“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” – Voltaire
A faint degree of trepidation hangs over me for quite some time before speaking to Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison). Not necessarily for any founded or suspicious reason, but simply because of what his music has always propelled into my brain. To me, he has created a multifaceted expansion of the unknown, oozed dark, ruminating sonic enigmas, sparked anxious anticipation and dilation-inducing curiosity. Ultimately, he leaves only questions, rarely offering answers. Which, as it soon transpires, is exactly the way he would like it.
The name Flying Lotus stems from a lucid dream Steven had some years ago, and sonically, it’s arguably a state in which he has remained ever since, existing in a state of flux between strange, tranquil, nocturnal broodings and twitchy spasmodic blasts of life in which the listener is never really sure upon which side they remain or exist. According to Steven, his new album, ‘Until The Quiet Comes’, is composed as “A collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies.” It appears that the state that gave birth to his alter ego still remains prevalent in his creative mind-set today.
“Absolutely,” he agrees, “they are the things that make me ask questions. It’s those states of mind that allow me to search deeper within my music. Instead of just making club bangers, I’d rather ask questions about the work and try to understand the meaning of life and music.” He bubbles with gentle, humble enthusiasm as he continues. “I was going through a really crazy period making this album where I would have lucid dreams every week and have what people call out of body experiences. I would have these naturally and throughout the course of making the album. I feel like being able to access these states allows me to ask questions and the questions give me the ability to work and create [musical] worlds.”
Fitting, as ‘Until The Quiet Comes’, in title alone, continues this intermediate dreamy state, and musically, it too oozes a strange dead of night feel, fluctuating between quiet, relaxed beauty and anxious, unpredictable screams. Although initially he had many other ideas before this LP was settled upon.
“I originally wanted to make a simple drum machine record,” he says, “then I wanted to make a children’s album, then a pysch-rock album and so on…”
Although eagerly anticipated by many a music fan, this new album (released October 1st via Warp) wasn’t all plain sailing for Steven. “Halfway through the record last year I was really depressed. You know, I was in a really dark place. In a lot of different ways, I was just not happy and I wasn’t creating as much as I wanted to, I feel like a lot of last year slipped through my fingertips and I was so frustrated, but I had to go through it.”
A further burden perpetuating the negative cycle was Steven’s own harsh criticisms and expectations of himself.
“I feel I have spent enough of my time downing myself too, you know?” he says. “I spend a good amount of my free time hating myself. As much as I can sit back and say, ‘hey, that’s cool, that’s awesome I did that’, I spend enough time going, ‘oh man, I’m not doing enough work, I need to be doing more, pushing further’. I spend enough time hating and loathing.”
Steven speaks with a softness and honesty to him, not an ounce of self-pity coming across. “I understand that it’s part of the process and thankfully I have people around me that I can talk to about that and they tell me they go through the same thing,” he continues. “A guy like Thom Yorke, for example, I can talk to him about stuff like that and he knows what I’m talking about and he knows it’s part of it. He might have to deal with that shit himself sometimes but it’s all part of it and I seek comfort in knowing that my peers deal with that shit too.”