Musicians are restless people. Family Tree follows the various projects that splinter from a band or collaboration. Today, we follow the Kid Koala, Dan the Automator, and Del the Funky Homosapien, the three-headed future-beast that makes up Deltron 3030.
It might not have been obvious at the time, but it's almost inevitable that Kid Koala, Dan the Automator, and Del the Funky Homosapien would end up in a group together. When Deltron 3030 first connected for their 2000 self-titled debut, they had all displayed similar sensibilities: disinterest in sticking to the conventions of their genres, a love of sci-fi and comic books, a promiscuous artistic sensibility that leaves them open to collaborations, and a versatility that suits them to just about any project.
What seemed less likely is that they’d wait so long to deliver the follow-up, this year’s star-studded Event 2. Maybe they were just too busy playing with other people. Between the three of them, Deltron 3030’s tentacles stretch all over rock, hip-hop, electronic, funk, and pop. Earlier, we spoke to Kid Koala about the influence of graphic novels on his music and art. Here, we take apart the various projects of the Kid and his two Deltron accomplices.
For a guy who plays such an ostensibly retro style (DJs who spin from real records are an endangered species) Kid Koala is a restless, boundary-pushing performer. Even on his staunchest turntablism albums, Kid Koala always poked at the limits of the medium, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. Take his signature live song, “Drunk Trumpet,” for instance, which drags a single note under the turntable’s needle at different speeds like an inebriated jazzbo. His latest solo album, 12 Bit Blues, takes a similar approach by using the back-to-basics approach of blues music to cut up and reassemble bed tracks in real time, no sequencing software.
Kid Koala, "Drunk Trumpet":
Kid Koala, "5 Bit Blues":
Kid Koala also extends his genre-pushing sensibility beyond the realm of music. He’s written and illustrated two graphic novels, Nufonia Must Fall and Space Cadet, each with its own aural accompaniment. For the latter’s downbeat isolation-based narrative, he developed a new style of symphonic, orchestral turntablism and piped it live to audience members’ headphones while they laid back against inflatable “space pods.”
Kid Koala's Space Cadet Headphone Experience (trailer):
On the other, more Zeppelin-worshipping side of the coin is his group The Slew, which includes the former rhythm section of neo-cock-rockers Wolfmother. The band came together when to translate Kid Koala and Dynamite D's big-riff/scratching project to the big stage, creating a new model of rock-band-with-DJ that all but erases the bad taste left by Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.
The Slew, "100%":
Dan the Automator
Dan the Automator’s similar restless spirit has bumped him against Kid Koala and Del the Funky Homosapien in more projects than just Deltron 3030. He first came to prominence, though, by producing the debut album from Kool Keith’s alter-ego Dr. Octagon, whose homicidal, time-travelling gynecologist character was a landmark for hip-hop’s dalliance with nerd culture, which would later be mined heavily by Deltron.
Dr. Octagon, "Earth People":
He’d also form a pair of bands with Mr. Bungle/Faith No More weirdo Mike Patton: Crudo and Lovage. The latter often features Kid Koala on decks.
Crudo, "Let's Go":
Lovage, "Anger Management":
Dan adopts the pseudonymn Nathaniel Merriweather for Handsome Boy Modeling School, which includes a wide array of cameos and guest verses from musicians all over the spectrum, from Del to Cat Power to Pharrell to Tim Meadows. Deltron’s new album looks a lot like that, with guest spots from Joseph-Gordon Levitt, David Cross, Zack De La Rocha and the Lonely Island, among others.
Handsome Boy Modeling School featuring Del the Funky Homosapien, "The World's Gone Mad":
Dan The Automator’s biggest project, Gorillaz, also also gave Del the Funky Homosapien his biggest mainstream crossover. According to Del, his verse on the band’s ginormous “Clint Eastwood” was basically a fluke – Dan convinced him to stick around in the studio after recording the first Deltron record, so he tossed off some lyrics using the book How to Write a Hit Song.
Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood":
Del the Funky Homosapien
Del’s elastic flow has made him the go-to guy for collaborations throughout his career, with or without his Deltron partners. A team player from the beginning, his golden age-evoking work with the Hieroglyphics crew, has a strident cult fanbase, for instance. And his more recent work with production crew Parallel Thought, unites his relaxed raps with smooth funk, like chocolate and peanut butter.
Hieroglyphics, "You Never Knew":
Parallel Thought, "Different Guidelines":
His alt-rap cred is occasionally used by currency for other artists, but Del always seems game. Exhibit A: his two tracks on the Wu-Tang affiliate crossover album, Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture.
Wu-Tang featuring Aesop Rock and Del the Funky Homosapien, "Preservation":
Exhibit B: His inclusion on the essential-but-underrated Judgement Night soundtrack, teaming up with laconic guitar hero J Mascis and his pieced-together Dinosaur Jr. for the rare rap-rock song that doesn’t suck. Even more remarkable: their performance on Arsenio Hall could be the most ‘90s clip in the world, if not for the fact that it could easily be recreated at this very moment. Get on that, Arsenio.
Dinosaur Jr and Del the Funky Homosapien, "Missing Link" (live on Arsenio Hall):