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15 Questions to Aidan Baker

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I’m good. Right now, I am at my desk in my apartment in Toronto, Canada.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Currently, I’m working on some artwork for a couple upcoming solo releases, one for Die Stadt, the other for Small Voices. Musically, I’ve got a couple things I’m working on: songs for a new Nadja record, a couple experiments with solo material...

On the recently released 2x7’’ on “Die Stadt”, you appear side by side with Fear Falls Burning. I thought it was fascinating to see how two seemingly similar approaches can yield very different results. Would you agree that this once again shows that possibilities are almost infinite even with the most minimal of instrumentation?
Yes. When I find myself on a bill with another guitarist/looper, someone like Fear Falls Burning, for example, I often wonder if the audience will think it’s all the same. But they seldom do. Regardless whether you use the same or similar technology and/or methodology, you have to put something of yourself into that tech/method and that accounts (or should account) for a difference.

Talking about minimalism in instrumentation: How important is a certain “pureness” of sound to you?
That depends what you mean by “pure” since purity can be pretty subjective... I mean, a sound can be all degraded and distorted and “unpure” yet still sound interesting and contribute to the piece in question. It’s a difference of aesthetics, I suppose – I often use sounds that would not be considered “pure” for their aesthetic quality of the sound.

Over the years, you’ve expanded and refined your style. Was there a defining moment when you first discovered the strength of these looped guitar patterns, which slowly shift in focus?
I suppose when I bought my first looping device, that could mark a defining moment... I guess that was about 6 years ago now... although I’d still made ambient, atmospheric music several years before that – it just didn’t rely so heavily on a looping pattern. The electronic looping device just made it that much easier. I do try, though, not to rely on it too exclusively – to create loops manually, so to speak, through actual repetition, not electronic.

As you mostly use a method of “spontaneously composition” – is there still a difference between your studio- and live albums?
I don’t exclusively use “spontaneous composition” – sometimes my music is composed. Even if the music is improvised, quite often with studio work I will use a computer for editing, which ranges from just mastering to actual de/reconstruction, so that can account for a difference between my live and studio work. Instrumentation often differs as well, between live and studio work: in studio, I can use multiple instruments easier than I can live and often for live performances I have other people (drummers, usually) play with me.

Besides music, you’re also active in writing. It seems to be a common thing to combine these arts. But as I find your music to be very poetic, I was wondering, whether you’re actually applying certain methods and approaches from one field to the other?
No, not really. Not consciously, anyway. I do sometimes use writing in my music, but more as lyrical accompaniment to the sound, rather than sonic accompaniment for the words. The latter I find less appealing...

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
With improvised material sound IS composition: sound determines the shape and movement and progression of the song just as much (if not exclusively) as scales or modes or whatever. Sound still plays a large part when I’m writing, of course, but I suppose it’s balanced with other aspects of composition.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
More often than not I improvise live. I usually just get up and play and let the music take me where it does... As to what constitutes a good performance... well, that too is pretty subjective. People sometimes say they can tell when I got lost in the music – a certain withdrawal into the sounds, the process, the moment – and that usually marks a good performance, I think, both for myself and the listeners... that the music is truly
engaging and/or I’m truly engaged in the creation of it.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I recently read a study that looked at the how people value music and because of downloading and the omnipresence of musical “product” it was found that most people today are pretty lackadaisical about music – it’s just another consumer item that doesn’t necessarily have to be valued any more than a new toaster or whatever. To a certain extent, I agree with this: I think we are over-saturated with music at present and it is almost too easy to “own” a song now and this may lead people, in general, to
under-appreciate music. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who are quite fanatical about music and treasure their collection of vinyl/cds/mp3s/whatever quite highly. Maybe these people are a minority, those more interested in “underground” music that isn’t as commodified as mainstream, major label releases, but a minority is better than nothing.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely “new” music. What do you tell them? Is “new” an important aspect of what you want your pieces to be?
Nothing is really “new”. History repeats itself, to spout cliche. If you start worrying about true, authentic “newness” nothing would ever get done. Everything is always the sum of its influences, an amalgamation of its predecessors, of history, in some way. This doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing anything ever again – something may not be authentically “new” but it can be “evolved”. I think there’s too much emphasis placed on searching out the new and that leads to the whole faddishness of current popular music.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
Art is selfish... artists are selfish. I distrust art that is purely political – of course art can be used for political or social ends, but that should be a side effect not an end result in and of itself. Art is so subjective it is difficult to extricate from the purely personal – and I don’t think it should have to be extricated. That said, it is necessary to establish a connection with the viewer/listener in order to validate the art... I don’t want and probably wouldn’t be able to create in a vacuum. Feedback is necessary – a reciprocal personal sensation...

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would aim for a pretty diverse selection... here’s a list of bands I’d like to see (again or for the first time): The Flaming Lips, Sun Kil Moon, Khanate, Boris, Neurosis, Jesu, Shellac,  Troum, Nurse With Wound, Stina Nordenstam, Don Caballero, Slint, Melt Banana, Below The Sea, Angels of Light, Tarental, The Legendary Pink Dots, Corrupted...the list could go on and on...

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
I hesitate to draw any lines – part of art is intention, so if your intent is to produce art how can anyone call it otherwise? Whether you like it or not is irrelevant. Personally, I like a bit of melody or harmonic sensibility, so some of the more abstract music I find less appealing...

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Can’t say that I’ve really thought about that...yet...

Pendulum (2006) Gears of Sand
Periodic (2005) Crucial Blast
Traumerei (2005) Evelyn Records
Still My Beating Heart Beats (2005) Pertin-Nce
Songs of Flowers & Skin (2005) Zunior Records
Candescence (2005) Suggestion Records
Figures (2005) Transient Frequency
Field of Drones (2004) Arcolepsy Records
At The Base Of The Mind Is Coiled A Serpent (2004) Le Cri de la Harpe
Butterfly Bones (2004) Between Existence
An Intricate Course of Deception (2004) Angle Records
Ice Against My Skin (2004) Arret Arret
Antithesis (2004) Petite Sono
Threnody (One) (2004) Nulll Records
Metamorphose (2003) S'agita Recordings
Black Flowers Blossom (2003) Sonic Syrup
Cicatrice (2003) Dreamland Recordings
Concretion (2003) DTA Records
Dreammares (2003) Mechanoise
Loop Studies One (2003) Laub Records
At the Fountain of Thirst (2003) Mystery Sea
Eye of Day (2003) Foreign Lands
I Fall Into You (2002) Public Eyesore
Pretending to be Fearless (2002) Flesh Made Word Records
Letters (2000) Arcolepsy Records
Element (2000) Arcolepsy Records


Aidan Baker

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