For the past several years, Ajna has been on fire! The Dark Ambient producer has consistently released great albums spanning sub-genres such as isolationism, drone, hauntology, and other experimental aspects of electronic music. Whatever is on the radar for any particular album, you can rest assure that the results are beyond reproach. Recently I was fortunate to have a few email interactions with the mastermind behind Ajna to get a greater viewpoint of the music, influences, the ardor behind the album artwork and everything in between. The results are embedded in this congenial interview with Ajna and on display is an endless passion for music, photography and spiritual wellbeing. Hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
1. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. Over the past year or so, Ajna has become one of my favorite Dark Ambient artists. Can you tell me how this project came about? Also, Ajna is such a cool name for a project of this magnitude. Does the name have a significant meaning to you?
Thank you for the opportunity, Dave! The pleasure is mine. I appreciate the kind words. Well, at the time, throughout 2007, I was getting heavily back into Dark Ambient and Drone music. I have been listening to Dark Ambient since the late 90’s/early 2000’s, that’s when I was first introduced to the Cold Meat Industry and Malignant labels but it was during 2007 when I was getting very heavily back into it, mainly because I was at a place in my life where I wanted to change my lifestyle. I spent more time in nature and away from the bustling cities, I also started practicing Kundalini Meditation, and I’ve been a practitioner since then (almost 16 years now). Dark Ambient and Drone music really went well with my new spiritual life as I feel that it goes perfectly with nature, solitude, deep thinking, meditation, esoteric books etc and eventually this inspired me to create the Ajna project early 2008. Ajna is considered the 6th chakra, also known as the “Third eye”, it works as the center for intuition, self-realization, imagination, consciousness etc. This is why I felt that Ajna was the perfect name for the project.
2. A lot of your earlier albums were very minimalistic and leaned more toward Drone than Dark Ambient. Some of my favorite early works are ‘An Array Of Black Clouds’ and ‘Anatomy Of A Nightmare’. How do these albums represent your audial experimentation up to that point?
Well, as mentioned before the project started in 2008 but I did not become satisfied with my sound until 2011ish. I created this type of slow, drifting, isolationist drone sound one afternoon and it was like finding the Holy Grail, lol! I had finally found the Ajna sound. So, yes, a lot of my earlier works were much more drone and minimalistic, at the time I was very fascinated with shaping and crafting dronescapes in various ways and as time went on, my works have progressively got more complex, little by little.
3. On those earlier albums did you use a variety of recording gear as compared to recent recordings?
I have always used a combination of hardware and software but I used less back then as compared to now. But even nowadays, I am not a big gear collector, I am more of a gatherer of sounds, I like keeping things simple. I like using everything I currently have to the fullest advantage. If there is too much choice of equipment in the studio it becomes too overwhelming for me. Ultimately, I think it’s about ideas and not how many synths you have. That’s how I feel anyway 🙂
4. One thing that is consistent throughout all of your recordings is the amazing artwork/photography used. Are these your original photos?
Thank you for the kind words, Dave! Yes, they are all original photos taken by me (aside from Black Monolith). I guess I can say that Music is my first love and Photography my second. I feel that the atmosphere of my photos goes well with the music I make which is why I have used my own photos for the artwork most of the time.
5. Speaking of photography, do you get inspired to write music after taking a particular photo?
Yes, of course. Photography shoots are always inspiring for me, the particular atmosphere, the mood, the setting, the weather, etc. All of these things inspire me to create music and yes, sometimes I hear drones/sounds in my head with particular photos. I seem to get the same feeling while watching certain films too (the ones with great cinematography), like Lynch, Bergman, Tarkovsky, etc. Ultimately, Ambient music is very visual for me and it goes hand in hand with Photography in my opinion.
6. I noticed that early on you started collaborating with artists such as IOK1, Dronny Darko and Onasander (to name a few). How was it working with a variety of uniquely experienced artists, and did this help shape your own sound moving forward?
I cannot say that it helped shape my own sound but I have definitely learned a lot from my collaborations. Although I am very picky with whom I collaborate with, it’s fascinating to see other artists’ creative process and how they sculpt the sounds compared to how you do it.
7. What’s been your favorite collaboration effort so far?
I do not have a personal favorite but the ones that are most memorable to me are Black Monolith (w/Dronny Darko), Canidia (w/Onasander), and Anamnesis (w/IOK1). Black Monolith was a very special release at Reverse Alignment, it was actually 3 different releases combined into a 2CD album and it seems to be a real favorite amongst fans, everything just clicked with that one. Canidia (released at Winter-Light) was an interesting collaboration especially due to the fact that I used to listen to some of Maurizio’s projects while I was back in High School (Typhoid, H.P.P). I was getting really into Rhythmic Noise in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and here I am collaborating with Maurizio 20 years later. Pretty wild. Anamnesis, was a 4 track EP released at the Kalpamantra label, and I really loved the sound that David and I created on this one, very haunting, nightmarish and surreal. My isolated dense drones mixed with David’s more Industrial/Ambient sound worked really well. You can find an extended edition of Anamnesis on streaming platforms.
8. In my opinion, 2018’s ‘Lucid Intrusion’ really started to develop the modern Ajna sound. Where does this album rank as far as a shift in sound?
Yes, absolutely agree. ‘Lucid Intrusion’ was the real stepping stone for me, it was the big shift to a more active obscure dark ambient sound with much more layers going on as opposed to my more linear sound in the past. This was the real quantum leap as it was my first release on Cyclic Law. When I got back into Dark Ambient in 2007 (as mentioned before), Cyclic Law was my absolute #1 go to label at the time for Dark Ambient music (and pretty much still is today). So, it was always a dream of mine since the day Ajna began to release at Cyclic Law and 10 years after the project began, here I am releasing at my favorite label. It’s a really a great thing to be apart of a label that was so inspiring to me and it’s surreal that some of my favorite Dark Ambient artists such as Raison D’etre, Kammarheit, Svartsinn, New Risen Throne, Desiderii Marginis etc are now my label mates. It’s truly an honor!
9. I can’t compete this interview without mentioning ‘Mors Ultra’. This was one of my favorite Dark Ambient album of 2022 and is THE definitive collection of Ajna tracks. What was the thought process going into the making of this album?
That’s so great to hear and I am really happy you enjoyed the album! Well, the concept just kind of came to me one day. I am a big fan of esoteric, occult, metaphysical (etc) books, I love digging deep into mysteries and spirituality, I really cannot get enough of it but also at the time I was very fascinated with reading about Near Death Experiences. I read many accounts of it, hearing people’s different stories and perceptions about it and then suddenly the idea for the album just came to me.
10. This album is quite long as well – which is right up my alley. Was this done on purpose or were the creative juices endlessly flowing?
Well, yes it’s quite long (hah) but initially ‘Mors Ultra” was two separate albums. Disc 1 was recorded/composed throughout 2019 and Disc 2 was recorded/composed throughout 2020, which was the first year of the pandemic. I had a lot of time on my hands, everything was shut down at the time, I transitioned to remote work, spent a lot of time in nature and meditating so I got really busy in the studio in 2020 especially. So yes, the creative flow was just there all the time, I sent over disc 2 to Cyclic Law late 2020 and then Frederic suggested the double album idea and I was totally into it.
11. You recently released an extended, remastered version of your first album, ‘Nordic Drifts’. What led to the decision to release this milestone effort?
I wanted to do something special with “Nordic Drifts” since it was the first EP that I’ve ever released back in Summer 2012. I suppose you can say that it’s somewhat of a 10th Anniversary release (even though it’s a little over 10 years now). It’s always nice to revisit old tracks once in a while and I will be doing the same for more releases in the past and some unreleased material as well. I find it very interesting because some of my fans/listeners prefer my earlier sound compared to my new sound and vice versa. Everyone has different tastes.
12. Do you have plans to remaster/revisit any more of your earlier releases?
Yes, definitely. I really enjoy revisiting old work once in a while and I do plan on remastering/revisiting old works and I may even release some EPs/albums that are unreleased or tracks only exclusive to my Soundcloud. I’ve also been getting some requests for a re-release of “Inevitable Mortality” since only 50 copies were made. Hopefully, that can happen sometime in the future as well.
13. Do you have more releases lined up for 2023? If so, will there be any exciting collaborations?
Another solo length was completed this past Autumn and sent to the label but I do not know the time or the date of the release as of yet. No collaborations in the works at this time.
14. You’ve had an extensive career as a Dark Ambient artist. Have you thought about branching out to other genres of music, even if for just a one-off project?
I actually have two side projects. My one project Segment.fault is another Ambient project but has a more musique concrete/hauntology approach. The soundscapes are also loop based and have this lo-fi feel to them. I hope to have a physical release one day, I revived the project in 2020 and have released a couple of albums on bandcamp. My other side project is called Ghost Peripheral (formerly called Intrinsik) and this is the one project that’s actually beat oriented. The genre is a mixture of Glitch and IDM, I released many tracks on my soundcloud back in the day and only have 1 self released EP but I have not worked on the project in about 3-4 years. Maybe I’ll revive it one day.
15. Your Ghost Peripheral project sounds very intriguing. Do you think you’ll release a compilation album of earlier works (that were on SoundCloud) on Bandcamp one day?
You know, I’ve thought about this several times and it’s really not a bad idea at all (thanks for reminding me Dave, hah!). I may do this one day and perhaps sometime I’ll also make new material with that project. Who knows what the future may bring…
16. I want to thank you once again for your time and for gracing us all with a comprehensive catalog of music. Do you have any final thoughts for those that will be reading this interview?
The pleasure is mine, Dave! Thank you very much for choosing me for an interview. This is not a common thing for me but I really enjoyed answering your questions! To the dark ambient/drone artists getting started out there, remember to always be yourself no matter what, don’t follow the trends or hype, if you remain patient, passionate and resilient good things will happen. Thank you for taking the time to read!