Daedelus is the perfect pen name for Alfred Darlington and his unusual musical imagination. As an inventor of unique electronic contraptions, his muse is not unlike that famous mythological Greek craftsman of human wings. Since 2002, he’s released a record every year on labels like Ninja Tune, Warp, Mush and his latest on Friends of Friends (Friends of Friends Vol. 1), building lifelike instrumental androids that fix hip-hop, dance and IDM with joy, drive and passion. For his upcoming concert at the Grog Shop on Wednesday (The Magical Properties Tour featuring Daedelus, Nosaj Thing and Jogger), we recently exchanged e-mails with the traveling electro dandy (he dresses like a Victorian statesmen onstage). We soon realized he was definitely one of kind. —Keith Gribbins
Scene: Where are you e-mailing from? Some exotic European locale? The Magical Properties Tour begins in early February. What sort of rigorous training program is involved with gearing up for this electronic caravan across the country?
Daedelus: I am in deep low-altitude preparations for this American undertaking by touring New Zealand. I’ll be finishing the tour in Christchurch (lush south island of New Zealand where a lot of Lord of the Rings was filmed), jumping on an aerocraft, and jetlagging all the way into the first tour date in Palm Springs. If that sounds like the loveliest prep for touring, you’d be correct, but I won’t lie — America has these Kiwis beat on electronic music culture hands down ...
Scene: For your latest Friends of Friends record release — Friends of Friends Vol. 1 — you did a split EP with Jogger (Amir Yaghmai on violin and guitar) and Jonathan Larroquette (on laptop and controllers). You’ve worked with them before (on projects like The Long Lost), but what drew you to pick Jogger for this record and how did the album bring your sounds closer?
Daedelus: They also appear on my Exquisite Corpse and in parts on Denies the Day’s Demise, both on Mush and Ninja Tune labels. I wanted to release with them because they are rad — pretty simple. They make music because their productions are amazing together, and hadn’t released in the past because as we all know talent doesn’t get rewarded with label attention generally; it gets you a steady gig at a cocktail lounge or opening slot for some hyped something quickly forgotten. They are making what will be America’s folk music in 2020 I wholeheartedly believe, that is if we get that far. It could become some Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure type stuff (if you remember the plot of that particular cinematic gem, but not so much the sequel).
Scene: How would you describe the Friends of Friends Vol. 1 sound? It feels pretty dancey.
Daedelus: Leeor who runs Friends of Friends wanted something with movement. Not totally my bag on previous records, but a challenge to be met and an attempt to slay scared feelings towards words like disco, techno, rave, and other such terms that go bump in the night. I believe I failed, but perhaps for the best and it is what it is as abstract angular electronics. The Jogger side is fully awesome by comparison.
Scene: 2009’s self-titled debut by the Long Lost was impressive (we all want more by the way). Now with the Long Lost and your wife Laura Darlington you actually play instruments? Guitar, bass, clarinet? I understand as a child you were also classically and jazz-trained. I guess in my head I always figured Daedelus albums were samples and sounds electronically produced. So can you tell us what the Daedelus music production process is like?
Daedelus: Ah, the Long Lost is quiet music, but very centered around these instruments that my wife and I play, alto flute, bass clarinet, double bass, little guitar, toy piano, that sort of thing. My greatest trick to my more lonely solo material as Daedelus has always been to take samples and try to wrestle them into natural live sounding creations, and conversely have live instruments sound plucked from records. You have paid me a great compliment in your question and I appreciate it. Oh certainly there are plenty of electronics but perhaps less then you’d have guessed.
Scene: I’ve read you pioneered using the cool contraption known as the Monome for live performances. Can you explain what exactly a Monome is? And what these boxes with buttons and lights do on stage?
Daedelus: The Monome is a fantastic instrument invented by this fellow Brian Crabtree (who currently lives not to far away from you Clevelander’s in upstate New York — that is compared to Los Angeles where I am from). It is quite simply an open source controller, really an empty vessel to pour your creativity into. I use it like a piano of samples where it is possible to improvise in the inner bits of the same samples, and if that doesn’t sound complicated or pretentious enough it sends all this data by OSC to a custom patch in max/MSP (a sort of programming language for music and video). All not so interesting; what I find most intriguing is it allows for the performer to be present with the audience, and make changes to suit the call and response of that crowd, not amazing with your average band (bland?) but for electronic music performance it is often unheard of, sadly.
Scene: What is the live sound like? Are you mixing on stage? Will there be unique collages from the Daedelus catalog all remixed live like a DJ set or are the songs more like what here on the album?
Daedelus: So as above answers, my records aren’t so dance-y, more interpretations of what electronic can mean. But live, I prefer to turn it all around and be appropriate for what kind of live the kids are up for. I believe the Grog Shop to be an apropos place to have a whirling dervish of bass and beats, bang and slack in equal parts. And if that awesome older sound dude is there (who is a shade of crazy that is endearing) he’ll blast the system so it’ll push faces around. I am excited to play up if those in attendance are interested, but if not that’s cool, we’ll keep it low and slow.
Scene: Daedelus is definitely a name that recalls invention. It fits your style of electronic music very well — experimental, totally accessible, and completely unique. Perhaps you can tell us what drives you to push the boundaries of the music medium and how you would describe the results today?
Daedelus: You are too kind, and my aspiration is totally to be not unlike one of those “Gentleman Inventors of Old,” but with music and not so much telegraphy or steam locomotion (but a steam laptop would be pretty ace). I believe one must pick your battles carefully, and completely give oneself to the victory of those ends. My fight is to have emotions in electronics, that is my great wish, and what keeps me making music. If I had ever achieved that goal to my satisfaction I would have quit music — then there would be no more reason to continue. But in failing I have outlasted many others in their micro-genres and discovered a handful of fans who are the best people in the world and are fighting similar battles it seems against boredom and the Nothing (the same exact evil from The Never Ending Story, another classy film who’s sequels just didn't live up to task).
Scene: You’re touring with another of my favorite artists (besides Jogger) — Nosaj Thing. That’s a great bill for electronic music nerds like myself — how would you describe the Nosaj Thing sound and the overall total vib of this tour?
Daedelus: We all are not such loud people; Nosaj Thing is one of the nicest bestest rising talents in music right now, if not a shinning star from the filament of Los Angeles. He is a solid dude, Jogger very much the same; so we are quiet people who care deeply about a good live night of music. But get us onstage, with that P.A. going full tilt, and each and every one of us is a monster promised. Why do you think I dress the Victorian dandy if I couldn't have a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde every so often?