Steven Ellison, better known to music fans everywhere as Flying Lotus, wasn’t pissed off at all when I prank-called him yesterday… dude even answered a shitload of terrible questions for the good ol’ blog here.
Read on to learn more about FlyLo’s current solo and collaborative projects, his desire to work in film, and upcoming sets in Boston and at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival this December.
I just got into your music over the past year and was overwhelmed by your massive catalog starting back in 2006 – where would you direct new fans to find a starting point and get deep into the world of Flying Lotus?
That’s a tough one, man… you know, it all depends on the person. There are some people more into the avant-garde who I would point towards the Cosmogramma record. Some people who are casual, late-night beat people – or girls [laughs] – I would tell them to check out the Los Angeles album, so it all depends on who’s asking.
You had stated before that “genre is dead” which explains your ultra-eclectic soundscape, so what sounds would you like to explore that you haven’t touched on yet?
I don’t know, I feel like I’ve dabbled in a lot – there’s more folk-based stuff or straight acoustic sounding stuff I like, but I don’t know if that would work too well.
No heavy metal?
Don’t be surprised if you hear some [laughs]. I’ve done some psychedelic rock stuff too, I’m trying to get out there more.
Now that you’re running your own label, Brainfeeder, with an incredible roster of talent at your disposal, has your approach to creating music changed at all?
No, not at all, I think it has only changed my approach in terms of my time. You know, since I’ve started this label I’ve had less time to do my own thing but I’ve been getting people to help me out and I’ve been delegating some of that work – it’s been good.
Are there any downsides to working for a label you simultaneously operate?
Well, I don’t release stuff on Brainfeeder personally yet except for my podcasts, mixes and stuff like that. But it is kind of difficult because there’s just so much going on and I get music sent to me all day that I’m supposed to listen to and critique and A&R in a way and it’s like, sometimes I don’t even want to hear music anymore, you know, let alone my own shit [laughs].
Speaking of mixes and new material, your Shenanigans Pt. 1 mix featuring Brainfeeder label mate Thundercat showcases a nice blend of his unique sound with old, new and unreleased material – what can we expect to hear on his debut LP you’re producing when August 29th comes around?
Oh yeah, I think [The Golden Age of Apocalypse] is so special. It is to me – obviously I worked on it – but I really just feel like he’s got a very unique approach to this music thing in a way that, I think, a lot of people are missing. He respects all that crazy jazz fusion that a lot of people love in what we do, in this whole electronic realm, but to have the kind of playing chops that he has… he’s the kind of person who can play anything if you tell him [dude currently plays with fuckin' Suicidal Tendencies - ed.].
It’s such a cool thing to find someone who can do that but who still gets the “leftfield” aspect. It’s really unique and fun for me to work with him because of that and because I know he’ll understand some things that other people won’t, and be able to play those things – actually play them – so it makes [creating music] a lot easier.
It’s like having another side of the brain in the studio.
Absolutely, I feel it. I feel like he’s my other half in there.
The “Gone Baby Gone” collaboration with Erykah Badu earlier this year was mind-blowing, both the track itself and the music video – are there plans to release new material with Ms. Badu or her alter-ego DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown?
We’re supposed to be doing a record together – we already started working on it, there are three songs done – but it’s gonna take a while to finish. It’s definitely coming!
Is there a particular group or artist out there you would give anything to work with?
That would be crazy!
I think so too, I think it would be awesome. I really wish I got in on this last record she did, I think I would have had a good place on there… but maybe the next one.
Collaborations aside, are you working on any new solo material at the moment or is that something you’re always grinding away with?
Yeah, I should have my new record finished by early next year.
Will that be your first personal release on Brainfeeder?
No, I think it’ll be on Warp [Records] again… unless they hate it [laughs].
You create a lot of the bumper music on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] and your performance composing a live musical score to avant-garde animated classic Heaven & Earth Magic garnered rave reviews – is scoring a full length feature film of any interest to you?
Yeah man, scoring one, directing one, both options are very attractive to me right now just because, as far as the regular “releasing-records” way of living my life goes, I’m kind of bored by that. I want to do something more. I want my music to have imagery associated with it now – it’s what I always wanted. The dream was to be able to do both [music and film] and I’m in a place now where I can start building it. And right now I’m directing commercials for Adult Swim, so I’m just trying to push that connection further and use it as a jumping off point for my film ideas.
Do you have any favorite film scores or soundtracks in particular?
I really love the way that the Fight Club soundtrack was made, and all of the [Quentin] Tarantino soundtracks are really good. I like The Life Aquatic… any stuff that John Ryan has done, just like, kind of quirky, electronic elements, but still very musical and emotional. I find that stuff to be really inspiring. Requiem for a Dream and all that…
What about scoring for something away from the silver screen, like video games?
Yeah, I’d love to! I get hit up by people asking me that, and it all sounds good but I’m waiting for the right opportunity and I don’t ever [hear] a serious offer. It’s always “possibilities,” but I would love to do that, man – give me a reason to not make albums and do that. I’d love to.
You’re one of very few electronic artists I know of who performs with live instrument supplementation, have you ever considered or yet attempted to perform with a full band and eschew turntables, samplers, drum machines and other instruments typical to electronic music?
Yeah, we did a couple shows when Cosmogramma came out – it was called “Inifinity” – that was all live band interpretations of the record. It’s really cool man, just harder to pull off.
It goes without saying that your fans in Boston are stoked that you decided to perform a one-off show here coming up on September 9th – why Boston?
A couple things; one being that Boston is a great city, of course, another being the fact that I keep getting hit up by people saying [with a Boston accent] “Dude, you gotta come back to Boston, you gotta come back to Boston” on my Facebook and Twitter. Places like Boston and Chicago keep asking me to come back and I really feel like I need to show some love over there.
Local cats were going wild after your opening slot last year with Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace. How has your live performance changed over the course of a year?
I’m actually building a new show for this year. It’s the kind of thing where it takes time, and I have been doing shows with visuals, sync visuals, and like I said the band thing… sometimes I go out with a trio… I just want to keep switching it up.
Are there any special guests or set list surprises you can hint at for the upcoming Boston gig?
No, no, no… I don’t even know what’s gonna happen, man [laughs]. Things will change by then for sure.
I’ve never been, I really wanted to go to the one with Aphex [Twin] and Portishead.
Do you get a feeling of intimidation or excitement at the prospect of performing at an ATP festival?
I’m not trippin’. It’s gonna be cool, I’m excited!
Last words and shout-outs, FlyLo?
Just really looking forward to playing Boston! Peace!
don’t sleep, this jam will definitely sell out!