Keith Baker, aka the Artist Formerly Known As “Keef Baker,” now recording under a slew of new names from Nimon (Ant Zen), Slipdrive (Hymen) and Thing on a Spring (Component Recordings) hates bios. My request for a bio resulted in a one word response – “wanker.” Keith never takes himself too seriously and this is always refreshing in this scene. Check out his performance in Mandro1d at InFEST.
He has also never been one for either excessive attention or the proverbial spotlight yet his music has influenced quite a few genres of experimental electronic music, and music producers. Keith is an amazing artist who has recorded for a variety of renowned electronic labels from n5MD, Ad Noiseam, to Hymen. In fact for those of the brain dance inclined (or what us Americans tend to label “idm”), Keef Baker was a pioneering plank holder in the genre along with the likes of Bitcrush and Proem. His catalog and remix credentials are extensive.
When my Father passed, two of his albums got me through one of the roughest patches in my life – The Widnes Years (2004) and Redeye (2007). When I told him about this, he responded immediately – how often do artists you admire actually respond? Not that many. Years later he released an industrial side project album as Sharps Injury on my fledgling label Octofoil Records (shhh, he’s wearing the label shirt in the pic) and he remixed a track of mine. In fact, he inspired me to record under other names. So when he agreed to an interview on creativity for Hypnos Audio I was thrilled and honored. – (Dave B.)
HA: Do other artistic mediums also inspire you? (e.g., painting, film, dance, etc). If so, what are they?
KB: They do, but it’s not painting, photos or anything like that, unlike a lot of my contemporaries I rarely get excited by visual art. You’re much more likely to see me get inspired by a story or a film. You see, both music and story are time shaped mediums and they both have dynamics, they should both take you on an emotional journey that surprises you, creates tension and then releases it, it might make you fearful and then joyful. I’d say a lot of my work has much more in common with short stories than paintings or installations, like stories, my work is supposed to take you on a journey. However, I also get inspiration from sonic things that aren’t meant to be art, like the mix of the neighbours lawnmower, a tweeting bird and chopping wood, or a sound that just creates a sense of space, things like that.
HA: It seems that you have hung up the Keef Baker alias in favor of a variety of new projects – could you tell us about that transition?
KB: Yeah, it’s a bit of a weird one. It’s difficult to see passion fizzle out while it’s happening, as it rarely happens instantly like blowing out a candle, it’s more like the reverse of boiling a frog. All of a sudden it’s cold and you didn’t notice the temperature going down. The thing that gave it away was when my mother died and I poured all those emotions into the first Nimon album. I’d finish a track and feel like I was emotionally burning, like my nerves were on fire. I sadly realized that I used to get that same feeling while writing Keef Baker stuff but hadn’t in some time. So I spent some time trying to “turn the ship” and align Keef Baker with something I was more musically passionate about but I realized in the end that I was asking the impossible and anything I did under that name would be painted with that legacy. At that point I realized I couldn’t really do a “cover all” project again and I had to drop it.
HA: I find it liberating myself to hit the creative reset button at times when making a new project – do you approach the new one differently?
KB: Very much so. When I start a project I set rules, rules that can, after a time, be broken but it’s birth is usually through a set of rules. Eg: Nimon – Every sound must be guitar. Thing on a Spring – Every sound must come from a SID or SID emulator. If those rules survive more than a couple of tracks then I know the project has legs and I can then consider breaking those rules when it seems like the right time to do so. Then there’s ones with more complex rulesets like Slipdrive – 1) There must be sequences in contrarhythm to each other. 2) Each sound should theoretically have been able to exist before 1979, and 3) if it doesn’t feel like I’m in a spaceship when I listen to it, it’s wrong. In some ways this stops projects going down rabbit holes they shouldn’t go down and if I don’t want to follow those rules any more I just kill the project. It keeps it so I can still feel creative without “lodestone” projects round my neck, weighing me down.
HA: Could you tell us about some artists from any medium that currently inspire you to create?
KB: From the world of actual music I’ve developed quite the obsession with the band “Yes”. Now.. I can see how people might think I should apologize for that but beh. I love them. Deal. Not many other bands can create sonic stories as detailed and expansive as them. From the world of words, nobody writes like Vonnegut. His astounding grasp of the human condition and ability to give moral lessons through grotesques is constantly inspiration. Also, sadly enough… Doctor Who. Yeah… I know.. Like Yes I should be sorry, but I’m just not.
HA: What are the biggest obstacles/hinderances in your creative process (e.g., time, process flow, money, people, noise, silence, equipment, etc)?
KB: Time, desire and confidence. My confidence is fairly shot these days but thankfully I do have a regular session where I do some work with Phil Barry over at his place which keeps my oar in, but I have to WANT to write to be able write on my own which is something that happens less and less these days but when it does it tends to burn brilliantly like a sun for a while before dying back off.
HA: How long does it typically take you to start and finish a musical project/album?
KB: Good god, it can depend! Some albums have took a couple of years, some a couple of weeks. It really is how long is a piece of string.
HA: If you could give advice to one artist on the creative process, what would it be?
KB: Don’t ignore the importance of musical chops. Either through playing a real musical instrument or reading up on theory and composition techniques. So many people are so obsessed with production techniques which is fine, but that’s just the polish. If the actual music isn’t good, all you’re going to end up with is a very shiny turd.