When I had first heard of Dalek, I was automatically interested.
Considering Dalek was touring in the opening slot for some of my favorite DJ’s, Spooky, Ming & FS at the Fox Theater in Boulder this summer, I was nowhere nearly prepared for what I was about to experience.
The beat came out of nowhere with the mathematic precision of someone who either truly loves their work or just believes that there is nothing else in existence for him to do… the emcee stepped to the front of the stage, sporting a haircut vaguely reminiscent of Mike Patton’s early ’90’s days. He puts one foot forward and slowly adds volume and speed to the lyrics, until it all fits like nothing else in nature – like a storm constantly molding itself over the rough landscape as it moves, leaving the landscape changed in a subtle manner that’s difficult to discern, yet undeniable.
Next up, the DJ begins throwing out lightning strikes wherever he sees fit with a style I’ve yet to see from any other turntablist in the land. When I listen close, I hear what seems to me to be the dark voice of the inner city alley, the trainyard, or the whisper in the wind that the street kid hears before he pulls his hood over his head and starts emptying spraycans out of his backpack, to lay out more than just graffiti, but to create art under the cloak of darkness, stepping away, if only for a moment, from the pressures of the supposed socially-conscious environment we’re all so used to being smothered by…
I got the opportunity to talk to Will, emcee and frontman for Dalek, over the phone as they were relaxing for a moment from their busy tour schedule. Here’s how it went down:
JAYEM CAIN: How is the road treating you?
WILL DALEK: Great, man – this is pretty much what we do now, just being out on the road, playing shows, you know; we plan on being out until January this time around, with a few days off here and there, but so far it’s definitely been good – good responses to the album, and good responses to the show in general.
JC: How do you feel you have been received?
WD: I think it definitely helps having Ipecac [Records] behind us, the help they’ve given us with the press on our new album, the fact that we have a new album out, it’s all definitely drawing out a lot more people now. I think that when we first came out, not that our music is the end-all be-all or anything, but at the time, I don’t think many people were ready to hear that shit, so we got the people that loved it, but we also got the people that, you know, it went completely over their heads, so I think that it’s definitely, slowly but surely coming to a time people are becoming more accepting to what we’re doing.
JC: Where do you draw influence from – music, poets, film, etc.?
WD: Musically, I think our influences range from everything from early punk rock, bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag, Burn, to early hip-hop, like KRS 1, Public Enemy obviously, Eric B and Rakim, all the early stuff I grew up with, also Phillip Glass, My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground; lyrically, emcee’s like KRS 1 & chuck D to Pablo Nueva – the thing is , I think all 3 members in the group are just pretty much open to all forms of art and listen to anything that’s out there, that, to me, is the true essence of what hip-hop has always been, just to grab everything around you and make it into something that’s your own….
JC: How long has Dalek been in existence?
WD: We had a different DJ when we first started, right before we released the first album, which came out in 98; we kind of started as a studio project, myself and Oktopus, we recorded that first album and decided that we wanted to tour on it, and I got a DJ, DJ Wreck, who was my producer on my last hip-hop group, and kind of just brought him into the group as a touring dj, and we toured with him for between 2 and 3 years, then in about 2000, we met Still, and he’s been with us since then
JC: What about previous projects?
WD: I started as a hip-hop emcee and DJ when I was 14, I came up doing this stuff after school…I always held to the analogy that wanting to be a musician was like wanting to be a cowboy or an astronaut – we’re just stupid kids who don’t know when to give up our childhood dreams. Basically, I just kept going with that – I’ve been in countless groups where I was just an emcee, but Dalek was the first time I started a solo project. It just kind of grew into a group situation between the three members in the group now.
It’s the first project where I co-produced the music with my other producer, so it’s not that I just only do the lyrics, and I think you can kind of hear that, because of how cohesive the lyrics and the music are. It’s not like I just come in and drop lyrics over a cut, it’s definitely a complete vision. Whatever it may be, this is certainly the best working situation that I’ve been in, and there’s really no ego between us – I’ll work on 50 tracks, and Oktopus will tell me that 49 sucked, and that doesn’t matter, because I know that the final product is something that we will all be proud of, that we’ll all be happy with.
It’s just a really good working environment – everyone pulling their own weight, adding in whatever it is they bring to the table, and it all works out really great.
JC: About the upcoming split w/ kid606 – did you actually perform/record together, how was the match-up?
WD: Actually, what we did was remix one of his songs, sent it to him, but we ended up remixing the remix two more times. We added a bonus track on the EP, an instrumental track that we created ourselves, and he did the same, so we’ve never actually worked in the studio together, but the music that we remixed for him became like a new song altogether… it’s funny, we met him when he actually was a kid, and now he’s this huge dude, but he’s this really good friend of ours – whenever we’d roll through San Francisco, he’d show up – that kid tours so much that he’s home less than we are, so pretty much the only kind of collaboration we can do is when we’re bouncing stuff back and forth.
JC: Where did the CD name come from?
WD: The title came to me at a Barnes and Nobles – I was just walking around inside, and I was really stuck for a album title, so out of desperation I was going to buy magnetic poetry, just so I could stare at words and try to re-arrange them, just some kind of help because I was completely stuck – it was really weird, just one of those moments where the title came out of my mouth all at once, and I was standing in line with the magnetic poetry in my hands, and it just came out of my mouth and I was like “whoa”… The cover art is actually something I have hanging in my home painted by a friend/fan of ours who painted it while listening to our first record – different cover art was already in the works at that point, but when the title came to me, I knew that the painting had to be on the cover, so as soon as it came to me, I called up the rest of the guys in the band and they loved it.
JC: What is a griot?
WD: There’s definitely a meaning behind the title and the cover art, but the meaning is more important to me than it is to spoon-feed it to people, so I would rather just have people get their own meaning from it, which is kind of the way I feel about my lyrics, and most of our music in general. People always ask if there’s a message behind what we’re saying, and of course there is, as there is in all poetry, but we’re not the kind of band that needs to spoon feed our ideologies to people, and I’d rather have people getting their own meaning out of things…the Griot is an African poet/story teller who carries the history of the tribe or group of people through spoken word narratives and song narratives that he performs – it’s passed down from father to son, and to me, it represents the fore-father of the emcee. It’s pronounced gree-o (silent t) – I think we have a tendency to pick words that get mispronounced, like griots, and dalek, which is actually pronounced Dialek, and it seems that no matter where we go, it’s mispronounced or misspelled, so it’s something we’re quite used to.
JC: If there was one piece of art or artist that changed your life, what or who would it be?
WD: My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’. There’s more, but that’s a good start.
JC: Why do you think people should listen?
WD: As far as our shows go, just the raw energy of it- if there’s one thing that we are, and that the music is, it’s honest, you know, there’s no bullshit about us, there’s no pretension, I’m not putting an act on for you; if anything, us on stage, the music – it’s just therapy for me. What you hear, what you see on stage is what you get. Although sometimes I think I may appear maniacal, in the end, this is what gets me through everyday life…I mean, we’re about making music, making music is our main goal, and I think that people who just enjoy music in general, regardless of genre, should definitely listen to us. If you were listening to hip-hop back in the day, and granted, our soundscapes may not be what you would typically term hip-hop, but hip-hop, in a sense, was always experimental – it was always about grabbing everything around you and making it your own.
People sometimes say, “you guys are too rock,” but how rock are we, when Boogie Down Productions was coming up sampling ‘smoke on the water’, how electronic are we, when Afrika Bambataa is sampling Kraftwerk – if you are a fan of hip-hop, if you are a fan of high energy music in general, music that’s powerful lyrically and musically, it’s definitely something you should check out. I think that a lot of what’s out there now is prepackaged and cut up into little genre-shapes to make it more palatable to general audiences, and that’s not what we are at all. We’re definitely a little rough-around the edges, but I think that’s something that people can appreciate and casually enjoy.
I think I would have to agree with Dalek.