How did you get your start in music?
My parents are musicians, so it was sort of required that I take music lessons as a child. I started out on piano, quickly quit that, and started flute lessons. I played classical flute for many years, eventually got my Grade 8 Royal Conservatory. I played saxophone in high school and taught myself guitar and drums.
Where do you find inspiration to compose the musical pieces that you do?
Other media, certainly; other songs, films, books which inspire some mood or feeling and I attempt to capture that mood musically. However, since a lot of my recordings/compositions are spontaneous or improvised, sometimes it’s just the process of sitting down and recording/composing that provides the inspiration — a reciprocal feedback process, if you will.
For the gearheads, give us an idea of your typical set-up for recording an Aidan Baker song.
My main instruments are electric and acoustic guitars, bass, walkman (for field recordings and samples), various woodwinds, a drum machine, and a drumset. Effects-wise, I have several foot pedals: two distortions, chorus, digital delay, and a looping pedal. Almost all of my recording is done entirely on a digital 4-track.
How has your music been received in the live format? How challenging is it to bring more atmospheric music to a live setting?
The most challenging part is reproducing some of my songs, since most of them are more improvised than composed. So, generally speaking, most of my performances are improvised as well (since that avoids the problem of reproduction). Also, I tend to just bring my electric guitar, so there’s not often as much instrumentation as on the releases. I enjoy playing live and the reception is usually pretty good. I do sometimes get puzzled responses from more mainstream audiences who aren’t as familiar with ambient music — and sometimes puzzled responses from those who are and can’t quite figure out how I’m making that kind of music on guitar…
Which of your many releases are you most proud of, and why?
There are things I’d change with pretty much every release, if I could go back and fix them, but that’s just the perfectionist in me speaking. ‘I fall into you’ is one of my favourites at the moment since I think it captures a variety of sounds and styles and it’s one of the few releases of mine (so far) which incorporates poetry.
Describe for us your other musical (band) projects.
ARC is a trio of myself and two percussionists and we produce what might be called experimental/ethno-ambient music. We have been playing together for almost 4 years now and just released our 4th full-length album.
Mnemosyne (nem AH-sin-ee) is also a trio, but with a traditional bass-guitar-drums format. Mnemosyne creates sort of deconstructive, improvisational space-rock, using traditional structures and patterns to create ambient, drone-rock.
Nadja is just me (so far) so it’s not really a band. With Nadja I explore heavier, harsher, and noisier sounds, creating a sort of industrial, power-ambient, drone metal. This is my newest project and I just recently released my first Nadja album on Japan’s Deserted Factory Records.
Give us your take on the atmospheric music scene in Canada.
There are a fair number of people making ambient/experimental music in Canada but it would seem that there aren’t many resources to support those musicians. There are some regular performance series and supportive radio shows here in Toronto, at least, but I don’t know about the rest of the country. And there don’t seem to be very many labels in Canada that are interested in putting out ambient/experimental music. Which I guess is why most of my releases come out of the States or Europe — of everything I’ve put out, aside from those I’ve released on my own label (Arcolepsy), only two albums are on Canadian labels (Piehead and Worthy records).
Do you have a specific message to your art (poetry and/or music)?
Not really. I’m not too big on messages — people can read into my stuff what they want, but I don’t want to tell them what to think.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or poets?
Keep at it; keep showing it to people; keep getting feedback/criticism; keep improving.
Who are the writers and musicians you enjoy?
Currently I’ve been reading a lot of William T. Vollmann and listening to a lot of Joy Division. Some other current-ish favourites: Alan Warner, Iain Banks, Richard Brautigan, Skinny Puppy, The Angels of Light, Isis, Red House Painters.
Give us an idea of what is in the immediate and long range future for Aidan Baker.
I’ve got a few shows coming up over the summer, including a performance at this year’s OM Festival (June 20-22). I’m working on more recordings with all my projects — hope to get a first Mnemosyne release out soon. I’ve got a limited edition, handmade book of poetry coming out later this year with Coldsnap Bindery and I’m working on a collection of interconnected short stories at the moment. Long range plans? I’d like to tour more, get over to Europe hopefully, play more festivals.
Any other comments?
Here’s a list of websites for people to check out:
http://www.newmusiccanada.com (full-length mp3s here; search under my name)