Before Deltron 3030's Rockin Rodeo Stop, Del the Funky Homosapien Talks Gorillaz and Touring.
When Del the Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala and Dan “The Automator” Nakamura collaborate, it's not quite like anything else out there — certainly not like anything you'll ever hear on the radio, anyway.
Each a pretty big name in his own right, but when they come together under the Deltron 3030 name, the rapper, DJ and producer mix together Sci-Fi, jazz and classic hip-hop into a heady alternative hip-hop blend.
That is, of course, on the rare occasion when they decide to come together. Though the outfit was in town last year for a show at Trees in support of its sophomore album, that effort came some 13 years after the group's debut. Some of that delay has to do with the fact that each individual member spends much of their time working on their own, equally lauded solo projects. When we caught up with Del by phone earlier this week, he indicated that it also has to do with the fact that, hey, he likes spending time at home with his family, too.
Still, when the trio does come together, it's undeniably special — something Del was happy enough to boast about when describing the group's process to us. Anyone who has paid any attention at all to his lyrics over the years wouldn't expect anything less, though. Whether it be the material he writes as Deltron Zero or for his solo project, it's clear that his words afford him a chance to really connect to his fans and pass along whatever he's really feeling at the moment.
So, ahead of Deltron 3030's stop at Denton's Rockin Rodeo this Monday, we figured we'd give Del that chance to do so in our space, too. As we did, he also told us about the time he was essentially badgered into appearing on the first Gorillaz record.
Where are you at the moment?
Richmond, California. I just got back from 9th Wonder's studio in North Carolina.
Are you ready to get back on the road? How's the tour been treating you?
Um, it's kind of long. I learn a lot from [Kid Koala and Dan the Automator] about playing music. The shows are cool. I wish I was getting more money than I'm getting, know what I'm saying? That's one thing. Because I'm on tour all over the world, and it costs more than I'm getting paid. So, for the fans that come, it's a great show. They love the show. But when I get home, I'm either breaking even or I'm in the red — and I've been on tour for the last three years.
Is there another way that you prefer to promote your music other than touring?
Y'know, I don't like traveling that much, to tell you the truth. Never been. Even before rapping, I never liked traveling that much. I like meeting new people. I like people. I like talking to people. I like talking to fans, y'know, seeing where their heads are at. You're representing to what people talk about you; that part is cool. The food sucks. I mean, it's work. Basically, it's not necessarily fun, with you traveling all over the place. I mean, unless that is what you like to do. Some people like to go and see new places; that part is great, too. I think a vacation and a job is two different things.
Have you guys been doing any new material on this tour, or are you just getting back out there again?
I mean, we basically just getting out there again, promoting what record that we got. It's not like it's so hella records. There's still room to build on it. We do have another record that's in the works, but honestly I've been thinking about other stuff. There's already a new Deltron record. Pretty much, the music is already done. I just need to write. But, honestly, it takes a lot of work to write those lyrics. I've been out of it, so it ain't really encouraging me to put that sort of work into it.
That makes sense, especially looking at the other albums. The lyrics feel more of an experience than just something to go along with the music.
Yeah, it's an experience. Any music is an experience. It's a lot. For those who want to get into something like that, that deep. For a lot of people, that's too much. It's music, y'know. It's not like I want to sit down and do a book. So it depends on who you are. So far, from what I've seen, it's like it's cool, it's like a niche little corner that I got there with that. So, for the people that come to the show that are into it, they're basically into that.
So as far as the new material you guys are working on, do you think it will kind of stick to your roots or head somewhere a bit different?
Thinking about Dan and the way he produces, he is probably going to stick to his own roots. He does what he does, and he does it well. If it was me, I'm looking forward. I could appreciate both sides of that thinking. Dan is a classical type of musician. That's what he pulls from. I think that's because I have that type of mind, too. I like electronic music, too. I mean, I make hip-hop. But that's like electronic music.
What about your solo stuff? Is there anything new there?
Well, I just finished this record with 9th Wonder in North Carolina. That's more like reality-based, more like relationships, dealing with people. Basically, it's hard to deal with people with issues. That's crazy. It's more like an R&B record, but it's like a version of it. My world.
Is it like a diary?
Sort of. It's something kind of underground-ish, I guess. Something that maybe, like, a lot of people don't see. But where I'm from, it's kind of normal. A lot of stuff happens out here.
Do you prefer being more intimate on your solo stuff than the Deltron stuff?
I like tight feel stuff. I like the old music. That's what I listened to in my time. That's where I'm from — California. I'm in Richmond, California, now. So something like Deltron, I can do something like that. Because, I guess, I have a keen mind and I can go there if I want to. I can relate to other people. On my own, that's not usually where I'm at.
You've worked in a lot of different genres, though, from The Dirty Heads to the Gorillaz.
Well, Dan produced Gorillaz, so I just happened to be there. Really, I wasn't even part of the process. I was just there. Dan was finishing up the first Deltron and Gorillaz. He had the song “Clint Eastwood” done already. He already had lyrics on it and everything. I guess he felt that I could write a better song than what he already had, so he basically asked me to rewrite the song. At first I didn't want to; I wanted him to take me home. But he kind of pushed me. He knew I could write it in 15 to 30 minutes, basically. That's how that happened. I have talked to Damon [Albarn] and we have talked about collaborating in the future — like for real. We was thinking if it was just this, and we wasn't in the studio involved like that, imagine if we really came together. He's a cool dude. I wasn't on the tour, nothing. None of that. When it came out, when he was doing what he was doing, I wasn't out there because I didn't want people to mistake what I do for that — not that I didn't have anything against it. I didn't want people to get it confused. When they bought one of my records, they'd be mad it sounds like this. But in time, though, they convinced me to come out, and I came out and did a few shows and with them and then we was cool. We hung out and everything. That was the first time I even seen him, met him, really heard what he could do, y'know. I didn't know about him. Even though he sold millions of records with Blur, like I wasn't familiar with him at all, until this. He's a cool dude. We was on the bus together chilling, talking about music or whatever. But yeah, I do collaborate a lot. I like working with other people when it comes to music. Working with other people, a lot of times, brings out something different than what I would do normally by myself. Like I told you, I'm on the street, basically. I could work with anybody. It brings out a different angle as far as the creativity is concerned. But I also want to keep my base. I don't ever want to forget where I started, what really makes me me.
Is touring with Deltron different than going out on your own, then?
Not really. I have to prepare myself to tour. It's something I don't do much. I always gotta prepare myself for it. I'm always occupied with something I can make music on, something to occupy my mind. I skate a lot now, so maybe I have my skateboard with me I'll be practicing or something to keep my mind that I have weeks to go before I can eat normally. I don't even eat normally anymore at this point. I've been on tour for 20 years.
I don't cook meals like I used to! It has to be something that I feel like seeing all the way through. I'm just used to grabbing something real quick and whatever. It takes a lot of energy for me to be touring all the time. You get home, you have bags of clothes and stuff piled up you have to wash. You have floors filled of clothes from the last time. Your house is messed up because you don't live in it. Like I said, it's a job. Some people enjoy it. Some people never want to come home. Me? I rather be at home producing records.
So you're a homebody?
Pretty much. Well, y'know, I skate a lot. Not being able to get out anything that I like to do or like anything that's comfortable for me, it's like rolling around in a metal box all day, every day.
Would you consider yourself an active person?
I'm active. It's just the fact that you gotta be somewhere where it's not home the majority of the time. You're moving. On tour, the majority of time that you have, you're always somewhere else. So you're always in transit, always rushing t get to that place. You're never stable. Some people like it, y'know. I'm out. Me, personally, I like stability.
Anything else you'd like to add to finish things off?
To all the fans out there, we hella appreciate y'all. And, like I said, we are working on a new Deltron record that will be out there for all to check out. All the fans that come to the show, the support means a lot. I like talking to y'all. I love taking to people. I love hearing how Deltron helped them. I know a lot of people really believe in Deltron. It speaks to them.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Deltron 3030 performs at Rockin Rodeo on Monday, June 8. Find tickets and more information here.