Dela of Slightly Stoopid Chats with HEAR Magazine in the Church at Summer Camp Music Festival
By Kevin Tshiamala
I know, trust me I know what you’ve been thinking. Where’s all this Summer Camp coverage you promised us? Well to achieve greatness you must be patient. With over six hundred pictures, thirty minutes of video and scattered marbles to reassemble – not to mention other festivals and commitments – we wanted to make sure we gave Summer Camp Music Festival material the careful and ample time necessary in order to express our deepest gratitude for the access granted to us by said festival and to portray the mindgasm that was our four day vacation in Chillicothe, Illinois. We’re almost there; we just need you to be a little more patient. But to wet your palates and deepen your appetite, we figured it was only right to start our installments of gonzo reviews of Summer Camp Music Festival with our onsite festival interview with one of our favorite bands, Slightly Stoopid.
“I’ll see you at Moe,” we said as we parted ways, and I headed for the Church. On the last trek of their journey to Canaan, on Friday, the herds of human we’re beginning to arrive — the peasants. Carrying their weekend valuables consistent of beer, cigarettes, blankets, flags, glow sticks, and stuffed animals on the long trek from the parking lot, through what seemed to be a Refugee camp with the heat bearing down, dust monsters whipping about, poorly clothed persons [and babies…fucking babies] with bandanas covering their faces among rows of tents scattered about. It was day one for them, day two for us. This was my first camp out festival in three years, my first festival working.
It was late in the afternoon and I had timed and planned in order to avoid getting too weird before the interview with Slightly Stoopid. Upon arriving at the Church for the first time, it was a shock that it was indeed a place of worship – pews and all. I found a table and after the air conditioning seized the sweat from continuously pouring down my face, I noticed an unusual smell, me. I had forgotten what happens to your hygiene when you’re out there in the heat, dancing without a care among your fellow conscious psychopaths – no time for petty concerns. Thirty minutes before the interview and not a single question prepared. You call it unprofessional, I’ll tell you to go fuck yourself. There is something in the pressure brought on by procrastination that brings out the necessary and the best. Not to mention the spontaneity in casual conversation makes for a better interview than a robot list of questions. The artists appreciate your honesty more than your homework – BB arrived and let me know that Rymo’s busy; I’ll most likely get Dela or Miles. I wanted to scream at him, “God damn it man, I’ve only got about thirty minutes before this place turns into the Eyrie. I don’t care who it is.” Shortly after, Dela arrived and we began our conversation.
HEAR Magazine: So last time I saw you perform was at St. Andrews, St. Patty’s weekend in Detroit with Mariachi El Bronx along with Grouch & Eligh and the show was sold out, but BB hooked it up, please say thank you for me. That night you played “Tighten up” by Archie Bell and the Drells, which I later ended up randomly finding the original vinyl press. How did you guys come across that song?
Dela: The Bamboos covered that and I think it just popped up on Kyle’s Pandora. He was like damn that shit sounds dope; we got to do it like that. It’s a little bit different how Archie Bell says tighten up on the bass, I love that. We just changed it a little bit so it suits our style, but super fun jam. Make sure to check out The Bamboos version.
HEAR Magazine: You guys are one of the hardest working bands, who tours like crazy and adore their fans. You have your Summer Sessions Tour happening this summer with a wide variety of artists; some if not all with whom you’ve played with before, have you played with NOFX before?
Dela: Never and a lot of us are really stoked about that. They definitely defined or helped canonize the style of punk so it will be an honor to be with them.
HM: How much work goes into these tours and how much does it take out of you?
Dela: It depends on how long they are. The longer they are, the longer that we’re away from our home, our families and our wives and takes a toll. At the end of the day though, this is what we love to do. This is who are and this is how we reach all the people that like to listen to our music. I think it’s a small price to pay for being able to do that and live that kind of life.
HM: So we’ll continue to travel back in time and then we’ll get back to the present. Some of you have had kids in the past few years. Has becoming Fathers impacted your music or musical creativity/drive in any way?
Dela: I think that it definitely has changed the way that we tour. I think it has also changed what everybody is listening to or wanting to say in the song writing process. Are you a father yourself?
HM: Not yet.
Dela: Profound change of life. It becomes about not you, anything, but not you. It has nothing to do with you at that point and that teaches you a lot about yourself. Therefore, naturally being that music is an extension of you; it’s going to carry over into that. I think it has shown positive results.
HM: What were the records or singles that grabbed your attention when you were young?
Dela: It depends on what time of life you caught me. As a saxophonist I listen to plenty of Jazz. I listen to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Jazz Messengers, and Wayne Shorter. When I was younger that was what was up. I also really like Ska. In particular, I was in a band that was playing third wave Ska. We went back to Desmond Decker, Judge Dread, Prince Buster all that kind of stuff. Then you get to college and all the cats were playing funk. So we’re listening to funk all the time. Tower of Power, James Brown…
HM: Not too many people know about Tower of Power.
Dela: Wow, that’s a painful step to miss. Go get you some East Bay Grease.
HM: When did you start playing the Sax? Did you start on a different instrument before you hit the horns?
Dela: Nope, I always knew I wanted to play the saxophone. I started in like third or fourth grade. I never stopped, even my band director at the time, Mrs. Etro*, I love you, but I’m glad I didn’t listen to her when she said you should play the Trumpet.
HM: Were you classically trained? Did you do Jazz competitions and stuff like that?
Dela: Yup, I did a lot of competing in high school for Jazz and regional’s and all State bands and stuff like that. I went to school for Jazz. I went to Berklee and I ended up graduating from William Paterson University. That was the path that I chose.
HM: It’s pretty amazing you were able to figure it out at such a young age. It is sort of like me and writing, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I do all the time.
Dela: People come at me like that in sort of an inquisitive way, like how did you know and it was kind of never a question. It was weird; I never thought about it that way, I just did it. The more you do it, the better you get at it and you figure out how to turn it into a career.
HM: How influential is your Jazz background in the type of music that Slightly Stoopid plays?
Dela: When you put it that way from a Jazz influence, having to put horns coming from that perspective you really have to simplify. Because Jazz is complicated, it’s intricate and Reggae is not. Reggae is simple, beautiful melodies. I definitely have been doing it for a long time and have had the privilege to work with some of the greatest from Sly and Robbie to Don Carlos you know. So you learn alot about what it’s about by being around those guys. I say that the influence that Jazz had, Jazz allows you to adapt to any situation. Because of that, again whatever you put into your ears is what’s going to come out so I just started dumping tons and tons of Reggae into my ears at a young age when I started playing Ska.
HM: How did y’all come up with the name Slightly Stoopid?
Dela: Miles and Kyle we’re just fucking around back in the day in high school. They’ve known each other since they were two years old, they grew up together. So you know it’s just one of those silly things that stuck.
HM: What do you think about the level of admiration of Reggae or Punk music in the United States?
Dela: I think in the United States, anybody that is a fan of music shows their appreciation. In that respects it’s wonderful. What’s beautiful about America in general is that it’s a melting pot. That comes across in our brand, when I say our, I mean American’s Reggae. An American’s version of Reggae comes across in different ways. There are plenty of different bands out there that are very well rooted in the tradition of Reggae and what it means to play in that genre and they make it their own.
HM: I think there’s a big misconception and people view the simplicity of it, but the simplicity is also what makes it difficult and make it sound good and that misconception takes their admiration or respect away from Reggae.
Dela: With that being said, I’ll expand on that a little bit. I think that because the lay person has a hard time understanding it sometimes so that has contributed to the evolution of American Reggae. What people understand and what they want to dance to. At the end of the day when you’re at a show, you want to dance; you know what I mean, unless you’re going to The Village Vanguard in New York to sit down and listen to Jazz.
HM: What do you enjoy about playing Detroit and do you have any sort of feelings or opinions about the current state of the City?
Dela: I have seen it come up considerably from where it was even ten years ago. The Casino really did some good and created some jobs downtown. I love the vibe there. The people at where it’s at. If you look aesthetically at Detroit, you’re like oh shit. Once you get down into it and meet the people, I mean the vibes are always great, the shows are always packed the people are going nuts. Y’all gave birth to Motown. You have to love music in Detroit.
HM: Are there any saxophonists you’d like to play with or musicians you’d love to play with?
Dela: Dead or alive? There’s a ton, but I’m super fortunate that I get to work and play side by side with Karl Denson. I do a lot of stuff with his band and we work on other projects as well together. He came at a very pivotal point in my life where I was searching for the next thing and he kind of made me his student in a sense. Not because he came at it like that, only because I wanted to play that. He’s a bad dude.
HM: That’s awesome because I think feel like some musicians have that ego where they won’t want to learn from other musicians at whatever stage they’re at. With everything you have to learn and the best way to learn is from other people.
Dela: Spot on, especially brass players and horn players. They can be very ego centric and Karl has never been anything, but generous with his knowledge and giving with his knowledge. He just wants to share and make all the people around him better. I can’t say enough about him, he’s my boy. I’m lucky that I get to work with him and that I’ve also got a chance through him to work with other great Horn players like Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin and guys like that who set the highest standard for what it is that we do.
HM: What advice would you give to up and coming artists (not specific to music)?
Dela: Don’t ever stop practicing. If you love to play music, whether you’re a guitar player and you want to shred or you want to be a great song writer, whatever it is you have to practice. Keep doing and developing your craft. The more you do that, the more you’ll see from it. It’s the only relationship in the world and I love my wife and my parents we have great give and take, but it’s the only relationship where you get exactly what you put into back. So the more you put in the more you get out of it.
HM: Any shout outs you’d like to make? Any upcoming events you would like to mention? Any projects, albums, songs, or concepts you are personally working on?
Dela: Come check us out Summer Sessions, it’s on. We’re coming to a city near you and we’re coming with some friends.
Dela was happy the interview was engaging, but I’m sure even happier it was under twenty minutes. Avoiding the slap hug hand shake due to my stench I went for the Cali slap and pound. “I’m sure we’ll meet again,” I exclaimed as he headed for the tour bus and I for the Moonshine Stage…
Big thanks to Bari, BB, Dela, the Slightly Stoopid Family and Summer Camp Music Festival.
Thanks for tuning in to our first installment of our Summer Camp Music Festival experience. What is that you say? oh you want a sneak of what’s to come? Stay tuned.