developing a new album?

G: Yes, we usually choose a particular theme or general approach to a given album. For example, Born was set in a haunted castle, Realm in a deserted village, Gates in a turn-of-the-century asylum. The details, however, are left up to the listener's imagination.

E: We suggest things - provide images, ideas, and elements for them to design the world around, but the rest is really in the hands (or mind) of the listener. We want to stimulate the imagination and provoke an active listening environment.

5. Within the scope of a single musical release, do you find yourselves fitting songs into the theme and removing cuts that might not fit the original idea, or does it seem to flow naturally?

Douglas & GoszkaG: We do end up removing or holding off on certain tracks occasionally. We want to make sure that the musical environment is consistent and complete. Sometimes there will be a particular track that just doesn't "sound" like that album.

E: Three of the track on Gates of Delirium were originally (in some form or another) tracks that were considered for Realm of Shadows. We had been kicking around ideas for Gates since Born of the Night so there were certain tracks we'd been holding off on developing until recently. Because we know the theme of the album before we start working on it, things usually do flow fairly well.

G: We're also careful in choosing song titles that provoke images but don't explain away too much. If they conjure an image or establish a mood or atmosphere, that's about as far as we want to go with it.

6. How vivid do the images become of the movie or screens you envision your music behind for each of you? Can you actually or nearly see it as you put together your albums?

G: I think that both of us have our own ideas and images attached to the stories on the albums. Both Ed and myself tend to write very visually. We imagine a scene and then write based on what we're imagining. One of the best things, however, is when our listeners tell us what THEY got out of a particular song - what they envisioned.

E: It's wonderful how different people can draw so many different things out of the same song. Hearing someone's interpretation of a piece, or how it may have inspired a creative flash is the most gratifying aspect of what we do.

7. As I said previously, your work is meant to be listened to as a whole and it's not suggested to use a shuffle or other form of listening - at least that's my feeling. Do you disagree with this idea?

G: However people like to enjoy the albums is great. On Gates there is more of a continual flow than on the previous two, so it may be slightly more effective when listened to in this fashion, but that's not a rule.

E: I agree, there was more of a conscious effort to create a flow with the song order on Gates then in the past. Once again, it's totally up to the listener though. I'm sure a lot of listeners might program a different song order that fits more to their own vision of the album story/movie. Leaving as much up to the listener as possible is our goal.

8. Do you create your albums from beginning to end in one continuous piece or do you do separate tracks and lay them together like a director would do with movie scenes?

G: We create the tracks separately. We write based on the theme and images and then put the whole thing together at the end according to the general story, flow, and pacing of the material.

E: Once in a while we'll know when a particular track will open or close the album (like Arrival/Welcome on Gates or Eclipse on Realm) but for the most part each track is created independently.

9. Have you ever scared yourselves with your own work? For example, as a writer I once wrote a piece for a fantasy series I do (Albinor Chronicles) that detailed a cult ritual that was very vivid and graphic and I'm not quite sure where the images came from. I read it later to find that it was disturbing - not only in its own right but because it was something I had created. Does this happen to you considering your work does bring about feelings of dread in many listeners, myself included?

GatesG: I can't say I've been scared by what we've done, but I have, after listening to certain tracks, really felt the mood that they were intended to conjure (ie. The Night Beckons on Realm and Room 47 on Gates).

E: 10 years from now I might wonder where I pulled Dead of Night or Sleep Tight from. As a general rule though, the songs are an artistic expression of myself so I always feel comfortable with them. Many people that enter my studio wonder about my selection of artwork and decor in the same way they ask me how I can continue to create dark and morbid music. I think I've always had an interest in dark fantasy and such so it's something that is a part of me.

G: I agree. Many people may be initially disturbed by some of the darker things they can and do create, but I think that once they realize that these things come from (and are a part of) themselves, they can become more comfortable with them.

10. What's next for Midnight Syndicate and will you be sticking to the soundtrack style of ambient music?

E: After the release of Gates of Delirium, we will be developing the new international Midnight Syndicate website: http://www.midnightsyndicate.com. That should be completed by late-May. After that we have a few different options we will need to explore. Some of the ideas include a possible tour, an industrial remix CD, or a return to a more "traditional" gothic CD.

G: We will definitely be sticking to our trademark style, but we always want to offer something new for the listener. A new element or two or a new approach - something to push the boundaries of what we've already done.

E: That's one of the reasons we were so pleased with how Gates of Delirium came together. It's not a complete departure from our style but it does offer new elements and expands our musical horizons.

11. Do you do live performances of your work either from or similar to Realm and/or Born of…? How do you put together a live show and do you use a screen to illustrate the music if you do?

E: The requests from promoters and fans nationally and abroad is growing (especially during the past year). We produced a multimedia show to promote the first (self-titled) album back in 1998. The show was a pretty involved blending of original film, live actors, and computer animation.

G: We've talked about possibly performing live after the release of Gates of Delirium. As Ed mentioned though, it's a very involved undertaking. There would have to be a strong visual element to the show. We're really going to have to give the whole idea a lot of thought before we do anything.

E: We don't want to produce a show that would fall short of our fans' expectations. That adds an additional degree of pressure to the project.

12. Tell us about Entity Productions and the other work you do besides the music of Midnight Syndicate.

E: I co-founded Entity Productions back in 1994. At that point, we were more of a multi-faceted production company involved in film, animation, and music. In addition to creating some short films and animations, we produced that gothic/horror feature I mentioned before (The Dead Matter, 1996), and the multimedia shows supporting the first (self-titled) album. However, over the past three years, the success of Midnight Syndicate has taken the company in a new direction. Since 1999, the focus of all our resources has been on the release and distribution of Midnight Syndicate music. We now have our own office, distribution network, and small support staff. Hopefully down the line we will be in a position to help out other independent artists.

Gates of Delirium13. The Internet and entities such as MP3.com and Riffage.com have seemed to be a boon for independent and near-independent artists today. The promotions available with the Web are amazing. Do you take advantage of this or do you still tend to enjoy paper-based or more conventional forms of promotion?

G: We definitely have found that the Internet is a tremendous resource for promotion, especially when releasing music independently. It's important for any band that does not normally receive much mainstream airplay.

E: Which seems to be the vast majority of decent artists these days. With Internet radio and college stations though, there are so many supportive DJs that have really pulled for us (and others) and that has made a lot of the difference. Unlike the three companies that own all the commercial stations, for these Internet and college DJs, it's all about the music which is the way it should be. The Internet is imperative to every bands' success. Simply because a band is signed to a major label no longer means that they will necessarily sell more CDs than a band that isn't. This is a huge change in the music industry and is in a large part due to the Internet.

G: Regarding mp3.com, we recently teamed up with Mike Ventarola of mp3.com's Hidden Sanctuary and have found that to be a very valuable asset as well.

14. I understand your new album is close to release, scheduled for March. Gates of Delerium is a new direction for Midnight Syndicate, taking place behind the closed doors of a sanitarium. Tell us what new direction might fans expect this third release to go?

G: Gates is definitely more intense than the previous two. We've used a cast of actors to help transport you to Haverghast Asylum. The sound effects take on a more prominent role. We're very anxious to hear the response.

E: We're very pleased and excited about the way Gates came together. We hope that the fans will have as much fun listening to it as we did creating it.

Legends Online