sits patiently in the waiting area at Denver International Airport, about to
fly off to Portland, where he plays yet another gig tonight. He's chatting
with me about his new album on Ninja Tune called Love To Make Music To. The title is not a typo, but
in fact a good way of describing what Daedelus does and how he got things
all twisted around in the making of a record Ñ in this case to such happily
Daedelus Ñ original name Alfred
Weisberg-Roberts; his assumed name refers to the sculptor of ancient lore Ñ
is a nattily attired young man whom one might like to lazily call a
"DJ," although this particular artist should more accurately be
thought of as a "serious composer" working within, roughly, the
experimental-dance/electronic realm. Over the course of several albums
released on many of the most progressive electronic-oriented labels, such
as Mush, Phthalo, Plug Research and, most recently, Ninja Tune, he's
collaborated with the likes of Dntel, speed-rapper Busdriver, MF Doom, Sci,
Cyne, Mike Ladd and Prefuse 73's Scott Herren, along the way finding time
to craft extraordinary sonic statements like Exquisite Corpse (Mush/Ninja Tune), a
cinematic, sampled-string-drenched wonder world of arcane dialogue bits
blended with impossibly complicated beats.
It is said that Daedelus has a
bigger record collection than you or you or you, though the size is only
part of its import. It's the type of stuff he collects and which ends up
inhabiting his own music Ñ your basic hip-hop stuff, of course, but then a
lot of jazz, vintage funk/R&B/soul and most of the Hollywood and Euro
film soundtracks circa 1940-1980, every kind of world music, vast hunks of
vintage electro-acoustic and musique concrete, and four tons of bossa nova,
Musica Popular Brasileira and batucada
But that's just to give you a hint of
where the Santa Monica-born, USC-educated Daedelus is coming from, and to
give some contrasting shades to his new Love To Make Music To, an upbeat, positive,
romantic, fulla life virtual homage to rave culture that seems very
deliberately extrovert, and which is in many respects a total departure for
"It definitely is lively,"
he says with a laugh. "The label had a great deal of effect, plus the
idea of working with a London-based label and the European market. There's
Ninja Tune's psychic image, their weight of history Ñ a label that really
is known for strange dance music, or strange electronic-music
He points out that, regarding the
album's upbeatness, the whole time he was doing this record, he was also
working with his wife, singer-composer Laura Darlington, on a very dour and
dirgey project called the Long Lost.
"So in some ways on past
records, where I kind of oscillated between different tempos and different
moods, this one kind of kept me grounded upbeat, 'cause I was throwing a
lot of energy in a different direction on a different record."
On this one, he attempts to
rediscover and re-create a moment in time that was very brief but had, for
many, a shatteringly deep impact and that was, at the same time, sort of a
dream state only loosely hitched to reality. He explains:
"There's at least an aspect of
that rave culture when there was confusion about what dance music was at
that moment in time," he says. "And actually, I was too young to
really have a sense of what that exactly meant, but just as a reflection
that I was receiving, it was almost optimism; even with all these dark
synth pads and cheesy samples, at times it really did identify with me as
being a very positive thing."
Thus, his homage to rave tips a hat
not just to the happy vibe or atmosphere of the original scene, but to the
actual analog-synth sounds that gave it its ferocious heat and whamming
impact. All of these things have their sources in even earlier scenes, of
"We've really had rave culture
since the Northern Soul parties in England, these all-nighters. It's been
around for a long time, just in a different form," he says. "But
the moment that most people would talk about was '92-'93."
This was, in hindsight, a mere
moment when a lot of divergent music, like house and hip house and acid
house and early techno and also breakbeat, your Bomb Squad and
Ultramagnetic MC's (sampled heavily by the rave producers of the time), all
came together in one genre.
"There was a moment in time
when every record that everyone was putting out was a rave record,"
opines Daedelus, "and that was really rare in our highly fractured
genre. It was a mad mix where you had people doing very computer-based
production, very drum-machine-type production, but mixed with these really
advanced samplers, where you start to have people throwing in longer, you
know, five seconds' worth of a string sample or something. This was really
like people taking musical history and throwing it all together."
Which is what the rather
antiminimalist Daedelus does too, on this new album. Just so much sonic
information shoves for attention in these tracks, not to a claustrophobic,
show-offy effect but with his now infamously architectural flair for sound
design and, most importantly, extremely reverberant combinations of melody,
harmony and texture.
From the impossibly up opening
"Fair Weather Friends," which is built on a sample of a Japanese
surf guitarist from the '60s, to the "failed experiments in
minimalism" of tracks like "I Took Two" and "Twist the
Kids," however, some of the production ideas behind these tracks
differ quite a bit from Daedelus' typical styles, with less emphasis on the
painting with samples of his past work and a newfound hands-on wrangling of
a lot of very old analog keyboards.
It's that thick, fat, buzzing
analog-synth sound that gives his new tracks this in-your-face sort of
sociability, all of which arrives courtesy of the vintage gear of his
beloved 1992 rave scene.
"On this record, I have a love
affair with the Roland SH-09. In rave culture, the SH-101 is the most
stolen synthesizer, and one of the early analog synths to have. It was one
of the first to have an arpeggiator, in a real cheap form, so it wasn't
your kind of really fancy Jupiter synths, it was more a ground-level kind
of thing. So, using the SH-09 allows me to sort of get to some of those
sound sets, 'cause it's really an exact precursor to the 101. It doesn't
have an arpeggiator, but it has its own unique bass sound. People talk
about the Moog series having an amazing bass sound, but this one is really
He's also doing some extraordinary
things with the famous old "Hoover bass" technique: Basically, a
kind of very low subtone would come into a record at certain intervals, and
in so doing on a big sound system, it would kind of blow people's hair
around back in the day. It can also make the material around the knees of
your pants vibrate.
Then there's his trusty
MIDI-controller the Monomeme, which allows him to sample bits and pieces of
a song he's created, or even live material, and rips them apart on the fly,
recombines, reverses, repeats 'em, allowing for a lot of improvisational
control in an immediate fashion. That's his main ax onstage, and he's now
used it extensively in Love To Make Music To.
"When I'm using the Monomeme
live, I'm trying to find the audience," says Daedelus. "I'm
trying to find what people want to hear and what they want to do."
It's a reflex that steered the early rave DJs toward the sound of surprise.
The original rave masters "were making music that was futuristic, and
it's a future that never came to pass," he says. "As quick as it
happened, all those genres Ñ breakbeat, house and techno Ñ they all fragmented
back into their own individual categories. So this is a dream more than a
bittersweet to be dealing with genres that people aren't familiar with, so
when you're subverting them, people won't know. And rave music, a lot of
people won't know Ñ and why should they? It's a very specific moment in
time, and that's what makes it so compelling."