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Interview with Aidan Baker

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am good. Currently in my studio... in front of the computer... as usual... trying to catch up on email, among other things...

What’s on your schedule at the moment?
Right now we are working on a Nadja record for the Brazilian label Essence Music – just listening to a rough mix as I’m typing, so it’s nearing completion. Up next are a few singles to record for a couple 7” releases and some material for a 10” release on  Substantia Innominata, a new sub-label of Drone Records. I’ve got a couple solo things in the back of my mind to work on as well, but as yet they are on a back burner…

Your current live schedule is packed. How is life on the road working out for you? Is this what you wanted from the start: To be able to perform your music on stage almost every night?
May and June were quite busy, yes – things are a little quieter at the moment. I like touring, even if it is rather exhausting (physically and mentally), but I’m not really interested in doing massive, 3 month tours or anything. My ideal would be to do a few shows here and there, festival appearances or brief tours every now and then.

In May, you performed at St. Paul’s Anglican Church with the The Monday Morning Singers, an ensemble specialising in Baroque and Classical repertoire. How did that come about – and how did the show go?
The Monday Morning Singers is run by my mother. She needed some material for a spring program and asked if I would be willing to write something for the group. As the choir is an amateur group, I had to come up with something that was not too technically challenging or complicated for them... the performances went well enough, though I would be curious to hear a more technically sophisticated group perform the piece…

You’re mainly on the road with Nadja at the moment. What does a typical set of yours look like? How much of it is improvised and how much is “album material”?
That depends on the venue/forum/audience. Sometimes we do entirely improvised sets. Generally, though, we usually divide the set, starting out with more structured songs and ending with abstract, improvised material.

Is the strong focus and success of Nadja a motivation to integrate harsher elements into your solo material as well or do you plan to keep those two world strictly separated?
I don’t really think they’re strictly separated in the first place, since the differences between the two projects are relatively superficial. I have incorporated harsher elements into my solo work before, but I don’t really think that was a Nadja influence, per se, just an alternate means of expression.

On some occasions, you’re performing both with Leah and as a solo act – do you have the feeling the audiences are able to appreciate the differences between the approaches?
That is something I have wondered about, since the ambient mood(s) of the different projects can be quite different... but so far the audiences seem to appreciate and enjoy the differences. For the most part, at least – I know there are people who don’t like the Nadja material as it’s too harsh – others find the solo material too ambient.

Two other acts who you have performed with regularly of lately are Fear Falls Burning and Troum. Would you say there is a mutual interest in each other’s work? Has the close interaction resulted in the idea of further future collaborations?
Definitely a mutual interest yes, and we certainly have similar approaches to making music as well. Nadja has already done two collaborations with Fear Falls Burning (and possibly more) and we are supposed to do something with Troum in the near future. These will most likely be postal collaborations again, trading material through the mail, but hopefully we can actually do some collaborative work in person some day. Nadja did a live improvisation with Fear Falls Burning in Amsterdan last May which I think went quite well... certainly a different dynamic collaborating in person than through the mail...

Are there plans to have more of your live sets released on CD? I thought the bonus CD to Oneiromancer (on Die Stadt) worked extremely well and your music definitely seems highly suitable for a live album...
Possibly, yes. If not as bonus discs, than as downloads, like a few of my net-releases.

Some of your most recent output has had a subtle but tasty smack of Krautrock. Do you relate with bands like CAN in a direct way? I personally had the feeling that you were more interested in their sound and general attitude of taking a simple theme to places noone would expect at the outset – rather than the general aesthetics of the 70s...
Yes, my interest is more in the repetition and evolution of simple themes rather than a 70s aesthetic. I think Neu is bigger influence, though, as I have never really listened to a lot of CAN.

On “Green and Cold” there are again some vocal contributions of yours. Am I correct in assuming that when you sing, you’re rather using your voice as another instrument than in the typical leading role of pop and rock?
Yes, I generally use vocals in a more instrumental way – as part of the mix rather than the focal point. That said, I have a new album, “Scalpel,” coming out on The Kora Records later this year which is something of a drone-folk album (acoustic guitar, voice, some violin) which has a bit more focus on the vocals...

In our previous email conversation, you mentioned that you sometimes wondered whether an audience at a concert with some of your likeminded colleagues will not think it’s all the same. With your discography now well into 30 albums – do you sometimes also worry about this with regards to your studio output? And: How do you keep things interesting for yourself?
Yes, that is a concern. I have repeated myself, I know – but I at least like to think that when I am, I’m improving on what I did previously. I think there will always be new things to try – songs, ways of performing, people to perform with – that will keep things interesting for myself and the listener.

Your releases have either been marked by the duality of a more minimal approach and an almost band-like one (such as on “The Sea swells a bit” for example). Do you see yourself leaning more towards one of the two in the future?
No, I enjoy both formats equally – each provides different opportunities, different things to explore.

Some of your older material will now be reissued by Volubilis Records. If I understood correctly, at least some of them will feature bonus material. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
All of the re-issues have been remastered and have bonus material of some form to fill out the extent of the record and (hopefully) make it worthwhile for people who have the originals to get. In most cases, the bonus material is live versions or outtakes of material on the record in question, though I do plan to do a few remixes for some of the re-issues as well.

The last time we talked, you mentioned that (according to a study) many people had become lackadaisical about music. Have your concert experiences possibly disproved that claim?
Disproved, not really. Re-affirmed, sort of. Perhaps made it more apparent that there are a select few who are exceedingly passionate about music while the vast majority is relatively lackadaisical… people talk about the death of the cd/lp/etc. – a physical format of music – but I think there will always be those (those with the collector mentality, perhaps) who are passionate enough to keep some physical form of music alive.
Of course, that whole physicality of music is kind of oxymoronic to begin with, since music is so intangible in the first place, how does one actually, authentically capture it in a physical form? And not have it turn into yet another commodity...?
To quote Eric Dolphy: “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air. You can never capture it again.“

Noise of Silence (2007) Hyperblasted Recordings
Thoughtspan (2007) Tosom Records
Broken & Remade (2007) Volubilus Records
Dance of Lonely Molecules (2007) Blade Records
Green & Cold (2007) Gears of Sand
Oneiromancer (2006) Die Stadt Records
Sea Swells A Bit... (2006) Small Voices
Dog Fox Gone to Ground (2006) Afe Records
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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