Daedalus Interview

January 31, 2010


Stefano Gabana (he of ‘Dolce &…’ fame) once said that style is all a game with new rules for every season. One person who refuses to play by these rules, stylistically or sonically is Alfred Weisberg-Roberts (or Alfred Darlington to call him by his self-anointed married name). He’s better known as Daedalus, the experimental music producer who has crossed more boundaries than kissing cousins, and whose 2007 single “Fair Weather Friends” has insidiously hi-jacked my brain and dragooned all other tracks from my lips. We met up with him in advance of his most recent Twistin of the Pepper to discuss dancing, dandies, and the wonder that is the monome.

You take your moniker from the famous inventor Daedalus. How important is inventiveness in music to you both as an artist and also as a listener?

More then invention I strive for a sense of wonder. The two aren’t far from each other, but in music I think people are hardwired to feel before thinking, intuitively react, and then it sometimes sinks down with finer filters into reason. Invention for the composer, wonder for the listener when all is correct… oh so rarely.

Your music has been called difficult to define. Take a stab at doing what so many of us critics have done badly.

It’s like a children’s game of cops and robbers; my job is to be as unboxed as possible and writers work is to make as small a box as feasible, metaphorically speaking. But aside from playtime distractions I’ve been described as “Romantic” or “Post-Pluderphonic,” which is ridiculous… and probably closer to truth then I’d care to admit.

You are quite a visual artist. How much a role does this play in your preparation for a show? And given that it is now expected of you to be visually stimulating how do you keep your act fresh?

I do believe all the senses are involved in live performance, and people do tend to be quite visual. I’m not blind to it, and as such I do think the Monome to be a fantastic performance instrument. As for my personal style it is done simply to feel more comfortable, I’d dress Victorian at all times if at all possible. Hopefully when I achieve a certain older age and perhaps white hair color this will be easier. It is fun to look at a crowd of hyper-hipster youths, maledicted to their now fashions, and watch them confused at my period pieces and only able to reference bad vampire movies or Willy Wonka. A smug satisfaction to not race them down that steep slope.

Who inspires you visually?

Joseph Cornell, Beau Brummell, Frédéric Chopin, and most of all my dear wife Laura Darlington

You once said, “if a song can get some one to move and then gets them to move their heart, it’s winning”. Is that the approach you take when it comes to putting a track together?

More so live, but in production it is hard not to think about how possibly you can get into someone’s psyche. It is quite the case that many songs refrain on love or love-lost and I have found it fun to plumb other emotions that when set to song can avoid some of the obvious. Madness, jealousy, obsession, patriotism, to name a few I have attempted, and probably not executed well.

Could you describe the monome, for anybody that isn’t familiar with the technology of dance music?

Oh it does so much, but the slim way I employ it is as a sort of infinite keyboard of selected samples. Small audio clips that I can further manipulate as the situation dictates with very little pre-production, letting the show go where it pleases the audience or myself best, or blunderously. And it is formatted as a square collection of 256 buttons (the large of the two I use, the other is 64 buttons) that light up.

You just played Coachella. How different is it for you to play such a huge festival and then play small clubs like the Twisted Pepper? Which do you prefer?

I may sound like I am pandering to this soon time in Dublin, but really, truly, when in a space where all the whites of people’s eyes are visible and we are all in it together, this is the absolute best. At these mega raves and huge festivals are exhilarating, having thousands in attendance, but also a sort of energy loss; the best gigs happen in cramped quarters, sweating walls etc.

What’s the difference between British and American audiences and their reactions to rave music?

British audiences can be a bunch of nutters, American kids can wait for the cameras to come out to really get going, French kids tend to stroke their chins a lot more then you’d think, Italians don’t do it any better, but aside from these stereotypes, the right crowd is the right crowd, often you can tell before a gig begins if the night will be forever. Something about when the audiences brings the party with them…

Is there anyone whose music is really impressing you right now and whose music always impresses you?

I am quite astounded and filled with pride for my Los Angeles peers right now, lots of good music from Samiyam, Jogger, Nosaj Thing, Computer J, Flying Lotus, Ras G, Build an Ark, Daddy Kev, and that’s only one facet to the city. All the rock records out recently have been marvelous as well.

What’s your favorite early 90s rave track?

Acen’s “Trip to the Moon part 2”, it is the stuff dreams are made of.

How much do your clothes say about you as a person? How long have you experimented or expressed yourself through dress?

Other then facial expression, our most telling feature is the way one wears their attire. So on an average day you can tell I am somewhat unkempt, almost in a daze, but on stage hopefully well-composed and ready for work in three-pieces and tails.

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