"I kind of took the attitude of like ‘I’m some old pirate that got to go out there and fuckmermaids and kill dragons,’ let me tell you about it."
Wayne Coyne is a fucking rockstar. With his knotted grey hair, ripped suit, space bubble, and confetti Wayne is does the title justice. We first met Wayne at Lollapalooza in 2006, hung out again in 2008, and crossed paths again this past summer at an intimate and fiery show at Montauk’s The Surf Lodge in Montauk. He’s always shocked us on stage, entertained us and rocked us. But most of all, he’s charmed us with self-effacing conversations behind the scenes.
The leading man for the psych-rock band The Flaming Lips continues reminds us that what matters in life is to put your heart into it, have a go, and not worry about what others think. That not taking yourself too seriously is the only thing you should take seriously.
Where are you from mate? Mars?
I’m from Oklahoma. It’s sort of southern, it’s sort of Midwestern. It’s kind of everything. You know, everybody that lives there came from somewhere else.
I last caught up with you a few years back in Canada at the Pemeberton music festival. Remember that one?
Yeah, they’ve restarted it again. That was like one of the only times in the space bubble where I felt like I didn’t know I was going to make it back to the stage, it seemed like there was a group of canadian dudes who had not been outside drinking in like five years. Like they just got let out of prison. and they were like OH MY GOD THERE’S A MAN IN A BUBBLE!
The space bubble is epic, no two ways about it. Have you ever taken a serious fall in the bubble?
No, I have quite a bit of control over it, I’m kind of hopping on top of people. so I’m mostly worried that I’m going to step on somebody’s face and ruin the show for them. As I’m going over them and I can see the beer in their hand and I’m like: look, you gotta hold me up, this is real life here. This is not a videogame.
I think I dropped my beer to pass you over me at Lollapallooza one year… so tell me when the idea for the whole Flaming Lips live experience came about?
We started out being punk rock dudes. By the time we came into it, punk was already starting to become more freaky. We knew bands like the Meat Puppets and the Butthole Surfers. It wasn’t what people think of when I say punk rock now, you know, not generic. We always liked smoke machines and strobe lights and shit like that you know, and so whatever we could carry with us and we could plug in, we would just do it. We were entertaining ourselves. we’d do whatever we could get away with? So our stuff I think was always freaky.
Was that a serious aesthetic choice or something more playful or somewhere in between?
We’d been a rock band since 1983. It’d been a long time already and it just started to seem like we wanted to fuck with other stuff. I’d have to stand there and play guitar and scream all night. Rock music is like, the dude onstage is saying ‘You know I’m the dude up here, but really dude it’s you! We’re the same thing dude! That’s why we rule the world!’
So why did you guys go from that punk rock model to the Flaming Lips we know?
By the time we were doing like The Soft Bulletin and ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot’ I don’t think we thought that anymore. I started to do puppets and confetti and balloons and all these things that we knew no rock band would do. No serious dude rock band would want to go up there and have a puppet on his hand and throw confetti. It’s up to us to pursue what we want to pursue.
What prompted the change?
We were getting older and were always playing to a young audience. It’s a mixture everywhere you go but there’s always lot of young freaks doing drugs and having fun. Part of it was like, do we really just want to stand here and bum these people out?
Do you think that out there, anything goes attitude comes through in the style of the songs?
I kind of took the attitude of like ‘I’m some old pirate that got to go out there and fuck mermaids and kill dragons,’ let me tell you about it. that’s just the way we looked at it, as insane as that sounds. That freed us up to not really care what we did. if someone came up and said I can’t believe you dudes threw balloons at us I’d be like Good, it’s a party, let’s have fun. It doesn’t really matter that we were a rock band or if we played guitars or drums or anything.
Do you think that you guys are rebelling against something by taking this stance?
I just know for the Flaming Lips, the enemy is boredom, you know, the enemy is boredom, if we know what’s going to happen I think our music suffers I think our life suffers. We try to put out the feeling that to be cool is a waste of time. This idea that you’re going to be standing there being like, ‘Is this cool, am I cool? What is this? That’s usually the enemy of all great expression, you know, and so I’ll be the first one to stand up there and just say You know we’re idiots, look at us, just embrace the idea.
Would you say that’s the highest aim of a Flaming Lips show? To break down those personal barriers?
I talk to people almost every show that we play that’ll say you know I cried during that song. That’s the highest thing for me-for someone to be moved enough, to have freed themselves enough to say, ‘I’m going to let that song affect me.’ I want them to know it’s like I hope you feel it absolutely all the way and that’s a great great experience.
Do you think the feeling you’re describing is specific to live music or do you think it’s just a quality of music in general?
It’s something you won’t get from just listening to a record. You’re there and it’s that communal…power. You can shut it off if you want, but if you help it along and let it happen and be part of it’s, it’s…a cool thing and you cannot get it anywhere else.