The Sherp sat down for a conversation with Flying Lotus as he spoke to us about his upcoming performance at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, working with Kendrick Lamar, and his new super-group!
Unmistakable is the best word that would describe Steven Ellison, of Flying Lotus fame. The long-limbed electronic producer has carved an obvious niche with his jazz and hip-hop infused electronic anthems. From creating highly conceptual song records to meandering between his musical alter-egos, the producer Flying Lotus and the rapper, Captain Murphy, Steven can be credited with revolutionising the electronic music industry in a major manner. And after a long wait, Flying Lotus is finally coming down to India this year as part of the 2015 edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender.
Hey Steven, we’re really excited that you’re coming to India at last. Your fans have been itching to see you perform for the longest time.
Aw, man! I was very surprised. I didn’t know I had any fans in India. It was cool, when we announced it and a lot of people started talking. I didn’t even know people listened to my music there.
This will be your first performance in India. What can we expect from it?
Some dope shit. Some awesome shit.
Will Captain Murphy be joining Flying Lotus at the NH7 Weekender?
Haha, as long as he can get his visa, you know? Haha.
You will be ambiguous about it? We don’t know is it?
Haha. There’s a good chance he might be there.
Your last album ‘You’re Dead!’ was a jazz, hip-hop infused work of electronic brilliance. I had read an interview where you mentioned that you’d love to perform the album with live instrumentals. Is that happening any time soon?
No, no plans as such. I haven’t planned on it yet, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea definitely.
Your live performances are highly appreciated for their grand visual set up. How important are they for your live performance? Will we get to see them at Weekender?
Yeah, I will be bringing the visuals for sure. It is important to me. My music is very visual, you know? And I’ve always imagined doing a show that is very cinematic for my music. And doing this thing, my music with these visuals is very much like what I always had in mind.
You had released a short film for your 4th album ‘Until The Quiet Comes’. Since ‘You’re Dead!’ is a highly conceptual record, chronicling the idea of death, musically, can we expect a movie for the same?
We did a music video for the track with Kendrick Lamar, Never Catch Me and we did one for Coronus, The Terminator as well, which I think encapsulated the idea and the concept. And I’ve already begun work on my next project. So that’s probably it.
In your last album, you’ve collaborated with legendary pianist Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar. How do you pick your collaborators?
To be honest, I always try to work with people when it absolutely makes sense. Not necessarily, because someone’s famous or whatever. I look out for music that I work on and I always imagine people who could be part of it, you know. With Kendrick and Snoop, they were just perfect for what I was doing. And Herbie, too, they were perfect for this world that I was creating.
You’ve extensively worked with musician Thundercat on three of your albums, as you have collaborated with Shabazz Palaces. And now you’ve formed the supergroup Woke with both the groups of artists. And we loved the first track ‘The Lavishments of Light Looking’ ft. George Clinton. What kind of music can be expected from this supergroup? A strong mismash of elements?
Oh, thank you. It’s too soon to say. We have recorded a bunch of stuff, but I don’t know how it going to look, going forward. I don’t know what will really happen. I’m going to sit this one out, and finish more music.
You’ve also founded an independent record label, Brainfeeder, that has artists like Thundercat and Daedelus. What prompts you to pick your artists?
Yes, I have. I just try to pick people who get into the kind of things that make sense; the kind of things that reflect my sensibilities. I try to find things that I’m not doing. Go beyond what I do, and that’s what I look for.
Are you influenced by music not similar to yours? If yes, which artists would they be?
Oh God. So many. I listen to a lot of music. I actually don’t listen to a lot of electronic music and beat music anymore. I don’t quite listen to stuff that I do. I’m more interested in stuff that I’m not doing. As to what artists I listen to, it’s a hard question to ask somebody, haha. There are so many musicians.
As a producer, you’ve significantly avoided the mainstream limelight. How involved are you in your live performances?
The thing is, I love to play. I love to play music live. I love to take my music to people. I do feel like I’m more useful when I’m in the studio, making music. But at the same time, I like going and meeting people and sharing music. It’s a tough thing. Because when I’m at home, I want to go out. When I’m out I want to go back..it all complements each other.
You’re not limited to a specific style of music having incorporated various genres and elements in your production. Will we see you incorporating Indian elements in your music any time soon?
I have before. I always sample music from all around the world, and I try to incorporate various styles, whether it’s tabla players that I’ve worked with before. So it’s all there.
Are there any Indian artists that you’ve listened to and would love to collaborate with?
Again, cannot think of a single name. But I’d like to record a few pieces in India, meet young people, going musicians. Herbie Hancock, especially asked me to meet a few people out there.
You’ve always had an interest in the visual, cinematic medium. Would you ever want to direct, perhaps?
That’s a plan, also, in fact. I don’t know if it will happen soon. But I’m trying to make it happen. I don’t know if it will be a movie or a music video.
Since we’re a festival based site, here are a few fun festival related questions we’d like you to answer-
1. If you had to get married at a festival, which would it be and why?
If I had to get married at a festival, it would be Electric Forrest. It’s beautiful, and it’s not too insanely crowded, and still nice.
2. Who/What is your favourite festival buddy? Tell us why.
My favourite festival buddies are my visual guys. We’ve traveled together, been on many adventures. They’re my favourite people to travel with.
3. A festival you would consider being sober at?
4. If you could take only three things to a festival, what would they be and why?
A jacket, a phone and a flask, so I can get drunk.
5. Name a festival you would love to attend alone.
Probably a film festival. I was going to go to this film festival called Fantastic Festival in Austin and was going to go alone. I’m a movie fan, and I couldn’t get anyone to go with me.
Thank you so much Steven, really looking forward to your performance!
It will be fun, it will be a lot of fun. Thank you so much for your energy.
You will not want to miss Flying Lotus live. He will be performing at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. Make sure to grab on to your Bacardi NH7 Weekender passes here.