"We Won": Producers Daedelus and Salva on the Rise of Electronic Dance Music
As the boundaries that separate genres continue to dissolve, hip-hop and dance have formed an alliance that's bringing electronic producers to the forefront of popular music. For artists like Daedelus and Salva, who've been working with multiple genres for their entire careers, this evolution has been extremely exciting. Daedelus has been a key member of the L.A. beat scene for more than a decade, working with labels like Brainfeeder and Ninja Tune to explore new sounds. Salva, though he's been working for years, blew up in 2012 when he collaborated with labelmate R.L. Grime to create an acclaimed remix of Kanye's "Mercy." Off the strength of that track, Salva was able to ascend to new heights, securing a spot on BBC Radio 1's show, In New DJ's we trust. Both artists are currently involved in the Magical Properties Tour, which hits Le Poisson Rouge tonight, Saturday, March 2, so we talked to each of them about the evolution of electronic music and their own careers.
This is your fourth Magical Properties tour. Do you build the whole thing from scratch yourself and how does it all come about?
Daedelus: I've taken a pretty active role in it. I've been so lucky to get the people I've toured with and it doesn't feel like a tour for me, even though I know I'm the common thread between all the Magical Properties tours. I do feel like it's really independent from me, it's a worldview. You have a number of really interesting people who you wouldn't necessarily catch at a rave or a festival in spaces that are smaller than the big halls that this stuff tends to be played in. So it's like an intimate affair with a lot of chances taken.
Speaking of getting those kinds of artist together, you've always been known for eclecticism. There are through-threads throughout your music but concepts tend to come from all over the place, sometimes dance, sometimes more hip-hop oriented stuff. And now you're touring with Salva and Ryan Hemsworth who are really omnivorous. Is it gratifying for you to see that kind of development, with people drawing from a wider and wider range of sources?
Daedelus: Oh my god, yes! We won. I mean, it's not just me. I think L.A. has been doing this wonderful expression and I feel very much part of that. I have a bit of history on people but that doesn't mean I'm impervious to influence by any means. And there is such a wonderful reinforcement that's happening because it's almost like if you go to a night and you're just hearing one BPM, that night is a failure. There's that feeling here in L.A. that psychedelic rock should be sitting next to psychedelic electronic music. And then to see someone like [Ryan] Hemsworth [who is also on the Magical Properties tour] who's coming from very far away. He is from Halifax but he's feeling the same influences that are feeding someone like Shlohmo or Salva. This tour is unifying those visions. We're going to have a lot of fun.
When you were promoting your most recent EP Looking Ocean, you talked about the importance of genre-exploding and obviously we've just covered that but you also stressed the importance of being genre-referential. Why is that still important. If we're going to combine all this stuff into a boiling pot, why is it important to underscore house, underscore jungle, underscore juke?
Daedelus: There is something funny--these words we use are really imperfect. They are not the sound. They are words we're using to approximate sound. It's this proxy division that's a little tough. But the reference helps because it's just like a remix. If you can borrow people through some known channel then you can take them to the unknown places.
There was a moment in time in the not-too-distant past where a DJ was expected to play music that no one had ever heard before. And it was the clever trick of playing the obscure and the unknown and taking people out on "Oh wow, this is the unreleased thing or the white label you've never heard." And now we're at a point where people expect singalong moments the entire time, be it through a Skrillex type production or even more pop kind of things. But it's a way of borrowing people and taking them somewhere else. So the referential aspect is very useful, we all understand that it's just these moments in time where you have a clear definition and you can move to the less-defined territory more easily.
Does that tend to be the sequence? You rope people in with these gateways of specific references and then you can move them beyond what they know?
Daedelus: sighs No, that's my thought. But in truth, anyone playing a lot of music that nobody's necessarily encountered is not going to relate to seventeen year olds. Like, I love John Barry, his soundtracks to James Bond films from the fifties, sixties and seventies. It's great that I know that's gonna maybe borrow a few people but maybe not everybody and maybe if I play Kendrick Lamar, maybe I would get more people but you have to do whatever's in service of the sound. So, I'm not saying, "Fuck 'em," but some more polite way of, hopefully my enthusiasm on stage or the enthusiasm of a few is can be enough to affect people. Never to close doors on people but it is the kind of thing where, we get up onstage and we do this thing quite a bit and if we can't stay entertained or improvisational, and in tune with things, it's work. Not saying that I'm opposed to work but I'm definitely adverse to making it feel like work.
Shifting gears a little bit, and this is a bit sensitive so feel free to skip it, but I know you worked with Austin Peralta before he died and I was just wondering if you had anything to say about him and about his passing.
Daedelus: No, I'm really happy to speak on him. It has been a very emotional time with his loss, his very unexpected passing. It's really nice to actually put words to him, because I do feel like we live in age where people tend to digest things really quickly and move on quickly. The next hot thing, the next young talent. And he was those things. He played incredibly well and with a lot of passion, but, and this might be slightly controversial to say, but I don't think he had necessarily made his big statement. He was a big talent who had not yet created his masterpiece that we were all waiting for. That makes it doubly difficult. I was super happy to work with him and to borrow into that talent even for a moment. In a very specific way, through very specific lenses, I charged with him the task of creating melodies and he did so with such panache, just sat down at a piano that wasn't his and poured forth the craziest sounds, instantaneously and fulfilled the promise so succinctly and in such a crazy way, I was so happy that Scion was open to releasing [Looking Ocean, on which Peralta played] and then with his passing it became doubly meaningful. But yeah he was a really bright talent that people should go and check out.