“I sometimes think, in the music biz, people want to live these crazy lifestyles,” says Wayne Coyne of Oklahoma’s legendary psychedelic pseudo-cult band The Flaming Lips, “but, I don’t know how they can make music at the end of the day if their life is so chaotic. You wake up and you’re doing drugs all day and you’re fucking women all day and you drive your car into a swimming pool-then for twenty minutes, you’re making music. I just don’t see how people could. When you have that much chaos going on, when would you have time to consider what you are doing, you know. So I kind of go the other way, I prefer to have a normal stable life and have my music be where all the chaos and unpredictableness is.”
But, surely there must be some chaos in the lives of the Flaming Lips, right? There has to be some great road stories or crazy recording session tales. “I don’t really have any good stories per say,” admits Coyne. “I know people think we travel around so much and we must have had our adventures which must be stuff of legend. Like we’re on a safari and stuff like that—where we’re hunting wild boar and are attacked by bees or something. But really, I think what we sort of do is really average behavior, and pretty boring.”
“I think being on tour, even back in the early days, a lot of it is pretty much spent driving around, you know. But the sort of chaotic moments that you run into here and there are pretty much just people being stupid for the most part and nothing overly great,” Coyne explains. “I mean, I wish I could say that we’ve come across UFO landings and things like that, but it just wouldn’t be true. Most of our existence, as a band for the most part, has been pointing out just how the normal every day occurrences really are the extraordinary moments in our life. To me, life is already extraordinary; it doesn’t have to be infused with some mystical element. To me it’s already amazing!”
It is readily apparent that Coyne and the rest of the Lips devote plenty of songs to recognizing the normality of everyday life, but where do all the crazy ideas stem from if the Lips lead the lives of ordinary Joes? Where do song tiles like “Psychiatric Exploration of the Fetus with Needles” or “Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World” come from? After all, wasn’t it the diabolically creative Flaming Lips whose last release for Warner Bros. records was Zaireeka, a four-disc set that had to all be played simultaneously? What sparks this creativity?
“It’s just like the way anyone else does it,” explains the humble Coyne, “you just use your imagination. You try to do something that thoroughly reflects what you are thinking. Like all titles, they point you somewhere, but they leave it open. Not in an abstract sort of way, but they guide you to something that you want the music or the song to convey. Music invites some identity to be put onto it. I think sometimes with my song titles, I’m not sure myself even what it is that I’m getting at. But, I understand that when we put these words together it conjures up an image that we can sort of discuss together, even though it’s varied and sort of strange. It may not actually be something that we’ve actually thought of, but it covers something. And as long as the music is playing we can really understand it, as long as it’s playing you feel as though you understand it. The minute it stops you couldn’t explain it. Sometimes I feel like it would be like telling someone what a peach tastes like. You can use all the words in the world, but you’d probably end up saying ‘here take a bite, you’ll see.’ And music to me, is the same way, you can do everything you want to describe it, but the only way you can really understand it is by listening to it.”
We were doing Zaireeka and the Soft Bulletin, our new album, at the same time,” says Coyne. “Even though it looks as though it’s taken us a couple of years to do just the Soft Bulletin. It isn’t as pathetic as it might have come across.”
The new album, The Soft Bulletin, produced by The Lips and DaveFridmann is just as brilliant and full of child like innocence as is it’s many predecessors, but it’s missing one thing, though-long time guitar whiz Ronald Jones. Not to say that the Soft Bulletin lacks that certain guitar magic, Coyne is a master of raw guitar discord and feedback in his own right, but the lack of the excess six strings leaves much more room for the remaining Lips to expand with new sound ideas. There is as much unordinary instrumentation, like synths and different strings as there is guitar. Wait ‘till you hear the gospel-induced track The Gash it’s full of that rocking good time booty-shakin’ as seen in Sister Act or even the Blues Brothers. And somehow the clever, insect-obsessed Wayne Coyne is the only man who can title an adorable heart-felt quasi-love tune The Spiderbite Song.
“I can’t imagine why everybody doesn’t pursue making music, really,” wonders Coyne out loud. “I mean its such a great thing I don’t know why everybody just doesn’t do it. I mean obviously people like just listening to it and other people like making it, but to me there is just some things that I want to hear that no one has made yet, so I end up making it.”
But being a career music-maker does have its downsides, though. “I really don’t look at what we do as fun all the time,” says Coyne, “Even though the image of bands having fun is what everybody thinks of as the most important thing, but to me…really it’s not. I like to have fun just like the next guy, but I realize as we are making records, that fun doesn’t really come into it. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s boring. Most of the time it’s just a lot of work, but we like to do it.”
But don’t think Coyne hates his job or feels that he’s made a bad career choice, “Music is really fun,” interjects Coyne “it’s exhilarating. I don’t know why it doesn’t rub everybody the way it does me. But there are some sports that don’t grab me that obviously grab other people and I imagine they look at me just as strangely sometimes as I look at them.”
And his bosses have been quite accommodating, luckily, especially being a major label recording artist. “Since about the end of 1990 we’ve been with Warner,” he explains. “I don’t know if there were any conflicts, but there is ‘look we gave you a bunch of money and we want you to sell a bunch of records’ sort of mentality. And we always say ‘we know, we’re trying-don’t kill us.’ And I think that’s kind of like how it will always be. On some occasions we’ll sell a bunch of records and they’ll be really happy and there are other times we don’t and they’d prefer to make lots of money. They understand the music industry and so do we, so we don’t have a conflict of interest. I understand that something like Zaireeka is not going to compete with Mariah Carey and they look at me and ask ‘Wayne, then why do we make records like that, then?’ But, then the artistic side takes over and says ‘yeah but, isn’t it great to put out a record like Zaireeka.’ And I agree. So, that’s the way it should be, Warner Bros. is here to make money they’re not here to make the world a better place. Obviously they knew it would not make much money and they knew it would cost a lot of money to make, but I think the proof is evident-they did it.”