Owl Glitters second album Alchemical Tones was one of the high points of MMXIV, a psychedelic folk journey steeped in Persian mysticism and sufi philosophy. Yoshiwara meets with Arkia Jahani, the creative force behind it.
Greetings from Yoshiwara Arkia,
Please begin by introducing the individuals at the heart of Owl Glitters? What brought you together?
I am the only member of Owl Glitters. I write, perform, record and pretty much do everything else in the “band”. I also created the artwork for the album. The project started several years back during my winter break when I recorded the first release Lotus Eyes.
Based in Roswell, Georgia, to what extent has the culture of this city influenced who you are and the music you make?
More than anything I’m influenced by the time I spend alone, in my studio or outside in nature. There is a path-way from my house to the river and I walk there often. I enjoy the quiet sound of nature.
Any other musicians/bands locally you would care to recommend?
Locally speaking, I enjoy the band of birds outside my window, the sound of the river and music of the leaves. Other than that nothing comes to mind really.
The Owl, as it can be found in Celtic lore, can be viewed as a creature of the shadows and the Otherworld. Although, “The Owls are not what they seem”. What attracted you to the Owl?
The name Owl Glitters came to me in a dream. In the dream I declared that I was going to start a band and the band was to be named Owl Glitters. When I woke up I remembered everything and did as I’d dreamed. Also, I’m very much a night owl and feel most creative once everyone has gone to bed. Almost all of Alchemical Tones & Lotus Eyes were written and recorded at night in my studio with very little light in the room. Maybe that has something to do with it as well but I don’t know.
How or why does the owl glitter? Do its eyes reflect the moon? Or are the silvery feathers glistening? Is it a totem guide?
I’m really not sure what the name means. It’s meaning has changed for me many times over the years and also meanings are not important to me. I like the way the words roll off my tongue.
Alchemical Tones glitters! Tell me more about everything, beyond the music itself, how conceptually linked is the (great) artwork, the tracks themselves to a larger idea?
With the artwork I wanted to realize what the record sounds like internally, as you know sound waves have physical properties. I thought about what it would be like to see the music, to be able to smell it and to taste it. This thought was with me the entire time as I was recording the album. Each song has it’s own color palette. I was trying to capture a glimpse of the invisible. I think I came close.
How did your upbringing influence your interest in Persian mysticism and Sufism?
My family are originally from Persia (Iran). Persian poets like Rumi, Hafiz, Attar and Sanai were often quoted in our household during my upbringing. But it wasn’t till later in life, when I was in High School that I began reading them to myself and got to fully appreciate their work. Since I can remember I’ve had an interest in ethnic arts. Persia has a beautiful history and a complex culture that most of us here in the west are not familiar with.
“No tongue can tell Your secret
for the measure of the word obscures Your nature.
But the gift of the ear
is that it hears
what the tongue cannot tell.”
How was the record received by your listeners? Have you had the chance to present this album live so far?
When I was working on the album I wasn’t thinking about the “listeners”. In fact at that point I don’t even think anyone other than a few friends knew about Owl Glitters. Also I didn’t let anyone listen to any of the material until the album was completed. Once it was done I uploaded it online but I didn’t send it to record labels, radio stations or magazines. People found it on their own, they listened to it and shared it. So far I haven’t come across a bad review, which is weird and worrying. And I haven’t had the opportunity to perform any of it live but I hope I’ll be able to do that in the near future. I enjoy playing live.
Surely there’s a vinyl pressing in the pipeline?
That will be a dream come true! Just the thought of it makes me smile. But these things are out of my hands. First there has to be a demand for a vinyl release and someone (a label) has to be interested in releasing it on wax. I hope one day it will exist on Vinyl because it is my favorite format.
Heart & Crossbone has been on my radar since the Queen Elephantine Scarab album and I am only now beginning to discover other releases under its banner. How did the alliance come about?
It was a little over a year ago that I received an email from Rani (Heart & Crossbone) describing their label to me and asking me if I was interested in releasing Alchemical Tones, a year later and here we are. From my experience with them they seem to be very passionate about the music they choose to release and are honest, trustworthy folks.
Delving through some of the Temple of Holy recordings, I was excited to see the range of styles in music. Have you ever felt close to any one ‘scene’ or genre in particular? If not, please explain?
Temple of Holy was started with a friend Alex Zhuravlov (who is a brilliant filmmaker) several years back. We use the name to release our collaborative & solo works. Over the years the webpage has also become an archive for our work.
I am constantly in a state of push and pull, from all directions. Since I can remember I’ve been an outsider and very rarely have I felt that I’ve belonged to a “scene” or to a “genre” and this has motivated me to constantly move and to discover new things. I can have an in-depth conversation about Avant-garde Jazz and I can also hold a nerdy conversation with an electronic musician about gear, but that’s not all that I know or all that I listen to. I am always interested in new music and the kinds of music that don’t resemble anything I’ve ever been exposed to.
If you’ve ever noticed, most people who’ve reached their 40’s still listen to the same bands that they use to listen to when they were in High School & College. This is mainly because their ears have stopped evolving. It is healthy to stretch you ears and to consciously open yourself to new things. This way you’ll still grow old but you will never become old.
Your “Windows Have Souls” synthesizer recording has struck a chord with me. Where did the interest in electronic music come from?
In my opinion Synthesizers are the most natural sounding instruments. Is there any instrument that sounds more organic and more spiritual than a Synth? Next to the human voice I think Synthesizers are also the most interesting and most flexible instruments available to us. You can make so many different types of sound with them, anything from industrial, robotic sounds to the sound of the wind or the sound of birds. The possibilities are endless! If you can imagine a sound you can find a method and mold it with a Synth.
Any plans to release any of your Arkia recordings in a physical format?
Almost all of the music that I upload under ARKIA are recordings I’d made in between other projects. There are literally hundreds of tracks, EPs and completed albums lying around on tapes and hard drives, some date far back as 2002. Maybe in the future I’ll have the opportunity to release something physically, but to me making music is far more enjoyable and far more rewarding than releasing music.
What kinds of music have influenced you the most? Are there any albums that have had an impact on you recently?
Every song has it’s place in time. Listening to music is usually a learning experience for me and I enjoy learning. I’m inspired by all kinds of music from all over. One of the most intelligent things that a person can do is to unconditionally listen. I listen to everything from radio hits to underground artists that most people will never hear. When someone doesn’t “like” a particular song or a particular style of music it has more to do with them as a listener than the music itself. Like I said, everything has it’s place in time. Lately, I’ve been listening to Aphex Twin’s album “Syro”. The programming and the overall production of the album is just brilliant. Also I’ve been listening to Sunn O))) live at De Kreun concert film. Their live performances are just mind chattering! Very inspiring.
I’m guessing music is not your only passion. Perhaps you would describe some of your other passions and influences? What makes them special, what impact have they had on you?
It is incredible to be alive on this planet and in an infinite universe, and this (being alive) is something I’m extremely grateful for. I’m intrigued by the things that I don’t understand, they motivate me each day to get out of the bed and to make something as a token of my appreciation. From an early age it was clear to me that I wanted to spend my life making works of Art, not just in music but in every possible form.
A final question: What hopes do you have for the future of your music, in Owl Glitters or otherwise?
I spent last year re-building & expanding my studio. Beginning Spring I plan on starting work on three albums, one of which is the next Owl Glitters. Hopefully I’ll have time to finish them all by end of the year.
We have reached the end. Thank you Arkia for answering my questions and please use this space for any parting words…
I like to thank you for these questions and for giving me the opportunity to ramble on about myself and my work.