2015 Artist Survey: Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips
Coyne on Earliest Childhood Memories, House Fires, the Disappointing Future, and Getting in Trouble as a Kid
Feb 25, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Photography by George Salisbury
For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.
Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.
Here are some answers from Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. The band recently released the box set Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic, which includes the original Clouds Taste Metallic album from 1995, B-sides, live cuts, and more. It's out now via Warner Bros. The band also collaborated with Miley Cyrus on her 2015 album Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. In 2014 The Flaming Lips released With a Little Help from My Fwends, their track-by-track tribute to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The band's last full-length of new original material was 2013's The Terror.
A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.
What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?
I think it was seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Before then, I don't think anything would have been brought up a thousand other times afterward. If I go back I think, "oh yeah, I remember that." I was born in 1961, so that was 1964 I think, so I was pretty young as far as I can tell. But at least I know when that is. I can think of things when I was younger, but I can't tell, there's no reference.
If your house were on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?
Well I would definitely grab my girlfriend and the dogs and the cats. I'd get them out first, then I'd go back and see. I haven't really thought of it that much. I have a lot of cool stuff, but I don't think of it in that way. The house itself I'd want. I do have a lot of cool artwork that people have given me that I wouldn't like to be burnt up. But I have a fairly good fire alarm system. There is one, a Damien Hearst piece that Damien gave to me and wrote a note on for me, and it's right near the door, so I could grab it. Most of my valuable things would be stuff that belonged to my mother or my dad, and they're dead now. But I don't even know if I have that stuff in my house.
2015 is the year that Marty McFly traveled to the future in Back to the Future Part II. Beyond not having hoverboards, what most disappoints you about 2015 now that we're here?
[Laughs.] You know, I've just not really considered it to be a disappointment. I think people like the hoverboards. I just get the sense that we don't need any more things that take us away from doing more exercise and being healthier. Even the Segway itself came along, it kind of felt like, geez, all the people that really should be walking are riding these. I don't think there's been anything that for me where my hopes were crushed.
What song will most unite or amp up the tour bus or van (à la "Tiny Dancer" in Almost Famous)? Which song do you love that the rest of the band or crew refuse to let you put on?
Luckily, that's one of the great sort of connections that you make and why you're in a band with people, there's a synergy, you like the same things. If you were in the band with us, you'd hear everything from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, a myriad of classic rock, Elton John. A lot of classic songs. We were in a van not that long ago, a 45-minute drive, late at night, and we were all kind of fucked up and having a good time. But then the cuts got too deep! There's this unifying thing, we were all enjoying and singing along and remembering different things, but then the cuts get too deep and nobody knows it. That's why the DJ is sensing the room, or the van, or whatever it is. We used to make cassette tapes back in the day and we would drive around then with a cassette tape with all of your favorites. As much as you would find old things, you'd have favorite new things. So you'd make a cassette with all the songs. Steven [Drozd] and I will remember that. I remember when Steven first played a song by the group Yes called "Heart of the Sunrise," it was a great moment in our evolution. I'd never considered it that much, and then I heard it and I loved the sound of it, it was just insane. I loved the melody and loved the emotional part. It became part of the language that we have. That led us to being the group that made The Soft Bulletin, because we were just being more open about what we loved about music. It's a bizarre song, and a lot of people don't even know what the group Yes is all about, so some people hear and they're like, 'What is this shit?' And other people hear it as the direct enemy of punk rock. We never thought of it like that, we always thought you could be punk rock and prog rock. We thought that's what punk rock was, just do whatever the fuck you want.
What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?
You mean like drugs or something? For us, we regularly run into situations where people have to get stuff for us because we don't know where the hardware store is. We wish we could ask for a jar of cocaine. But what would you do? We're already kind of demanding a bunch of ridiculous stuff, like every night we blow up four hundred balloons. For someone backstage, it's fucking ridiculous. So in that way we'll never try too hard to say, "look how wacky we are!" We are already wacked out. But some people ask for socks.
What got you in the most trouble as a kid?
I didn't really get into trouble in that way. The things that would get me in trouble would be my persistence. I just would not give up. When I was in third grade, there was this big drawing the whole class had to do, and I just took it upon myself to do the whole thing, even though I was supposed to do it with six or seven other third graders. Little by little they got bored and I got to draw on this giant, giant sheet of paper. I wanted to stay there after school and keep drawing on it. I would stay as long as anybody would stay. That would be the thing that would get me in trouble. I just wanted to keep going. I think that still happens now. I don't think I did anything bad or illegal until I was much older.
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