Where does your imagination take you? For Aidan Wall, thoughts feed into music, art, writing and gaming – intricate realms are designed, detailed and described.
Born in Dublin, now based in Amsterdam – Aidan has been releasing music under various aliases such as Soil Creep, Hipster Youth and Porn on Vinyl since 2007.
Aidan’s latest project Blusher, appears to be a creative crosswords. A forceful combination of electronic and folk elements from previous releases – a creative full tilt tapestry.
‘I want my music to make people dance or cry – or both!’ If you have experienced the album Tren Rezno, you will know this objective has been obliterated. Soft, sharp, strange and satisfying…Tren Rezno is full of multi coloured contrasts. From the full force whack of Wake Up a Skeleton, the blissful brilliance of Bifo Ulrich, or the face fracturing PAy Up – Tren Rezno makes it through your veins with a vengeance.
Serene yet sense kicking, Aidan has created another cosmos that we will keep coming back to, time and time again. We chat about Aidan’s creative journeys, processes, influences and how that album name came about.
I started doing recordings in my gaff when I was a teenager, so when I was about 13 or 14 a friend in school said ‘hey download this thing you can record songs on it’ – so I ended up getting Audacity. I pressed the red circle and did loads of layers of things.
I was doing that for a couple of years – so I had an initial project doing folky music and guitar stringy sounds, while at the same time I was getting interested in electronic music. An internet friend told me to check out Fruityloops – so I ended up playing with that. That friend just recently put out an amazing album under their Nopomo moniker.
I had these 2 parallel things where one of them would be the songs I would write on my guitar and then the other songs I would write on my computer – I was doing that for 10 years. Over the course of time, I had put out a few different albums on a few different projects.
I had Soil Creep (pre Blusher), and that was when they started coming together a little bit closer. With Blusher the idea was that ‘I’m just going to put all the things together and not worry too much about whether they are a perfect match’.
It was actually a really nice time to be making music in a way, because I had always figured that it was a hobby. I was a teenager or in my early 20s when I was putting out stuff, so I was in college and living with my parents – I could just do stuff.
I wasn’t worried about it being a career. That was at the time where blogs were first getting popular and there was the idea that maybe you put your album out for free and maybe a blog would post it and 20 people would get to hear it.
It was nice, you’d find a lot of weird communities sharing music and you’d definitely find some people who liked your stuff and who would support you.
I ended up doing a PLC course after my Leaving Cert because I wanted to go to art college. I had originally wanted to be a graphic designer when I was 16 or 17… the teachers on the course were really encouraging and saying I would enjoy NCAD – that it would suit the way I think about stuff. I ended up applying there rather than doing graphic design.
After I graduated from NCAD I started focussing on writing a bit more than pursuing an actual art practice. For the past 2 ½ years or so I’ve been studying for a masters in Critical Studies in Amsterdam – it’s a Fine Art Masters focussed on writing.
I had started doing art reviews and game reviews back when I came out of college…and in this course I was like ‘oh you can write weird fiction or weird theory?’ So I started working on prominently that kind of stuff.
I was lucky that in my 4th year at NCAD they were open to me doing other things. I actually ended up making a couple of zines for my end of year degree show and they were about video games. They were half personal essays, half theory essays at that point. I’ve been wasting half my life playing games, so I thought maybe I can say something interesting about it from the position of being a weird time waster!
Studying in art college was a really great experience. It teaches you to think about what you are doing and you can apply that thought process to music.
So I can ask myself, what does it mean when I do this, what is its effect? Thinking back on some of the things I’ve done, it’s like I was sampling stuff I shouldn’t have been sampling.
I think within music now you see a more progressive look towards the politics of sampling – there are meaningful conversations. I feel really lucky that I get to study politics and cultural theory and think about cultural appropriation and things like this. It affects what I want to be working on musically.
Gaming is definitely a strong thing in my life. The thing that I like about gaming and thinking about science fiction is, you are building an atmosphere – you can build this thing that someone has never built before. Particularly with my DDR radio show – it’s what I want to convey with it. I know music does that, but I feel l learn a lot from reading and games.
For the most part, I make tabletop games, non-digital games and role-playing games – you sit at a table and pretend you’re somewhere doing something or different deviations on that formula.
I’ve been making collage work since I was in my early 20s in college and I really liked it as an art form, finding nice shapes and textures and composing stuff. At the moment it’s another thing I’m working on that fits in with the other stuff.
It’s funny, the music on Tren Rezno was made across a 2 year span – a lot of that time was non studio based. There are maybe one or two songs that were recorded in a studio on Middle Abbey St…back in the day! It was a shared studio, the first time I had a space to do music. Then I ended up going to Amsterdam and there was a lot of working on a computer as opposed to having an actual studio.
Right now, I’m in a really lucky position– a friend of mine got a cheap studio in Amsterdam and there is enough space for 3 more of us.
When I first starting making stuff it was nearly all computer and using Fruity Loops and then Ableton, which I use now. For Tren Rezno I used mostly virtual synths in Ableton but I’ve been accruing hardware for my live shows and working more with those.
So now my studio setup and workflow is a sequencer, drum machine, bass synth and a little synth. I enjoy having this workflow……it’s a lot more physical rather than looking at a screen. When I first started doing stuff it was all VSTs (Virtual Synths).
I still use a lot of that stuff when it comes to sitting down to make a song. I think the snobbery around making music on computers is a bit of a hangover from an earlier time. But with that said, I know a lot of people who I really respect that are champions of that kind of stuff. I would never want to be a champion at the detriment of someone who didn’t have access to it though. I know a lot of people who make unreal music just using Ableton and samples and virtual synths.
Getting nervous putting my stuff out? Not quite – as I don’t think I have ever put something out under my own name! I think I’ve played 1 gig where I used my own name…and that was a bit of a weird one to say the least!
All the time there was an anonymous aspect to having different monikers. I can’t go back to a lot of it now, but at the time there weren’t big stakes because it was just ‘hey I’m working on this song in the evening’ and after 6 months I would be like ‘oh this is an album’
Do I like anonymity? I’ve always treated it that each project is a different thing – it’s why this stuff is not called Soil Creep. When that’s done I will move on to the next thing…so there is a nice aspect of a fresh start or a change – or it opens you up to do different things.
Creative Flow and Approach
It’s a mixed bag. A lot of the time I will either hear something and think I want to sample this – mess around with it in Ableton and see what works. Sometimes that totally fails and sometimes it doesn’t. I will take a shell out of part of it and bring it somewhere else and start working on it.
Sometimes I will hear something in a movie or on a video online – most recently I was watching ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’, and there was this lad who was like ‘the old guard is still in control, they’ve got to be removed’….so in my most recent song it’s a ridiculous techno song with this aul Irish lad talking.
For sampling stuff live, I like humming and whistling and so I cycle around with my recorder. There are songs that I have in my head that I just whistle to myself that I have never properly recorded….I’m nearly writing some songs for like five years.
The way that I usually work is sometimes I will go two months without working on something and then in two months time I feel like I want to work on music and I will write loads of songs. I always have bits and bobs lying around… I like assembling things together and seeing how they work.
If I hear weird noises I’ll try and record them – the track ‘Roof’ on the album …it was just me on a roof, and there was a fan humming somewhere so I thought I will try and sing along with this from the roof. Or the washing machine in my parent’s house – it was really rhythmic so I ended up using it as the basis for a song. I’m so regretful when I don’t record stuff I hear – it’s like ugh I wish I’d done that.
I originally wanted it to be a double album, because there were dance aspects and then more ambient aspects, so I wanted one side where it’s ambient and another side dancey.
Where did the name Tren Rezno come from? The name is after Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, as I have a bit of a soft spot for him. He’s always done stuff that is off the beaten path, but also following his own trajectory of what he’s working on. I always thought it would be really funny to name something after him, so I just decided, I’ll just take off the last letter off each name. It’s funny..I had sent the link with the clips to a friend and she was like ‘oh Trent Reznor’s new music sounds pretty banging’.
So when I did make Tren Rezno into what that is now – I kinda envisioned it as a bit of a mixtape in a way. My original plan was that I was going to put it up as a free download, but I sent it to some friends and I think Robbie Kitt said I should send it to the Patrúin lads – and they really liked it!
I sent it to them – we had been planning it and it ended up being nearly a year after we first started talking after it finally came out – which is usually the case with music stuff.
Tren Rezno doesn’t have any distinct themes or anything, there is definitely a lot of bounces into different places and some of them were songs that I was just like ‘hey I want to make a dance track’. I would always say that my goal with a lot of the music is to make people dance or cry – or both!
Naming the tracks? I don’t even know. I think sometimes I’ll be working on something in Ableton and I will just write down a name that will make no sense, and at other times it’s a perfect excuse to make a shitty poem.
It feels like a document or an archive of this two year period, of weird turmoil and a lot of change in my life. I feel like it’s a nice in between, some songs are recorded in Dublin some are made in Amsterdam and some in both.
It was incredible holding the album, the only personal goal I really had with music was to have something on vinyl, as I was putting stuff out on cassette for ages. I love cassette as a format…but there is something about that big square! It was amazing, I almost didn’t believe it – it’s still a bit surreal.
The Album Artwork
I can’t remember the exact process for designing the collages for Tren Rezno. They were made a year or two beforehand. I think it was Ros at Patrúin’s idea, he suggested that Mel Keane and I could collaborate on the artwork.
It’s funny – it’s half intuition or something – it’s ridiculous that I will look at a piece of paper and move it five degrees and rotate it, and think oh yeah that’s it! It’s mostly playfulness.
I would completely link collage work and my music together. The way I approach my music, it’s really similar to how I make collages. I will find and collect images I want, and then I put a few images that I want to work with aside. With music, there are some samples that I like and then I think ‘oh this chord progression works’ …and then it’s just muddling around with the materials in the same way.
My most recent stuff… I was lucky to be asked to play The Emigrant Disco back in December, and I thought I would love to prepare some new stuff for it. I ended up preparing songs that I haven’t yet recorded. The most recent song I made started out as one I made for playing out live which I then sat down and made into a song. For the most part, it is just playing around and seeing what works. I’m never quite like ‘I need this to be this’ – but I have a lot of tendencies that I like, like bass drums and acid.
There isn’t a new album planned right now. I’ve been contributing a few songs to a few compilations, I did one for DDR and for Bandcloud, and I have one forthcoming on a Dutch compilation. I also recently did a song for the 101bpm project.
I’m in the process of gathering and making the stuff and it could be that in 3 months I will put the junk together. Right now I’m kinda working on finishing college and making that my priority.
Playing Records Vs Playing Live
I’ve never done any big parties, the DDR Party in Galway was my biggest gig playing records – it was so much fun, I really like mixing a lot. There is something trance like… when stuff is just working together.
The one thing that is really nice when playing live is getting to listen to your own music really loud, and then seeing people’s reaction to it.
I feel so lucky to be part of the DDR community, in Dublin, people say it’s quite difficult to excel as a DJ, that Irish people are always the support act, but I think it’s very different now. The DDR parties exemplify that.
It’s funny – I’ve been around Dublin long enough, so you kinda get to know everyone. I guess through being in NCAD there were a lot of people who were friends with people.
Robbie Kitt and I would also go to a lot of the same gigs back then, late thousands – indie was still alive! There’s a weird overlap with people who make experimental music and the people that make dance music, they all like the same things, there is a natural comradery.
I really miss it over in Amsterdam – I think Amsterdam has a big dance culture but it’s a lot bigger and a lot more impenetrable – I don’t really know the music scene there that much. I would know a couple of venues that do some interesting stuff and have a lot of friends who make good music there, but it’s not really comparable to the wonderful community here, it’s just so so magical in Dublin. Getting to see smaller local DJs get a headline slot is amazing and seeing the room go off!
Impact of Social Media
I had done a workshop in the RHA, a young writers workshop and someone who had been at that really liked the workshop, asked if I wanted to do one at IMMA (Aidan hosted a workshop at IMMA titled: Rebuilding the Self – examining how the development of technology has impacted on the relationship between photographic portraiture and identity, particularly since the development of social media and online profiles).
I was invited in to give my perspective on the workshop’s themes. I’m interested in the idea of social media being like a spread of different ways in which you can present yourself, almost being a collage of specific elements of images and text that form a sense of yourself – how you want to present online.
In terms of self-promotion, I know there is a lot of conversations about it at the moment in dance music. Because I am this jack of all trades…I don’t really have a career from this – it’s three or four side jobs in a few different things – I have to be like ‘I’m doing this’ for people to know that I am doing x or y. That’s how I engage with my social media.
I think social media has done some amazing things for some really amazing people who might not have found the opportunity otherwise. I think there will always be ways in which things are utilised in strange ways for strange means. I think you are lucky if you don’t have to rely on social media. A lot of people don’t have managers, don’t have booking agents, it is a really hard process when you have to do all that yourself. You have to remind people what you are doing.
How Mediums Work Together
Sometimes depending on what kind of context you are working in, there can be a literacy for certain things and not a literacy for other things. For example in the course that I’m in, there are some people who are working in sound, one person in particular, Luca Soudant, who is doing really interesting work with hardcore gabber music…and they are making this unreal music and also thinking about the theory of loudness and masculine noise.
But for me I think I’ve always had a bit of a struggle between how different things I make fit together perfectly. I would sometimes do performance work with scripted performances where I use some of my music in the performance.
It’s funny…I’ve always seen my art and writing as being separate, I like to think of myself as being an artist with an artist practice, but it’s also something that is a bit like a side job. I’d be lucky to get cash from it.
For the most part, they only bleed into each other every now and again. I do see them as different. Ideally, I would love to be at the point where my three side hustles can become some kind of a coherent hustle. At the moment, they are all in their different places ..which is a shame because I love writing, I love making collages and making music, and it’s like you could nearly combine them. It’s difficult to know where to focus my energy on.
Most Challenging Medium
I take a funny approach to a lot of stuff, I’m an incredibly anxious person.
I think when you prepare music for a live show you can rely on the machines even if you do something wrong, it’s ok the music is there. A lot of times you can have something to fall back on. Sometimes performance stuff can be very vulnerabising – you just have to actually present yourself – it can be weird.
The last performance thing.. someone had invited me to do a performance at a small art event. I was pretending to be a person who was a wrestler who used to be an artist…and then decided they were going to quit art because it’s too hostile so they went back to wrestling.