We spoke with MC Dälek about why intelligence has always been punished, hearing beautiful melodies in noise, why everyone always breaks their iPhone screen and why it’s important to be forthright with others while you can.
I’ve always tried to make music that speaks to people who don’t necessarily have a voice in media or mainstream culture in general. You can take that whichever way.
As music becomes more and more diffused by abstraction and “vibes”, it seems like hip-hop is one of the last genres to really value singing something worth singing with music behind it, rather than the other way around. To you, is there still something to be said about clever, poetic words set to music?
Yeah, I mean, I’d like to think I built a career on it! To me, lyrics are very important in hip-hop. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that all music needs to be a political or socially conscious statement. But especially in times like these, I think there should be more of a voice for the people in music, so I definitely think that’s important.
Interesting. How would you describe “music for the people?”
I’ve always tried to make music that speaks to people who don’t necessarily have a voice in media or mainstream culture in general. You can take that whichever way. A voice for the voiceless, you know what I mean?
It seems like the latest Dälek record Endangered Philosophies deals a lot with people in power and this sort of anti-intellectualism going on in the world. Would you agree or disagree with that? What do you think about the anti-reality and anti-knowledge phenomenon currently happening in Western society?
I think there’s always been a strain of that in Western society. To make it a little comical, you could go back to the ‘80s and talk about Revenge of the Nerds, you know what I’m saying? People always looked at intelligence as if it’s something to be made fun of or to belittle, in a way. Unfortunately, that’s become more and more prevalent today. I think you could just look at the climate of the United States, but people are feeling that way all over the world.
Do you think that war or violence are ever justified in human society? Can name any specific examples as to why or why not?
Man, that’s a tough question. Isn’t all of human history based on war and violence? I don’t think it’s justified, but it’d be naïve to say that it doesn’t have a place in society because that’s the basis of our existence. Unfortunately, for better or worse, violence is a part of being human.
Some people hear noise when they listen to my music. I hear beauty in that noise. I hear melodies in that noise.
What is your conception of beauty versus ugliness in the world? These days, what’s the ratio between the two on a global scale, to you?
The cliché goes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people hear noise when they listen to my music. I hear beauty in that noise. I hear melodies in that noise. It really depends on the person who is either listening or looking at something. It’s up to that person to find the beauty in things. It’s how you perceive it.
Right, and it would seem that your unique sound is heavily influenced by shoegaze and noise music. What drew you to a harsher, more textural style than some of your peers might gravitate toward themselves?
Can you describe the event, or series of events, that led to you knowing this is what you’d do with your life? Was there a single moment where you knew you wanted to commit yourself to music?
I knew pretty early on. Growing up, my cousins were DJs, and I was always that little kid hanging around my older cousins. They were like my brothers. I started as a DJ when I was 13 or 14 years old. I’ve been in neighborhood hip-hop groups, first as a DJ and then as an MC. By the time I got to be a junior or senior in high school, I knew that this was what I was going to do. I went to college, but I wasn’t really looking for a career there, I was just looking to gain knowledge. I knew that what I wanted to do was to be a musician, to put music out and make it happen.
What was the most recent expensive or major item you bought for yourself? Where, why and how did you get it? Do you want to divulge how much it was?
The latest thing I bought was for my recording studio. I don’t really care about clothes, cars or any of that stuff. I care about investing in my craft. I just reinvested in a new Apogee Symphony audio interface, the new 16×16 model. You can look up how much that is online. I got that and a new Mac Pro to revamp the core of my studio before I recorded and mixed this album, so that was the newest purchase I made.
Speaking of your studio, can you describe it in as much technical detail as possible? What are you currently working on, and what do you want to work on in the future?
It’s a 16-track studio, both analog and digital. I’m running a Midas Venice analog console with the Apogee Symphony. I use Pro Tools and Ableton Live. I also have a slew of samplers (Akai S3000, S900 and S950), a collection of mics, some guitars and some outboard gear — compressors, distressors and mic preamps. It’s more of a mix studio at this point.
For the most part, I work on Dälek projects there, as well as my other side projects like Iconaclass and Fill Jackson Heights. I’m currently mixing a record for a singer-songwriter-type project, and when we get back from tour I’ll be working on a film score for a documentary that’s kind of top-secret for the time being.
Music has always been my refuge. It has always been very cathartic to me and helps me work through issues and difficult moments in my life.
Can you describe your last memory of breaking something, intentionally or unintentionally?
Damn, that’s a good question. You know what’s funny? I don’t know why everyone breaks their iPhone screen. I’ve never broken my iPhone screen. I feel like there’s something wrong with me! I feel like everyone I know, when I look at their phone, it’s shattered. I don’t know how to do it! I feel like I’m not doing shit right. My phone has fallen. it’s just never broken!
Speaking of shattered iPhone screens, please describe how you deal with stress in your life. Do you react well to volatile situations or does it tend to overwhelm you, making you act in ways you don’t mean?
Stress is why I do what I do. I’m lucky enough to able to challenge my aggression and whatever negative feelings I have inside through my music. I know a lot of people who don’t have an outlet for their anger. My music is what keeps me even-keeled and level, a normal human being with a regular life.
Where do you think that anger goes for people who don’t have a creative outlet like that?
Turn on the evening news, man. Take a pick! Everything’s wrong in the world right now stems from that.
Without telling me who it is, can you tell me something you’ve always wanted to tell a specific person in your life but haven’t been able to?
Honestly, I try to tell people exactly how I feel. I’ve been around long enough to know that time is limited. I’ve lost enough people to know that if you have something you need to say to someone, you need to say it while you can because you may not get that chance. As far as things I need to say to my friends, or even people that I don’t see eye-to-eye with, I’ll always speak my mind and let them know exactly how I’m feeling. Life is too short to hold all that inside. There is nothing I can say to anyone. I’ve said it when I needed to. No one is promised a next day.
And how have you processed loss in your own life?
You’ve got to let that sadness out, man. Cherish the memories of times you spent together. You’ve got to power through. And again, music has always been my refuge. It has always been very cathartic to me and helps me work through issues and difficult moments in my life. It all comes back to music for me.
Finally, this is funny, but the topic reminds me of something Buzz Osborne said to me. He said something to the effect of “I don’t care at all about legacy. I don’t care what people will say 100 years from now about my music.” I’m wondering if you care about that! If they dug up all of Dälek’s music a century from now, is there anything you’d want them to take away about who you were as a human being?
I hear where Buzz is coming from. I don’t care about legacy either. What I do care about is always feeling 100% about what I do. I always want to make sure that whatever I do or release artistically is what I want to be out there, if that makes sense. I don’t do anything half-assed or that I don’t believe in. More than legacy, that’s what I care about. I want to make sure I’m not embarrassed by anything I’ve done creatively or professionally. Luckily, I haven’t to this point.
My other hope is that I have the foresight to know when to not release something and hang it up. The central focus of our group is to call it out. If it’s wack, it’s wack. I hope that I will always know to let something be if it’s not worth releasing.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Phone
Published: November 22, 2017
Total questions: 15
Word count: 1654
Reading time: Six minutes
All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors, analog, anger, Apogee Symphony, beauty, Buzz Osborne, craft, Dälek, digital, embarrassment, evening news, Faust, forthrightness, guitar, intelligence, investment, iPhone, Kevin Shields, legacy, Lou Reed, MC Dälek, melody, Melvins, Midas Venice, My Bloody Valentine, noise, overwhelm, Revenge of the Nerds, screen, stress, studio, texture, ugliness, violence, voice, volatile, war
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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