Halfway through an epic national tour with fellow electronic artists Nosaj Thing and Jogger (appropriately named Magical Properties after his new label), Alfred Darlington, aka Daedelus, takes a few moments to chat with MXDWN.
“I’m feeling pretty good about tonight’s Denver show.” Daedelus says in the deep voice of a baritone, riddled with excitement. “The city takes a lot out of you. You actually need to cross train here.”
What is the idea behind Magical Properties?
As a tour, it’s to reassert the live idea of electronics. Generally, people think of electronics as one guy just pressing play on a playlist or associated with a laptop and pressing the space bar and it’s not as simple as all that. I’m a big fan of performance and being present with the audience and that’s what Magical Properties as a tour is all about. As a label, it’s the idea that basically there’s a wide range of electric music that is overlooked because it doesn’t necessarily get exposure, and I feel that this music should be exposed no matter what. It’s a wondrous thing when people use sounds that they haven’t been acquainted with before.
Does that make you feel like an orchestra conductor when you’re performing?
(laughs) Sometimes. I feel like I’m really trying to take in the audience who are sort of stoned and freaked out, ecstasy rolling kind of kids with something with a lot more decorum. Needless to say it’s like we’re having a conversation with the audience and it’s more than dictating something. Or that’s the idea at least. I’m a big fan of invention and Victoriana and it’s a funny concept for kids who have no idea what Victoriana is or Victorian culture and I think people are pretty much used to everything being handed to him. So it’s kind of fun to challenge those notions a little bit
What’s the reason behind releasing EPs and the other records on so many different labels in the past?
Music is music and it could be anywhere but labels are definitely personalities. Not only the [personalities of] people who work there [at the labels] but the workmanship that people bring there. It changes the vibe of a release and I’m quite aware of that. I guess if I’m comfortable about the sound I want to have instead of changing an alias, all I have to do is change my label. That seems to work okay. Some people think it’s for variety or something. No, no, no. That’s not the case.
In your case, you could just change your band name, right? I mean, you have so many. For instance, Adventure Time. Why did you start this group?
Adventure Time was a true collaboration. All the other groups I’ve done have been really collaborative in the studio, so it was good to have a different alias. Adventure Time was truly sample driven; we used hardly any live instruments in the first record and just channeled a concept record in terms of Dreams and Water Themes. The same goes with the group I have with my wife (Laura Darlington), The Long Lost. She does half the production and she’s in the room while it isn’t just me producing music and her singing over it. Something like that deserves its own name by far.
When did you and your wife decide to start the Long Lost?
We both met in high school orchestra so we both have this background in music and shared experiences in music. So we were out of touch for a period of time but when we re-met the first thing we did was start talking music and I don’t know if it’s a personal hesitation about sharing songs about love and loss or the kind of thing where people aren’t really interested in quiet sounds so much but it took a long time for that record to come out, but we’re both happy with it. It’s like our child out in the world now. It’s a strange feeling since we don’t have any children.
The music is your children, right?
Yeah. Well, they’re the miscreant children. Some of them are good children and some of them are certainly bad children. One of the kids is going to get busted for speed, I think. We’re a little worried about him, he’s got some problems.
You’ll have to send that kid to military school or something.
If only we could go petition the song to be a McDonald’s commercial or something and really bland it out.
Like a commercial jingle.
Yeah! It’s funny, I know it’s an aside from the question, but a lot of ways people are making money from music because albums aren’t selling like they used to being downloaded so much, which I’m a fan of but that’s neither here nor there. A lot of the ways people generate money is through licensing. When you license a track, you will forever be associated with that thing. I had a track licensed in Ireland for a cell phone company, “Fair Weather Friends.” I’ve played in Ireland a few times and every time I play that song people are like, “Hey! You’re playing that cell phone commercial!” Which, of course, sucks because they think that I’m such a fan of that cell phone. But it’s a dangerous line, you know. It’s fun to make money. Well, it helps with food and making ends meet, but it’s tough to see that things sometimes escape us. Sometimes you have the highest hopes for records and it just goes its own way.
What was the original driving force behind Dublab?
Maybe ten years ago in Los Angeles, right before Dublab, it was an amazing musical place and a lot of musicians were living there, and obviously you have the movie industry feeding on some of that while the recording industry was getting into it as well. In electronic music, you have these different communities that didn’t work together; either you were house or you were techno or you were drum and bass and you just didn’t look at each other. And Dublab challenged all those notions. We got all these people together and made online radio when that [internet radio] wasn’t really popular at all and just did an idea of what all this stuff could do. So it was this small community and as it spread, it became more of an international community. Until it was hundreds and hundreds of hours of archives of bands and electronic groups from everywhere from Japan to Scotland and all over so it’s only gotten more and more important as time goes on; it’s insane and I’m proud to be a part of that collective.
It was a really snowballing idea. When did that start?
That was in 1999 when I believe it first became official. But there were some tough times, like when the internet bubble was getting close to bursting. People were throwing offers of millions of dollars at Dublab trying to buy it up and Dublab at the time resisted, not because they were waiting for more money but because they wanted to preserve the intention of positive music. It’s a basic idea but every other company was like, “We want to buy what you’re doing, own everything and pretty much change everything.” And of course, everyone was hungry but at the same time it actually still survives. I’m convinced that if they had sold out at that time it would have been over.
It’s nice to know it’s resilient.
As time goes on, the LA music scene has changed and grown but also grown as a community and Dublab is still right there.
Some of your music is so uniquely different. How do you decide what sound fits where and what group you want to release content with?
I like to think I’m a soft worker when it comes to music so it’s less about collecting a series of song and dissipating them on a bunch of different labels but it’s like I’m going to work with a label. Here is my intention. let’s make a record. And give it a few weekends and maybe I’ll have something or if it’s more challenging in getting a notion, a few years, but that’s part of the fun of it for sure.
So you have a goal in mind at the beginning of each project?
It’s not a goal but more of an intention. Like if it’s a dancey UK based label, what can I do with it and still speak about what I want to speak of? I don’t think it’s ever an achievable result, but if I ever achieve the result, I wouldn’t want to make it a record. Once you do something well, I think you should stop and move on to something you don’t do well so you can get better at that. Not to be down on myself but I like to think I’m a terrible musician in the best possible way.
That’s one way of looking at it; there’s always room for improvement.
Exactly. Otherwise people will get bored. I don’t know, maybe they already are bored. I’m still interested.
They’re still coming to your shows.
Thank goodness someone is.
So how do you balance time between all of your projects?
There is no time; that’s okay.
You utilize visuals during live performances to put on an intensely unique show. Do you have a personal hand in this?
Absolutely. Depending on the capabilities of the venue, I like playing with different concepts like directly amplifying the lights or something a little less psychedelic depending on the mood. It isn’t so much about the light show tonight, maybe another night. As much as I can appreciate that the machinery has a lot of dynamics to it.
And what equipment is that?
We use the monome. It’s an open circuit controller that allows you to really make radical changes on my live show. I can react to a composition for the audience. I paid a lot for them but I worry I haven’t gotten enough use out of them. That’s okay.
You’ve collaborated with so many artists. Who are some of your favorites?
Easily Busdriver and MF DOOM. They’re very talented individuals in many different ways. And both challenged me musically, which I appreciate. But in terms of vocalists I could think of a few people but I would have to say my wife. I know it’s a silly thing to say and some people would say it’s an obvious one but it isn’t easy to work with a loved one, but my wife and I are living and breathing music all the time and we both dwell on things way too much. We’ll be arguing over the breakfast table over some note change or something. It’s not always fun but I’ve always really loved her. She has her own musical life though; she’s been working with Flying Lotus. It’s cool to see other people drink from her great abilities as well and not just me as much I would love to always work with her. As far as instrumentalists, everything from jazz artists to electronic producers. I feel very fortunate to have the ability to collaborate at all when usually electronic is derived from a solitary act and that’s why I think groups are fun if not insanely difficult to actually pull off. It’s nice on records but maybe not as practical live.
Who do you look forward to working with in the future?
I’m working on a record called The Spoke and all the tracks feature vocalists. It has a variety of known and lesser known people and we’re still waiting for a few conformations but I really have this interest in pursuing sounds and I feel a lot of what’s been picked up lately hasn’t been known people but unknown people who want you to check out their demo and it’s fantastic and that just leads to more conversations or remixes or collaborations. I really like that kind of stuff so I’m always keeping my ear to the ground for that sort of opportunity.
So The Spoke is going to feature your beats with guest vocals?
So far, but with these vocalists, it’s fun because they didn’t leave their vocals alone but affected them and manipulated them further, it’s more of a dialogue than an open ended “I’ll do this you do that” sort of thing. I’m talking to Busdriver about doing some singing instead of his usual rap styles and it’s really fun to explore that with people who aren’t used to being singing vocalists and seeing what’s possible. You know, with autotune and things like that. [laughs]
Do you still attend USC Thornton School of Music?
I went there for jazz study. That was years back. I attended a couple base studies. I wasn’t there for electronic music but the jazz scene I was being introduced to. So I ran away into electronics and haven’t been back there since.
Aw, did jazz exile you?
No, it was more like I got scared I would grow up and become an apparition musician and the rest of my life would be spent on a Mexico jazz cruise or something. That’s a serious wake-up call.
What can we expect from Daededlus in the future?
There are a bunch of releases coming up. As I mentioned, there is an EP from Brainfeeder called Righteous Fists of Harmony. There is this album from a label called All City which we’ve yet to determine a name for yet, but All City is this amazing Irish based beats label. And then I have my own label [Magical Properties] I’m working on stuff for.
Check back tomorrow for MXDWN’s interview with Daedalus’s tourmate, Nosaj Thing!