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The Dubspot crew caught up with groundbreaking DJ/producer and Brainfeeder label head Flying Lotus at South by Southwest 2013 for an interview about his influences, his creative process and methods, and some of his most recent projects.
He told us about the influence of Jamaican dub pioneer King Tubby on his music, also mentioning J Dilla and James Brown. He also talked about pros and cons of today’s advanced music technologies, and how he prefers the freedom of recording at home alone away from any kind of external pressures. (He even mentioned that when he needs more info on a specific point while he’s working, he jumps on YouTube and looks up Dubspot videos to help figure out what he needs to know!)
One of the main threads we kept coming back to in our conversation was his improvisational jazz-influenced approach to performing and recording. In contrast with some performers who more or less map out their sets in advance, FlyLo commented that his live Ableton set is “a mess” and that he even surprises himself with some of the musical combinations and transformations he comes up with when he’s playing.
He also talked about how the visual performers who play with him manage to keep up with the surprises and changes, and said that it comes down to working with visualists who understand his overall approach and specific cultural references, so they can come up with an improvised visual flow that matches the music.
To Stephen Ellison a.k.a. Flying Lotus, a heavy jazz influence come naturally as he grew up surrounded by the music; he is the grandnephew of legendary jazz power couple John and Alice Coltrane and grew up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley in a family full of musicians and performers. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of John and Alice) is his cousin and contemporary and was also a musical collaborator on FlyLo’s Cosmogramma album. Ellison’s grandmother is singer/songwriter Marilyn McLeod, best known for having written Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover” and Freda Payne’s “I Get High (On Your Memory).”
Ellison’s current crop of production projects include work on Thundercat’s forthcoming album as well as a follow-up to Duality, his 2012 debut release as rap alter-ego Captain Murphy.