Here is a copy of the recent interview done by Scott Johnson of Astral Luminous on the highly-regarded webzine 'Heathen Harvest'
Heathen Harvest: Greetings Scott. To start this out, can you tell us about the project and what surrounds its core thought pattern?
Scott Johnson: To create experimental metal and ambient, inspired by spiritual, earthly, and psychological subjects.
HH: Your lyrics seem to point more towards a cosmic philosophical awareness with an outer essence of mysticism / magick. You also seem to approach some more new age ideals. What spiritual and philosophical ideals pull you?
SJ: Exactly. I am interested in studies of religion, psychology, philosophy, things giving deeper insight into the human psyche, the earth, as well as the cosmos. I seek a higher knowledge of myself. I study different forms of religion, and overall have individualistic ideals.
HH: Culturally, Texas is one of the last places that one would expect to find a project like yours in this country. How have your surroundings affected your style and spirituality?
SJ: My surroundings have not affected anything, or restricted my mentality.
HH: Surely other Texan bands like Absu, Dagon, and Vesperian Sorrow have influenced you on the black metal edge, but are there any Dark Ambient / Industrial / Noise acts? Houston, for instance, has a thriving noise scene.
SJ: I cannot name one. Obviously, I am just not familiar with the scene.
HH: Would it be safe to say that projects like Vinterriket, even Darkspace and Paysage d'Hiver?
SJ: Yes, because they are ambient, and adventerous in the art of experimentation with music, both sounds and compositions. I strive for the same thing, but in my own unique approach.
HH: Your sound on the upcoming record goes a bit further than most black ambient hybrids in that it seems to have a bit of post-rock atmosphere included in addition to the usual minimal ambience which mostly adds to the psychedelic nature of your music. Why have you chosen to go more towards this sound?
SJ: I have chosen a less cosmic theme from my previous album Lunaric Tide, and wanted to create something more organic, and earthly, but still mystical in atmosphere. My musical style is changing, and maturing, and with it, this new direction. it will still be Astral Luminous, just more attainable by a larger audience I would say.
HH: What different states of mind do your various sounds bring to you? Your albums can range everywhere from drone ambient to atmospheric black metal and back to post-rock instrumentalism.
SJ: Meditation, dreaming, brainstorming, thought processes from calm and insightful, to intense and knowledge seeking.
HH: Are psychedelic 'substances' used by you for your creative rituals?
SJ: No they are not haha. One would assume so though.
HH: Who designed your logo? There's a lot of fine detail going on inside of it, are there any subliminal meanings within it?
SJ: I assume you are referring to the logo created by Ba'al Graphics. There are not any exact meanings, just wanted something stylish, and geared more towards an obscure imagery. There are some alchemic/occult symbols in the logo at the ends of the rays, however they are just for aesthetic purposes, and do not represent a certain symbolism or message.
HH: The layout for the album was done by Ba'al Graphics, whom are more known for their work with Raw black metal and old school styles. Why the decision to work with them?
SJ: I admired his style, and ability to adapt to a client. He was able to create something more experimental than the usually he works on, while still remaining obscure. Overall, I am very happy with the design for Lunaric Tide, and have received many great comments on it. He will also create the album 2 layout.
HH: What creates in you the passion to create this style of music? What music and literature has influenced you to bring you to this point.
SJ: What creates the passion is knowledge in general, of our everyday lives, what we directly see, and what we do not. There are many influences musically, and non-musically that inspired me to start creating my own approach to music composition / sound. Of course it is a personal expression, but also an attempt to show listeners the flexibility of sound, composition, and genres. As far as music goes, new age, the power of metal, orchestra, classical, world and cultural music, many different genres. With literature, Edgar Allen Poe, the ancient greek philosophers, Einstein, writings on religion, psychology, anatomy, biology. Many different things, revolving around knowledge. Love and passion.
HH: In February, you released 'Lunaric Tide' through Hypnotic Dirge Records. Tell us how this release came about.
SJ: It went very well! It was duplicated by my local studio, Smart Productions. I have received many great reviews on the album, and Skog did a great job distributing and promoting as well. Seems people received their orders promptly. I am happy with the results both the reception from listeners, and how widespread across the world it has become. As far as how it came about, I met Skog, and joined the label, because I was impressed with his ideas and the work he had done with the label already. So I had faith in his workings, and everything went smoothly.
HH: Drew of Indiana's "Dark Procession" contributed session vocals on Lunaric Tide. How did you come to work with him?
SJ: I liked his project, and sampled many different vocalists. Of all, he had the most creative and relating lyrical theme to my work, meaning he understood my concept and created perfect lyrics for Lunaric Tide.
HH: Were any vocals done by yourself?
SJ: The only vocals I have done so far, were on a song called "Transcendance" on my 2007 demo.
HH: You've noted previously that this album wasn't an 'official studio' album. Were you satisfied with the quality that you acheived with this first release?
SJ: At the time, I was very happy with it. Still listening today, it is better than some, but also I hear a lot of different choices I could have made. Overall im very happy, it was a debut after all.
HH: Your upcoming album, "Mens - Corpus - Anima" is slated for release in Late Winter / Spring of 2010. Can you tell us a little bit about this forthcoming effort as well as the title?
SJ: With album 2, I am taking a slightly different approach than Lunaric Tide. Lunaric focused heavily upon cosmic themes, both musically and with imagery. For the next album, it will still be spiritual and atmospheric, but have more earthly concepts. The recording and production quality will be much better, working with Frank Pryor at Smart Productions. Ba'al Graphics will also design the album layout. So far, the music is more accessible to a broader range of listeners, not so restricted to Cosmic Black Ambient. The approach will be more "experimental" metal than black, but still be obscure. The music will not focus so much on spacial atmosphere, but upon alternate vibes. For example, some inspiration is coming from philosophy, both from the Greeks, Buddhism, and other resources. Although I do not follow buddhist studies and beliefs, it is an interesting study, with valuable points on life and the mind. The art has taken a gentle vibe from cultural art. You will see what I mean. Also with the instruments, they will delve deeper into my own experimental approach.
HH: The cover artwork for the upcoming release is a far cry from the debut. You've crossed over from what some would call a bleak cosmic style of imagery to a more psychedelic overtone. What was behind the decision to go more towards this territory?
SJ: The decision was in the "momentary inspirations" For example, back when Lunaric Tide was created, I was heavily inspired by the cosmos, spiritual studies, etc. For album 2, I am inspired by more earthly subjects, but still mystic.
HH: Are you only a fan of the darker styles of music or do you find solace in acts that go off labeled as "mainstream" but seem to share the same philosophical ideas as yours, such as TooL?
SJ: Both. I appreciate many styles of music, but have much inspiration for some mainstream acts like Tool as you mentioned. Actually, they have been a big inspiration lately, and for the direction of Astral Luminous at this time.
HH: You've mentioned that your musical tastes range everywhere from the expected to Jazz, Blues, and Folk. As your recording skills increase and your musical abilities grow, can we expect to see you step into the experimental territory to include some of these influences in your music?
SJ: If that happens, it will be an alternate project. As for the moment, Astral Luminous will stay Experimental, Metal, and ambient, with some light overtones of other genres.
HH: Has the project ever had the chance to play to a live audience as of yet?
SJ: No not yet. I have considered doing a live show, with me as the engineer and only musician, but I do not have the equipment for that yet. Even if I did I am doubting I will do a live show, even with session musicians. Its a personal thing for me when a recording is cd only, for it to be open for interpretation. I plan to make videos for songs, but as for live I think it's too personal to develop into that yet.
HH: Are there any plans to re-release either of your demos in a format other than digital downloads? You covered some interesting tracks that many would be eager to hear (Morbid Angel, Burzum, Mortiis especially).
SJ: No plans right now. I do not think that will ever happen. I am proud of my demo. I have already presented it and am happy with the results. If they are interested in it, they can find the free download at the official Hypnotic Dirge Records website, under the downloads section. My other demos are cassette transferred to digital, and they are not presentable at all at this point. I have simply moved forward, but I am happy with the reception they have received.
HH: What are your expectations for Astral Luminous? Is there any upcoming news that we can expect to hear any time soon?
SJ: Expectations.. Just to continue with this art I have developed, and hopefully reach a broader range of listeners. Writing Album 2, and the first official tshirt will be available soon! Its been an honor.