Ende Januar veröffentlichte Aidan Knight sein drittes Album, Each Other (hier geht’s zum Review). Wir haben uns mit Aidan in Hamburg getroffen und mit ihm darüber gesprochen, wie es ist Supporting-Act zu sein, was ihn in seine neue Wahlheimat Berlin zieht und wie es ist eine Band zu haben, die zwar seinen Namen trägt aber irgendwie trotzdem kein richtiges Soloprojekt ist.
Hi Aidan, how’s touring so far?
It’s great! This is show seven out of many, many more but it’s only our second show in Germany on this tour.
You toured the UK solo first with ‚Villagers‘.
Yeah, it was just a week with them.
Is it good to be back with the band now?
Yeah, it’s really nice! Not only because one of them is Julia [my wife] but it’s really great. I don’t mind playing by myself but it’s just much more satisfying with the band.
Now you’re supporting ‚Half Moon Run‘ and you were supporting ‚Villagers‘. What’s it like to be supporting act?
It’s great because, generally, you’re playing for people who have never heard you before. So there is sort of a high expectation but also sort of a low expectation at the same time. On stage I don’t feel as much pressure if that makes sense but I also feel a lot of pressure to try and play really well so that people don’t think that I am bad. (laughs)
I guess, now that I’m saying that it doesn’t change that much from when we’re doing our show versus doing a support show. There’s something about it that I really like: Trying to break through to people and if they come up after the show and say “I’ve never listened to you before and I really like the music!” and if they buy something and they say that they will look you up later, I mean, that’s pretty great!
Tomorrow you’ll be playing in Berlin and I read on facebook that you two just moved there. What brings you to Germany? Why do you want to stay here?
(laughs) Is that so surprising?
I don’t know, it’s just because you’re from Canada and why would you move to Germany then?
There are many, many reasons. The most important one is that there seem to be a lot of things that are very helpful for bands here. Mostly that there is the sort of spirit of people who want to hear new music. That’s one of the reasons and another one, specifically in Berlin, is that we’ve spend so little time there. Out of all the cities in Germany I think I’ve been there the most in terms of the amount of times that I’ve been there but I only ever had one day every time that I’ve played – Just the show day. So to be able to be back there and to really explore and see everything that’s happening there is really great. I haven’t seen that much music there yet but I’m really excited to go and see ‘cause it just seems like it’s a city where everyone from all of the world comes to pay low rent (laughs) and to just try new music.
And that’s what you want to do as well? You want to get inspired by the city or maybe also by the German way of life?
Yeah, I mean, before coming to Berlin I’ve lived in the same neighbourhood my whole life. I’ve lived in the same six blocks, you know, six streets pretty much. Going and seeing something new will hopefully inspire something new but even if it doesn’t I think it’s a good opportunity, though, to go and sort of step outside of the comfort of where I’m from. It’s funny that you mention the German way of life because the way that Canada is set up for people, I’m not even sure what it would be like. Coming to Germany, in some respects it’s quite easy in other respects there’s a lot of steps you need to go through to set your life up.
How will you continue with your band? Are all of the band moving to Berlin, too?
That would be great! I think the plan right now is that we will be playing so many concerts from now until June that we will just be together all the time. So that won’t be a problem – but then afterwards… I don’t know. You brought up a good point I think. (laughs)
I think that I’d like to spend more time here than in Canada at this stage. So hopefully everyone is ok with flying over and we’ll just rehearse in Berlin. It is a really great place to play music. There’s lots of places that you can go and rehearse. And it’s so inexpensive there. I always thought that Europe is a very expensive place and we just came from Scandinavia which is all quite expensive. I know people from Munich as well and from what I’ve heard it’s much more expensive there.Speaking of the band; the band has your name. How did you end up giving the band your name?
I started out just by myself and I didn’t think really far ahead about where the project could go. So I always thought that I would do all of the things. But as I was saying in the beginning it’s not as satisfying to me to play just by myself. And almost right away in 2010/2011 I first started playing with all of these guys and around 2012 was when we officially played together all the time. Julia, Olivier and I have been playing together in this band since then, so for four years.
I think there was definitely some points where we were thinking, “Ah, maybe we should change the same. Would probably make sense.” But then there is another band in Canada, ‚Patrick Watson‘, it’s a guy but it’s also about all of the different people who play in the band. And I think that if you’ve come to see our show more than one time and you see the players and you hear all the parts that they play it’s a different show as if it were just me up there trying to play the songs. And there’s some songs that I wouldn’t be able to play without playing with everyone. Hopefully, that’ll make sense.
Yeah, it does. So when you were on tour with ‚Villagers‘ you played your songs differently?
There’s some songs that I just couldn’t play and there’s some songs when I just had to do a completely different version of the song. I think I was only able to play maybe three songs of the new album and maybe two or three songs of ‘Small Reveal’, the older one.
While recording your music there’s a lot of people involved now as you are a band but in the end it’s a product and there’s your name on it. I read that you once said,“Let people do what they feel really good about and they will do great”. Isn’t it kind of hard to take a step back and let people do what they feel good about because in the end you have to be happy with it?
The thing about that process is that it continues for me. In the beginning, I wanted to have more control and then when you step back from that then you realised it was not as alive and it doesn’t feel like everyone is all playing together. It feels like you’re really directing things and that still happens. But to be able to sit back and let people come up with their own spin and idea on a lot of these songs I think it made things sound so much bigger and more alive and better. Actually, to be honest I’m sort of interested in both. I’m interested in directing some ideas and then I’m also interested in letting people run with their ideas. All the guys who play in the band also have their own musical things that they do outside. For me to be able to listen to those things that I’m not involved in at all and be like “This is amazing stuff!” gives me more confidence to let them bring that sort of energy into this band.
Still you came to a point while recording ‘Each Other’ when you almost called it quits.
Yeah, it sounds more dramatic [than it was] this way. The process of recording can be very, very long and there’s just so many different steps and so many different moments that things can be unresolved. Imagine a horse race and in the beginning all the animals are sort of together. Maybe there’s one that’s up ahead but that can all change over the course of the race. That’s kind of similar to making a record: There is a jumble of ideas that sort of come out of the gates and some of them shoot up towards the front and some them are slower and come from behind and in that sort of confusion, eventually, things sort of clarify. And when you’re coming around the last bend then maybe a horse that was in the middle towards the back has paced itself a little better and goes forward and wins the whole thing. That is like the beginning of a song idea. And sometimes the thing that you thought is going turn out just so great just fades into to the background. So there were all of these ideas and as they were starting to fade away and we were getting a better idea of what the album is going to sound like it almost felt like for a moment that all of the horses were just going to run away. Like, right off the track. And at that moment there was a schedule and there was money and there was all the stuff that was happening and there was a moment when it sort of felt as though we should have stopped. But then the very next day we just sort of had a breakthrough in the recording. There were still other difficult parts but once we sort of knew where things were going I think that it became pretty clear. And then there’s also a period that happens right after you go into the studio and you finish recording and you just have all of this music and you just listen to it over and over and you’re taking apart and you’re being really critical of it all and that’s the hardest part of making music for me. Not making it, just thinking about it and trying to imagine people listening to it and thinking about how I feel about it versus how I think they’re going to think about it. I have to always remind myself that’s not the reason why I make music. I like that other people listen to it but it’s that I just love the feeling of making it. So when I’m not making it I kind of go crazy. (laughs) There was also this period in between making it until it was released that I was like maybe I just start all over again. Maybe we just go back home and we just record it ourselves or something. There’s a lot of weird thoughts that happen in between. I think the most important part is that it turned out really well and I’m glad that I didn’t think like that anymore.
Yeah, ‚Each Other‘ is a great record!
There’s eight songs on ‘Each Other’ but usually albums have 10 to 12 songs on them. Why did you choose to put only eight songs on the ‘Each Other’?
I like shorter albums in general. The reason why I like them is that I think they are more digestible. You put them on and you can listen through the whole thing. But now that I’m saying that out loud, there are double albums that are great. I also like collecting vinyl records and I think that around 30 to 35 minutes is a really great lengths for the fidelity of the disk itself. To answer you honestly, I don’t know if you can tell I’m sort of a spacey thinker sometimes. Sometimes I’m so focused on making the music I never think about “Oh, it’s too short” or “It’s too long”. It’s really what’s the best thing. There were a few songs that we were working on and they didn’t make the final recording but we could have pushed them through and make ten songs. But I don’t think they would have been finished to the same level that the other things were. And so I think I’d rather save an idea. Like one song on this album, Funeral Singers, was a song idea from Small Reveal which we released in 2012 and we could have pushed that song through onto there but it would have been a totally different thing. It’s kind of an incredible thing about music that you’re making what you want but once you’ve made it and recorded it and released it then that is the thing and you can’t change it anymore. It’s a hard thing to say it’s done.
Do you ever think of songs like “I can’t play that anymore”?
Oh, do you mean like an older song?
Yeah, songs from your second or your first album. Do you ever think, “We didn’t record that really well and we can’t play it like that anymore”?
I certainly feel like I moved past songs but then I can go back and appreciate them for the time, the sort of moment they captured. You know, to listen back and to hear something of the first album which is six years ago and I started recording that three years before that, so almost ten years ago, I was maybe 20 years old or something like that. My outlook and perspective on the world and what music I was listening to and how I thought about everything, I don’t want to say that it’s totally different now but I had never been to Germany, I’d never been further east than Winnipeg which is almost in the middle of Canada. But since then I have travelled the entire country, I’m here now. To be in Hamburg, I never would have thought when I first made that music. I think all of that experience filtered it’s way into my music. So I feel closer and more attached to this [new] music than to stuff of the first album. There’s some stuff on the second album that we still do play and mix it with the set and it really makes sense. I really think of that first album as a test. It was just an experiment and while I still like the things on there it doesn’t really musically speak to me in the same way like some of the things I do now which is not something you should ever say out loud as a band because it will disappoint people who have heard that music and be like “ Ah, the first album is amazing”, you know. I probably say that about bands but it’s hard to have that perspective on yourself. So there a few songs on the first album that I still enjoy, that are ok but I don’t feel strongly enough that I would play them anymore. And then there are four songs probably of the second album but I’m really enjoying these Each Other songs live because I worked on them all with the guys and we all just got together in a room and we played them together so we know that they work as a live performance. I think that’s another reason why I like them. It’s really interesting when you make something and you don’t even think about anything else. You don’t think, “How would I ever play this song live”? You just go and you’re experimenting and you’re recording. I still really like that. It’s just, yeah, funny (laughs).
After recording your first two albums did you think, “Well, how are we going to do this live”?
Most of the music on every album I’ve ever made I’ve never played live before. Generally, the first show that we play on the album tour is the first time that we’ve ever played all of the songs together. There are many different ways of making music. I don’t think the ‚Half Moon Run‘ guys write much on the road or maybe they do. I know that ‚Jackson Brown‘ who is a really great singer/songwriter, he made a whole record on the road. He wrote and recorded it in hotel rooms and when they were soundchecking on stage they were working on the songs. That’s something that’s really great and classic and like kind of seventies American writing a record on the road and recording in a hotel room. But I don’t write that way. Generally, I sort of think about music and get into the sort of techniques and instruments and things and write words and, eventually, I’m sort of half way there and I say, “Let’s start recording” and I’ll figure out the rest of the song while we’re recording, which is not a good way to make music financially (laughs). It’s a horribly way! But it’s the thing that sort of works best for me and by the end of it we have finished songs and then we would go on tour. We have about a week to rehearse the music and we break apart all the songs and try to figure out how to play them. As of this time we didn’t have to do so much of that. We had sort of written most of the songs before going in[to the studio].
I read that you’re quite into instrumental music and that you refer to your singing abilities as not very exceptional. Have you ever thought about making an instrumental record?
Yeah, I’ve thought a lot about soundtrack for film and I guess also television is quite good now. So I think there’s a lot of possibility to soundtrack there; for podcasts, for radio, for, I guess, even commercials. I mean there’s a lot of things that need music. I guess I could also make totally instrumental music and release that because I think the Aidan-Knight-Group project can be so many different things. I could probably release instrumental music and just call it Aidan Knight and I don’t think it would be a problem either. I haven’t put together a plan yet to do it but I would love to do it. Whenever I go back to Canada I have friends that I played music with a long time ago but I haven’t played with them for the past five years since I’ve been doing this. But we get together every once in a while and we just work on sort of more heavy, aggressive instrumental music. More like ‚Refused‘ and ‚Explosions In The Sky‘ and sort of like more heavy, distorted music and I’d love to explore more aggressive forms of music but also stuff that’s maybe more classical. I think my end goal, if there is any end to my musical life, is to play as many kinds of music as possible because there’s so much great music that it would be a shame if I was always put in a corner of like folk or indie-rock or whatever it is that I’m doing now or whatever it is that I’ve done in the past. It sort of had a similar line and I’d like to expand what I do. Instrumental, classical, punk and hardcore, you know, go off into like really experimental directions. Maybe do things that are more like theatre and dance. To be able to do more creative things that’s my jam.