Del The Funky Homosapien fractured seven ribs, one of which punctured a lung, after falling from the stage during Gorillaz' headline set at Roskilde Festival in Denmark on July 7. Since then the 45-year-old rapper, born Teren Jones, has undergone surgery and been released from hospital. He's spent the past five days holed up in a nearby hotel room, watching battle rap videos, playing Nintendo, and trying to type up lyrics. He's on a steady diet of morphine, and he can't reduce his dose. "I kind of let them wear off for a minute to see what it really was like," he says over the phone. "It was unbearable."
Despite the painkillers and the trauma, Jones remembers the incident clearly. He'd only played two dates with Gorillaz in Europe on this run before the show in Denmark, and he'd been asleep since arriving in Roskilde. He woke up shortly before his set. It was night time, there was a smoke machine, and he was wearing sunglasses. He wasn't aware that there was a platform jutting out from the middle of the stage, so he came out for his first verse on "Clint Eastwood" as he usually does, ran past the band's frontman Damon Albarn, and barely got his first bar out before he fell off the side. "And then I was on the ground, crumpled up, crying, looking up into the lights and shit," he says. "Just crying, begging for help, in extreme pain. Damon I think tried to reach his hand down toward me [but] I couldn't move. I thought I was gonna die, basically."
He was rushed straight to hospital, where Denmark's socialized healthcare system took over. "I will say that Denmark, their medical system, they was on it," he says. "If it was any other place, like the United States, I'm dead now." He had an epidural so that doctors could pump morphine directly into his veins, and a cannula to help him breathe. Doctors explained everything to him, but it was gory nonetheless: "They had to do surgery and had a tube directly in my lung. So the dude was pumping blood and air out of my lung. I had like four or five tubes hooked up to me."
After successful surgery, all that Jones can do now is rest. Domino, the producer and a fellow member of underground hip-hop group Hieroglyphics, helps him out and brings him food. Jones is trying to type up lyrics when he gets the chance, and he's not passing out from the morphine now that his body's worked up a resistance. Still, he's in pain, and he's frustrated. Someone should have warned him about the setup on stage, he says: "If there's a danger of any sort, somebody would usually tell me. I had been asleep the whole time I was there. I went straight to the dressing room and just laid on the couch and went to sleep. I was exhausted. So when I woke up, they let me know it's time to go on, I went to the stage, they handed me a mic[...] I don't know. All I know is it wasn't my fault. I ran out there thinking everything was cool, and all of a sudden it wasn't cool no more."
He'd usually be out skateboarding, but that's out of the question for a long time. His new album, Gate 13, a brilliantly minimal and dextrous collaboration with producer Amp Live, only came out in April, but Jones has had to cancel the rest of his tour dates for the year. Doctors told him the recovery would take roughly three months, but he doesn't think that will be the end of things: "I would imagine I'm probably going to be handicapped to some degree. I find it hard to believe that I'm going to be restored back to 100 percent after this. That just doesn't make any sense. Even if you repair something that you owned, it might work, but it ain't like when you first bought it out the store. That just seems ridiculous to me." He smashed his elbow on tour with Hieroglyphics a few years ago, pushing things too far on a playground swing. The bone recovered, but it still bugs him occasionally. It's understandably difficult for him to see how he'll bounce back perfectly from a busted chest.
But the lyrics he's writing in between those YouTube videos and Nintendo interludes are still funny, he says. Gate 13 is packed with crisp one-liners—something he prides himself on coming from the battle rap scene—and he's not losing it now. "You can take things like that and find a way to express them," he says. "That's really all it is. Humor is just a socially acceptable way of saying things that you might not be able to say without disturbing people otherwise. So I naturally have a good sense of humor I guess, otherwise I'd be probably bouncing off the walls or arrested."
There's nothing anyone can do to help (the Danish healthcare system, again, makes that simpler) but Jones says the messages he's received so far have been invaluable. He'd been thinking about dropping live shows altogether, having lost faith in the industry after the fall. "And then I feel like, if I'd have died, people would have just gone on, making money off of my death as well," he says, morbidly. But the support he's got so far has kept him from dropping out. "The one reason why I would want to still perform is because of the fans. So it's very encouraging and reassuring to see that so many people care about how I'm doing."
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.