Shortly before his Saturday-afternoon set at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, Los Angeles-based producer Flying Lotus (a.k.a. Steve Ellison) spoke with Rolling Stone about his upcoming album, which is slated for an October 2nd release and will feature an appearance from Thom Yorke. The two have worked together in the past, when Yorke provided vocals for “…And The World Laughs With You,” a track from Flying Lotus’ 2010 LP, Cosmogramma. “I definitely respect what he’s up to,” says Ellison. “But the biggest surprise to me in getting to know him is that he’s a funny guy. He’s the jokey one.”
Ellison says he took a more restrained, “grown-up” approach to the new LP. “I feel like I had this maximalist mentality going into the last one, but with this one now I feel like I don’t have a problem holding back on some moments so bigger moments can shine through,” he notes.
Soon after discussing his album, Ellison took to the stage with his hypeman, Azizi Gibson, and did his best to energize a soggy Chicago crowd. The 40-minute set – which featured an array of samples from Lil Wayne, Erykah Badu and the Beastie Boys, among others – offered a sufficient number of club bangers to shake off any raindrops remaining on festivalgoers’ clothing. Ellison is used to playing smaller venues, but is aware of the demands of a festival crowd. “The energy is a little bit different,” he says. “I feel like they just want to party.”
Ellison struggles to place himself on a continuum with other EDM acts like Skrillex, Major Lazer and Diplo. “I feel like the odd man out sometimes, musically, because the stuff I tend to produce is a little bit more for your headphones as opposed to the rave,” he said. And while most DJs and producers release mixtapes and one-off single collaborations, Ellison is unique in his attachment to the album format. “If I were to drop mixtapes, I’d have so many,” he explains. “My fear of doing that is that my story wouldn’t come across, and that the albums would become diluted in a way. At the end of the day, I want to look back on all my releases and be really happy about them. I’d rather my catalogue be tight, of the things that I really, really feel.”