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Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)

on June 09, 2011, 10:15am
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flaming2 260x234 Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)Does putting together the live album seem blasé when you hold it next to the gummy skulls, sweet vinyl, etc.?

No, no. You know, we’re kind of releasing it special for that cemetery show. You can only get it by buying a special ticket, so it wasn’t as if we ever felt like we need to release The Soft Bulletin: Live. It was in conjunction with these special shows, and in that way we really didn’t think about it that much.

But I think that when we originally recorded The Soft Bulletin, I don’t think that we ever imagined that we could play it live. I mean, it was like the Beach Boys doing Pet Sounds. It was a studio creation. We could never really play it. But as the years have gone by, we’ve really just figured out that “‘Well, here’s how we can play this, play that.”

We became less precious about the exact sound. You know, we made The Soft Bulletin using all this big orchestration. You know, sort of organic, epic sounds. That was what the record was about – a bunch of things going on. We don’t have to repeat those exact sounds, and it still evokes the same sort of momentum and inertia as the record goes along.

How does it feel to be your own Flaming Lips news outlet, thanks to Twitter? It seems like I get all my Lips news through your feed. Do you ever feel any pressure to keep up fans up to date through Twitter?

No, I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. I would say that it’s more about remembering that you have the cool opportunity to say something, you know? I mean, I caught a lot of flack the other night when we saw that puppy get run over. It was horrible, but I try to remain like, this is just happening. I’m not doing it to shock you, I’m just doing it to say “This is what happened to us.” It was a moment in our lives, and we took a picture of it, and it fucked with us.

flaming lips gummy 260x260 Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)

Then you found a frog a little bit later.

And then I found a frog two hours later [laughs].

This is just life, and this is how it is.

And I agree, and I can’t remember who I was reading about. I was reading an article in some local thing where they were talking about something, and they didn’t actually talk to the person. But they were doing like you did, and said “Well, according to their Twitter..,” and I was like “Wow, people could know what we’re doing without having to interview us,” and to me it was the best thing I ever read.

Like I’m going to Dublin to play this show, and I might run into whatever bands are playing, and we might think we’re going to do a collaboration, and in real time – after reading six or seven of my tweets – people can go, “I know what’s going on with Wayne and the fellas.” That changed everything for me. People can see the process and see how we do things, and how some things don’t work out, and how some things are a surprise.

To me, that’s why it’s so interesting. The idea that we would try to market our music or activities to an audience. We don’t do that. We’re just making this shit. If you could see how we make it– I mean, I’m not saying it makes it fantastical, but it makes it more real, and when things are fantastical, you go “Wow, I saw that thing develop.” It’s more interesting that way, and that part of it, for me, I hope it never ends. I hope it remains interesting, and I hope people remain interested in it forever.

I’m not sure that interest in your band will drop. It seems like everyone always wants to know what’s coming next from you guys. It’s not like the old days when bands had to plan their releases a year in advance.  You guys can come up with an idea and have it out within weeks.

Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if every group could, but I think we can. And of course if we were just putting these things out online it would be more simple – you could just put it out there. But to organize these big 12” records, and you know to organize all these collaborations, and the gummy skulls, and all the other stuff that we’re doing, there’s a lot of stuff that you have to do, and that’s why I’ve been showing everybody the process of this stompbox that we’re making.

We want to do it, and we think we can, but you run into difficulties, and sometimes you make progress and it’s surprising.  Some days it looks like it’s really gonna be great.

2011 06june lipsstompbox Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)

Yeah, there are a lot of knobs on that thing. It looks like it’s gonna be complicated.

[Laughs] Well…I’m not sure what all of them do. I remember we kept over-designing it like three months ago. I’m not sure. I love all those fragile little wires on the bottom of that thing. And we’re kind of designing it…you know, this isn’t gonna be a stompbox that is going to be predictable. I mean, it’s going to get fucked up. Those wires, they’re the most fragile fucking wires that you could ever buy, and they’re gonna get fucked up, and where it plugs in is gonna get fucked up.

I think everybody’s box, everybody who gets ones, the effects that you actually use will be different. Because it will also be a vehicle that allows you to play our songs. It’s a strange device. But it’ll get fucked up. There’s a couple of knobs on there – and it’s designed this way – if you keep turning them the wrong way, or turn them in conjunction, if you turn them a certain way, it’ll fuck ‘em up. I’m not saying it’ll ruin the whole thing, but it’s made to be a kind of a Tetris, electronic gadget, you know, and you’re not really sure what’s gonna happen.

lips 21 Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)You won’t ruin your computers or guitars or anything, but yeah, it’s meant to have a mind of its own. I can say for sure, those ideas come from some of the boxes I have at my house, but [long-time Flaming Lips producer] Dave Friddman is the master of that. Up at the studio, he has all kinds of little gadgets that– the reason he has them and keeps them is because they’re broke. They’re broke and they do something spectacular that no other machine would ever do. And the reason it’s doing that is because it’s broke.

You know, there’s a compressor. It’s an expensive, old compressor that Dave uses. He’s used it since he started his studio. And it’s broke, and it’s fucked up, but he uses it on virtually every record, and he knows what he likes. Someone came in and wanted to fix it, and he’s like “Don’t fuck that up – it’s doing something uniquely fantastic.” Because it’s broke.

So we’re embracing this mentality, and we also know there’s thousands of stompboxes being made everyday by people who actually know what they’re doing, so we’re not saying that our stompboxes are superior. We’re just saying that our stompboxes are objects, like us. We’re making it to be a Flaming Lips thing. Some of them are gonna be better than we can ever make them, and some of them are going to be a mess, but I think they’ll all be worthy of having for sure.

That’s awesome. Do you know how many you’re planning on producing?

George said yesterday, since they’re going to be doing all the soldering themselves, that he was hoping that it would be limited to like 200 or something like that. I don’t think that it’ll be cheap; this will probably be another hundred dollar item or something like that. But I don’t know. We’re not really making it to make a bunch of money and spread it around the world. I think that the idea that we put out something every month is already overwhelming – I mean, it’s too much shit to keep up with already.

And we know that we’re gonna compile it all next February or March, and I want people to know that too. I don’t want them to think, “Well if I don’t get it now, then I’m never going to get it.” But some of these things will never be available again, and I think the stompbox will probably be like that – once we make them. I don’t imagine that we’re gonna go out there and remake and remake them. It will be unique.

I think we’ll probably continue to do this type of stuff – I don’t know if we’d continue to do this a release every month – but the more I’m doing it now, the more I see that I can find a lot of ways to do things if I wasn’t restricted to doing something every month. Running and scrambling to do these things, but I have to say it’s really a joy to be in such a panic all the time. To be forced, and to be always urged to make music, and to think, “Fuck. Who are we gonna do this with? Who’s available, and who can do it?”  I mean, I’m talking still with the guy from Lightning Bolt who are making a record themselves, and we’re still fucking with this collaboration. So it’s interesting. I talked to Nick Cave last week, I talked to the guys in No Age last week, I talked to Reggie Watts about doing some tracks.

2011 06june 06 coynecave Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)

You know, like most everybody I see who I think is doing something really interesting right now, I want to grab a moment of their creativity, their energy. I feed off of that. People that are into what they’re doing, and they have energy, they’re optimistic, it makes me that way. So I don’t wanna be around people who aren’t like that because I feed off of that as well. When I’m around people who aren’t interesting, they’re a bummer, and they naysay everything– that’s contagious too. I don’t like that.

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