Will Brooks, AKA Dälek, is — counter to the weight of his lyrics — a man who laughs easily. It’s often the way; seeing into life’s dark side comes hand in hand with an appreciation of its goodness — fun, friends, family and passion.
With Dälek’s seventh album, ‘Asphalt For Eden’, just out, it was time to catch up with the world order over at the Deadverse Massive…
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Your plate seems so full right now, I admit it makes me think 'this guy’s got stamina…'
It’s a juggling act. I’ve got the studio. I have my own record label and I just signed a new artist, this producer from Philadelphia, John Morrison, so I’ll be releasing his debut ‘SWP: Southwest Psychedelphia’ in June. Expect more music from Dälek and from my other project Icon(A)Class. We’re definitely going to be touring, shorter runs of two-three weeks, strategic but extensive touring. We’ll definitely be coming back to Europe, we’ll be going over to Australia, Japan. We haven’t been to South America; that’s another place we definitely want to hit. South-East Asia I’d love to hit — it’d be great to get to China. Wherever people are down to hear us, I’m down to go.
It’s a lot of hats and there’s so much work involved but if you love it then it doesn’t feel like work, those twenty hours spent tweaking one sound are completely worth it. That’s the trick; making sure you genuinely enjoy what you’re working on — that means you can work tirelessly. You’ll last. I’ve been in this since I started DJ’ing at fourteen and honestly I have no plans on stopping — I’m a lifer.
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I have no plans on stopping — I’m a lifer...
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You’ve certainly put in the years, has the motivation changed?
2017 will be twenty years since the first Dälek release. In the beginning I wanted to put records out and the fact I’ve been able to do that makes me want to put out more. Being able to have my music out there, to travel the world and perform, to have that be my career — I feel lucky. I really understand how special that is. In all honesty, I never got into this for the fame aspect but when someone emails me, or meets me after a show, and tells me my music helped them through a rough time in their life it’s so humbling to know something you’ve created can affect someone. It’s a great feeling and you come to love that feeling.
You could say the same about performing live. People have a hard time believing this but I’m not really a people person in — quote/unquote — real life. I don’t really like attention so it’s ironic that I chose being on stage as my career. When we first started I was really uncomfortable, I didn’t like it, But, after twenty years, I’ve learned that quote about performing live being like a drug is absolutely true — that instant feedback from an audience when you’re playing for them, that energy, that exchange, there’s nothing like that. I’ve grown to love being on stage.
And has Dälek itself changed?
Well, I’m not just the MC, I also produce the music; it’s very much ‘me’, my voice, my vision — I’m involved from the initial kick and snarebeat, to the guitar layers, to the noise layers, to mixing, to mastering. But it’s me collaborating with others, so there’s their input too. In the beginning it was me and Oktopus producing the music together, now it’s myself and Mike Manteka, then I do the lyrics and we have rEK do the cuts.
With Mike it’s pretty similar to the way me and Oktopus worked. The only difference is that Oktopus would plan out the album from the beginning. ‘Asphalt For Eden’ was more organic, we had a sense of where we were going sonically but we let things take a natural course rather than plotting it out. Basically we would add sounds then, when we couldn’t push it further, we’d hand it to the other guy and see what they could do. We’d bounce it back and forth to get it to a place we’re both happy with. This isn’t for every song but for a lot of songs we build, add layers, then during the mix phase we sculpt it, peel away layers at points in the arrangement, let sounds breathe…
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When it’s your song it’s the most important question that there is.
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I get the impression that this is all the result of a tight-knit group of friends, I saw you perform in Camden years back and Mike’s project opened for you…
Yeah, Mike played in Destructo Swarmbots, then he was guitarist in Dälek from shortly after ‘Absence’. DJ rEK was the DJ for Dälek’s first album (‘Negro Necro Nekros’). So it’s a new lineup but, at the same time, all the members have always been a part of what we do.
It’s the Deadverse family — we all tend to work on each other’s projects. Dev-One is the other member of my project Icon(A)Class. I did a limited edition book with my boy Thomas Reitmayer from Austria and he did the artwork for all the Icon(A)Class records from ‘For the Ones’, the LP, then our EP (‘I Got It’, 2011) and a new cassette ‘Changing Culture With Revolvers.’ I think he was running for President of Austria this year, I was kinda hoping he would win because it’d be interesting to say the President of Austria did artwork for some of my records. Paul Romano has done Dälek’s artwork since ‘Abandoned Language’ — he’s really the visual component of Dälek and he knocks it out of the park every time. More than anything it’s just the trust fact, the respect for their talents.
I’m curious what led to you resurrecting the name Dälek and what it means in terms of the music encountered on ‘Asphalt For Eden’?
What I’d been doing with Icon(A)Class is more stripped down boom-bap hip hop. But I wanted to create more music in the vein of Dälek. It’s about the sonics, , it’s the heaviness, the layers, the noise, the blending of different sounds and genres. ‘Asphalt For Eden’ is undeniably a Dälek record, although it doesn’t sound like any that came before. It’s hard to put my finger on what’s different but it feels like a natural progression, what Dälek is now, just where Dälek should be.
It happened relatively quickly, we wrote ‘Masked Laughter’ last year — that was the genesis of the album. We started with thirty-forty track ideas then narrowed it down to seven that fit together. The way I listen to music and think about music is in an album format so it’s about the feel and vibe of songs as a collection that seems to tell a story sonically. We wanted it to be concise and impactful.
On average we’d be working three days a week and if it was feeling right, if stuff was being accomplished, we’d be in here for twenty hours a day. I’m no Mozart by any stretch of the imagination; these songs don’t just pour out complete — we have to work at it, we’re more blue collar than Mozart. To be a musician I feel there has to be something wrong with you. You spend days agonizing over questions most people don’t really give a shit about but when it’s your song it’s the most important question that there is. That’s why you do it; if you don’t love music then there’s no reason to do this at all.
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Words: Nick Soulsby
‘Asphalt For Eden’ is out now on Profound Lore Records