By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Wayne Coyne’s on a roll, and apparently enjoying the hell out of it. The choirboyish singer and guiding light behind the Flaming Lips — crafters of perhaps the most smartly melodic, sonically fetching and not coincidentally most keenly heartbreaking pop music on the planet — is frenziedly and happily trying to keep up with the demands for his band’s services. One of the early-’90s major-label alterna signings (Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers), the Oklahoma-based Lips have resided in the Warner Bros. stable since 1992, having spent close to 20 years hashing out a peculiarly skewed and psychedelic form of sort-of punk rock, never doing anything too obvious and boosted by the feverishly creative Coyne’s ongoing interest in just about everything. The Lips gained tenure when their 1993 indie hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” continued to sell in decent numbers, which allowed them to scam Warner Bros. into releasing the 1997 Zaireeka, four CDs meant to be played simultaneously. (That one sold decently, too.)
It was with 1999’s startlingly poignant and decidedly non-aggressive The Soft Bulletin, however, that the Lips painted their masterpiece. Coyne — aided by geniuslike multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and bassist/sound-tech ace Michael Ivins, along with indie rock’s Phil Spectorish producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev) — deemed it time to grow up, drop the cleverness and obscurity, and deal head-on with life, death and (gulp) sweet, sweet love. The recent Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, like Soft Bulletin engorged with sublime melodies awash in American roots music, quasi-hip-hop beats, Mellotronic silver linings and surprising electronic filaments, further pursues the perfect, pleasing, progressive pop that’s relevant to the brain and the heart, and most especially to the band’s ever-growing legion of fans.
Meanwhile, Coyne, taking a break from writing liner notes for a planned Lips DVD project, as well as from his long-gestating film project Christmas on Mars, is gearing up for yet another Flaming Lips tour. Following up on March’s rather oil-and-watery stint as backing band for Beck, the group play L.A. this week. The forthright and folksy Coyne’s a plainspoken kinda guy, so let’s hear it from the horse’s lips.
WAYNE COYNE: I’m always biting off more than I can chew. People love liner notes, you know, so I thought, Oh, I’ll do liner notes for every song. Well, you get these DVDs, and you can just put tons of things on there — I’m a hundred into this thing, and I’m still doin’ liner notes. Trying to be clever but precise, you know. It’s tough.
L.A. WEEKLY: I was reading your notes forYoshimi, and you actually seem to be able to put your heart into stuff like this.
Well, I know how much I like it when you get a presentation from a band, and they tell you the absolute truth, things that are interesting, things you wouldn’t know. And I always forget how much work it is until you’re actually doing it. It must be like raising your kids or something; you know, you think they’re gonna be successful and gorgeous — and then they become drug addicts and beat you up!
It’s like the good old days when you got an album and you got a lot to sit there and look at and read.
Sometimes I’ll hear a song, and I won’t be moved by it significantly one way or the other, but then I’ll read something about what it’s supposed to mean or what it’s saying, and then suddenly it’s like, Oh, I really love that song now.
Given your band’s long-standing fascination with warping the way we hear pop music, like with the multiple-discZaireeka, it makes sense that Flaming Lips should try their stuff in DVD 5.1 multichannel format.
It really is pretty fascinating to sit in the middle of all these speakers while all the songs are kind of moving in and above and around you and stuff. We have things hitting you in the head, whereas with a lot of these things it just changes speakers here and there. Let’s see what the possibilities are. That doesn’t mean that the old stuff is ever made worse by the invention of the new stuff, it’s just that if you don’t embrace the new stuff, you’re missing all the fun.
You’re planning to put your filmChristmas on Mars on a DVD, right?
I don’t really see that it would ever be a film that could just be played in movie theaters. It would be a DVD that you would buy at the store and go home and play, or that I would bring around [on tour] and sort of play in a mega-movie way, where the Flaming Lips bring their own sound system and snow machines. You know, we could make it loud and you could smoke and get drunk if you want.
The Lips records arrive like special gifts every other year or so.
If you’re lucky, your record keeps sort of being accepted, and it’s going on a year now, we’re still releasing singles and playing shows. So I imagine it’ll probably go on for at least another eight months or so, till I stop and say, Okay, that was that record, and then begin the next thing, which will be the Christmas on Mars movie. I judge when things should be released by when I think the audience will be interested again. Our audience really gets a lot out of our records; they’ll sit there and listen to them and analyze them, and I like that there’s some time in between where you just leave them alone. I think every artist runs into that; it’s like you overstay your welcome at the party. For a while you’re the life of the party, you keep tellin’ jokes, but everybody’s just tired of it now.
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