THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
DAEDELUS DIALS IN HIS HIS CUSTOM CONTROLLER
For the past two years, electronic artist Daedelus has been perplexing live audiences with a small instrument known solely as "the box." Equipped with 256 buttons, Daedelus hovers over the device, taping away as sounds become warped and skewed or chopped and refined. It's usually not clear what exactly is going on when he hits the stage, but since it is more entertaining than watching an artist sit in front of a laptop, we thought we'd ask Daedelus to reveal the secret behind the box.
URB: So where exactly did the box come from?
Daedelus: It's basically one of three prototypes invented by Brian Crabtree, an old acquaintance of mine. He was talking about all of the mischief he was getting into with making his own instruments. Of courses, that being very much my interest, I kept bothering him and eventually when he developed a working model of the box, I was in line to test it out for real world applications.
How do you use it live?
It is a 16 by 16 grid. Each horizontal row of 16 buttons constitutes a single sample. I am able to play a sample in all numbers of different directions: as a loop or at different pitches or tempos, or a number of other things.
How does this change your performance?
The cool thing is I'm really able to improvise the sounds. I take my preexisting music but can really embellish or fuck-up these sounds a lot further. It allows for very strange things and very linear deviations. I can treat it like a hip-hop MPC-style machine where I'm just playing single beats and notes.
So the box changes your live set from night to night?
It changes everything night to night. Not only am I able to react, but also I can do my best to tame and create the songs I already have. The box also really lets me take my music much further out to whatever is appropriate for the situation. Sometimes people want to dance, sometimes they want to have a very cerebral concert experience; I can use the same setup for all situations.
And you've never found a current product that suits your needs?
I played around with a few sequencers, but there's something with those programs. They're made for very dance-based music that is four on the floor. Those ideas are very limited. It's a shame. But the box definitely feels like a real instrument - I feel like I've gotten better at it from practicing.
Has the box changed how you create music in the studio?
When people sit down with the record, they have this idea of extended listening where they can mine out these different movements over repeated listens. Live, you need to present something that's current to their needs. Part of struggling with this instrument is what people enjoy live. No one is sure exactly what they're going to get and I think that keeps them on their toes. At the same time, the record I'm working on now, which should be out early next year, Denies the Days Demise - it is getting kind of dancier and I think it's because of the box. When I'm in the studio now, it's kind of this dual situation where I think 'this is going to be really cool to play live.'