Saturday, June 28, 2008

One from the Vaults of a pre-9/11 world: A 2001 Interview with avante garde hip-hop group dälek


words: Matt Janovic

Big hip-hop groups and artists come and go, but some names stick, and are recalled as timeless. There is the word, and the thing itself. Without question, the New Jersey unit, dalek is of this calibre, and hip-hop is what they do so well. With their acclaimed first release of "Negro Necro Nekros", on Gern Bladsten in 1998 (and their new 12" on Matador with "post-everything" Techno Animal), the reminders of rap's wilder days were clear.

And this is one of many paradoxes to this enigmatic group: a synthesis of the past, present, and future of rap, as well as life. And the future (by way of the past and present?) is what dalek and this interview are all about, oddly enough.

[Conducted via-the internet towards the end of January/early-February of 2001. All content the intellectual property of the author.]

Q: One would find it odd that a hip-hop group would be on a punk label like Gern Bladsten, but you guys are unique. How did the deal with them ever come-into-being?
dälek: The O. recorded a lot of bands on the Gern Blandsten roster (Rye Coalition, All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, Trans Megetti, Chisel, The VanPelt, etc). From there I met Charles Maggio (owner and lead singer of RORSCHACH) and hit him off with a tape of what would be "Negro, Necro, Nekros". After listening to the demo and seeing us live with Computer Cougar he wanted to put out our record.
Q: Any future plans with Techno Animal?
dälek: Yeah, no doubt. I dropped vocals on the And/Or remix they did for 2nd Gen (available on NovaMute Records). We did a remix for Kid606 (Ruin It, Ruin Them, Ruin Yrself, Then Ruin Me) which Kevin Martin played sax on. And I'm dropping vocals on a track for Techno Animal's full length "Brotherhood of the Bomb" which will be available in May on Matador Records. N ot to mention future tours as well as Oktopus' barbecue this summer!! You should come out.
Q: I think there is a real connection between your sound, and the cinematic. A good part of the "Negro Necro Nekros" album is made up of extended-jams, and a lot of the sounds and instrumentation is exotic. But even better than that is the feeling of tension building and releasing in your music. Like an impending explosion of violence--that sometimes never comes until you've forgotten it was always coming!
A lot of what we do musically is built on extremes. Ying and Yang so to speak. Dynamics. We try and build up to a certain level and then drop down to nothing (which lends itself to the "cinematic experience"). Most of pop music these days seems to be at one dynamic, but if you listen to jazz (American classical) or European classical or even African or Indian classical you can feel the tension build between the high and low. It used to be that rock emulated these tensions, and hiphop/punk had the feel, but lately, everything seems dead. So it might be cinematic, it might not be, but we just feel the extremes. We're waiting for a cinematographer who can depict it.
Q: In "Untraveled Road", the line "Its all this vision that obstructs our sight...", really stood-out for me. With the intensity of your music, it reminds one of the media-overload we are all exposed to every day. And also, the sensory-overload of the urban environment.; do you think at some point the overload is intentional?
dälek: Of course. Desensitatation is the answer to calm a blind society. 20/20 vision only lets you see what they want you to see (laser vision correction makes you of them). Vision, one of the senses that DESCARTES doubted, does not bring you closer to the self or to creation. Without senses we are left unconnected to the world that we think we experience. Blind-men could never commit racism.
Q: How exactly did the Matador 12" with Techno Animal come about? Were you aware of them before that, or did they approach you?
dälek: Like I said, we had a split 12" in the works. Techno Animal became the other half. They got signed to Matador Records, and they asked if the split 12" could be a Matador release, and it worked itself out.
Q: Who are your favorite Jazz artists?
dälek: Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Miles Davis (Fusion Era), Rashied Ali, Gateway Trio, Jan Hammer, Thelonious Monk, John McLaughlin, Ron Carter, Canonball Adderley, Ornette Coleman Quintet, Cecil Taylor, Wes Montgomery, William Hooker, Jesse Henry, Tor Snyder, John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, Trilok Gurtu, Grant Green, Johnny Hammond, Roy Campbell, Dave Douglass, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bruce Eisenbeil, Jim Black, Mark Hennen, Kai Eckhart, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington (Cara), Ravish Momin, Herbie Hancock, Danny Zanker, Eric Gale, Chick Corea, Revolutionary Ensemble (Jerome Cooper, Sirone, Leroy Jenkins), Charles Hayden, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Don Cherry, Ramsey Lewis, Hubert Laws, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Desmond, Philly Joe Jones, Dizzy Gilespie, Anthony Davis, and those who we may have forgotten and are yet to discover.
Q: So exactly who makes up Dalek, and what do they do?
dälek: Still (DJ, Co-Producer); Oktopus (Co-Producer/Engineer); dälek (MC/Co-Producer) and Deadverse which includes said members and: Joshua Booth (Co-Producer) and Balthazar (Co-Producer).
Q: There seems to have been some confusion that the Gern Bladsten album, "Negro Necro Nekros" was an EP. You guys want to clear that one up for the folks?
dälek: I look at it like a jazz album. Its five songs, but its close to 40 minutes of music.
Q: The Raga samples are great, it wasn't obvious at all. I've heard a few hip-hop acts use Indian music alright, but it always came-off as too "hippie." But you guys use a pretty nice palette of sounds--just about anything. What makes you decide on using one sound over another?
dälek: We don't really choose one sound over another, its what works best with the song. We don't tend to think about it that hard, it needs to be natural. Scott LaRock.
Q: What is your basic instrument/turntable setup (no need for exact specifics if you don't want to) live or the studio?
dälek: Laptop, Turntables, mad Efx, and Vocals.
Q: Hah-hah, back to the psychedelic question again. Any experiences that you would say opened new doors in your mind(s)? It's fairly well-known what Justin Broadrick's feelings on that are (I'm unsure about Kevin Martin's), so was there a feeling of "kinship" on the issue of creativity and the psychedelic experience?
Oktopus: Yeah, I would say we definitely feel a kinship with Techno Animal, except that Justin is always rollin something?? And dälek is for the CHILDRENS!!!!!!!
Q: In "Images of .44 Casings", the line, "Cruel, evil world, I hear your laughs--I just never gave a fuck.", just hit me so hard. It made me think of all the generations of humankind that has suffered for no good reason. But what it made think of most of all was the ancient Gnostic/occult idea that the world is "evil"-- that creation and matter itself is evil. Do you guys subscribe to the idea that the world is irrevocably flawed?
dälek: Although I'm not very familiar with the Gnostic philosophy (I'm now interested), I do hold the belief that the world is flawed. Through my own personal experiences I feel that human nature is inherently evil. The "good" of the world seem to be a biological accident (though a necessity). Even Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" validates the need of violence and evil to insure existence. What does "good" and "evil" mean anyway? Those are "human" terms. On the level of nature good would equate survival, not moral judgement.
Q: A lot has been written about the "reporting-side" of hip-hop/rap, telling Middle America/"white America" about conditions in the >inner-cities, or the ghetto. But what I noticed is there are many narrators in your cuts. Sometimes, it's like God looking-down and telling us, then a quick-switch into the mind of a "Swollen tongue bum," for example. It's almost like telepathy! Am I wrong on this?
dälek: As flattering as your analogy is, the lyrics in our songs only portray my VERY PERSONAL experiences. Your interpretation is what you get out of it, obviously. I write lyrics for myself and music for ourselves. Interpretations are secondary. Your analogy only inforces my belief in the omniprescence of a creator (NOT RELIGION). The idea that this creator exists in all of us can make this imperfect world work. Religion is a POISON.
Q: Exactly how did the whole relationship with Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick of Techno Animal come about?
dälek: It was because of Dan Hill. He wrote a review of our 1st album which completely hit the mark. I sent him an email thanking him. Meanwhile, Kevin Martin had read our HipHop Connection interview and was interested in contacting us to work together. Dan Hill basically hooked it all up as he was a friend of Kevin's. We had recorded our half of the split 12" and were looking for a band to do the other half. A lot of different groups were offered, but didn't work out. Once Kevin contacted us and we heard the Techno Animal stuff it fell into place. That initial contact led to a tour with Techno Animal in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland which developed into a brotherhood.
Q: When will we be seeing a national tour for Dalek?
dälek: Hopefully this summer. July/August????

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