Landstrykar is an Epic Dungeon Synth / Ambient project from the Netherlands that was formed by André Kramer in the beginning of 2020, inspired by the love for movie,- and videogame soundtracks, atmospheric music artists like Summoning, Vinterriket, Ildjarn (Hardangervidda albums), and Jim Kirkwood, and the desire to create epic and atmospheric soundtracks based on his own wanderings through northern nature. Landstrykar‘s music aims to evoke feelings of wanderlust, to instill wonderment and admiration for the mysteriousness and grandeur of nature, as well as feelings of nostalgia and longing to return to beautiful places once visited.
Hi! Tell us about the origins of the project. At what point did you realize that you need to arrange your material within the framework of this project, where did the name come from? How is the preparation/the birth of new material happened? Is it a matter of inspiration or increased practice, hard work? Where does the inspiration for a song begin?
Hi there! I started playing around with music around 2012 when I bought a cheap guitar and midi-keyboard. It didn’t take long to find out that guitar wasn’t the right instrument for me though, so I sold it and fully concentrated on keyboard. For quite some years I was just having fun experimenting with countless orchestral VST’s and soft-synths, trying to recreate bits and pieces of my favourite movie and videogame soundtracks, and occasionally create very short compositions. This continued until the end of 2019 when I somehow found the inspiration and perseverance to compose real songs, and from that point on the project slowly started to take shape.
Because I didn’t want to create music based on a fictional story, I instead choose to make a soundtrack based on my own adventures in Norwegian nature, and try to translate the experience and feelings of walking through these beautiful landscapes into music. Landstrykar means something like vagabond or drifter in Norwegian. It fitted the theme and I thought it sounded cool, and so the decision for the project’s name was made. How new compositional ideas are formed differs from song to song. It can happen by testing different synth sounds, playing chord progressions with a string ensemble, using a piano sound to come up with a melody, by programming a drum rhythm, or by just trying to come up with ideas in my head while walking around or taking a shower. So every time it’s different and above all totally unpredictable!
What musical projects have served as a guideline, a source of inspiration for you? Why you chose this genre for yourself?
There are many different sources of inspiration that made me want to create music in general, for example bands/projects like Summoning, Vinterriket, Ildjarn (Hardangervidda albums), Jim Kirkwood (Middle-Earth album), Mechina, film composers Hans Zimmer and Jerry Goldsmith and videogame composers Yasunori Mitsuda, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Michiru Yamane and Jeremy Soule. During the creation of the album I wasn’t concerned about fitting into a certain genre. I knew there would be people in the Dungeon Synth scene that could appreciate what I was making and that this was the best place to eventually promote my music, but for quite some time I was hesitant to actually name it Dungeon Synth. That’s the reason that during promotion of the album I’ve only used the term ‘epic and atmospheric orchestral music’. But eventually someone will categorize your music anyway. After the digital release of the album, The Metal Abyss Promotion (Facebook page) named my music ‘Dungeon Synth / Epic Ambient’, and only recently I’ve decided to also use a description in that vein.
Tell us; what are the main differences, pros and cons of playing in a solo project rather than in a band for you?
I’ve never been part of a band, but the advantages of a solo project to me are being able te create music without compromise or outside pressure and having total control over composition, production and artwork. And just the sheer satisfaction you feel when the hard work is done and you hold your own creation in your hands, knowing it’s really your personal achievement. The only downside I can think of is those times where you are desperately searching for inspiration and nothing happens, because then no one can help you.
Tell us more about your debut album «A Walk Amidst The Cairns». What turned out best, what difficulties did you face?
What I’m most proud of from a musical point of view is the diversity of the songs, and that apart from two songs with a repeated chorus there’s very little repetition. So even if most songs are pretty long, you don’t really notice it. I’m also very happy with the design of the digipack and the whole collaboration with Wappenschmied, which went very smoothly. The difficulties I had were mostly related to (lack of) inspiration, having a lot of moments where I just didn’t know how to continue with certain songs and putting them on the backburner for weeks or even months until I finally found something that worked. Sometimes this was very frustrating to say the least. I guess this is something more musicians will recognize.
You approached the release of your debut album quite professionally. Do you have experience with other projects?
Thank you for the compliment! Landstrykar is in fact my first music project, so creating all the promotional video’s and flyers was completely new to me. I really loved pouring my creativity in these things. It’s pretty hard to get noticed nowadays because of the huge amount of great projects out there, so I knew I had to do my best. I always thought it would be pretty awesome to put my own music on top of video footage of beautiful mountain and forest landscapes, and I saw this as a perfect opportunity to communicate the whole idea and feeling behind the project.
Tell us about creating the visual design of the album, about your impressions of visiting such a monumental place. Tell us a little more about the nature of the Netherlands. What beautiful places do you have, where you like to spend time and look for inspiration for music, or where would you like to visit?
From the very beginning it was already clear to me that I was going to use my own photos for a physical release instead of using stock photography or commisioned artwork. Because the whole creation of the project and album revolves around my own travels in Norway this seemed the only logical thing to do. What I used as the panoramic picture that covers the whole front and backcover of the digipack is a photo I made in Jotunheimen, on the ‘Besseggen’ mountain ridge. It’s one of the most famous hiking trails in Norway and for a good reason, because the view you have from there over the ‘Gjende’ lake is simply breathtaking! After I created the conceptual design of the digipack, Dominik Schäfer (Wappenschmied) used his visual magic and took it to the next level, determining the definitive colorization and arrangement, and adding decorative details. On top of this Wappenschmied is also responsible for the Landstrykar logo and emblem, so his work has been very important for the whole visual identity of this project.
In The Netherlands we have a lot of cultivated flatlands, artificially created forests, and water, but despite the small size of our country there’s still a lot of diversity to be found. We have a couple of national parks with sand dunes, marshes, fens, (wet) heaths, (wet) grasslands, small forests, hills (in the south), some islands (in the north) and the North Sea and Wadden Sea. My girlfriend and I try to go out and visit and discover these places as often as possible. My past travels to Norway, Alaska, Canada and New-Zealand have given me more than enough inspiration so I haven’t found the need to look for it over here. Some places I would still like to visit outside of my own country are Sweden (particularly ‘Kungsleden’), Finland, Iceland, and just a lot more regions in Norway really.
How did you work with sound? What stuff do you prefer to use? What did you do best in sound production in your opinion?
When it comes to orchestral sounds I prefer to work with the more high-end libraries like Orchestral Tools, because of the realism, and the synth sounds I’ve used are mainly from the Roland XV-5080 and Roland SRX expansion boards. All from Roland Cloud by the way, I don’t have any hardware synths. I’m not really into sound design when it comes to synths, so pretty much all the sounds I’ve used are presets with sometimes a little tweak here and there. My hardware equipment consists of a Roland FP-30 digital piano which I use as midi-keyboard, an Icon Platform M+ controller and an SSL 2 audio interface. So nothing ultra fancy there. As a DAW I use Reaper. I can’t really say what I did best sound production wise. Looking back on the whole process of finding the right mixing and mastering setup, I changed plugins and settings so many times that it seems like one big experimental blur to me now. So it definitely took a lot of time and trial and error to find the right overall sound, but I feel it has been well worth it in the end.
What films/games would you like your music to sound in (already filmed or upcoming)?
Interesting question! The first section of the song ‘Majestic Mountain Views’ was actually inspired by the battle-music of Xenogears, one of my all-time favourite JRPG’s on the PS1. What I like about those type of musical pieces is that they don’t have any real build-up but just begin in a very energetic way, and immediately pull you in. If I had to choose it would be to hear my song in this game or some other JRPG. As for movies, I think some epic fantasy movie would be great of course. How about Amazon’s upcoming LotR series, haha!
In your opinion, is the label important in the life of the band? Have you deliberately decided not to resort to labels and to be an independent artist? Is there someone who help you with the promotion? How do you generally try to promote yourself, with the help of what / who?
I think a record label can be of great importance, but it all depends on what goals you set for yourself. If you’re content with going all digital and want to reach as many people as possible, then in addition to Bandcamp you could try and get your album onto a YouTube channel, because some of them tend to have huge amounts of subscribers. When it comes to spreading physical media, I think it’s definitely necessary to have the help of a label. There’s only so much you can do by yourself promotion wise, and even if you self-release CDs, tapes or LPs, there’s just no way you can compete with a record label’s global distribution network.
When I started this project I already decided that I wanted to go through the entire process of creating a physical release and merchandise myself, just for the experience. I chose the 6-panel digipack CD format because that gave me the opportunity to fully realize my vision regarding the whole presentation of the album. In addition I also had metal logo pins and t-shirts made. Everything combined, it was a lot more work than I initially thought! It took a lot of time and energy but I certainly don’t regret it. And if I decide to do the same for future releases then it will be much easier because now I know how everything works. I don’t know if I will continue as an independent artist forever, but currently there are no plans to sign with a label.
With regards to self-promotion I’ve made a couple of promo videos and flyers and primarily used Facebook and YouTube to spread those around. On Facebook I got some great help from Wappenschmied, The Metal Abyss Promotion, Ethereal Black Metal, and very kind people who shared my posts. The ‘In The Woods’ YouTube channel also uploaded the full album. This definitely helped to spread the word and to make people aware of the project’s existence.
What kind of movies do you like? And is there anything being filmed in your country that is worth paying attention to fans of heavy music or dark/horror cinema?
I’m a big movie fan and try to watch as many great ones as possible, from the silent era up until now. Some of my top favourites are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia, and Once Upon a Time in the West. But there are just way too many others to mention. My all-time favourite actor is Clint Eastwood and to me The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven are his best works. Horror is definitely my most watched genre. I try to keep up with the newest releases but I particularly love the older ones like the Hammer Horror Dracula and Frankenstein movies and Roger Corman & Vincent Price’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. These movies have true atmosphere, mostly good actors and don’t make use of cheap jump scares.
Contemporary Dutch movies don’t interest me at all to be honest, but older thriller/horror movies like The Vanishing, Amsterdamned, and The Lift are actually pretty good!
Tell us more about how the music scene is developing in your country. How has the musician’s life changed in general due to the Pandemic?
Well, I’m not in touch with any other musicians over here so I don’t have any first-hand stories, but for the more mainstream bands who actually make a living from their music it was the same story as in any other country, meaning over one year of no live performances and finding alternative ways to keep connecting with their audience, for example by way of online concerts. For others I guess it meant working more day job hours and having a lot of time to compose!
Landstrykar in the “Epic Black Metal / Dungeon Synth” Spotify playlist by HF Zine:
Could you recommend some interesting underground bands from your country?
Vetus Supulcrum has a new split album with Canada’s Execration Chamber called ‘The Unending Pale’, featuring some great Epic Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient. Definitely worth checking out! Other Dutch Dungeon Synth / (Dark) Ambient projects I know of are Ulk, Schemer Heer, Nortfalke, and Old Tower. Black Metal band Asagraum has made quite a name for itself in the last couple of years and has released two very well received albums, with a third one on the way.
And according to tradition, in the final question, tell us about the project plans for the future
At the moment I don’t have any plans for a new full-lenght release, but my next output will most likely be an EP. I’m not aspiring to be a highly prolific project that releases (multiple) albums/EPs every year. I like to take my time and give myself the opportunity to grow. When something new eventually arises, people can hopefully hear I’ve improved in terms of composition and production. When it comes to long-term plans for Landstrykar, I think I would be very content if I can eventually create a trilogy of albums and a couple of EPs.
Thanks a lot for the interesting questions and the opportunity to tell the readers of homo-faber.net about my project!