Still soaring high from his latest album, last year's Until the Quiet Comes, Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) returns for another round of cartoonish beats, tones, and drones. His latest offering, a one-off 8-bit jam for Cartoon Network's "Adventure Time" dubbed "About that time//A glitch is a glitch," dives headlong into the phantasmal aesthetics of video game psychedelia. Likewise, his "Layer 3" stage show is a hallucinatory swirl of lights, morphing shapes, and mind-melting eye and ear candy.
Flying Lotus plays Masquerade tonight (Tues., April 23) with Thundercat and Teebs. $20. 8 p.m. 695 North Ave. 404-577-8178. www.masq.com.
I recently caught the video on your Facebook page in which you're hanging out with Herbie Hancock and Thundercat in a studio. Are you guys working on an album?
Oh... Yeah. ... I'm working on a jazz album right now. It's different ... It's really ... I want it to be like a real jazz record, like a bop record, and I want it to be an experimental record, you know what I mean?
Yeah, not like something you'd hear at a fancy restaurant?
Exactly. I want it to be a record that when you hear it, you feel it, and you can put everything that you have into it. I'm mostly just producing it, and not really playing too many instruments. But that all depends on the track, and what we're working on. I don't want this to sound like some cocktail jazz shit, I want it to be more like ... Miles Davis' In A Silent Way ...
Yeah, that's exactly it. I've never heard anyone say it quite like that before, but yeah. I want it to be that kind of record, where the tones are something you can put your love and your anger and your feelings into. I'm composing the songs and directing the other players to play the parts that I want them to play - I'm working with Thundercat and he knows what I'm going for. Sometimes I can just sing the parts to him and he knows how to play them. He also knows how to talk to the other musicians and get them to come along as well. It's really cool to just give Herbie the keys and let him play what I want Herbie to play.
It's very different from the way I've made all of these other records, but I really like working like this.
Does the record have a name yet?
No, it's way too early for anything like that. We're all just sort of doing it right now.
You come from a family with a rich musical history, and pretty much every Flying Lotus write up that I come across points out your relation to Alice Coltrane. As an artist, does the family name-dropping put pressure on you? Have you ever felt like you had to live up to a higher standard than most?
Well you know, it's my family, and I've always kind of took it for what it is. It's all that I have ever known. But at the same time, I never was mad about that. I just learned from all of the music that my family has made, and all of the knowledge that comes along with that, and have found myself in my own lane in our age, and I've always just moved forward with it.
Aside from the rap/hip-hop angle, how do you approach Captain Murphy differently from what you do with Flying Lotus?
Well, I've been having a lot of fun with that, and now Captain Murphy has even developed a little bit of a following, so I'm really looking forward to doing more with it. When I was younger I used to run around trying get my beat with these rappers, and that was a full-time job - chasing people down to give them my best beats. But I don't want to do that anymore. I want to save my best beats for myself, and make something cool out of it.
I recently came across an interview in which you say something to the effect of, you don't learn about art from art school, you need to go out and experience life. Talk about that just a little bit.
I had this conversation with Herbie the other day. We were sitting around and he said, "Music school was really great," and I was like, Say what?!" He came back around and was like, "It was great, but you know, I didn't learn the jazz shit by going to school. I learned that from being on the streets, and in the clubs, and hanging out with the cats," as he put it.
I went to art school, and I learned to draw better, but I already had ideas in my head, and you really need to learn to keep a hold of those ideas. A lot of people go to art school and think that they're going to be taught how to be an artist, but you really just need to experience life. People can hear love and emotion in your music, and that sort of thing is something that can't be taught in a classroom.
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