Interview by Marc KetsLos Angeles-native Alfred Darlington has been pushing the realms of electronic music since the turn of the century under his Daedelus moniker with a body of work that is as brilliant as it is difficult to define.
Alfred’s love affair with electronic music was fueled by Acen’s ‘Trip To The Moon pt. 1’ and has seen this USC-trained multi-instrumentalist work with the likes of The Professor, Taz Arnold, MF Doom and Madlib and on music that pushes the very notion of the avant-garde but never loses sight of the dancefloor. With releases on Mush, Plug Research, Hefty, Tigerbeat6, Ninja Tune and Eastern Developments, Alfred’s reputation has been garnered from his incredible ability to cut and slice a disparate range of influences into tracks that have an incredible resonance for the listener be they sourced from the 30s or gleamed from the future. I’m sure that you’ll agree that we as listeners and dancers are very fortunate to have someone like Daedelus on the music scene.
Where does the name Daedelus come from?
Mainly from myth. In Greek legend Daedelus (spelled quite differently) was the greatest inventor of all time, making all kinds of machinations including wings of wax for his perhaps more famous son Icarus. There are many reason I attempt this legacy, it's focused around this idea of invention, but also the tragedy of loss that Daedelus incurred makes him a compelling figure to write music around.
Your sound has been described as a marriage between ‘honeyed melody and avant-electronics’. What is the process that you go through when making a record? Are you always satisfied with the end results?
Never totally satisfied, if I ever were to be completely happy, there would be no sensible reason to try for another LP. As for the press release words, I hope that perhaps sometimes I could live up to the idea of a romantic melody dashing itself on rocks of beat and bombast. I believe we are living in tricky times for pure genre, and crossing the wires on styles is what makes music fun nowadays. So I have many attempts at honey bee like cross-pollination and the results of which are heard on my handful of releases.
Your album 'Exquisite Corpse' was taken from the game that Surrealists played at their many gatherings. How does art influence your work?
It is a particular quandary to think that we are above being infected, for good or evil, by our surroundings. If enough boring Rap Boom Bap beats go in one ear, I think you are bound to start putting out a similar dull idea. In the same way when we can try and channel a moment that was full of creativity, like the Surrealists or Dadaists or Public Enemy's Bomb Squad, we can go to places that were not planed, and that’s encouraging and often musically exciting.
You are friends with Kozyndan who did the artwork for 'The Audience'. Does your relationship with them effect your work and do you ever run ideas past each other?
They are great friends, and I've been lucky to have met them at a gig, gotten to know them and then had the chance to work with them on a few releases. The Audience for them was my "Household" EP, a kind of simultaneous project, for them in print and for me in music. It is a wonder to be around very visual people and try to understand how they are getting the world around them, they are seeing so much more than I can comprehend, but I guess in turn I'm hearing more perhaps?
Tell us about the custom-built trigger device that you use. How has this changed your live performances since you started using it?
I use a device called a Monome, it was created by Brian Crabtree some years ago and for a bunch of reasons I stuck with it now for the past roughly 5 years. I was trained in a background of performance, mainly Double Bass and Bass Clarinet, and as such when it came to electronic music I was always a little saddened by the lack of performance options focused around computers. The computer is quite a drain on stage presence, and certainly some can pull it off, but I've rarely really enjoyed laptop performers. Mainly the Monome was a chance to find an instrument that had the benefits of computers with the performance possibilities of an instrument, all improvising, and twists and turns possible. Of course there is much more involved, but perhaps if anyone is serious and wants more info check out Monome.org.
You've collaborated with the likes of Busdriver, MF Doom, TTC, Mike Ladd, Absract Rude, Madlib, and High Priest. What makes for a successful collaboration? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
All the names you mentioned were some of the more HipHop collaborators, I feel like HipHop is a collaborative genre, where the relationship of the producer and emcee is a time honored one. It works pretty easy when there is established roles. I find sometimes the more challenging work has been done with rock bands (I've had the chance to do a little work with groups like Holopaw, the One AM Radio, Michael Johnson, etc) where electronics or collaboration is not often employed. I'd like to keep an open mind about what might work in combination in the future, I have a lot of plans and hopes but always am looking for the right opportunity and timing. Sorry I can't say more, I don't want to jinx anything.
Who are you listening to right now?
LA cats and old music, recently I started collecting Italo from the early 80s and DJ mixes from the same time period. Silly strange stuff, with bad rapping and sublime synths. Also my older love affairs with Breakcore and complicated electronics has been kicking around lately, some excellent music from Current Value, Baseck, Machinedrum among many others. Oh and those LA cats are including Computer Jay, Nosaj Thing, Flying Lotus, Samiyam, Carlos Nino, Omid, and so many more.
Tell us about FMB.
FMB is a party idea, not unlike perhaps what was happen at the Factory in NYC in the late 60s, art party with lots of ideas being thrown around, it's mainly the vision of Taz Arnold from Sa-Ra, and I try to put some soundtrack to it. But so far we've done little things for events with groups like Justice, Dj Assault, strangely enough Snoop Dogg, and lots of other odd ones. It's interesting the music industry (top to bottom) is quite open right now, anything is possible.
Do you have any influence over the look and feel of your music videos? Are there any in particular that stand out for you?
It is important to have a view point, a reason, certainly nothing gets done with out decisions being made, so as much as I've tried to surrender some to Surrealist games, the truth is in little constant decisions. I'm not blaming someone for getting hit randomly by a bus, but there are always a reason people stand in the middle of the road, you know?
Especially the few videos that have a little steam punk in them, a little Victorian style (my preference), like the one for "Sundown" or a very new one soon for a track called "Make It So".
You've said in an interview that your proudest moment was when an 8 year old sent you a letter telling you how he had played 'A Mashnote' over and over again on a roadtrip making his father crazy. Have you had any moments since to top this?
That was quite a high, there has been a few moments of musical exuberance by audiences that stand out, in Shizuoka, Japan; Katowice, Poland; Paris, France, individual gigs that feel like will never be repeated. But I kind of believe you are just as good as your last gig, and living in memory is a penny in a well, romantic, but perhaps fooling oneself, better to try hard all the time, and cross ones fingers for luck a lot.
What do you do to pass the time when you are traveling on the road?
Try to never let the mind waste away in the jetlag sea or haze of too many gigs back to back. So I carry a nintendo DS like it was religion and do all those terrible Sedoku you see in plane magazines. Also I really enjoy eating local foods, getting to know a place thru it's eating habits tells a better story than some drunken someone.
Are you still a wannabee Welshmen?
Who's to say I haven't gotten there yet? I certainly don't feel at home in my Santa Monica upbringing. Someday I hope to really explore the culture there, beyond the few months I've gotten to experience. Serious, for those of you who haven't thought about Wales as a travel destination, it is some of the most beautiful countries in the world, seek it out.
You've been sampled by Madlib in the past. What are your thoughts on sampling?
Thats like asking an addict what their thoughts are on drug policies. Just that it is possible that I can effectively have a "jam session" with my jazz heroes, or record in some of the great recording studios of yesteryear, simply by recording and manipulating sample-able material. It goes so much farther of course, that could be a whole other interview, books and books.
What influence did Acen "Trip to the Moon part 1" have on your life?
With confidence, I can say that it is the reason I make electronic music and not cruise ship jazz. Acen saved my life and showed me how strings can live with breakbeats. It is special stuff, and hasn't aged perhaps the best, but I believe deserves more recognition.
Anything else we should know?
Open-ended questions often lead to closed doors. and hopefully soon my little record "Love To Make Music To" will be out, as well soon enough a whole other project "The Long Lost" will be released. Never enough time, never enough music!
Picture Taken by Kozyndan www.kozyndan.com
Marc Kets, May 2008
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