Hear the new track ‘Control’ from the group’s first album in six years.
When I ask Dälek figurehead Will Brooks about some of the music that’s excited him in the six years since his iconic experimental hip-hop project went on hiatus, he sends me back a list ranging from bleak Brooklyn rapper Ka to noise rockers Metz, Beach House and the Bug to the drone duo Belong. The variety is wild but given Dälek’s own genre-leaping sound, you can understand where he’s coming from.
The project’s first phase, best captured on 2002’s From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots, bridged gaps between hip-hop, noise, metal and shoegaze that predated groups like Death Grips and clipping., who both surfaced over a decade later. Now, Brooks has revived the project with a few lineup changes (longtime co-producer Oktopus gave his blessing, but chose not to rejoin) and will release Asphalt For Eden on beloved metal label Profound Lore.
Brooks spoke to FACT about the new single ‘Control’, what inspired him to return to the project and his excitement with the current musical landscape. Look for Asphalt For Eden on April 22.
What first made you want to bring Dälek back? Was there a moment where you just realized it was time?
I think it was a culmination of a few factors. I had played a few Dälek tracks with my more ‘boom-bap’ project iconAclass while on tour in Europe, and it rekindled my desire to play the noisier stuff. It was when I got home from that tour, that I approached Okto about touring again as Dälek, when we were hanging out at a Bug show at Output in Brooklyn. Shortly thereafter, a director friend of mine, Sridhar Reddy, asked me to write a song and score his short film, ‘6 Angry Women’ I think his exact request was, “I want you to write me my Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’!” To which my response (after laughing a bit) was “I’ll try my best.”
The resulting song, ‘Police State is Nervous’, though no ‘Fight the Power’, felt like a Dälek song, especially content-wise and was released as such. It all snowballed from there. A short European tour followed, we wrote two new songs for a 7″ that didn’t happen, Profound Lore contacted us about doing an EP, we signed on for that and the EP quickly grew into Asphalt for Eden. It all happened very organically, and just felt right.
Oktopus isn’t involved in this iteration of the project, but I read that you got his blessing. How did that conversation go?
Okto is my brother. When we went into hiatus it was because we both needed a break. We had been touring relentlessly since 1996. We both wanted to do other things and just breathe for a second. He did MRC Riddims for a while and really immersed himself in the bass/club nightclub world. When I approached him, he was starting up a new project called BKGD Audio. His head is in a completely different musical space now and didn’t want to return to do Dälek, and I completely respect that. He saw that I really wanted to continue, and said I should.
Oktopus by far is the musician I respect most in this world, and I am proud of what we accomplished together, and I am proud of what he continues to accomplish on his own. We are just traveling two different paths now musically and that’s not a bad thing. He’s doing to club music what we did to hip hop, so I’m excited to hear what he does next. I guess people expect there to be some dramatic story when two people decide not to work together any longer, but honestly there isn’t in our case.
What led you to your current collaborators?
Well, they’ve actually always been there. My new co-producer Mike Manteca, was originally in Destructo Swarmbots, who opened for Dälek on a few tours and then he played guitar in Dälek, on and off since the Absence days. DJ rEk was Dälek’s original DJ from our early days touring before we even had a record and was featured on the debut record ‘Negro, Necro, Nekros’ and part of ‘Filthy Tongue’ so bringing him back when I restarted Dälek just felt right. It is great to have a squad in place that understands the sound and understands what Dälek is all about.
I find it fascinating that in this first half of this decade, the years Dalek was inactive, was when so many projects rose up that felt very influenced by your work, projects like Death Grips and Clipping and Dreamcrusher. Do you ever think of the impact your work as had on newer artists?
It’s humbling. Those groups are all very different and obviously doing their own thing, but I agree that there is some influence there. And if we were able to affect music in any small way, it’s pretty incredible. I definitely feel like there is more of an audience for the type of music we make now. I also feel that music in general is more of a blend of genres, across the board, mainstream or underground, and again if we played any part in helping that happen, it truly is humbling.