- Tue, 2010-05-11 13:06
Signed to Warp Records in 2007, Flying Lotus has just released his third LP Cosmogramma. Swirling amidst widespread critical acclaim for his forward thinking, genre-defying approach to instrumental hip hop, Flying Lotus touched down in London for the 2010 Red Bull Music Academy. Having been part of the experience in Melbourne 2006, he returned a respected, well known artist, testament to the opportunity and talent nurtured by the Academy. Alongside a storming night at London club Fabric, hosted by his label Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus was interviewed by former boss Egon, general manager of independent hip hop label Stones Throw Records.
I Like Music caught up with Flying Lotus following his Red Bull Music Academy experience to chat about his approach to creation, evolving ideas, working with Thom Yorke and why breaking everything is the best advice he can give.
"I Like Music because… it’s a gateway into someone’s universe. A gateway into the imagination, hopefully.” Flying Lotus
ILM: Having been a student at the Red Bull Music Academy yourself, you’ve come back following your success to give a lecture, worked with the students, hung out, sat in on lectures and hosted a Brainfeeder night at Fabric. How have you found the whole experience?
Flying Lotus: It’s been super inspiring. I’m glad to be here any time that I can be and contribute however I can. It’s always been a pleasure for sure. As well as hearing what’s new. It’s easy to get consumed by your universe sometimes, so it’s nice to step away, “oh what’s going on in this room over here, what are these kids listening to, what are y’all working on?” For that it’s been great. I’ve been hearing a lot of good stuff and feeling a lot of good energy and focus. I’ll definitely be taking a lot of those feelings back home where I can get to work on them.
ILM: We sat in on your lecture for the Academy..
Flying Lotus: You did?
ILM: Yes! It was fascinating to hear your story so far told by yourself and Egon...
Flying Lotus: We never really get a chance to talk about that side of the story. When anybody talks to me, it’s always about after I signed with Warp. We never really dig into the times where I used to take out the trash, water the plants and stuff!
ILM: At what stage in your life did you realise music could have such a profound effect upon you?
Flying Lotus: When I first heard Snoop Doggy Dogs Doggy Style! I was ten years old and that just got me open. I’d never heard any kind of melodic stuff with hip hop. It was always drum breaks and a little bit of something, a little bit of a loop. But then Dr Dre came out and it was super musical. Beautiful instrumental sounds, very much like the soul records that my family would play. It had this very aggressive edge to it, it was very LA as well.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Flying Lotus: I’ve been listening to the Jaga Jazzist record called One Armed Bandit. Also listening to the new kid we’ve signed to Brainfeeder, Jeremiah Jae, he’s really good. He’s very hypnotic, instrumental, obviously – the stuff I’m into. I’ve been listening to a lot of old fusion stuff: Soft Machine, Silver Apples, George Duke, getting deeper into that stuff. Pulling things I’d like to take in my own direction.
ILM: And recent live experiences?
Flying Lotus: The last person I saw that really, really did it was Jay Z. I didn’t think I was going to be moved like that. I didn’t expect it at all. I was like, “God Damn! That’s how you kill it!” It was so funny to me, I forgot how many songs I knew! I was rapping along like, “wait a minute! I know this song! And I know this one too!” The dude’s catalogue is big you know! Crazy.
ILM: Brainfeeder is going from strength to strength. In your lecture you spoke about looking for artists who are not making carbon copies of your own music. What else makes a Brainfeeder artist?
Flying Lotus: More so than that, I really want to work with people I consider to be artists. I feel like we’re in a time now where the artist does everything. That’s just how it is. The artist who does his own album cover, does all the recording, mixing, vocals, everything. He does the whole package. Those are the people who I really care about because they’re the ones building universes. They don’t need people to do it for them. It’s always a much more personal experience when you can dig into somebody’s strengths like that. All the pieces are there. It doesn’t need any extras. It doesn’t need people doing high fives or any special vocalists or whatever. You don’t need all the bells and whistles because they’re the package themselves.
ILM: Where do you work?
Flying Lotus: In my living room! I built my studio in my living room. It’s kind of cool. There’s a desk in the centre of the room. A projector. A big old screen. A home theatre kinda thing.
ILM: So everything is available 24/7, ready to strike as soon as inspiration comes?
Flying Lotus: Oh yeah. It has to be.
ILM: What’s your preferred technical set up?
Flying Lotus: I highly recommend Ableton live for people. I feel it’s the most forward thinking stuff out there. But it all depends. I encourage people to try out as many programmes as they like. Whatever they can download. Whatever they can get their hands on. Whatever they feel comfortable with. Some people are better at sampling. Some people are better with synthesisers. Some people are better with drumming. It all depends on what your thing is going to be. It takes experimentation to figure that out. It’s not something I can just suggest because I don’t feel like anyone can learn the tools fully. There are so many ways you can use these programmes and machines. I encourage people to break everything. Break everything you’ve thought about. The machine. Your ideas of making music. Throw out all the books and all the rules and all that shit. It’s really about the journey within, know what I’m saying? Finding out what’s inside.
ILM: How do you challenge yourself? How do you push yourself to evolve areas you’ve already explored?
Flying Lotus: Well, part of it comes from the same kind of feeling I get from hearing myself on any machine, like, “oh? That’s what I sound like, that’s my voice? Really?” It’s kind of that. As great as things have been, as forward as they’ve been, I feel there’s so much work to do still. There’s no time to settle or be content with one sound or one set of ideas. There’s lots of avenues to explore still. It’s a very exciting thing.
ILM: How does that exploration take shape for you?
Flying Lotus: It’s just living. It’s living. Talking, building and experiencing things. It just inspires you, more so than hearing music. A good conversation, a good conversation about science will inspire me to go back and freak out on some synthesizers. Just getting in touch with concepts that we talk about.
ILM: One way of pushing yourself forward is through musical collaborations. How do you like to work with an artist?
Flying Lotus: It all depends on the person. Some people are better when you’re in person, some people are better if you can leave them in their own space. It all depends on how they think. But er, after experiencing it for a while, you just kinda gauge where people are at. If they’re in their best element when they’re in my house, then I’ll try and get them over. If they do their best when they’re left alone in a cave, you know, I’ll leave them to it!
ILM: You recently collaborated with Thom Yorke. How was that experience?
Flying Lotus: I’ll tell you.. It took me a while to get over it at first! I’m such a fan. I’ve been a fan since I was sixteen years old. You know, like die hard status too. I have everything. I got emails and I’m like, I can’t even read that yet! I’m-a have to run around, do a cartwheel, get on the phone...YO!
ILM: Take a photo of the screen...
Flying Lotus: Right, right! SAVE! Hahah! And yeah, I saved all those emails! But yeah, getting beyond that. He was a really cool person to build with. He’s still such a fan of music and other peoples work. He’s not a closed off person. You find that certain people, when they get to a certain place they kinda stop trippin’, not really looking out for anything. Not him. He’s very much looking out for what else is going on. It’s so inspiring. My time getting to know him has been really interesting. I’m very thankful that I can witness this cat at these times. We’ve been to a couple of parties and hung out a couple of times. He’s very wise. Very quiet. He knows what he wants with different things. There’s no “Ummmmm...Errrrr...” around his words. He’s not that kind of person. He knows exactly what he wants out of the situation. I really admire that.
ILM: You’re a big inspiration to many musicians. What’s your advice to those hoping to make music that will impact and inspire?
Flying Lotus: I always try to tell people to surpass your influences. Don’t try and be on a level. Be beyond the level. That’s the only way we can continue this conversation musically. Don’t try and do something sub-part of what I’m doing or sub-part of what Thom Yorke would do, or whoever you like, or whoever you think. Don’t try to achieve that. Do what they’re not doing in life. Add to this conversation so we can inspire each other and take it to the next level.
ILM: What’s the next level for you?
Flying Lotus: I’d really like to get into some film stuff. Whether it be directing or doing some soundtrack stuff. Also building the company more. I have a vision for my next record already...