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The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips are surely one of the most innovative bands to come out of the 20th century, and have embarked on a year-long project of putting out at least a song a month. So far they've released a USB gummy fetus, a joint EP with Neon Indian and a song in ten parts where you and ten friends load up each part on your iPhone. Band mastermind Wayne Coyne talked to FasterLouder ahead of the band's trip down under in November.

Hi Wayne. So this is an especially crazy year for you… what’s planned for the rest of it, can you give anything away?
Well I think part of it includes coming down to Australia and playing these shows, but yeah it does seem crazy, I don’t think about it too much because I love the way you get through being overwhelmed, you do one thing at a time and you do that, and then when you’re done with that you’re onto the next thing.

At the beginning of the year when we started this thing where we’re going to do three or four songs every month and we saw how many shows we were going to play and all these different objects that we were bent on creating, I would definitely have moments where I’d wake up in the middle of the night and scream and go “Oh my god!! What the fuck!!"

That’s not all the time, you get used to it, some things you think are going to be overwhelming and take a long time, go very quickly. You think “Oh, that was easy.” And other things aren’t. But I kinda knew that. I kinda like the uphill battle. I like doing the things that are new, the things we don’t know the answer to yet.

I guess that would bring out the best in you if you’re put under this pressure?
I think so, yeah. I think it does for anybody that gets put in this situation. It’s no surprise, especially with bands, and maybe it’s this chemistry that happens between intense people. When we look at bands, every band that’s ever done this magic of great records, and I say magic because when they’re really great we don’t really know what the fuck happened, they’re usually doing a million things at once. They’re usually having sex with five models, they have penthouses, they’re on tour, they’re making five records with ten producers, and then yet they make these fucking amazing records. And you go “How did you do it?" and they’re like “Dude I don’t know, I don’t remember."

And I wouldn’t say that we’re doing that on purpose. I think for us, we’re a really lucky group, we work with a lot of cool people who have a lot of energy and we have a lot of opportunities. So you just start doing things, and before you know it, what you thought was going to be a day where you did two things becomes a day where you’re doing ten things. All these other people say “Hey Wayne, do you want to do this, do you want to do that,” and I just say yes to things, and I feel like I’ll find the time.

Is this all this stuff going to culminate in anything, are you going to do a super record that has five discs or a documentary or something?
I think so, I’m hoping by next April that we’ll look at this giant big year of exploding, for good or bad, creativity, and put this thing all together and see. I imagine it’ll be 40 songs or something, if we put it all together, a lot of it still is unknown to us. But even if that isn’t the end product, if this way that we’re doing things now where, if you saw us last month play somewhere, this month we have a couple of new songs we could be playing. Instead of it feeling like there’s a record and you’ll go out and play that for two years and then you’ll stop, somehow get it together again and then have another record, this is a way of not getting too collected. You just do it.

For example we’re going to put some music next Tuesday that we just got finished doing Sunday afternoon, the Sunday that just passed. And I mean we’re not insecure, we’re insecure like normal people are, but when you do something you think is great, if you have enough time you look at it and go “Oh boy, I don’t know, what is that". This is kind of like getting a tattoo, you’re gonna get it, you’re gonna have it, and if you regret it in a month from now then too bad. A lot of music isn’t done that way, a lot of music you can sit around and think about it, remix it, fuck with it, and change it. This way of doing music now, we have to put it out.

We’ve made this obligation to ourselves and to our fans and to our way of being that we have to make this music and we have to find the time, and it has to be good. Well I hope it’s good. And you can find the time, you can find the energy. It makes me go “What the fuck were we doing all these years, why weren’t we doing this?", and part of it is I feel obligated to the Flaming Lips audience. They’ve given me this fucking great life, this great freedom, to do whatever I want to do. They say “It doesn’t matter if you fail Wayne, don’t worry about it, you’ll keep trying, you’ll find something", and I take that to heart, I take it as seriously as you could take it. I don’t know how long it’ll last, so while it’s here, I fucking go for it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in a band, would you be Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Accountants or something?
I don’t know if I’d be able to amass this way that I’m a leader of this thing, that for me wasn’t something that I wanted in the beginning. In the beginning you’re just this silly artist, you’d just be sitting in a corner either playing music or doing a painting or doing a drawing, or whatever. You’re not really concerned about having a machine that you can control or that will help you dictate your every whim. I don’t think that would have been part of my personality, but as I’ve gone along, being the leader of the group, being able to be successful and do more and more things, I’m the one that gets to head it up. That wouldn’t be part of me at all. But I think I’d just be a ridiculous artist. You’ve probably seen those artists that build castles out of tin cans in their back yard?

Yep
That’s me. You’re just obsessed. I’m not proud of that, I know that I’m obsessed, I know that it’s really why when I announce that we’re going to do something, people are like “I know you will Wayne, because if you don’t do it, you’ll kill us all in the process.”

It has its own inertia that I’m not really responsible for, I don’t ever say “I have an idea”, I’m like Cocteau, he said “an idea has me”, and that’s definitely me. I’m just a slave to this bigger machine. This machine says “Here’s what we should do.”

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Comments

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MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

Fucking hell. Wayne is incredible.

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

The Flaming Lips and Ke$ha?!
My dreams are coming true!

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

The Flaming Lips and Ke$ha?!
My dreams are coming true!

The Flaming Lips will open their next tour by climbing out of Ke$ha's massive vagina.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

man we had twelve scheduled minutes for that interview but it could have easily have gone for hours. he's on a whole other level

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

The Flaming Lips and Ke$ha?!
My dreams are coming true!

I thought flaming lips was just something Ke$ha was diagnosed with.

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

Does anyone at FL HQ have any info regarding The Flips doing Harvest sideshows?

grattan

grattan said on the 22nd Aug, 2011



If we were allowed to tell you you don't think we would have told you?

themhumm

themhumm said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

The man's 50 and is still by far the coolest person in music! Come on Harvest I need to be born again!

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 22nd Aug, 2011



Could you even hint at their possible existence?

iNegro

iNegro said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

They really are one of the most innovative and unique semi-popular groups around. I'm constantly confounded by how humble and down-to-earth Coyne always appears in interviews and videos. He's such a fantastic guy, totally earned all the success he's had with the band.

nojameslikeholmes

nojameslikeholmes said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

pretty unflattering photo, haha.
and yeah, he's the best person in the world. he defaced a dollar bill for me

Rob Cashman

Rob Cashman said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

great review. interesting clips, engaging.

lateleigh

lateleigh said on the 22nd Aug, 2011

great work david! really enjoyed this interview.

ThatDude123

ThatDude123 said on the 22nd Aug, 2011



Pretty sure they already have by not giving a straight-out "no"

JackP

JackP said on the 23rd Aug, 2011

where can you get a hold of these songs? Is there an EP out or something? Or is it all online?

mondo22

mondo22 said on the 27th Oct, 2011

Found on www.themusic.com.au

FOR NEARLY THREE DECADES ALT-LEGENDS THE FLAMING LIPS HAVE BEEN DOING THINGS THEIR OWN PECULIAR WAY, AND AS FRONTMAN AND CHIEF MISCHIEF-MAKER WAYNE COYNE TELLS STEVE BELL, THEY’RE NOT ABOUT TO START TREADING THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW ANY TIME SOON.

“I don’t think we could be better to tell you the truth. We just got done playing a bunch of shows, we just got done recording and we’re home for a couple of days. But this summer’s amazing – we’ve gotten to play to a bunch of freaks who are taking drugs and doing weird shit all the time. It’s a cool life!”

The Flaming Lips’ chief fearless freak Wayne Coyne is holding court from the kitchen of his Oklahoma City abode, sounding content and happy, and why wouldn’t he? His band has outgrown the ‘strange outsider’ status that they earned with their idiosyncratic ways during the early stages of their nearly three-decade long career to become veritable institutions of the world festival circuit, renowned for their elaborate celebratory performances which as a norm involve outlandish costumes, incredible visual projections, balloons, confetti, Coyne traversing atop the crowd encased in a giant see-through bubble – an absolute sensory smorgasbord that really has to be experienced to be believed (illegal stimulants not necessary for maximum enjoyment but certainly not a hindrance). And given they have the perfect catalogue of semi-hallucinatory music to elevate their festival experience to the realms of the near-magical, why wouldn’t you make hay while the sun shines?

“Well we don’t tour that much,” the affable Coyne reflects. “In the summer we jump around from continent to continent and there’s a lot of interesting places that we get to play, but we’ve never been one of these groups that plays like 250 shows a year – we might play 50 or 60 shows as the summer and fall go, but to us it’s never a month at time. We’re always playing, but we’re always kind of coming home and trying to do things in between. The worst thing that happens, especially to young musicians – in my opinion anyway – is that they just get so burned out on it. This thing that starts out as this really wonderful, joyous thing that they get to do is a little bit like a circus animal or something – you just have to go out there and do this thing every night – and for young people that can just destroy their spirit. I mean we’re not young any more, but certainly when we were young we experienced that and saw it with other groups as well.

“And some of my guys, they like to take drugs and drink and shit, and if you do that too much you will die! So we just don’t do things that way – we try to enjoy where we’re at, enjoy the people we’re with, enjoy playing music and enjoy the other bands that we play with, and just take it as this great thing it can be instead of feeling, ‘Oh, what a horrible grind that we’re on!’ A lot of that is self-made – I know for ourselves that we have a lot of… not control, but we have a lot of say about where we go and stuff, so we try to make it something that we want to do.”

Even from the outset it’s always been festivals that have drawn The Flaming Lips Down Under. Starting with the ill-fated but incredibly fun Alternative Nation back in 1995, their Australian sojourns have been built around Big Day Out, Splendour In The Grass and now the inaugural Harvest Festival, so Aussie Lips fans have been able to track the gradual ascent to their current status as music festival masters of ceremonies.

“When all that stuff works and is able to crack this ‘coolness’ that people have – especially when people are at rock shows sometimes, because it’s a social event as well – but this idea that you can crack through that, and people can really let themselves go and they can cry and feel these higher dimensions of emotion, it’s wonderful,” Coyne gushes.

“And it’s wonderful for us too – we never sit there and go, ‘Look at them, they’re fucking crying, let’s go and get lucky’ – it’s an absolute delight to sing those songs and have it be this real thing. I have to say, that never gets old. I think people would probably say, ‘Yeah, but you guys do that every night, it’s not that big of a deal’, but my only comparison would be, ‘Yeah, well you eat dinner every night, and if you’re lucky you can have sex every night, if you want to and still enjoy it’ – so to me it’s in the realm of those things, that, ‘Yes, we just did this last night, and now we’re doing it tonight!’ It doesn’t have to be diminished because you do it all the time. When it’s real like that and it’s powerful, it’s a big deal, it’s awesome.”

Fantastically The Flaming Lips’ celebrated bizarre streak is showing no signs of abating – one need only look at their 2011 musical output for evidence. So far this year they have released songs in disconnected YouTube snippets, sold EPs in miniscule runs, manufactured gummy skulls with USB sticks encased in (occasionally marijuana-flavoured) gummy brains, concocted gummy foetuses to hold their music and there’s rumours of gummy vaginas in the pipeline – and that’s literally just scratching the surface of the madness they’ve been manufacturing in the name of music.

“I think it’s like everything, you start off with everything being about fun and craziness and the possibilities of, ‘What if? What if!?’, and then you get down to the nitty gritty and some of it is not as pleasant as you’d hoped and other things are greater than you’d thought,” Coyne laughs.

“So with all these things – being able to do things like the gummy skull that has a brain in it with a USB – I sort of feel like every band would do this stuff if they were allowed to. Maybe that’s not true – maybe a lot of bands are like, ‘We don’t really care’ – but for me, I love this! I love all of it for being a vehicle for our energy and our imagination to say, ‘Yeah, wouldn’t it be great to do this or do that!’.

“We still have quite a few things planned as the year goes, but I think we’ll probably always make music this way now. Instead of being holed up for three years and then going, ‘Okay, now we’ll wait for this thing to come out’. I can see how invigorating it is to always be, ‘Okay, we’re making music, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world – it doesn’t have to be the greatest thing ever!’ I think that’s kind of the secret, that you’re just doing things, and if it’s interesting to you at that time let it be so. You second guess shit all the time – we’re insecure like anybody and we make music, and if you sit on it for six months then you begin to think it sucks. So I think we’re trying to find a way around that and having this music being a little bit more like getting a tattoo: where’s it’s, like, ‘You wanted it, and now you got it and now you’re stuck with it!’ I think all of our music in a sense is like that, where you really just have to say, ‘This is what we believe right now’.”