Catching Up With Deltron 3030

Music Features
Share Tweet Submit Pin

One of the greatest moments in 2013 came when Deltron 3030 made their long-awaited return. After 13 years, the teaming of Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala finally made good on the rumored follow-up to their landmark debut. They called it Event 2, and if you were a fan, it was exactly that: the Second Coming. The trio have spent a large part of this year on the road giving us what could possibly be our last chance to catch one of hip hop’s most treasured secrets. It’s with all of that in mind that we were able to chat with Dan and Del about their storied past, life in the future, the music of politics and the politics of music.

Paste : Together again as Deltron 3030. It’s about time.
Dan the Automator: It’s only been a minute.

Paste : A minute and 13 years. I guess when you’re talking about the entire span of time…
Dan the Automator: In terms of like thousands of years, it’s just a blip.

Paste : It’s at least been long enough that the legend had taken on its own personality. What everyone was thinking it could be, what everyone wanted it to be, but is it ever really going to happen? But you two kind of perpetuated that through the years, too.
Dan the Automator: We thought about stuff. And we did it eventually.
Del the Funky Homosapien: It just took a lot of work. For me. For Automator, too—a different kind of work. I’m not trying to belittle what you was doing, you feel me? He was waiting on me, basically. He already had sketches done.

Paste : I’ve read you had to do a lot of research, Del. For most lyricists, it’s whatever comes to heart and whatever comes to mind, but you were working on a concept.
Dan the Automator: I think you can go beyond that in the sense of like, if you listen to a Del record from any point in his career, like “Sleeping On My Couch” or something, it’s a subject, and I’m not saying if it’s timeless or not, but it encapsulates a moment in time. I think a lot of the records you hear nowadays, it’s disposable music. Especially now, not only do the consumers have less value placed on music, but the artists have less value to the music they’re putting out to a good degree on a lot of people. Not everybody. But there’s a lot of records that I think is hot for about a minute. This isn’t that type of record.

Paste : It’s not that type of record. You could turn on pop radio right now, and you know you’re not going to hear most of those songs in a few years. Why put all the time in it? Why put all the money in it if you’re not shooting to make a classic?
Del the Funky Homosapien: They think they’re going to get proceeds that they’re probably not going to get. It’s like Dan said, the music has been devalued. My theory is that music, you can’t really sell it. You know what I’m saying? Because it’s intangible. You can’t see it. You can hear it, but you can’t smell it and you can’t hold it. The only way you can hold it is if you got some kind of container to hold it. That’s what the music industry did. They came up with a container for it. Since they were the representatives of it…
Dan the Automator: One thing to that point though, they didn’t come up with the container for it. That’s why it is how it is. If the music industry had come up with a container, they would keep making money. The computer industry came up with the container and [the music industry] have to work with it now.
Del the Funky Homosapien: You think so?
Dan the Automator: Absolutely. Because look who has the market shares. iTunes. That’s not the music industry, that’s the computer industry. As time went on, the container got moved away from the music industry, and that’s why they’re having all the problems that they’re having right now.

Paste : Del, in a more literal sense, you’ve been a proponent of giving music away for free anyway. It’s not like you’re the only one doing that, but it almost even sounds like you’re making a point by doing it.
Del the Funky Homosapien: I’m not afraid. Like, go ahead, you’re going to buy it. That’s how I feel. Once you hear what I do, you’re going to support it. So I’m not afraid to let somebody listen to it. I would want to listen to it myself. And I find other means to find music myself. I’m not different from a lot of kids out here, you feel me? So I can understand that. But I feel like once you hear it, you’ll be like, “ok.” And the fact that I’m doing that and can relate to people like that, I find a lot of people that are like, “Ok, you’re a real dude. You ain’t like other people. I can trust you.” You know kids can’t really trust adults a lot of times.

Paste : So the other side of the trust is that it’ll come back and you’ll still be able to have a career. You can put the music out there, but you’re still going to find a way to survive.
Dan the Automator: It’s all very complicated, but I think the need to make the music and have it be heard under the circumstances for which things are going on right now just makes it part of the whole deal and what we have to deal with right now. Realistically speaking, the market share of the music business has shrunk almost like 20-something percent every year for the last I don’t know how many years, so there is that issue. And people do have to understand that eventually, artists can’t afford to make what they want to make based on financial constraints. But at the same time, it is what it is right now, so that’s what makes sense.

Paste : I want to come back around to the new record, Event 2. It was more or less written over a long period of time. When you’re working on a concept album like that, how do you keep it cohesive? It seems to be in such a mindset for such a long time would be really taxing to have to go back into that over and over just to complete the piece.
Del the Funky Homosapien: It is.
Dan the Automator: Del told me one thing one day that to me kind of sums it all up. Obviously things change over years, so your point-of-view changes over the years, but in actual practice, all the Deltron stuff is just about the nature of man. And the nature of man isn’t something we have to cultivate or whatever. It just is.

Paste : Doesn’t matter who’s in office.
Dan the Automator: Right. So once I understood that, we could go anywhere. Because if it’s about war, or it’s political, or it’s about love, or money or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. The underlined point is about is still the nature of man. That’s not something you have to work to keep together. It’s more cohesion in terms of style than it is in terms of subject matter.
Del the Funky Homosapien: I’ve met a few people—I can count on one hand—that are probably the worst people that I’ve ever met in my entire life. They’re like my examples of what I don’t want to be and what I feel like nobody else should want to be either. Complete psychopaths. So any story that I would like to create, they have given me that gift. I could keep on generating stories forever and ever off just them few people. Just change the name, change the scenario a little bit. Because it’s all the same, pretty much. It’s just how you get from A to C, what B is going to be. That’s really the meat of it.
Dan the Automator: Del’s a poet, so whatever he writes, I expect it to have a certain quality of arrhythmic thing because it’s the rap part of it, but also subject matter. Beyond on that, like I said, the overriding subject exists for all of us. It’s just the details at that point.

Paste : Is it too narrow then to call you guys a political group?
Dan the Automator: I think it’s very political.
Del the Funky Homosapien: I think everything is politics.
Dan the Automator: I think the difference between our record and another record, for example, “I’m going to go to a club, smoke a bunch of weed, do molly and pick up girls,” that’s a lifestyle record. They may not be worried about the repercussions of this or the whatever of that, and that’s fine. It is what it is. This one, on the other hand, we’re thinking about what’s going on. So approaching it from that point-of-view by nature makes it political versus what’s going on in the market on the other side of the market. If you were to say that we were always political, I’d say that’s not exactly what we were doing. I think there is a bit of fantasy to the whole thing, except for the fact that as time has gone on, things happen and you start to see how it all relates to real life, because it was an observational record. So by nature, an observational record has a sort of political bend to it. What you observe and how you interpret it makes it that way versus someone going like, “I got 22-inch rims. I got money and I’m gonna go smoke weed and do molly.”

Paste : That’s a rough night for somebody.
Dan the Automator: You know, but when you do that, you’re not looking at the external forces. It’s all internal lifestyle. Since, I’m going to say, 75 percent or 85 percent of records, especially rap records, kind of go from that side, then are the other 15 percent political? Is Nas political? Yeah, it’s all political in that way. So yes.

Paste : If you want to look at it in the broad sense, your version of the future is a pretty grim look of the future. But if you’re calling it that just taking a look at the present, your vision of the present is looking pretty bad, too.
Dan the Automator: But is any of it not true? I don’t think we made up anything that doesn’t have a seed of truth in the present.
Del the Funky Homosapien: Or the past. There were Mongolians running around chopping fools’ heads. Can it worse than that? I don’t know.
Dan the Automator: Exactly. I think pretty much science fiction, as we learned this record, we thought it was futuristic when we made the first one as a futuristic romp or whatever, where it’s more science fiction. And science fiction really only works well when the present is established so the future has something to bounce off of. And the future is generally a commentary on the present. So I think with that in mind, all the stuff that we’re talking about here, there may be a futuristic creature involvement or whatever, but it’s more of a metaphor than anything else to what’s going on right now on some level, if not all levels.

Paste : I guess what I’m really asking, for you guys personally, is there any optimism? Do you wake up and read the news and go, “man”?
Del the Funky Homosapien: I don’t read the news. I don’t watch TV.
Dan the Automator: You don’t even get out of bed if you read news too much. And not everything is bad, obviously. Things are good all over the place. But especially on the upper end of power, there is a lot of abusive power.

Paste : This is days after the Hobby Lobby story.
Dan the Automator: Exactly. But once again, it’s the nature of man. It’s the money. Who’s paying the money? And that’s what you get. We get Supreme Court justices who’re political party affiliated. Why are we doing this? It’s because that’s who funds us.
Del the Funky Homosapien: Which you know already. It’s not surprising to me. But none of that is based upon my day-to-day life and what I gotta do. None of that is going to affect me, pretty much. Like if I’m gonna go eat something, I’m going to find a way to go eat something. I don’t really care about all this other stuff. It’s up to you as a personal individual what you’re going to do despite what’s going on around you.
Dan the Automator: You definitely have to carve out your life, because otherwise it becomes despair. The other part about it is, we live in the United States, which has a semblance of a lower, middle and upper class. It’s when you get to the countries that don’t have the middle class is when you really see the oppressive nature of stuff. We see it and complain about it, but in a way, especially in the middle, you’re in the bubble of like, “Well, we’re doing ok. We have some stuff going on.”
Del the Funky Homosapien: It’s an illusion.
Dan the Automator: Yeah, it’s an illusion of hope. It’s also an illusion of hope for the lower class, because a poor person, it really takes a lot to imagine you’re going to be super rich. But it doesn’t take so much to imagine that you might be middle class.

Paste : It’s the carrot.
Dan the Automator: Yeah, it’s the carrot that they’re dangling in front of you. The thing is as they crush the middle class, and when it becomes crushed in countries, that’s when you get the anarchy, because people are like, “We’ll never be that. Let’s blow this all up.”
Del the Funky Homosapien: Which is happening. I live around it. There’s a weird trend around where I live at where I’m starting to see people walking down the street with their whole life in suitcases. I’m like, “damn! Fresh, new.” So it’s not like they’ve been homeless for long. They’re newly homeless and just looking real mad. And I’ve never seen that before. So I’m looking at it like, “damn, that’s messed up.” The freeways over here, I’m starting to see lines of people. They’re starting to have a little campout over there. This is crazy.

Paste : So if nothing’s really changed politically from the first record to Event 2, hip hop itself does seem to have changed. It almost seems like a lot of mainstream hip hop is finally catching up to what you guys started around the first time. You look at mega-giants like Jay Z and Kanye, and what they’re doing sounds more indie.
Del the Funky Homosapien: I feel that that’s because they’re rich, and nothing against Kanye or Jay Z, I like them, but I just feel like what else you going to do if you want to be hip?
Dan the Automator: Exactly. Because once he started doing “Beach Chair” and all that crap, where it was like after The Black Album, Kingdom Come...
Del the Funky Homosapien: What out now.
Dan the Automator: I got this.

Paste : Ha! He will hunt you down!
Dan the Automator: Nah, I like Jay Z. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that on the Magna Carta record, he did something that he didn’t do when he was doing songs with Chris Martin. Like before, he did shit where he was literally like, “I think I’m Picasso, baby” He’s talking about having a Basquiat in his kitchen with Blue [Ivy] in it. That’s cool. That’s real life. It’s funny and it’s witty. The other stuff was when you’re just rich. Like I can picture that scene. Him and Beyonce sitting there eating breakfast and the kid’s leaning on the fucking $5 million thing. I’m like, “ok, you come to terms with that” whereas before between The Black Album and then, there were moments, but I don’t think he had come to terms with how to like, where your lifestyle is so beyond everybody else’s lifestyle that people can’t relate. But he got to that point where he could put the two together. Jay Z is probably the best rapper that’s ever been in terms of lyric changing styles. It was that period between where I couldn’t get into it. There’s a few songs. I like “Blue Magic,” “Rock Boys,” a couple songs, but it was because I don’t think he had come to terms with money. Like, “I got all the money. I can do whatever I want. What is there to rhyme about?” Like, I knew stuff he was writing about. He had a song called “Big Spender” with Freeway. Freeway’s making up bullshit, because he doesn’t have that money, but Jay Z really has that money! He’s like, “I don’t buy out the bar, I buy the bar.” He’s talking about the Spotted Pig. I know that restaurant! But that’s the only time it really worked. “I don’t buy out the bar, I buy the bar,” even if you don’t know, it still sounds cool. But then the other stuff is like, I don’t want to know about the gas milage on your G5 or something. It doesn’t come into terms where I can bring it down to a level to picture it; even though I’m not living it, I can picture it.

Paste : I think a lot of musicians have that problem. Once you become super successful and you live the life, how do you relate anymore? The road song. They all do the road song.
Dan the Automator: A lot of people write about being on tour. Tour life. You know what? Besides the worn-out country singer, I think that’s the only time it really works. The worn-out country singer talking about living the life on the road. Somehow that seems part of the mythology. Everyone else, I don’t know.
Del the Funky Homosapien: If it’s real, it’s real.
Dan the Automator: If it’s real, but to relate to it. I’m talking about relating to it as a listener.
Del the Funky Homosapien: Hard work. Anybody can relate to that. So however you do that hard work, if you sing about it, somebody’s going to be like, “yeah, I feel you man. I gotta get up and go to work, too.”

Paste : It gives me the hope at least, what the big guys are doing in hip hop right now, with any genre of music, you kind of stall every 15 years or 10 years or so.
Dan the Automator: I think we’re at the glam rock version of hip hop right now. We got rap guys wearing leggings. You can’t wear that in the hood.
Del the Funky Homosapien: Watch out, man. Watch out.

Paste : So the second time around now on Deltron, I mean you have three amazingly talented guys. Everybody does their own different thing. Has it ever been an issue where you’re stepping over each other?
Dan the Automator: Not at all. That’s not even a concern. If anything, we push each other to go further. It’s more addictive than subtractive, if anything.
Del the Funky Homosapien: I think we all have fun doing it and we got a level of respect to each other to where it just naturally works.

Paste : Is there a level of success that’s part of the game? You could call Deltron a supergroup, but it’s almost like a cult supergroup. Is there anything that says, “we have all the foundation set. We could be on the top of the Top 40 charts if we wanted to”?
Del the Funky Homosapien: We’ve already done that. It’s not even about that though. For me, it’s just about making good music. And really, if a music lover feels what I’m doing, cause I’m still a music lover. I’m still a fan. So I got that kind of attitude. Me personally, I like to keep it grimy. I like to keep it kind of gritty, because that’s just where I’m from. So that’s what I relate to. So if people could still see me on the street, still walk up to me and talk to me, or want some advice or something. Maybe a young cat wanna holla at me or something. I was riding down the block one day, and this cat that was working in the barbershop seen me skating down the street. He came out and was like, “What’s up?” I stopped. He was cool, you know? His name was Panther, actually. He had some records, too. So he was like, “Man, next time you come through, I’ll let you hear something.” As long as that can still happen, I’m cool because that’s what it’s about to me.

Paste : A formula for longevity is what I see you guys on, as opposed to what we were talking about earlier, the Top 40 folks who disappear.
Dan the Automator: It’s true. They come and go as they come and go. The super-talented ones stay. There’s people that make pop music that I would never listen to ever, but they make great hooks or great songs, and they stay, too.
Del the Funky Homosapien: It’s really up to the people, and that’s pretty much what I’m saying. If the people want you around, they’re going to buy your stuff. They’re going to support you. If they don’t want you, there ain’t nothing you can do. I don’t care how well you advertise, how clean you think you are, if I say no, I’m not buying your stuff, you know I’m saying? For instance, Earl Sweatshirt, I bought his album twice. I could have downloaded it easily just like I downloaded anybody else’s album. I waited for his album to come out. It was an event. I bought it digitally. When I was in the store doing an autograph signing, I actually bought the physical copy again there just because I wanted to listen to it going home. It’s got the lyrics in it. I get to read his lyrics! Just like old days. That’s because I’m a fan of him and I wanted it no matter if I could have downloaded it or not. So I feel like other fans will like that, too.