Aboard The Intrepid and about to play Pepsi Presents StePhest ColbChella ‘012 Rocktaugustfest, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips sat down with QRO. Just before Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA interviewed him, Coyne talked to QRO about their stage show (from Coachella ‘004 to ColbChella ‘012), The Lips’ recent collaborations with everyone from Prefuse 73 to Ke$ha (as well as failed collabs), the Oklahoma music scene (including Norman Music Festival), UFO vs. giant vag, his obsession with “women’s bits”, and more…
QRO: You introduced the ‘giant hamster ball crowd surf’ at Coachella ‘004 – anything new for ColbChella ‘012?
Wayne Coyne: Well, we tried to do Stephen Colbert in the space bubble, because we’re at the space museum, but the rain put a little bit of damper on the schedule. So we’re gonna meet with him in a little bit – we’re gonna see. I mean, he works pretty quick; we have a little bit of time to decide something.
But I’d love to! I don’t think he’s aware of that – he might be aware of that, now. He called the other day, and we were just bouncing some ideas back and forth – I want both us get in the space bubble, and then some calamity happens, and he gets thrown overboard…
I mean, not really, just like have a dummy. But he still might go for it – I don’t know. He’s real suggestible…
[editor’s note: While Stephen Colbert didn’t faux go overboard, he did get in giant plastic bubble & crowd surf – with Coyne – to close out ColbChella ‘012]
QRO: How difficult is it to modify your stage show for this setting – on a ship, in a museum, and on TV (QRO Indie On Late Night TV)?
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2012 LouFest in St. Louis, MO
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2012 Greenville Music Festival in Berlin, Germany
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA on May 19th, 2012
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2011 Moogfest in Asheville, NC
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2011 Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal, PQ, Canada
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2011 Sasquatch! Music Festival in George, WA
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2011 Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg, FL on October 13th, 2010
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Chastain Park in Atlanta, GA on August 26th, 2009
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, IL
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at 2008 Wakarusa Music Festival in Lawrence, KS
Click here for QRO’s review of The Flaming Lips at Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, MA in 2006
WC: Well, we don’t do all the stuff.
The stage show, it’s meant to be at a bigger place, playing to sometimes ten thousand people.
You do these big things so people that are forty yards away still have something to look at. When you’re doing something like this, where there’s like a thousand people, maybe, everybody’s really getting the same intensity.
I think that’s mostly why – We started the bigger things ‘cause we were playing big festivals; we were playing these giant festivals in England, and the crowd goes on for half a mile. And you want to include everybody in that, so we started to work doing bigger things, and little-by-little I think it’s gotten to where I think we’re pretty good at doing, not mega things – we’re pretty good at like five-to-ten thousand area; I think we’d need more stuff after that.
But when we do something like this, we just play. Playing is enough for something like this, ‘cause there’s cameras – they’re seeing your face, and your fingers, your motions and stuff…
We’ve played little places where we’ve done all the junk, too. It’s just insane. I think it’s completely overkill, though – I’ll be the first to admit, ‘Oh, we don’t need that…’
QRO: Do you ever worry that the stage show overshadows the music?
WC: Well, I do sometimes think that. ‘Cause we do play shows, couple a year, anyway, where we don’t use it, and those sometimes would go just as good as the ones that we use it on.
But I would think that it’s an accumulated effect, though. I think to be known for this bigger show is always drawing people in. If we didn’t have this type of show, I think people would say, “Hey, I’m going to see The Flaming Lips. Do you want to go with me?” You’d be like, “Nah, I don’t want to go.” But because we have this show, it’d be like, “You want to go with me?” “I don’t want to go.” Dude – even if you don’t know their music, you need to go, because it’ll be an experience…”
And so I think that’s what’s really widened it for us. Instead of it just being like, ‘If you like their music, go see them’ – which happens to a lot of groups; if you like their music, go see them. But I think with us, it’s like, ‘You don’t have to like their music – just go and be part of it.’ And then I think we gain quite a few fans, from them saying, “Well, I really liked it, once I was there.”
I think we have a lot of reasons that we do it. The main reason is that we like it, and even if we felt like some people, in their opinion, it overshadowed the show…Well, I don’t give a shit. It’s fun…
We’re doing what we like, so if we want to come out of this giant, forty-foot woman spreading her legs, and we come out of her vag, and are born onto the stage, well, we’ll do it. We don’t really ask people if it’s cool…
QRO: Are you ever going to bring back the UFO?
WC: I don’t know. It took a long time to set up, and it took a long time to tear down.
The dilemma is, the way that we play festivals usually is we can go in the morning and set everything up, and then, when we get done at the end of the night, we can tear that down and be out of there in four or five hours. But the UFO would be too much, and we didn’t quite do it enough to get it real streamlined.
And we wanted to get a bigger version of it – the version we had is only like thirty feet, and we wanted to get like a seventy-foot version. But again, it’s the dilemma – a lot of the places that we play, they’re not that big, and so you get into this quagmire of you have to bring your own stage, just boring things, like, ‘This would be cool, but…’We try to be as pragmatic as we can, so we can play everywhere. We have this sort of show; we can set it up…
As big as our show is, these guys, sometimes they tear that thing down, set it up and tear it down in thirty minutes! That’s the thing that separates us from all the other groups, is that we have the stuff, and it’s ours; we can do whatever we want with it. But my guys know how to put it up, tear it down – most people are still taking down amplifiers and drums.
So that’s a big deal, ‘cause, you know, they invite you to play – a lot of times, a festival is not set up that you can come in early in the morning and do all this stuff; you just have to do it. There’s a lot of organizing that makes it happen, so that you can see it, otherwise you can’t set it up. You do these big things so people that are forty yards away still have something to look at.
You do these big things so people that are forty yards away still have something to look at.
QRO: ‘Cause you bring your own stage crew…
WC: Well, we do, yeah. Our guys – they know how to do Flaming Lips stuff; they don’t do anything else, but they know how to do that…
QRO: Kind of reminds me of GWAR (QRO spotlight on)…
WC: In a sense…
I like GWAR – I never liked their music very much; I like them as people – their music never had an emotional impact on me.
QRO: Just thinking of the stage show…
WC: Yeah, yeah. We played with them in the early nineties; it was phenomenal. We were doing a different type of stage show, but they were doing a lot of fake semen and blood…
And for me, I like that, but for me, it would be more about this thing that somehow alights the emotion in the song, not just to be…
QRO: “Do You Realize??” is the official rock song of Oklahoma – what about an official rock song for The Colbert Nation?
WC: Well, doesn’t he already have it? His theme song…
QRO: All four ColbChella artists should team up to make the official rock song of The Colbert Nation?
WC: I see – I would be up for that…
QRO: You have been doing a lot of collaborations recently…
WC: Yeah, yeah. All through 2011, and the very beginning of 2012.
QRO: Why all of a sudden?
WC: In the beginning, our contract with Warner Brothers ran out at the end of 2010. We were gonna sign a new contract, but we didn’t really know what it was going to be – that’s kind of the quagmire that everybody’s in with contracts these days.
So we said, “Well, give us a year or so. We’re gonna fuck around and do some things; maybe what we do will help us decide what our contract will be in this year-and-a-half and into the future.” We decided that we were gonna put out some music every month.In the beginning was Flaming Lips music; then by the second month, we were already bored. ‘Well, why don’t we get someone to collaborate with us?’ So we decided that we’d do Flaming Lips music, and then someone else’s music, every other month.
So we started with Neon Indian (QRO live review), and we had Prefuse 73 (QRO album review), we got Lightning Bolt (QRO photos). And little-by-little, I think word got out that, ‘Hey, do you want to do music with The Flaming Lips?’And on this one great series of days, I was contacted by Erykah Badu (QRO photos), Justin Vernon from Bon Iver (QRO live review), and Ke$ha.
So that really pushed it a little bit further, ‘cause I thought, ‘Well, if I could get all of them…’ – and of course, you look ahead and think the music is great, ‘If I can get all this going…’ And then I even got more than that; Chris Martin [of Coldplay – QRO album review] at the very end came in. I just called him out of the blue, “You know, people think we should do something together – don’t you think we should?” And then, about twelve hours later, he sent me a little piece of music.
So all those sorts of things get their own momentum. In the beginning, I don’t think about it too much. In the beginning, I don’t think I even considered Ke$ha or Erykah Badu. But as time went on, I got to like them more & more, thought they were interesting, thought, ‘Let’s see what happens here…”
We decided that we were gonna put out some music every month. In the beginning was Flaming Lips music; then by the second month, we were already bored. ‘Well, why don’t we get someone to collaborate with us?’ And when Ke$ha calls you… on your birthday…She’s great. She’s really fun, and she’s crazy, and she’s creative, and she’s smart. I really love her; I really do. So I think that I’ve gotten so much more out of it than they have. Even knowing Justin Vernon and stuff – it’s just great…
We decided that we were gonna put out some music every month. In the beginning was Flaming Lips music; then by the second month, we were already bored. ‘Well, why don’t we get someone to collaborate with us?’
QRO: Was there anything you got that you decided you couldn’t use?
WC: Yeah, there’s plenty. I mean, it wasn’t that we couldn’t use it – it would be our failure to turn it into something.
I think we got some things from Death Cab for Cutie (QRO album review) that were not intended for collaboration; music that they’d made that they weren’t going to do anything with – what I’d asked for. And there was an element of like, ‘Well, we could take [singer] Ben [Gibbard] off of there, but then it still sounded like Death Cab for Cutie.’ But we didn’t work that much on it – it was like a day, and we’re like, uhh…
And then there was some stuff from the Black Moth Super Rainbow (QRO live review) guy [Tobacco]. And that, he told me, “This sounds very much like Black Moth Super Rainbow. You should do something.” We didn’t work on it extensively – we were kind of like, ‘That didn’t work that well,’ and moved on.
QRO: Do you still keep up with the music scene in Oklahoma?
WC: Well, yeah. I mean, I don’t think of it as a music scene. Most of the people, I know there, most of the good groups, I’ll be aware of what they’re doing or whatever. I have a studio at my house, and I invite everybody to come over, if they can, record and stuff.
So yeah, I would say pretty connected. But I don’t like it just ‘cause it’s from Oklahoma – I just like it if they’re good.
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Coca-Cola Center in Oklahoma City, OK on New Year’s Day, 2012
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Coca-Cola Center on New Year’s Eve, 2011
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, OK on New Year’s Eve, 2010
Click here for photos of The Flaming Lips at Cox Convention Center on New Year’s Eve, 2009
QRO: Are you ever going to play the Norman Music Festival (QRO festival recap)?…
WC: I don’t know. We’ve been asked to. We probably will, eventually.
It goes back-and-forth, from it really seeming like it’s taking off, to where they’re gonna stop it. So I don’t really know what the status is. I know they don’t really have very much money.
We try to do this thing in Oklahoma – we only try to do one thing a year, and so, this year, we’re doing a free show at the zoo. We had been doing New Year’s Eve shows – we’re not doing that this year.
So, if we do it, it would be the thing that we do, so it’s a big commitment. It’s not really ‘our thing’ – they dictate a lot of what happens. I like the way they’re doing it now. I don’t think they need a giant group.
[UPDATE: The Flaming Lips will be doing a big, free show at Oklahoma City Zoo on October 26th]
And when Ke$ha calls you… on your birthday…She’s great. She’s really fun, and she’s crazy, and she’s creative, and she’s smart. I really love her; I really do. So I think that I’ve gotten so much more out of it than they have. Even knowing Justin Vernon and stuff – it’s just great…
QRO: What is with you and pregnancy – [last album] Embryonic (QRO review), your art gallery The Womb, the birth in [Lips movie] Christmas On Mars (QRO review), etc.?
WC: I would say, yeah, something to do with women’s bits, yeah, I know. I agree with that.
QRO: Specifically the womb, birth…
WC: Birthing and shit…I don’t know.
I’ve thought about that. Sometimes, when I look back, I’m like, ‘You really have something going on…’And I must. I could say I don’t, but it’s like, ‘Well you do…’
Maybe it’s birth, the birth of ideas, being at the birth of a new self… I don’t know. I’m hoping someone figures it out for me.
Or maybe I just like women. I like women a lot…