Frank Allessa Delle is one of the three frontmen of Seeed, the German dub band that’s experienced huge success in the last years. Four albums, three music awards, numerous chart placements and a bunch of international tours, the last one being through South America. But now, similar to his bandmate Peter Fox, Delle is also doing some solo stuff. In 2009 he released his debut album Before I Grow Old, which reached 11 in the German charts.
After another stint with Seeed, Delle’s second album Neo was released on the 24th June of 2016 – Neo being the name of his youngest son. We met up with a very happy Delle for a chat in Berlin.
Delle in Indie Republik interview
Indie Republik: Delle, your last album was really a roots-reggae album, with a few rock influences. Your new album Neo has a wider range of influences.
Delle: Yeah, with No. 2, musically it was more about modernising things a little; with the experiences, to see how I could make it fresher.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”“I wanted to show the real reggae fans: look, you can do it like this too!”” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
And on the other hand, I wanted to get the people for whom reggae means just Bob Marley, who are more turned off by the idea of the genre and who think it just isn’t their music, to listen to a few songs and think: “Yeah, cool! I like that!”
Indie Republik: Tell us a little bit about the creative process of the album – which influences are in there?
Delle: Well yeah, there’s a lot of different stuff that’s gone in there. The Arctic Monkeys – what all came out there? I mean reggae is the main thing you can hear, but not reggae in the classic sense. We wanted to develop it so that it sounds like 2016. And, just like before, the content of the songs is about the experiences that I’ve gone through in my life. The last seven years are in that record. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happened. I mean I was obviously on tour and everything with Seeed, but I also had my second son.
“You need your roots. Without roots it’s all ungrounded.”
Indie Republik: The first track is called Teach Me and for me it’s a very humble song, where you don’t put yourself forward as the expert who’s experienced so much, but humbly says: Teach me, help me to learn things, tell me how it is.
Delle: Tell me how to do it, how to maintain your sense of peace during both the high points and the low. With that I’m talking to my wife. The content also decides the rhythm of the song, this coolness. It’s just about not running away. With us – with Seeed – luckily no one ran away from the whole thing – because we were confronted with the fame and all of that quite late, as opposed to some kids, who experience that kind of thing at a young age and then think that it’s all about them.
My foundation is my family, they always help me to come back down. You need your roots. Without your roots, there’s no foundation.
“Tic Toc, time is running out…” – luckily!
Indie Republik: The first video single is the song Tic Toc, which you recorded together with Gentleman. The song has such a heavy bass and could really be a party hit. But in fact it’s about quite a serious subject, ie. getting older, or maybe more dramatically, becoming aware of your own mortality. How did the collaboration with Gentleman happen?
Delle: Well since you mention it being so dramatic:
“I don’t find dying that dramatic”
I think it’s very good, that everything has an end. You have your time, you do what you can, and then the next generation comes and does something. And if you’ve done something good, if you’ve handed something good on to the next generation, then it’s really not a bad thing to go. Tic Toc pokes fun at how we all try to do something special before we die.
And it’s also got some element of the humour that Dancehall often uses to talk about subjects. And for that, I found Gentleman just perfect. I always wanted to do something with him. But with Seeed it somehow was never right for it.
And then I just sent him an SMS and said: “Look, just how long have we both been making music, and we’ve never done something together! I’ve got a great song here!” And you know, it’s something that you can’t sing if you’re 25. And he’s also a father of two children, so it fitted perfectly. And he said yes straightaway.
“We’re not all one”
Indie Republik: Another special song from the album is Light Your Fire, a very political song. I think you managed with that song to talk about a very heavy subject with a certain lightness.
Delle: That’s a great compliment! That was really the difficulty: how do I handle a subject without resorting to platitudes? And I really tried to see the thing from a child’s perspective.
I didn’t want to take it to any deeper level, just present things, next to each other: Jews, Christians, Moslems / Moses, Jesus, Mohamed / Why that?, Why that? Why that? To get just a balance. Not to point a finger at the Muslims. How many people did the Christians murder? Even though religion is actually about something good.
And the nice thing is that it was through this research that I first came across the House of One (house-of-one.org/de). And I thought: Ah, I wrote that song for you! They have this church, that they built in Berlin, with the three great world religions are under one roof and they want to show the people how much they actually have in common. We’re not all “one”. That’s rubbish. We’re different. But we should concentrate on the similarities.
Indie Republik: Just as with the last album, you recorded Neo with Guido Craverio. You’re also a trained film sound engineer. And that makes me think that you’re a creator of sounds. How do you write songs?
Delle: I have the great luck to have found the perfect partner in Guido. We both have good ears for this kind of music, it scratches at the same place for both of us. He also plays nearly all of the instruments on the album and has a very well equipped studio. And because of the technology that we have nowadays, we don’t even have to live in the same city.
Indie Republik: Since Guido lives in Cologne. And you send your pieces back and forward?
Delle: Yeah, exactly. For example Take Your Medicine – he sent me the beat and this idea popped up, that I’ve had in my head for twenty years. It’s about a friend of mine who has a psychosis. And then overnight, this song idea was born.
I recorded it straightaway and sent it over to him. He found it hardcore and fitted the beat more exactly to it. And then I sang the vocals to the new beat once more. That works with us very quickly. In this way demos turn very quickly into end products.
Indie Republik: Why Did You Lie, the final song, is also a very special song. In terms of mood, it’s very demanding. It begins just with piano and vocals. That’s a moment, where you come out of this reggae thing completely…
Delle: …but then in the end I come back to it. We could have ended that just as a balland, but we return to the reggae. That’s special to me, that in every song there’s the reggae feel, although we can also show other sides.
Indie Republik: You sing in English. Do you do that deliberately? Do you feel more at home writing songs in English than in German?
Delle: In terms of sound, I associate it more closely with this kind of music. I could imagine making a German language album, although…through singing it in English, you reach this sound colour, this emotion. And with the dialect, it fits btter, you can ride across it better. Dancehall verses are difficult in German.
For me, the time hasn’t yet come, to do that in German. Although I really like it. Pierre (Peter Fox) is a master at that, although it also took a long time for him to write in German.
Indie Republik: Delle, thank you very much for the interview.
Interview: Bastian Geiken