Dälek: No Boundaries

With Endangered Philosophies, Dälek continues to blur genre lines

Since their band’s 1998 inception, the experimental hip-hop outsiders in Dälek (pronounced “die-a-leck”) have been compared to the disparate likes of My Bloody Valentine, Faust, Public Enemy and Afrika Bambaataa. This is mostly due to the gravelly, baritone rhymes of MC Dälek (née Will Brooks), with slow-motion beats and soundscapes indebted to industrial noise, shoegaze and krautrock. However, much of the lead-up to eighth album Endangered Philosophies hyped the Newark, N.J., trio’s “coming home” to Ipecac Records following a four-year hiatus during which Brooks focused on his iconAclass project and last year’s release of Dälek’s Asphalt For Eden on extreme-metal label Profound Lore.

“There’s no doubt, man—Ipecac is family,” says Brooks. “There’s really no leaving Ipecac, and we always planned on doing more records with them. You know, doing a record with another label was more of a scheduling thing. They couldn’t put Asphalt out when we wanted. After we released ‘Molten’ as a digital single, I got a call from (Ipecac co-owner Mike) Patton saying he wanted to release the next one, and we were like, ‘Yeah, no doubt.’ It was as simple as that.”

Endangered Philosophies is also notable for being an album loaded with guest appearances that aren’t exactly guest appearances. “We’ve been lucky enough to meet some unbelievable musicians who’ve talked about wanting to collaborate or do something on our records, but we’re not really that kind of group,” says Brooks. “I wouldn’t want a guitar solo on one of our songs, you know what I mean?”

Instead, Dälek had other musicians supply an assortment of recordings—METZ and Publicist UK sent guitar parts, Dave Witte (Municipal Waste) sent drum parts, Chris Cole (Third Eye Foundation, Movietone) sent cello parts—and used them only as source material. In the same way the trio sampled other records in the past, Brooks and Co. mangled, arranged and used what the others provided in whatever way they saw fit. “When we played it back to some of the people involved, they had no idea what was used where,” says Brooks. “‘Echoes Of…’ has guitar from METZ; we played it for them and they were, ‘All right, we’ll take your word for it.’ I’ve always been from the school of taking recognizable stuff and making it unrecognizable. I think that was out of my ignorance when I first started. I didn’t have an advanced musical vocabulary and didn’t know where a lot of classic hip-hop samples were coming from. I thought the way you made hip hop was to take little pieces and make them your own thing. I didn’t know people were using whole parts of other songs.”

But that initial ignorance has served Brooks well. In addition to Dälek (which also includes producer Mike Manteca and turntablist DJ rEk) and iconAclass, he’s also become a sought-after engineer and producer with credits including Zombi, Jett Brando and the Black Heart Procession. For now, however, the focus is Endangered Philosophies, performing live and the continued uprooting of musical boundaries.

“The philosophy of Dälek from the beginning is that each record takes our core sound, pushes it further and makes it brand new,” says Brooks. “When we start any project, we have that idea in mind. I understand that my music isn’t for everyone and that it’s a niche style. Our sound is for certain people and our job is to find those people and introduce them to our sound. At this point, it’s almost like we’ve created our own genre. I’m cool with that.”

Kevin Stewart-Panko