The music library

Pub date January 11, 2011

MUSIC “They wanna give you it all at the library.”

Dade Elderon’s come up with a perfect promotional catchphrase for the SF Public Library’s Main Branch. We’re IMing about the library, where he sets up his gear and writes and records songs on a 9-to-5 schedule. “One part of the library is a very high-tech, clean learning environment. It’s a temple. Then you go down to the [first-floor] bathroom and it’s like a dirty, filthy circus. There is a lot going on in that bathroom. Every stall is a different challenge.”

A few days later, I meet Elderon on the library’s fourth floor. As is his practice, he’s reserved one of the private rooms and has set up his equipment, most notably a Korg Electribe EMX-1 and ESX-1. “This is what I bring to the library — I have a [Roland] TR-606 and other gear at home and at a friend’s house,” he says, handing me a spare pair of headphones. “I use this [the ESX-1] strictly as a drum machine, and load up different sounds depending on what kind of song I want to make. I program the melodies on the EMX-1 because if you run too many parts at once on the ESX-1, it will make the sound muddy.”

For the next half-hour, Elderon — long bangs spilling out from the right side of his SF Giants cap — gives me a brief tutorial, explaining polycyclic wave forms, saw waves, and different hi-hats while running through a variety of sounds, from hip-hop to trance to freestyle. Sitting with him, I can see how the room, with its soundproof clear glass and stylish card-catalog wallpaper, is an ideal readymade recording studio. “I really like the tables and the glass setup,” Elderon says. “It’s peaceful. Sometimes people will stand outside with a ‘What are you doing?’ look on their faces, but I just ignore it. I don’t know what people might think these things [the Electribes] are — some people are suspicious of them, maybe.”

Contrary to a paranoiac’s sense of appearance, Elderon isn’t working with explosives, though he is hoping some of his projects will blow up. Party Effects, the Oakland techno bass crew he helped figurehead, has disbanded, and these days he’s working with a number of different recording artists. “This is a track I’m making with Dz MC’s, a Brazilian freestyle singer,” he says, as a percolating, skittering melody dances around a haunted-sounding female vocal.

Along with Dz MC’s, who has a following in Brazil, Elderon has been making tracks with aspiring Stateside singers such as Gloria Hernandez, a local vocalist whose voice possesses freestyle-ready sass and snap, and Nikki Marx, whose sexy photos and real-life story have intrigued Elderon and his roommate and former Party Effects partner, Alexis Penney. “She’s German, lives in New York City, and works on Wall Street as a day trader,” Elderon explains, as we look at some of Marx’s provocative photos. “Alexis is obsessed with her, and we can’t figure her out.”

At the moment, Elderon is also in the early stages of some remix projects for 679 Artists, a Warner Music Group label based in London that represents Little Boots, Marina and the Diamonds, and Streets. Along with his other roommate, Myles Cooper, he’s also contributing a track to an upcoming album by H.U.N.X., the “gayest music ever” electropop side project of Hunx and His Punx’s Seth Bogart. “I guess Myles’s idea is to make the most annoying song anyone has ever made, and I think he’s doing it,” Elderon says appreciatively. “Seth and I are making a gay freestyle song. He wants it to be over the top. I sampled him making a bunch of sex noises, and I’m going to sprinkle them throughout the track.”

Elderon’s adept way with genre suits one of his recording monikers, Adeptus. He chose the name because — along with invoking “to attain” in Latin, a quest he likens to Afrika Bambaataa’s search for the perfect beat — he likes its “Gothic, occult, and dark-sounding” qualities. On the one hand, he’s a fan of Ace of Base’s 1990s Euro dance pop — in fact, he’s competing against eight other remixers in an Ace of Base-sponsored contest in which the person who comes up with the best mix of “The Sign” wins a car. But on his own tracks, he’s drawn to seductive somber sounds. As he puts it, “I’m attracted to minor scales.”

The public library as a recording studio and potential pop gold mine — it’s all in a day’s music-making for Elderon, who cut his teeth recording with the eccentric, literally offbeat Tarythyas in Party Effects. “His bedroom is the craziest room I’ve ever been in,” Elderon says, when asked to describe Tarythyas’s home dwelling. “There’s no less than 20 to 30 fish tanks in the room, all lit up. There are crazy toys and lights everywhere, and six different computer workstations.”

The strange is familiar to Elderon, whose past includes a military stint and studies in cellular microbiology, and whose current day job involves flying to Turkey once a month to rescue street animals for a fledgling animal-rights crusader in Beverly Hills. He shows me some passports of pets he’s recently flown back to the U.S., including a cat that possesses a mack’s satisfied smile. “The animals freak out on the plane, so they give me a ketamine spray,” he says.

For now, Elderon is the one traveling, but he’s hoping his music will be going international soon as well. At one point he describes Turkey as a “nexus of weird cultures,” and the same description could be applied to his music, which has pop immediacy, but allows room for wild personality. He’s out to attain something special, and it’s just beginning to materialize.