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The Aaron Clift Experiment

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Aaron Clift from 2022
MSJ: It's been about five or six years since we last did an interview with you. Those have been some pretty eventful years for the world, but we'll ignore that part for now. What has been going on in the musical world of The Aaron Clift Experiment?
We spent the last few years working on our 4th album, The Age of Misinformation.  There were a few delays because of the pandemic and lineup changes, but I’m really happy with how the album turned out. I think it’s our best one yet.
MSJ: Let's talk about that new album. When was that recorded and what are some moments that stand out to you about that process?
Recording for The Age of Misinformation took place in the spring of 2022, but a lot of preparation for the album happened before then.  I started writing songs for the album in late 2019 and had planned to start rehearsing them with my bandmates in March of 2020, but the COVID lockdowns that started happening that spring made it impossible for us to meet in person.  Thankfully, technology came to the rescue.

I had been using Ableton Live as my digital audio workstation for live performances, but I hadn’t really taken advantage of the software’s recording and arranging capabilities beyond my own live keyboard parts.  Unable to meet in person with my bandmates, I started using Ableton to help come up with arrangements for the new songs using virtual instruments.  I’d email these arrangements to my bandmates to give them an idea of what the music would sound like and asked them to record their own instrument parts to replace the virtual ones.  We’d then assemble the separate parts into a multi-track recording with Ableton or Reaper and then meet weekly on Zoom to listen to the results and take notes on what we needed to fix.

We did this virtual songwriting process until August 2021.  At that point in time, we were all vaccinated, and the world was starting to open up again, so we started to rehearse the songs in person again.  Part of me worried about whether the songs would sound good in a real-life setting, but I was excited to discover that the songs sounded just as good in person as they did virtually.

I think that the long and detailed demo process that we took for this album made a huge difference in the sound of the album.  Previous ACE albums were mostly worked out in rehearsals with a very low-tech approach, and we often had to make arrangement decisions on the fly when we recorded the albums in the studio.  I found that method to be a mixed bag – many times we’d wind up with excellent songs, but there are a few times I can think of where I know we could have gotten better results if we had done a bit more planning in advance.  With The Age of Misinformation, we made most of our critical arrangement decisions before recording the album, so time in the studio was far less stressful than with previous albums, and I think we ended up with a really well-produced album.


Do you have a favorite song on the album?

I have different favorite songs depending on the criteria – like “Rise” and “Málaga” have some of my favorite band arrangements on the album.  However, my overall favorite is the title track.  “The Age of Misinformation” is the song where the songwriting and direction of the album really came together for me.  It emotionally resonates with me very strongly, so it’s one that I go back to a lot when I want to show people what this period of The Aaron Clift Experiment is about.
MSJ: I have to say that for me it seems your albums just keep getting better. How do you manage to keep up that kind of creative momentum?
Thank you, I appreciate the kind words.  Every new album that I work on is in some way a reaction to the albums that came before.  Our third album (2018’s If All Goes Wrong) was stylistically really diverse and featured huge growth for the band as performers, so I wanted to bring those qualities into the new album.  At the same time, I felt like there were certain production and songwriting decisions that we made that worked for that album but were not things that I wanted to repeat with a new album.

So, I try to find ways to incorporate the things that I like about my previous work while also looking for ways to improve as a songwriter and performer.  With The Age of Misinformation, I think that the time I spent honing my skills as an arranger really helped The Aaron Clift Experiment step up its game.  I had a much clearer idea for the direction of the album’s production and overall sound than I did with previous albums, and I think that allowed us to make an even better album than before.

MSJ: The title track seems likely to be taken by some as a political statement. Are you prepared for any backlash you might get?
Yes, the title track is definitely a political statement.  I wrote the song in the summer of 2020 when there was civil unrest going around all over the world.  Every day, there seemed to be another news story I’d read that upset me, and in the social media sphere, I saw how misinformation was fanning the flames.  I ended up pouring my frustration and sadness I felt with the state of the world into the song.  The story that I was trying to convey with the song is how lies and misinformation tear away at the social fabric.

When the Capitol riots happened on January 6, 2021, I was horrified to see my prediction come true in the worst possible way.  I ended up incorporating audio clips from that day into the song to help tell the story about how lies and misinformation can lead to violence.

I’m aware that there may be some people who may not agree with me, but my hope is that the message expressed in the song is something that resonates very strongly with most listeners.

MSJ: How would you say the COVID pandemic has affected the music world from your perspective?
I can’t speak for every musician out there, but at least for me, it’s caused me to rethink my relationship with technology.  Learning how to use programs like Ableton Live and Musescore to their fullest capabilities opened a lot of doors for me with songwriting and performing.  At the same time, spending all my time working from home has forced me to really think more critically about boundaries between work and personal time.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
I have a lot of ideas of things that I want to try out musically that I haven’t done before, but no concrete plans at the moment.  For the time being, I’m focused on promoting The Age of Misinformation.
MSJ: What have you been listening to lately?
There were several albums that came out in 2022 that I’ve been listening to a lot.  My favorite is Starlight and Ash by Houston progressive metal band, Oceans of Slumber.  I’ve been a huge fan of them for the last few years, and I feel like this is their best album yet.  The songwriting and performances are all phenomenal.

I’m also enjoying The Smile’s album, A Light for Attracting Attention.  There are lots of rumors going around that there may not be another Radiohead album for a long time or ever, but this side project with Johnny Greenwood and Thom Yorke has been really excellent.

What else?  The Tipping Point by Tears for Fears is a really good reunion album, Rakshak by Bloodywood was the biggest surprise discovery for me in 2022, and Dawn FM by The Weeknd is an amazing pop album that deserved more attention.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Do Dungeons and Dragons manuals and rule books count? (laughter)  I’ll admit – I’m a little behind in my non-ficiton reading!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Last month, I saw an amazing progressive metal show: headlining were Katatonia and Soen along with The Ocean Collective, Cellar Darling and Oceans of Slumber.  Honestly, this might as well have been a music festival with all the great music I heard!  I wasn’t familiar with Soen’s music before, but after that show, I’m a fan.  It was also great to finally see Oceans of Slumber in concert.  Cammie Gilbert is one of my favorite vocalists, and she blew me away with her performance.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I bought a new MacBook Pro at the end of 2019, and with the new hardware capabilities of the computer, I also upgraded my music software.  Since 2016, I had been using Kontakt by Native Instruments as my main source of keyboard sounds, and I decided to upgrade to their flagship product, Komplete Ultimate.  I ended up going from a few modules with hundreds of sounds to hundreds of modules with thousands of sounds.

Many of those modules directly influenced the sound of The Age of Misinformation.  For example, there’s an arpeggiator in “L.I.A.R.” that came from one of the new modules, and that sound gives the song a lot of its drive and forward momentum.  On “The Color of Flight,” I used a bunch of new sounds, including a few eerie choir samples courtesy of the “Mystara” module.  If you’re a sound design nerd like me, going through these sounds is a lot of fun and great inspiration for music creating.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
I want to give a shout out to our fans.  They’ve been incredibly supportive to us throughout the creation process of The Age of Misinformation.  It’s taken a little longer than usual to make this album, and I appreciate everything they’ve done to encourage us to keep going even through the challenges of the pandemic.

If you’d like to check out what we’re up to and become our fan, please check out our website at

MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2023  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at:
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