Interview: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne
Wayne Coyne (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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Ahead of the Flaming Lips performing their 1995 record Clouds Taste Metallic at First Avenue (their third show in the mainroom in eight months), frontman Wayne Coyne stopped by The Current's studio for an extended on-air chat with Mary Lucia. Listen to the full interview above and read highlights below.

On Clouds Taste Metallic and the Flaming Lips performing a series of shows at First Avenue: We're doing this Clouds Taste Metallic thing now – it's all meant to be a little bit of a 20 years sense." ... "Bands do that, I guess. You know, they'll go back and revisit [records]. But see I have more of a panicked excuse as to why we're doing it." ... "I think I may have said the first time that we played here [First Avenue] of the series that I said, 'We should try to play here three times this year.' And that's what always happens: you say it, and before you know it, it's trying to come true. And then we were able to do a second show and that prompted us to do the album that came out in 1993, the Transmissions from the Satellite Heart album. And then it really did seem like, 'Y'know, we did two, isn't that good enough?' By the end of that we said, 'No! We're going to come back and do the third one like we said!' I think because it was so hot that night in September that we said, 'We're going to come back on the coldest day of the year!' Now, it's not that, but I'm glad it's not because when you say that in Minneapolis, that's just not that much fun. But we'll lie about it later and say it absolutely was."

On not being a conventional "rock band" and how that ended up translating to their spectacular live shows: "When Ronald Jones left [1996], Steven [Drozd] and I, I remember us thinking to ourselves that this idea of us being this kind of 'rock band,' the idea of that already was sort of old to us because I mean I started the Flaming Lips when I was 21 years old in 1983, so by 1994/1995, we had already been doing that thing for a long time, and liking it and evolving. Steven had been doing that, even though he wasn't in the Flaming Lips all that time, he'd been doing that with groups. I think it was the idea that we both knew that we were going to attempt to do more sort of personal, emotional music because whenever we would do it by accident we would really like it and we wanted to sort of be in that mindset, that we were just going to pursue that. So right after Clouds Taste Metallic we went through—I don't know if we knew it at the time—a kind of reinvention that let us come out the other side and not—maybe the audience didn't know this, but for ourvselves—we weren't expected to be a 'rock band.' That's when we did the Zaireeka record which is the four CDs that play at the same time. And then we did this record, The Soft Bulletin, which to us, was really us coming out saying, 'Yes, we're the Flaming Lips, we'll always be the Flaming Lips, but the Flaming Lips can be anything we want it to be.' And we started to play shows that were not 'rock band' and—I think it was silly at the time, but we believed it—we weren't really thinking we were going to play live shows. So when we went to do them, we just, we did whatever we thought was absurd and entertaining. So I started to do puppets and I would put blood on my head and we had films playing behind us and all things that actually made the great, great show were things that we were doing because we didn't think of it as being a great show."

On the Flaming Lips' success: "The course that the Flaming Lips have taken has mostly been just – we are just very lucky, y'know, to have enough success that you can say, 'Oh, it's not always such a struggle,' but not so much success that it changes the dynamic of people's idea of what they're in it for and all that. In that sense, by the time we were signed to Warner Brothers in 1990, even by then we had already seen this thing that you speak about: when bands, y'know, everybody tells them they're going to be the next Beatles or whatever it was that they were telling them. And it changes them. It's hard for young guys. You don't really know who you are and suddenly you're thinking, 'Well, I'm going to be a rock star.'" ... "I've seen bands of all kinds succeed and fail and some bands seem to have everything going for them, then you meet them and they hate each other." ... "I think what happens to you when you fail is such a better story than everybody sitting around counting money thinking, 'Look how great I am!'"

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3 Photos

  • Wayne Coyne
    Wayne Coyne at The Current staff (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Wayne Coyne
    Wayne Coyne (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Wayne Coyne
    Wayne Coyne (MPR / Nate Ryan)