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Daedelus: Music's Most Respected Madman In Profile

The son of a professor and an artist, Alfred Darlington is a Los Angeles beat scene veteran, clothed in the velvet and frills of 19th century Victorian dandyism. His alias ‘Daedelus’ (only difference is that it’s spelt Daedalus) is taken from the mythological Greek character of the same name – a mad, genius inventor who was responsible for the labyrinth that contained the Minotaur and was the father of legendary imbecile, Icarus. Daedalus fashioned wings made of feather and wax for his son (superglue apparently unavailable on the island of Crete at the time), warning him not to fly too close to the sun, lest the wax melt and the feathers fall off, which of course, is exactly what happened.

At a superficial level, Daedelus seems like a make-believe character pulled out of a piece of fiction - a customised, almost synthetic creation tailored and designed to the very last detail. His unreal presentation is a large part of his appeal, but Darlington himself is anything but artificial. Listen to his music, see him perform live or watch an interview and any ideas of disingenuousness vanish.

Daedelus is busy at the moment, travelling around the world on an extensive international tour, and preparing to play his first ever show in India tomorrow. We connected with him while he was staying in Dusun in the Malaysian jungle, “eating sambal, and trying to make sound” for his coming show in Melbourne. Darlington really took some time out to think about the questions we asked and his responses (like a lot of his other interviews) have a refreshingly optimistic, yet grounded quality to them.

Daedelus’ last Tennyson and Crimean War inspired album ‘The Light Brigade’ came out in Sepember 2014 via Flying Lotus’ record label Brainfeeder (having previously released on labels like Ninja Tune, Anticon and many more), and while he’s currently in the process of making new material and touring – his baby as of now is the “Delaydelus”. The custom sampler and delay unit he created with boutique synth company Bleeplabs is his most recent invention: “I've put out many records, proud of each, but they are endings. Making an instrument (alongside Bleeplabs) is an extraordinarily opportunity to take a role in beginnings.” Watch the Delaydelus in action below.

Daedelus has also taken on the role of label head, launching Magical Properties in 2009. It aims to provide a space and solution to the modern problems musicians face – “Although you can release music yourself, cheaply, to all your friends (and hopefully their friends) it is difficult to get press and bookings without an official release, but labels are afraid to work with talent that isn't already approved by the media. A catch-22. So Magical Properties wants to be a launching point, releasing and having proper press campaigns for musicians that may have been otherwise without.”

Curiously enough, Daedelus studied jazz and double bass at the Thornton School of Music before becoming an electronic producer. However, despite his classical roots, he considers himself “a firm believer in electronics”. He changed his path seeking “Freedom from the weight of history. Most of the great jazz songs were composed by incredible, but now dead musicians. I didn't want to visit a graveyard every time I performed. Electronic music is a history yet to be written.”

In India it’s largely only formulaic electronic dance music that gets pushed out to the market, for the simple reason that it’s more commercially viable on a larger scale. The general listening public (we’re going beyond our own little ‘scene’ bubble now) would associate electronic music with what is largely (and incorrectly) termed ‘EDM’ – a side of music many believe lacks the soul, vibrancy and energy of live sound - “We shouldn't confuse a hammer with any other tools. EDM is made for big rooms, drives nails into the walls, but doesn't build lasting structures. This might sound overly metaphorical, but we are speaking about art and opinion. My thought is that electronic music is now all encompassing, touches into all music production, and itself should reflect more diversity than what EDM is generally portrayed. That includes emotions reaching outside the club, inspiring connections.”

Modern music in general, is so much more than ‘EDM’ if you just know where to look. Daedelus has spoken in the past about the importance of human connection in his music, particularly when he’s performing live. The music of Daedelus embodies more than just his outward eccentricities. In the video embedded below, he talks with The Creator’s Project about the making of his exquisite 2013 album ‘Drown Out’ and how the emotional turmoil in is own personal life helped shape the album’s distinct harmonies. The noises he used – crickets chirping, Morse code, the sound of skateboards grating against concrete roads of his hometown – were more than clinical experiments. They were, as he put it, “musical gestures”, little patches of emotion duplicated in sound and stitched together to form the intricate tapestry that became ‘Drown Out’.

Of course, there are traps that musicians can fall into with technological advancement. There are dangers in shying away from performing live and choosing to live in boxes instead, and the fears of being lost in the virtual world: “We are adrift aren't we? Feeling so connected but rarely interacting so meaningfully. A "like" has little weight. So why do musicians spend so much time in virtual space and let the music played live become a second thought? This seems the most dangerous to me that somehow we'll lose that important connection found in loud rooms full of people dancing.”

The producer is excited to perform in India for the first time and also equally keen at the chance to explore a new country - ‘I am just buzzing! I'd like to really get to know the regions, I won't have the chance to go to 29 states, but perhaps I can eat a bit, hear some language, and understand better.’

Daedelus is known best for his enthused live performances, with good reason. Hugely experimental, the producer shows no discrimination in genre when he plays. He’s wildly unpredictable and we’re itching at the opportunity to stand right in the middle of the dancefloor and surrender ourselves to the madman’s sonic concoctions. Though we’ve been told that he’s making a new album and touring, there’s no way to really know what he’ll be doing next.

We asked him, finally, why he chose Daedelus specifically as his namesake.

“I consider my alias to be an aspiration rather than identity. I'd like to be remembered for something equally audacious as wings of wax.”

The inventor plays tomorrow at antiSOCIAL in Delhi, followed by Mumbai at Bonobo and Bangalore at The Humming Tree. Click the links for details.

Watch him perform a live improv set for KEXP below:

The same 3 questions:

3 most inspirational artists:
Charles Mingus
Michel Legrand
Beau Brummel.

3 favourite albums of all time:
"Another Thought" - Arthur Russel,
"Midnight Marauders" - A Tribe Called Quest,
"Harmony In Ultraviolet"- Tim Hecker

3 favourite artists of the moment:
Knxwledge
Diversa
Ramzoid

Words: Diya Gupta
Image credit (thumb): Garl Askew

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08 July 2015

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