A Sit Down With DJ Flying Lotus

Writing about Flying Lotus for XLR8R‘s readership is like introducing the Pope to a Catholic church—everyone already knows just about anything that could be said on the guy’s behalf, and they would much rather see what he has to say, anyway.


“When I’m making music I really want to create a mood. When I make albums, sometimes it’s not necessarily about the sound.”


How did you come up with the name Flying Lotus?

It comes from lucid dreaming. When I know I’m dreaming, the first thing I want to do is go flying around. If I were a superhero, that’s the only power I’d want. I’d just want to be able to see the world from that different point of view. It gets deeper as we go, but fuck it. That’s a story for another time.

You are the grand nephew of Alice Coltrane, a great jazz composer and wife of jazz legend John Coltrane. Do you think growing up with that kind of pedigree helped shape your creative endeavors? Have you always known you’d be deeply involved with music?

It had a big effect on me. If anything, I just knew you can do anything. If you pursued art in a way that was genuine, passionate, and you really pushed it, you could make something. I have examples of that in my family. That holds people back a lot of times. They don’t have examples to go by. So it seems way less tangible and more of a dream that you can make it in art. But, if you have these people around you, I think it becomes a little bit more of a reality.

What were your first live shows like—were you playing in places that had Top 40 DJs on other nights, or rock clubs?

I started out playing underground parties, illegal parties, and eventually I started getting into some decent clubs, and from those clubs came festivals, and so forth.

You’ve worked with some amazing artists. George Clinton, Thom Yorke, Kendrick Lamar, etc. You even worked on a song with Michael McDonald for Thundercat’s latest album Drunk. Are there any artists you really wish you could do songs with even if they are not in the same genre, per se, as you?

I really would love to do a track with Beyoncé. I don’t know how it would sound. She invited me over before Lemonade came out. She played me the album just as it is now. I was hoping it wasn’t done yet.

Tell us what you remember about the earliest tracks you made.

They were really inspired by Dr. Dre, like West Coast-sounding, dark hip-hop with minor chords and shit.

Do you usually work that way with directors?

It all depends on who you’re dealing with. I think, with some people, you have to trust them. The reason why you choose the people is because you trust them. So, I think that, to some degree, I want to step away from the shit, but at the same time, I want them to know what it means to me.

What made you want to start working with rappers again?

Phases, man. New people. It’s so inspiring hearing all these new sounds and seeing all these new people pop up from around the world who are really dope. There are these people who were in the crowd when I started and now they’re on stage. Years ago you only had guys like Kanye and Jay-Z and it was like, “What could they possibly tell me?” And, “How can we relate anymore?” That’s not inspiring to me. But now it feels right again.

Why should people seek out your music?

I think I’m bridging a gap. I bring elements of both ambient and hip-hop in my sound. I’m trying to merge these worlds, because they’re not different. It’s all bass music to me.

What’s the hardest part of starting a new record?

Having a theme—knowing what to say, what needs to be said from you at that time and place and space and where the industry is at, music is at, my interests are at. Just getting your head wrapped around that, and then being able to say, “Okay, you know what, this is where I want to go.”

Who are you listening to in particular that’s inspired you?

Jeremiah Jae. I’ve been familiar with his music for some time now and he moved from Chicago to L.A. and having him here has been motivating and inspiring. Whenever I think about not doing anything, we meet up and he’s working on like a million things. His presence is motivating.

Questions? Comments? We want to know:@djfollower