Daedelus' Weird Science
Go ahead and keep your policemen, doctors, astronauts and firemen. When Alfred Darlington was a young'un, the only thing he wanted to be was an inventor. "I always took things apart and would break things more than fix things," the 35-year-old remembers. "I did a lot of disassembling of the entire household's electronics, to my parents' somewhat anger, but they understood the impulse."
To Darlington (born Alfred Weisberg-Roberts), invention represented equal parts science and magic since he didn't really have a clue as to how machines were actually produced. "My inventions were more strange crafts than anything that physical," he says. "Trying to plug something back in after you take it apart ended up with a lot of puffs of smoke and other kinds of fire magic. Again, a little dangerous, but that's feeling out your space that informs the childhood experience."
As is usually the case with children and the careers they envision, Darlington didn't become an inventor. The Santa Monica native quickly realized that his talent in math and science was limited, and he had "these clumsy, large hands" he couldn't work past. Still, his fate didn't turn out too shabby.
Now Los Angeles-based, Darlington ended up as Daedelus, a musician who cribbed his stage name from a vital figure in Greek mythology who is best known for being Icarus' papa and—not coincidentally—an inventor. With his work as an electronic/avant-garde producer and DJ, Darlington transfers the gist of his namesake's aptitude for ingenuity to the sonic medium. His 2011 record, Bespoke, finds common ground for gooey, doo-wop vocals, horn sections that double as a classed-up version of a Sonic the Hedgehog theme, galaxy-gazing synthesizers, New Age-y chants that flow with a waterfall's fullness, and whatever else he can find. As an audacious combo of junk collector, archeologist and gallery curator, Daedelus is the sort who could find use for any recording.
Darlington's history with off-the-beaten-path music traces back to his parents' interest in the experimental tendencies of Steve Reich, John Cage and musique concrète. As a youth, he savored the concept of content that sounded like "music from outer space." Other noteworthy records and artists from his salad days include Belgian electronic outfit Front 242 (whose vinyl was the first Darlington bought), Acen's Trip II the Moon, Parliament-Funkadelic (a neighbor's uncle managed George Clinton), Depeche Mode's Speak & Spell and the Cure's Three Imaginary Boys.
On the performance side, he started performing with the school orchestra in the second grade. Though he would have preferred to play the bassoon, he was instead given the clarinet; eventually, he took up the bass clarinet and double bass. By the late 1990s, he had adopted the name DJ Daedelus and was struggling to crack the local drum-and-bass scene. He collected records, produced some things and hustled some, but no one would book him since the scene focused on U.K. DJs and established locals who didn't want competition.
Eventually, he ended that pursuit to seek other electronic avenues. "If I had actually been successful and deejayed those nights, I wouldn't be talking to you now. I'd be done. That world ended awhile ago," he says. "I don't know if I would have had the courage to move if I had just been embraced. I might have gotten a tattoo—'Jungle is forever'—and been done, so that failure was a wonderful moment in my life."
Darlington recently completed a full-length, tentatively titled Drown Out, and hopes to make records that sound dissimilar in technique and tone. So far, he has made good on the ambition, yet he has fundamentally stuck to electronic music the whole time.
Following that trajectory appears to clash with his knack for invention, but he has an explanation that argues otherwise. "I was in a surf-rock band for a while, which was fantastically fun, and the project with my wife, the Long Lost, is almost like a folk-music piece, even though we do do some electronics," he says. "But the truth is, electronic music is everything."
This allows him the chance to cull from jazz, hip-hop, punk and whatever else he wants to get to the final product. "Sure, I'm trying to push [the ultimate sound] into this place, and occasionally, when I'm playing raves, I'm not able to express the fullness of the sound I'd like, but, dude, it's all there," he says. "Everything's possible."
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