When Nadja arrive in Halifax on Friday, May 23 (with Vancouver's Shearing Pinx) as part of the Obey Convention music festival, it will mark the first time the lauded and well-travelled Toronto ambient doom-noise duo has appeared in this city.
Made up of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, Nadja started off as Baker's solo studio project. As the project gathered steam, its make-up evolved, and Baker says, "People were asking for the project to perform, both listeners and labels, and Alien8"---home of Les Georges Leningrad and Think About Life, among others---"expressed interest in releasing something...it was strongly encouraged that we play live before they put something out."
The idea of becoming a live band excited Baker. "I imagine if it had remained a studio project it wouldn't have been as successful as it's been, probably wouldn't be as interesting and I probably would have ended it by now."
Buckareff was added as a collaborator, handling bass and vocal duties and Nadja became a fully fledged touring band,releasing no less than eight full-lengths, a couple of EPs and a number of splits and collaborations while touring the US, Canada and Europe.
Baker's musical background is steeped in classical music with his formal training as a flutist. Growing up as one of two sons of musicians, it seemed as though Baker's future was pre-destined, but his parents weren't the musical equivalents of hockey moms and dads.
"We were definitely encouraged," he says. "To a certain degree it was expected of us, but...it came naturally to both of us, so we did it."
How does one go from being a classically trained flutist to a creator of droning and ambient doom metal? Baker's move from classical music to more experimental soundscapes was inspired by his interest in bands such as Godflesh, which opened his eyes to similarly styled experimental projects like Throbbing Gristle and Swans.
That "interest" led Baker to contribute to, or record, more than 100 albums. It's an astonishing output considering he began in earnest in 2000. His discography includes work with his groups Nadja, ARC and Mnemosyne, as well as his solo output and collaborations with other artists.
If his resume was limited to musical endeavours, it would still be impressive to even the most ambitious workaholic, but literary intentions were also fostered in the Baker family. A poet, Baker has penned five books of his works with a sixth one on its way. It's difficult to comprehend how Baker maintains his interest, continues to uncover inspiration and pursues his work. The answer is quite simple: "The work encourages me to do the work."
"I feel at a loss when I am not working on a project, which maybe be a sign of a workaholic...but...it always feels right to be working on something and it usually feeds into another project."
Despite the desire, it's a rarity for Baker's two passions to successfully overlap. "The two worlds don't really meet too much, which is little weird, I think," he says. "I don't know if disappointing is the right word, but it is frustrating at times. People have no idea I write, who know me through music, and people who read the books say, 'Oh, you're a musician, too?'"
It's not that Baker hasn't tried. "I have released a book that came with a CD serving as the soundtrack to the book, but the publisher went out of business so it reallydidn't do too well," he says with a nervous laugh while referring to his 2002 book, Wound Culture.
The plan for Baker's literary and solo work seems to mirror the plan for Nadja as well: "To expand our scope as we keep working."
To that end, Baker will pull double-duty as he appears twice at this year's Obey Convention. His first appearance is on Friday evening at a free show featuring Torso and D/A A/D at the Bus Stop Theatre, with a second appearance at an all-ages show alongside Shearing Pinx.
Aidan Baker w/Torso, D/A A/D, art and zine show, Friday, May 23 at Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen, 6:30pm, free. Nadja w/Shearing Pinx, Zachary Fairbrother, Ra-Dawn Sun Cult and short films, 8pm, $7.