Clandestine Convos: Kastronata Prototype

When it comes to controversy, dungeon synth (blessedly) has very little in common with its cousins in black metal. Yes, there’s the occasional sketch musician or bit of bad business between an artist and a label. For the most part, however, dungeon synth has a closely knit and incredibly supportive scene, and the sort of issues that arise elsewhere are largely absent.

Which makes the case of Kastronata Prototype all the more bizarre.

I’d try to recap the story here, but I’m not sure I know all of it. The short version is that back in January, a pair of Czech musicians called Lord Melker and Sigvard IV digitally released two old recordings from the mid-to-late 90s on Bandcamp. A consensus quickly formed that they were lying about the age of the recordings. A few weeks later, they released a newly recorded split with Swedish project Skymning, and then all hell broke loose.

Some time around late March, Lord Melker sent me an email asking if I had any interest in conducting an interview. I’ll admit that I’d barely listened to more than a few seconds’ worth of their music, but but I was definitely intrigued. When he agreed to my caveat that nothing could be off limits, I agreed to do it. Then I started digging around and trying to figure out what I’m sure a lot of people have been wondering: who the hell are these two dudes, and what are they really doing?

I didn’t get very far, and after spending several days chatting with Melker Nováldi (aka Lord Melker) over a shared Google Doc, I learned that most of what I thought I’d figured out was wrong (though I still don’t think they’re actually from the Czech Republic). However, between the time we spent on this interview and the private conversations I’ve had with Melker both before and afterwards, I’m convinced of one thing: his sincerity. However, the editrix who was helping me proof this – and who had no idea about the context or backstory for the interview – was not impressed, and she bailed after about two pages. 

I think that’s how most readers are likely to react to this: either they’ll be more inclined to give Melker and Sigvard the benefit of the doubt (like me), or they’ll be unimpressed and bail about a third of the way through (like our editrix).

I can’t tell you how to feel about Kastronata Prototype after reading this, and I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to attempt to anyway. I do have one request, though. I think it took Melker a little while to warm up to the interview process, so please read the entire interview before forming any conclusions.

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Clandestine Sounds: So for starters here, I want to thank you for reaching out about an interview. It took a little while for it to come together for a variety of reasons, but I am glad that we’re finally getting a chance to talk. Honestly, I’m more than a little surprised that you’re even interested in an interview. I don’t think anyone has any idea what to make of Kastronata Prototype, and the more I try to look into the project, all I end up finding are loose threads.

First, I want to ask about the name Kastronata Prototype. If I managed to follow that thread, the word Kastronata comes from the Greek (Καστρονάτα). In Italian the word is castronata, which I wasn’t able to find an exact definition for but is listed as a synonym for words like assurdità (absurd),  idiozia (idiotic), baggianata (nonsensical), and cazzata (bullshit).. And a prototype is the first model from which all others are copied. I think that leads directly to the thing everyone seems to wonder about KP: what are – or were, since Epicus Dormius was supposedly your final album – you trying to accomplish? Are you serious musicians? Is this a joke project? Are you trolling everyone?

Melker Nováldi: I think it’s time to discuss these misunderstandings that have arisen since we released our old material, so thank you for giving us the chance.  Unfortunately, Sigvard can’t participate in this interview, as he recently became homeless and is having issues in his private life. That’s also one of the reasons why we became inactive as a project after our latest release Epicus Dormius.

Sigvard and I have been comrades since the mid 80s and started our careers as buskers on the street of Brno in the early 90s. We had no band name back then, and without any musical training, we started jamming for fun.  Some of these results can be found on our live album Live in Prague, recorded by our studio-comrade Jirka Kusner, who also performed  as a session member on drums and additional synthesizers.

I had no idea that Kastronata even had a real meaning. I came up with that word spontaneously when I was thinking of a friend’s brother who was a castrated singer in his youth. So I made up a sort of gibberish word about that, just for fun. So my point or meaning about the band name is like a ‘prototyped castrated singer.’ It makes no sense at all, but to us it sounded different and pretty cool too. That’s what I used to do in general, coming up with words that have no meaning. Take most parts of our album and track titles for example: these words have no meaning and don’t belong to any language at all – they’re based on made up gibberish, much like the whole universe of KP.

I find it sad that our attempt to present our two older works was so ridiculously received. I stand with no control or defense about something I don’t really know that much about. I’ve heard small fragments or parts about some bullshit that occurred in a group on Facebook and I’ve tried to escape that ongoing drama. But yes, some of our newer releases has been playing around with these sorts of segments, but that’s not about trolling or upset anyone. We just thought it was silly and wanted to create something around this sort of thing.

In the long run, we’re no real musicians. We lack virtually any musical talent, and everything we create is very spontaneous and unstructured. But with what came to be our last two releases back in March, we wanted to show that we actually take our music more seriously than people might think. These will soon receive a physical release on cassette on Depressive Illusion Records within a month or so.

CS: Wow…that is not what I was expecting here. So the self-titled demo and Pâramohn Ghastropfía were actually recorded in ‘95 and ‘98?

MN: Yes it was. We still have two different original recordings of our self-titled demo ready to be released soon as a bonus on a new cassette. The new one, which we decided to release on Bandcamp, has been thoroughly remixed and remastered with added samples. The rough, unmixed parts sound very different from the new one because of its transfers. When we started out with dungeon synth and ambient music, we got most of our inspirations from video games such as Eye of the BeholderDragonStrike and Secret of the Silverblade. Our self-titled demo has a touch of the early era of the 90s RPGs, while our second release from 1998 is mostly inspired by movies and soundtracks.

CS: That’s interesting, because one of the accusations I’ve seen made against Kastronata Prototype is that you’re lying about those demos actually being that old. Any idea where people may have gotten that idea from?

MN: I can only speak for myself, since I’ve never been involved in any discussions in the DS forums. But if I’m going to base it all around the rumors, then I have a small understanding of why KP has become so mythical.

First and foremost, we are unknown and hadn’t released anything new since the 90s. These two demos had only been spread among friends in strictly limited amounts, and most of these copies probably don’t exist nowadays. Finally, we came from nowhere and released a lot of old stuff in a very short time. I thought, and still think, that our demo and EP are very badly performed since we lack any musical knowledge. We’ve learned to play by ear.

Most parts are recorded with an analog Yamaha SY22 Vector synthesizer and a Akai MPC60 drum pad. It was Sigvard who talked about releasing our material since Bandcamp developed into such a good platform. I thought it sounded dumb at first, but later I became curious about doing something new with the old material. We converted our old cassette tapes to digital and began to publish.

Anyhow, talking about the troll things and mashups; it is the listeners themselves who have come up with the hysteria and the ideas around everything. It’s like a mental breakdown, because they know nothing about anything, and that’s pretty funny because that’s nothing Sigvard and I could ever have been able to imagine when we recorded it twenty years ago.

The worst part about not being trusted, though, is that your  self-esteem gets worse and you can’t bear to perform as well as you want. This occurred a lot at the beginning when the shit talk took off and people started to troll and make fun at someone else’s expense. So our defense  was to just go along with the game, and try do something about it. This, however, had its disadvantages in the long run, and ended with someone stealing our music and claiming it was his. I’m still trying to get rid of it from his Bandcamp page, but have not managed to get an answer from Bandcamp yet.

CS: I saw you post something about that, but didn’t get the whole story. Can you explain what happened?

MN: We have not yet been able to obtain any information about the person behind this rip-off. But it was a listener who told us some weeks ago that he had found our music under another name on Bandcamp’s Music of the Week. It turned out that this russian artist Wulcanoz had stolen many of our songs and released them as his own. He took our first two releases and made them into a full-length release, and some days after he released our two latest EPs as a full-length and tried to sell  it, but thankfully he hasn’t manage to sell anything yet. That behaviour made me very mad and I don’t know what to do about it, since I get no answer from him or Bandcamp. We’ll see if this degenerates. I’ve tried to keep warning people on his Facebook page, but I’ve gotten zero responses so far and people keep following his page like everything is alright.

CS: Backing up a bit…when you say “go along with the game,” I’m guessing you’re referring to Taking the Dungeon to the Street and (possibly) Oxnafjorda Orthodontic, since some people seem to think that KP’s thing with teeth is making fun of…I’m not sure. Erang possibly?

MN: Taking the Dungeon as a  joke? No, we just wanted it to sound like old school hip-hop blended with dungeon synth. That’s why we came up with that cover-art as well. Boombox and bling, that’s the thing, ca-tjing! No, but really, it was supposed to be a split release with Grol the Goblin. We had something going until one day he decided not to answer us anymore. So we decided to publish our material separately. Maybe it will get a split release soon, but I have no idea right now.

The Oxnafjorda was a part of the game, though. I found it hilarious when I one day received a screenshot that told Melker go to an orthodontist and fix his fangs or something similar. So that was all made up. Oxnafjorda is also a dialectal speech of Norwegians in ‘Øksfjord’ (Ákšovuotna) which is a fisherman’s county in Finnmark, Norway. We found it kind of silly, so we decided to take Sigvard there and give him a orthodontic license to fix Melker’s rotten fangs.

CS: Speaking of splits…so after seemingly doing nothing after the Castle Bound EP in 2002, your first new release in 17 years was a split with Skymning. How did that come about?

MN: That Castle Bound EP was a part of the game also. It wasn’t recorded in 2002. It was recorded recently and has that Sega Genesis touch I always wanted to create. We also used a funny quote made by a member of a DS forum who didn’t appreciates our music.

We got in touch with Skymning through Myspace back in 2004 and have had a good relationship with him since then. The split release was also a spontaneous thing, since we like it that way. It wasn’t meant to be made at all, but when an idea grows stronger, I really want it to break through and become real. Skymning had a bunch of finished material ready to be released, so we just asked him if he was interested in releasing it as a split.

CS: The word “tanzendans” appears in a lot of the album descriptions on Bandcamp. Can you talk a bit about what a “tanzendan” is? From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s either a style of music meant for dancing, or a specific type of dance itself?

MN: Yes, Tanzen means dance in German, and we love to create dance friendly swing music every now and then. Some of our songs are simply made to dance to, so we chose to use that word in some terms. We started to use it back in the 90s when we still performed for people on the streets. Think of a mix between folk dance and swing-style while playing accordion and saxophone to electronic music, and that became Tanzendans.

CS: Okay…we’ve hit a couple of the bigger things that people believe about Kastronata Prototype. If you don’t mind, I’d like to run through and get your reactions to a few more. The first is that you aren’t actually Czech. In fact, I was convinced that you’re actually from Sweden.

MN: We like to work illogically and create a wide-open world where we can use our imagination.That’s also how we created our blind dead knight (Amando de Ossorio anyone?) characters Lord Melker and Sigvard IV from the Czech Republic based on our real first names, but our real origin is the least important thing here since we’re just storytellers. We might be Greeks, Icelandics, Spaniards, Italians, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Romans, or maybe Poles. It makes no difference, it is the music that matters in the end. Why do people think we should truly be Swedes? Because of our work together with Skymning? I can’t find any other connections to it.

CS: The Skymning split is part of it. I’ll come back to that a bit later. The second is that either (a) Kastronata Prototype is only one of several similar ‘troll’ projects that you and Svigard do together, or (b) KP is part of a larger collective of ‘trolls’ who also do projects like Erferis, both halves of the Sorcière/Seigneur de Fer split, and others.

MN: As I mentioned to you before, neither Sigvard nor I am involved in Erferis. The only thing I know about that project is that there were one or two guys from Canada who were a part of it. Why I have that information to go with is because one of them posted about Erferis a couple of months ago, telling that it was his ongoing project, and that was just before I was banned from DS Cult. Therefore, I can’t speak for them, since I don’t know them.

I’ve never heard of the other two bands you mentioned and I can’t defend any of the other statements either, since I have never been involved in the discussions. Everything seems made up by another group, and just as I stated at the beginning of the interview; it sounds like people want to find their own interpretations without knowing anything. Such behavior can go bad in the long run and that’s nothing I accept at all.

CS: Oh yeah – I forgot about that. Why did you get banned from DS Cult?

MN: I kept a good tone, responded sincerely to everything, and had good conversation with everyone in the group, I also distributed free codes to Trollish Traditions which were very gratefully received. But one day I was suddenly removed and one of the admins I was in contact with decided to block me personally. I never got a good explanation, so I searched for an answer via the upper administration, and one of them told me that they banned me to avoid drama in the group. But that couldn’t be the real case, because there was no drama there back then? So I can’t really tell what the actual point was. Sorry.

CS: Hmmm…that surprises me a bit, but there are also several admins for that group and I don’t know them all. Since it feels like we’re probably close to wrapping up here, I want to circle back around to the start of the conversation, where I mentioned trying to do my own looking into Kastronata Prototype and just ending up more confused each time. You’ve already shot down my theory that you’re involved with Erferis. Do you have any connection to a project called Hyenameister, or more recently Lycaon Dorkus?

MN: Hyenameister, or Lycaon Dorkus, is the same person behind Skymning. That’s his Happy Hardcore project he use to work with beside Skymning. So no, neither me nor Sigvard have anything to do with that.

CS: Okay…so I wasn’t completely wrong about there being some connection – just not the one I thought. What about a black metal project called Fiat Nocturne?

MN: It depends on what connection you’re aiming for? I only know him as behind these two projects.

Fiat Nocturne? No sorry, I’ve never heard of them at all actually. I’m not into black metal that much, I have no strength, time, or desire to accompany something that falls outside my frames. When it comes to rock and metal, I like progressive and doom the most, which is also inspired  some tracks on Epicus Dormius.

CS: Hmmm…okay. You mentioned earlier that Depressive Illusion will soon be releasing physical versions of some of KP’s music. Can you give any more details about those releases?

MN: When Wulfrune Worxxx decided to release our music, I took the opportunity to search for their music catalog on Google. From there I found out that Depressive Illusion Records was one of their re-sellers, so I wrote to them and asked if they were interested in releasing our last two EPs. They replied and said they wanted to release our fully discography, so all of them will get released in July/August, I hope.

CS: What does the future hold for you and Sigvard? When his situation is more stable, do you see yourselves making more music as Kastronata Prototype? Are you working on any more music yourself right now, while he’s dealing with his personal situation?

MN: As many may have noticed at this point, we relate to mixed forms of musical genres, which means that we don’t follow any regular concepts at all – we like to experiment with what feels right in the heat of moment, and if we ever decide to continue with music when Sigvard has found a balance in his current position in life, then KP is a given recurrence. We didn’t give up the concept, we’ve just taken a break, and if we should return then it will go in the same vein as our last two EPs. That’s how we want the project to sound.

I myself haven’t worked on anything new since Epicus Dormius. I have lots of things to deal with and focus on in my private life too, with family, friends and work.

CS: So before wrapping this up, there’s one thing that I’ve been wondering ever since you first sent me that email asking about an interview. Why? Even though most of what people believe about Kastronata Prototype is incorrect, those misconceptions have helped make KP one of the most talked about DS acts of 2019. Not all of the discussions are positive, but they say there’s really no such thing as bad publicity. Or as Oscar Wilde put it, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. What made you want to set the record straight?

MN: I just want to try to put an end to everything. That’s my only will right now, since it has kept  gnawing at me like a unsavory spirit. Your worst nightmare as an artist, or a human in any form, is to become unacceptable and blocked from various groups, especially when you have no power to control anything you’re not guilty of. You’re very fragile on the Internet, quite vulnerable, and it’s much easier to retrieve and formulate negligent vocabulary on here than in reality. So my interview is a kind of forgiveness to anyone who has been hit the wrong way, by groups that neither me nor Sigvard can overcome whatsoever.

In the end I think the hype is more interesting than the music itself, and how everything has occurred. That’s also one of the reasons why I wanted to do this interview, just to let you know and try to figure out and get a better understanding of everything that happened outside my knowledge. I feel a bit confused myself, because why would we be associated with these alleged bands. There was also someone who wanted to connect us to six or seven other projects which seems insane. It would take a lifetime to create so many projects in such a short time – it sounds very unbelievable and quite impossible to reach all that within some months?

So, please don’t forget; it’s easy to judge someone in advance without questioning. There are probably many questions that haven’t been answered yet, but don’t be afraid to ask.

CS: Thanks again for being willing to talk. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?

MN: It was refreshing and nice to have this interview. We’ve been waiting for a long time, but now it’s over for this time. Thank you!

You can find us here:
KastronPatron@Gmail.com
KastronPatron.Bandcamp.com

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