Portrait of the artist as a young beauty inventor
I usually look for someone who’s dancing really well, if it’s a dancing kind of crowd, and then I’ll play to that person.
Here comes Daedelus (aka Alfred Darlington, born Alfred Weisberg-Roberts) to make music in Santa Fe. Daedelus is a really modern kind of musician, using the Monome, a controller of sound samples and other digital information, in his concerts. However, he prioritizes melody and even beauty over the overtly “electronic.”
He began recording as Daedelus in 2001. Love to Make Music To, released in 2008, was his seventh full-length studio disc. On it are 15 tracks of marvelously varying flavors: “Fair Weather Friends” is catchy, “Assembly Lines” is dreamy but has an aura of disconnectedness, and “Hrs: Mins: Secs” is dark and machinelike. Other tracks include vocals (hip-hop and otherwise) by Taz Arnold, Paperboy, and Erika Rose.
Daedelus plays at Corazón on Friday, March 12. Also on the bill are drummer/DJ Feathericci (Paul Groetzinger) and bassist Diplomat (Brian Mayhall), who make up the band Ray Charles Ives; and DJ Bacon (Ben Wright). Pasatiempo found Daedelus at the other end of a telephone line in Los Angeles.
Pasatiempo: When you were younger you wanted to be an inventor, and now you’re sort of doing that with music. Daedelus: Unfortunately, I do feel quite the failed inventor, but it’s nice that in this day and age we can have surrogate careers to kind of do the same thing.
Pasa: You create such splendid sounds and songs. Where do the ideas come from?
Daedelus: It’s all kinds of places. One of my biggest inspirations in terms of music is the film composers from the ’50s and ’ 60s. I really like the idea of making music, or making something, for situations. I really like the idea of emotion in music. Certainly classical musicians used to do it quite well and a lot of jazz composers have, but in terms of modern pop music it’s pretty monotone: it’s either a “breaking up with my boyfriend/girlfriend” song or an “I want to party all night” song.
If you have instrumental music, there’s almost a space for people to fill in the blanks. Or if you do have vocals, if you’re manipulating them and playing them against themselves, I think there’s a lot of room for fantasy, and that’s a big goal for me, to keep it fantastic, keep it interesting for myself and maybe for others.
Pasa: Do your inspirations include the old ones like Tangerine Dream and Jon Hassel and Brian Eno or even Clara Rockmore?
Daedelus: Clara Rockmore is amazing, but some of the ambient artists ... to me they were echoing a lot of what was going on in classical music at the turn of century, taking up maybe where Satie left off and some of what Ravel was doing. It’s cool but I almost get the sense that they were so into technology and divorced from what the notes could mean, they missed out on something. Also, I’m a sampling artist. I love this kind of stuff where you can borrow into other decades, take the best or worse of whatever the moment was and make it your own, hopefully.
Pasa: Do you spend a lot of time farming found sounds, or do you have a huge inventory from doing that in the past that you can use now as samples?
Daedelus: Well, I do find that if I dip back into the audio recordings I’ve made or the records I’ve bought, it’s almost like borrowing into an old mind-set, so it’s almost like you have to constantly refresh in order
to be moving forward. For example, my record Denies the Day’s Demise was very much based on the idea of Brazilian music, and if I went back to Brazilian records now, I think I’d be making another song for Denies
the Day’s Demise rather than making a new record. I’m always looking for a new epoch or a new era or found sounds to work with. It keeps me asking questions, which I enjoy. I really enjoy the act of making music as much as listening or playing it live.
Pasa: Do you still play the accordion or the bass clarinet, either live or to generate samples?
Daedelus: I do play the bass clarinet often and the double bass occasionally. The accordion has a real presence, and I have a harder time bending it out of context, which is half the fun. Pasa: Everybody maybe thinks of Irish folk music and Fellini films. Daedelus: Yeah, and that’s the power of many of these instruments, that they have a resonance with people, and you can toy with their ideas. You can make the instrument feel unlike itself. I used accordion for a hip-hop track, which was fun, but it makes it hard to use it again for a hip-hop track. Pasa: Unless you use if for every hip-hop track from now on. Daedelus: I think you’ve got something there. Pasa: Are you bringing your Monome to Santa Fe? Daedelus: Absolutely. That’s my main form of live expression. I love it to death.
Pasa: How does that work? Can you put new sounds into the Monome all the time?
Daedelus: Yes. It’s an open-source musical device. It’s funny, because we’re in such an open-source world nowadays— all the software is bendable to your whim— and you’d imagine that hardware would be the same way, but it’s really not the case, unfortunately. All these controllers, keyboards, and pads and drum kits that allow you to interact with the computer are not really personalizable. Over time I’ve been able to work with programmers and other really talented people to make it so this machine expresses my ends, and it has an open enough structure that people, even if they have no musical background, can see me playing it and can understand what I’m doing.
Even if I knew all the sounds, the way the Monome operates allows a lot of room for both escapism and cross-pollination between samples, because I can have 15 samples going simultaneously. It’s funny because all this stuff is technically possible but one of the things I’m most proud of is the fact it’s still fingers on buttons, like a piano. A lot of people become disillusioned with electronic music, which I’d predominantly say I do, because of how automatic it can be, how unreasonably expectational it can be. That’s going against the basic tenet of keeping wonder and awe as part of the experience. Pasa: Do you do live sampling?
Daedelus: I can but I don’t do it very often. I really want people in the audience to feel like they’re involved, but I really find that it adds a level of chaos to things that makes it a little less musical.
I prize the fact that on a given night, if the audience wants to be up, we go up. As much as I try to look at everybody, I usually look for someone who’s dancing really well, if it’s a dancing kind of crowd, and then I’ll play to that person. Pasa: Your music is many things, but you are making beauty.
Daedelus: Thank you. I think it’s very easy to overlook today, as if beauty is just one of many shadable components.