October 2004 - AIDAN BAKER
I discovered Canadian multi-instrumentalist Aidan Baker by chance. He's working on a lot of different projects and he's also writing a lot of interesting poetry. I was overwhelmed when I checked out his website, and my first impression was that this man is doing nothing else than writing, playing and recording. One of his projects is NADJA, an instrumental two-piece that is creating an intense sonic maelstrom, very heavy, very doomy and drone-like but still sensual and different from bands like Sunn O))) f.e. His solo-works have not much in common with NADJA, although there's a connection. This ambient soundscapes are filled with a very spiritual eastern vibe, and are the total opposite to the hectical life in this decadent western civilization. Once again, gorgeous music that is beyond any description. Due to my personal fascination for Aidan Baker's work I need to have more informations about him, and I felt the strong urge to feature his person/music in this webzine. So, dear reader, if you're looking for an alternative to all the usual stuff, I like to recommend this interview and Aidan's music to you.
Hello Aidan! I was absolutely overwhelmed by your biography, due to the fact that you're a multi-creative person. You're not only a well-trained musician, but you're also an author and involved in three different musical projects, apart of your solo releases. Please, introduce the reader to your kaleidoscopic musical world.
As a solo musician, I focus on the electric guitar (although I play other instruments as well) making music that ranges from and/or encompasses experimental/ambient, post-rock, and electronica. As for group projects: I play in the duo NADJA which explores the heavier side of drone, creating what might be called ambient metal; ARC is something of a loose collective of players exploring improvised experimental music; and MNEMOSYNE makes post/space-rock.
Is there any project you prefer?
There are different things I like about all of them, but I don't really prefer one over any of the others.
Have you ever been involved in any sort of film project, and are there directors you would like to work with?
No, I haven't, apart from the occasional video artists who do visuals for one of my performances. People often tell me that my music is very cinematic, so I would be interested in getting involved in film. As for directors I'd like to work with...well, some of my favourites are David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam...though I don't expect them to come knocking on my door anytime soon.
Let's talk about NADJA, your ambient drone doom metal project, where you work together with Leah Buckareff. What has been your intention to form NADJA in 2003? Are you a fan of massive thick metallic streams and tones or was it just the next musical step in your journey of musical explorations?
I formed NADJA specifically to explore those thick metallic streams, as you put, which I have been into for a while but never really had an outlet for. Godflesh was a big musical influence for me when I was younger and I think you can hear that in the music I make with NADJA. Often people I know are surprised when they find out that I make doom metal (or whatever you want to call NADJA), but I don’t think it’s that dissimilar to my solo work –- it’s sort of the flipside of the same coin, so to speak. Leah joined just recently so that NADJA could perform live and be more than just a studio project. To date, though, we’ve only played a couple shows. That will change soon, I hope.
I visited your Aidan Baker website just to check out your poetry, and I was impressed by your style. It's very visual, intense, and open up to a lot of meanings, what I really prefer. When did you discover your ability to write in such a powerful way?
I don’t know that I *discovered* it, exactly...it is more the outcome of many years of practice, many years of fine honing. I have been writing since I was quite young –- not as young as when I first started playing music, but almost. I have also been a voracious reader since a young age, which I think is important to developing one’s own writing style, having a good range or knowledge of literary works.
Well, to be honest I totally dig your lyrics like "I have tasted the fire inside your mouth - I have burned under the touch of your tongue" or "When you scream I can see your skull". Where do you have found the inspirations for such mind-blowing words?
Those first lines -- "I have tasted the fire..." - were originally inspired by the novel TONGUECAT, by Flemish writer Peter Verhelst, which is a strange pastiche of fairy tale, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic dis/utopias. One of the characters is described as 'the boy with fire behind his teeth' which image I found quite fascinating and used as the source for my lyrics -- just imagining what it would be like to be in close contact with someone who had fire inside their mouth. The other lyrics you mentioned have a less specific inspiration...I guess it was just an image that popped into my head somewhere, somewhen. I think the general themes I explore should be readily apparent to anyone who reads my lyrics, or even just my song titles: the body, decay, sensory perception, alienation...the mystery of the other, the alien, the human, both...
I never had the chance to see one your live performances. How can I imagine an Aidan Baker live show? Do you use a lot of light, colours and video projections?
Not usually, though I do sometimes. More often than not it is simply me sitting there with my guitar which probably sounds boring, but people tell me that it can be fairly intense just watching me play...watching me get into creating the sounds...
Apart from the music, is there a difference between your solo shows or a NADJA performance?
Not really. Volume. NADJA demands a big sound, while my solo stuff -- while it can be loud -- does not always have to be.
Have you ever felt that you must chose between writing and playing?
When it comes to dividing up my time I do have to chose. Making music is a much more effortless process for me than writing -- I guess because music is more automatic, unconscious, while writing demands more diligence and attention. I have to have good with self-discipline (which I don’t always) to keep up the writing.
You've been active in the Toronto experimental/electronic scene for several years now, and you've released within a period of about four years more than twenty different releases on different underground label. It seems as if you own an endless source of inspiration and energy. What mainly motivates you?
Enjoyment. Creating gives me pleasure. That I am able to share it with others gives me another kind of pleasure. I have only really been making experimental/ambient music for the last 6 years or so. Prior to that I was making more mainstream music and not having a lot of success with it (or getting a lot of satisfaction out of it), so once I found the ambient/experimental niche and something of an audience as well, I produced such a flood of music as a way to make up for the lack of music I had released in my earlier years. Getting all those pent up sounds out there...
Are you into eastern philosophies?
I am familiar with them, yes, but I don’t really practice or follow any other philosophies than those I have adopted myself from my own life experiences.
How do you record your soundscapes? Do you have your own studio?
I have a very small studio in the corner of my bedroom. Most of my music I either record on a digital 4-track or a minidisk recorder. I only just recently upgraded my computer so that I can record on it, however I plan to keep using the 4-track as my primary recording device and use the computer simply for arranging and mastering and such.
Do you prefer to work at day or at night?
I can work any time of the day or night. No real preference. Once I get into working on something, it doesn't really matter whether it's light or dark out.
Do you feel influenced by the early works of German electronic experimentalists like Tangerine Dream or Cluster f.e.?
Not so much...I am aware of their work but I wouldn't really call them a direct influence.
Are you into free jazz and/or avant-garde music?
What do you think about the Japanese electronic scene with all its diverse styles, ranging from ambient to harsh noise to power electronics? Are there any artists with whom you have worked together in the past?
The Japanese scene is pretty impressive, the way they manage to embrace so many different styles. I haven't worked with any Japanese artists before, but I'm always up for collaborations. My contact with Japan has been pretty limited so far, other than with the Deserted Factory label that released the first NADJA album.
Please describe for us a usual day in your life. Do you have a family and a regular job?
I do have a regular job, 3 or 4 days a week at a bookstore, usually the night shift. The rest of the time, I work on my own stuff. My girlfriend is also an artist -- she makes books: www.coldsnapbindery.com -- so we both have workspaces set up at home. Out leisure time is usually spent reading or hunting through stores for good cds and/or books...
What are your further musical plans?
I am always working on new material, so I'm always looking for somebody to release a new album. I would like to work with a bigger label so as to get better exposure for my music and maybe help me finally get over to play some shows in Europe. I am currently working on some new NADJA recordings for a couple upcoming split releases and ARC is working on an album for the Russian label, Tantric Harmonies. I have a collaborative album with Ultra Milkmaids coming out soon, hopefully, as well as solo releases with Evelyn Records and Mira Records.
Well, Aidan we reached the end of our interview. I like to thank you a lot for your time and hope you will continue your impressive work. If there's anything you like to say at least, please just do it!
Just my thanks to you!