Jun 10, 2021
7 min read
What genre would you describe your music as?
Some of my tracks have afro-house vibes and some are very melodic and tech-house. I like to produce whatever I feel like doing and not follow a specific genre. What's important is to put my own "signature" in my productions.
Where are you from?
What age did you start DJing?
I started around 2005 but wasn't really into it in the beginning. I always wanted to play my own tracks, which I didn't have at that time.
If you weren't a DJ, what would you be doing for your career?
I would be in the studio and work as a ghost producer.
What's your favorite artist/style of music outside of dance music?
I grew up with Hip Hop like N.W.A, 2Pac, Biggie, and the whole East and West Coast story. But one of my all-time favorites is also Depeche Mode, always inspiring and timeless music.
“I couldn’t even imagine getting to this point. I told my friend ‘imagine doing a track with Nic Fanciulli…’ we couldn’t even fathom that happening in real life and for myself, it felt far away. When Black Coffee played ‘Foolish’ out I was going crazy.”
For AJ of Black Circle, discovering house music took time. Finding the sound he wanted to put his heart and soul into, is a journey he has just begun. A self-proclaimed hip-hop kid, AJ grew up on the sounds of NWA, Biggie, and 2Pac. In 2005 he had his first encounter with house music, hearing a track by Mousse T. “I was into it but I was still kind of against dance music as a concept. It was a step-by-step, sneaky process, slowly getting more and more into it.”
Growing up in Switzerland, AJ focused initially on listening to local artists. At the time, he was not aware of other artists or the larger, global house music scene. Discovery for AJ was a process of just listening to everything and determining what he liked and didn’t like. This fascination with sound over artist led AJ to begin producing music before he learned how to DJ. “To be honest I never followed artists, I always followed the sound. I was obsessed with tones and sounds. How does a certain sound come from a synthesizer? How do I bend the tone? Create a melody? I was really interested in the music production side of it. Creating something that comes 100% from me.”
Although AJ started the Black Circle project in 2019, his music career began long before that. He had the opportunity to play his first gig in 2011 after being discovered by a local DJ who had seen the music he was posting on Youtube. “I went to his agency to meet with him, I was shaking I was so excited. I thought yes, I did it, he invited me to play… I thought I made it right there. He gave me my first gigs, I totally fucked up on my first one, I didn’t know what a CDJ was. The mix was terrible but that was the first experience.”
As AJ began to dive deeper into the world of becoming an artist, he ran into a wide variety of roadblocks. AJ worked for many artists as a ghost producer, stepping into their studios to work on projects that were assigned to him. “I didn’t have any contacts so it was a tough beginning. I was making a lot of pop music, pop electronic, and deep house. Until 2019, it was an up and down experience… It was hard to keep motivated after just getting rejected by so many labels over and over again. It was like producing for nothing… If nobody can hear your music then what’s the point?”
A lack of a studio/access to a place where he could create music that was true to himself began to drain AJ’s creativity. Although ghost-producing was a good entrance to the industry, it did not prove to be a satisfying career. Additionally, cultural and familial pressures to have a “normal job” ultimately forced AJ to take an extended break from music.
“My goals at the time were not attainable. I stopped making music for five years before I returned to create Black Circle. I was working at the airport, my girlfriend at the time didn’t like the idea of me being a DJ… I come from a culture where deviating from the norm is not as accepted. My parents wanted me to have a regular job and the idea of being a DJ was not acceptable. I didn’t have the support. When I quit everything to focus on being a DJ again, it was a tough time between us all.”
As he started Black Circle, AJ set a high bar for himself and immediately got to work. He knew roughly the kind of music he wanted to create, and as always for AJ, followed the sounds that he liked. “I was just trying to find myself. I liked going to gigs and watching DJs show their sound. I knew how to produce, but it was not complete. The track ‘Autumn’ was not the quality I wanted. You can from this track to now, the quality keeps rising. ‘Foolish’ on I think the whole quality to my sound improved. My mastering and mixing got better as well.”
After starting Black Circle, AJ did not have to wait long for a positive response. Almost immediately he received support from headlining DJs as well as remix requests and collaboration opportunities. “I made ‘Journey’ for Nic [Fanciulli] after connecting with him because he was supporting my music. I first sent the track to Black Coffee. One month before it came out, I saw that Black Coffee was playing the track in Ibiza every single Saturday at his residency. It went #1 on Beatport immediately. Matthias Tanzmann also supported the track so I reached out to thank him. He asked me to send him music, I asked him to collab, he said yes… I thought, oh shit what is happening.”
For AJ, these special moments are what make it all worth it. It is a step-by-step process, climbing the ladder slowly but surely. “It feels like you’re dreaming and hoping that you don’t wake up except in this case it was real.”
2021 started quietly for AJ, although he has a tremendous amount of work in store, and lofty goals for himself going forward. He has a collaboration with Nic Fanciulli coming out soon Pete Tong’s label. The track was born from a canceled show and the two decided to create something for the people staying at home. He will also be releasing a collaboration with Andrea Olivia in September and will be making his way to the US for live shows as soon as possible. AJ’s Black Circle project has just begun, but he is clearly destined for greatness. Humble, driven, and talented, we cannot wait to see what he has in store next. “I know that I’m climbing stairs in my career. The more I deliver, the more is coming. My ultimate goal is to go to the Grammys.”