October 27th, 2007 | Interviews

dan monick

Daedelus was born on Halloween and just released his newest Fair Weather Friend EP on Ninja Tune.

How did being born on Halloween most affect your life?
It’s been a lifetime—truly a lifetime of candy, of oodles and oodles of candy, and not that much interest in it.
That’s kind of intriguing.
I don’t like chocolate and I’m not a fan of hard candy—it got to a point in middle school where I’d have parties of a hundred kids trick or treating, and it wasn’t as much for my birthday as it was for Halloween, but I’d give out all the candy at the end of the night. All the neighborhood people knew it was my birthday and that I’d give out bags of stuff. So I had an early taste of what it’s like to buy popularity.
What does it say about you that you chose to turn away from such gifts?
That’s an existential question! Maybe I was born different. Something terrible. No webbed toes—maybe just not liking candy. And maybe that’s enough.
Why did you describe yourself as a role-playing-game geek?
I wasn’t a social kid—I didn’t do LARPing, though. That was as far as I went.
Lack of resources or lack of interest?
Interest—I didn’t wanna walk around the room with a finger on my head to signify that I was invisible. I wanted to go on a journey in my mind. I played every futuristic fantasy game there was.
You bet—I had my fair share of demihumans. And I did—the sad truth—have awesome times. I played awesome bards or entertainers—charisma classes a lot. It’s the saddest thing in the universe that I would try to shadow what I wanted to be later in life. That might cut too close to the truth. And the other thing that was sad—people role-play to get out of themselves, and I’d be like lawful-neutral-good character classes. I never attempted to go to the dark side. I was trying to live a goody-two-shoes life.
Where would you put your charisma level at now?
It’s woeful. I’m a gnome or even a gnoll. Minus-two in most of what I do.
Good lyrics.
Maybe for Final Fantasy or something. Comeliness low, charisma moderate—I try to dress it up. I liked to play GURPS and Champions. I wasn’t much of a number cruncher, but I knew my way around it. I appreciate the disadvantages as well as the advantages. You graduate from the first level of power gaming to the second level of … disadvantage gaming.
Has that colored your philosophy of life?
As much as I’d deny it, I bet it bleeds into every single thing I do. In music I definitely tell stories more than I think I would. I do think a little story is the most important thing. Songs especially—if they don’t have some kind of reason or story, it’s pretty boring business.
Who is a musician you think does that well?
Atom Heart—he’s the guy behind the project where he did Kraftwerk as a Latin jazz band. He’s this crazy German guy—he makes a record a week, or that was his thing for a couple of years. I don’t know his story, but his music always has a thematic idea that’s serious and humorous at the same time. And a lot of stuff I’m pulling from—this is where I’m going into dark territory—but a lot of rave records got me into this. They have these kinds of stories about darkness and ‘into the light’ and really epic ideas that appeal to a twelve-year-old, or someone on ecstasy.
Jethro Tull as acid house?
Or the metal impulse—music that’s both serious and funny. You can make fun of it, but still take it seriously. That’s kind of lacking in electronic music. I can appreciate dance music, but I don’t think it laughs at itself. I don’t think Spank Rock looks in the mirror like, ‘Dude, these sunglasses are a little large even for me.’
The L.A. people we talk to seem to have a good sense of humor about themselves, though.
That’s super-important. Everyone realizes that we’re all trying hard, but if someone takes themselves too seriously, they’ll be called out pretty fast. And a lot of the scene here is especially grounded in the early hip-hop community, like Project Blowed and Freestyle Fellowship which was something taken very seriously—but everyone was also under fire all the time.
So it forces you to be humble?
Why would you want to be anything else anyway? Unless you’re serious electronic people from England. That’s the new goth—IDM. I swear.
Less eye-liner?
And more white t-shirts.
When were you ever shot down for taking yourself too seriously?
I’ve certainly had my fair share of ‘So who are you?’ And then they turn around and walk away. I played a fest in England—the Bestival—on the Isle of Wight, and there were 30,000 people in costume, and the headliners were like the Beastie Boys, and the Specials were playing. It was awesome. And absolutely nobody at the fest knew who I was. There were a thousand other things going on. Like a burlesque tent. How could I compete?
Take your shirt off.
That doesn’t work too well with my hairy chest. But it was a purifying experience. No hype, no name value—it’s just about what you do on stage. The dude before me was a techno DJ, but he killed it—doing an uptempo four-on-the-floor thing—and the 600 kids in the tent were going nuts. And I realized—there is no hope. Literally no hope for me. I can have the most killer night, and half the crowd is still gonna go. And that’s just how it is. You see the box you’re in. And that in itself is a wonderful warm place. There’s a little comfort in confinement.
You said once you were waiting for someone to make a word for the music you do—why? How about ‘daedalism’?
‘Daedal’ is a word, but it means genius, so I couldn’t use it for myself! But IDM has become such a big thing—though like most electronic terms, it means something very specific, and as soon as you exit the boundaries, you’re screwed. Journalists like catchphrases—there are reasons for themed issues of magazines—and unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I haven’t heard something that stuck. And record to record, I like to flirt with different things. It seems like I’m pushing the rock up the hill all over again.
Is there any one record common to all the producers and musicians you’ve worked with?
It goes between different ages. For the dublab kids, it’s psych or Brazilian—
Os Mutantes?
Or Jorge Ben—everyone loves it and anyone can DJ it and it’ll fly. And if you take more dance music—like the Root Down kids—it’s Prince or Michael Jackson. Untouchable funky kind of records. And a lot of younger kids—newer producers—look at Busdriver’s early records, specifically Temporary Forever. That record for a lot of kids is a wacky world that’s artistic and forward thinking. And in terms of commercial stuff—a lot of people cite The Chronic as a masterpiece. And it is—but if you come from L.A., you know how much it actually has to do with L.A.
You said that children’s records and soundtracks take the most chances—what did you mean?
Those records are intentionally kind of hobbled. The childrens’ records—they dumb them down and they’re made on low budgets, and spoken word are kind of the same. They’re made without an audience in mind. And that’s totally what I prey on. Soundtracks especially—they’d make certain choices, and those choices were usually to leave space for visuals, and you can step in and create your own. The whole story thing again—you can spell something out that wasn’t intended. That’s the best feeling—when you’re remixing and you can take it some place totally unlike itself, and people instantaneously know where you’re coming from. That’s why rare groove is so successful with people—they intentionally left space, which people can fill in. It’s like a coloring book. You can totally see it, but you have to paint it.
Did you ever meet George Clinton as a child?
Absolutely. For better or worse, my next-door neighbor, who was my best friend—her father’s brother was his manager or dealer or something. For whatever reason, I ended up spending a lot of time at their compound in L.A. It smelled always of photo chemicals, and I remember basically sitting on George Clinton’s lap. I remember his crazy orange afro-slash-mohawk. Not your usual everyday thing. And through this connection I had all their records as a kid. I missed the sexual and drug references, but it’s still fun music. I still listen to it all the time. There’s an idea between a lot of samplers—if something is born perfect or finished, why mess with it unless you can bring something to the table? It sounds incredible, and you hear how other people have used it—but it’s just finished! They went someplace totally unique on their own. It has space, but don’t mess with it. At least not for me.
What was your surf rock band?
I played in a band called the Mash Notes. We were called the Favorites at first, but since that was factually incorrect, we had to change it.
What conscience.
Exactly. We played some strange gigs. It was kind of a pride thing, but when we’d play around town, we’d only play donut shops. Which was surprisingly easy. You’d be there with instruments and amps and twenty people outside, and bring up the subject and say, ‘Twenty people are gonna buy donuts if you let us play.’ The other steady gig was the house band at the comedy night at Largo. And it was amazing to sit behind the comedians and watch them flounder and turn on us. There’s nothing worse than material that’s not going anywhere. We’d watch them pick on the audience and then the band.
Who was the most vicious?
One comedian in particular—he was known for his angry humor. He was all ready to cut into it. The opening part of his joke was suicide—not even the punchline.
Nowhere to go but up?
And of course someone in the audience had had someone commit suicide, so there was a fistfight, and then they took it to the street. I’d rather concentrate on people who were good. Zach Galifianakis—I never saw someone sit down and play the piano and not even look up, and the whole crowd was going crazy! No jokes! He deserves every bit of fame and success he’s had.
Which of your many collaborators was the hardest for you to keep up with?
Easily MF Doom. For months and months I was pursuing—I’d already established a relationship because of my small part in Madvillain. One day he was working in L.A. on the Madvillain 2 project, which I can’t comment on, and I eventually had to kidnap him. I drove to his hotel and was like, ‘Let’s go to my studio right now.’ Not to give away any of his game, but he needed some Hennie and some trees, and luckily both were easily obtainable at the time, and his manager who had been partying the night before was sleeping in the other room… so it was a crazy hot summer day, and MF was maskless, huffin’ and puffin’ and writing the words, and it happened. And I never heard from him again. He’s an awesome guy for doing it.
Do you think he really sent out fake MF Dooms to tour?
He could. That’s the beauty of his situation—he took hip-hop to the logical extreme.
Do you really have a bigger record collection than everyone you know?
Of my immediate peers—I do. But in terms of people like Cut Chemist and J Rocc, I don’t think so. I only have twelve or thirteen thousand.
I know a kid in Miami who has forty thousand.
Where do you keep your favorites?
I have paranoia, and in college I was involved in house fires, so that made me think about what I’d run out with. So I have some records kind of far away from being tussled up, but close enough I could grab the handful and get out. Either rare or ones I love enough that I’d have a hard time replacing them if I ran out the door. Though I’d probably grab my wife first.