Los Angeles Beatmaker Daedelus Finds The Note That Wants To Be Played

David Bodnar

Growing up in the 90s, UK rave culture collided with Alfred “Daedelus” Darlington’s Los Angeles life. A little too young for raves, he would regularly sneak out to explore underground dance-floors, soaking in electronic music culture under the shade of the night while going to school for jazz during the day.

Eventually, chasing samples won and he began a two decade-long career of unique releases and club appearances. Daedelus has built his career at the intersection of jazz and electronica, complete with a dandy-like, early Victorian fashion style, a regular flâneur walking between worlds and seen in all. BeatRoute caught up with him ahead of his upcoming appearance at the Alberta Electronic Music Conference (AEMCON), including an artist talk and performance at NMC ON: After Hours.

BeatRoute: You’ve got such a unique sound. How do you hope it affects your audience?

Daedelus: If it’s a recording, it’s a somewhat one-dimensional offering. As much as I might be trying to evoke all the possibilities of sound, it’s going to be hitting people largely in their unsuspecting lives. The song turns up, algorithmically, and has this role to play. But people don’t necessarily ask for it. 

In the live show, it’s the opposite. People don’t necessarily know what they’re going to hear but they’re looking for a good time, heart-open. They’re already with you. My goal is to not mess it up, to have the sound live between me and them. 

BR: In that case, which is your favourite? Production or performance?

Daedelus: They’re really different. The good thing about the live show is I don’t know what’s going to happen prior. I don’t like the sing-along idea of the live show, nothing karaoke. And classics. I’m not that artist. I have a few tracks that have lived longer, but I’m not looking for the sing-along. I’m there to mind a different experience. Unexpected twists and turns. And emotions that aren’t necessarily encountered on the dance floor. That’s my sweet spot. I love that, when people have an introspective moment, lost in the swirl. And then the records, I love the big idea that they’re concepts. 

BR: Your last two LPs are vastly different from each other: Bittereinders being so cerebral and heavy, while Taut was melodic and lighthearted. How do you think your album themes speak to you as a person and as an artist?

Daedelus: I would like to think that I have some sort of determination: making choices and that those choices have kept me in music and in sound. But also, the records have made some sort of timeline makes sense. I think because of the experience that I’ve had with this wild oscillation between the energy amounts in these records and how much they are keeping time. I’ve pretty much put out a record every year for the past 20 years. But what’s considered a record to me is sometimes a mix tape. It’s all about time and the interaction in my life.

Sometimes, I think it’s all playing with building blocks and then the outcomes are just happening and tumbling towards you. Sometimes, it’s just hearing what the music wants to say and just getting out of the way. 

BR: How does your creative process work from album to album?

Daedelus: Making music, I’m looking for the squeaky wheel. I’m looking for the odd note out. The one that wants to be played with. That’s the goal. Sometimes, it’s finding a technique that’s fascinating to me but it’s also loud in the mix. And maybe because it’s the one that shows up in my life, it will be around other ones that are similarly-minded, and that becomes a record. 

For instance, with the Bittereinders album, there was an overwhelming concept that was part of a series. Unfortunately (and fortunately), keeping those heavy thoughts close kept me in the creative place to keep on facing the idea that — and we don’t have to get into all of the wherewithals of the record — but it’s part of a project about old wars that were before recorded history. To me, that was very evocative: certain sounds, especially certain electronic sounds, were very suitable. 

BR: What can we expect from your AEMCON appearance?

Daedelus: The conversation that they’ve invited me to give is very much inspired by the unique collection that they have. Do you know that there’s a world-class museum right in your backyard? I am dumbstruck by the collection. The list of happenings and the things I’m able to reference! From an electronic musician’s perspective, I’m going to get to speak to Shakespeare’s ghost, it’s insane. 

I’m looking forward to being able to speak to this idea of instrument in all its unique form. Especially this modern moment of these synthesizers so full of sound, but not necessarily always wanting to be played — that seem like a violin or a clarinet. But the other half of the time, I’ll just be geeking out on just being there! The lineup that’s been assembled, I’m really thrilled to be part of it.

Daedelus will perform at NMC ON: After Hours at Studio Bell on November 15. Tickets available at studiobell.ca. His artist talk will take place the following day, on November 16, at 1 p.m. at Studio Bell.