Taur Nu Fuin is one of the longest running Dungeon Synth projects I’m aware of. The project is also the first instance of a live Dungeon Synth performance that I know of, giving Taur Nu Fuin a unique place in the history of the genre. In this interview I speak to the project mastermind Sean about the history of his music, his label, and the future of his work.
- Greetings! Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull. Please introduce yourself and tell us about the history of Taur Nu Fuin.
Hi there! My name is Sean O’Kane – Connolly, I’m 33, and a musician from Auckland, New Zealand.
Taur Nu Fuin officially began in 2001, I have been composing various styles of music since 1997, the earliest incarnation of the project was called ‘Nightenland’ which I’d made 10 cassette demos for, distributed from home. I’d had many project names and concepts for the ambient music I’d recorded before it was released. Upon gathering enough material for the first e.p, I finally settled with the name Taur Nu Fuin, and began pressing my own CD-r’s to distribute among friends. As I began to create more music, I started taking the project seriously. My friend Alex Slimm (Swampkult Productions / Maugrim) took a liking to my various blackmetal and ambient projects and we started the label Swampkult Productions to release our music through, and it’s just grown from there.
- Your first release “Ruler of the Forest” was done in 2001, which means you have been involved in Dungeon Synth for some time. What initially inspired you to create the music on Ruler of the Forest? What artists had an influence on this musical direction?
At the time I had no real intention of making an entirely Dungeon Synth style project, the music I wrote was inspired by fantasy film soundtracks, celtic music, and the intro/outro tracks from blackmetal albums I’d heard. I first heard Mortiis and Wongraven around 1996 when I was 14, this definitely contributed to the sound of TNF. Exploring the blackmetal underground was an exciting new arena of music for me, and my songwriting style began to develop. I listened to all the Cold Meat Industry bands, and the hundreds of ambient side projects of blackmetal artists around the world, and became much more fascinated with that side of the genre.
- Tolkien seems to be an obvious inspiration in your music, what else (outside of musical influences) inspires you to write for Taur Nu Fuin?
Reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit encouraged me creatively, among other fantasy, horror and sci-fi authors. I explore the outdoors regularly, my imagination is still in hyperdrive, as it was as a kid, and I still ‘go missing’ on ‘quests’ from time to time. Both my parents were musicians, and very theatrical performers. I guess they were largely to blame for my eccentricities. Growing up in the 80’s was great, we had an abundance of fantasy & science fiction films, games, books, tv shows, from the seriously dark, to the ridiculously flippant. My parents close friends were also involved in theatre, and we’d regularly watch plays at a place called The Pumphouse, a little brick station built in 1905 that I imagined I’d perform at someday. These days, my wanderlust, connection with nature, hiking, exploration, and travel really inspires my music.
- “Ruler of the Forest” was re-released in 2015 with some additional tracks. Can you tell us more about the re-issue? As far as I know, it’s one of the only Dungeon Synth releases to be released on CD.
I’d made extended versions of some tracks from the initial release, and re-recorded some of the original material. None of my music is ‘complete’ even on release, I listen back and want to change a thing or two. I guess I’ll continue to release alternate versions of songs right up until I’m unable to create anymore. CD format DS does exist in some places! Just gotta know where to look 🙂 Vinyl is the next step, and I’ll remaster that album all over again. Vinyl costs alot of money though, so we’ll probably have to wait another decade haha… Still, all TNF releases are available on Cassette, CD, and digitally.
- Your second release “The Mountain Path” was done 12 years after Ruler of the Forest. What happened to cause you such a long break between albums? Did you rediscover the inspiration before writing the music for The Mountain Path?
These songs did already exist, as midi files on my computer, I just had about 10 years of being sidetracked before actually getting around to recording them properly. I played in a couple of hardcore and metal bands which toured NZ, Australia and Europe between 2004 and 2009 and alot of my spare time was dedicated to those bands. I was inspired to release this music again in recent years, among other projects, to separate myself from popular metal culture, and return to composing the music I enjoy most.
- Taur Nu Fuin recently played a live show, which is likely the first instance of a live Dungeon Synth performance in history. Can you tell us more about the show? How did the audience respond to the music? In addition, how did you manage to perform the multi-layered synth tracks live?
Confession time! There was a healthy dose of backing track played from my tablet, and I performed live synth over the existing music, plus improvisational interludes during the silent parts between tracks. Dani, who plays guitar in my other band ‘Undiscovered Moons of Saturn’ played mandolin as well, and the timbre of the instrument did not gel too well with the atmospheric synth tracks. I watched the video footage back and was not impressed with the sound, though sometimes the atmosphere and mood was great. In hindsight, I’d say it was not a success, though the crowd were enjoying it, and we had similar sounding bands as support (goth, ambient, darkwave acts), it just didn’t work in my opinion. Next time, I’ll do an artistic showcase with some likeminded musicians, rather than a live gig. I don’t regret playing TNF live though, we have to try these things sometimes!
- Without giving away too many secrets, what instruments do you use for Taur Nu Fuin? From my understanding an acoustic instrument was used for the live performance. Is this something you will do on recordings as well?
I’m no good at secrets. For composition and performance I use a Roland Sound Canvas (SC-155), an 88-Key Yamaha Digital Piano, inNovation Mini Nova, and a Korg Kaossilator Pro. For notation, production & recording I use n-Track, Cakewalk, and Goldwave. For additional acoustic instruments I’ve used guitar, penny whistle, jaws harp, bodhran, clave, harmonica and an upright piano which you’ll hear on the CD version of The Mountain Path available through Swampkult Productions.
- Please tell us more about the upcoming Taur Nu Fuin album. What can fans of the older albums expect?
Kolarbyn was originally supposed to be a 4-track EP, but during the recording process, I’ve created enough to warrant a full-length. This album was inspired by my trip to Scandinavia in 2013, I stayed at an eco-lodge in Uppsala, Sweden called Kolarbyn just outside Skinnskatteberg. During my time there I explored the surrounding area, took a boat out on the lake Skärsjön, and discovered many fascinating things about the region. Song ideas, melodies, and titles came to mind, which I recorded onto my cellphone’s voice recorder, humming random tunes and talking. I must have looked like a madman!
Work on the album began as soon as I returned to New Zealand late 2013, and I left my other bands and projects behind. The music style itself hadn’t changed direction, but the compositions were becoming too ornamental and complex. It just didn’t sound right to me. Luckily, a recent computer crash threw a spanner in the works, and I could no longer use my midi notation programs for composition. Performing the music naturally has been very beneficial to TNF’s progress, and surplus material for the album has been created. Avoiding any programming, or computerised notation altogether has its challenges, but the end result is far more likeable, and has a genuine feel to it.
- You are also involved with the Swampkult Productions label and other musical projects as well, can you tell us more about your projects outside of Taur Nu Fuin?
Undiscovered Moons of Saturn is a space themed dark ambient project, which started in 2001, largely inspired by Neptune Towers, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. This project became a live 4-piece band in recent years, including a saxophonist, drummer and guitarist, with myself on synths. Algiz Dawn is the ‘easy listening’ side of this project. Gaoth Anair is atmospheric black metal, Taur Nu Fuin occasionally covers these songs in a dungeon synth style. Abandoned East Berlin is industrial drone/noise, which is inspired by my exploration of the vast abandoned areas of east Germany. I’ve been involved in over 50 bands and projects since 1997, so I won’t go into further detail, but these are the more active ones worth currently mentioning.
- Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull, any last words are yours!
Thank you! Zines like yours really help us out, it’s difficult to be noticed in our neck of the woods.
Dungeon Synth artists : keep composing excellent material! There are many brilliant acts in our realm and I’m always discovering new and exciting music.
Fans & fellow dungeon dwellers : thanks for your ongoing support.
Hail Cernunnos, blow up your local parking lot!