Aidan Baker: The WL Interview

Writer and musician Aidan Baker’s two most recent releases ‘“ the darkly ambient ‘Within the Final Circle’? (Mirakel Musik) and the lushly shoegazing ‘Songs of Flowers and Skin’? (Zunior Records) ‘ will be followed by a book later this summer. Matt Blair spoke with Aidan via email.

You’ve put out twenty-nine solo releases on a multitude of labels in 2000, five of which came out this year. How is that possible? 

To begin with, let me say that a good 75 percent of these releases were CD-R releases by tiny underground labels in fairly limited editions ‘“ 100 copies, on average ‘“ so exponentially speaking, it’s not necessarily that many. But anyway, if you don’t buy that, most of the music I make is improvised or ‘spontaneously composed,’? so I don’t usually spend a lot of time on ‘song-writing’? ‘“ which isn’t to say all my material is completely abstract and un-song-like, though some of it is. With my setup “samplers, electronics, etc.” it’s pretty easy to just play and record a lot of raw material which I can subsequently rework and manipulate or layer or whatever. I try to record all my live shows for the same purpose.
I suppose I could have flogged one album for the last five years and have achieved the same amount of recognition I have to date but that wouldn’t have been very interesting for me, nor would I have grown much as a musician. Instead, I’ve worked with a variety of different labels, in a variety of different territories (Canada, USA, Japan, Germany, France, and Russia) in an effort to get myself known on a more grassroots level. I’m probably better known in Europe than in Canada, as the underground, experimental music scene seems more active and better connected over there.
While there is a certain consistency to my sound and it might be easy to just lump my music into the ambient/experimental/electronic genre(s), I like to think I’m not repeating myself and my albums are recognizably different from each other. I do listen to a wide variety of music and I hope that’s reflected, to some degree, at the very least, in the music I make.

You’re also a member of numerous groups, the co-founder of Arcolepsy Records, and you’ve got a new book coming out this summer. With so much going on, do you ever find one project pulling you away from another? 
Yes. I do find it particularly difficult to make time for writing. Music I can just sit down and do, but writing takes a lot more concentration and effort.

How often do these roles overlap? Do you ever approach your music from a writer’s perspective, for example?
There is a certain overlap, though not necessarily an explicit one. I have done some albums featuring spoken word and/or poetry. But more often, I use what might be considered a literary conceit as a framework or concept for the music. The conceit might be based on a specific book, or just on a poetic or literary image or idea.

Does working with a variety of labels give you more freedom to move from sound or genre for another?
To a certain degree. I’ve had more of my experimental or electronic material released because the majority of the labels I’ve worked with are part of that scene. I haven’t released as much of my song-oriented material because of that. Some people in the experimental scene can be pretty close-minded to anything that has melody or lyrics or recognizable chord-patterns ‘“ although the opposite can be equally true with the non-experimental crowd and their aversion to abstraction.

Your latest release, “Songs of Flowers & Skin,” is out on Zunior. For someone who has released his music in such a wide range of formats, the idea of working with a Canadian MP3 label that’s getting so much attention must be exciting. 
Definitely! I feel very CanCon working with Zunior, which is nice. I think of ‘œSongs of Flowers & Skin’? as a pop album ‘“ admittedly, fairly abstract pop ‘“ so it’s cool that Dave [Ullrich] from Zunior appreciates that pop/abstraction juxtaposition.

By Matt Blair