Event 2, the second release by Deltron 3030, is less an album and more a cinematic experience for the ears.
We were reintroduced to Deltron Zero, the hero of the future, as he battles evil corporations that rule the universe. We first met him in the year 2000 on Deltron 3030's eponymous debut. The group consists of rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, producer Dan the Automator, and turntablist Kid Koala. Like Del and Dan's previous collaborations in Handsome Boy Modeling School and the Gorillaz, Deltron 3030 stretches the boundaries of what a hip-hop album can be. The beats don't just have to leave you rocking your head; they can also tell a story and make you laugh.
Del the Funky Homosapien plays the protagonist, but more in the tradition of cinema, theater, or television than music: We hear from a variety of voices. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt comes first, followed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and the Lonely Island comedy troupe. The collaborating singers, including Jamie Cullum, Blur's Damon Albarn, Rage Against the Machine's Zach de la Rocha, and Faith No More's Mike Patton, are even more impressive.
Still, the primary voice belongs to Del, as this project is his brainchild. Del, born Teren Delvon Jones in Oakland, California, has always been open to collaboration. He got his start writing lyrics for his cousin Ice Cube's post-NWA group Da Lench Mob, and in 1991, at the ripe old age of 18, he released his debut album, I Wish My Brother George Was Here. Two years later, he put out the classic album No Need for Alarm and appeared with alternative band Dinosaur Jr. on the Judgment Night soundtrack. Since then, there's been no looking back for him, with no concept or collaborator being too far out there.
New Times caught up with Del days before he brought the Deltron 3030 stage show to South by Southwest. He spoke about the album's influences, the 13-year gap between Deltron 3030 albums, and what first attracted him to joining the Gorillaz.
New Times: What's the Deltron 3030 concert experience?
Del the Funky Homosapien: We have two different sets. One has an orchestra; the other is more pared down, like a rap set. You get similar experiences, but it's different visually, sonically. You just have to see it.
I'm excited to. The album really gets you into a new world. There was a lot of science fiction influences.
Oh yeah, of course. I studied a little bit about science fiction writing just so I can have an idea of how to cover the bases. The main influence was 1984 by George Orwell and, to a lesser degree, the Road Warrior, you know, Mad Max with its bleak futuristic look, and also Japanese anime. I had a pile of old comic books too, so I still got them on my mind.
Most of your work has a sense of humor, but Event 2 really has a comedy-album feel to it too.
I'm just a comedy fan. To get through life, you have to have a sense of humor. The Japanese have two different meanings of funny. One is like ha-ha, the other is funny like weird, stands out, kind of strange, and there's something funny about that.
Like Joe Pesci described in that scene in Goodfellas.
He's like the only guy in Hollywood who isn't on the new album. You have Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Cross, and all the musicians like Damon Albarn and Zach de la Rocha. How did they all get involved?
Dan the Automator and the people he knows through the industry. He pulls it together. A lot of people know Dan and the first Deltron, so a lot of people wanted to be on the record.
You and Dan have worked on so many projects together, from Gorillaz to Deltron to Handsome Boy Modeling School. How did you first start working together?
It started with Handsome Boy Modeling School. He wanted to keep me on. Prince Paul brought me in, and Dan was impressed with my work ethic. Dan was like, "You got any raps written down?" I was like, "Yeah, hold on." And I pulled out a notebook filled with raps. He was flipping through them and was like, "Damn, most people I work with take a month to write a rap, and you got notebooks. That's amazing!" So we have good experiences working together, and Deltron came from an idea I told Dan about, and he said, "Let's do that."
Since you're so prolific, what took so long for Event 2 to come out? It's been 13 years since the first album.
It's so much work to try to get in the mind of Deltron. It got to the point I didn't know if it was worth it, because it's so much work. I didn't want to put out nothing wishy-washy. I wanted the lyrics to come out right.
Now that you got the second one out and you're touring it, is there any talk of making it a trilogy?
That could be. We've got the groundwork set now. But now that I've got it done, I don't want to be thinking, "Damn, I got to do this again." The thing is, how many can we do? Like take the videogame Super Mario Bros. They got like 27 of them. It's a top seller, so they can do that, but how many of them do you need? Or like Jason and Friday the 13th part 13. I don't want to see that, and I don't want to be doing that. There might not be another Deltron, but I definitely want to work with Dan again.
Since you bring up other mediums, has there been talk about turning Deltron 3030 into a videogame or cartoon or comic book?
There's a lot of talk, but I kind of let Dan handle that. It's not that I don't care for it, but I don't need it. That part's the business. There have been offers and opportunities from what he told me. He's been approached about comics, which I think would be rad. I'm a comic connoisseur, so the art would have to look raw. Nothing bland.
Like something along the line of the art done for the Gorillaz?
That's what got me into the Gorillaz in the first place. When I first saw [Jamie Hewlett's] art, I was like "Oh, my God!" I got all his Tank Girl [comic books] and they put out a tight little movie where they twisted his vision. But yeah, that's raw.