The Berlin-based experimentalist shares a new video for ‘Hunted’ and tells us about their unpredictable debut album for Tri Angle
“Empowerment” is one of those words we use so much now, it has almost been stripped of its meaning. We’re told everything is empowering, from language to Instagram accounts to a shade of lipstick. For Houston-born, Berlin-based club noise producer Lotic, it was always a mission to make their debut album empowering. Along the way – as they faced life challenges like the loss of an apartment and a relationship, and watched global politics become more and more polarised – they developed a whole new, complex understanding of what it means to seek power in a world that constantly tries to disempower you.
The result of that soul-searching is Power, an unpredictable, shape-shifting record out this July on Tri Angle Records. Drifting somewhere between marching bands, experimental pop music, and the dancefloor-ravaging club sets that made Björk a Lotic fan, the record features Lotic’s vocals for the very first time, and reveals an artist of incredible range. Power is found not only in the record’s most brutal moments, but in its softness – as with lead single “Hunted,” on which Lotic delicately whispers a refrain that cuts to the core: “brown skin, masculine frame / head’s a target.”
In the video for “Hunted” (directed by Matt Lambert, premiering below), this complex power dynamic gets yet more twisted, as Lotic shuns the role of the title, and instead becomes the hunter, stalking their prey on the beach. As Lotic explained in a phone call to Dazed from a park in Berlin: “It’s not like I’m a victim. I am a survivor.” It’s a sinister, striking introduction to the new, empowered Lotic: one who’s standing in front of the decks now, holding eye contact with their audience, daring you to blink.
The last thing that a lot of people heard from you was the “election anxiety edit” you made of Beyoncé’s “Formation” on election night in 2016. Did that political turmoil continue to influence you as you made the album?
Lotic: That was what I was kind of thinking of for the album – I didn’t want it to come from the same place of fear and anger and frustration, but, aesthetically, the album has tons of marching band songs. I wanted it to be coming from a place of, ‘We can do this, we can get through this, this is not that scary, we’ve been through this before! Everything will be okay.’ But it did take me a while to get to that point; I ended up needing it myself, after losing my flat. I was like, ‘Bitch, you need this album more than anyone else!’ I was trying to play this role of godmother.
How has it been in general as an American expat, watching what has been happening at home the last couple years?
Lotic: It’s hard to say, really. It sucks to say, but it’s comforting, the fact that I’m not there and I’m not living it. I hate that I have this relief, but that also is why I left. But it’s really heartbreaking too. It sucks. My family are still there, a lot of friends are still there. (But) I have a pretty peaceful life here. It’s actually kind of disgusting; very cute and clean and peaceful.
Could you explain a bit more about how marching bands have influenced you?
Lotic: It’s hard to explain because to me, it is so fundamental, and just was a thing that was never not there. I myself joined the marching band. The movie Drumline was the reason that I started playing sax. It just was always around, Houston, New Orleans... I mean, just the way that you play your instrument in the marching band is so black. There’s choreo, chanting, there’s a lot of stepping. A lot of black fraternities and sororities will do what’s called step routines. Basically Beychella, that was my childhood.
“I just didn’t want to be overly aggressive this time. I’ve always been known for this very dark, abrasive stuff and I basically wanted to do the opposite” – Lotic
Tell me a bit more about “Hunted” and the video – which reminds me of “Drunk in Love” but in a really menacing, fucked up way.
Lotic: “Hunted” was one of the first tracks I finished for the record, and I just wanted everything to be very clear and straightforward, because, a lot of press – I kind of ran with it – but a lot of it was like, ‘This scary club terrorist is tearing up the club again!’ But I’m also a real musician, I can read music and I know music theory... I just wanted to showcase more of that. (When I made “Hunted”), I was sort of surprised at myself, and wasn’t sure if I was actually going to release it. It has this sort of jubilant bounce to it, and then in the video, I am like, drowning a man on the beach. I wanted to have this sensitive message, but I also wanted the video to be – it’s not like I am a victim. I am a survivor. It just happens to be my daily reality that this is how people see me, but I am not really personally in my feelings about it.
The video was shot really quickly, the beach things we did in Mallorca, we shot it in a few hours. I was just there, lip syncing for my life. I definitely wanted the video to be a strong and empowering moment. For me, my reference was Queen of the Damned, so we have all this blood and there’s a creepy element to it but still, I am not being a victim.
In your bio, you highlighted Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me as a major inspiration for this album – that book is kind of the ultimate in making the political personal, or talking about politics through a personal lens. Is that what this album is to you?
Lotic: That’s pretty much it. What really shocked me about that book is that he so delicately explains everything. His way with words is so beautiful, and that’s what I wanted to do with the album, is to say all these really ugly things but in a way that’s not confrontational. I hate to say “poetic”, because it seems like a cliché, but it really is the poetry of everyday life. I’ve never seen that from a straight black man before. He’s just so tender; there’s a certain tenderness that I wanted to portray with the album.
On “Hunted”, I’m really whispering because even though what I’m saying is very important for me to say, I didn’t want it to be me like, yelling it. I just didn’t want to be overly aggressive this time. I’ve always been known for this very dark, abrasive stuff and I basically wanted to do the opposite. I feel like I got it out of my system with Agitations. Like, okay I’m agitated, I made a whole album about it, let’s move on.
What did you learn about yourself over the course of making this album?
Lotic: A lot. (I learned) you can’t control life at all, so that was a big thing. Dealing with my ego, because I always thought I didn’t really have one, but it turns out she is really healthy and I gotta keep her in check. I learned to trust my intuition. And also believing in myself as a musician and calling myself a musician, like saying the word out loud. The biggest thing about losing the (flat) was that I had to face myself, I had to really ask, who are you becoming, and who are you? (It was) a process of re-learning who I was, basically.
Lotic’s debut album Power is out July 13 via Tri Angle Records