If you look at the overall evolution of music, dark ambient is still in the early (but formidable) years of development. Achieving initial attention in the early 1970’s and gaining strength in the 1980’s with consistent artists such as Zoviet France and Lustmord, dark ambient is as strong as ever with a surfeit amount of artists on the scene, delivering some of the most dreadful, yet memorable droning soundscapes yet. One of the artists that have maintained that gloomy integrity is Iranian-based stronghold, Xerxes The Dark. Considered one of the constant heavyweights in the dark ambient community, XTD not only releases persistent albums, but has also collaborated with other top dark ambient artists to deliver some of the most compelling albums in the genre. For example, XTD and Ugasanie collaborated on the 2018 release, ‘Abysmal’, an album that I feel is one of the greatest dark ambient albums ever released. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the man behind XTD, Morego Dimmer, to get his perspective on all things XTD, his influences, gear, as well as his experimental, downtempo project called, Morego.
1. First of all, thank you for the interview opportunity. Can you tell me about the beginnings of Xerxes The Dark and how this became a Dark Ambient project?
At the beginning, the project name was simply Xerxes (2005-2009) then I changed it to Xerxes The Dark to not be confused with other bands/projects. Beside of this, Xerxes The Dark’s main musical Genre is Ambient Music. In different periods I was experiencing different things in my life which affected my musical style as well. Generally Dark Ambient is my Favor reference, Cause I love and use it in my own way, through different years I added different spices to my music, like noise, drones, recorded SFX, field recordings, etc. Being independent and experimental musician helped me to go through the space- time freely, so I didn’t forced myself to stick on certain things. This caused me to release stuffs in different styles from space ambient to ritual drone, from experimental electronic to industrial dark ambient. Dark Ambient is a fertile field for me in which I do what I really love to do and harvest what I want.
2. Xerxes The Dark is such a majestic name, how did you come up that?
As the matter of fact, (many of) Iranian people are living with their historical heroes, ancient myths and their old world. So it’s not weird why I choose my music project from Achaemenid Empire. King Xerxes was one of my Favorite kings in the History, I’ve read one of his tabulas in my childhood and I think it’s deeply penetrate into my mind, so at the time of naming, I’ve picked Xerxes.
3. Earlier this year, you remastered and re-released your first studio album ‘Dim’. How did the decision come about to re-release this stellar album?
When I was producing DIM, my home studio was running on very low budget as I was a high school student and have not enough money to spend on my musical career, but I really wanted to release my music. So I released DIM as a near demo album back in November 2006, firstly limited edition 13 CDRs, and later I released it via Amduscias Records and Smell The Stench. At the time I knew that the production is not much perfect, but it was a bottom heart work, so technical aspects were not very important to me at the time. Years later, as my studio became more pro, I was listening to DIM, I just thought that why I don’t polish those old works? And I started to work on them, beside DIM, I remastered other early work stuffs as well and some of them released and some of them will release in future.
4. Is there a story behind the song titles all starting with DIM?
Just a concept, I think because I was very depressed at those days, and everything around me was dark and grey.
5. How do you feel your sound/style has changed (or improved) over the years?
Music is an interactive and living thing. My music is easily affected by my mood, my mental state and environment. Throughout the past years I experienced things in my life which some of them were really weird, one of these was my father’s health issues which began in 2009 and ends in 2012 (when he passed away). In this period I was fighting with depression and other things and Cause I really love my father, I was suffering from his health issue. Throughout these years I just use music to medicine myself and calming down my soul, no serious stuff released in this period, (just a single for XTD “Utter Darkness” released on 2009/ starting MOREGO project and releasing a demo album/participating on a metal band which disbanded on 2010). Months After my Father’s Funeral, I decided to release my 2009-2011 recorded stuff as “Capricornus Exotica” album that is a real weirdo! Beside of life events (like studying / graduating from engineering college, working, achieving MSc in engineering, and some other academic things/ and recent health issues); the Studio, Instruments, Hardware and Software, gears, etc. are very important parameters that affected my music career. Also I’m always a learner, so educating myself theoretically and technically helped to improve my career over time.
6. Last year, you released a collaboration album with Ugasanie called ‘Abysmal’, which is one of my all-time favorite Dark Ambient releases. How did that recording come about?
I liked Ugasanie project when I listened it for the first time, so I added Ugasanie to my collaborating list and when the time has been came, I messaged him and asked for collaboration, he accepted and we started to find a proper concept, after a while he proposed to work on Mariana Trench as the concept, and I liked the idea! So we made Abysmal together. Simon Heath perfectly mastered the Album, Then Keosz did the stunning artwork, and finally Abysmal released on Cryo Chamber, this package deserves to be an all-time fav dark ambient release, huh?
7. You’ve also released collaborations with Alphaxone and DeepDark, so are collaboration albums just as enjoyable as releasing your own solo material?
Actually my first collaboration with Greek artist “Ego Death” album was released in 2008 titled “At Night”. Another split release was “Tomb Of Seers” beside Council Of Nine, Alphaxone and Wolves And Horses (Cryo Chamber). Also I did collaborated with my other musical projects as well. Yes, collaboration in any form like split albums, collab albums and even working on a Single Track with other artist(s) is always enjoyable, cause you learn from each other, you exchange knowledge, you became friend with someone at least understand your taste of music, you become familiar with other artist’s visions and sights, exchanging ideas are cool.
8. I’ve noticed lately that you’ve been heavily promoting your new project Morego. This project is much different from Xerxes The Dark so can you tell us what influenced you to write/record music under Morego?
You know it’s popular for producers to work under multiple projects. The main reason is to experience different genres, and different styles. I always loved to work on a serious rhythmic ambient project. Morego at its first demo album “Seasons of the Wrong Mind (2013)” was a blend of minimal and nostalgic neo-classical pieces and electro-rock / ambient opuses. When I back to the project on 2017, when I upgraded my studio, I decided to work seriously on this project, because it tells the stories that my other projects can’t. Morego is talking about my personal interests, personal life, while XTD talks about Universe, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Mankind and other general concerns. Morego’s main sources of inspiration are solitude, loneliness and the life’s journey. In forthcoming album named “Astrophile”, I wrote music for my long-term love “SPACE” with Sci-fi taste. It’s about a man who loved space and finally he became an astronaut, in a mission to a planet he encounters some strange things…
9. Do you use the same equipment for recording the Morego and Xerxes The Dark projects?
Most of them are different, for example XTD uses a huge amount of field recordings, but Morego don’t. I use different techniques for sound designing. XTD needs Atmospheric pads with dark moods, spooky SFXs etc., while Morego needs glitchy SFXs, Beats and Noisy Rhythms, the same things I use for my project are maybe the PC, DAW, Monitor Speakers and Audio Interface. I use Different Synths for making soundscapes/ pads/ drones for XTD and making beats, FXs, ARPs for Morego. And to be honest, sometimes I use a certain Synth to make different sounds for projects.
10. Do you often play live as Xerxes The Dark or Morego? Do you plan live tours for your projects?
Generally not performed much live shows, I prefer to perform live in official festivals. I played in two countries so far, Iran & Armenia, though i was invited for some Fests in Russia, Italy and Germany through the past decade. Most of the times i played as Xerxes The Dark. Nothing planned for live tours yet, cause our current economic situation is preventing me to planning for independent tours/ live shows.
11. Do you have other projects names that you record under as well?
Yes, Nyctalllz is my other project, which started in 2007, released four solo albums, and two split albums. Nyctalllz is a Noise project experiencing experimental electronic and electro-acoustic music.
12. What can we expect from Xerxes The Dark in 2020?
The plan is not much clear yet. Maybe some live shows, and working on new materials for some interdisciplinary projects.
13. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions! Do you have any final thoughts for your fans that may be reading this interview?
Thank you indeed for making this interview, my fans and fellas are great, I always appreciate their supports and their energies.
Morego Dimmer (aka Xerxes The Dark, Nyctalllz, Morego)