Alfred Darlington is a dork. He has a Greek myth-inspired stage name, Daedelus; he’s mastered an impressive range of nerdy instruments (the bass clarinet, the accordion and a peculiar electronic device called a monome, to name a few); plus, he dresses like a dapper, Victorian-era statesman — com- plete with suede coattails and one triumphant set of mutton chops.
He’s also one of modern electronic music’s most vibrantly innovative producers and a flagship contributor to L.A.’s increasingly influential beat music movement — the emerging patchwork of artists and musical styles that has redefined the boundaries of hip-hop and electronica in the past decade.
With thirteen studio albums and a string of countless EPs under his belt, Darlington has refined his infectious bursts of unhinged sonic joy, establishing himself as one of L.A.’s beat-making VIPs. His latest album Bespoke utilizes all the trans-genre tinkering of his past work — aided by a few of indie’s most engrossing voices — to produce danceable, sample-heavy grooves that are as exploratory as they are utterly beautiful.
Darlington recently spoke with the Guardian about his roots, his collaborations and his upcoming headlining performance at this year’s Warren Live festival.
“I’m kind of a history buff,” Darlington said of his innumerable influences. “You might notice that my records reference moments in history and literature quite a bit. Also, some geographical locations inspire me. I find Wales to be very influential, the country of Brazil to be very influential.”
Though Darlington’s music often dwells in the familiar — intelligent beats punctuated by bubbly pop sensibilities — one gets the impres- sion that he’s operating on a plane entirely separate from that of your typical flipped-bill, fist-pumping laptop jockey. This individuality can, in part, be attributed to Darlington’s jazz background.
“I had fallen in love, primarily, with the music of jazz,” Darlington said. “But I was playing double bass and there aren’t many routes for a bass player. Unless you switch to electric, you’re either in a psychobilly band or you’re playing jazz. I do love the music... yet at the same time, it is a kind of museum piece. There isn’t that much being written for the medium that celebrates the old while taking it to the new. And that, for me, is the modern electronic scene.”
At that time, however, the now-prosperous beat movement was still in utero.
“In the late ’90s, the L.A. scene seemed really fragmented,” Darlington said. “There was this sense that drum and bass, or later on dubstep, was going to be the sound of the future. It was the sound they used in car commercials [laughs]. There just wasn’t much personality — it didn’t speak to people.”
But Darlington continued making music in L.A., slowly becoming both participant in, and witness to, a for- midable sea change in modern electronica. Finding a mecca in Low End Theory — an experimental hip hop and electronic nightclub in Lincoln Heights — Darlington and contemporaries such as The Glitch Mob and Flying Lotus gained underground eminence, testing the boundaries of an entirely new genre.
“It’s one of those funny things — just life, in general, where you don’t pick a path, but the road rises to you,” Darlington said. “I started making music at the crossroads of hip-hop and electronic music, which is very fertile ground.”
Daedelus, like many beat musi- cians, gained early notoriety from collaborations. In 2004, rapper/producer Madlib sampled Darlington’s Invented track “Experience” in “Accordion” — the second track from the hugely acclaimed MF Doom and Madlib (aka Madvillain) release Madvillainy. Darlington was even featured in the music video.
“Madlib is one of the most creative gentlemen in Los Angeles, period,” Darlington said. “The way I got involved in Madvillain was just a twisting and turning — it had to do with music that was leaked, and beats that were made a long time ago by Madlib that sampled some of my work. I even got a chance to tour with them. I played accordion, actually. That tour was MF Doom, Madlib and Jay Dilla; it was incredible. Experiences like that, they change things. They change me.”
Yet Darlington is as much an individual as he is a man behind the curtain, embracing a range of earnest influ- ences from Turkish psych and Saigon funk to his keystone Victoriana fashion sense.
“But all of this stuff is just background noise,” Darlington said. “If people want to have the context, then it’s there, but if not, it’s just music. It’s not supposed to have everything spelled out.”
This year’s Warren Live finds Daedelus sharing a stage with fellow beat scene luminary Nosaj Thing — a seasoned lineup that will undoubtedly make for a memorable year-end show.
“San Diego is certainly not outside the bounds of what the Southern California movement is, and the fact that we can all celebrate together is just an honor and a privi- lege for me,” Darlington said. “I’m psyched to flip some wigs.”
And that’s a sentiment that puts the calculated pseudo-dorkiness of Muirstock headliners Hellogoodbye to absolute shame.
Catch Daedelus at Warren Mall on May 20. Free for all UCSD students.