Since debuting in 2006 with 1983, Flying Lotus’ career has grown exponentially. Some would argue that the West Coast producer truly broke through and shed the “post-Dilla” tags two years later with an album dedicated to and named after his hometown of Los Angeles. The record showcased a forward-thinking approach to what many dubbed as the “beat scene,” wherein producers weave heady, bass-driven, and mostly instrumental efforts.
But it was truly his third full-length, 2010’s Cosmogramma, that made everyone stop for a second and reevaluate his music. Here was an album that was free-flowing and clearly dedicated to the groundbreaking jazz crafted by his gifted relatives. In particular, there’s his great aunt, Alice Coltrane, who forged a path for female musicians and just so happened to be married to jazz legend—that term might not even be strong enough—John Coltrane.
Cosmogramma also found FlyLo working with the likes of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and poised-to-blow-up bassist/composer Thundercat. And while FlyLo could have easily rested on his uber-original laurels, he opted to look elsewhere for inspiration on his fourth album. As he explains, he didn’t want to say the same thing twice.
Until The Quiet Comes, which drops Oct. 2, retains the jazzy, beat-heavy influences of his previous work while injecting it with strong doses of psychedelic and progressive rock. There are also plenty of bangers he crafted for the club-going sect, particularly those who show up at his concerts prepared to lose their shit as soon as his mind state-altering sounds fill the air.
At the same time, FlyLo found himself falling back in love with hip-hop thanks to some raucous youngsters. In particular, he cites Odd Future, A$AP Mob, and SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan as newfound inspiration. It’s no surprise that he’s gone on to record with guys like Hodgy Beats and Earl Sweatshirt, while it appears a collaboration with Purrp is soon-coming.
Find out about all of that and much more in the following interview, which serves as a preview of Until The Quiet Comes, a testament to his artistic vision, and a look into his personal connection to music.
Interview by Andrew Martin (@Andrew_J_Martin)
Complex: What are you working on now while you get ready to push the album?
Flying Lotus: I’ve got my hands in a lot of jars. I'm kind of producing the new Thundercat stuff, kind of producing stuff for Shabazz Palaces and Azizi Gibson. Just little things here and there between records. I’m working on the music for a TV show called Cat Dick for Adult Swim. It's really silly and about a cat detective. It’s all real animals, kind of like an old detective show.
Are you doing any more tracks with Odd Future?
I'm talking with a few other dudes like Domo [Genesis] and I really want to do a track with Tyler. He's a tricky one, man, 'cause he has his hands in a lot of jars and he’s very particular about who he works with and when he works with people. We've been pals for quite some time. He knows I’m here. He knows I’m around.
What about the Weeknd? You guys played an impromptu show together recently.
Yeah, me and the Weeknd have talked a bunch about things. There are some potential ideas he had and I’m all game for it. It might be too soon to say exactly what, but I’d say we will connect on some things.
Any plans to play live again with the Infinity Band?
I’m not sure about the Infinity Band. It's really hard to get all my musicians in one space together. I feel like every time I have a time to do that show, it’s like asking and begging for favors and I hate doing that. Unfortunately, it's gotta be a bigger band than a trio. But I might do it if the situation presented itself.
What can you tell me about the new album?
I know people are looking forward to it. I think it's different than the last thing (Cosmogramma). I feel like there’s more stuff for the club in this one than the last one. But at the same time, I feel like there’s headphone music, so it helps that there’s enough of both.
How did your writing and recording process differ making Until the Quiet Comes compared to Cosmogramma?
I always try to set challenges for myself when it comes to putting records together because I don’t want to say the same things twice. So that's one of the bigger things and obviously I just want to be a better musician. With Cosmogramma, I felt I had to prove myself a little bit more and had to remove myself from the scene a little bit because people would say things about what they thought I did and their perceived idea of what I did. It’s frustrating to be lumped into categories. I felt like I had to make a statement to separate myself.
While Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke are the bigger names that appear on this album, and Yorke was on Cosmogramma as well, one constant since 1983 has been Laura Darlington. What's your connection with her?
Laura is a funny one because she embodies a part of the sound I gravitate toward a lot. It's this innocent sound and she reminds me a lot of my favorite vocalists, like a bit of Beth Gibbons, Trish Keenan, and them. Laura's got her own thing. I am a fan of folk and psychedelic music so I think she really gets that but she also gets the beat thing, too.
Getting back to Badu, is the planned joint album with her actually going to happen?
I’m not sure what’s going to happen anymore because she's so busy, but hopefully we can connect because I'm game for it. To be honest, the only thing that came out of it was the track on my album. We have drafts and sketches of things but I really don't think I can produce and direct an entire album unless we have time to be in the same space for a little while.
We would both have to find the time, and whenever the time comes for her, I’ll drop everything to make it happen. It was funny because I waited a lot and was like, "I'm going to take this track. It’s mine now." [Laughs.]
The drafts and things we did before, we worked together in the same space. It has to be that way and we have to continue that because I just can’t see myself producing her over emails, though I trust she would deliver some awesome shit.
Is that why you haven’t done a lot of full projects for other artists?
I feel like I’m getting to a place where I’m more open to that but a lot of times collaborations sound good on a blog or on paper but it all depends on the chemistry and the magic. Several artists I’ve met and talked to, we want to do an album together and it sounds good to say that. But you know, as much as all rappers and singers have a crazy personality, i have that, too! And it’s all about finding that synergy.
Are you able to do more with Thundercat because you live close to each other?
We don't live super close-by and we don’t have lots of time to work now that he's getting all famous with his music. [Laughs]. But we always find the time to work together and even if we don't for a while, he can come through on a Monday after a month of us not seeing each other and we can just get things done. We can get a lot done in a day. I consider him a part of Flying Lotus. He's part of the sound that I’m after. We just have such amazing chemistry in the studio. And on the new album, he plays on 75 percent of it.
Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) is also on the album, right?
Yeah, and that happens during Miguel's [Atwood Ferguson] first time on the album. There's an acoustic section near the end of the album. The whole way the thing came together was organic. There was no thought really. We were all sitting around listening to this shit and it’s like, "Let’s open up a session and rip with it."
And how about that Thom Yorke collaboration? I heard you didn’t think he’d be on the album.
We have pretty good communication and we talk on e-mail often. But I figured he wouldn't be super enthusiastic about collaborating again because has so much going on and there are a million other people he could be working with. I felt very honored he wanted to work together again and it was very nice to have him back.
What’s most interesting is that he doesn’t even sound like what you'd expect on the album.
That’s funny because a lot of people ask about that and say, "Why don't you make it sound like him because it’s him." But I tell them it’s not about him. It’s my album. All these things are textures to me. I’ll pitch Thom all the way down if it sounds right. And that is why Thom fucks with me because I’m not afraid to fuck with it like that.
He sent me the vocals and trusted me to do what I do. He asked what the track meant to me and what the vibe of the album was. There were two tracks for consideration. I just sent him some of my music to keep him in the loop with what I’m doing and he's like, "Oh shit, I think got something for this."
It’s actually evolved since he heard it. It’s cool to get dry vocals and get inspired to add some things and build some moments and embellishing sections.
What is the vibe and concept of the album?
When I started working on it and making drafts, I was really into the idea of doing a children's record. Well, I really wanted to make a record that had this innocence to it. And it’s not about being naive but being able to harness the feeling of hearing things for the first time. I was really into meditation and mystical states and all that shit, which really, really inspired me.
I imagined seeing a whole world you can’t have imagined before and being completely innocent. Those are the kind of images I see. It’s of a young character, but not a kid, just like the youthful parts of yourself coming alive for the first time.
Do you have a favorite track from the album?
I always go through different phases with the tracks. At the moment, I really like "Only If You Wanna" on there. Stereolab was a big influence on that and it was really cool to add something to that conversation. It feels good to be able to throw one back to the universe.
So were they a big influence throughout the project?
I live in L.A. and it’s always sunny here. The vibe is real Stereolab. So yeah, they’re definitely a big influence. The thing about making records for me is I try to pull from something that might have passed. The whole "old is new again" idea.
The last record was more jazz for me and falling in love with my family's timeline of music again. This was getting back into psychedelic rock music, prog-rock, and jazz, too. I listened to a lot of Gentle Giant, Broadcast, Stereolab, all those weird drum machine rock songs. For those that don’t know, Gentle Giant is like half psych, half jazz, then pieces of renaissance fair shit in there.
Getting back to your recent collaborations, what can you tell us about this Captain Murphy character?
He’s a young dude from L.A. He's really really shy. I met him through hanging out in the scene and shit. He's a young dude not giving a fuck about being famous and shit. He didn't even want to release the music he'd been passing to me and just did the shit for fun but I convinced the dude to start pushing himself and getting the music out.
Word. Well, what’s interesting about that track you did with him and Earl is how it wasn’t just like a huge track with crazy features. It sounded like a real collaboration.
I feel like people weren't going to like the Earl Sweatshirt track because it’s older. I made that beat like five years ago. But I’m super into collaborating. I’m having so much fun working with other artists. I think it’s a fucking awesome time right now. There’s lots of cool stuff. I’m just trying to stay busy doing my shit and if I can work with other people and find a cool thread between our worlds it's, "Hell yeah."
I know those dudes are real particular about how they want their stuff to come out and all that. We did this thing and I hadn't heard from Earl in a while and didn't know if he fucked with it, but it happened and worked out really well.
What made you want to start working with rappers again?
Phases, man. New people. It's so inspiring hearing all these new sounds and seeing all these new people pop up from around the world who are really dope. There are these people who were in the crowd when I started and now they're on stage.
Years ago you only had guys like Kanye and Jay-Z and it was like, "What could they possibly tell me?" And, "How can we relate anymore?" That’s not inspiring to me. But now it feels right again.
It’s like all trap music now, too. I was in Switzerland and there were dudes making trap. All of a sudden the world recognizes Dirty South music. I have some shit that sounds like that, too, but I've personally been like, "Nah." It’s just because, again, I feel like I’m in a peculiar situation. I always feel like I’m staying true to what I set out to do. It’s not just being like the trendy guy.
Who are you listening to in particular that's inspired you?
Jeremiah Jae. I've been familiar with his music for some time now and he moved from Chicago to L.A. and having him here has been motivating and inspiring. Whenever I think about not doing anything, we meet up and he’s working on like a million things. His presence is motivating.
And obviously Odd Future, those are my peoples, and all the A$AP kids. I like the Raider Klan. I fuck with all that shit, man. I wanna do some shit with SpaceGhostPurrp. I actually sent him some shit. We're buddies on the fucking Skype. I’m trying to get some stuff done with him.