Dels: “I always start visually with songs.”

08.07.09, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

If you thought UK hip hop was confined to bargain basement Channel U promos and weirdly aggressive MCs selling albums outside HMV, think again. Kieren Dickins, better know as Dels – the 25 year old, Hot Chip-produced rapper and graphic designer – is here to bring back the bounce and bass we all love. Being the rapper most likely to shop at Magma gives Dels a creative edge over his Krylon-obsessed contemporaries. “Every time I think of making a song I always start visually,” he says over soft drinks in a Shoreditch bar the day before his Glastonbury gig with Micachu (who produced his track ‘Violina’ btw – download it on the right). With such a heightened aesthetic sense, it only seemed right to give him the opportunity to wax lyrical about his five favourite record sleeves.

Joy Division Unknown Pleasures
“The album artwork was created by influential graphic designer Peter Saville). I originally thought this cover was a visual representation of one of the album tracks. But, after doing a bit of research, I discovered the artwork is a graphic representation of the first Pulsar signal ever transmitted. Before the nature of the signal was determined, researchers thought they’d made contact with aliens. I’ve always been into the idea of communication between humans and extra-terrestrial life. To go to a UFO convention and chill out with space-geeks is a dream.”

Bjork Volta
“The thought that has gone into designing this package makes such a difference in contrast to the bog standard jewel-case CDs that we see everyday. The cover for Volta was designed by one of my favourite design studios, M/M. I wish more designers would challenge the format like M/M have done here. Maybe people would feel more inclined to buy an album if they were packaged in a more interesting way?”

Panda Bear Person Pitch
“This is an album that I bought purely because I liked the artwork [ by Agnes Montgomery ]. It’s an intricate collage created by hand using found paper, scissors and a magnifying lamp. I guess I was drawn to this cover because the image reminded me of bath time as a 5 year-old boy. Me and my younger brother used to bring as many toys as we possibly could in the bath.”

Grace Jones Island Life
“Classic. The image was originally taken by photographer Jean Paul Goude for New York Magazine in 1978. Island Records then decided to re-use this image for this cover. I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking she looks like a shiny wax model. As a child, I always thought of Grace Jones as some sort of being from another world, with her angular features and all.”

Madvillian Madvilliany
“This is such a powerful cover. MF Doom is an artist that understands the power of mystery and I think this artwork enhances his appeal for music listeners searching for something a bit different. I’ve always thought artists that conceal their identity are the most interesting, like Daft Punk. It allows the listener to engage with the artist on a more fantastical level. I feel that fantasy is something that is definitely lacking in a lot of music out there today. Life without fantasy is boring.”

Catch Dels playing live around Europe in the next few months and watch out for the video for new single ‘Shapeshift’ out in August. Judging from the footage I saw, it’s going to be like a real life guess-who on acid. Awesome.

Dels myspace

For more sleeve antics, check out our Airside gallery.

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