As a member of the increasingly impressive Difussion Labs, but you could be forgiven for immediately associating Emiji with their glorious array of hip-hop acts. That’s not the case, at least not on latest release ‘My Journey’.
The Polish-born, Dublin-based artist has instead written an extremely mellow, trippy ode to his love of psychedelics, a pathway, he feels, to improved mental health adn well being. Blending his experiences with chill out meditation and yoga, Emiji is an advocate for how alternative routes can change your life. As well as his music, he’s also quite a serious drone photographer.
I caught up with Martin to uncover what he’s all about…
First of all, can you tell me a little bit about your musical background?
I am pretty much a self-taught pianist, who took time to practice and study music theory and composition in my free time. I’m also a producer, and a trained engineer. I come from hip-hop, funk, house and jazz background musically, although I love neoclassical, cinematic soundtracks and psychedelic music.
Diffusion Lab seem to be everywhere at the moment. How did the project come about for you?
It was around 2015-ish, when I met Ivan, I knew Chris for years, and DFL was only at the very beginning. When I came to Ireland, I called Chris to see what he was up to and he introduced me to Ivan and told me all about the plans for DFL. After a short talk, we started working together. It’s been a journey, definitely.
Is there a real collaborative feel behind the Diffusion Labs acts?
I believe collaboration has a lot of meanings in music and in general. I actually had to learn to communicate and collaborate, as I’m a bit of a “loner”. I feel that DFL is a collaborative project and artists do help each other and other artists, as much as they can. It’s a lot about the vibe in the studio, and writing songs together.
Tell me about your own project – what is the story behind it?
Martin Emiji (Or simply Emiji) is my “other”, more personal side, where I explore more neoclassical, ambient, textural, and cinematic music, and a bit of digital art and photography.
After years of working on so many different styles of music, I wanted to go in a totally different direction. I tried to compose some classical stuff around 2007-2008 but it wasn’t even close to ‘good’. I wanted to explore my deeper and darker side, more mellow and sad, but also the side that appreciates life more, after my first psychedelic experience. This kind of music seemed like the perfect fit for that.
It seems a very deeply personal album. Is there a lot of your own life filtered into it?
Yes, it is very personal. One of the songs’ working title used to be “Drunk”, when I wanted to explore what a little child feels seeing a drunk parent again and again. Not that I want to bad-mouth my father, he was a good man, but I realized that I was ACOA and started working on my internal stuff after my first psychedelic experience.
Some of the songs relate to my sad, broken, crying, angry, inner child, the one that was scared, one that didn’t feel loved, was lost and so on. Also, on the other side, some of the songs relate to bliss and appreciation for life. Lots of various bright and dark emotions have made it into the album. I guess it’s my way to release those feelings too.
How have you found the interaction between the psychedelics you reference around the album and music, and how has it impacted you?
Psychedelics gave me a “doorway” to my dark side I was never aware of before. I acted on it, but I didn’t know why and that I was doing it. On my first experience with psychedelics (in a safe environment, good setting and A LOT of reading about it beforehand) I dissolved, I was torn apart.
It was strong and it created a difficult experience, but the most important and amazing experience in my life to this day. This gave me the idea to put it into music, and I found that meditative music, being quite cinematic, was perfect, even though the audience may be super niche. It wasn’t really about making it super popular, but rather just to get the message across.
What about the interaction between your photography and your music?
I sometimes get bored or tired of music. When I do, I take out the camera that was given to me by my friend Laelia, an amazing, top photographer. I bought a couple of lenses and started to learn the craft of photography. I’ve also bought a drone, which gave a whole new perspective on my photography.
It also feels like my music works with pictures. I’m a lot about DIY, but hey, nowadays we have Youtube and everything is there. You can learn just about everything for free or at the cost of broadband connection. Amazing!
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of an album launch party quite like yours will be. Is that also part of getting the personal side of the music across?
Yeah, calling it a listening “party” is a bit of an overstatement – as it’s not really going to be a party, it’s going to be a talk, a bit of Q&A, a bit of meditation and a bit of live music. It’s all about the message that psychedelics can do a lot of good if used properly, but they are still illegal in many parts of the world. But there’s a light – there are psychedelic psychotherapy trials run all over the world, including Ireland, so governments are starting to open up, hopefully. We should talk about psychedelics openly. It’s not cure-for-all, but it definitely can help with mental health.
Do any of the moments on the record particularly stand out to you?
Yes, “Unspoken”. It’s a song I wrote with my partner, Sandra. We took a high dose of Psilocybin Mushrooms together and literally merged and that song still gives me goosebumps. Emotions and the experience all comes back to me . It was so different to taking mushrooms on my own – to feel like you literally are her, and like you are one being, not separate from each other and a part of something bigger. Not to mention the beauty of the forest. Very emotional!
Can you tell me a little about the collaborations?
“Larimar”, the collaboration with Hvmmingbyrd, an amazing Dublin folk-pop duo. These women have such amazing, yet contrasting, voices that I felt would be simply perfect for one of the tracks. I wrote Larimar on piano, but they have done such an amazing job making the song more mystical and gave it a mystical tone. Love their workflow and melodies! It was a pleasure to work with them!
“Unspoken” – well, as I said before – it’s a mutual journey on mushrooms with my partner.
“Parks and Alleys” is a collaboration with National Concert Hall’s Gamelan Orchestra, lead by Peter Moran. I met them at their gig. They blew me away with how all these sounds interact, their eastern scales and instrumentation, so different from the western ones well known to us. I talked to Peter to see if we could collaborate on something and he was happy to help me along with part of the Orchestra. It was such an experience to record them and write with them, especially without any background in eastern music on my side, but Peter was great at connecting and translating across both worlds!
What are your hopes for the future?
A lot, actually. And I don’t mean only music really. I hope that the message of this album will cause more people to talk about psychedelic “drugs”, and will contribute to demystify them. That the scientific exploration of these substances will start soon across the whole planet, and will help humanity.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not even close to perfect, but I’m a better human being than I was in the past, and psychedelics helped me along my way.
Musically I just hope that there will be people who will like the album, and will listen to it during yoga practice, morning jogs, and during mediation.
Emiji’s ‘My Journey’ is out now.