Following the enthusiastic response to our first and second installments of Ask the Experts, which featured sage words from Modeselektor and Om Unit, respectively, we wanted to make sure that the knowledge being passed along to our readers continued to only be of the highest quality. Thankfully, that goal was realized when veteran LA beatmaker Daedelus agreed to step in for this month's edition. This week, he'll be releasing his latest album, The Light Brigade, via Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, and he'll also be setting out on a month-long US tour. Amidst all of that preparation, he somehow found the time to answer a number of questions from XLR8R readers, in the process touching upon copyright law, his extensive gear arsenal, and how his passion for coffee ultimately aids his music.
What is your best advice for fixing muddiness in your mix?
I am not perhaps the best one to ask this question; my mixes tend to be more in a space (a.k.a. muddy) then most. I will say that when you produce, you can reduce that squishy sound by carving up the elements in your song into different frequencies, most often by using EQ on each track. This way, no track directly steps on any other element and causes peaks and valleys that increase a messy mix. [I recommend a] sparing use of reverb. [It's also important to listen] in different environments to understand how sounds can get hyped in some rooms and fall flat in others. Also, when it comes to mixing and mastering, multi-band compressors and careful limiting will afford you more sonic ceiling for the clarity you're after.
I'm a budding, Minneapolis-based electronic musician and I am obsessed with sample collection, convolution, and collage. I know you've worked extensively with samples in your career and I wonder what your stance is on the ethics of using samples in music? Do you feel any guilt or worry about repercussions or like your work is in anyway cheapened or made more criminal by way of extensive borrowing? Or are you more of the mind that re-contextualization is enough of an artform in and of itself that it stands outside of any potential allegations of illegitimacy?
This is tricky. I don't agree with the basics of copyright law, or at least with the way that endless addendum'ing by specific copyright holders has left the music industry held hostage. There is really a lot to be said on the topic, but I don't want to [forget] your questions in particular. I think sampling is wonderful, willful, and illegal. When you do so, you run the risk of being prosecuted, but you don't need to be quiet about it how ridiculous such a persecution is, considering the history of "borrowed" works. Absolutely, re-contextualization gives you much better moral ground to stand on versus blatant and often unartful exact copying. Let's break the law and make the world more beautiful with our sound! It is kind of the last dangerous act in music.
What live electronic show has impressed you the most and for what reason(s)?
Dorian Concept is as ever a wonderful show—quite simply, fingers on keys playing the fuck out of every parameter. Baths in his duo formation (with Morgan Greenwood) is compelling and startlingly hair-standing-on-end effective. Flying Lotus' "Layer 3" (or whatever number he's up to) is, alongside every Gaslamp Killer DJ set, a journey I'm always curious to take. Mark Pritchard is seminal. Spazzkid is infectious. All of these performers are onstage, not just letting the bright lights do all of the heavy lifting. That's really key for me.
I am a 20-year-old musician who started on guitar and decided to get into producing. I recently went to the studio to try out some things with MIDI. My friend who was teaching me there said my pad drumming was off key. I know that structure is important and so is timing, but everyone has a different style, right? What is the main foundation I should learn before I start to produce beats? Drum rudiments? BPM timing? Time signatures? Forgive me, I have many questions because I really want to get better!
You have the right [idea]. There isn't any one right way, especially when composing electronic music. It is precisely the novelty of the sound in its wrong or right fashion that can make an essential production. But people will think you are crazy, out of tune, off key, or arrhythmic. That never stops—audiences' understanding of what they want to hear is as much a zeitgeist nightmare of "cool," "fashionable,"and "now" as it is deeply held personal preference. Learn to make your sound, and really go deep on that. No technique matters more.
Despite your live set-up being seemingly simple, your shows are engaging and fun. What advice do you have for someone who's starting to take that plunge and play electronic music live? How does one make it engaging for the audience but also for oneself?
You've got it right there! Make your live show compelling to yourself and the audience will recognize the effort reflecting back to your energy. The era of press-play DJs is coming to a close—[people will only accept so much] deception before [they start expecting] more. It really doesn't take much to make a crowd feel welcomed, wanted, and respected, and the bar has been set so low by general EDM, that there is an opportunity for you or any up-and-coming performer!
How wide is the age range of the equipment you use to create music? In other words, what is the oldest device you have, and what is the most modern machine/piece of software you use?
My double bass is from 1904. My bass clarinet, 1960s. The Roland SH-09, 1980. TR-606, 1982. TR-808, 1983. The Monome, 2003. I'm not sure about the most modern, but it feels like the Aleph was just released yesterday (even if it was the start of 2014).
Do you worry about how you might perform a piece of music live when you are writing it? Obviously some songs have a better presence on a stage. Are some pieces composed knowing that they are strictly for the album?
Certain records carry more of that concern, but it has never been too worrying. I am very interested in albums for deep, lasting listening and the live show for temporal occasions. It is nice when both can occur.
How does an artist stay true to themselves when their record label wants them to do something completely different?
My method has been many labels for many sounds. I know I've been lucky to have those outlets and opportunities. I believe that since you ultimately need to represent yourself onstage with those sounds (at least in part), you shouldn't ever doubt about your truth. But don't think you know it all either.
How do you strike a balance between personal expression/creativity and the business/practical side of music?
There isn't balance. It's chaos and you need to be careful about what you give time to. Everything demands your utmost. Personally, I'm happiest creating in the studio or onstage, but I feel like it is very important to have community to exist in. Just being creative all the time can feel selfish/draining. Having a hobby away from music helps at times; mine are coffee culture and tabletop gaming at the moment.