Ajna Offensive is a name that means to most intelligent underground Black Metal people quality releases. It is a name which could also mean to a person from some other background various kinds of Experimental Psychedelic music or Occult books. Tyler Davis is man known to care more about quality than quantity. Having done a lot of work in the underground (and sometimes above it as well), it is an honour to talk with him.
If I’ve understood correctly, you reside in the rural surroundings of Oregon? How is your daily life built around the activities of the label, and would you consider living in some bigger city, such as Portland perhaps, or another?
You are correct, I live rurally, 25 minutes from my post office. It’s idyllic. My approach to life is to minimize superfluous human interaction, and the interactions I do have are done on my own terms. Sacrifices have been made, as is necessary for remote living. Such a set up allows me to be outside or inside working on the label as needs dictate. Different seasons exact different tolls, provide varied inspiration, and I’m adaptable as life demands. Portland’s a fine city as far as they go, but I’ve no interest in moving there. It’s vices are charming for a few days max, like every other city.
You also attend various kinds of events from book conferences to art-exhibitions. Do you travel a lot, and does promoting your releases require visibility of these sorts?
This year has found more travel than in years past, although not to larger events, but more for research and development (ie creative inspiration). The egregores that we flow through and endorse seldom surface with public events such as those mentioned above, mostly because we work with a disparate and motley cast and that typically means people scattered a great distance from one another.
As for promoting, we do little of it. We mostly rely upon unseen forces to promote our works. We’ve done well enough following those customs thus far, so I don’t see much changing in the future. We’ve no great interest in hob-nobbing with those whose opinions we don’t respect. We’ve co-opted as much as we intend to at this point, which is just enough to satisfy the needs of some of the bands we work with.
In your past you had worked with the now quite known Stephen O’Malley, who had his hand in the creation of the label. Can you tell us a bit about that, and do you still work together with Stephen?
I met Stephen when my roommate from the Oakland days brought back a copy of Descent #1 from a trip to Seattle. I penned an insanely long letter and it was instant friendship. After helping with Descent, I wanted to start a record label and Stephen was instrumental in the developmental stages of that foray. After a while he got too busy and needed a paying/steady job, so had to take his skills elsewhere. We do not work together currently, but there is still a mutual respect and deep friendship. Maybe someday I’ll dream up a project that he’ll want to manifest with Ajna.
During it’s 15 year career in releasing albums, Ajna has been a label of many flavours. I’ve gotten the impression your philosophy was diversity since the beginning, did this turn out to be a good move, or have you had your doubts along the way at some point?
I doubt everything I do. Always, even when it feels “right”. Granted, I don’t think TAO is as diverse as most labels, but I work with what I want to work with and that’s how it works.
You have released albums from a large group of one of the most respected names in underground Black Metal today, with titles from bands like Katharsis, Teitanblood, Mortuus, Funeral Mist, Watain etc. Have bands approached you or vice versa, in which case you seem to have a very good eye and ear for bands?
The ways bands and I come to working with each other depends upon the band. Much like everything else with the label, everything is one of a kind.
Your flattery is too much. My sales reports might beg to differ.
You also print books of various nature. Are these two aspects of the label equally important to you, when thinking of the time and money spent in releasing material?
I’d actually like to focus more on books than my time allows, but books are a larger investment with a whole different set of issues in terms of distribution and so forth. Plus many of the books I’d like to publish need to be translated first and, being a Neanderthal—er, American—I only know one language. Any translators out there who want to step up and work for a pittance, shoot an email my way.
I’d like for books and music to hold equal sway, but records are far easier to manifest in every way, so for the moment the scale tips in the favor of music releases.
Do you ever receive negative feedback due to your sometimes controversial releases or distributed material, or is the critique towards Ajna mostly positive?
I am not sure, exactly. I see very little feedback period and pretty much dislike the cheap democratic nature of the internet, which is like bad journalism 101 where no one has to have any legitimate foundation for casting claims into the e-verse, so I fail to engage or indulge in the insanity of it all.
Again, I work with what I appreciate and have an interest in. If some of those things rub people the wrong way, tough shit. It’s a big world with all kinds of ugliness and beauty entwined in a dance of death. I wouldn’t be where I am now, both figurative and literally, if I paid attention to those sorts of things.
What kind of styles do you sell the most when it comes to music; Black and Death Metal, Electronic Experimental music, the other more Psychedelic original stuff, or everything equally?
Black Metal. My customer base seems to be very rigid in what they purchase (from my site at least). The scope of my interest in music is vast, but my attempts to broaden the stylistic base of my arsenal has not played out very well over the duration of the label, so when I do release or stock music that is not of a Black Metal nature, the print runs or quantities imported are far less.
Have you been into underground music (Black Metal for example) since a kid or a teenager, or was the more esoteric side of our musical culture discovered by you on a later period?
I grew up on KISS when they were a phenomenon, but by the age of 13 or so I was pursuing “the more esoteric side of our musical culture,” from that point on to this day.
As your release often have an Occult or Mythological theme, does Spirituality play an important role in your daily life? What Spiritual systems would you say you find most appealing and important to you personally?
Yes, spirituality plays an important role in my daily life. I find many systems to be of interest, but few have a direct bearing upon my own practices. I’ll refrain from naming names, but a few organizations and orders have seen me in attendance at their ceremonies, celebrations and otherwise.
How about your own musical life, have you ever been involved in any musical projects, or are you perhaps currently active in making music? How about other kinds of art, do they play an important role in your personal creative life?
I’ve talentless musically. I have ideas, but have no idea of how to manifest them. I’m not a gear head either and have no technical skills with equipment, so until the right people with the right gear and the willingness to collaborate end up in the same place as myself for a few days or weeks, I’ll stick to manifesting the visions/sounds of others.
Thank you for this short interview Tyler! How do you see the future of Ajna right now?
Sure thing. The future of TAO purports to be quite busy! The cauldron boileth.