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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

DJ Daedelus, of the inventive sounds and Victorian threads, in Dubai

With more than 30 releases on labels including Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder, Daedelus is staggeringly prolific, technically mind-bending, spellbindingly innovative and ear-tinglingly good.
Eclectic DJ and music producer Daedelus will perform live in Dubai on June 11. Courtesy of One Hotel Dubai
Eclectic DJ and music producer Daedelus will perform live in Dubai on June 11. Courtesy of One Hotel Dubai

I already knew Daedelus was staggeringly prolific (because he’s released 30 LPs and EPs in the past 15 years). His music is technically mind-bending, spellbinding, innovative and ear-tinglingly good (because I’d heard some of said records, released on eclectic labels Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder). What I didn’t know – until I enjoyed a long, virtual coffee in his Santa Monica home via Skype – is that the 37-year-old DJ/producer/iconoclast is also a fascinating, soft-spoken, warm and witty orator. Our engaging, wide-ranging interview did nothing but whet my appetite for tomorrow’s set by the artist, otherwise known as Alfred Darlington, at Casa Latina, for club night Lofi District.

How do you feel about playing to a Middle Eastern audience for the first time?

The touring circuit has been expanding quite a bit for electronic music – you see more and more inclusion. And for someone as fringey as me, this is a whole new wave of opportunity. Los Angeles has been doing its thing for a long time – the beat scene, bass music, instrumental hip-hop, IDM, electronica – all these different names for the same kinds of ideas, I don’t know how much that’s been out there. I’m super-curious about the kind of things people have in their ears, and what the internet gives people. I’m thrilled. I’ve been trying to come out there for a little while, but it’s a slow process of making a wish, putting a coin in a well and waiting for the wish to echo back up.

Important question – will you be bringing your Victorian dandy garb?

That’s part of the gear for me. When you take to a stage, I really feel like it’s pretty hollow ground, you want to do it justice – the frockery or foppery is making a difference between the audience and yourself, making a space for them to imagine something else into it. I dress like that in my real life, too, offstage. So sometimes I get caught in situations where people think kind of silly thoughts about my attire, but that’s OK – whatever they want to do, it’s their time, not mine.

You’re one of a relatively rare breed of ­electronic artists with a formal musical training, as a jazz bassist. That must inform everything you do.

Absolutely, it turned me all around. It’s just a gift, to know some of the theory of things, and the way the chords work. But at the same time, it’s kind of like having handcuffs. I really do admire young musicians who don’t know any better and make glorious mistakes, which sound incredible. I’ve attempted at various points to unlearn a lot of the things I learnt at school – I don’t think that’s an uncommon refrain, I think a lot of people go through the same kind of struggle.

So tell me, what do James Joyce, an 1826 ­Royal Navy military frigate, Star Trek, an Italian metal band and a crater on the moon all have in common ...?

A misspelt electronic artist named Daedelus.

Precisely. Why?

I would only add to that that the greatest inventor of the ancient age never foresaw the future that he wrote. This idea of Daedalus the [Greek] inventor, this gentleman who made wings of wax for him and his son to fly across the sea, is this metaphor for so much that has occurred, so often again and again, in literature, history – it’s easy to be inspired by that.

You once toured with the legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla. Who has left the greatest impression on you?

I had a gig with [schizophrenic singer-­songwriter] Daniel Johnston – this mad, kind of sad fellow, who’s pretty low, kind of out of his brain. He was chain-smoking cigarettes and drinking Coca Cola at a venue where you weren’t supposed to smoke, and he was having a really hard time talking. He got onstage and even though his arms didn’t seem to work from the same body, and his voice was from somewhere else entirely, it just came together – he just turned on and became this other creature, this other force. That was really affecting. There was something that was deeper in the music that he was able to get to, and it was beautiful.

How do you see electronic music evolving in coming years?

Everything is definitely more blended than people give it credit for. EDM, as much as that’s a dirty word, is looking constantly to the underground and pulling things up that you never would have imagined would be in the charts. It has opened up the spires of a very tall castle, which have been very closely guarded for years and years. I don’t think its going to stick around forever, but for the time being it’s definitely going to put its fingers into everything, and so it really is the case that once the water rises, all boats rise with that water.

• Daedelus is live at Casa Latina at Ibis Al Barsha, Dubai, on Thursday, June 11. Doors open at 9pm, entry is Dh75

rgarratt@thenational.ae