Ipswich born DELS (who has a thing for waking up at 6am dammit!) is a video art director, producer and a rapper who I have liked for some time now. True he might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me he’s like red bush tea no taffeine just all the effects of a good cuppa with an extra added bonus of some rather good health energising properties.
‘I do not even know if I am hip-hop I just make music’
He adds succinctly when I had a chance to chat to the man himself at the brilliant and artist breaking Ninja Tunes label HQ. Since he came onto the musical map way back when he was sixteen it seems that Keiran Gallear has been rather destined to make an impact with his music. While many fans know him for his break out tracks Shapeshift (produced by Joe Goddard of Hot Chip) and Trumpalump off his glorious debut album GOB (2011) it was a little affair with the tastemakers’ tastemaker the late John Peel that pointed to an artists who was always going to set his musical aspirations (when they came) very high.
‘I was part of a hip-hop group and John peel saw us performing at an event and invited us down to Radio 1. He asked us to do a track session with him and that was amazing because we were only sixteen-it was so inspiring and amazing to do. Funnily enough we did not even know who he was and it was only when we asked older people about him that we found out that we should do it and so we did.’
Rather than some charge towards a career in music DELS has allowed the process to happen organically while focusing more on getting a full education-he attained a degree as a Graphic Designer. Music was of course never far behind and it’s clear that music remained an ever present force in his life despite taking a trajectory towards education.
‘My mum actually built a studio for my brother and I to mess around with because my family loved music, so that’s why on my first album it says recorded at my mum’s yard because that was actually where it happened. Music has always been part of my life but it took a while before it became more than just something I enjoyed doing’ he adds, ‘When I went to university I took a lot of musical experience with me but it was not like I went: ‘I want to be a musician’ music was more a release and something I enjoyed. It was not until I went to university and I was at Kingston and the producer (who I created music with) was also in London that the music as a solo artist started to evolve. I started posting the tracks that we did together on MySpace and getting to meet people like JME, Ghost Poet, and KWES’ he adds genuinely, ‘its’ great to see that all of these artists who I knew way back then are making such great names for themselves-its inspiring.’
Talking to DELS it is clear that he has in some form or way interacted with some of the biggest or brightest names in the UK scene- he rattles off names that are distinctly high caliber with ease. From interactions with Sampha (an artist sure to be making waves) to the excellent Bonobo, Micachua and Hot Chip he has a rather sumptuous musical CV already.
Signing to Ninja Tunes a few years back has been an inspired decision allowing him to remain ‘true’ to his musical endeavours while getting the support from a label that clearly understands and nurtures his free musical spirit.
‘Coming to Ninja Tunes has been great’ he waves his hand at the artists that proliferate the Ninja Tunes wall, ‘all these artist have their own individual characters and musical direction and that is what I came here for when I signed the deal with Will Asham when he was here. My favourite artist is Andre 3000 and he cannot be boxed in and so I want to be that type of artist that you can’t box in. I didn’t and I still do not want to be known as that ‘typical mixed-race rapper’.
Decked out in a simple black t-shirt and jeans the rather tall Dels is humorous and engaging while still being quite clearly resolute and steely in his ambition to not follow the predictable musical path of ‘rappers’. Indeed it’s clear that he never succumbed to the fear of being forgotten after his initial success. Rather than a dearth of releases following the wide acclaim for his genre breaking first album, DELS followed up with only one release the engaging Black Salad ep which spawned cuts like Black Milk featuring Bonobo.
‘Well the album came out and we just started touring performing at loads of festivals and shows’, as he explains the reason for the minimal output since GOB and the ep, ‘from New York to London I was just getting the vibe performing with my band and so that was a great experience. I think I also needed time to experience life, break up with a girlfriend and get a new one, family life, people passing away and I just needed all these experiences.’
The result of this musically quiet period and of course life’s ups and downs is his sophomore album the ambiguously named but forth right Petals Have Fallen and rather than treading the safe road, the album sees DELS in his usual mood of thought provoking alternative hip-hop or indeed whatever you think it is.
‘I was worried about my second album and for a while I was not really sure how to make everything connect.’ He explains when I ask about the difficulties of dropping a sophomore album, ‘I was always writing bits and pieces here and there but the direction of the album was not clear but I remember I interviewed the whole of the Wu Tang crew (it was my first interview actually). We were talking about music but from a technical standpoint; what microphones do you use, why is the sound so gritty and then Rza started to talk about how they did not have much memory on their cards and so they had to sample things at a lower bit rate? It made me think but that’s how I used to make music. From that my title track Petals Have Fallen came about. Kwes’ younger brother actually made that beat and when I listened to the track the album’s direction came, the track was the linchpin in the project’.
Executive producer Kwes who has been behind many of DELS’ projects imposes his creative self on the project ensuring that its bursting with thumping beats and true sub bass that shakes your soul all while being distinctly in keeping with DELS’ vision.
The opening track Limbo with its ethereal other-worldly feel sets the tone-(so don’t expect too much playfulness) before the album launches with swathes of gusto on the anthemic Fall Apart followed by House of Commons. Collaborations are minimal but they are telling: from the fresh talents of artists like-Tirzah on the title track, Petals Have Fallen, to Rosie Lowe on Burning Beaches and the inspired Pulls featuring Kerry Leatham which epitomises one of Dels’ mission in its self exploratory verses, its A darkly fantastic track blessed with a brilliant hook and chorus from Leatham while a sublime Dilla type hip-hop beat draws you in.
It’s a big album in every sense of the word and requires you to sit back and enjoy it like you are getting a rather innocent but oh so damn good massage that takes each and every knot out of your muscles. The beauty of DELS’ current position is he still seems to see music as a love rather than his career with all the inherent pressures.
‘It’s strange actually because it was a guy called Harry Woodrow who I worked for in Bethnal Green who told me to pursue my music because Graphic Design will always be there. He encouraged me to combine the two disciplines and do my own artwork for my music. I have never really told him how he inspired me but he really did and from there I pushed ahead with music.’ As the interview closes he adds, ‘If it really does not pop off like people are saying then I would not be totally upset. I make the music I want to make and actually say something so I am not feeling under pressure-but if I am not making my name musically then I would like to make it visually-either way as long as I am involved in music in some way I am happy because I have always just loved making music first and foremost.’
LOOK OUT DELS’ ALBUM LAUNCH AT ELECTROWERKZ ON THE 19TH NOVEMBER FOR INFO CLICK LINK
PETALS HAVE FALLEN OUT NOW