"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.
You had a huge year last year. Is it hard to keep the feeling of momentum going after having the Kanye remix, the BBC gig, and everything going on all at once. Is it hard to keep steady and keep working? Salva: To be honest, I've been able to meet some of my heroes, people I'm really inspired by on the electronic front whether it's like working with people in the studio like Crookers or I met Switch recently and a lot of those guys who I've looked up to for a long time. I guess meeting a lot of people and working with other artists in LA I'm realizing that yeah, I've had some good successes but that just kind of helped me get to this platform with the more major artists who are making big things happen in music. So I kind of feel like I started from the bottom in a good way, you know? Now Im like cool, I've made it to a new platform and now I have an amazing opportunity to do some cool shit. So Im hungrier than ever right now, really inspired.
You're really at the epicenter of this massive alliance with hip-hop and dance meeting back up. Is it gratifying for you to see what's happened, making it the moment for people who like this music? Salva: Yeah! You know, my friends and people who like music like this, we've always been trying to marry these things, for a long time and it's always happened in one way or another but I guess more importantly, electronic music in general has really hit new heights in the U.S. over the past couple of years. And now I'm already starting to see, all the kids that for the first time they got into the major big stage EDM stuff and the dubstep and moombahton and kind of got their first taste at festivals and I'm already seeing a lot of the people that are real musical connoisseurs are looking to, ok, what's after that? What's next? We've seen this stuff.
That's kind of where I'm at. The "Mercy" thing was a pretty big-room track, got played by top DJ's and on pop radio and it was awesome, but I think there's a platform to take that formula and do different stuff with it. That's why I like messing with artists like Daedelus because he's an innovator and he's forward-thinking and he's been pushing the envelope for a decade plus. The pop stuff aside, I think it's all kind of bleeding together so there's going to be weirder and weirder shit sneaking into pop music.
Do you have an established working relationship with Daedelus? I can imagine when you guys talk it's almost like a different language because your touchstones are so out there. Salva: Yeah, honestly, I come from the same wave as he does, like when he was doing the Weather album with Busdriver, I was doing backpack hip-hop thing too, I was producing underground albums for artists on Rhymesayers. I've kind of made my mark recently but we all go back and have the same history and every shift and sound, we've been through all those together. He's been established for a lot longer but aesthetically it might not seem like he would fit but he's really into like juke music for example and stuff that I've loved for a long time too so we do have a lot of common ground. We haven't really met up in the studio together but we have played a lot of shows together and he's always such a beast--he can play to any crowd, big-room, high energy, he can keep them entertained and still play weird stuff. I think he can match up to just about anybody.
Are you still looking for a further defining sound, even after you made such a big mark with the stuff this year? Salva: I have ADD so I get inspired by hearing new shit. Like I'm really good friends with Shlohmo, labelmates with him and I wouldn't necessarily release music in his style but I mess with it. I hear a lot of different things and get inspired by it and try different things. I make a lot of deep house stuff that doesn't come out. You'd be surprised that a lot of the big dance DJ's, they like everything, it's not just one sound or another.
See also: Five EDM Tracks We'll Be Raging to In 2013 I do know your sets are always loud and hype, so what do you listen to relax to? Salva: Honestly, a lot of cool shit comes through Friends of Friends so for instance we're putting out this kid Evenings and I also like Shlohmo and the Weeknd. I really like Cashmere Cat. And then Fleetwood Mac, Herbie Hancock. I still have a vinyl collection and I still dig through the sale crates at Amoeba and find weird, old R&B. Booty funk, old house, anything!
Under the Salva moniker, I'm gonna keep narrowing [my sound] down and keep it hip-hop and bass music centric and not try to go all over the place. Even within that I want to draw influences, if I'm going to make yet another 808 rap beat, which has been done a million times, it'll be cool to bring some new elements into it and do some stuff that hasn't been done with it.
Are you solely focused on the Salva name right now or are you working on anything else, trying to do something a little bit different? Salva: I want to. I have a lot of other material but I'm gonna do a Salva album this year and I have a pretty hectic tour schedule too. I've been enjoying playing some of the big-room parties and I can hold my own at those as well as the weird, avant-garde bass music parties so I'm really enjoying playing in front of bigger crowds and banging it out. I don't feel like there's anything that's out of bounds now. I feel like Skrillex and Shlohmo could work together and no one would think that's bad. I feel like the elitism is vanishing and there's just room for everybody to do whatever.
Do you think American audiences are getting better with this kind of music? I know a couple years ago people had no idea what the fuck was going on. Salva: Well, I played a frat party at Stanford University a couple weeks ago, last weekend and afterwards I was hanging out with a couple of these kids, listening to music and they're all making weird-ass dub-techno. And talking about Trap and making sick, weird, stuff and it's awesome to see that man. There's always the heads. It's a number game. Electronic music is hitting CNN levels with all these festivals that are popping up, and the market is so huge here. We're getting to millions and millions of listeners here and it's cool, you know?
Is there a specific place in New York that you like to play? Salva: Man, I love coming to New York. I actually came quite a few times last year. I did the Do Over block party in Brooklyn which was just crazy, two thousand heads out in Brooklyn, felt like an old-school, hip-hop day or some shit. And the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival was at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and that place is awesome and at Webster Hall. I always have a good time in New York. New York's gone through ebb and flows, just like everywhere else in the past five years with the music scene. I think now, from an outsider's perspective that it's really healthy again and I can come in my sets and play ten different genres and in New York I can get a lot weirder than most places.
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