When Radiohead’s Thom Yorke kicks off his U.S. tour with solo band Atoms for Peace tonight in New York, he’ll have a very star-crossed opening act: Los Angeles electronic music producer Flying Lotus, who makes textured beat-scapes that skitter and skip with a brain-tickling, psychedelic flow. Born Steven Ellison, nephew to jazz pianist Alice Coltrane, “FlyLo” tells Rolling Stone he and Yorke are something of “astral brothers” — they share the same birthday, October 7th, and Ellison literally dreamed Thom would reach out to him.
“It was weird,” Lotus tells RS as he does the dishes in his Los Angeles apartment, just back from the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, where he demolished a Wednesday 1 a.m. set to an adoring crowd of converts. “I had a dream I was an accomplice to some murder. I saw someone get killed and I didn’t say anything. I was walking the streets with it in the back of my mind and I wanted a beer so I go into Trader Joe’s and Thom Yorke’s in there, like, ‘Hey, let’s have a beer and a catch up.’
“I woke up from that to the e-mail saying he’d like me to join them on the tour,” Ellison says. “I wish I’d made it up,” he confesses. “I have weird stuff like that happen to me all the time.”
Lotus first crossed paths with Yorke when BBC taste-maker Mary-Anne Hobbs convinced Radiohead to give him a spot officially remixing “Reckoner” from 2007’s In Rainbows. The band accepted the remix and a meeting with Yorke in Japan followed. “The meeting was really nice, but brief,” he says. “Honestly, I didn’t expect any of that shit to happen.”
Lotus went on to release 2008’s Los Angeles amid the sudden death of his mother, and the loss drove him deep into him artistic self. “I really had to confront a lot of things about life. I had to go there for myself, to make sense of everything. I learned a lot, and I’m just glad I had music to go to and get energy out of, and to question life.”
The 27-year-old shoved off for the deepest musical waters possible, attempting to reinvent the notion of melody and time. Lotus released a series of strong EPs in the newly pulsating L.A. electronic music scene, and the further afield he explored, the more artists followed him. FlyLo’s third, highly anticipated LP Cosmogramma comes out May 4th on U.K. label Warp. With the opening slot of a lifetime, the new pace of his career has left Lotus humbled yet ecstatic. He dreams of upgrading his ride (a Camry) and a direct collaboration with Yorke, who he says he’s always loved.
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“I had no idea it was going to go down like this — the tour, people at Rolling Stone calling me,” he says. “It’s been crazy. I can only imagine what’s going to happen. All I can do is stay prepared, create, and find some time to do the dishes.”
Check back tomorrow for a full report from Thom Yorke’s opening-night show in New York.