protoU, Sasha is a trained violinist and choir vocalist who grew up with an addiction to music. Her first ventures into her own productions were a strong mix of distorted electronics, a far cry from her classical background. With the studio foundations in place she started producing a multitude of related genres like drum n bass, ambient and electronic music. Inspired by the dark ambient people in her life she surrounded herself with she slowly drifted into the scene and started turning her productions towards the depths. She has described dark ambient as something that gives her a freedom of thought in relation to the complexity of the world of wonders, a mix between the simple and the difficult.
protoU – Interview by Michael Barnett
Michael: What has the experience been like for you, working on the Nyarlathotep collaboration? Was it strange working with sounds from the other artists?
Sasha: I really like the idea of such huge collaboration. When it comes to the legendary fiction and cultural phenomenon, both great responsibility and excitement come to mind.
I liked to work on my sounds and collaboration, because so many talented musicians are involved with this. It is something new for me, I mean such a concept. It made me open my dark side of musical taste, and I really love it.
Michael: Did you tend to use more of your own sounds on Nyarlathotep, or did you take this opportunity to work with more sounds from your label-mates?
Sasha: I used only few of mine, and most of my fellas, I liked every layer, though they’re so different from each other.
Michael: What does the H.P. Lovecraft Mythos mean to you? Have you been a fan of Cthulhu and the other Outer Gods before. Was the concept new to you?
Sasha: The concept is new for me cause I never read works of H.P. Lovecraft, though I see cultural influences and after this work I understand everything clearer. But the idea of something greater, massive, something that is capable of crushing the world with only one move makes me feel scared and excited at the same time. The very idea of existence of something supernatural makes me feel great. I love my fellas from earth, but I wouldn’t mind to meet new friends from other universes and realities;)
Michael: You just released your second solo album as protoU through Cryo Chamber. There are some similarities in sound to your debut Lost Here. Yet, it seems that Khmaoch is very different from your previous work. Did you make a conscious effort to go for something new and fresh?
Sasha: Lost Here is more about finding the concept after creating music, when Khmaoch was an experiment for me. When I was creating the new album, first of all I created a concept, then started to work on music. I think that’s why it sounds a little bit different.
Michael: You have incorporated your own voice into Khmaoch. Is this correct? This would be the first time you’ve done this on an album. Did it feel like a natural decision? Will you incorporate your voice on future work?
Sasha: Yes, I used my vocal here in there, not in the front. I love when it floats somewhere like wind. In the future I will do that of course on recordings and live also:) I like to sing, it’s my passion, and it was just a question of time when I will use this feature. You can find my vocals somewhere in earlier works also 😉
Michael: The cover-art of Khmaoch has a massive statue of the Buddha. Do you follow the Buddhist path? If not how has the Buddha been important to you in this album?
Sasha: Buddha means the massiveness and greatness of faith to people. I don’t follow the Buddhist path, but If I would follow faith it would be the closest to me, cause it includes peace and harmony inside. In this album this figure is essential and I will explain more in other answers.
Michael: The tracks on Khmaoch have some very strange titles. Would you like to explain their meanings to us?
Sasha: Of course) Khmaoch itself means ghosts, Skar Mekh – Sky Drums, Pel – Time, Dai Robsa Preah – The Hand of God.
Those are all transcripted from Angkorian Khmer language. The one people used to speak in the Cambodian region where the famous Angkor Wat is.
Michael: Anything interesting you would like to say about the writing and recording process behind Khmaoch?
Sasha: I found a spot in my brain where I keep places I want to visit and I found Angkor Wat in there. This place is a symbol of blind faith. People are sometimes so small to their gods and make themselves insignificant and devote their lives to serving those gods. Sometimes it has a very big price, a horrible one.
This was the start of my recording process. I was inspired by this flow of thought and thus the concept with music collided. I had a lot of thinking while creating Khmaoch.
Michael: It is well known that you are in a relationship with Oleg of Dronny Darko. You worked together on Earth Songs and now you have two albums of your own. How has Oleg played a part in the formation of protoU?
Sasha: Oleg was the first person, who presented to me the world, the way it is – colorful, eternal, limitless and full of love and music. He told me what Drone represents itself, and inspired me with his Dronny Darko project, and so the protoU was born with the first track “Glykol Granules”. Oleg is not only my soulmate, he’s part of my body and soul. We create a lot of music together. He always supports me, educates and helps with everything!
Michael: “Riparian Forest” is an all-time favorite of mine. Can you speak a little about the making of that track. The feelings and influences behind its creation.
Sasha: Actually, since I’ve started creating music I had my personal favorite chords and melodies. I listen to a lot of different music – from ambient and post rock to electro pop, dance music etc. This particular track is an inspiration from those very favorite sounds I have in mind. So I took the synth I love, prepared keyboard, played field recordings and started the recording.
Michael: Do you and Oleg have plans for something like a follow-up to Earth Songs?
Sasha: Of course, We plan on a series that will open the whole universe to the listener from our perspective! So we are really preparing something huge!
Michael: How does your native country influence your music?
Sasha: Nature in Ukraine is so beautiful and mysterious. Loads of forests, green trees, and old buildings with history. A lot of things to be inspired by.
Michael: Many dark ambient artists like to set a particular mood in the studio when working on their music. They often use meditation and/or incense and work in the late hours of the night. Do you have any kind of set rituals you like to follow when sitting down to work on music?
Sasha: So, usually in our famous Black Room studio, I sit on my chair, prepare synths and keyboards, light the moon (moon shaped led light, almost like real one with craters) and start on jamming/recording process. Sometimes I light candles and aroma sticks.
Michael: Would you like to speak a little about your studio-space itself? Any favorite instruments, chairs, or software which you absolutely couldn’t live without.
Sasha: My best friends in this are: office chair, cookies, laptop, keyboard AKAI mini and beloved Ableton live 9! That’s basically my lifesaving package.
Michael: protoU is not your only musical project. Would you like to speak a bit about your other projects?
Sasha: As I said before, I am fan of different kinds of music, so I also have four other projects: Robocat (vogue beats, pop), untitledcloud (dub techno), D3Z with Oleg (drum and bass) and one secret alienesque project also with my beloved Dronny;) All those projects can be found on soundcloud.
Michael: Have you been listening to dark ambient for many years, or is this a relatively new genre to you?
Sasha: It’s relatively new genre for me. I think I’ve listened to it before, but never knew it’s name. Dronny Darko was the first dark ambient I listened to after I knew what it was.
Michael: How has your overall experience been so far with Cryo Chamber?
Sasha: Great! I love the approach Simon Heath uses for all the domains of Cryo’s life. It’s very cool that I can get the advice I need. Itself being on this massive label is more then honor!
Michael: Do you think the apocalypse is coming and how do you think it will happen?
Sasha: I hope not, but I have similar dreams very often, and I’m scared of the Apocalypse. Though the universe is so big that we can do nothing if something strikes from outer space. But, I’ afraid more of the Apocalypse inside. That it will be created by humans: fighting, violent and blood thirsty. I hope for a better world…
Michael: I’ll leave the final words to you, to say anything else you might like fans to know about you, which I haven’t covered here.
Sasha: I would say that it is very important to do what you want, and use music as a natural booster of living. I love life and nature, space, aliens and love. This is something to live for. Create and never be afraid!!!