Deltron 3030 is Kid Koala, left, Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan 'the Automator' Nakamura. (Darren Samuelson)
It look a little bit longer than expected, but Deltron 3030 came back. They were always coming back.
The experimental sci-fi hip-hop outfit’s new album “Event 2” comes 13 years after the group’s self-titled 2000 debut album. The first album opened with guest vocalist Damon Albarn saying, “We came back. We were always coming back,” but fans had a reason to feel restless in between albums.
“It was a long journey,” says Deltron producer Dan “the Automator” Nakamura, on the phone last week from San Francisco. “But on the other side of that, I don’t think any of us intended on not making it. We all kind of assumed it would come out one day.”
The return of Deltron marks the return of Nakamura, in a sense. In the early ’00s, the producer colored the hip-hop world with several adventurous projects that unfolded as concept albums and featured wide-ranging lineups of atypical guest stars. In recent years, he’s stuck to producing albums for rock bands such as Kasabian and Dredg, but Deltron’s new album finds Nakamura again inhabiting an expansive world of his own creation and populating it with artists that would make up the craziest green room on Earth.
Work on “Event 2” dates back to 2004. But because the group deals with futuristic concepts and themes, Nakamura says he and his bandmates, Kid Koala and Del the Funky Homosapien, had to spend time understanding the realities of the present, specifically from a political standpoint, to make a relevant artistic statement.
“Because it took about 10, or whatever, years between records, a lot of things happened in the world that we looked at and addressed in various ways on the new record,” says Nakamura, who performs with Deltron Thursday at the newly opened Garden Theater at Midtown. “But when you really distill it, it’s still about man’s nature, and I don’t think the nature of man has ever changed, and I think that’s part of the story in a sense. What happens changes, but the implications that we’re talking about are things that go back to biblical times.”
For the album, Nakamura, 46, called on guest artists from actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to comedy group Lonely Island to Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. Albarn, who Nakamura worked with in Gorillaz, pops up as does Mike Patton, Nakamura’s partner in the lounge lizard side project Lovage.
So where does he get those wonderful guest stars?
“Let’s assume they’re all super-talented, let’s start there,” says Nakamura, whose projects have also included Handsome Boy Modeling School (his pairing with Prince Paul) and Dr. Octogon (which teamed him with Kool Keith). “That’s the primary factor of importance to even be considered to do it. But basically, they’re just people I hang out with. And I like them, I think that they would fit well. Socially we hang out together, eat things together, and we work together on some level on something other than this.”
Now that “Event 2” is finally out, Nakamura is looking down the line at his next project. After popping up several times the album, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Smashed”) will be Nakamura’s second half in his new duo Got a Girl, which he’s launching in early 2014 and compares to the work of Serge Gainsbourg. He’s also working on records with Aaron Bruno from Awolnation and hip-hop producer Just Blaze, and says he hopes to do another Lovage record with Patton soon.
Nakamura prefers diving into full-album projects with collaborators to rattling off singles with artists for quick payouts. “I like to have a broader stroke painted picture of the whole thing, as opposed to, ‘Here’s a single, it’s hot, play it,’” he says. “Given the choice, I’d rather do a work.”
And those works sometimes come with their own characters and costumes. Nakamura isn’t above donning a fake mustache to help get into the right headspace on a project. “It’s a part of developing a feel,” he says, “and sometimes putting on a little style to push it in a certain direction.”
8 p.m. Thursday
Garden Theater at Midtown
3919 Woodward, Detroit