Photo Andrea Belfi
Aidan Baker is a multi-instrumentalist, classically-trained in flute, but best known as a guitarist. Using various electronic effects combined with prepared and/or alternate methods of playing the guitar, he creates music which falls within the ambient/experimental genres but draws on influences from shoegaze and post-rock, contemporary classical and jazz.
Photo A Juarez
Over the course of the last decade, Baker has released numerous recorded works, both solo, with his duo Nadja, and various other group projects on such labels as Alien8 Recordings, Important Records, Die Stadt Musik, and Broken Spine Productions. He is also the author of several books of poetry.
Photo Andrea Belfi
Baker has collaborated in-studio and live with such artists as Tim Hecker, Carla Bozulich, Jessica Baillif, Noveller, OvO, members of The Jesus Lizard, and members of Swans. He has also composed for and performed with such contemporary classical ensembles as The Penderecki Quartet, The Riga
Sifonietta, and The Monday Morning Singers. Baker has toured extensively around the world and appeared at such international festivals as FIMAV, SXSW, Incubate, and Mutek. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Baker currently resides in Berlin, Germany.
What do you remember about your first guitar?
My first guitar was a cheap, no-name strat-clone that I believe came from Sears, a North American chain of department stores. It was given to me when I was 12 or 13 by my friend S— who played drums with me in a new-wave/punk band we had throughout our teenage years. This guitar was seriously crappy, heavy and unbalanced, with a really, unwieldy neck...I played it for a year or two and then bought my Kramer Areostar ZX30, second hand from a neighbour, which I still use today as my primary guitar.
One impossible project do you like to realize?
Nothing is really impossible...beyond playing with dead people...but here a few not-so-readily accomplishable things I would like to do: build myself the perfect guitar; build a guitar tower like Yamatsuka Eye's from The Boredoms; present a large ensemble guitar orchestra piece...
Which is the main pleasure of the guitar?
When I first started playing guitar, it was largely in response to my studies in classical flute. While I enjoyed playing flute, my biggest problem with it was its dependency on others—an ensemble, an accompaniest—flute is not an especially easy or rewarding instrument to play by one's self. With the guitar, however, I could play and create music all by myself—the ambient/experimental music that I make today is the extreme of that notion.
Which work of your own are you most proud of, and why?
That is pretty difficult to pinpoint...but if I must: "Green & Cold" is one of my favourite solo albums and "Thaumogenesis" is one of my favourite releases with my project Nadja.
Where are your roots? What are your influences?
My parents are both professional musicians, so music, if primarily jazz and classical, was a constant presence in my childhood. I studied classical flute as a youth, as I mentioned previously, for many years and also played jazz saxophone in school. I am entirely self-taught in guitar, which I began playing as a teenager, at first primarily exploring new wave, punk , and grunge and gradually getting into more experimental, noise, and drone-based music. As a guitarist, my influences range from people like David Gilmour and Bill Frisell to Steve Albini and Caspar Brötzmann to PJ Harvey and Mark Kozelek.
How do you experience time? How do you experiment with time?
Time is a human construct and completely relative to individual experience. Music can be a means of manipulating time, or the experience of perceiving time, both on an individual level and the collective. Listening to music in a live setting can be a shared, (a)temporal experience which I think is interesting both as a creator and a listener.
Define the sound you're still looking for, or the sound you'd like to hear.
To paraphrase Eliot: Between the conception and the act falls the shadow. Is it possible to produce and capture truly unconscious expression?
How would you define the present time in musical terms?
There is an amazing abundance of music right now, which can be both positive and negative. Both producing and recording music and touring and presenting music live has become so much easier than it has in the past. While this allows so many more people their creative expression, whom in the past might not have had the resources or capabilities to do so, it does make for an over-abundance or -saturation of music. Whether this devalues music in general or just demands people work harder to find the best music is debatable...
What's the importance of technique in art, in your opinion?
While it is a cliche to say 'one has to know the rules to break them,' there is some validity to that statement. That said, overly technical players can certainly be soulless and mechanical while unskilled players can compensate for their lack of technical proficiency with passion or uniqueness. Ultimately, it is the balance between technical ability and personal creativity that makes for the most interesting players.
A valuable advice that someone has gifted to you in the past?
Do what you love—but don't let the minutia, the sometimes grim reality of doing it, taint that love.
What's your fetish device in the sound chain?
I don't think I'm that much of a gear fetishist, but I suppose my Akai Headrush is one of the more integral pedals in my sound chain...although I have had my Profile Overdrive pedal for almost 25 years now...I do like distortion.
What artist, living or dead, would you like to have collaborated with?
David Foster Wallace.
What’s your latest project about?
After many years of playing solo or with my partner as a duo in Nadja, I recently started playing with two different group projects, Caudal and B/B/S/. The latter is experimental and improvisational ambient jazz (sort of), the former a bit more conventional and structured space rock (sort of), but I have been enjoying playing in the group setting again.
A Selected Discography of Recent Releases:
Nadja - Queller - Essence Music (cd/lp) - 2014
Aidan Baker - Passing Through – Wounded Wolf Press (forthcoming)
Aidan Baker - Triptychs - Important Records (forthcoming)
Aidan Baker - Already Drowning - Gizeh Records (cd/lp) - 2013
Aidan Baker & Jakob Thiesen - Mepris - Interior Massacre (lp) - 2013
Aidan Baker - Souvenirs Of The Eternal Present - Anthem Records (cassette) - 2013
Aidan Baker & Richard Baker - Smudging - Backwards Records (lp) - 2012
Aidan Baker - The Spectrum Of Distraction - Robotic Empire (2cd) - 2012
Aidan Baker - Bach Eingeschaltet - Vierter Band - Reue Um Eeue (7") - 2011
Aidan Baker - Only Stories - Broken Spine Productions/The Kora Records (lp) – 2011
Caudal - Forever In Another World - Oaken Palace Records (lp) - 2013
B/B/S/ - Brick Mask/Half Moon - Miasmah Records (lp+7"/cd) - 2013
Whisper Room - The Cruelest Month - Consouling Sounds (forthcoming)
Nadja - Queller - Essence Music (forthcoming)
Nadja - Dagdrøm - Broken Spine Productions (cd/lp) - 2012
Nadja - Excision - Important Records (2cd) - 2012
Passing Thru – Wounded Wolf Press (forthcoming)
The Shape of Snakes - Averse Publishing/Broken Spine Productions - 2010
Place Name - Wingate Press - 2007
Wound Culture - Unbound Books - 2003
Fingerspelling - Penumbra Press - 2001
Four compositions for multiple guitars released 30 September 2012
Jon Attwood - Aidan Baker - Mick Barr - Bryan W. Bray - David Daniell - Jonathan Demers - Richard Graham - N - JF Sebastian - David Tagg - Velladon Vampillia - Slash Vampillia - Matej Voglar - Brian Wenckebach - Nigel Wright - guitars