Interview: Nadja

It feels like we've finally been able to achieve something in a year of frustrated achievements.

Nadja are about to release their new album Luminous Rot and the majestic album sees the duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff exploring different sounds that complement their vision all the while reaffirming everything you love about the music of Nadja. Ahead of the its release, Gavin Brown caught up with Aidan to hear all about Luminous Rot, the creation of the album and working with David Pajo of Slint on the record as well as hearing about Nadja’s performance of their track ‘Seemannsgarn’ at Roadburn Redux and his memories of the festival, other memorable festival experiences, playing live shows in the current climate and who his musical influences are.

E&D: Your new album Luminous Rot is out soon. Are you excited to be getting the album out there?    

Aidan: Yeah. It’s been kind of a long process because this year has been a really long year, so it’ll be nice to actually see it out. It feels like we’ve finally been able to achieve something in a year of frustrated achievements.

E&D: How was the experience of creating and recording the album and was it any different because of everything that’s been going on?

Aidan: We started working on the album before the pandemic hit, actually, so it didn’t really inform the recording process itself. It was more that once we got into talking to Southern Lord, things started to change and so when you consider the post production part of the album, that  happened during the pandemic.

E&D: Did it alter the way you recorded at all, or was it just business as usual for Nadja?

Aidan: It was pretty much business as usual. We were pretty self-sufficient in terms of recording and normally we do the recording in our home studio, so that wasn’t really any different than normal for us.

E&D: David Pajo from Slint mixed the album. How was the experience of working with him and what does he bring to the sound of Luminous Rot?

Aidan: It was interesting working with him, if only for the very fact that we haven’t really worked with anybody in that capacity before. We’ve always mixed our own albums, so that just kind of changed the way we approached the completion of the album itself, having his input into it  and seeing what he kind of forefronted in the mixes to make it sound the way he thought it should be. There was a bit of back and forth, of course, because he wanted our input as well, it was a really interesting collaboration.

E&D: What led to you approaching him and how did his name come up. Are you big Slint fans and was that was someone you wanted to work with?

Aidan: We are big Slint fans. We never really thought that we would work with David or anybody from Slint particularly in a mixing capacity, but Greg from Southern Lord was acting as a producer for the record and suggested we have someone outside the bands do the mixing and from a shortlist of different people, David Pajo, was someone we could both agree on.

E&D: You mentioned your home studio and you also did some in your live rehearsal space in Berlin. Did the city during lockdown influence the music on the new album? It must have been strange, a city like Berlin being locked down.

Aidan: Yeah, a little bit of our composition and recording process was a bit before the lockdown happened, so it didn’t affect the creation of the songs themselves. It was more as we were working on them, that things started to close down. Honestly, that sort of point of the process is a very sort of insular process anyway, so it wasn’t so bad at that point, I guess, cause we could take advantage of that time of isolating and just focusing on the music. Obviously the idea that we wouldn’t be able to tour the record and the possibility of that not happening was always kind of in the back of our minds and with that, I don’t know if that necessarily influenced how the album turned out, but it definitely influenced our own feelings about the music world and the music industry.

 

E&D: How do you feel about that at the moment with the record coming out?

Aidan: It’s quite frustrating. Less so the fact that we can’t play live. It’s more sort of the way we might put something out into a world that seems frustrated at the moment. The normal sort of way that we would approach the releasing of a new album and then playing shows in support, it obviously can’t happen, so that feels like us coming up against a wall, now we’re forced to stop what we would normally do in this process. I feel like it’s a blockage in a certain way.

E&D: With the new album, it’s got post-punk shoe gaze and industrial influence on it. Did you want to bring more of these influences to the fore with this record and what bands and music were you listening to while you were creating the album?

Aidan: I don’t know that it was necessarily a conscious decision to bring those elements out. It’s more, that’s kind of what happens. We did start the record more based on rhythmic patterns from analog drums rather than the electronic drums that we normally use and I think that kind of gave it a bit more of a post-punk kind of character, those sort of rudimentary or basic kind of angular rhythms were kind of what form the backbone of the album and give it that direction.

E&D: With working with the analog drums, Would that be something that you’d explore farther in the future?

Aidan: Possibly, we have done a couple other albums with live drummers, but those are all studio projects and we’ve never really done it in a live setting, so I think if we were to try playing with a live drummer in the future, that’s something we want to do live first and then go into the studio, just an alternative direction from something that we’ve done before.

E&D: What has the feedback for the album been like so far?

Aidan: So far, it’s been pretty good. I can’t think of any specific things. I had a few friends here telling me that it sounded like early Ministry to him, which I thought was interesting. Twitch era Ministry, which is kind of funny because I wouldn’t have thought that unless she had said it. That was kind of cool as we’ve been Ministry fans for a long time.

E&D: Have you discussed playing Luminous Rot in full when it is possible to do so?

Aidan: To be honest, we haven’t really thought about it because we don’t know when we will play live again. We did do a few outdoor shows last year over the summer, when it was possible to play outside and keep distance. Then one or two indoor shows in very strict conditions but that was already August, September last year as since then everything has happened so we’ve not even thought about it. We don’t really know.

E&D: How was the experience of playing shows under those conditions?

Aidan: Well, I had people were already quite starved with music at that point, so the audiences were very enthusiastic and even the indoor shows where people had to stay seated, had to keep a certain distance and there was a very limited amount of people inside. Everyone seemed really appreciative of the situation and were quite willing to abide by the rules that were in place, so that was a pretty nice experience. I don’t know if and when it will happen again. Maybe there’s some stuff that’ll start up again, outdoors, but at the moment there are no plans really,

E&D: You released ‘Seemannsgarn’ last month. How has that piece been received?

Aidan: People have liked it. It’s a much more of a kind of meditative piece compared to Luminous Rot and that was something that we intended going into it, that it would be this sort of sit down and get absorbed by the sounds kind of thing and that is why it’s just like one long track. We specifically composed that piece to do through the live streaming session that we recorded here, thinking that we wanted to take advantage of that format and rather than try to reproduce a normal live show that we would do something that would be more conducive to people chilling out, relaxing or meditating, or just taking a moment to find some peace.

E&D: How was the experience of playing in full live, like you did for the Roadburn Redux festival?

Aidan: That was honestly a little strange because it was the first time we had played together in front of anybody else, besides ourselves in about six or seven months. Even though there were only four people in the room, the video crew and the sound tech, it still felt kind of weird being in such close quarters with people. I mean, it was a good experience. We definitely enjoyed doing it, but yeah, it was this sort of cognitive dissonance in the moment as we were standing there playing.

E&D: Have you discussed any further performances of it or was that a one-off playing it live?

Aidan: We might play it live again. Honestly I couldn’t say at the moment, sometimes people specifically request some pieces for different performances depending on the venue and the setting. Since this piece was kind of based on the neighbourhood and where we live in Berlin, it’s conceivable that we might do it here in our own neighbourhood as our local venue has an outdoor stage, so we’ve often played outdoor shows there in the summer so maybe we’ll try to revisit that.

E&D: You have played at Roadburn in the past. What are some of your favourite memories of the festival?

Aidan: Well, the first time we played us in 2008 and it was a bit of a whirlwind so I don’t remember very much to be honest! The second time we played it, I remember we were competing with the Young Gods, which I was very disappointed by, but we managed to get to see like 10 minutes of there set before we had to go on and do our line check and start our own set so it was a good 10 minutes, but I would’ve loved to be more of that.

E&D: It is obviously a festival you play at again in the future?

Aidan: Absolutely. I think it’s a really nice festival, really because it’s so contained in way, because it’s sort of contained within the limits of the city that it takes place in and the venues so there’s always this sense of community and camaraderie there that a lot of bigger festivals lack.

E&D: What are some of your other favourite memories of playing festivals around the world?

Aidan: We once played a festival in Toronto on a beach on the island, which I think is the only beach show we’ve done. No, we’ve played two beach shows! There was one in Italy, where we played on a beach, but that was a pretty beautiful setting where he played right on the sand with a portable generator and speakers as the sun set over the lake. That was a pretty memorable show. There’s some other good festivals. There was one in Estonia that we played a few years ago called Heliosphere. Ben Frost and Circle played there, that was pretty cool, I’ve seen Circle  a number of times, but that was one of my favourite performances.

E&D: With your label Broken Spine Productions, What have you got in store for the rest of the year with that?

Aidan: Nothing actually. We don’t do release too much with that. We tend to do maybe one major thing a year and if Southern Lord hadn’t picked up Luminous Rot, we probably would have done that ourselves with Broken Spine but since they are doing it this year, we probably will skip over this year and release something next year.

E&D: What have been some of the your most memorable moments from being in Nadia?

Aidan: Most memorable? I guess one of the tours we did in Japan, with our friends Vampillia, the second time we were in Japan with them, maybe two weeks worth of shows, traveling all around Japan. That was a pretty special tour in lots of really interesting and different places that we got taken by Vampillia, that was in 2014 I think. More recently, one special event for us was opening for Godflesh in Russia, Moscow. We had met Justin before, but never met Benny so it was really nice to spend some time with them and get to know them a bit and and of course to see their set.

E&D: How much of an influence are Godflesh on you?

Aidan: A pretty big one. I think I started listening to them early on with Pure, I guess, yeah, I was a pretty quick convert since I heard that album and have followed them ever since.

E&D: Who else would you say that your main influences are both for Nadia and yourself as a musician?

Aidan: For the band, Big Black. I definitely think of them as an influence, particularly because they’re also using a drum machine in their music, but also even though they’re considered a punk band, it’s kind of a textural punk band. Steve will use his guitar tone in Big Black and that is definitely something that I find unique and inspirational, even though my tone doesn’t necessarily sound like that but the idea and how he got that sound and the way he played influenced how I play. Speaking of Albini, PJ Harvey definitely, particularly Dry, in fact her first two albums are ones that I go back to a lot and really deep dive into pretty obsessively. I think she too is a really interesting guitar player and that she maybe doesn’t get the credit that she deserves for that because she’s kind of a weird guitarist that you don’t necessarily pick up pick up on immediately, unless you kind of really analyze her songs.

Photo by Janina Galert.

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