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27 December 2011

Interview: Aidan Baker of Nadja.

When The Sun Hits
Aidan Baker of Nadja

Interview by Amber Crain

Aidan Baker is a musician and writer currently based in Toronto, Canada. Classically trained in flute, he is self-taught on guitar, drums and various other instruments. Baker (guitars/vocals/drum programming) is also one half of the band Nadja, along with Leah Buckareff (bass/vocals). Originally formed in 2003 as a Baker solo project, the now-duo creates ambient-shoegazey-drone-metal, combining ambient electronics & fragmentary vocals with snail-crawl, epic riffs & dirge-like percussion. To date, Nadja has released over 10 full-length albums, in addition to various EPs, splits, and collaborations. Baker himself has released numerous albums on independent labels from around the world and is the author of two books of poetry, two poetry chapbooks and has published poetry, fiction and criticism in various international and scholarly journals. When The Sun Hits is understandably thrilled to bring you the following interview with a very talented and enigmatic person - Aidan Baker of Nadja.

How and when was Nadja formed?

I originally formed Nadja a solo, studio-based project in 2003 to explore the heavier, noiser side of drone music (compared to the more ambient, mellower music I make under my own name). Leah joined on bass in 2005 to bring the project out of the studio and perform live.

Can you tell us what you and the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?

We will be touring Japan for the first time at the end of January, then a short European tour in March, and a Scandinavian tour in May. As for releases, we have a few re-issues planned plus a 2CD compilation of vinyl-only or limited release tracks coming out with Important Records in the new year. We are currently working on a new full-length album that will hopefully be out by the end of 2012.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?

We don't really feel to be part of any specific scene, since our music tends to span a few different genres. We tend to fit more into the metal or noise/experimental scenes, though, than the
shoegaze/dream pop -- although people often consider us too metal to be noise or too experimental to be metal. Defining one's work, and all music in general, by genre is ridiculous and limiting -- music is more interesting when it spans multiple genres.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?

To be frank, I tend to listen to older shoegaze/dream pop bands...but in terms of modern psychedelia or drone acts, though, some favorites are Date Palms, Expo '70, Thisquietarmy, Natural Snow Buildings...

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?

I guess my Akai Headrush looping pedal is pretty integral to my sound. But as much as I rely on pedals, it's technique not technology that should make the musician.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?

We record in our home studio on a laptop, previously using Cubase but we recently switched to Logic (though we're still trying to figure out how the work the program). We generally record live and use the computer mainly for arranging and mixing and not for generating or
effecting sounds.

Nadja. Veil of Disillusion.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?

Hopefully, the changing music industry will mean the end of the parasitic major label and give artists more freedom and ability to earn a living on their own. It would be nice if the commercialism of the music industry changed, but that seems unlikely in the immediate future. Perhaps it is in the indie scene, but the mainstream music industry is still too concerned about profits and marketability. Of course, indie record labels and musicians have a right to be
compensated for what they produce, but I think society needs to re-assess how they consume music before that can happen in a fair and meaningful way.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?

Both are equally fine -- it really depends on the individual label and/or artist and the way they operate.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

I think each format has its own legitimacy for different reasons. Apart from cassettes -- I see little value in them.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?

Here are a few: Caspar Brotzmann, Justin Broadrick, James Plotkin, Vini Reilly, PJ Harvey, Mark Kozelek, Adam Franklin, Alan Sparhawk, Glenn Branca, Michael Gira, etc.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc)?

I'm concurrently (re-)reading Steve Erickson 's Tours of the BlackClock, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and David Foster Wallace's The Pale King. Some recent listening: Kate Bush, Red House Painters, Rollins Band, Lenny Breau, Fugazi. I can't remember the last really good film I saw...

If you had to choose one
Nadja track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?

I guess "Stays Demons" since it features a little bit of everything that encompasses our sound: heaviness, melodicism, noise, drone, darkness, prettiness...

Nadja. Stays Demons.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?

We usually start with a few basic riffs and build the drums tracks around those riffs. We then put the song together allowing for textural and largely improvisational passages.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

Grin and bear it.