Lando Chill's third album Black Ego wraps up the first phase of his career in Tucson.
He began with the intensely personal, family-oriented For Mark, Your Son in 2016, followed up with the experimental, purpose-seeking The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind in 2017 and, last October, released Black Ego, an outward-looking, politically oriented album.
"It's definitely the end of the three piece, as far as what I created and who I became when I started my musical career in Tucson," Lando says. "Black Ego is the literal bookend of my entire time in Tucson, encapsulating what a small place as far as scene wise can do to one's ego but also what it takes to be able to move past that in self-worth and self-love and not letting that eclipse what it means to be you, what it means to be a good person, a beacon, an inspiration. We can only want something for ourselves if we do it unto others."
Black Ego is about what it means to be an individual in the world, about the balance it takes navigating between personal motivations, interpersonal interactions and society at large.
"Our existence is not just in the bubble of ourselves, there's the possibility to influence others and to be influenced by others and it's up to us what we use that for," Lando says. "When we open up the context and open up our minds to allow ourselves to grow through collaboration, through integrity, through inclusivity, then our best selves and our best art comes through."
Produced by The Lasso and featuring Chris Pierce on bass—both longtime collaborators in the Lando Chill universe—Black Ego came from sessions that also yielded the LANDOLASSO EP, a very free-form, organic creative process that differs sharply from how he wrote on For Mark, Your Son.
"It's fun and different because that's not how I started in terms of my writing process. As any musician would attest, the ability to adapt is what leads to longevity," Lando says. "To be able to bring that trait along and become elite at it lends something different to this genre and to my career."
Described by Bandcamp critic J. Edward Keyes as "an intoxicating mix of West Coast G-funk... intergalactic head trips a la Maggot Brain, and the kind of gritty dirty South hip-hop that provided the backdrop for Outkast's Aquemini," the Lando Chill sound developed through pure collaboration.
"Lasso is the heart and soul of the two projects, The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind and Black Ego, and Chris Pierce brings a lot of flow to them," Lando says. "It's a good form of collaboration to be able to speak to each other about what we really want to hear, what differences we want to make between records, what vibes we're feeling at the time. It's also knowing what each other brings to the table so the process is smooth as possible. When we have ideas we share them."
This current tour, opening for Knife Knights, the new project from hip-hop legend Ishmael Butler (of Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces) and producer/songwriter/film composer Erik Blood, brings Lando back to his two prior homes, Chicago where he grew up and Tucson where he began his musical journey. In Chicago, he performed with his band of Lasso and Pierce for the first time in front of a hometown crowd.
"It feels interesting just because in Chicago, I haven't lived there since I was 18. Coming back always brings back memories of a time I wasn't even a musician. It puts in perspective how long I've been doing this and how many people I've worked with along the way," he says. "It's a joy to come back to Chicago and give them a joy of something they've never seen."
Having found his artistic voice in Tucson, and only last year deciding to relocate to Los Angeles, makes for a different sort of return.
"Coming back to Tucson feels like I've never left, hitting the ground running. Once you've been there long enough, you know the place like the back of your hand and have a sense of the town and the people and what they want," he says.
Now in LA, he's moving forward on the musical front, putting in the work on what will eventually become his next album, the first in his career post-Tucson.
"The process for every project is different, but what I'm currently on in LA is something I developed working with Lasso on Black Ego. That process was born out of a necessity to create," he says. "A session for me nowadays is four, five, six hours. It's not necessarily built on pressure, but on what's raw, what's in your subconscious, what's in your mind's eye. It's what are you thinking, what are you feeling in that moment, putting that out into this cathartic form of music and seeing what fits."
Lando finds inspiration everywhere, every day. He reads, keeps up with the news and stays abreast on political issues like immigration that matter to him. That leads to a fluid creative process, where rather than picking the subject matter, it's more like the subject matter picks him.
"Throughout the day, I'll ingest a lot of things and in my subconscious, I'll have that floating around and whomever I'm working with as far as producer wise, that subconscious will rear its head and it spills out," he says. "Regardless of the tempo or type of song, it doesn't matter, whether it's my personal life or the political world or existential life, that will be the paint that splashes the canvas. When you create like that, it allows you to not pigeonhole yourself. You're able to mold this picture that your subconscious always wanted you to create."
Having already put his pen to songs about family and mortality, identity and existential questions, and questions of politics and justice, centering on police brutality and abuse of immigrant communities, Lando is ready to tackle any subject on any given song.
"When you're creating organically, the theme presents itself. It's important within the art of creation to not force these things," Lando says. "When you have something you are working on that doesn't necessarily have a path or a purpose yet, it comes and it's organic and it builds itself. Not getting too attached to things and putting your all into something authentically is the only way."