On June 14th, electronic music producer and ex-jazz-ist performed at Brooklyn’s Studio B with fellow Ninja Tune artist Ghislain Poirier. Using the monome, an unfathomably complex device that looks like an old Lite-Brite (remember those?), Daedelus’ one-man production is expanding the horizons of live electronic music.
Before the show, I was able to pick the brain of the musical and technological whiz, enlightening me to his views of music culture in the face of the Internet and his college years as a radio pirate at USC. He even has some distant ties to the Hudson Valley Polish community, who would have thought? Unfortunately, due to the poor acoustics of Studio B’s backstage and rowdy pre-show antics, parts of the interview were incoherent. The following section is but a brief snippet of our longer chat, so please excuse the abrupt beginning.
M: So, the Internet could be thought of as a double-edged sword. In many ways it can help artists, but I’m curious… [interrupted]
D: It’s just a gift.
M: It’s a gift? You think there is no downside?
D: Not yet. I mean, as an independent artist, if I had come along ten years ago, just ten years ago even, like really coming along, where I was really putting these kind of records out, the chance for real radio play is almost zero. College radio is certainly a strong force, but even ten years ago, the chance of people of people to be diligent, in terms of finding out more information… no way!
Sure there were more record stores back then, but still the shelves were cluttered with releases. You might have something up for a week or two, somebody buys it and it takes another week or two to restock it… you’re done. The Internet is like a store; you’re always there. People can always hear your sounds, it’s like radio now. For all intents and purposes, somebody downloads my music for free, it’s like them hearing the radio. It’s hard to make my object compelling enough for them to buy it, but really, my goal is to have people hear my music. I make a living at it now, and that’s something that is very nice. But ay! I’m going to die, and I want people to hear my music.
M: Wow, that’s fantastic.
D: We don’t all need to be living in mansions.
M: Ha! So I guess it comes down to a matter of philosophy…
D: Yeah, I’d say so. And the other thing too is that I know I have a definitive perspective of my electronic sound. If I wanted people to buy my records I would make house or cheesy techno, that is, if I wanted people to consume in that way. But, having a personality makes it so you have to have a much longer vision. And some people get the pass, like Flying Lotus. He’s a homey from LA as well, a good friend, it’s the kind of thing where it’s great he has a personality and his own sound and people are buying it, and it’s really cool… but it doesn’t happen often. Hype is a crazy thing, you know. I think he’s in for the long run, but I see a lot of other bands that just get eaten up. It’s not worth it, and the Internet contributes to that as well, but it’s still a gift.
M: So is that what Dublab is? All Internet, no radio waves, is that an expansion of your philosophy on the internet and your philosophy on music?
D: Yeah, definitely. But it’s also activating a community, too. Whereas the Internet is a great organizer for community basis, but you need the physical as well, it can’t all be virtual. And that’s something that’s cool about Dublab, it’s multi-disciplinary, it’s not just music, they’ve done a lot of art projects, a lot of film projects. They’ve got a lot of different creative people involved in a way that really feels natural. It’s been around for ten years and it’s only done a handful of releases and videos. But if you go back and look at their archive, it’s insane! The people they’ve had through that have done live sets, the people they’ve filmed for their vision version, the artists they’ve had involved in some of their projects, it’s incredible. And only because of the Internet is that possible, that they can have such a wide throw. And you know, it’s precarious nowadays; they’re a non-profit that barely squeaks by. It’s nice to be involved in that kind of basis; as you know all too well, if you project something good out there that you have a lot of belief in, man, there’s not a better feeling.
M: And that was a college creation, right?
D: Yeah, we all worked at this college radio station called KSCR, which was USC’s radio station. But USC had a real college station that played only classical music, KUSC. But, it was weird, they [USC] gave money to them and funded them, they have some business programming that’s original for them, and it gets played all around the country. And our little college radio station, for a while, was transmitting, and then they didn’t get as much funding so we got canned. Then we were a pirate station for a while, and got that feel, and got shut down by the FCC.
That forced us, at the time, to go onto the Internet. But it was a little too early for the Internet; well, it was 2000 and there were plenty of Internet radio stations, but it was a little too early for that idea. We were doing a lot of electronic music programming. When I was MD there, it was over 24 hours of pure electronic music programming, which for a college radio station, is a lot. I’d say that experience lead to Dublab, pretty much. Going from being a pirate to the Internet, and seeing how that world worked was interesting. It’s been a weird ride for sure.
M: Is there any moment in particular that jumps out?
D: Yeah, well there was a moment when Dublab was about 2 years old, it was 2002, and the Internet bubble hadn’t burst: I remember there was an offer for $600,000 to buy out the station. But it would have been in stock options and wherever else. But it was still the kind of thing where you knew, even though it was valuable and there was money on the table and it was enough to have few people to live well for a while, Dublab would have been dead. It would have been dismantled and the shows would have been rerouted for some corporate entity. It basically would have been the cash-grab, and you would’ve been out, and nothing would have happened. It would’ve been another Internet failure. Hey, we didn’t make money, but we’re still around.
M: That’s how I’ve experienced college radio; the price we pay to stay on the air is unbelievable. And it’s fantastic when we break even every year, and that’s where community becomes so important. A majority of our DJ’s and listeners are from the neighboring community, and because of that we get a lot of Polka shows, which is rad, and… [interrupted]
D: Actually, my step-uncle plays in a lot of surf rock bands, but he used to play in a Polka group for a long time. And he talks about the circuit they use to have in the East Coast area; that’s what they did, they would just grind that circuit over and over again, playing Polka music all the time. It blows my mind.
M: That’s wild. I knew a guy who owned the record store I went to as a kid… he played in a band calledPolkacide, a hard-core Polka band from San Francisco.
M: Yeah, he played guitar, they were really good, they got huge crowds.
D: Oh! That was a famous band, right?
M: Yeah, they played with the Dead Kennedys.
D: Oh yeah! Whoa, that’s random.
M: That IS random! Well, anyways, you grew up in Cali, right?
D: Yeah, L.A.
M: You were a teenager in the 80’s, 90’s?
D: I was a teenager in the 90’s.
M: 90’s, ok. So you were probably doing a lot of jazz then, but were you at all influenced by what was going on in the hip-hop scene, like NWA and Dre?
D: Well, I went through that thing where I was getting into jazz and classical, and playing that kind of stuff. But on the side I discovered this electronic stuff, this early wave stuff from like 92 and 93. That’s what really float my wig [?], and I’d play it for all my friends and they thought I was crazy. I was the only kid that wasn’t in the Hispanic community or some of the communities that were more down with the underground scene at school that were going to raves, but I was too nerdy and too young to go to raves. So I liked the music but I didn’t really know the culture. But I knew some kids that were candy ravers, and do these kind of things, but I didn’t really know them, I knew of them. So I was really passionate about that, the music that was my treasure. In the end, the kind of thing that I would share with my close friends and they would laugh at me.
M: Did you hide these records under your bed and hide from your parents?
D: It felt like it sometimes; even though I would tell them about my interests and they would go out and buy me some Inspiral Carpets… they would ask the person at the record store, [goofy voice] “My son is into electronic music…”, and they would get me an Einstürzende Neubauten or KMFDM, which were totally not from my aesthetic.
M: So they weren’t really with the scene, huh?
D: Ha! Yeah, well they just didn’t know, but I didn’t really know either. I was just collecting names and trying to figure things out over time. When it was pre-internet… it was literally a treasure hunt. You would just dig sometimes, you’d buy five CDs at a record store with all your lunch money, and you’d get one song out of all these compilations that would be any good at all. It sucked, it was the worst. Nowadays kids have it so easy! But thank goodness, because now during my sets, I’ll play the most random stuff and I notice kids will know the song, no matter how obscure it is. The Internet man, it’s wonderful.