If you’ve made yourself familiar with this homepage you should have noticed that I’m interested in a wide field of Music, TV Series, Games, etc. And like every fan sometimes questions pop up in my head. With this page I would like to grab the opportunity and interview artists in the “Astroboter Asks” column. I’ll try to do at least one interview a month and my palms are already sweaty when I’m thinking about the upcoming interview with Manuel Göttsching from the German Krautrock band Ash Ra Tempel. But enough of the future-bla-bla, let’s start with the post.
One of the most embracing things about the internet is the opportunity for artists from all over the world to present themselves and reach an audience that was not so easy to connect with during the “old days”. I’ve tried to search through the tags at Bandcamp for the first time and stumbled upon the “Lo-Fi” tag. I got hooked by the artwork of a band called “Aitch” and tuned in. What I’ve heard impressed me. It was a fine mix of indie rock bands like The American Analog Set, Pinback and the folkish Post Rock of Balmorhea. I downloaded both records (for free, yay!) and listened to it on repeat. I wanted to interview the band, but had problems to contact them. Luckily Thomas Elder, the man behind Aitch, contacted me via Last.fm because he saw that I was listening to the band. I grabbed the chance and we made this interview in March 2012.
Astroboter: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself:
Thomas: I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife and two sons. I adopted the Aitch moniker about six years ago while living in Northern California where I grew up. I collect instruments and old stereo equipment, most of which finds its way into my music in one way or another. My favorite piece of equipment is an old Akai reel to reel tape player I picked up a few years ago at a thrift store – I can’t imagine making music without it.
A: You are quoted as the only band member. Are you playing all instruments by yourself or do you seek help from other musicians?
T: I’ve had many of my close friends play in the band and on the records – and from time to time they offer creative input – but for the most part the songs and all of their parts are written and composed by me.
A: How does the songwriting-process look like?
T: I start a song by recording it – I layer each part one by one writing the next part while I listen to what I’ve already recorded – once I have a general idea of what the song will sound like I start to work on the lyrics and can build the song and it’s parts around that – once it’s written (done being recorded) then I’ll record it again, now that I know what the song is – usually the first recordings are just rough first takes recorded moments after coming up with a part or lyric – (ampersand) is a collection of these types of first recordings.
A: Good that you’ve mentioned this collection. Actually it was the first thing I heard from Aitch. I searched through the “Lo-Fi” tags at Bandcamp and your record popped up. I was grabbed by the style of the recordings and it makes a great combination with the rough songs. Does the sound aesthetics play a role for your vision of Aitch?
T: I usually have a specific sound in mind when working on a record but I suppose I’ve never really hit my mark.
A: You told me that Aitch, despite the solo-project-character, appears live on stage. What is the constellation of your live team? Are you changing instruments in the band line up?
T: The live shows has been so many different things, I’ve played alone as well as with ten people on stage – usually I’m not comfortable with out drums, bass, Rhodes and guitar - although we played a few shows as a three piece; drums, bass and Rhodes. It used to be that we would switch instruments throughout the show but that’s less and less the case.
A: Your new record is called “The Lie You Leave”. What’s the meaning behind it?
T: I wrote most of the songs on the record during a time in my life when I was figuring out what family meant to me. I was starting my own family and was looking back on how I was raised and how that influenced me to be who I am today. The lie you leave was this line that kept making its way into my songs – I didn’t realize it at the time nor was it intentional but the record ended up having this theme throughout the bulk of the record.
A: Which authors inspire you when it comes down to lyrics?
T: Phil Elverum, David Bazan and Andrew Maurer
A: What influences you besides music?
T: People have always been my main influence.
A: If you had the chance to meet a dead person, who would it be? What would you do?
T: Elliott Smith. I’d love to watch him track vocals…
A: What do you think about today’s music business?
T: The business of music is crippling the art of music – The Banksy film “Exit Through The Gift Shop” illustrates this point for street art but the message applies to music as well - there are those of us who just want to share our art and there are those of us who want to profit from it – for me music is not about business it’s about expression and simply making music is all the success I desire.
A: But what is with all the artists that play in the middle of this field of these two sides? I can imagine that we both share some bands we like that are just making music and can earn a modest living?
T: Of course, there certainly is a middle ground. There’s nothing wrong with earning a living playing music. Most people who make music don’t make money though. Unfortunately a lot of amazing music will fall by the wayside to bands with managers.
A: Last question for all the music diggers out there: What record/song are you listening to on heavy rotation currently?
T: Black Grass by Little Wings
The new album “The Lie You Leave”, alongside “(ampersand)” and “Aitch Y Double Hockey Sticks” are available for free on the Bandcamp page.
Thanks to Thomas for taking the time to do this interview!
Enjoy your weekend,