For Student Direct.
INTERVIEW: THE FLAMING LIPS
NAKED BICYCLE RIDES, confetti and a surreal past, present and future; The Flaming Lips burst back into town hot off the summer release of their twelfth studio album Embryonic. Regarded as both dynamic and controversial in his opinions of other musicians, Wayne Coyne challenges the boundaries of traditional rock without being a brag or a bore. When they played in
Manchester, I met and sounded out the voice, mastermind, luminary and legend behind ’s finest psychedelic rock band. In other words, the uncle we’d all love to have. Oklahoma
This latest tour involves much of the show and experimental theatricality that The Flaming Lips have become renowned for displaying live. Is there a starting point when planning a new tour and its updatability?
I’d say this show has been evolving since about 1999; the balloons, the confetti, the suits. Forming a new show always makes us think, what can we incorporate into what we have established already in our live act? I know there’s a certain amount of sustainability involved in the Flaming Lips identity. We saw Kiss play a couple of weeks ago and without some elements of their show, they wouldn’t be Kiss. This time we have a wonderful cosmic mother-queen who gives birth to us all onstage. She spreads her legs and we enter out of her and I roll onto the crowd in the blow-up ball. Great! And of course we get to do new songs! With all the old songs, we love the sing-a-longs like ‘She Don’t Use Jelly,’ ‘Yoshimi,’ and ‘Race for the Prize’; we love making the big songs precise and dynamic and a great experience for everyone.
Let’s talk about your new video for ‘Watching the Planets.’
The naked video! A great video! It was shot in
. I’d heard a story on the radio about assembled groups of naked cyclists, and so we got in touch with them. I think we had literally a thousand people wanting to get involved with this. I came up with the concept, the whole big fur vaginal bubble thing that guys are pulled out of in the beginning, and as the storyboard went along, I thought, I guess I should get naked now. Everyone was comfortable with it. Apart from Cliff (roadie, who laughs nervously across the room). Portland, Oregon
Was it scary?
Oh yeah, there’s that horrible moment just before you get naked and all the fear and anxiety bubbles up. But then you’re naked! You’re all in it together! Luckily there was a lot of healthy, fun, enthusiastic weirdos there; there was no ‘your butt looks better than mine, your dick is bigger’ etc.
The Flaming Lips have been going for over twenty years now! Does the industry still interest you in terms of new music, and are you influenced by it?
Since 1984! When were you born? Isn’t that weird?? We’ve been around since before you were born! I was just talking to Zane (Lowe) and he asked about new stuff, and of course yeah, I love MGMT, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the new Portishead record. There’s some wonderful things happening today.
I saw your ‘fight’ with
Bradford Cox on the ATP backstage video. Do you think you’d ever collaborate with him?
No, I mean, not after our falling out…I’m just kidding, wow he is great, Atlas Sound is great. Deerhunter are awesome. Probably the best thing I saw at ATP this year. The thing about
Bradford is that he just real relaxed, so laid back and that’s why it works well. He’d rock to work with…
Your nephew’s band Stardeath and the White Dwarfs are on the road with you as your support. What advice would you give him?
I’m not gonna lie, he’s had it lucky that he’s seen first hand what we do from when he came into the world. But he was a roadie for us for years; he enjoys all aspects of the industry. There is no music industry unless you’re successful enough. You do your music, make your art, and make pitfalls day to day. I think he knows not to believe the hype crap, and the importance of having a contract with a label that understand you.
You made a film, Christmas On Mars. Would you recommend watching it with the family on Christmas Day or no?
It’s hopeful, funny and fantastical. It depends on the liberalness of your family I guess… for little kids, they don’t know what’s happening but a little older, like over five, it may disturb or terrify them. It looks like a whole bunch of druggie weirdness but really it isn’t that at all. It’s a Flaming Lips movie! It’s a happy one, no specific message, it’s just fun. You should watch it. It plays on cable channels on Christmas Day everywhere obviously.
To what extent are you intrigued by imagination and the way the mind works? Are you into Surrealism?
Or to whether the mind really works at all! I like everything that’s done well. What I do like is Salvador Dali. His collections are admirable because there’s so much of it, have you seen how much he did? I think he talks some bullshit but a lot of the time he’s really just painting from his emotional subconscious. He must have painted all day, every day. But people point to Surrealist concepts in terms of dreaming, thinking and designing, but Dali shows us it’s about getting up and doing it, physically making as much as you can.
So do you believe the Flaming Lips live show channels his creative drive?
I would say more Absurdist, and yeah, we do all these things without studying them too intently; I try to bombard you with enough colourful and loud things that make you just surrender and say hey, I don’t have to bestow this a meaning, it is what it is. We just like to obliterate you with the moment!
A lot of rock shows are about being cool, ya know, just about the image. We get rid of all that, there’s no grand meaning, we’re not trying to change the world. It’s a big spectacle. We’re really lucky, Warner Bros totally get what we’re about, we’re not the Beatles or anything. Not that we’re so smart, but twenty-five years on we’re still doing what we love. It’s weird.
Doesn’t time fly! What now after this tour?
IT DOES. Watching bands come and go, negotiations fabricate and fall apart. You see how fast everything turns over. As for this tour, it’s gone so quick. I don’t know that we’ve ever been free here, so to speak. There’s some great mega groups from here right…Stone Roses?
And The Smiths…
Oh god, I knew there was someone! We come here so often we forget where we are, isn’t that terrible? Well, after this - after Embryonic - is the future.
Expect more nudity, robot battles, balloons and brilliance from Wayne Coyne in years to come.