Photo by Emir Eralp
Words by Andrew Parks
As we explained in the cover story of self-titled‘s eighth issue, Flying Lotus wanted to mess with our minds visually well before he became a buzz-stirring beat maker. And even when the producer shifted his focus from abstract films to abstract soundscapes, the end result still sounded like a profoundly psychedelic tone poem, as if the spirit of Alice Coltrane–a.k.a. FlyLo’s aunt–had been asked to score David Lynch’s first sci-fi film since Dune.
â€œRecords are an opportunity to make movies that don’t exist,â€ he explained in one of our early interviews. â€œI like the idea of creating a universe for people to inhabit visually, only through music. It’s whatever you want it to be–very Choose Your Own Adventure.â€
Speaking of universes people can inhabit visually, we recently asked Flying Lotus about some of the year’s top films, TV shows, music videos, and album art. The following is an extended Q&A that’s excerpted in our current issue, which hits digital stands today…
So I wanted to start by talking about The Walking Dead. Have you caught any episodes of it yet?
I’ve been meaning to watch it. Since I missed the two-hour premiere, I might just wait until the DVD set comes out.
Are you a fan of zombie films?
I am. It’s hard for me to watch zombies lately because I have this recurring zombie apocalypse dream.
Basically the same idea as the show then?
Yeah, although it’s like the crazy shit already happened and I’m one of the survivors, living with a bunch of people I don’t know. It’s pretty depressing usually.
Did you watch 28 Days Later too many times or something?
[Laughs] You know what man? I think that dream stems from being a part of the Northridge quake when I was a kid. It had a very apocalyptic feeling to it. My mother was convinced that the world was over when it happened. And when your mom tells you this stuff, you believe it. So that whole experience really got to me. I have a crazy fear of earthquakes because of it.
Good thing you live in L.A. then.
I know! I’m mentally prepared for it, though.
So when it comes to horror movies, are you more of a zombie guy?
I like the concept of the living dead. Even that movie The Crazies–how it shows what happens when everyone around you goes mad and becomes bloodthirsty. But yeah, I love horror movies, man. I’ve been looking for something that I’m afraid of, though–good, scary stuff that I haven’t seen yet.
Back when we first talked, you mentioned some of the strange experiences you’ve had with dreams and various states of sleeping. So I’ve gotta ask: Did you see Inception this year?
Yeah, I thought it was going to be my favorite movie. And while it was really cool in a lot of ways, it was also super disappointing in the end. The whole time I was watching it, I thought, â€˜My dreams don’t work like that!’
You thought it was way too over-the-top then?
I thought it was way too grounded for a movie about dreams, actually. They were playing around with some cool concepts, but all those AK-47s, and that snow battle and shit. Who dreams about stuff like that–about bad James Bond sequences? It had some good ideas though, so I’m thankful for that. A lot of those concepts blew people’s minds.
Speaking of blowing people’s minds, did you see Enter the Void?
That was my favorite movie of the past five years.
I figured it might be. The movie kinda reminded me of you since you’ve experienced some of that DMT stuff before:
Oh you thought of me when you watched it? That’s so sweet! [Laughs]
Well, it’s not often that an artist tells me about how intense their DMT experiences were.
Dude, I loved that movie. He nailed it, man.
It was definitely the first movie in a while that made me feel fucked up from just watching it.
It’s a roller coaster, really. I saw it twice, and it got me every time.
As someone who’s experienced DMT first hand, do you feel like he (director Gaspar NoÃ©) captured the drug sequences well?
The DMT stuff wasn’t as good as it could have been, but nothing compares to that anyway. As far as all of the astral traveling–leaving your body and being able to see a room in 360 degrees–I feel like that was close to that feeling. The feeling of being pulled in the direction of whatever you’re thinking about.
Have you read The Tibetan Book of the Dead before?
Some of it. It’s my airplane book. The translation I have seems pretty grounded; pretty easy to follow. I’m into it, man. As far as the things I’ve experienced on earth, that’s probably the closest thing out there to it.
Did you feel like he was a little self-indulgent at times? Because I feel like that’s an easy criticism many people have made.
I think good films show a director immersed in this universe. I definitely think that [Gaspar] is interested in the things he filmed. I wouldn’t want someone to try and make a film about something they weren’t that interested in. Like I wouldn’t want someone to make a big science fiction robot movie if they’re really more interested in romantic comedies. Obviously, this dude is kinda a fuckin’ perv; kinda a crazy motherfucker. So I want him to show us what he wants to see. I’m down to go the distance with Gaspar, man. I think he’s a visionary. Whatever he puts on the screen, I’ll be in the theater.
Would you recommend his other movies to people? I haven’t seen Irreversible, but I’ve heard it’s hard to make it through the opening scenes because they’re too intense:
You know what, man? It’s funny that you said that. Before my mom passed away, I think that’s the last movie we watched together.
You watched that movie with your mother? Wow.
[Laughs] Yep. Irreversible. And I recommended Enter the Void to my grandma, too. Just because there’s nothing like it. It transcends the usual film experience. That kind of shit needs to be celebrated, as crazy as it is–like the new 2001. Some Kubrick shit. You’re watching it and it’s like, â€˜How is this possible? How did they even get the money to do this?’
Right? So what else really hit you this year, movie wise?
You know, I really liked that Scott Pilgrim movie. I didn’t expect to, though. It was one of those things that got the Haterade juices flowing right away for whatever reason. Maybe because it seemed like another Michael-Cera-playing-himself movie? But it was really cool, man–another one of those things where you think, ‘Wow, they really gave someone money to make this?’ A lot of the stuff was silly and crazy, but it was fun.
It kinda went over a lot of people’s heads, though.
It did, but it’s gonna be a total cult film.
Were you into the comic book first?
Nah, I wasn’t hip to it. I like some of the art, though. It feels like a cool Dragon Ball Z thing…Some of the writing was really clever. That guy, [director] Edgar Wright, is really switched on. [Scott Pilgrim] felt like his early stuff with a lot of money. He got to do the movie he’s been wanting to make.
Did you have a favorite fight sequence in the movie?
Yeah, when he fought the evil vegan guy. That was straight out of Mortal Kombat.
You’ve traveled a lot this year. Did you end up watching any particular TV shows while you were on the road?
Yeah, I enjoyed a couple things. There’s this survivalist show on Discovery called The Colony. It’s basically like that apocalyptic dream I keep having. All of these people are on deserted land outside of New Orleans or something, as if a biological incident had happened. And these people from all different backgrounds have to go into this town with no electricity and survive–build generators and that sort of thing.
It’s a reality show then? Trying to recreate the whole zombie experience in real life?
Exactly. It’s a cool premise, and the people are really unpredictable. Like there’ll be a teacher who somehow knows how to build a filtration system to make rainwater drinkable.
And it doesn’t devolve into the typical reality show bullshit of people just shouting at one another?
They have their moments, but for the most part, they’re just trying to make it. Over the course of the show, a lot of them lose weight because they’re not eating properly. It’s pretty intense. I wonder how much of it is real still.
The Lost finale was this year. Did you follow that?
I’m not gonna lie, man. I haven’t seen one episode of that show. I missed that whole phenomenon. Another one I missed, which I’m embarrassed to admit, is The Wire. I want to get into that at some point, when the rain hits and I don’t have to go anywhere.
Boardwalk Empire was pretty great this year.
Yeah, I’ve been recording those, but I haven’t seen ’em yet. I’ve been watching Eastbound and Down, instead.
The second season, where he’s in Mexico? How’s that been?
It’s silly. You’re not going to walk away from it having learned some shit. It’s really ridiculous and over the top–shock value humor. It’s good, though. Danny McBride is hilarious.
Album art’s obviously pretty important to you. Did anyone do an album cover that really stuck with you this year?
That oOoOO cover–the one with the arms reaching up–is so sick. They nailed it. I liked some other packaging, too, but I’d have to really think about that question. You kinda caught me off guard. What did you like?
I don’t know…This has definitely been a good year for limited vinyl…
You know what was really good? A lot of the stuff Egon’s done for Now Again.
The Forge Your Own Chains compilation was really solid.
All of that shit’s always good.
What about music videos?
[M.I.A.’s] “Born Free” was good. I really like [Romain-Gavras’] imagery and the way he shoots. My favorite music videos this year were the iamamiwhoami ones. Do you know about that stuff?
Yeah, did they ever reveal who the person is?
They did. Well, kinda. It’s not anyone I’m familiar with.
It seems like people were so excited about those videos for a while but they didn’t end up talking about the artist in the end.
Yeah, they haven’t really gotten into it too much yet. It’s still pretty mysterious. I’m waiting to buy the DVD or whatever comes out of it. The imagery is pretty inspiring. I could just leave that shit on in the background and make music, you know? I’m into it. I don’t really care [about the music]. I just look at the pictures.
You had a cool animated video this year. Do you have any favorites in that department?
The Special Problems kids are really great. I’m working with them on a Bilal video right now. It’s almost done. Some of the stuff in it’s gonna look really crazy.
You collaborated with those kids on it then?
Yeah, I directed it and shot a bunch of stuff on a blue screen. They’re doing the post-production stuff right now.
What track of his is it?
It’s called “Levels.”
This is your first commercial video then, isn’t it?
The first music video I’ve done, yeah. And there’s one coming out next month, too–one I did for Erykah Badu. That one’s really pretty, too. The guy who did the “Kill Your Co-Workers” video (Beeple) did the post-production work on that one.
So both of them are going to have animated elements?
What Erykah song did you do, and what was it like working with her? She seems like she’d be on a whole other level–like your aunt, really…
“Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long.” It’s funny you say that [about my aunt]. She’s got this thing about her that reminds me of my mom, actually. You can tell she’s somebody’s mom, and that she’s probably mothered a lot of the men in her life. You know what I mean?
Just really killer maternal instincts then?
Yeah, she’s just like…you couldn’t look her in the eye and tell her any bullshit. I love that. She reminds me of myself when I was shy; when I was always like, ‘Uh, uh, uh.’ All of the cool is gone around her, dude. She’s got a really intense aura and presence. And when she came in, she killed her part. She was Erykah until we said “action” and that it was on, man. Jaw on the floor; all “how is this happening?” She’s the real deal.
Did you work one-on-one with both artists in conceptualizing their videos?
Well, the Bilal thing was a long process with a lot of pre-production before we shot it at Tim & Eric’s studio. We found out Badu was coming into town, and since we were already in production with it, we asked her to do a cameo. She got excited about the concept, and since we were gonna need to rent the studio for another day, I thought, ‘Why don’t we shoot something quick with her beyond a cameo?’ So yeah–we came up with a little concept, shot her, and now we’re building this world together…
So it started off very on-the-fly…
Yeah. She was really cool about it. It took a long time to shoot the Bilal video and when we asked her to do this other thing, she had her manager and assistants help pick out accessories and clothes. It was really dope.
You’re not really known for directing music videos. So do you feel like you have something to prove?
I definitely feel the pressure for it to be really good. That’s why I’ve waited for something I really love. It’s not like I picked these songs because they’re a gig. They’re songs I want to do justice to. It’s a good pressure. I like it…It’s different.
Could you see doing videos for Brainfeeder in the near future?
I’m not really interested in doing my own music videos at the moment…Maybe next year. That could be the focus. Possibly. We’ll see.