The Future is Coming On: Time-Traveling with Del the Funky Homosapien
There are few settings more anachronistic than desert music festivals, where forbidding emptiness masquerades as a dreamscape that could exist anytime, anywhere. Such was the case at this spring’s Serenity Gathering in Joshua Tree, California, where we met up with Del the Funky Homosapien, an artist who has straddled genre, identity, and even temporalities. At Serenity, it was clear that his festival followers knew him best for his chart-topping collaboration with the Gorillaz, though he dipped into his entire catalogue, from the 1990s to 3030. We caught up with Del on the eve of his latest recording, a much-anticipated project with Mr. Lif that drops on April 15th.
Inspired by a crowd that looked part cyborg, part goddess, Del riffed on everything from his role in the festival scene, to Frank Zappa and Woodstock, and the long view of Afrofuturism.
Sensible Reason: Are you happy with the collaboration you just completed with Mr. Lif?
Del the Funky Homosapien: I haven’t heard it since I did it. It was tight when we were doing it, though.
SR: I’ve heard this about you, Del, that you seem to do a project and then back away from it and let it have a life of its own.
Del: I advance pretty quickly, so if I got something done and it’s been a couple of weeks I’m already thinking about something new. Especially now, with the Internet and all this, stuff changes so quickly and I be right with it. I think that’s because I’m working towards making something that will last more for me and then I feel like it’ll last more for other people. Frank Zappa used to be like that, too. His whole body of work was a project, so he basically was always working on the same concept. Every time he made a song he was trying to go about it better.
SR: What do you make of your role in the festival scene?
Del: I’ve done this before. I used to go to stuff like this when I was young. I probably still would if I was twenty. The last time I went to something like this on my own I was in high school, probably. I’ve been places where it’s been on a beach or in the desert, but it would be more rave-oriented. Listening to the music here, though, this might as well be a rave as far as I’m concerned. When I look at all this I think of England and raves, or if you really want to go back, Woodstock. A lot of those acts that were there were really on the forefront of counterculture in general. That shit really was dangerous to a lot of people. It meant more. Hella black people, hella white people getting together. It meant a hell of a lot back then.
SR: You seem anachronistic to me. Like you straddle two moments in time. You’re in the past — in the sixties — but also way in the future.
Del: It’s all the same, the way I see it. Sometimes my mind is in the past as far as studying, seeing what works, and seeing whatever I can learn from what other people already did before. The future ain’t here yet but I can kind of predict some things based on what I see happening, certain trends I see going a certain way.
SR: I suspect that if you look up Afrofuturism your name is going to one day show up there with Sun Ra and Octavia Butler. Is that what Deltron 3030 was about?
Del: I think Deltron is there at this point. I didn’t set out to make Deltron part of Afrofuturism but if you want to put it in those terms, I guess you could. The lineage is like Sun Ra, George Clinton, and Del. I got into George Clinton because he was looking at it differently. The way he was looking at [Afrofuturism] was like, “okay, we’ve got white people in space and white people on Star Trek. How come they don’t have no pimps on The Enterprise? How come they ain’t got no hoes on Star Trek?” That’s what speaks to me. It was outrageous, but I instantly knew what he was talking about.
Del’s collaboration with Mr. Lif, “World Renown,” drops on April 15th.
(Feature photo by T. Delfin)