September 27th, 2007 | Interviews

dan monick

Producer Flying Lotus released his full-length 1983 on Plug Research last year and is about to release his new EP Reset on Warp, and you may have also heard his music on Adult Swim.

What was the first time you were watching TV and you heard one of your beats come on?
That was probably the craziest experience ever! I don’t even watch TV, not at all—the only thing I do watch is Adult Swim, so the fact my shit was on there was just kind of surreal. I just tripped—I recorded it on the TiVo and everything, rewinding it for like twenty minutes.
Do you really make new tracks the night you’re supposed to play a show?
That’s honestly the most motivating thing for me. I won’t make tracks for a long time—I’ll sit and try make mixes, and then be like, ‘Oooh, I got a show coming up—what should I play? The same tunes I played last week? Nawwwww!’
You work best under pressure?
Completely, man—I’m a lazy bastard.
How do you get ready for the Unreleased Beat Invitationals?
That’s a really cool experience—it makes me sit and evaluate what I did the last time I was there. It’s dope. I try and to play the last couple of things I did. I don’t try and pull the best beats I ever made in life—I try to pull the last things. And it’s a great forum to hear your newest stuff really loud.
How would you rank the Unreleased Beat contenders?
That’s a really good question. I’m usually looking forward to Kev’s stuff. He’s the elder—he’s looking at us like, ‘I made this shit!’ It’s interesting to see he’s still keeping up—coming through with shit everytime, and it only gets better. I’ve gone from the first Invitational until now, and he’s definitely like—Kev has some shit. But I look forward to everybody’s stuff. Everybody’s up there for shit—regardless of how it goes down, I know I’ll go home inspired.
Sounded like you said you’ll go home crying.
No, but I definitely am hard on myself. My problem at Low End Theory—I always overcrank the sound. I gotta make sure I don’t do that at the release party. I always try to break their system. See how far I can take it?
What producers do you think are coming up next?
People are gonna be mad at me if I say names—I’ll just keep it local. Say my boy Samiyam. And Ras_G, he’s sick. Gaslamp Killer—my whole crew is sick! I’m serious—I believe in the whole squad. From here to Scotland—we roll deep!
When we had that heatwave a few weeks back, did you spend every day inside making beats?
Who told you that? Actually, I was—and all the beats have titles to do with heat. ‘Melt’ and ‘Dehydrated’ and ‘Camel.’ My friends say they sound like donkeys in the heat—people in the rainforest.
They definitely do sound sweaty. My latest stuff definitely sounds like the people in the fucking Amazon trying to beat on some drums.
What changed your sound so much between 1983 and the new Reset EP?
I’ll be real—a lot of intense stuff has happened to me. My life changed completely. It’s beautiful but at the same time, I feel like I have a lot to say, and I really do wanna take people on a ride emotionally when they’re listening to the stuff, so they don’t feel the need to have vocals. The journey is definitely important. You don’t need someone to tell you what it is.
How do you test a song to make sure it’s as good as you want?
The whip test! I don’t even like to smoke weed because I forget how to use my machine and I waste time. I make my music sober and then get high and shit—go for a little drive, and if it’s got the notch… that’s the greatest thing ever. I got a decent sound system in my car. I can roll around and listen to a song eighty times in traffic.
What’s the most drastic change you ever made to an almost-finished song?
Maybe adding new sections—I like to switch the beat, make the sound more a movement. Switch things up and use the same samples—that’s always interesting. It’s so fun once you’ve completed the beat to delete all the sequences and make a new sequence with the same sound, and see where it takes you. It comes together so much faster than the first one.
You said in another interview that you feel like you’re at the forefront of a movement—what did you mean?
The movement I speak of is all new cats like Samiyam, Musinah, Ras_G, a few other folks out there—people trying to make tracks that speak, that really move you more. Not just in a dancing kind of way, but a more emotional kind of thing. Really connect the tracks on a spiritual level—they touch you. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not just for the dancefloor anymore. I wanna do the next thing.
Nobody was talking about the children of hip-hop—is that part of what you mean?
You could probably come up on hip-hop and learn how to make music, but you’d just be a clone if that’s how you came up. I think that people who listen to all sorts of different music have the upper hand. Hey, someone’s bumping Kanye West—I’m coming for his money! I want his cash!
We were warned you might be controversial.
I don’t care.
How do you feel about being the first L.A. artist on Warp?
It’s definitely a compliment because Warp is on some next shit. They always wanna move forward, and they take a little kid from the Valley—that’s crazy! That gives me an opportunity—not just for myself, but to shine a light on people from town, too. I embrace that situation more than anything else. And money, too. That’s good. I’d like to live on my own—not be in my mom’s house anymore.
What was the best documentary you saw in film school?
That’s too serious a question for me now. I’d have to reflect on that for a cool twenty minutes.
What happened to your own documentary about your aunt Alice Coltrane?
I definitely wanted to do it, but since my aunt passed it made things a lot more difficult. I definitely feel it’s not the right time to talk about it. I’m still learning who she was. Before I can associate the way it should be approached, I should let the whole thing pan out for a little bit longer. And come at it with a clean slate—keep my objective distance. It’s really close to me—I’d like to let things pass for a minute.
What’s happening with your project Dolly?
I’m working on a record—been picking out tracks today. I’m definitely gonna do some stuff with Ahu pretty soon. I might pull some of the tracks we’ve been working on for my record.
For the Warp full-length?
Yeah, I wanna put my people in the mix. Warp want me to work with bigger name artists, but I don’t feel like that would make any difference because I’m a new artist. Wait for the second round to get the bigger folks. Right now I wanna show the sound we’re cultivating—hear Samiyam, Ahu, this new cat Gonjasufi…
How did you find Ahu when she lives in Turkey?
Same way Samiyam and I met—through the Myspace! And we started building everything off that. I love it—it puts us all on an equal playing field. Anyone who’s got some shit can be heard. It’s funny how things jump on me—I’m on it, but I don’t really promote myself. I just have a page, and people hit me up, and I talk back. But if I was a hustler on pages like a lot of people do, it’d go crazy. I think if you build it, they will come.
The Costner principle.
They should come, hopefully. If you got some shit, they’ll come. No waiting around in the field of dreams.
What effect do you think the BTS Radio sessions had?
BTS Radio is awesome—another one of the things that helped me out early on. Andrew Meza really helped propel me a little bit forward. Andrew Meza’s a dude—and not just me—he’s helped a gang of folks! He’s definitely part of the legacy.
You talked about one day learning to make music without machines—how close are you?
Not even close—I just got a Mac. I’m definitely a computer man, homie.
What’s the next big thing you’re looking forward to?
To getting more ears, man—really letting the sound touch more people. I feel like we’re not doing shit that’s too out there. People can still hang, and ears are getting trained more now. I’m looking forward to that. I look forward to the future in that way. And people who are putting wack-ass beats out are really making it easy for us. Quote me on that.