Interview: Flying Lotus

Michael Tedder

By Michael Tedder

on 10.02.12 in Interviews

Flying Lotus has Brilliant Young Iconoclast written all over him, which is part of his problem. He’s one of the buzziest young artists on one of the buzziest labels around (electronic music and art-rock tastemakers Warp); he’s tight with Thom Yorke; he’s the nephew of avant-jazz icon Alice Coltrane. But even more importantly, he made Cosmogramma, a head-rush of layered bass rumbles and mournful synth ripples that slowly became a word-of-mouth phenomena beyond the Warp diehards. Which is great and all, but Steve Ellison was still just a man, and awfully nervous about what to do for a follow-up. The avant-jazz prodigy thing is only fresh once, after all. Fortunately, he worked through his doubts to deliver Until The Quiet Comes, an elaborate suite that aims to quiet the mind and thump the chest. Thom Yorke appears again, as does Erykah Badu. A few weeks before its release talked with eMusic about getting past his doubts and taking his cool off.

Your last album slowly caught on with people, and even roped in people who don’t necessarily listen to a lot of instrumental, weird electronic music. Were you kind of surprised at the reception?

Yeah, man. The whole thing was surprising to me. My existence…my existence in this form surprises me.

When an album like that catches on, it seems like you have two options for the follow-up: Make something more accessible or make something denser and weirder to show that you’re not letting popularity get to you. What were you thinking when you were going into this one?

When I started approaching the album, I went into it with this mentality like no matter I’m going to do, I know I’m going to hate it. When I made Cosmogramma, there were a lot of things that made it really special. The timing was crazy. I just feel like there’s no way you can capture that magic twice. It’s just different magic, y’know? was kind of pessimistic when I started, but I realized it was okay to do the things I wanted to do.

For a while, were you preparing for the worst?

Yeah, definitely. This is the part of my career where everyone is going to turn their back on me and hate me. [Laughs.] But you know, I think that it’s a normal thing for any artist. In the making of this record I came to understand that those feelings are okay, y’know? They’re kind of typical. And then after realizing that, I felt a lot better and I just, tried to enjoy the process of making it.

This album has a meditative, introspective feel, and the title implies a search for rest. A lot of people use meditation to work through their doubts and get past them. Did working on this album prove helpful in that way?

Completely, man. Being able to do this work really does help my whole brain space. Everything else can begin to feel like shit in my world, but if I’m making music that I’m excited about, everything’s fine. Calling the album Until the Quiet Comes was partly a reference to that.

Your live energy is very different, though: When I see you live, you just go wild; you’re grinning ear to ear and freaking out about every song you drop in to the mix, from Lil’ Wayne remixes to Radiohead.

[Laughs.] Oh man. I mean, when I’m partying, I’m partying, y’know? I feel like I don’t really get a chance just to put out all the stuff that I make. I get every two years I put out, like, 10 tracks and I make maybe 100 or so, y’know? That’s the fun part about playing shows is that I get to play a lot of stuff too. Y’know, a lot of stuff you may only get to hear at the shows. I think it’s fun, man. It’s dangerous and it’s exciting. When you see me up there, I’m just, like, trippin’ because a lot of the stuff is off the top and I don’t know where we’re going.