This week’s Deep Voices is dedicated to the music of Daniel Aged. The playlist is a collection of Daniel Aged’s music, including his solo recordings, his band Inc. No World, and music by other singers he performed on, wrote, and produced. Below, find an interview I recently conducted with him over email.
The expression known as “bass face” applies to the look a bassist makes when deep in the groove. It’s usually a grimace of sorts, a hurts-so-good pout that relays the depth of power in their low end. But when Daniel Aged plays, his bass face is more tender, more pained. He can appear overcome. The wince he makes when he hits a particular note is more like he can’t believe beauty could radiate at his frequency, that he himself has summoned such a vulnerable sound.
That earnest, unhidden love for music is why I’ve always been so taken with Daniel Aged, whether as part of the duo with his brother Andrew, Inc. No World (formerly Teen Inc. and Inc.), solo, or as a songwriter and session musician for other artists. An accomplished musician, he brings boldness to any song. He can play it straight, and often does—most of the music he plays with or for others is nominally a modern take on soul or R&B—but his personal explorations, most recently on the solo album You Are Protected By Silent Love take his interest in craft and demolish it. He can make anything sound both normal and really weird at the same time. Not that anything is sloppily done. But where he may lend those like Kelela or Frank Ocean a classic air of R&B sentiment, his skill as a solo artist is to sculpt a universe out of air. Depending on what you need, you can listen to the universe or listen to the air.
I met Daniel Aged once, when I interviewed him and his brother on camera in a park in LA eight years ago. In the time since, though he is still playing, Andrew has become vocal on social media about his experience finding God being his primary passion. Daniel, as he says below, hasn’t had the same experience. He does not appear to be a person who is looking for much, as he seems like he found what he needs. In that interview we did, Andrew primarily talked while Daniel sat there with his arms crossed. About halfway through, he becomes distracted by the presence of a squirrel, silently watching him scamper away. It’s by far the best part of the video.
Your album is instrumental, but it often seems like the instruments are singing. Why structure it that way? Why not bring in vocalists?
For this project I wanted to use my own “voice” to express the melodies and as much of the music as possible. It feels most personal to me to carry the melodies myself at this point in my life. So often I am backing or supporting a vocalist or lead instrument and this is a way for me to sing and express in my own way; simply put, it feels good.
You often work with artists who have large scale ambitions for their pop sounds, but your personal work seems quieter, more intimate. Do you see a difference between the sounds you give to others versus the ones you keep for yourself?
I don’t really see a difference. Both ways of working for me feed off each other and help each other grow. If I am working with someone else I am always putting my full heart and intention into it to understand and feel the song and create from that place, the same as with my own music. With my own music it is usually a form of personal growth and process for my self, so it serves a different purpose in that way. Always serving the music or song, just depends who’s music it is.
Soul music seems at the heart of what you make. Is that correct?
Who do you see as your contemporaries? Who do you see as your predecessors?
I respect and appreciate everyone who has the courage to create something honest and true to themselves and who has the courage to release it into the world, or not. Anyone who is making or has made anything from that place is what inspires me.
Your brother, who you have played with in the past, has turned to religion. Have you had the same experience? If so, or if not, how has that changed your relationship? Has that cascaded down to what you create as a solo artist?
I haven’t had the same specific spiritual experience. Our relationship is always changing and growing. We both have our own relationships with God or spirit and we both feel connected to that through music. It all brings me closer to my own personal journey through music, spirit, and life.
What does making music feel like?
It feels like the closest experience to true connection to something greater, and the best way to grow and process feelings, emotions, questions, pain, joy, humor, etc. It feels like a release. It’s incredible.
Do you like making gentle music? (If you in fact think your music is gentle.) Do you have a relationship with aggressive music?
I don’t think of my music as specifically gentle, but I understand that. I use music to express different emotions. I find and express “aggression” through rhythm or intention or volume. A single note played with intention can express any and all places on the spectrum of emotion. I do make things that express pure aggression, and I appreciate aggressive music. I find those emotions for me are usually pointing to some deeper truth so I try to go through the aggression to see what’s underneath and usually prefer whatever that sounds like, at least for the recording process. It can feel really good to access and explore that place.
What do you still want to learn about music?
As much as possible.