The epic fantasy of Khajj, the heroine of The Books of Lirios Trilogy, began many years ago in the heyday of our gaming days. Back in those days Narcisse and I had no intention of writing novels. We wrote because we loved it, immersing ourselves in Khajj’s world with the zeal of children having discovered a new toy. This sense of adventure led us down a slippery slope that soon turned into a mountain. We idled away hours detailing our world, drawing maps, character studies, working on artwork and fleshing out disjointed scenes that would later be incorporated into our outline.
Khajj had an energy all her own. Her story captured the imagination and seduced all whom we told. That’s when we knew we were on the brink of something magical. It was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on her epic tale, but could we stop there? Certainly not.
Narcisse and I have roots in film and music. As many of you know she is a designer and artist, not just a writer and would never be content with just the idea of a book. We are in love with experiences, extended editions, content that goes well beyond the page–and why not? In today’s world of social media, internet, accessible video, music and so on, why limit ourselves?
Suddenly we had unlocked a variety of methods for storytelling, both old and new. In addition to our website and the artwork, we have plans for a coffee table art book, a mobile app, sculptures and even a role playing game set in Khajj’s world. It was in this vein that we reached out to talented composer Asmodius, owner of Sepulcher Studios about creating a score to accompany the book trilogy. To our delight, he eagerly agreed.
As a result, Digital Alchemist LLC, in conjunction with Sepulcher Studios, will produce Hellion’s Choir: Music of The Dream, featuring thirteen original, decadent compositions to complement The Books of Lirios Trilogy.
Interview with Asmodius, founder of Sepulcher Studios
For the last few months, Asmodius has been feverishly composing the first musical piece inspired by Khajj’s origin. After seemingly endless hours honing the work’s 90+ audio tracks to razor sharp perfection, it is finally complete! Name the Child by Sepulchre Studios is a mere glimpse into the wonders that lie in store for readers of our books.
To celebrate the release of the very first musical composition for Hellion’s Choir: Music of The Dream, I inveigled a rare interview with its mysterious composer, Asmodius. We met in his crypt-like atelier, the home of Sepulcher Studios.
Tucked away underground, the chamber where we spoke is equal parts music studio, mad scientist’s laboratory, ancient crypt and tech-geek playground. Busts of long-dead composers peer from candlelit pools amidst the glow of computer monitors and LEDs. My eyes were drawn to screens that displayed what can only be described as modern day alchemy. Although Asmodius mixes elements of sound rather than physical compounds, the result is the same – magic.
QThank you for taking the time to speak with me. I just have to know, where did the name Sepulcher Studios come from?
ASMODIUS: Originally I wanted to call it Sepulchre Studios, for a little more old-school gothic flair, but it seems that the universe had other plans. I went with Sepulchre because it’s in my basement. Over the years, in keeping with the theme, it’s become pretty crypt-like down here. I usually try to add something to a wall or nook every couple weeks.
About ten years ago, I decided to create a faux stone plaque for over the door. I carefully laid out the lettering until it was perfect. It was only when the glue had set and the finish applied that I realized I somehow overlooked the fact that I spelled it “Sepulcher”. There was no going back, I was going to have to trash it and begin again from scratch. I was actually pretty pissed! Just before tossing my work and grabbing my car keys, I checked online and discovered that the domain name sepulchrestudios.com was already taken! Double turds! That’s when I realized the accident was really a sign, SepulcherStudios.com was available! That is how Sepulcher Studios was established.
Q That’s pretty cool! So Sepulcher Studios has been around a while. How long have you been playing/composing music?
ASMODIUS: On my eighth birthday my mom brought me down to our basement. She pointed at my present – a crusty upright piano that must have been from the turn of the century. Two minutes later I was playing that piano!
Physically, it looked like it had been used to entertain troops on the front lines of both world wars. But to my eyes, it was an immaculate example of the finest elven craftsmanship, ensconced in a visible aura inspiring my hands to usher forth music into the realm.
I ground that poor thing into dust over the next six years until we could afford a “real” piano. I’ll never love an instrument quite like that ever again.
I started composing a couple years later. As I’m turning 40 on Halloween, I’ve been writing for almost three decades. Um…Yikes!
Q Happy Birthday! You have come a long way since that upright! In fact, you have one of the coolest studio set-ups I have ever seen. Care to share with us what equipment you are currently using?
ASMODIUS: I’ve played with and collected a vast arsenal of stuff over the years. In my early days, I used to record through a massive seven foot wall of outboard gear. I would actually drag all that gear in its entirety to gigs! Fortunately technology has caught up and now I use soft synths and plugins for just about everything.
The only outboard gear I use on a daily basis is the orgasmic Eventide Eclipse for reverb and ethereal effects. My control surface is comprised of all AVID/Euphonix Artist series modules.
Years ago, I converted everything over to Apple from “Winblows” and have been using Logic since version 7 when Apple bought them from Emagic. Logic is, without a doubt, the most aptly named program in history. It’s a joy to work with and feels like an extension of my consciousness.
My recording chain consists of Neumann TLM47’s mics going through dual Focusrite Liquid Channel preamps into an Apogee Ensemble interface for A/D conversion.
I once calmed down a nervous singer prior to a session by describing this setup as a “suckage distiller” claiming “there’s no way you can sound bad through it.” Unfortunately, some vocalists have proven me wrong over the years. (laughs)
Lastly, I’ve been a KORG devotee all my life and still use a 1991 01/W Pro X as my main weighted MIDI controller. I used to haul that beast to gigs—all 85+ lbs of it. It’s been dropped a few times, yet it still works like a charm. It’s an absolute friggin’ tank!
Q Wow, that’s a lot of technology at your disposal! With all that gear plus all of those programs and options available it seems overwhelming. What is your process? How do you develop an idea from concept to finished piece?
ASMODIUS: Picking out instruments is generally harder than composing as the options are nearly infinite. I have a pretty vast digital arsenal to draw upon so it’s really just a matter of perseverance. Composing is extremely time consuming, but ultimately it’s worth the effort.
When I started work on the Khajj soundtrack, I had little to no experience in composing a full blown orchestral score. I thought that I would exclusively compose by strictly following time honored and traditional principles of orchestration. It was an insane idea!
I actually made it halfway through a rather large, scholarly and tedious book on the subject, taking notes on how many instruments were in each section, where they are physically located in the orchestra, etc. I even printed out and set to memorizing the ranges of each instrument. I gained a new-found appreciation for such an endeavor and understand why most classical composers never seem to be smiling on their busts.
That’s when I realized that I was writing a soundtrack to a fantasy book, the only rules that exist are the ones I chose to create. If I wanted to summon a few thousand demon baritones from the smoking pits to harmonize with a coliseum full of naked vestal virgins with perfect pitch, so be it. “Yo! She-bitch. Lets go!” After that epiphany, things just started to flow.
Q ‘Naked” vestal virgins?
ASMODIUS: (grins wickedly) Oh yes, very important for Equalization purposes!
QOf course! I see you have a bust of Bach next to your set-up. There is also a a death mask and a hand cast on your wall that I suspect is another composer. Who is it?
ASMODIUS: That is Chopin.
Q I am sure those icons are more than simple decorations. Would you mind revealing your influences? Who are your favorite musicians, composers and bands?
ASMODIUS: I’m inspired by just about everything musical. I could be listening to Medieval polyphony, take my earbuds out to listen to a street drummer banging on pots in Times Square then put them back in and find my playlist of the day has drifted rather abruptly into Slayer!
My favorite composers range from the legends such as Bach, Chopin, Albinoni, to the more modern masters like Scott Joplin, Hildegard von Bingen, John Williams and Danny Elfman to my personal hero, Ben Franklin!
Similarly, I have a wide spectrum of taste when it comes to musicians and bands. One of my all time favorites is Buddy Guy. I also listen to George Lynch, Rik Emmett, Randy Rhodes, Oscar Peterson, James Brown, Danzig, Mucky Pup, Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Arthur Rubenstein, The Beatles, Kool and the Gang. . . to be honest, the list is endless.
Q What inspired you to write ‘Name the Child’?
ASMODIUS: In the past, I have worked on book trailers, music for websites, dance albums, etc. but I never heard of anyone creating a soundtrack specifically to accompany a book trilogy. When Narcisse approached me with the idea, bursting with her usual passion-laced prose, showing me her maps and artwork, I could tell that you were both embarking on an epic creative journey; one that I was very excited and honored to be invited to join.
Also, from experience, I generally make it a rule to never to piss off hot Cuban babes. Trust me, just don’t do it! (laughs) I’m sure you’ve felt some of that pain.
Q I plead the Fifth! (laughs) One of my favorite elements is the chorus. It sounds like a choir singing in an exotic language. How did you create their wonderfully ethereal voices?
ASMODIUS: (grows animated) Yes, they are all singing in Latin. One of the sample libraries I used has this astounding feature to program in Latin syllables which change each time a new note or chord is played. My Latin is a bit rusty lately so they are in fact, singing in gibberish. However, the effect is extremely convincing once processed through a multitude of vocal-specific plugins and reverb. The backing choirs are comprised of no less then 5 different sample libraries, each with their own unique characteristics and nuances. It took 14 simultaneous tracks to create the effect you hear on the track. A rough calculation puts the number of members in the choir well above 500.
Q Listening to ‘Name the Child’ I imagine the scenes unfolding before me like an opera. Is it appropriate to say that you are telling Khajj’s story through music?
ASMODIUS: When Narcisse described the origin of Khajj, the main character of your trilogy, she mentioned that the child’s mother was on a storm-fraught sea voyage to a distant land.
If you listen to the track, it progresses through the beginning of the journey where the music mimics the sway of a ship, the sense of adventure and true freedom one experiences on the sea. The music then builds to evoke the sense of a sinister storm, followed by a wreck. It culminates with Khajj’s birth and the voice of a daemon lord (winks) or so I am told.
I’ve started working on the second track which takes place at a daemonic soiree. Narcisse gave me some artistic liberty regarding who, or what, was providing the music for the event. She described this strange daemonic musician with multiple arms. As I have often wished I could sprout some extra appendages, it was easy for me to envision how they might be used. Musically, of course!
Q Of course!
ASMODIUS: I think we started with four arms but as my ideas started flowing, I asked her to write in two more pairs.
Q So, what is our nightmare musician doing with all those extra appendages?
ASMODIUS: At the moment, it’s playing a thirty-foot piano built into the walls of the concert hall, which also happens to be on fire, a hammered dulcimer that exhibits uh, rather unusual properties and a glass armonica that is being kept moistened with blood. I still have two arms left to keep busy!
Q A glass ‘armonica’?
ASMODIUS: (nods) Ben Franklin invented it! Its name is derived from the Italian word for harmony. Franklin took the idea of musical glasses to the next level. Working with a glassblower in London, he made a few dozen glass bowls, tuned to notes by their varying size and fitted one inside the next with cork. Each bowl was made with the correct size and thickness to give the desired pitch without being filled with any water. Franklin also color coded each bowl to differentiate the notes. A hole was put through the center of the glass bowls through which ran an iron rod that could be rotated with a foot pedal. Moistened fingers touched to the edge of the spinning glasses produced the musical sounds. Click here for more.
Q Very cool. What was the easiest part of composing ‘Name the Child’?
ASMODIUS: Deciding on the name of the song. It got exponentially harder from there onwards.
Q The most challenging?
ASMODIUS: Deciding when it was finished and forcing myself to move on.
Q I am amazed by what you have done so far. You have perfectly captured the mood and drama of our story. You said you were honored to be a part of our journey, well I will tell you that I am honored as well. Thank you for composing such a beautiful piece and for sharing your experiences in its creation.
ASMODIUS: You are most welcome! And if you will excuse me, I have a dozen more to compose!
Thank you for spending some time with us and for listening. I hope you had fun reading and hope that you will return to Inksorcery.com often for updates about our zany writing lives.