A Tribe Called Red’s DJ NDN Talks New Album, Collaboration, and Solidarity

It’s been a minute since A Tribe Called Red released their highly-acclaimed sophomore album, Nation II Nation in 2013. It goes without saying the release of their latest album, We Are The Halluci Nation, has been anticipated in a big way. We caught up with ATCR’s DJ NDN (Ian Campeau) to chat about the Halluci Nation, collaboration, and the importance of solidarity.

You’re last album Nation II Nation came out a few years back during the peak of the Idle No More movement and garnered a lot of mainstream attention and high praise, being nominated for a number of awards and winning a Juno. Did you feel any pressure to meet that standard or keep that momentum going with the new album?

We never aim for prizes, ever. As far as art goes, that’s not our objective. It’s only to get our art out there. Nation II Nation came out in 2012/2013, so we haven’t put anything out in three years. We’ve been working on this album specifically for two years and on the road while we’ve been touring so it’s been a completely different experience. It just seemed to happen as it’s coming out all this global tension seems to be rising.

Yeah the timing of this album coming out seems so relevant to the current situation with the movement happening at Standing Rock. Can you speak to the message you guys are sending through the new album and what you hope your listeners gain from it in regards to the situation right now?

The message more than anything is about solidarity with like-minded people. Understanding oppression and how to collectively dismantle oppression. Believing in true equality and understanding that nobody is better than the other. Discussing true reconciliation and what that looks like. There’s lots to talk about. It seems that now people are having these discussions, and it’s inspiring for the first time you know? Through solidarity, I’ve seen a lot of protests cross over and uniting. You have Black Lives Matter showing up and demanding spaces for Indigenous people at their events, they’re really stepping up and solidifying and unifying with Indigenous and other communities. Even things like having Indigenous people welcoming Syrian refugees with open arms with the understanding of oppressive governments and the impact of it, and having compassion for people outside of their community.
We recorded “R.E.D.” a year ago, and having an Iraqi Muslim, a Black Muslim, and an Indigenous group put together a track almost rings with urgency what’s happening right now.

How did the concept of the Halluci Nation come about?

It came about in many different steps. It started out very micro and through discussion with different artists and situations, it kind of evolved into what it is now. It started out as a smaller idea of a band of super heroes, and then it turned into a group of quasi-bandits – like those guys who are doing good but look like they’re doing wrong. Then it was when we hooked up with John Trudell that the concept of the Halluci-Nation came around. Then it wasn’t just a small crew, it became a whole nation of people and whoever wanted to join could join.

Can you speak John Trudell’s influence on the album?

We met him two years ago in Santa Fe. He had written some pieces and when he asked if we were into collaborating with him, we said absolutely. He recorded them on a phone, reading these poems he wrote for us to collaborate with and they were brilliant. Obviously, it’s John and they were incredible, and we got him into a studio to record it and that was how the second song on the album came through. It just solidified the idea of what we were trying to do as a point with this album, which was to create this common place, a lighting rod for like-minded people.

There’s a ton of collaborative work in We Are The Halluci Nation. Was that an intentional move or did it happen organically?

It was completely intentional from the get-go that we wanted it to be a collaborative album. We got to sit down and work with heavy-weights like Saul Williams and Yasiin Bey and see their creative process. Then we got to chill with homies like Leonard and Shad, and collaborate with Tanya, who is such a good friend of ours. It was a lot of fun. It was on purpose, and I see that it helps so much with the record. They’re true collaborations. It wasn’t just us putting down our sound and their sound and making it like that. It was all something neither of us had ever put out before.

WATCH: How ATCR’s collaboration with Black Bear came together in “The Manawan Session”

With all this awareness and movement surrounding your music, apparently people are still showing up to your shows wearing headdresses and face paint. Are you surprised to see this still happening? Do you think it will ever end?

I was surprised! I thought it was done to be perfectly honest, we tested it! We went all the way out to the most well-known culturally appropriative festival, and Coachella was cool. We didn’t see one headress in our crowd and we didn’t see face paint, it was incredible. Then I hear about what happened in Halifax on Facebook, and it blew up on CBC. That experience, unfortunately as it did happen, it caused a really good reaction in having that beautiful piece by poet laureate Rebecca Thomas about standing up for being Indigenous and we’re not going to be somebody’s play-thing anymore. She’s Mi’kmaq and in retaliation to seeing those people. She was there and confronted them and they brushed her off. Instead of getting into a fight, she went home and wrote this poem. It’s really exciting to have voices like that on national broadcast.

We Are The Halluci Nation drops September 16, but is available for pre-order it on iTunes. Don’t miss A Tribe Called Red live! Check out their tour dates below for a show near you:

September 18    MNFSTO10 Live! Yonge & Dundas Square – Toronto, ON
September 21    Baby’s All Right – Brooklyn, NY
September 23    The Wayfarer – Costa Mesa, CA
September 24    The Hideout – San Diego, CA
September 26    The Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA
September 29    Social Hall SF – San Francisco, CA
October 4           Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
October 6 & 7    Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO
October 10         Ft. Lewis College Community Concert Hall – Durango, CO
November 15     Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR
November 16     The Crocodile – Seattle, WA
November 17     Wild Buffalo – Bellingham, WA
December 6       Skyway Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
December 7       Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL