The Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist/producer signed to Flying Lotus' label recalls making one of the great albums of 2018
Cai Trefor
17:20 7th November 2018

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It’s widely known that Louis Cole – also of the band Knower who supported RHCP after his breakthrough solo viral video ‘Bank Account’ got Kiedis’ attention – has an incredible third album titled Time.

Released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder records earlier this year, nearly every review you read of Time will feature gushing comments about its combination of soft pop, funk rhythms, and brilliant solos; it’s even earned 81 percent on Metacritic, putting it firmly up there for albums of the year shortlist considerations across many blogs we think.

But quality doesn’t come without hard work. To get the result, the artist worked up in his room and in his garage in his native Los Angeles for two-and-a-half years – often in the middle of the night. A true auteur, he handled all the writing, recording and mixing himself, not giving into temptation to offload any of the responsibility. Painstaking he says. But worth it.

Listening to Time, you can truly feel an artist pushing oneself to the absolute limit to make an incredible collection of songs that marry light and shade (‘Things’), humour (‘After The Load Is Blown’) and sincerity.

Ultimately, it feels like an unedited insight into the creator’s mind: chock full of personality, unafraid to embrace his truest thoughts and expose all sides of his being. And, luckily, he’s the musical prowess to express himself and make it compelling. Prowess that hints at a life so heavily dedicated to music – everything from jazz music, soul, experimental pop, Boards of Canada, and Sega video game Streets of Rage etches its way in as an influence. Louis Cole hates commercial pop, though… more on that later.

And given that Cole’s bringing his tour to the UK later this month, we want to know more about the album from the man himself. We catch him just as he’s come off stage in the US, and he's flustered, but more than down to talk about it. Read the exclusive interview below:

GW: It’s quite striking seeing you have a song called ‘After The Load Is Blown’ on the album. How did that translate when you were bringing it to people who recorded on it?

Louis Cole: Oh yeah. The only other people who played on it were the string players. They had no idea what the hell was going on. I just conducted them to a click track so they had no idea, they didn’t hear anything. When we played it live, people are like, ‘Wait! “What are the lyrics?’ And they’d be like, ‘ok’. They know there’s going to be songs like that, though.

GW: Did the label comment on it?

LC: They never said anything about the lyrics. But were talking about my mixes. Some of them are dirty and they were concerned that I didn’t do it on purpose. I told them I wanted it crusty on purpose because it grooves way harder.

GW: What do you mean by dirty?

LC: The mix is distorted and crunchy like when your speaker is ripped it’s like: “tchtch.” It has an edge to it. I need that sometimes so it’s no too clean sounding. Otherwise it doesn’t work well.

GW: I’ve been reading about you online and you are outspoken about your dismay towards pop music in the charts. Can you elaborate on that?

LC: I’m more just not into music that people are making for it to be popular, or making it to make money. Which is most pop music from what I know. And you can tell because they sing about it. To me, music is bigger than money. Money is definitely important because you can keep going and have the life you want and have freedom and stuff. But it’s just that the quality of music is going to not be good and you’re going to be a bitch to everybody else’s horrible taste if you’re trying to please everyone and make money as a goal for your music.

GW: You’re someone who has strong view about it, huh?

LC: Yeah, I really don’t like it. I just will never be ok with it. I don’t want to be too negative at the same time because I don’t want to just be talking about negative stuff, but sometimes I feel like I have to be public with how I feel. If anyone asks me I’ll tell them straight. I feel like the best music is under the radar and the horrible stuff gets praises a lot of the time. There are exceptions, but it seems that way.

GW: I have to ask since his solo album is so incredible too: what was it like recording ‘Tunnels In The Air’ with Thundercat?

LC: That one was easy I was over at his house and he gave me a bunch of tracks of his that he never released. I just took that song and took the vocal track and wrote everything underneath it.

GW: How was recording the strings for the album?

LC: It was all different. On ‘Last Time You Went Away’ and ‘Things’ - and there’s another - it has a 23-person group from Rochester, New York that my friend Daniel Sunshine put together. That was really cool that was a massive amount of strings. ‘After The Load Is Blown’ is a string trio just recorded in my living room. The song called ‘Night’ - the last song – I'm playing violin on that. I’m just playing one note usually. Nothing crazy. Yeah it’s different stuff.

GW: How did you record the big string sessions

LC: I wrote it out no paper and printed and handed it. So they actually weren’t recording to my track.

GW: Is it painstaking doing the arranging it all?

LC: Oh, dude, yeah. The whole thing is painstaking. Mixing and all of that. Shit dude. Oh my god. Sometimes it’s just crazy because you can get really hard on yourself and just work for days on the smallest things. It’s entirely painstaking. The arrangement part is painstaking, but that’s what makes it so tight. You have to be that crazy into what you’re doing in order to do it right like that.

GW: Did you ever get stuck on a particular part?

LC: Not really. Sometimes doing an album is such a mental game. You have to somehow still love your music through the whole process - and that’s fucking hard, man. I went through so many times where I just thought the music sucked and of course later I realised I loved it still. I had to battle with myself to keep myself interested sometimes. Keep myself really in touch with the fact that I still love those songs that I heard 80 million times.

GW: What influence was jazz pianist Brad Mehldau on the album?

LC: He played a really sick piano solo on 'Real Life'. I had him record on six different songs and the other five were slower. He played the solo on that one, though, and I thought it was perfect.

GW: I’ve heard you’re big into movies and video games. What games and/or films that informed the feel of this record?

The first one that comes to mind is 2001: A Space Odyssey. I mean, first of all, he uses a lot of this guy György Ligety, a Hungarian classical composer. I like him a lot he does these scary and beautiful pieces. And the visuals from that movie are inspiring; especially the end part where he’s going through that transformative moment. Wow.  As for Nintendo stuff and Super Nintendo, I especially like Star Fox and Super Mario Kart, which is some really grooving stuff. It’s silly and goofy cos of that 16-bit sound. But it’s really amazing music.

GW: Do you get excited about the rhythms from a technical perspective?

LC: The rhythms on that stuff are really slamming. There’s some really grooving tracks on Super Mario Kart, Streets of Rage, and Star Fox.

GW: Finally, since percussion is your main instrument, who are your favourite drummers?

LC: My favourite drummers are jazz-heavy guys. The thing about jazz is it’s not just jazz. Jazz to me is freedom in the moment when you’re playing music. Improvising. If you have an idea, go for it. I think that’s why jazz is so tight. I like so many but a couple names that come to mind are Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams. There’s a lot of jazz writers I like who wrote beautiful stuff. They become background music after a while because it’s so heavily played. But if you really listen, you’ll see they’re really well written. I listen to that stuff all the time. It’s amazing.

GW: Thanks for your time Louis, have a great tour.

Louis Cole plays the below shows. Time is out now on Brainfeeder.

11.21.2018 | Parkteatret, Oslo, Norway *
11.23.2018 | Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK *
11.25.2018 | La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Paris, France *
11.26.2018 | Fasching, Stockholm, Sweden*
11.28.2018 | Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall *
11.29.2018 | New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom *
12.13.2018 | WWW-X, Tokyo, Japan + (
12.14.2018 | Metro, Kyoto, Japan +
12.16.2018 | Wonderfruit, Pattaya, Thailand +

* LOUIS COLE BIG BAND BLOWOUT DATES
+ LOUIS COLE SOLO SHOW

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Photo: Richard Thompson