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Flying Lotus

DJ and electronic composer Steven Ellison – aka Flying Lotus – is with us. The master beatmaker at work.

Flying Lotus 2012 (Timothy Saccenti)

Flying Lotus 2012 (Timothy Saccenti)

Say “Flying Lotus” in Los Angeles and you’re already halfway to hipness.  Say FlyLo, and you’re closer still.  FlyLo, Flying Lotus, the artist formerly known as Steven Ellison, is a music producer, DJ, and electronic composer of the hippest, highest order right now.

His latest music, he says, “a collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies.”  A descent through the time ether that never loses the beat.

This hour, On Point:  the music and the man of the moment, Flying Lotus.

-Tom Ashbrook


Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, an electronic composer, DJ, and producer. His new album is Until the Quiet Comes.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “The record, released this month by the British label Warp, is of course libretto free, mostly dispensing with vocals in favor of complex, often orchestral arrangements.”

NME “If Flying Lotus’ last album, ‘Cosmogramma’, was made in a galaxy far, far away, his fourth, ‘Until The Quiet Comes’, is his return to earth. If the last was about rhythm, the follow-up is about melody. If his past work gave you an electric shock, this one will blow your head apart. At times it’s a prog record, as it meanders and experiments. At other times, it’s psychedelic (see the tripped-out ‘DMT Song’ featuring Thundercat, a song about the drug dimethyltryptamine). But a nod to jazz is at its heart, and FlyLo doesn’t have to look far for that influence – his great-aunt and uncle were Alice and John Coltrane.”

Pitchfork “Since Ellison’s musical palette always circles back to the Eastern-tinged textures that infiltrated jazz when his great aunt Alice Coltrane was helping set the pace (assorted bells, harp plucks, the pings of steel and knock of wood), his music feels cosmic, bound to L.A. as a geographic idea but not necessarily of this earth.”

Washington Post “For the last half-decade, Los Angeles-based producer Flying Lotus (real name: Steven Ellison) has been at the forefront of a mini-movement fusing instrumental hip-hop, electronica and cosmic jazz. Ellison became blog-beloved with his last album, 2010’s “Cosmogramma,” and while he’ll never be Skrillex, “Until the Quiet Comes” — with its harrowing trailer video that recently went viral and its buzzed-about Thom Yorke collaboration — may represent his best chance to connect with mainstream audiences.”


Check out this video from the new Flying Lotus album.

Here’s “Putty Boy Strut” from the new album.


“All In” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“See Thru to U” (feat. Erykah Badu) (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“Massage Situation” (2007, Reset EP)
“The Nightcaller” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“All the Secrets” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“Last Donut of the Night” by J. Dilla) (2006, Donuts)
“Sri Rama Ohnedaruth” (1972, Lord of Lords)
“Until the Quiet Comes” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“… And The World Laughs With You” (2010, Cosmagramma)
“Electric Candyman” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“Getting There” (feat. Niki Randa) (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)
“Putty Boy Strut” (2012, Until the Quiet Comes)

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  • Shag_Wevera

    I had never heard of this artist before, so I watched and listened to the provided videos.  Probably not my cup of tea, although I appreciate the relationship to jazz.

    Music seems to have become more exciting and diffuse since the end of the pre-internet industry.  I recently heard a group perform on A Prarie Home Companion called “Lake Street Dive”.  I have since fallen in love with their music and have gone too their website.  Without modern technology, I may never have heard their music.

    Hopefully some people can find excitement in today’s artist like I did with my recent find.  It is a whole new wonderful world of music. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/KobiTirey Kobi Tirey

    When Texas gutted the history of hip hop from its textbooks, I found it appalling, and not just because of rap’s crucial role as a soap box for the disenfranchised. Sampling introduced a radically new way of thinking to music and society as a whole. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, DJs become “unstuck in time” when they choose any piece of music, regardless of gene or era, to work into a greater collage. If you’re looking for an end to false choices between freedom and socialism, government and business, look to the beat makers, turntablists, and mashup artists. If politicians were as good at cherry picking from history as Girl Talk, J Dilla, and Flying Lotus we’d be much better off (BTW LOVE Cosmogramma).

  • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

    Would love to hear FlyLo talk about geography. What the L.A. scene means to him, the shadow London casts over everything right now, Berlin, or other places that inspire him.

  • Btmayo

    Is your guest affiliated with the Flaming Lotus art collaborative at Burning Man? Also, does he play in Black Rock City (Burning Man)?

  • pollyfromtexas

    Could you ask FlyLo what his inspiration was behind “Camel” (off of one of my favorite records, Los Angeles)?

    -polly, texas

    • l0l0l0lol

      When he made beats like Melt, Camel etc. (This was in an interview he did) he was in an 100º+ environment and the heat was crazy. Basically his inspiration was the weather

  • Btmayo

    Is your guest associated with the Flaming Lotus art collaborative at Burning Man? Also, does he perform at Black Rock City (Burning Man)?

  • jsallen

    Man — the audio compression on the clip played around 25 minutes after the hour was *brutal*. I don’t know whether it is on the album or in WBUR’s signal processing, but with every drumbeat, the rest of the music almost disappeared.

  • Richard Lackey

    FlyLo mentioned “zoning out” when creating music, a common thread among many musicians.  I wonder though, is this simply mindlessness, or extreme mindfulness?  Focusing intensely on one thing around you? Not focusing on anything?  Maybe focusing intensely on everything around you?  As Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”  thoughts?

  • GarretWoodward

    Have you ever been to Burning Man? First time hearing your music and I’m transported back to that special place…What does modern day counterculture mean to you? Is it an illusion of optimistic creativity or can you actually translate that power at a show into daily life?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jcherouny Jean Cherouny

    Start you passions early in life!!!

  • John Drinane

    Never thought I’d be bobbing my head to J-Dilla on NPR! Good show, I’ll have to go buy some Flying Lotus tracks.

  • GarretWoodward

    Have you ever been to BURNING MAN? First time hearing your music and I’m transported back to that special place…What does modern day counterculture mean to you? Is it an illusion of optimistic creativity or can you actually translate that power at a show into daily life?

  • Btmayo

    Additionally, I hear elements of David Starfire, Beats Antique, and Mark Farina in the music. Maybe your guest could speak of his influences in current music.

  • Jillhh

    Not a fan of psychodelic music. Might I suggest that Tom stick to other topics because it seems a bit out of his element. Granted, this is light and fluffy given the first hour’s threat of a global recession. Don’t mean to be critical. I generally enjoy the show. This time I had to turn it off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/narkolator Emily Young Newman

    Heard him on Adult Swim and I watch Cyriak’s youtube channel so I’ve heard Putty Boy Strut, but this is my first time really HEARING Flying Lotus. It’s so active and attention-grabbing without crossing over into the obnoxious. So much other music in his genre seems just passive, meant to just be floating in the background and not really for listening. Thanks, On Point!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sam.turner.5030 Sam Turner

    I find myself really digging songs I create, but as I work on the details within these songs and as I hear the song over and over I end up getting kind of sick of it which makes me want to quit the project or just create something new. So i find myself with a bunch of unfinished material. Do you ever encounter problems like these while producing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.cole.5074 Stephen Cole

    Tom, your sycophantic hipness pandering is nauseating. This is all fine and good if you like electronica or whatever you want to call it, but let’s not confuse this with music performed by people actually playing real instruments and composing with pen and paper. Anybody with a computer and some software can create this music with or without any musical knowledge or training. It sounds like what it is- digital artifacts and samples mashed up with software to create a “sound”. If you like it, hey whatever gets you off. In 20 or 30 years people will still be listening to Hendrix, Dylan, Waylon, Willie and Hank, Coltrane and Bird but they won’t be listening to Flying Lotus.

    • http://twitter.com/lotide Lotide

      You are aware that electronic music predates all of the musicians you listed, right?

    • Western Affairs

       Funny you say that cause Flying Lotus is related to John Coltrane. Steve Ellison actually does have a musical background. Just listen to his new album, Until the Quiet Comes, and also his last LP, Cosmogramma. If you understand Music Theory you will see that these albums are not something to be neglected. Flying Lotus is using his computer as a tool, and doesn’t conform to what every other artist is doing at this moment; the other artist will be forgotten, but innovators like Flying Lotus will be remember in 20 years just like his great uncle John Coltrane and others like Hendrix and Dylan. Please do not criticize if you don’t know the whole story. You have to be more open to new music. 

      • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

         Agreed. I enjoy both instrumental and electronic music, and I understand that they serve different purposes and demonstrate different skills. Fact of the matter is, not just anyone would be able to get Ableton and churn out Flying Lotus-quality work; there IS an art to it, and the deeper you go the more technical knowledge you need about both computers and sound engineering.

        For some electronic music, it IS just about looping backbeats, but I’ve always found artists like Flying Lotus, Free the Robots, Burial, and Four Tet to not fit in those genres at all. It does a disservice to some really talented people to lump them all together as talentless hacks with no inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6023875 Kyle Grogan

    Stephen Cole, you don’t know shit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.cole.5074 Stephen Cole

      Whoa, I guess we’re goin ad hominem now. Doesn’t take long these days. Yeah, I guess I don’t know shit. Studied saxophone and composition at Berklee. Played professionally. Probably know more about music than you know about the back of your hand. Whether or not I know shit, I do know in 30 years no one will remember Flying Lotus, but they will remember Trane.

      • writergyrl

         This is Trane’s nephew…people like you know what you know and should keep it to yourself.

      • Matt Beachey

        I will remember Flying Lotus in 30 years. As will everyone who loves him now. I’m not just some kid into something I think is subversive. I’m an adult who has legitimately studied FlyLo’s music as much as you’ve studied Trane or whoever else you look up to as a saxophonist. Creating electronic music does not require the physical touch of playing an instrument. But it requires prodigious sense of texture, emotion, rhythm, structure, and countless other facets of music. A saxophone has a fairly limited textural range compared to what can be made on a computer. That doesn’t mean it’s better or worse. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/lschraffa Lisa Ann Schraffa

    I have no real knowledge of this type of music genre. I did watch the documentary RE-GENERATION this past year and now find myself curious about this kind of music. Very interesting piece. Thanks for doing it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/circulo.rio Círculo Río

    Hi Steve!
    How often do you smoke weed to create music…?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447830044 Tiffany McKnight

    I’ve been an avid fan of Flying Lotus since 2008. So happy to see him continue to evolve and prosper! UTQC is a wonderfully composed and produced album. Keep up the good work :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447830044 Tiffany McKnight

    Stephen Cole. It’s 2012. and Flying Lotus’s music is about transcendence and other worldly beauty. I understand that everyone may not be into this genre, but he is incredibly talented and your average person could not produce and create what he has done. Please take your trolling elsewhere.

  • Decklin Foster

    Thanks for doing this show. I would really love to hear more contemporary electronic musicians on On Point — ignore the troll below!

    I didn’t catch this in time to call in and ask but I’m curious what people think of the role of albums in the current YouTube/Spotify/whatever age. Unlike many of my favorite producers, but like most of those who have “crossed over” to wider popularity, FlyLo still primarily does albums, so there must be something there. (Interestingly, Four Tet, producer of On Point’s theme music, just released an LP consisting of songs from 12″s on his own label — his previous LPs have been mainly new music.)

    I played “Getting There” on my own radio show last week, if anyone would like to check out a mixed selection of vaguely similar music: http://www.mixcloud.com/decklin/edits-2012-10-03/

  • http://www.facebook.com/circulo.rio Círculo Río

    What DAW do you use to produce your music?

    • l0l0l0lol

       he uses a lot but mostly ableton live

      • noonesbusiness

        .. . . .

      • noonesbusiness

        What do you use production-wise?
        I use Ableton and Reason. Mostly Reason.

        Source: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/flying-lotus-chrissy-murderbot-interview-before-quiet-comes/Content?oid=7611475

        • http://www.facebook.com/afrogasm Zack Villere

          he switched over to ableton half-way through the new album. that’s what he said on his twitter account when he tweeted little tid bits live while listening to the album.

  • l0l0l0lol

    did i miss the stream

  • TJ McAvoy

    Mr. Cole, by the way, Lotus is Alice Coltrane’s great nephew. 

  • noonesbusiness

    Wow, stellar interview.

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