"When I'm writing my songs," says Dels, "I'm always thinking about how they could be presented visually to the world. And when I started making music, I always said that I wanted my instrument to be a visual, so in my band I'd be tripping off visuals." In forth- coming single "Trumpalump" he wonders aloud if he's a ghost, and raps about "blowing trees with the Daleks" alongside dozens of other arresting images. The rapper, otherwise known as Kieren Dickins, studied graphic design at Kingston University, and as well as designing the crisp typography of his record covers, he also collaborated with fellow alumni Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor on the video for first single "Shapeshift." This special effects-laden promo is a playful fashion flickbook of crisp menswear styles: a digital collage of a thou- sand patterns, pockets and prints sequenced to music. It shows a bouncing troupe of Dels wearing an almost endless parade of smart outfits from his own wardrobe, as well as costumes that transmog- rify him into a bird, a bear, a dog, a chair, and so on according to the strange visions of his lyrical overflows.
"I wanted to write about my youth, and how bored I was growing up in Ipswich," says Dickins, "but I didn't want it to be really depressing. So I decided to just talk about how it was, and how free you are as a kid, in your mind." Accompanied by squelchy synths from Hot Chip's Joe Goddard, the East Anglian MC delivers fantastical lines like, "Before I picked up the mic and started writing rhymes / I could alter my form at any given time." Not so surprisingly, he describes his dream collaborators as psyche- delic hip hop stars Andre 3000 and DOOM - the London-born super- MC formerly known as MF Doom / King Geedorah / Viktor Vaughn / Zev Love X and so on, who literally wears "a metal face mask with a built-in frown" - whom Dels, along with Jamie Smith of chums the XX, supported on tour this month. In terms of picking up pens, Dickins lists his influences as Alan Fletcher's classic typography and seminal 1980s manga comic Akira. "I was totally obsessed," he says, "Akira was the first Japanese animation I ever saw as a kid, and afterwards my dad took me to the comic store and we bought the book. It was in Japanese so I had to read it from right to left, and I used to sit there for hours just drawing it." And his love for hallucinatory anime extends far beyond Akira's visions of doomsday cults and monstrous teddy bears. "I also really like Hayao Miyazaki, I just love the way he tells stories in such a beautiful way," Dels continues, with reference to the Studio Ghibli director's world of Spitfire-flying pigs and very big cats that are actually buses.
"The video that always stands out in my mind," he says, "is Missy Elliott's 'The Rain.' The one where she's wearing that sort of big ballooning bin-liner - there wasn't really any other R&B or hip hop video like that at the time. It just felt so futuristic..." Dickins' own sartorial taste is more conservative than Missy's fluorescent tracksuits, camouflage sportswear and bejew- elled hyper-bling. "I really like Margiela, and Tom Ford too. But I can't afford the clothes I really want, so I don't delve into it too much, I don't want to tease myself." Fair enough. And until the PRs come- a-calling, Dels can keep drop- ping dream-raps about turning his shape-shifting powers to the cause of looking fresh: "I need some new shoes, about to turn my feet into some Jordan 3s / This skin on my legs forms a pair of denim jeans..."