Exploring the Electronic Arts with Daedelus

Photo by Jen Brown

I’ve always found Daedelus to be one of the most interesting artists in the laptop/boom bip movement. Maybe it just speaks to my electronic sensibilities, because I prefer something that pairs well with smoking a bowl than spazzing out on the dance floor. I’ve never found Daedelus to be anywhere near as jarring as contemporaries Flying Lotus or Nosaj Thing, but maybe I haven’t listened to enough of his prolific output. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his naysayers. In a recent characteristically venomous review from a certain press outlet, Daedulus’ latest record Bespoke is praised, while his back catalogue is slammed in a nicely backhanded compliment.

Whatever one’s opinions may be, Daedelus is a technological artist, heavily applying his love for the electronics to his recorded releases and live performances. Alfred Darlington a k a Daedelus is many things: producer, mentor tech nerd and sharp dresser, and I caught up with him via email to get some insights into his skewed vision and unique sensibilities.

TBJ: Your music is accessible, but does it help to be a tech nerd to truly appreciate what you do?

Alfred Darlington: You are kind to say that my music borders on accessible. I believe the term to be tricky, a compliment on some occasions–other times a criticism. Truthfully, I’m grateful for any ears borrowed, and aware of the dense nature of most of my songs, really only rewarding those who spend time with the sounds. So less tech nerds and more musically impassioned. Perhaps it has all been a fever dream anyways. I’m a kind of fatalist when it comes to my output.

Tell me about some of your toys. I was reading about the Monome. Can you break that down for the layperson?

Now, this is a subject for tech nerds and gear-heads, but quite easily enough explained. The Monome is an open source grid of light up buttons, bending to whatever purpose you’d like it. I use the Monome as an instrument of sample manipulation allowing for some fun performing of sounds in an improvised fashion. Nothing pre-composed per say–all waiting for finger presses. Even easier explained still, it’s basically a light brite that can play a very responsive music.

Have you always been interested in gadgets? Did you grow up on Mr. Wizard, wanting to take things apart and figure out how they work?

Indeed, you have found me out. I’m a tinkerer through and through, although quite a failed one. I was a terror on my family’s electronics. At a young age I imagined quite a different career path in invention, perhaps if I had any aptitude for math or engineering. My case is very grim for the truly useful hard sciences…I destroyed tape machines, record players, stereo receivers, televisions, anything with an on and off switch really. So a failure through and through, but from those ashes I rose up to the challenge of inventing sounds.

What was some of the first music that really spoke to you?

Because of a close friend’s father’s brother, I had a close proximity to Parliament Funkadelic and George Clinton specifically. Owning all their records at a tender age, not getting the references to women, drugs, and grown men in diapers at all. But those sounds!!! That was an amazing power which worked through me, and inspired a chase of “why” and “how” for many following years. I still haven’t answered totally, but I’ve made it my life in many respects to figure out how music could be such a motivating, instinct, and base truth.

It seems like you share a passion with Dan Deacon toward making your shows very interactive. Has that always been your mission when performing live, breaking down that barrier between the performer and the audience?

Dan is the consummate live performer and I appreciate what he has brought into venues across the world, his sense of playfulness for instance. Mine isn’t nearly so much. I’m trying to break down the barriers in the strictest sense, by opening a dialog with the audience out of calls and dances, but Dan is hypnotizing audiences! I only cast rudimentary spells at best. But he has the right to do it. Not everyone can perform, but at one of his shows everyone is involved and the best part is that the show itself is a radical departure from hundreds of years of stuffy concert halls.

The LA scene seems to share a similar spirit of community. Was there much of a scene when you first started out, or did you feel like a lone wolf?

LA has been host to so many scenes, so many moments of history or foreshadowing. Our current Beat scene, the electronics and boom-bap that have crossed paths here so eloquently have a longer tradition than the current batch of any of us. But that being said, when I was starting out at the turn of the century, you didn’t put forth, you came from a narrow path and if you didn’t fit into such small variations in beats per minute or snare sounds, you simply didn’t exist. And many great producers and emcees were below underground because of it. Only recently has there be a supporting community of producers and venues and, most importantly, fans who are part of it and help it continue. So, yes to lone wolf, but I had passionate friends as well, and we all made our life this soundtrack, and whilst some have moved on others have persisted almost as if lives depended on it, and now there seems to be many who’d make a life out of it. This is an amazing moment.

Do you feel like the wise old sage at this point in your career? It seemed like you acted as somewhat of a mentor to Baths, who had a great 2011.

Baths did have a great 2011! But I suspect he’ll have many more awesome years ahead. He was going to be great no matter what, same as many others who I’ve had the amazement to see in their early days of first gigs and releases. I’m no proud parent or wise sage or innocent witness either. I’d just hope I’ve been as effective as thay all have been on me.

Bespoke, your last LP, refers to the process of making custom-made clothes. You are quite a dapper dresser as well…does that extend to your daily life or do you simply class it up for shows?

Much like how my mythical namesake was a great inventor to which I aspired, my attire is similarly pointed. I’d dress-up all the time if Los Angeles weather would allow; maybe when I’m older and can hide beneath eccentric airs.

What’s your favorite gig ever? What makes for a great Daedelus experience?

I’ve had many that have moved me beyond my comprehension (not unlike those early listens to Parliament) all because of the audiences. When there is a woozy feeling where I can’t tell if the audience is leading the way or if I’m in charge, it usually means it will be a great gig.

What other genres are you interested in exploring? Can we expect a rock opera from you at some point?

Perhaps a rock opera. A traditional opera would probably be more interesting, but either way I’m curious for strong reasons. I do believe there is far too much music released. So much impacting people’s ears every waking moment that barely a breath is possible. So why release more? I go back and forth about it, but thus far I haven’t lost inspiration and hope that people find my few offerings of some interest above the din.

What’s a perfect day for Alfred Darlington?

I’m still looking for it. Then at the twilight I’ll probably fade away, no reason for more. I’m hoping it will have a fantastic backing track no matter what.


–Drew Fortune

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