Steve Ellison, better known to the masses as Flying Lotus, has blended elements of electronica, hip-hop, jazz and blues to create a cohesive sound that has won him an eclectic fanbase. Ahead of his anticipated album, Until The Quiet Comes, and subsequent tour, we caught up with the producer to talk about his record and who would be his dream collaborator. You’d be surprised to see who he chose.
What were some of the ideas and concepts that you experimented with on the new album?
More than anything, I thought it would be interesting to approach it from more of a minimalist perspective as opposed to outdo an album that I put the maximum of everything in. This time I was like, “how can I make the big moments more impactful?” I thought that it would be best to approach that from a more minimal place so when the big moments hit, they’re really big since all of the tension is built up. For me, that was a lot of fun to put that together. This record feels like the most cohesive and introspective one that I’ve done.
What aspects made it introspective?
The tracks that I selected came from a different place. They were more cerebral and less and less dance-y, and mean more to me.
Is the album title of Until The Quiet Comes an accurate depiction of what you were going for?
Yeah, I really wanted it to reflect that and wanted to build a new kind of landscape for this as opposed to trying to recreate what I did before. I think that doing that is signing up for failure and I figured how could I still challenge myself, yet still have as much fun and bring along all of the folks that have been listening to this point.
Like Cosmogramma, you have a slew of guest appearances by some big name artists on the album. What was it like working with artists Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu and Thundercat, especially since some of your tracks can take them out of their respective comfort zones?
To me, the best thing about working with the people I chose to work with is that they respect the track before they do anything. They’re like “the song is made, how can I add to it?” as opposed to someone that says that “it’s an instrumental, now let’s make it a song.” I really appreciate the approach of vocals as textures in the sense that they’re guiding everything. The people I choose to work with understand texture and melody in a way that’s a producer’s wet dream in the sense that they fall right into the beat instead of riding right on top of what I’ve done. That’s the biggest thing for me in my work to try to find a nice foundation for things. Working with Erykah and Thundercat, they’re really in tune with what I’m doing. I love collaborating and after this record, I hope I can get some more gigs as a producer.
Having guests like that who have a specific understanding of your music and vision seems like an important element that shapes the album because otherwise, at least with what you do, it would feel forced if they don’t get exactly what’s going on.
Absolutely. Or it could work as a one-off or as a single and there’s a lot of stuff that was recorded like that that didn’t make the album. But again, finding that approach where it feels like my album as opposed to me producing a song for somebody and then I put it on a CD that I made. I feel like there’s enough base for it to still be me.
Did you experiment in the writing process or do anything differently while recording?
A lot of things. I switched software in the middle of making the album. A lot of why it took me so long to make this one was because I was grasping how to produce on a different program. I’ve been learning a lot more about mixing and getting the dynamics the way I want it to. It’s a learning process to get things to sound right. Learning a lot of new mixing techniques has really been a big difference.
Do you embrace these new challenges or find them to challenging in the sense that they’re difficult to grasp and burdensome?
Both of them. I find that it’s a challenge yet at the same time it’s so awesome because I get to be a student again. I have to relearn what I’ve learned and it’s really fun. I love a challenge and if I’m not challenging myself, then there’s no need to put out an album.
Speaking of challenging yourself, the album evokes certain images and imagery like it’s a movie soundtrack. Was that your intention when you were putting it together and would you ever consider scoring something in the future?
Soundtracks are the main influence for me. I wish I could think of this album as a movie soundtrack. That’s a very big deal for me. One day I can hopefully work with a guy like Hans Zimmer on a movie score. That would be awesome.
Why couldn’t it happen?
That would be so sick if we could just join forces on a movie one day. So sick.
So it’s safe to assume that you’d be open to scoring a film in the future?
Hell yeah! I sure hope so! This is my calling card. Look, if Hans Zimmer heard this shit, I wonder if he’d like it and if he’d fuck with it. My personal mission is to find him.
What’s the live show going to be like? Will there be an elaborate light show or anything to that degree?
Don’t put the pressure on me! I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do yet ‘cause I gotta get through today first. Who knows, I just hope that it’s something I’m gonna be proud of.
What else do you have going on?
I’ve been working on a pilot for a TV show on Adult Swim. It’s called Cat Dick. I’ve been doing the music on that. Hopefully something happens with it. I want to do more of this kind of stuff and to get into the movie thing would be really interesting. Also, I’m working on the new Thundercat album, which is my current focus, but I still have other things that I have to do. We’ll see what happens, I’m writing a movie, maybe we’ll get into that.
Flying Lotus Tour Dates:
10.07 New York, NY: Terminal 5
10.13 Toronto, ON: The Hoxton
10.15 Detroit, MI: Majestic Theatre
10.16 Chicago, IL: Metro
10.18 Denver, CO: Ogden Theatre
10.19 Salt Lake City, UT: Urban Lounge
10.22 Vancouver, BC: Fortune Sound Club
10.23 Seattle, WA: Neptune
10.25 Oakland, CA:Fox Theater
10.26 Los Angeles, CA: Club Nokia
11.03 London, UK @ Brixton Academy
11.04 Amsterdam, Netherlands: Paradiso
11.05 Leipzig, Germany: Conne Island
11.06 Paris, France: La Machine du Moulin Rouge
11.07 Fribourg, Switzerland: Fri-Son
11.08 Berlin, Germany: Gretchen
11.09 Manchester, UK: Manchester Warehouse Project