Witness the Birth of Captain Murphy, the Mysterious Rapping Alter-Ego of Flying Lotus

Adult Swim teamed up with the artist to tell the story of his origin.

Steven Ellison is the type of musician that’s so prolific an entire world has emerged surrounding his output. Under his main moniker Flying Lotus, he’s released a string of critically acclaimed electronic LPs (with another one coming this fall), featuring guest spots from the likes of Erykah Badu, Thom Yorke, Thundercat, and more. With his influence, he helped increase the popularity the Brainfeeder Record scene in LA. And moreover, through his rapping alter-ego—a mysterious character named Captain Murphy that remained anonymous for the first few months of its incarnation—he proved his skills as an MC, eventually releasing beloved EP called Duality in 2012. TL;DR? This guy is very influential.

Now, Adult Swim has teamed up with Ellison to tell the story of the birth of Captain Murphy. In the clip, which Noisey is premiering below, we find out that he comes from something having sex with a volcano. We know that doesn’t really sound like it makes sense, so you just have to watch it. To get a better sense of what this story is supposed to be, I spoke with Adam Fuchs (who illustrated the video) and Jason DeMarco, VP of on-air and creative director for Adult Swim, who both told me about working with Ellison to create this world.

Noisey: What attracted you to doing this?
Jason: Lotus and I have been friends for almost ten years now and we’ve been using his music on Adult Swim obviously, he’s been on the singles program over and over. We premiered the first Murphy track and I was one of the people that encouraged Steve to go ahead and rap and not be afraid of rapping. I love the character of Captain Murphy, and Steve and Adam came up with the way that Captain Murphy looks together.

Adam: Murphy can be whatever we want to envision. That’s what made it really fun, just the freedom of making it look weird, cool. That’s kind of why in the short there’s three back stories with the four kids talking about their own vision of what they think this character is and you go in and out of these different styles, making it really visually interesting and fun to play with.

What’s it like working with Flying Lotus? He’s notoriously quiet and reserved.
Jason:It took a while for us to crack exactly the type of Murphy story we wanted to tell, Steve, much like Adam, said, “Murphy can be anything.” Steve definitely guided the whole thing. Adam has been working on it for two years pretty much all the time, and I would say Adam was the main driving force of the team but Steve approved everything. We all worked pretty closely on the story.

Adam: The really great thing about Steve is that he loves art and is a huge art lover and musician on top of that. He lets you create what you want to create, he understands the amount of work that goes into stuff so getting things approved by him are fairly easy and really fun. It’s always a pleasant experience. It’s probably why he collaborates with so many artists because they love working with him because he’s so easy to work with.

Jason: Yeah, he knows what he likes and what he wants and he knows what he doesn’t like so he was very open to letting ups interpret Murphy how we wanted to but at the same time he had a clear idea of what he didn’t want Murphy to be and where he didn’t want it to go. Though he wasn’t here, he was definitely a huge part of it.

What’s it like to execute someone else’s artistic vision?
Adam: We have this weird, magical thing together. He was really specific up front with what he wanted to do and the things he wanted to reference which made it a lot easier on me to do it. He already knew my style and weirdly our art kind of fits together because we also worked on another project. Steve didn’t even see the animation until the end and he scored it. It just fits perfectly, it’s like how some things are just—I don’t want to sound lame—but meant to be. I know that’s kind of cliché but it wasn’t a struggle.

How does this thematically fit into the Captain Murphy universe?
Adam: Hopefully I can answer this for you. The short is that it’s the prelude to what Murphy could be. He’s in this world now and it could just set it up for anything. I wanted to do a short that was relatable to people where they could watch it and get more out of it than some pretty psychedelic visuals, there’s more substance to this thing.

Jason: From the Adult Swim side, Captain Murphy is a fascinating character. Adam and I and Steve always felt that there should be an idea that this is only his most recent incarnation. He’s like a character or a force that you can tell a lot of stories with, and he doesn’t just have to always be this thing. He’s more than a man.

Eric Sundermann is not Captain Murphy. He's on Twitter @ericsundy