Flying Lotus Explains Herbie Hancock's Influence on the Jazzy 'You're Dead!'
Published Sep 18, 2014Flying Lotus has been giving fans tastes of the You're Dead! LP here and there, enough that listeners are starting to gather that the forthcoming album will have a jazz flavour, but the artist born Stephen Ellison insists that the album is far from being a throwback.
With You're Dead!, he tells Exclaim!, "I wanted to make something that adds to the conversation as opposed to just being something that references music from the '60s again. I wanted it to feel brand new in a way, and I wanted to bring something to it. I feel like I had a vision of it so long ago. It needed to be where it could be, where it could go, what I could say. I feel like if all the great jazz guys heard most of the shit out right now or in the last 20 years, they'd be really disappointed, because people aren't pushing it anymore, they aren't trying to take it further."
The album, he says, was born from a concept before he ever intended a specific sound.
"The 'You're Dead!' concept came first. That was the standpoint of where the music came from; the initial thrust of all the ideas came from the You're Dead! perspective."
Neither an exploration of death nor one of living mortality, Ellison says that the album is about a more singular feeling or journey.
"Musically, I wanted it to feel like it was expressive and it felt like a journey, you know? I wanted it to feel like a journey through another place and time. I wanted the journey, the feeling of it, to be chaotic at times and melodic at times."
A photo of FlyLo in the studio with Herbie Hancock (see above), who guests on album track "Moment of Hesitation," was taken at what turned out to be a major turning point in the creation of the record, according to Ellison.
"He's a cool guy, a really hip guy," he says of the jazz legend. "It was really special to be in that creative space with him, especially early on in the making of the record. He was kind of a gatekeeper, in a sense. He gave me the confidence, early on in the pursuit of the concept and the sound of it. When he heard it, he was like, 'Oh man, that's like — you're trying to do it like this! Okay!' He was really excited by it, and I love... It just gave me a sense of purpose in finishing this thing, instead of feeling self-conscious or doubting myself."
Meanwhile, Ellison hasn't forgotten about his hip-hop project, Captain Murphy, but it's seemingly on pause until he needs a break from Flying Lotus. At that point, Murphy may return in a different form.
"The fun part about Captain Murphy is he can be whatever I want him to be. He's not really me. He's a cartoon, you know? He can be someone else; he can look totally different. I have ideas of him looking totally different next time, too, so it's a lot of fun in that way. I'm not tied to some idea of what it's supposed to be. He can just be what he needs to be, a reflection of where my interests are outside of Flying Lotus."
For now, we're all still waiting for the release of You're Dead! on October 7, courtesy of Warp. Listen to the album's "Never Catch Me" with Kendrick Lamar below.