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The World Is Looking for You

Interview

OFFICE — Where are you right now?


ALDOUS HARDING — I’m so glad you asked. I’m about a two-hour drive out of Auckland City at a beach house. I’m close to the sea for the first time in ages, it’s really nice.

 

O — It’s your first time back in New Zealand in a while?


AH — I’ve been gone for the last four months, then I leave again on Sunday until the end of November.


O — That’ s a crazy thing about touring . Seeing your year laid out in front of you.


AH — It looks easy enough on paper.


O — Do you still call New Zealand home? Apart from all your travel, I saw that you’d lived in Australia.


AH — Australia was a long time ago, New Zealand’s home for now. I’ll be coming back for Christmas and maybe go to Fiji for the New Year. I’ve never been to any of the islands. After that I’ll probably look at LA, or maybe Amsterdam or London. I’m not sure. It’s just easier to be closer when I’m touring. It’s not nice being away from my family , but they understand.


O — Are there any particular artists you feel close with in New Zealand?


AH — I’m pretty tight with Nadia Reid, who I grew up with. I’m close with Marlon Williams from Lyttelton. I’m a big fan of Tiny Ruins records, and also my best friend Flora Knight, who plays old-time fiddle and guitar.


O — I wanted to ask you about your songwriting process, but instead of asking you what the songs are about, I’m curious if where you’re from has a strong impact on your songs and why you write them?


AH — I don’t feel like New Zealand had a lot to do with it, but maybe a feeling of being isolated, coming from a town and growing up in the country for a lot of it, I was kind of at the mercy of that. There’s no record store in Geraldine, and the times when I was interested in that kind of stuff, I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a laptop. I guess I was isolated, I don’t know.

 

 

O — Do you feel like songs should speak for themselves and that listeners should make their own interpretation of their meaning?


AH — I’ve kind of taken the approach of “you decide.” I don’ t want to muck with other people’ s ideas, and I don’t want people to muck with mine.


O — Fair enough. I saw that you mentioned that your favorite song on the new record is “Living The Classics,” and that “I’m So Sorry” is your favorite song that you’ve written. Do you still feel that way or is that something that kind of shifts?


AH — Yeah those are my favorite songs from that record but I’ve got new songs that I prefer to the ones on Party already—I think that’s a pretty classic songwriter thing to do.


O — When did you write the songs on Party? What kind of time frame did it cover?


AH — It took about two years. I wrote most of them on the road. The song “Party” was written in Paris on my first European tour.


O — And you reached out to musician and producer John Parish directly by email and sent him versions of these songs?


AH — Yes.


O — With John, was there a particular artist he had worked with as a producer that made you want to reach out to him?


AH — It was probably Laura Jean—her record was my favorite of 2015. I think it’s a masterpiece. I think it’s really considered and really bare, and I wanted a lot of that, because that, at the time, was all that I could hear from my own music, and songs as they were. It was when I toured with Perfume Genius that I realized he’d worked with John on Too Bright. He might have worked with him on some earlier stuff, I can’t really remember—I’m at the beach. Of course I’m a fan of Howe Gelb and PJ Harvey, and I like a lot of the records John has worked on, but I would say it’s Laura Jean and Perfume Genius.

Obviously the music I listen to is going to affect what I do, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to share my Spotify recents on the internet so people and journalists can make lazy comparisons.

O — You have said that you like to tour , and I’m curious about your thoughts on the importance of touring in the age of viral culture, especially since you’re someone who’ s written an entire record while on tour . It kind of defies the norm of a lot of people that I know, how once they’re on tour, they’re kind of in that bubble, and their creative process isn’t the same. It sounds like you have a certain flow in that environment.


AH — I guess it just happens that way for me. Touring’s definitely a bubble, but it’ s a music bubble. It’ s kind of like standing back and looking at your bedroom or something, and looking at what you’ve already got inside, and when you look at it everyday you notice that there’s maybe something you’ve overlooked or that’s missing in that room. So you’re like, OK—I need to go out, and I need to go buy, like, a succulent, or a vintage poster or something, stuff you think will add to your thing. So when I’m touring and I’m playing these songs all the time, it’s either something I’d like to say to myself, or to put out as music, as something that I don’t necessarily think that I’ve already got, and then I’ll go off and I’ll start looking at making that for myself so I can put it inside with everything else. Which is just like making a record, moving forward with making music, that’s all it is really. The more I play music, the more inspired I get to make new music. I just find that easy at the moment. It’s like the new songs almost work like preserves. So I know that if I do burn out for a time, I have this stuff prepared for when I’m ready.


O — When you’re writing is there an instrument you like to compose on?


AH — It’s only ever been guitar and piano. “Horizon” I wrote on the guitar but that’s obviously one for the keys. The thing is that I don’t really tour around with a piano — well I do, but I’m not going to write a song at sound check. I’m probably capable of that, maybe later on down the line. I can write a song on the guitar with the intention of it being played on the piano. Usually it works, and if it doesn’t I just leave it anyway.


O — Do you have any favorite guitar players? I saw that you were a fan of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. Are you familiar with Bridget St. John?

 

AH — Absolutely . Have you heard of V ashti Bunyan?


O — Definitely.


AH — She was someone who disappeared with a horse and cart and no one really knew about what happened to her. Then Domino did a rerelease and people took notice. I don’t think that I’m a very good guitar player, but I can play my songs well. I think that Neil Young is one of the best guitar players in the world. John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Bridget St. John are all great.

 

 

O — I saw a short mixtape that you had shared a little while back. Are there any additions to that as of late?


AH — The last few months I’ve been listening to a lot of Yoko Ono and Shirley Collins, and I’m always listening to Neil Young.


O — How do you approach references and influences in your music? Is it something you approach directly or is it something that resides more in the subconscious? I was an immediate convert to your music and the performance style that I heard and saw in your videos. I think there’s something very mysterious about the way your music seems simultaneously rooted in traditions and yet feels utterly modern.


AH — I couldn’t say confidently if I have or haven’t stolen an idea with intention of it being recognized. Obviously the music I listen to is going to affect what I do, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to share my Spotify recents on the internet so people and journalists can make lazy comparisons. That’s my business and my time. Honestly I do have references in my mind for the next record, but whether or not that will translate when I get to the studio is a whole other thing. So I don’t want to tell people necessarily what those references are, because that would be a pretty off-point preconception of how the record will sound when it’ s complete. It’ s the same as talking about the content. All I can do is hope that the music is good enough and interesting enough that people keep listening to it. For now it’s about making sure that people hear it enough that I do have that option and we can just get on with listening to music. And I can get on with making it.

— END

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