Daedelus talks Low End Theory and the Boxer Rebellion
Back before “beat music” operated as the umbrella term encompassing the Low End Theory sound, there was Daedelus, the Santa Monica-born musician known for breaching genre constraints and for a set of stellar muttonchops that could humiliate Martin Van Buren. Hovering at the nebulous nexus between hip-hop, drum and bass, jazz and musique concrete, the musician, born Alfred Weisberg-Roberts, forged a singular aesthetic back when break beats and B-Boy poses still ruled the Los Angeles underground.
Only eight years into his career, the prolific producer already has released 10 solo albums, more than a dozen EPs and miscellaneous projects, plus full-length collaborations with prolix Project Blowed emcee Bus Driver, his wife Laura Darlington (under the moniker the Long Lost) and Dublab doyen Frosty (Adventure Time). Somehow, he found time to remix everyone from Wax Tailor to Sa-Ra, while amassing the finest collection of Edwardian coats this side of Roger Daltrey circa “A Quick One, While He’s Away.”
As a sign of the respect he commands, his output has been scattered across electronic music’s finest labels, including venerable indie imprints Plug Research, Alpha Pup, Brainfeeder and Ninja Tune. With the Low End Theory’s increased notoriety, Daedelus’ own profile has ascended like a tangent curve. In particular, a recent set on Mary Anne Hobbs’ influential BBC 1Xtra program further cemented his place in the upper echelon of Los Angeles beat-makers. Rocking a special extended Thanksgiving set at the Lincoln Heights club, he spoke to Pop and Hiss about his new label, how he got involved with the Low End Theory and the Boxer Rebellion.
How did you first fall into the Low End Theory orbit?
I’d known [Low End Theory co-founder Daddy] Kev for a long time. He actually used to run an amazing drum and bass and hip-hop night in L.A. called Concrete Jungle, that I’d sort of been shut out of because they only allowed certain members. I really wanted to be a part of it, but I was just a young wannabe drum and bass DJ.
I was an outsider who was interested in fairly weird stuff and I met Kev there and it was a long process of getting involved in the greater L.A. scene of beats or glitch hop, whatever you want to call it. Prior to Low End Theory, I was going to a night with all those guys called Sketchbook, which was a sort of a forerunner. The great thing about the club is that everyone is a fan of each other and it’s filled with awesome people who really love music. It’s not just beat heads, it’s psych-rock kids, prog people, funk fans, all the lost children.
Your main label is usually Ninja Tune, but you’re releasing on EP on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint at the beginning of next year. Is there any specific theme or new sound that you gravitated toward on this effort?
It’s actually based on the events of the Boxer Rebellion. I’ve been a fan of Victoriana for a long time — it was simultaneously a very peaceful time and one of expansion and war. The Boxer uprising was one of the last gasps of the British Empire and signaled the end of the 19th century. The long and short of it is that the British had forced the Chinese to keep doing opium, which triggered the opium wars about 60 years earlier. And around 1900, a group of anti-imperialist, anti-missionary "Boxers" tried to throw the British out. But what’s crazy is that the Boxers thought that they had magic powers and that they could fly and survive based off their knowledge of martial arts. But of course, they were slaughtered by guns. I was drawn to the fact that there wasn’t a soundtrack for it — not that there should be a soundtrack to massacre, but I’m a fan of epic stuff. Besides, when was the last time a war was fought with magic?
What specifically is it about Victorian culture and history that interests you so much?
It’s the idea of civility marred by acts of terrible violence. I’m also into soundtracks. I’m always trying to do them for stuff that hasn’t been made yet. It’s an event without the underpinnings, and also Brainfeeder is such an open place — I couldn’t do this weird of an idea for just any label. They’re taking chances on a lot of interesting stuff right now, from ambient to beat-heavy stuff.
You also recently started your own Magical Properties label this year. Was that something you’d always wanted to do?
I’ve been on enough labels to know the pains of it all. Plus, the wash and slosh of the current media and environment tends to lead to things being overlooked, so I was definitely hesitant. It wasn’t something I resisted, but it wasn’t something I pursued either. Then it became more and more obvious that there was this Catch-22 in the industry: to get on a label, you have to be in a situation where you can release things or get some sort of hype. It’s almost impossible to exist out of nowhere or without some machinery. So, basically, I started it to put on artists whom I thought were overlooked. Jogger are making amazing music, and I wanted to give them a mouthpiece where they could get in a position to talk to other labels where everyone will benefit.
It’s getting near the end of the year. Are there any tracks or albums that stand out as favorites?
2000F’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” is totally different. It’s like a Zapp and Roger track from the future, released on Hyberdub. Not to shamelessly self-promote, but I loved the Jogger record. And of course all the beat stuff that come out of L.A.: Nosaj Thing, Flying Lotus, Matthewdavid, Ras G. I really loved the latter’s “Penny’s Confession.” I don’t listen to all that much new music, though. This year, I probably listened to samba, bossa nova and library music the most.
Photo by Laura Darlington
Daedelus at Low End Theory at the Airliner, 2419 N. Broadway, 9 p.m. tonight, $10