A Q&A with Del The Funky Homosapien, who stops in St. Pete with Deltron 3030

Del's project with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala hit State Theatre with full band in tow this Wed., April 2.

click to enlarge Deltron 3030 - Robin Ha
Robin Ha
Deltron 3030

click to enlarge Deltron 3030 - Robin Ha
Robin Ha
Deltron 3030
  • Robin Ha
  • Deltron 3030

Deltron 3030 is the funkadelic alt-hip hop-tronic supergroup made up of producer extraordinaire Dan The Automator, raps-like-he's-just-shooting-the-shit emcee Del the Funky Homosapien, and DJ/scratchmaster Kid Koala, each a powerhouse talent in his own right. The former two met and first collaborated in Handsome Boy Modeling School, but according to Del in our phoner yesterday, "We really hooked up in Deltron."

In their eponymous 1999 conceptual debut, Deltron 3030 introduced a dystopian 31st-century society and its hero, Deltron Zero, an embittered former mech soldier who used his sacred rhymes to rebel against the New World Order. This year’s sequel and Deltron 3030’s first album in 13 years, Event II, is more like a bonafide rap opera, taking it forward 1,000 years past Earth’s devolution from dystopian society to a post-technology post-apocalyptic world where criminals run rampant, police are the minority, and the rest of humanity’s rogues struggle at survival. Both albums explore relevant themes without being preachy, everything is infused with a healthy dose of absurdity and humor that keeps the stuffy earnestness at bay, and guest vocalists sing hooks or backing vocals complementing Del’s chewy rhymes, or deliver skit-like narrative interludes in between tracks. Event II found an ensemble of non-musical guests filling those narrative roles — actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Amber Tamblyn, actor/comedian David Cross, and chef/entrepreneur David Chang — while the artists joining Del were the usual diverse assortment who, Del said, were all associated with Dan the Automator in some way. [MORE AFTER THE JUMP]

Among the most memorable appearances — The Lonely Island in a spoofy grandpa-looking-back-at-better-times rap number, “What Is This Loneliness,” Emily Wells howling in the get-down downtown funk vibin’ “My Only Love,” and Jamie Cullum crooning the nostalgia-coated closer, “Do You Remember”. Everything was recorded in parts and as schedules allowed, Del explained. “When he’s orchestrating all this, he knows in his mind what or who he needs, he just has to collect all the pieces.” Interestingly enough, Del didn’t actually work with any of the artists in person, likening the recording process to a typical hip hop record.

I chatted with Del as he and the gang made their way by van into Florida. Needless to say it was a bad connection, both the first time we talked (apparently I sounded like I was talking through a can) and the reprise a few hours later after they’d settled in Pensacola. Still, I got some good nuggets despite all the static, and I’ve included highlights below.

Deltron 3030 hits State Theatre in St. Petersburg this Wed., April 2, backed by a full band. Tickets are $32.25 and you can still snag yours at Daddy Kool. Show starts at 8 p.m.

Tell me about the live lineup on your current tour — I know some of the dates on your last tour featured an orchestra?
There’s no way to really travel with an orchestra, selected places, selected venues where we thought it would have the most impact, we would basically hire an orchestra in those towns. Most of the time we just have a live band with us — a drummer, guitarist, bass player, Koala DJing, Dan up there doing his producer stuff, sound effects, I’m on the mic. You have to see it and hear it to really understand, there’s a lot of stuff going on.

Can you tell me about your early work with Dan? Did you meet before your collabs in Gorillaz?
Actually, the first time I met Dan, he and Prince Paul wanted me to do stuff on the Handsome Boy Modeling School record [1999’s So … How’s My Girl?], this song called “Magnetizing.”

We really hooked up in Deltron, basically, the big project that we worked on, and our liaison for that was [producer/manager/fellow Hieroglyphics crew member] Domino. Because Domino heard my idea for Deltron, he thought it was cool, but it was just a hobby. He went to Dan, told Dan about it, asked him if he’d be interested in trying to do something with me, he said, ‘Yeah, cool.’ So Domino came back to me and was like, ‘Yo, if want to try to make that happen, turn it into something more than a just hobby, Dan said cool.’

click to enlarge Michael Donovan - Kid, Del and Dan.
Kid, Del and Dan.
Michael Donovan
  • Kid, Del and Dan.
  • Michael Donovan

Did you guys intend it to be a one-time project?
I don’t think we were thinking about it like that, know what I’m saying? We were just doing it. It’s not like we had any limitations. Like, 'I’m just gonna do this, I’m not gonna do nothing else.' We liked working with each other. We were just doing it. Dan was working on Gorillaz around the same time he was working on Deltron, and when he finished Deltron, he had a Gorillaz song, “Clint Eastwood,” he had issue with, and he wanted my help to fix it. So basically I was never really a part of Gorillaz, I helped them out on “Clint Eastwood” and another song, but that was when the album [2001’s Gorillaz] was pretty much done.

Tell me about your respective interests in science fiction played into the record.
My interests are in video games, futuristic robots and stuff like that. I wasn’t going that deep into it at first, ‘cause I don’t even really — I won’t say I don’t like science fiction but I’m not one of them people who stay up watching SyFy Channel and all that shit, or like a Star Wars fan groupie, or Star Trek or Medium or whatever. My best friend is a Trekkie to the bone, his mama and his sister, too, but that’s not where I’m coming from.

Event 2 almost has more of a comic book feel than science fiction.
Yeah, it has a lot of the energy of comic books. I’m a huge comic book fan.

Which ones?
X-Men is my favorite comic of all time. Until they made the movies. (Laughs) Nah, I’m just playing, the movies don’t have anything to do with the books.

How did you decide on which guests to be on Event II?
People always think we just got our choice of anybody in the universe to be on the record, and we’re going ‘okay, we’ll pick you, we’ll pick you.’ The people Dan chose, he happens to have a personal relationship with. It’s not like we’re working with a pool of every entertainer who ever existed, and you can choose anybody. I know from the outside, things probably look like, how did you get to know these people? I guess it’s the same with anybody, know what I mean? You end up with Lil Wayne on your record, you probably know him, unless you play $50,000 or $100,000 for a verse.

What’s next in the Del world? What do you have coming up after the Deltron tour?
I’m working with Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets on a project called Beat Intel Pro. The project is rhythm based. Westernized music is based on melody, but that’s not the only type of music in the world. And I’m trying to get away from melody completely. I’m just trying to shed light on other types of music that don’t necessarily depend on melody. It has some harmonic content, but as far as ballads or melody lines — there's none of that. It’s a rap album but we do it a different way. Futuristic sounding, sort of.

You know how Mecca is, you know what to expect from her, you know what to expect from me, so it's a combination of us both, but we coming at it with our own style, we got our own language. It’s all centered around the name, Beat Intel Pro, short for Beat Intellectual Project. It’s like some hip hop shit but it’s a little more for your head than the average stuff. It’s got some consciousness to it, but we keep it somewhat light, too. You don’t want to be banging people over the head...

"City Rising from the Ashes" by Deltron 3030 below

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