(by Mike Riddick)
Our first label feature investigates the Ajna Offensive, a label repute with an array of quality releases over the years, predominantly centered on occultism and esoteric philosophy. The label has published everything from experimental ambient and neo-folk music to extreme black metal while consistently incorporating a sense of value and class with each release. Their epic “Infernal Proteus” 4 x CD compilation and hardcover book is perhaps a testament to the fine detail and exhaustive care shown to each release. We asked the owner, Tyler, about his thoughts on the label, where they are headed and what bands we can expect soon from the Ajna Offensive.
Please tell us about the origins of The Ajna Offensive. What inspired the creation of your organization?
The Ajna Offensive originated about 12-13 years ago with a CD by an act called Plecid. Decidedly NOT metal, but inspiring beyond belief on multiple levels. I’d released music before that under different monikers, but this time things remained focused.
Ajna is Sanksrit for “Command.” Was this the sole reason for the name behind the label or do you have a deeper interest in Hindu spirituality?
Yes and no, it was more related to the next question to be honest, although one could say the two are intrinsically linked.
The Ajna is also the “Third Eye” of occult tradition. What significance does this have for you and what do you believe its importance is in relation to transforming one’s mind and body? Do you believe music is an integral part of this process?
To me, the Ajna chakra represents achieving gnosis, no matter how fleeting, through whichever means necessary, and in that sense it’s vitally important for my own pursuits. Music is one conduit through which one can attain states that allow for that chakra to open. Historically, of course, music is instrumental to ritual; therefore why not keep ritual in the fore!
If I recall correctly, it seemed as though Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O, Burning Witch, etc.) had an early role in the development of your label. To what extent was he involved with Ajna?
Yes, we met when I sent him a very excitable letter upon reading the first issue of Descent. We met and got along famously. I offered all of my energy to Descent, conversely he offered his energies towards Ajna for a while.
Your label stands out as one of the more unique publishers of metal music. What personal decisions or standards did you develop to help set Ajna apart from the mass of labels in the marketplace these days?
I simply try to offer up something that I’d want as a consumer. I want content on all levels: music and message and presentation. Aesthetics is critical.
There is a clear emphasis on the importance of art and packaging in your releases. Have you found it challenging to balance a small label budget with a desire to offer high quality products? In what ways have you overcome this challenge?
A limited budget means infinite challenges! People wonder why I don’t do more advertising, for example. The main reason is because I sink all available funds into the releases with scant little left over for any marketing. The bands, I think, are generously compensated for their effort and the packaging is, 90% of the time, spared no expense to make it as the bands want it. I’ve had to overcome this challenge by stirring the cauldron for so damned long! In the beginning it was one release at a time, and now it’s to the point where I’m up to two or three projects at once when things are properly coalescing.
It’s clear you have an interest in more than just metal music. Tell us about some of the other genres you entertain in your personal time and how you’ve integrated these aspects into the music Ajna represents.
I like any genre that offers me something beyond mundane pleasure. Something that opens doors be it through the evocative music/soundscapes or the poetry of the lyrics (although I’m guilty in that realm, too). Typically, music with a darker element. Last night it was ritual music performed by Bon Po, earlier in the week it was Funerary Violin music performed by Rohan Kriwaczek. Intersperse this with your rekindling of the 70s/80s bands I grew up with and you have a fuller picture of the whole. I tend to lean heavily towards death themes in the music I appreciate most. Hmm, let me correct that, for some of the havoc it has created within the youth of the world I fucking loathe hip hop/rap.
Who are some bands you’re currently working with and who do you have planned for the future?
Currently it would be Bobby Beausoleil, Weapon and Acrimonious. Those are the three newest releases. Next it would be Negative Plane, Saturnalia Temple and Nightbringer.
What is your most cherished release on the label and why?
I’ll remain diplomatic here!
Your mailorder catalog extends beyond the Ajna releases to include some other labels as well. Were these hand-picked by you or are you open to carrying anything in your store? What criteria do you use when selecting what to sell in your store?
Well, this isn’t clear cut. I’d prefer to only carry music that I like or listen to, but my catalog would be much smaller and far too eclectic to do any good if that were the case. The few times I’ve tried to branch out (Voudon music, the Funerary Violin discs, Marches of the Iron Guard, etc.) has usually been a painful lesson in the close-mindedness of those who shop around on my site.
You also distribute literature. Please tell us about the items you sell, why you have chosen them and how they relate to the music products you’re representing.
Literature, to me, is as influential and important as music and art; therefore it seemed utterly vital to offer literature on the site. Likewise, since I’ve released two books so far and plan to have at least two more out before the end of the year, I wanted to (again) try to branch out a bit and keep things interesting. The content of the books on my site illustrates the importance of the content of the music I prefer to stock or release: heavy on the occultism, ritual work, magickal theory and meta-history. These things mean far more to me than goats, spiked gauntlets, getting drunk seven nights a week or utopian concepts on the end of mankind.
Any final words for the readers of Metal Maniacs!?
Solve et Coagula.