"I love this idea that I make records that are like a ghost, that haunt some people who know to check it out, and other people will encounter it when they need it."
Daedelus is one of the most interesting figures in modern electronic performance. His electrifying sets, charming and affable persona and frenetic motions when performing has taken him across six continents, playing over a thousand shows, and productions with Diplo, Flying Lotus and Kimbra. As he performs, his manner switches rapidly from wry, gleeful grins to bursts of intense concentration and rapid flourishes.
Alfred Darlington assumed his Daedelus alias some twenty years ago as an homage to the Greek inventor and tinkerer. True to his name, Daedelus possesses a highly individualistic and unique manner in both performance and composition, often using a large custom Monome grid in lieu of a traditional DJ mixer and controller when performing live. He has over twenty LP’s and countless remixes and EP’s to his name, released on labels such as Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder.
I caught up with Daedelus as a graduating student of Berklee College of Music’s EPD Department, of which he had recently joined as a faculty member. On a blisteringly cold Tuesday, I met him at a coffee shop next to the school where we spoke about artistry, innovation, education and technology.
Doug: Electronic music and DJing has so much to do with connecting with the audience and getting them to move, or at least feel something. With this in mind, how does this affect the choices you make when performing? Are you trying to serve the moment, the self, or the audience and how do you balance the three?
Daedelus: I appreciate the moment. We are part of a continuum and the idea that we can be present with people, is maybe the ultimate goal in a performance. The fact that you are simply showing up is in some ways a profound act of being a musician. All too often we are either caught up in the technical aspect of a performance or the small minded part of being an entertainer.
But when you can transcend those confines and be more than just a suggestion of an idea, more of a profound exaltation of the possibility of music - that’s ultimately a more nourishing goal for me. That’s what’s kept me in performance, to be able to show people a different possibility in so many ways.
Doug: So in trying to show this possibility, do you start with an idea of what you want to express, and then you go and push that narrative?
Daedelus: It’s less that I have an idea, and more so that I have succumbed to the fact that I am who I am, and I only have so many offerings. I am not a big party person in my life or on stage. I like loud, fast music, and I like that profound thing that happens when dissonance yields to harmony and you have a great feeling (and a dopamine response).
"But in truth, just by being willing to be myself and knowing the shape and limitations from doing this enough lets me know that this is my offering, because I can’t change that. And yet at the same time, being present enough to react to an audience."
I’m always looking for one or two dancers, no matter how big the crowd is. They’ll be stand-in’s for the rest of the people’s experience, because there is a gestalt, a group mind that happens in these kind of situations. Partially because we’re all enveloped in the same sound field, but also because people tend to look to leaders as to how to perform or behave, and sometimes it’s you on stage and sometimes it’s someone dancing off-stage. I’m performing to that one person who’s having the best time of their life and often they’re very infectious for others.
That isn’t to say I’m trying to limit things to one person’s experience over many - it’s just that my arms only reach so far, my sound can only get so loud, and so I can only envelop so much. By having a stand-in, it makes it possible to reach elsewhere.
I love this idea that you can have a BPM that says certain things, you can have music, staging or surroundings that say certain things, but people always bring their opinion to the matter, and people’s brains are so good at editing their reality. You might think that you’re playing minor chords that are sad, but someone else is having a good time and might not hear the minor-ness of the chords. They just hear the happiness of the music or the speed that the BPM is happening…
Doug: They hear what they want to hear.
Daedelus: They totally hear what they want to hear. So you just have a lot of suggestions, and I think that the most sincere suggestion is one that comes from a place of self-truth, and you just do your best to present that as clearly and as cognizant as possible, and let the pieces lie.
Doug: Would you say that you value being able to express your truth more than the outcome of playing what you think the audience wants to hear and having the crowd pop off?
Daedelus: A thousand percent. Because really, anytime you think that, you make assumptions about a sound and an idea and it’s always coming from a limited perspective of your imagination. Always.
I’ve played Ultra, I’ve played Coachella, I’ve played all these festivals where it’s self-prescribed experiences happening, especially EDM festivals. You’d think going in that they’ll want 127 BPM, because that’s what everyone else is playing. But often times if you provide difference and dissent to this group mind, you can really shine in those situations. It’s profound to own your truth.
It’s hard to embody, to a group, the individual. I oftentimes think that everybody has their opinion or idea, and why would anybody want to listen to anybody else, especially when now everybody is a music maker? But at the same time I think that we are so fascinated with the other that when you can be present, without hoisting it on people, there is always an energetic imbalance when you are on stage. You are louder, you are taller, you are more lit. Not necessarily in the ‘L-I-T’ fashion but the ‘L-I-G-H-T’ fashion, or all of the above.
Doug: I think people are attracted to the other, but on the flip side, a lot of people go to these dance floors or festivals to feel a sense of connectedness, the idea that everybody is the same on the dance floor and everybody is just down to get down.
Daedelus: I appreciate that, but then why are people on their phones so much? Why aren’t people talking across the aisle? I think it might just be a societal illness that isolates us so much, but people are really interested in seeing a reflection of themselves. In some ways, those mirror neurons are what makes performance so profound.
Your brain has an interesting trick of seeing yourself do the action you are seeing performed. That’s why sporting events work. Part of it is that you are cheering on your favorite archetype, but the other part is that you see yourself doing the thing you are watching. That’s how music events work partially too - you see yourself on that stage even when you’re sitting passively, or indeed dancing. There’s a trick of the brain that puts you in the protagonist role.
"I do appreciate that we are there in community, but really, is a dark room where you’re dancing by yourself community?"
Oftentimes people do show up to an event early or they stay till late because they’re interested in that, but a lot of people go for a couple of selfies and a very limited experience. There’s something in there that we have to understand and honor, or try to figure out how to defeat too.
Doug: The fact that people just show up and grab a couple of selfies, does that frustrate you or are you resigned to the fact that that’s going to happen? Is your goal to make them pay attention and to escape the self-obsessed image of trying to find the reflection and lose it in what you’re trying to present?
Daedelus: I’m not clever enough to know how to fight this in total, but I know that if I can just offer them an alternative, that’s all I can do. I don’t check my phone on stage, I don’t try to have a laptop on stage, I’m trying to get rid of that aspect of any screens on stage. Generally speaking I’ve been moving over to a modular live setup, so I can get away from these screens and be a different kind of possibility to these people. And simply by just offering that, I feel like that’s a slightly profound act of possibility.
But some people are on the wavelength to receive that and others aren’t there yet, so you just do what you can, and be another small step forward in this fight against the music culture being diminished in people’s lives.
It used to be that you would pick a musical outgrowth and that would become your fashion sense, and your sense of community.
"Your identity would be fostered in music, and that is really diminished now."
You are much more likely to go off to a fast fashion place, buy a uniform of a certain archetype, not even necessarily listen to the music but wear that look, and propagate something forward that speaks of something that is very unmoored and out of community. I’m just here to say again that you don’t necessarily need to be XYZ archetype, but we can still be together in a sound and enveloped in a sound culture.
That’s a lot of my goal in performing and still being interested in performance, is to offer that alternative, but also specifically that you can be present, or do your phone thing for a few minutes and then come back. A lot of my performances command more attention on purpose. It’s not something you can bliss out and close your eyes to, it’s trying to be performative in a way that…
Doug: Commands attention?
Daedelus: Hopefully, or at least it gives people the possibility of resting their eyes on something, resting their feet on something. Having a framework to paint their own experience. The more they bring to that experience, the better time they have, generally.
Doug: So you like the fact that they bring a part of themselves, and you give them the structure in which to experience?
Daedelus: Or they’re offering their experience to me and I can react to it, they can see me reacting to it. They make a yell, and I yell back. It’s so possible now with our technology.
"Oftentimes the EDM experience has become more and more like a painting or a movie, where it’s non-reactive and it’s so bright and full of awe and shock but it doesn’t leave any room to hardly even breathe."
Every other eight bars there’s a drop, there’s a flash or pyrotechnics. But after eight hours, you’re just exhausted of the look and feel of it.
I was brought up in an era of rave where you brought your own experience to a degree. I was never really one for substances, but people would make the blank walls of a warehouse more interesting, to transform the experience from bad sound systems that were quickly carted in and meant to be quickly carted out when the police arrived, to making the whole experience more shiny and more interesting and to give a sense of community too, because you’d see people who were on your wavelength.
But it wasn’t really to glamorize the experience, it was more to provide an escapism that was necessary in certain moments of time - the bleakness of LA, or the Thatcher era of London. You have a lot of different examples of that.
Nowadays, the drugs are a part of the experience, and the shock and awe part is a part of the experience. All these things are kind of surface. It’s just like the music, you assume it’s going to happen and that it’s going to be a flat thing, and to provide a difference is nice.
Doug: What do you think has caused that shift towards fast fashion and these surface level ideas?
Daedelus: Comfort. It’s not only the fact that it’s easy to obtain or easily done. We take comfort in people knowing us, and the algorithm does a good job of doing that. The algorithm does a good job of going “hey, you like this thing, here it is,” right away. “I know you, and that’s a sense of intimacy.” And so you have an intimacy with these headless corporations, because they have taken on the archetype of your friends or family. They’ve become your dopamine response.
We’ve outsourced so many of our sensory organs. We can see farther with these machines, we can basically taste through our Yelp accounts. All these things that are iteratively part of our nervous systems we’ve outsourced. Now we’ve even outsourced our dopamine response, our anger, our fears, and that’s pretty profound in having an intimacy with an inanimate object. it can be very embracing, in a way.
So, I think that’s the lure and the attraction. There’s so many reasons to be scared and we’re being incessantly dinged. Our pleasure centers are constantly being knocked upon. It’s all part of it.
Music is a slower thing. It’s a temporal based art. It makes sense that it’s diminished in cultural sense and value because it takes time, and we have no time. We’ve done a good job of eradicating boredom from our lives…
Doug: Too well?
Daedelus: Really well! Arguably, it doesn’t make a more profound sense of satisfaction, it just diminishes boredom. Maybe there used to be this scale where satisfaction and boredom were on the same line, and as you decreased boredom you obtained satisfaction, but I would argue that we’ve figured out a way of removing boredom from the same timeline without gaining satisfaction.
Doug: Maybe because innovation has increased to the point where we can access anything we want at any point in time - music recorded from anytime, or watch anything, completely from our phones…
Daedelus: Right. It’s interesting that watching or listening, those things take time, and yet we’ve made it so just by a soundbite or just by the evocation of something it’s become enough. You listen to the first fifteen seconds of a song, you get the pleasure response of that, and then you’re skipping to the next song.
Maybe there’s a value that’s displayed enough that you stick around for a second, which is an extraordinary act now, to listen longer than the thirty second clip. It’s crazy.
Doug: So how does that affect your compositional process; do you keep that in mind? Because I would say that the music you make, especially your last album, is not so easily digested. It’s something that demands time.
Daedelus: Yeah, I gave up making music for people. I started to make music for situations. I love the fact that there’s a persistence. There used to be scarcity and now there’s no longer scarcity. Most people make records now where you know they’ll have a week or two of attention and then it will go away. You need to make the track so vigorous, or so loud, or whatever it is, so that it captures the attention for those two weeks of shine, and then maybe there’s some critical attention that keeps it around for a few days longer, and that’s it.
I love this idea that I make records that are like a ghost—that haunt some people who know to check it out, and other people will encounter it when they need it. I made a record about an old war that nobody talks about anymore. Every so often the war is evoked because of its terrible history or its preciousness for the future. So when they do evoke it, maybe my offering to the conversation will be part of that evocation.
That’s not to say that I want to be associated with war, but I do want to be associated with grappling with difficult ideas, and I think music is a very good way of dealing with difficulty. There’s a reason that a lot of the music we still receive, even in childhood nursery rhymes, is about extremely difficult functions. You think about ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’, it’s the craziest song if you really analyze it. But we still sing it because it has this resonance.
I like the idea of music being really profound, and it’s too profound to be belittled by a release cycle. I’m making music now that’s just present. And if somebody needs it, they’ll find it. And if they don’t find it, the algorithm isn’t working in my favor, but I still think that they’ll find a way of defeating the algorithm, defeating the things that keep us apart.
"At the base level, people want to be conjoined, they want to be consonant with each other. Maybe that’s foolish on my part to believe that people are inherently good, but at the same time, that’s my belief system."
I’m propagating it through the way I release music, the way I present myself to the world, in every way I can, I’m trying to take part of this idea.
Doug: How would you describe the value of music made outside of the release cycle, versus the value of music made to light up pleasure centers within fifteen seconds?
Daedelus: I would say there isn’t much value in music that lights up pleasure centers. The only thing I would say is that those pleasure centers are a great trojan horse. Sometimes you have a situation where the latest hot release can actually have profundity that gets to people.
There’s all kinds of releases nowadays, like Tierra Whack’s record from last year. It’s the perfect trojan horse - imminently shareable material, extreme Spotify fodder, where you know you like it and that it’s catchy, but she had some really interesting things to say. She had her own offering, her own identity and her own individuality. That’s a perfect example when somebody’s gaming the system. She knows what she’s getting into, utilizes that to be successful, but also is a lighthouse of other possibilities.
Doug: I think we’re seeing a lot of that, especially the rising trend in songs like Sicko Mode. There are three separate ideas in that song that people can attach to, and they can bounce between each one so quickly.
Daedelus: Well, with the Travis Scott thing - I think it’d be more efficient if they were three different songs. But that’s me coming from the old school place of wanting more from it. I expect more from it.
"Especially now, getting into education, I expect the world to be better, and I’m actively doing everything I can to make that vision real."
Now, I understand that I have a slightly colonized mind when it comes to music theory. I went through the system, and it’s hard to understand the world from the technological vantage that it’s been hoisted. I’m coming from an older space and I’m unable to defeat the technologists because I don’t have their toolset. I won’t have their toolset. I can’t understand a world where commercialism is in the center of the spiders web. The song, or the sound, is in the middle for me. I’m never going to understand that perspective.
Doug: But you look at the response to Sicko Mode - it was so surprising but maybe that just goes to show that’s what people want, the super short ideas. And maybe that’s all he had to present for that song.
Daedelus: Well, also, the thing is with the release cycle of musicians - if they’re not putting something out every one or two months, they will cease to exist. And I appreciate some artists that are defeating that by taking their time. Frank Ocean for instance, still peppers the world with some releases every once in a while, but does take his time and does still seem to be embraced.
That being said, there are a lot of people who deserve more credit and acclaim for their musicianship or their offering of their individual voice, but are shouted down because whomever it is, they’re still in the tabloids more than they are music makers.
Doug: That’s another part of the pleasure center theory - people enjoy seeing the life of a celebrity more so than a musician.
Daedelus: Well, it’s fascinating because at some level people want to see reflections of themselves, or the reflective possibilities of themselves. Kanye is a perfect example - he’s a relatively boring creator. He isn’t saying anything too profound, he’s not offering anything too off the beaten path. It’s usually a reflection of some things that’s already going around.
But that being said, he’s now living this extraordinary life that’s very aspirational, and it’s very easy to say: “That dude is someone that I can see myself in their shoes.” Literally or figuratively, because you can literally buy his shoes.
Not to call anyone out, but there’s such a different, rich living to have that’s on the fringe or outside of the air that these people are breathing. I think that itself is a profound act, to know that their are other ways to be. I remember reading an article with Stereo Lab, years ago, where they were talking about their ten thousand fans. They talked about how they could make ends meet by having ten thousand die-hard fans, where they would buy or go to shows or be involved, making them a living.
And they aren’t a name that you necessarily know. But they push this idea that you can find your few, and make it your many.
Doug: So would it be fair to say that you don’t go for the shotgun approach, where you’re trying to reach as many people as possible in perhaps a shallower depth, compared to a sniper where you target the few but you hope to affect them in a more profound way?
Daedelus: I wouldn’t use the sniper metaphor necessarily. I would say it’s more like my arms reach is only so wide, and I can only touch so many, and so I am trying to embrace the few that get close enough to receive this offering or this idea.
That being said, in terms of the world nowadays, there’s a lot of buy-in that happens. It’s not just the buy-in of an algorithm where they’re like: “Oh, this song is good, so the algorithm likes this song and therefore it propagates.” I have some of that on Spotify, where some songs are bigger, for whatever reason.
But also from a corporate level - I’ve done commercial work before, and these commercial entities aren’t buying in because they like you. They see you as a simple tool, a lever, a wedge, a pulley - whatever the basic physics are of the situation, and if you don’t present the possibility of buy-in from those entities, they won’t invest. And in this day and age, that investment is what can be the difference between making a living and not making a living.
I don’t want to just be a dreamy talker where I say you can have your own artistic identity and eventually you’ll be recognized. It very well may not happen. And if at all you want to make this your living in life, you have to balance the current commercial forces against your own passion and activities in that framework. I’m fully willing to be heady because I’ve now been able to, but I think for other people, when they’re starting out and getting involved - just pick the ways you want to engage with that commercial world, because it’s very present.
Within our patronage system, there is a single entity or a group of entities can change your life very easily. They just decide to move their sword your way, or rather their sniping rifle, because that’s much more apt. When they decide to pick you to do that mission for them, you either buy in or you don’t. And oftentimes when you say no, they won’t come back around.
Doug: How did you figure out that balance of expressing yourself, but also buying into this culture?
Daedelus: I made terrible decisions, and I made good decisions, and I went through my own trial and error.
I did a commercial gig for Smirnoff many years ago, and I was fully performing on a car, and there were all these paid party people around me, and I thought: “This is morally bankrupt on so many levels, and it’s a terrible commercial too.” But it’s one of those things where I was exploring that space, and it was in an era where I was dumbstruck and in awe that a company like that would be interested. And I didn’t know my own value. I was probably underselling myself.
I have been my own petri dish. I have experimented on myself at length, especially with production too. I wouldn’t say I have gotten myself to where I am because of excellence in production or excellence in performance - I’ve just been keeping at it and exploring my space, and I appreciate that I’ve been given time to do that. I think for someone coming up, they could learn a lot more by being more selective or being more surgical in their work.
Doug: That’s interesting advice, because so much of the advice that we are given as students is, once we get out of here, to say yes to everything you get.
Daedelus: That’s crazy. That’s so dangerous, because while I think there’s something really profound to being more ‘yes’ than ‘no’, more open than closed in creative ways - in terms of the commercial world, you may think that it’s an innocent decision to work with a company, or quick money can yield more resources to make longer term money happen, but it’s oftentimes not the case.
It’s more so what is taking your time. Your time is your most valuable thing. That’s what people are buying and selling. It’s irreplaceable and if you get known for something, that’s the game.
I’m not saying no to say no. You already know music. The thing that you should be working on at this point is your editing system. Both your self-editing in terms of music - how to make it faster and more authentic to yourself, but also your self-editing in terms of what you want to do with your skillset, and who you want to work with. The quicker you are about it, the less time that your fields go fallow in between cycles.
Sure, you could say yes more often, but if you were editing yourself to say yes to the right things, imagine how much more efficient that would be. That is literally a skill you can practice. You can practice it with your friends, your time, your nutrition - on so many levels you can be working those muscles so that when things come along, like: “Hey, I want you to do this commercial job - what’s your fee?” You can say you don’t want to do that job. You can take yourself off the field and you know the results and the shapes.
It’s crazy! Maybe it’s the kind of thing that you’re learning in classes, about what your time is worth, but oftentimes it’s not. For example, I had a talk this morning with Native Instruments to do a new initiative that they’re a part of. I still don’t know what I’m going to charge for my time. I may not charge anything, I may just want to be a part of it. If I am going to be a part of it, I will charge, but I may just want to be a force that’s pushing it; I’m not sure yet! But I know that if I have the wherewithal to bring that to the table sooner, it’ll be the sooner I become important to them, because they’re risking something by my involvement.
Doug: So the skill of knowing how you want to respond to a situation is key?
Daedelus: It’s absolutely key. It’s everything! And it’s the same skillset you’re using on a stage - the same skillset when you decide that this is the right record at this time, this is the mood for the moment, this is the offering in this situation, or this is what I’m doing in the studio. It’s all the same skill, it’s willpower and decision-making.
You see these music makers who are great but they never have success. Maybe they don’t know when to say yes or no. They don’t know when to say yes themselves and they don’t know when to say no to others. These are the absolute building blocks to what we’re doing, and it’s not taught, generally speaking. It’s hard to teach! One person’s yes is another person’s no, but I do think it’s profound when you see someone with that wherewithal, that self-permission, and that’s one of the things I’m trying to propagate. Giving people permission to do their thing.
When you see it in action, it’s crazy. It’s just gorgeous.
Doug: I think one of the reasons why that skill is so hard to learn is that for a lot of people, me included, my initial reaction or priority is to make a living. To be able to survive, to be able to pay rent, whatever it is. And if that is the number one priority in someone’s life, the knee-jerk response in according to that is to say yes to whatever comes along.
Daedelus: But just remember that there is never even a yes or a no if there isn’t an offer. There’s already an offering involved, and even if that offering is just saying yes to yourself to doing this thing of music, that’s a profound thing right there. And you’ve already given yourself permission to dream this. The idea that you would then cut yourself short at the very next step of being in the world with it, is not doing that first yes any justice.
And I’m not saying to say no to that thing that comes along, but just have a value of your time. And your value might be low at this moment, but be cognizant of where that is going in the long term, rather than the short term. I mean, I totally appreciate that making a living is a huge need. You need to live in this thing. But the timeline has to be cognizant - it has to make sense as a thorough-thought. You’ve said yes to the past couple of years, four years, and for you to immediately say no to that permission you gave yourself is not honoring the self that you’ve been fostering.
The living is a short term idea. We all are relatively short term. Not to sound grim, but we do what we can in the small period of time that we have. It’s good to keep that perspective.
Doug: That’s really interesting. The idea that saying yes to doing music is a yes that is so valuable that we have to honor that by being selective.
Daedelus: Generally, fear-based decision making is never as profound as positive, forward-thinking decision making.
"The true value of a yes is the confidence to say yes, rather than a fearful yes. That’s not actually a yes, that’s like a quiet no."
Doug: It’s less of fear and more of an immediate reaction. Especially because when we’re in school, the idea of success is so easily twisted from the original reason of why we were involved with music or why we fell in love with music in the first place - maybe because we wanted to emulate our musical heroes or express the self. But when we come to school and we are surrounded by so many people like that, it seems that the idea of success is twisted to just being able to do this. Being able to do music and live in that world and have it pay for what we need.
Daedelus: But again, having it pay for what you need and living in that world are two different things. You are living and breathing music - like you said, you wake up thinking about music. You’re doing the act.
Now, making a living out of it is a very separate act. You have to negotiate with yourself where that wants to rest.
Doug: I think that the fact that I am able to live in music is so precious to me that I, and a lot of people as well, are worried that if I’m not able to make a living in music, that will be taken away from me.
Daedelus: I just know that there is a lot of value placed in being in the music world and being seen and heard and lauded with awards. But you’ve spent the past four years being within music, and nothing can take away the fact that you are music. You have put this so core to your identity, that if you were working a 9 to 5 job that had nothing to do with the sound world, you would still be music. Your passion would still be there, and in some ways you’d be able to think and breathe your own sound world more presciently, than you would if you had a job where you had to make someone else’s music.
Doug: So you believe that in a scenario where you’re working in music but it’s a thing that you don’t want to do versus a thing where it’s totally nothing to do with music, the situation in which you were working in a place that had nothing to do with music might actually be more beneficial, more freeing?
Daedelus: It just depends on where your mindset is. If you require that you are in the sound space at all times to continue to have music be central to your identity, then get a job at a sound space, but understand that it may not be your sound space that you’re offering. Whereas if you feel that the world isn’t going to beat you down at whatever 9 to 5, or whatever gig you have, there’s too many examples of people who have made profound offerings in music and have had jobs that didn’t involve music. Throughout recorded history, there’s just tons of people. Being a professional musician is a relatively recent invention.
Doug: I’d say the majority of successful artists have been people who haven’t made this their life and their world to begin with.
Daedelus: And they discover ways to do so.
I feel a lot of gratitude that I have never had a job until this job. I was just doing music. It’s not to say that I wasn’t thinking of music all the time, but so much of my work was administrative. Self-administrative that had nothing to do with sound.
It’s tricky, in some ways. I would have traded a lot to have some consistency to be able to work on all the different music that I wanted to. I love the freedom I had for the twenty years where I didn’t have a job, but I’m doing more here, in sound, than I ever was doing when I had total freedom.
It has really brought it home for me, this thing that I’ve been espousing for a long time but never been able to really look at the proof of. I love that I’m involved with music here, and I don’t feel separated, but it’s definitely not my sound when I’m dealing with students. I’m trying to put myself in the mindset of what they need and where the lessons are going, and a longer thought of where the student is, rather than where my sound is going.
But in some ways, I’m seeing that I’m getting more things done in my development in this institution where I’m spending 12 hours a day at this school. It’s a really profound change for me personally, but I really see it as a proof of concept that I needed for my own science experiment. I worked for 20 years, and everyday I worried about when the next check was coming, or where the next gig was going and having to do all the walk of getting the pieces together.
In hindsight, I could’ve been doing so much more music, but also in hindsight, there was never any time to do that. I’m happy with the amount of offerings I got together, and I’m sure that next year is going to be even that much more vigorous because of having a steady thing like this. It’s crazy.
Doug: That’s really interesting, the thought that having less total freedom has allowed you to be more productive in other ways.
Daedelus: And also it’s to do with community. As much as I was part of the community in LA, and I loved the beat-making scene, at the end of the day you go back to your house and you make the beats yourself. There’s very few opportunities to really be sitting together. You trade ideas and you have these profound moments on stage at Low End Theory or these other places, but in this community (Boston) there’s people who aren’t active performers who have taught me so much about performance because of their lack of performance, in some ways. It’s crazy.
Doug: To finish, do you prefer working with rhythm more or with harmony more?
Daedelus: Harmony. Harmony is the framework. Well, let’s say this - it’s all rhythm, and all rhythm is melody. There’s nothing that is separate from each other. Especially when I perform, my rhythmic gestures are my melodic gestures. I put a lot of feeling in rhythm, and we usually seclude rhythm from harmony and harmony from rhythm, for whatever reason. But in many ways, rhythm not only spells the dance move you’re doing but also the way that you enjoy the music.
I really believe that you have ears in your feet, you have ears in your body, you have ears in your head, and they’re all talking together and informing each other. The kind of speech which your feet are moving is the kind of balance in which your head can have joy. All these things are paying close attention to each other.
Just this idea of implied emotion is such a big idea to me. Harmony adrift from the music theory. Again, I’m trying to defeat music theory. I went through so many years of jazz theory, so many specific ways that chords sounded and were espousing certain ideas. But as soon as you really start to get away from that, just a little breath in a rhythm can be so much more joy than a major chord, and so you start to equate the two together, it’s kinda all harmony, at least in the classic sense.
Doug: I’ve always come from the perspective that harmony cannot exist without rhythm.
Daedelus: Well, it needs time. A single instance of a note doesn’t exist. Whereas music needs to be over time. It’s either noise, or music, and the main difference is temporal. But that being said, you have many cultural offerings around the world where our harmonic system doesn’t fit. Our harmonic system is an arbitrary twelve tone system that is really a certain set of math that we’ve prescribed, but there’s so many different kinds of math that yield both different time signatures as well as different harmonic relationships.
Doug: Cool! That’s good, then.
Words by Douglas Choi. Published 25th Jan 2020. Edited by Seiah Kim and Harsha Thangirala.