flying lotus accidentally made the grossest film of all time
As Kuso is released exclusively on Shudder, we speak to electronic artist Flying Lotus about his feature film debut, and the time he tried to get Donald Glover to give birth to an an anal dwelling butt cockroach.
"I just smoked a blunt," says Flying Lotus man Steven Ellis as a preface to this interview about his new movie, Kuso. To be honest, it would work as a handy caveat to his directional debut too ("All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Oh, yeah, and I just smoked a blunt"). The film is bonkers, packed with literal shits and giggles and following the mutated survivors of a huge L.A. earthquake as they navigate a dystopian world riddled with disease and anal dwelling butt cockroaches. Already dubbed "the grossest movie ever made!" by pretty much every news outlet on the planet (it's Sundance premiere reportedly saw several members of the audience walk out), Kuso is a tour de force of midnight movie making; a weeping, creeping creature feature that taps into the paranoia all Angelenos have of the next Big One. "I made this for the amateur motherfuckers who are looking a fun one," states Flying Lotus, in what may be the understatement of the year. "It's not for people looking for real life drama. It's not that kind of movie." And Flying Lotus is not that kind of movie maker. Read our chat with the man himself below.
Well, firstly congratulations on the movie.
Thank you. It was hard. That movie's fucked up. Making a movie was fucked up.
But you did it and you clearly got to realise the vision you wanted.
I did. 100% creative control. Which is why I paid to make it. Because no one would have funded this movie, off the top. It was cool. I did this one and now I'll do another.
Along the same sort of lines?
I'm writing a film that's not like the one I just made, but I'm also working with this Japanese manga artist, trying to adapt some of his stuff. That's pretty fucked up so it might be two in a row. We'll see.
Does your filmmaking creativity come from the same part of your brain as your music-making creativity?
I think of them kind of independently, to be honest. There are a lot of things you have to consider when you're making a movie that you don't necessarily have to think about when you're making music. I make music alone. If I come up with a visual idea, I'm already like, how much is this going to cost? How am I going to pull it off? When am I going to pull it off? Who can I get to be in it? All this stuff, when I can just make a track on my own. It's more like my church, meditation thing doing that. Filmmaking requires so much of your energy and being to do it. Hats off to anybody that's made a movie. Seriously. Good or bad. It's fucking hard, man.
Was it always in the plan to make a movie at some point?
Yeah, I actually saw it as more of a reality than music when I was a kid. When I was younger, there were not a lot of people who did what I do. And because I lived in LA, with the film industry right around the corner, I was, like, yeah, at the very least I can work on set, be a stagehand or some shit. I was thinking in that direction until I started making music. Then I was like, maybe I can do this instead? With this, I was making an animation at first. It started of as a cartoon. So it's kind of evolved naturally. I didn't take time to try and figure it out or making it make perfect sense. I just kind of followed a dream really. Got right to it. I can't be one of those dudes who lets an idea linger for too long.
People are like, Get Out, it's so incredible, it's so groundbreaking. I'm like, this is some shit I've seen already! It's cool, but it ain't nothing new. It's not challenging material. I wanna see some shit, man!
You've said that you made the movie for your 16-year-old self… What were you like when you were 16?
I think it's that enthusiasm for the other stuff, when you're 16. You start hearing about these weird movies from a friend. Someone shows you a weird ass movie that fucks you up and inspires you and makes you see things differently. The first time I saw Japanese films, when I was a teenager. How different their ideas were to ours in the West. I wanna do that to someone. I want this to be that movie for some kid. I made it for them, not people who are looking for the next Moonlight. It's not that.
It certainly isn't. But at the same time, you don't really see a largely black cast making a weird, arthouse movie like this either, do you?
I know. It's sad to me. There's nothing like this. Why did it take so long? People are like, Get Out, it's so incredible, it's so groundbreaking. I'm like, this is some shit I've seen already! It's cool, but it ain't nothing new. It's not challenging material. I wanna see some shit, man! I just wish it didn't have to be a big deal. It was even hard to get black actors in the movie because they were like, "You're gonna have me doing what?". I'm hearing about all these black actors not being nominated and I'm like, great, I'm gonna make a movie and all these black actors are gonna be down! They've been waiting in the wings and I've got a project for them. Then nobody shows up! But it was cool. The people who did show up were down. I remember I hit up Donald Glover. This was before Atlanta happened. I said, "Bro, you wanna be in my movie?". He was like, "Yeah, let me look at it, let me check it out".
That was your mistake.
I know, man. I shouldn't have said shit. Just come through!
Did you sit down and think, "I'm going to make the grossest film of all time"?
No. The thing is, I draw a lot. I draw, I make stuff in photoshop and that's kind of what happened. I was just designing stuff on Photoshop, putting weird skin lesions and stuff and I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if a whole movie looked like this?". It wasn't ever my intention to make the grossest movie of all time. I never thought of it like that and, to be honest, there are a lot of artful things in it as well. There are a lot of things that I really wanted to convey aside from that. I wanted contrast. I have a lot of inspirations from other genres and I love creature effects, so I wanted to bring that old school aesthetic back. Actually building things and making things. You can't just do that shit in romantic comedies.
Maybe you could try.
That was a stupid thing to say. You could totally do it. You could totally make a romantic comedy with prosthetics. Will you get Amy Adams in it? Maybe not.
Kuso is streaming on Shudder now.
Text Matthew Whitehouse