Flying Lotus on his new album: “It’s like Miles Davis imagining what jazz sounds like today”
You know you’ve made it when you get to host your own radio station in a Grand Theft Auto game. Previous hosts have included George Clinton, Axl Rose, DJ Premier, Iggy Pop, and Chuck D from Public Enemy; last year’s Grand Theft Auto V added Flying Lotus to that illustrious list. Alongside his own tracks, FlyLo FM featured Aphex Twin, OutKast, Thundercat, and a new number by his rap alter ego Captain Murphy.
Back in 2012, when he released the Captain Murphy mixtape Duality, no one knew his true identity. But now that he’s revealed himself the two are coming closer together, with Murphy material working its way into the Layer 3 live shows he’s been performing, standing between two screens that have swirling, psychedelic effects digitally projected onto them as he plays. There’s also a Murphy appearance on the next Flying Lotus album, which he’s just wrapped up most of the work on. When we talk, he’s enjoying some downtime between that work and the beginning of the next stage of his Layer 3 tour, which will bring him to Australia in March.
Do you have a lot of opportunities like this nowadays, to hang out and chill and have a couple of days where you can just relax?
I’m lucky enough to be able to have a lot of lazy time, really. But I’ve been mentally in the process of making stuff. In that respect I’m always working, I’ve been putting a lot of touches on the album the last few weeks but now the only thing I’m waiting on is a couple of vocals so I’m just sitting on it at the moment so I don’t get tired of tweaking things. I could literally do that forever. I’m just trying to hang out and wait until it’s time to start mixing.
Can you explain what the three layers concept is?
It’s basically poor man’s 3D. You get to see a 3D visual show with no glasses, and we use front and rear projection and I’m in the middle of it. We’re shooting animations and stuff and it’s all being done live, the visuals are operated live, the music is operated live, there’s no synch-up or anything. Everyone’s just kind of jamming. It’s different every time we play it.
What’s it like for you in the middle layer? What can you see?
To be totally honest I can barely see out into the crowd. But it’s kind of cool in a way because I get to just be in my world I don’t have to worry about crowd reaction. I can just focus on playing some cool music, playing some cool tracks instead of, “Oh, they’re not dancing! What do I do?” or just feeling self-conscious like, “Oh my God, they’re just staring at me.” All right, well, they got something to stare at now.
You come from out of the layers at the end of the show though, and everybody gets to see you?
Throughout, I might do some vocals on some songs so it’s not all me hiding behind the layers. There’s different moments.
Are you working in some of the Captain Murphy stuff?
Are you trying out some of the brand new stuff we won’t have heard before?
Yeahhh. You know I’m definitely gonna drop some new stuff, but I don’t know how much of the new album I’m gonna play because I feel like I want people to hear everything at the same time. But that could change in a drunken moment [laughs]. Inevitably drunken moments will cause me to play unreleased music.
What does it sound like? Did you want a coherent sound or did you just go into the studio and see what happened?
It’s pretty cohesive, man. More so than I’ve ever tried. It all feels like it’s born in the same energy, hopefully. But maybe that’s all in my mind, man. I feel like it’s different from any of the stuff I’ve done so far and I do feel like it’s better than all the stuff I’ve done so far. Without any ego I can say I don’t know of anything else that sounds like this record out right now, so I’m really stoked on that more than anything. I feel like a requirement of the music and the scene I’m associated with and all that shit, I feel like it kind of stands in a different place. I can’t compare it to any records of 2014 and ‘13. I’m stoked on that, whether people like it or not [laughs]. It’s different.