In 2006 an old knitting factory in Melbourne hosted one of the first editions of Red Bull Music Academy. Among the attendees was Steven Ellison, known by his stage name Flying Lotus, whose groundbreaking debut EP 1983 was released during his visit.
The other attendees were musicians that would go on to become his collaborators, including Andreya Triana, fellow future Warp Records signees Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek, a still-making-Dubstep-Skream, and a pre-fame Aloe Blacc. There was also a young promotor, Jerry Poon, who was organising local shows for the aspiring artists.
Just 10 years later, Jerry and Steven would be selling out the iconic Sydney Opera House. In the years between, Jerry, the founder and director of The Operatives, would manage the producer, DJ, and filmmaker on his tours through America and Mexico, as well as on his repeat visits to Australia and New Zealand.
Five years on from that sell-out show, Flying Lotus is back on Australian soil and for the first time he’s bringing his live 3D show and his latest album, Flamagra, which features no less than Anderson .Paak, George Clinton, Little Dragon, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Toro y Moi, Thundercat, and even David Lynch. Ahead of one of the most anticipated tours of the year, Acclaim sat in on a conversation between the two old friends.
Jerry: Hey man, what’s been happening?
Flylo: Hey Jerry, I just bought an exercise bike actually, gotta get my summer body ready for the shows!
Jerry: [Laughs] So I wanted to start this interview off with a thank you, because you’ve had a major effect on my personal life as a friend, but also in terms of my career.
Flylo: Thanks, Jerry.
Jerry: No—it’s a major thing, who would have thought that meeting at Red Bull Music Academy and a handshake deal on the balcony in 2006 would lead to where we are.
Flylo: [Laughs] Right!
Jerry: I mean we were young back then! You still had short hair. It was a different time. [Laughs] But like your hair, the shows have evolved too, and when you first came out to Australia then, you were finger drumming and running jungle tunes through your set.
Flylo: It was a different time.
Jerry: I wanted to ask, in the last 14 years of touring, what have been some of your favourite shows here in Australia?
Flylo: The Sydney Opera House show was so memorable—I mean, seeing you propose! It was like the coming together of lots of things that night, the tours, and when we first met you had just met your partner.
Jerry: [Laughs] There’s been some crazy times on tour! Like even on the negative side of things, your laptop dying before your show in Perth.
Flylo: THAT was amazing.
Jerry: It was New Years Eve, right?
Flylo: People ask me all the time, “What would you do if your computer crashed?” That will never happen to me ever again, and if it did I would have it back in an hour—it was a lesson learnt, it was such a mess.
Jerry: There’s been some crazy shows like touring with Thundercat, when we brought the live show to Aus, and the Bruner Brothers! What are your memories from that and will we ever see a full live Flying Lotus show again?
Flylo: I think that honestly might be the next version of this. I’m trying to incorporate more live elements into the show at the moment, it would just add another dimension—no pun intended—to things, and I really want to keep taking it further.
Jerry: Awesome! And this time around, after having seen Layer 3 and the Hypercube in the States, what can local audiences expect from the 3D show?
Flylo: Y’know, I can only tell you from what I see, because I’ve never seen it—I can just see the audience, and their faces when they see the show are so amazing, they look mesmerised looking at this stuff. I think people think it’s similar to the movies, but it’s definitely not. If anyone’s curious about it, they should check it out, because it’s pretty cool.
Jerry: I was lucky enough to see it firsthand at Hollywood Forever and it’s out of this world! I guess, outside of the shows, I know that Brainfeeder [Flying Lotus’s record label] hit 10 years just last year. You’ve been working with a lot of different people over that time, like Ryuchi Sakamoto and Herbie Hancock. Back when we met you named who you wanted to collab with—have you now ticked off everyone from the list?
Flylo: [Laughs] There’s only Bjork left.
Jerry: That would be amazing.
Flylo: And Stevie Wonder.
Jerry: I wanna see these things happen! You’ve always been an avid gamer, what are you playing currently?
Flylo: Oh man, a lot of stuff!
Jerry: Will we ever see a Flying Lotus game?
Flylo: That would be the best.
Jerry: The last time we were on tour, Silentjay was on the bill with us, and you gave him a piece of advice—you told him to just be himself and find his own sound. I think, no matter the stage of your career, that’s really important advice, so for you, right now, is it hard being yourself in a saturated musical market?
Flylo: I think no matter what, you have to find your sound. I think we should always be striving for that moment when you make something you love, but there are some people that don’t do that, who aren’t creative in that way, some people have a vision and some people don’t. You need people that will make beats for McDonald’s ads, right? And you need people to make tracks that will play well at festivals, and I think you’ve gotta find your sound and find what you’re good at. I do think that people should follow their own voice, especially in our world right now where everything’s about brands and Instagram. It’s hard, but I think people will always know when they hear something genuine.
Jerry: No doubt. And you just released Flamagra and a bunch of music with the Warp anniversary, which are both incredible, is there anything else coming up?
Flylo: We are working on Thundercat’s next record, it’s going to be [released] really soon. I did a lot of work on this one.
Jerry: Exciting! And I guess, looking towards next year, with you coming back to Melbourne and Australia…
Flylo: It’s been a minute since those shows at Miss Libertines!
Jerry: [Laughs] Remember we didn’t know it was going to go so well, and we had a line around the block? They still tell me it’s the biggest show that they have ever seen. Everything before had been like small shows at St. Jeromes in an actual laneway and then it was 2014 at Laneway Festival, Sydney Opera House, and MONA.
Flylo: When was Let Them Eat Cake?
Jerry: That was 2013 as well! Your first huntsman [spider] experience at the hotel.
Flylo: [Laughs] That was a crazy year.
Jerry: Selling out the Opera House was no easy feat, which you did twice and we’re heading back to Sydney together.
Flylo: I remember looking at the Opera House thinking, It would be cool to do a show there someday.
Jerry: Well, I will only propose once, even if we do play it again.
Jerry: You’ve been so instrumental in creating this new sound of music and sharing it with the world, and I think I’m just one example of all the people you’ve affected and helped over that time. You know, we were both music fans when we met, and you’ve gone and developed an incredible career around it and working with you on bits of that, like even tour managing, has been a whole lot of education for me, so you know that I appreciate you, but the scene here does too. We can’t wait to have you back here in Australia.
Flylo: That’s really sweet, man. It’s been a true pleasure, working with you and I can’t wait to come back and make more memories.
The Operatives Present Flying Lotus 3D Tour, supported by Mark Pritchard performing The Four Worlds*
January 24 2020 – Sydney, NSW, AU – Enmore Theatre*
January 25 2020 – Melbourne, VIC, AU – The Forum*
January 26 2020 – Brisbane, QLD, AU – The Tivoli
Flying Lotus will also be appearing at two exclusive in store appearances at Northside Records, Melbourne on Wednesday January 22 and Network Connections on Thursday January 23 in Sydney.