Interview: Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips)


    The Flaming Lips have been ruling festivals for at least the last two years now, and while one might think that the band could get sick of delivering the spectacles they call their live show day in and out, just 20 minutes with the Lips’ charismatic frontman Wayne Coyne is a pleasant reminder that every day is an adventure for the band, which has now been around for the better part of three decades.

    CoS recently caught up with the 50-year-old Oklahoma native and hit upon topics like the band’s upcoming appearance at Moogfest, being a Twitter-powered Flaming Lips news outlet, and what kind of surprises they have in store for their fans (a potential Nick Cave collab included). He also told us when we can finally get our hands on the Soft Bulletin live album, and we even got him to talk about that gummy fetus.

    Despite fronting one of the most popular bands of our generation, Coyne took his time to thoughtfully answer every question with focus and earnest, which is impressive considering he found time to complete this psychedelic doodle while we were on the phone.


    Hey Wayne. How’s it going?

    Hey Ray. I am just getting in some hotel outside of the Newark airport. We have a couple more hours; then we fly to Dublin! We’ll be out of the country until Sunday.

    It’s safe to say that you guys pretty much rule the festival circuit, but where do you go from here, performance wise? Even with a stage spectacle like yours, audiences sometimes get spoiled and always want more. How do you continue to connect with audiences after you’ve already done all this awesome stuff?

    I really don’t know. I try not to worry about it that way. Sometimes it’s really so easy to be there and be in the moment, and frankly if the audience likes you and you’ve even tried at all, it seems like it always works. The forces of the world approach and you go out there and try to make a product that you like. I don’t know. I think we have a fucking cool audience that has a good attitude about things.

    You mentioned that force of the world, and I’d like to know where it’s pulling the band lately. Can you confirm or deny the fetus gummy? I know it’s controversial…

    (Laughs) Well, I’m hoping it’s controversial, and until I have the fetuses and can send them out, I wouldn’t say for sure. It is just some gummy, so I like how it gained some importance there.


    We like doing different sorts of things. We love doing this sort of stuff. I wish we could have done things like this all along. It’s the perfect time to do all of this. I mean, all of this music that we’re putting out essentially becomes available for free automatically.

    I think people want a reason to own something. You know, I’m not saying that owning a CD is still not worth it – I still own CDs. But I forget now because it becomes such a habit to transfer it to your iPod. I like that there is an experience involved in having the music and getting the music, and carrying it around.

    So it’s the physical connection with a band in a world where an album can accidentally leak and be placed on thousands of hard drives in no time.

    Totally, and speaking of that – the last Radiohead record. I remember that it was leaked early or whatever, and you know, I got home and we downloaded it and listened to it, but I don’t think that it ever crossed anybody’s mind that “Hey, we’re gonna buy it.” We just wanted to hear it, we did, and that was the end of it.


    There’s another form of the experience connected to having the music. It’s something that’s interesting. I don’t want to hassle people. I don’t want them to be like “Oh, I have to get this stupid gummy thing before I can get to the music.” I think it’s made for people who like this sort of thing. You know, it’s not for everybody. Especially something like the gummy skull – it’s $150 dollars. Some people just simply don’t have the money, which is something I can understand. I mean if you want the music, the music is virtually almost always available. But if you want these things, these things are, you know, strange art objects, and they cost some money. Some of them, like the 12” singles, they’re not that much, and others are more useful if you’re a weird collector.


    The Flaming Lips perform The Soft Bulletin at Sasquatch ’11 // Photo by Heather Kaplan

    Yeah, this is life. Not everybody can just up and buy a plane ticket to go to a music festival like Primavera whenever they want. You get what you can and you have to be happy with what you have.

    (Laughs) Yeah, exactly. That’s the simple truth.

    We’re talking about material things right now, and I don’t want to get too far away from that, but you’re going to play Moogfest in October. I know you’ve said that you’re not a very good musician, but you have to remember your first Moog?

    Um, we love the idea that there is this festival celebrating Robert Moog’s way of being. I don’t remember if we ever really owned a Moog back in the day. I mean I remember seeing ads in my brother’s old Rolling Stone magazine. You know, you have to remember that synthesizers and funky old keyboards, they’ve recently become more…you know everybody has these things now. Back in the day, they were [more] expensive.


    I can’t remember. I mean we have so much junk now. I don’t know specifically, so I don’t know if I can help you in this area.

    Feature photo by Heather Kaplan.