Like his mythological namesake, Daedelus is an inventor, a creator of sonic labyrinths combining sounds from an eclectic palette into an innovative genre all his own. Alfred Darlington isn’t a paint-by-numbers musician. From how he looks (early Victorian Dandyism), to how he makes music, or how he expresses himself and views the world, his is a very individual ‘bespoke’ outlook. Here, CDR founder Tony Nwachukwu talks to the LA Native about his new album, Max for Live, The Low End Theory and what to expect from his CDR appearance.
You have a new album coming out – tell us about the release.
October 28th is the release date – Its’ going to be self released… Every single label I spoke with on this wanted to put it out in late 2017. Everybody is full up. It’s going to be across all formats, we’re working with a small distributor – Alpha Pup. They’re the local one in town that Brainfeeder and everyone use. I also have an imprint I’ve released other records on, which has always been about trying to bring sounds that aren’t heard out there as much, producers who don’t have releases who I feel deserve some shine etc. With this album, it’ll be my first outing in this kind of direction, so I’m pretty excited about it.
The name of the album is Labyrinths. Daedalus – my namesake (at least the mythological one) invented the labyrinth in ancient Greek mythology, so I’m kind of trying to bring it all together.
So Max has underpinned much of your music production and performance process, can you talk through how this has evolved?
I have worked with Max since 2003. I was introduced to an inventor called Brian Crabtree who was going to school for sound design and music instrument production, and he hosted an event in San Diego, which I ended up playing at. At this time I had no idea what I was getting into, I was using a lot of hardware and outboard gear and literally just using my fingers to create sounds. I was only able to do ten things at once, and now knowing how much heavy lifting the computer does for us now, ten things at once is really slow. When it came down to witnessing to what he had, – it was an online version of the Monome – this hardware device that allows for big risk sample manipulation. Even in 2003, all the promise was there. He had a live loop of a drum break and was playing it like one would do a piano. Nowadays this would be very commonplace, but back then in 2003 it was revolutionary, and it still is in many ways. I feel like that paradigm shift really came to fruition in about 2008: the Monome came to market commercially and a lot of other grid based controllers started to show up in the world. As much as the monomer was incredible the true genius of Brian Crabtree really came through in programming of Max For Live objects. A lot of these LCD objects that allowed for really smooth operation with no excessive CPU usage when you import a bunch of samples. So it was like he broke the computer audio work in such a crazy way, I was then able to work with him on some implementation ideas, file management methods and workflow. Max is really an amazing community as well as an amazing program. The fact that you have people who are pure academics, would never touch a stage, interacting with people who don’t care about the 1’s & 0’s and just want to make it work live, that dichotomy really created this community that had a lot to say.
It’s interesting how different disciplines come together to create so many fresh ideas.
There’s always an undulation right? You kind of need these people battling against each other to figure out what’s best. The traditional competition of a sound clash or Hip Hop Beat Battle or Cypher, it produces so many ideas. I feel like scenes, no matter how much they present a unified front – are really people competing for attention. So to fast forward, I think the dominant species of nowadays are collectives. These collectives like Soulection or Team Supreme or the countless worldwide versions. They seem to be the ones producing this amazing music and getting all the attention, and it makes sense. They have a built in competition, there’s a built in rigorous vetting that produces gems and jewels. I feel like the same thing is true of hardware and software. You have these moments where someone comes up with a great idea, then subsequently someone comes up with an improvement that’s different, then people have to decide between the two, or there’s two parallel ideas like Traktor Scratch and Serato (Which I believe came out at the same time pretty much independently). But then of course as they both come into the scene, it creates a dynamic tension. Low End Theory felt like a family more than a crew, especially as we all used to come to (as Gaslamp Killer put it) “Church” on a Wednesday. We’d go and hear the new, new coming down from wherever from the international host of DJ’s coming through, playing the newest freshest, most challenging bass music from whatever BPM. If you look at the low-end theory core DJ’s they’re a little bit from a previous generation. They’re not necessarily getting online in the chatrooms and messaging each other, they just get together on Wednesday and it happens, whereas some of the people in these other crews have never met each other.
How do you see your role in that scene now?
It’s hard to try and analyze is for ones self, but I feel privy to a lot of amazing development in the scene and I still feel like I have something to offer and something to say. I like to be on the spider’s web (so to speak) in the nexus, where you feel you can kind of see the disparate things. For instance there’s this new scene coming up called Kauai Rave which is a mixture of things like Sophie and AG Cooke and then also people like Maxo or all these names and fresh faces who are part of this undefined genre that has enough of a similarity that you kind of look at it from a distance and start to see it taking shape. And it’s great, I now know a bunch of those dudes, and they’re all making fresh music – I can play some of it on my radio show, or out live or just be an advocate. I love providing sounds that geek me out. That rolling passion is important. I think my job in all of this is just to be another advocate, another voice and push something forward that’s a little more challenging.
When I was growing up, that was the job of the DJ at a party. It was to play things that you would have never thought would go together, things that you had never heard before. There’s a vibrancy to that, and I totally appreciate that now the pendulum has swung so that people go to a concert, and they want to listen to the songs that they’ve been listening to all day.
There’s an identity that you see up on stage, there’s a whole culture an ideal emanating from that DJ. And because of the diversity of the playlist, you see that person more clearly. When I see a DJ get onstage and only play one genre, at one BPM – it tells me that this person only knows one thing, only comes from one place, and is essentially a one dimensional person. That’s of course quite brutal, but it’s a critique that one could log, and on the flip side it’s so much easier to package one thing. We live in an era of so many things being yelled at you, and so much noise and blather, that maybe if you can reduce an night down to one idea and one BPM, then it’s easier to sell.
Tell us a little more about the process of writing and recording ‘Labyrinths’.
With this new record, I’ve always been an advocate for live sound. I come from a background of live instruments – double bass and bass clarinet, as well as trying to fidget with other things over the years like guitars and accordions and other stuff. Every different way you touch a resonator, every different way your fingers touch strings, you’ll get different songs. The piano with a few broken notes, wants to play certain melodies, then wants to play other melodies. So they’re not broken keys, they’re features. Those are the presets on that piano. On this new record I wanted to return to a vocal representation, the human voice is obviously one of the most powerful instruments, our ears immediately hear vocals, like magnets for human voice. I wanted to reintegrate voices and sounds, but I wanted to put forward my own struggle with the music industry recently has a lot to do with the fact that people are very divided. There’s no more listening as a solitary act, it is very much now incorporated into your environment. It’s not just our ears, our eyes are focused – we’re all lead into these mazes of intersecting people and thoughts. To me, one of the greatest moment in music, both live and recordings is when somebody hands it to you, somebody gives it to you, somebody dances with you, somebody interacts with you in a very personal way. And we’ve be led down a different road, the most intimate we get with audio is when it’s right in our ears. So I really want to play in that space and that dichotomy. Programmatically that meant I couldn’t just sit in my studio getting a studio tan. I couldn’t just sit there being a studio bum, creating intricate compositions and so I got into actual studio spaces. I did a lot of group composition or I would have skeletons of beats and melodies that I would then flesh out with a number of players and voices and I never let it sit still. I never let it just harden into the track, I kept on pushing it around like clay, using effects and other things to get resonant frequencies out of things. I think when you hear it, it’ll sound like traditional music, hopefully. Again the difference the programming and the audio, hopefully it’s finally settled in and it’s appealing and warm, and speaks through the speakers in a way that’s warm and belies through the speakers. I don’t want people to think it’s a magic trick. I want them to understand it’s just whole audio, not all disparate ideas. That’s the goal.
You’re presenting at Loop as well as performing at CDR, What can people expect?
The presentation is called The Loud System: sound in space, it’s analysing the physics of a sound system, the physics of the approach of the performer into the sound system, into the audience. It’s about that relationship and how it’s a loop. It’s not only a visual loop but how it’s an audial loop. The physics of the system alone have these limitations with regards to the space, but what I really want to look at is the Clarion Call of making producers realise the things they do in the box, don’t actually exist. It’s nothing until it’s in the air and hitting the audience. Even when they’re listening themselves through their monitors , it’s just self affirming the 1’s & 0’s they know exist in their computers. But when it enters the minds of the audience, that’s when it takes shape. Also talking about the artist experience, modern sound culture, how we live in a noisy world but are able to isolate and emphasise certain sounds that are important to us, and the political and social culture which is represented in that interaction.
With CDR, my hope is that we’re going to vibe out the space, we’re gonna play nice with all the other performers, and there’s two things we can do – there’s the technological side that we can push around, and then there’s the musical side – and they’re not separate, they’re holding hands. I love the fact that there’s a music technology as well as an audio technology and the music technology involves all these rhythms that people haven’t necessarily heard, slack things that I really am a big fan of, things that are out of time and in time, which make the body move in certain ways. So at CDR, maybe we’re going to play with the robot drums, maybe with some new aspects of Max for Live I’m working on, but really it’s always to get to that place of when I was 15 listening to rave records, 18 when I was listening to Jungle or 21 listening to Broken Beat, all these moments in life when the music crept through the sound system, down my eardrums and caused me to not be present. Instantaneously taken to a different dimension.
I just want to briefly say how appreciative I am to get involved. There are these nights that get shine throughout the history of electronic music, all these moments that are surrounded by scene or a club night (the hacienda for example) but since these have been romanticized and documented, there’s been a chasm since then. We haven’t been looking at how formative some nights have been for scenes in our generation, there’s been some nice stuff about Low End Theory and it’s place in LA, but it’s really from a standpoint of a culture that sits far away from people or is just your friends. Some of these places are the birthplaces of amazing ideas, like the revolutionary coffee shop that produced the Magna Carta or something. They have that meaning, and I’m very appreciative to be part of your Magna Carta.
Daedelus will be performing at CDR x Ableton at Prince Charles on November 5th. More details here:
Loop is three days of discussions, performances, presentations, studio sessions and interactive workshops aimed at exchanging ideas at the cutting edge of music, technology and creative practice. Bringing together artists, technologists, educators and other creative thinkers, Loop is a collective exploration of what it is to make music today and what it could be tomorrow.