Thirteen years ago it was the year 2000 for most humans. I say most because three musicians defied the orbital unit, living in the year 3030. The year 3030 was meant to be a mythical future, predicting a dystopian fall out in which the upper class is the New World Order, the corporate and the corrupt are hellbent on suppressing human rights and hip hop, and the only way to restore order to the universe is to win the Fantabulous Rap Battle Extravaganza. Though Deltron Zero, played by Del The Funkee Homosapien, won the Galactic Rhyme Federation Championship in 3030, it was left up to us to uphold what he fought for – up to us to upgrade our grey matter.
Deltron 3030 began with Sir Damien Thorn VII of the Cockfosters Clan (Damon Albarn) announcing all was going according to plan at the Corporate Institutional Bank of Time – the greedy were winning. This was before the arrival of Deltron Zero, who with the help of Dan The Automator and Kid Koala, battled for our right to a better tomorrow. But, as album closer “The Assmann 640 Speaks” echoes as a broken transmission, it sets the stage for a return. Event II, the second coming of Deltron 3030, begins at the stardate 3040. Deltron left the safety of the planet in our care, but in a brief decade we had let it fall into economic despair with anarchy on the horizon. The stardate log brings hope, as the transmission (narrated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) announces the return of Deltron Zero.
I traded phone calls with Dan The Automator and Del The Funkee Homosapien on their return to a project that's been rumored to be in the works since 2006. We talked about the inspirations for Event II and why it is doubtful Deltron will become a trilogy.
Dan The Automator
When did the project begin to take shape.
Dan the Automator:Realistically it was around 2011. We’d talked about a lot. We’d done records in the mean time so it wasn’t like we weren’t in touch with each other. We’d started doing the record around 2004/05, but Del didn’t feel like he was lyrically there. This is obviously a very complex record.
We’d realized after the first record that just by the nature of what kind of record it is, it’s somewhat political and somewhat more topical than just throwing a record together. We put a hold on the project and started doing other things. Before you know it seven years have passed, but once we got going on it we worked straight through.
The structure of the records are complimentary. Were alternatives explored or after Deltron 3030 did it just feel right to work within that format?
The records are similar in terms of the use of the features, but the primary difference is there’s more of a message in terms of how we focused on what happened politically from 2007 on. By the nature of the style, there’s more insight based on what’s going now and looking to the future than we had work off of in the first record.
Musically speaking, 10 years removed, styles have changed. The first record had sampling. This record there’s no sampling. While it feels like a continuation, I feel like there’s significant differences in them.
What political issues fed into the conception of the record?
Let’s just use 9/11 as a bookmark. All the political unrest that has happened since the first record came out, from that to presidential abuse of power, the basic undermining of the people, Governments being affected by social media, Occupy Wall Street. A lot of that has to do with what we’re talking about. We’re not like Public Enemy. We’re not talking about the now. We’re talking about the future. In the same sense, as we’re talking about the future it’s an analysis of the present, it’s also analysis of what might happen to the future if we continue on this course.
I’d say that’s largely a big theme that comes with making something that’s sci-fi.
I agree. I think when we did the first record, we weren’t necessarily thinking about sci-fi. Obviously, sci-fi was a factor, but after the first record we more found ourselves following into that area, rather than intending to go there. So not that we didn’t go there on the first record, but this time we were more cognizant of it.
For Event II how did the guest appearances fall into place with people like Joseph Gordon Levitt narating, David Cross and Amber Tamblyn as the Armchair Quarterbacks?
Basically everyone on this record is a friend of mine. I wasn’t trying to pluck people out of the air like ‘oh they’ll be perfect, I’ll have my manager talk to their manager’. This is all personal, which is how I like to do it. For example, David and Amber I thought they’d be great in that role of talking about back in the day, but if back in the day was the year 3000. The whole grandpa joke about in my day I used to walk eight miles to school. But the point is to get a more well rounded picture of what’s happening in the year 3040.
I’m a fan of the crotchety humor threaded into this record.
I’ve always felt humor in the arts, especially in music, is under appreciated. You’ve got anger, love, lust, and whatever, but people tend to think if it’s humor then it’s Weird Al Yankovic or something. Everything doesn’t have to be a slapstick movie.
Did anyone express being fans of the original Deltron and ask to be a part of this record?
A couple people, yes. They’d told me over the years that when I do the new Deltron they wanted to come do something. For example the Lonely Islands dudes were more like ‘no you have to let us do that, it’s perfect’. As far as everyone else it would come down to hanging out, I mention I’m working on it. They’d say no way and just do something for it real quick while we’re hanging out.
Now that second record is out and you have this tour coming up with a 16-piece orchestra, do you feel as though Deltron as a project has a second wind?
It’s obviously the return and we’re doing our thing. I think ultimately we always intended to do this, but the bigger picture is we got to do it on our terms. I’ve wanted to make a record like this. More than just that, I’ve wanted to extend into a live project that involves 23 people – a full on strings, horn, and choir. I come from a violin playing background. I’ve always wanted to do this where a good majority of the instruments we used for this record I can integrate live. I feel comfortable in saying first of all no one has ever see anything like this and second it’s the most musical and rap thing and even pop thing I’ve ever seen.
Del the Funkee Homosapien
In talking to Dan, we discussed political issues that informed the record. What informed your writing on Event II?
First of all, 1984 by George Orwell, which is a book I read in high school. It always affected me. The trip for me, because it was almost around that time, but he wrote for the future, you know what I’m saying? I really got into it because of the personal touch it had to it in talking about power and abusing power. People will take your right to choices away from you. That actually informs most of the stuff I do, to be honest, but he definitely informs some Deltron stuff too.
I had to study writing sci-fi. While I was doing that I’d look at Star Trek sometimes. I read some Battlestar Galactica. Star Wars I looked at a little bit. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. Some anime, but just a little bit. Stuff like The Road Warrior, dystopian type stuff is what I’m into. My brain is instilled with that stuff since like the 80s. That’s the main imagery that I pulled from. The bleak existence, nothing is left, and you got fools just going at it. Survival of the fittest, basically. That’s the main backdrop for the whole thing.
But, I also did study how to write science fiction. I got like an encyclopedia that lets you know all the different aspects of science fiction writing to choose from. I looked at some science stuff like wormholes. I just be looking at stuff in general.
Is there any significance to making Event II a thousand years in the future from the original?
I just kind of picked a number, you know. There wasn’t a lot of thought in it. I just picked a number and wrote from there. I did want to push into the future to show that over the passage of time that if kept going where it was going in the first Deltron where it could be at. Just to explain why there’s this bleak existence. I’m just trying to explain what can happen if you keep going towards some bull crap.
Was there an event or a session with Dan that got you inspired to dig into this second record?
Me personally, I feel like I did for the fans. It’s not really the type of thing I think about every day. I’m a little more grounded when it comes to life. I’m not really in that science fiction world. But the fans were begging for it. Some fans come to me and they’re really affected by it and touched by the record. That’s why I decided to do it.
I felt like some of the press was harsh on the first record too, like why they talking about techno-babble but it didn’t have no point to it. The few that did kind of hint to that got to me. So now, I’m like okay that was just some rap stuff, the first one. So with this one I’m going to put it together and make it a more overall journey into that world, so if you’re really into it you can dig deep in and find what you’re trying to find.
I did it for the fans though. Then once we started doing it, with Dan there, it became more fun to do. It’s a lot of work. A lot of work. So it’s not really fun having to try to make a record. There probably won’t be another Deltron because it’s too hard to sustain. People are gonna want a better one after this one. This one already took 13 years to make. If we talk about a next one then you’ll never achieve their expectations which will be sky high – they’re already sky high now.
Me and Dan will always work on stuff though because we work good together and it will probably be conceptual.
In terms of the narrative coming together, did these additions happen as you were writing or did you write the record and then the skits came into play after you’d finished?
Typically when you’re trying to produce an album you gotta have to have a body of work first before you can really conceptualize. Dan already had the beats like 13 years ago, honestly. I sat on’em for hella long too. But I had some time in the studio with him to knock it out a week. So the root of the album is recorded in like a week or so. Then Dan sits back and listens to it and starts saying ‘what could make it more complete’. He’s figuring out how he can put his expertise into it. That’s how it works. You gotta have that body first and then he’s free to mastermind everything on the production end, which obviously he did a great job.
When you were writing the record did you feel like you wanted to write in an ending so that if this is the last one it’s satisfactory?
You know, I wasn’t even thinking about that. If it’s the last one, it’s the last one, you know. If there ain’t gonna be no more, there ain’t gonna be no more. [Laughs] Even if it ain’t capped off like that, I think it’s still the perfect world because you can still use your imagination to think about what would happen.
As for me working with Dan, that’s definitely going to continue. We’re friends When we’re recording together it’s real easy to come up with some good shit. That will continue. Deltron was sick, so what else can they come up?
Deltron 3030's Event II is out now on EMI.