The project known as Delta-S started in 1997, brainchild of industrial electronica producer and instrumentalist Lyte. Now seen as a collective with Lyte at the helm, Delta-S has been in the biz for just over 20 years and has pretty much run the gamut of electronic music style-wise. Lyte has worked with and been acquainted with the likes of Deadmau5, BT and Cell Dweller over the years, and because of his style being so diverse he has amassed a huge amount of knowledge about the evolution of electronic music from the days when it was seen as a fringe of a compliment to other genres to now, where even pop music is a fringe to EDM.
With his new EP release called Coven marking the 20-year anniversary of Delta-S, Your EDM was curious to find out what keeps veterans like Lyte working in electronic music, so what better source to go to? Lyte answered us with insight and emotion, not to mention an introspective take on the evolution of EDM in all its forms and what inspires him now. He’s given us more thant just an electronic music history lesson but also a great description of why we’re all in this scene and why EDM draws such an impassioned core audience. After two decades, after all, Lyte is still just as impassioned himself as ever. That says something.
Delta-S seems to be conceptual at core, attempting to tap into emotions with sound. How would you describe the concept behind the project and what you hope listeners will feel?
Authenticity and storytelling are driving values behind Delta-S. I’m not interested in making music that just sounds good. I’m always trying to put some skin on the complicated emotions and experiences we go through in life, in hopes that listeners can heal through their pain and sorrow by facing it head on. I think sometimes we’re afraid to deal with themes like longing and grief because we feel alone in it. I wanted a project that listeners could use as a sort of guide − like a friend holding your hand while you venture into the basement to confront whatever might be lurking in there.
I grew up bingeing on sci-fi fantasy adventures in the 80s and those stories spoke deeply to my soul and made my world larger. Stories are a powerful way to learn values and themes. Each of my albums is designed as a dark fantasy tale – that’s the skin (so to speak) wrapped around the themes I want to explore.
Stylistically, the albums vary a bit because I need the genre to match the theme. For instance, uplifting trance may be the right choice to communicate a ship entering into hyperspace, but doesn’t work as well in a movie scene where an angry poltergeist is chasing after you (laughs).
My greatest hope for listeners is that they’ll realize they aren’t alone in the dark. I want them to see beauty just beyond the shadows and be stirred to find life.
Many Your EDM readers may not know that Delta-S has been around for over 20 years, mostly in electronica and EDM. How have you seen the evolution of electronic music over that time? How has Delta-S’s sound evolved with it?
It seems like the biggest changes in EDM came from the boom of do-it-yourself producers and artists throughout the 2000s. It’s had a positive and negative impact on electronic music. More people experimenting with sound design and beats is great. I’m grateful that indie artists actually have a fighting chance of making a name for themselves in the dance community. Knowledge isn’t secret anymore. People can learn how to start sound designing by looking it up on YouTube and the tools are all affordable now.
At times free information and affordability is also the problem. For instance, plugins and presets can tempt artists to get lazy and they take a lot of shortcuts and don’t invest in their craft. I’ve heard Joel from Deadmau5 joke about it: the idea that I can buy a plugin with a pre-made loop, fully mastered, hit a button on a keyboard, and out comes a track. It just starts to make dance music all sound the same.
As far as genres are concerned, I know EDM purists get annoyed whenever some new wave takes over the entire industry like dubstep, trap, big room, et cete, but I think those genres have been useful for exploring the richness of sound production. The musicality of trance and house music from the 90s is fantastic, but it does lack a bit of “00ntz” in its step when you go back and listen again. (laughs) I love it when an artist incorporates classic song writing into a dance tune but also puts some teeth on it. (I think that’s) something we’ve learned how to do better in this generation.
To the longevity question, what do you think is a good cross-section of your favorite electronic music influences over the years, both for yourself and for EDM as a genre?
I grew up listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack to Chariots of Fire on repeat as early as five years old. What an immersive experience. It taught me how music can tell a story and how electronic sounds can be blended with organic instruments to create in my heart something otherworldly. Hans Zimmer took that approach in his film scores as well. Then the Mortal Kombat soundtrack hit in the 90s. We saw the effect that four-on-the-floor beats could have in telling a story too. For me, dance music wasn’t about partying. It was about having a high-octane adventure.
I looked up to Trent Reznor or Nine Inch Nails, Brian Transeau (BT), and Klayton (Celldweller) as pioneers that used electronic sounds to communicate deep emotions and stories. And say what you want about Skrillex but projects like that have pushed the boundaries in what can be achieved in sound design for EDM as a whole. Meanwhile, the Futurepop genre was being born from VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk by combining EBM beats with pop sensibilities and dark tones. All those projects have had an impact on me.
(For my own sound) I’ve had difficulty describing my music for newcomers. That’s because I tend to ignore genre boundaries. I like blurring the lines to communicate a specific vibe. For my latest track “We Are the Ravens” with Kris Lee, I wanted to see what would happen if we locked some trap music in a room with electronic rock. Would they get along? And while an entire album of dubstep songs might bore me, it’s exhilarating to hear some bass growls leap out in the breakdown of an electro-industrial track. I’m experimenting with the phrase “Dark Fantasy Electro” as a description for what I do. It seems to communicate cinematic electronica with industrial roots.
With your most recent releases, especially Coven, how are you drawing from the current styles and what sounds are you digging right now?
Stranger Things wooed me with its nod to every 80s cliché and plot device, from the title screen to the film score. It seemed like it was created during that decade, like a lost VHS tape that we found in a director’s attic. I wanted to do something similar with the 90s industrial movement – I went into my vault of old material and sounds and tried to get in the mindset of how these songs might have been written during that era. I channeled old efforts like Stabbing Westward, Enigma, and Circle of Dust to create the landscape.
Influences aside, what was the main concept behind Coven?
The story is about a coven of vampires that have been banished from the only remaining city in a post-apocalyptic desert. These are proper vampires, mind you, not of the Twilight variety. Anyway, one of them begins to have second thoughts about his lifestyle, and he is troubled that he even feels regret at all. He initially leaves his beloved behind in pursuit of redemption, but returns to the coven to convince her to leave her wicked ways and follow him.
There’s a deeper spiritual lesson in there. We’ve all felt betrayed when a loved one cuts ties with us in order to pursue a new idea or way of life. And sometimes we are the ones that are doing the leaving. I wanted to explore both sides of that relationship − two individuals that want the other to abandon their walk of life so that they can be together again. But that’s not always the right thing to do. Sometimes you do have to remove yourself. Not out of hate, but in the pursuit of life! People that have overcome addiction in their lives will resonate with that theme I’m sure.
Coven is (also) an EP based on my first album, Chasm. I’ve learned a ton about production since that release in 2005, and it was nice to reinvent some of my older songs with some new tricks.
What other artists did you work with on Coven?
Kris Lee, LeeLoo, and Nicki Tedesco all joined the cast and sang the lines for Omen, the girl vampire. That way there’s a cool interaction back and forth between Omen and her lover. Nicki is also an amazing bassist, and she laid down some bass guitar for “Deceived.” Alicia Perrone came in near the end to do some voice acting as Omen for the sexy intro, (which was) my favorite.
It sounds like your live shows are really interesting. Do you plan to put together a band and tour with Coven?
It’s been a while since we’ve performed, and I know it would be a lot of fun but honestly I think I have too much in store this year that takes priority. I have another release coming at the end of the year, another EP based on Voyage to Isis, and I’m putting together a plan to start bringing epic visuals and film making in the mix to match the music. I think there is a real need for feature length film experiences to go with conceptual albums like my music, not just a run-of-the-mill music video. I loved seeing the band Pvris do a set of horror-themed music videos, but how much cooler would it be if we actually started to see Moulin Rouge-esque musicals releasing with cutting edge EDM music? I would love to lead the charge there.
As you’ve set up Delta-S as a collective, how do you like to work with other artists when crafting an album? How did it all work in putting together the current album?
Sometimes I feel like I’m herding cats! Most of my music relationships are online. I write the story, songs, and most of the melodies, and I bring in the other artists to help me out in the later stages. We just send stuff to each other on Dropbox or email. Super easy on that front, but because we all get busy, it can be difficult to coordinate for some. I just have to send out a reminder email, or seven.
For singles like my track with Christina Novelli and Emoiryah, I tend to work alongside as partners. I give the vocalist a theme, and they come up with a topline and lyrics. That way we are both involved in its creation. With projects like Coven, however, I did all the lyrics and melodies on my end.
What’s one thing you’d like EDM audiences to know about Delta-S?
If you love sci-fi fantasy films, emotional depth, cinematic electronica, and the occasional cat post, welcome home! We’ll be BFFs.
Are you planning any more releases this year? Collabs? Shows/tours?
A ton in store this year! First, I’ll be releasing a new uplifting trance single in the next couple of months with vocalist Kate Louise Smith. Then it’s off to work on the next EP, continuing the story from Voyage to Isis that I released in 2007. I’ve been listening to a lot of music from Empathy Test, Mind.in.a.box and Avec Sans during my research phase, just getting into that dark synthpop spirit, which I think works beautifully for an electronic space odyssey!
I’m also working on my main album, “Carnivale,” which I expect sometime in 2020. That’s the “big project” that I had in mind when I was talking about doing feature length films. I hope to create that as an EDM musical treat for the ears and the eyes! I’m a comic book fan and artist, so I also plan on creating a lot more Delta-S themed art prints this year that fans can geek out on. And because I’m smitten with shuffle dancing and hula hooping, you’ll be seeing some Delta-S music videos pop up here and there featuring some great dancers!
Coven by Delta-S is out now and can be streamed on Delta-S’s Soundcloud or Spotify and purchased on Bandcamp. The Delta-S YouTube channel also has a number of videos with remixes and a good cross-section of their diverse sound throughout the years.