It’s, like, embryonic,
baby! The Flaming Lips mainman lets his subconscious point at some adjectives.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
Few of avant-pop’s performers could get away with talking
about dead cats and holiday Martians and make them seem as reasonable, even
emotional, as Wayne Coyne. As frontman for the 26 year old (!) acid
bubble-yummy psychedelic cranks, the Flaming Lips, he and his partners in crime
have spent the last several years and albums softening their approach to their
noisy Dali-esque rock. 1999’s The Soft
Bulletin, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the
Pink Robots and 2006 At War with the
Mystics, though delightfully and enigmatically strange, are sonorous and
sweet. Even their most twisted takes are sung, most often, in a bath of
amniotic fluid. Not 2009’s double trouble Embryonic.
Like their earliest efforts – Telepathic
Surgery and In A Priest Driven
Ambulance in particular -the Lips let discord rule the roost with lengthy
jams replacing their recent sense of brevity and flywheel arrangements taking
control. I’ll take ‘em anyway I can get ‘em, but this is the Lips at their most
adventurous and Flaming. On the eve of the release of Embryonic (issued Oct. 13 and reviewed by BLURT here), Coyne held
forth on his long strange trip with the Lips, his myriad sources of inspiration,
and of course the new album.
In regard to working
with the Lips – just by virtue of people being intense, you’re gonna get on
each other’s nerves.
I’m sure that if you
were to talk to them that they’d say
I might get on their nerves a lot more than they get on mine. I’m the
bossiest one. I’m opinionated. I get hyped up on coffee, and wanna talk.
My life, and the way
that we make art and music is so connected. There’s never any relief. I
mean, I’m never not me. I’m never like, turning it on and turning it off. In
that way, I’m sure it can wear people down.
I’VE NEVER BEEN A
When a record is like
three, four years old, that’s when it feels that it’s not really a part of you. You can’t remember everything you were thinking about. You understand utterly
how it was made, why it was made, but… when records start to get beyond five
years old-The Soft Bulletin is now
TEN years old-you start drifting away from it, and you almost view it as if
it’s somebody else’s music.
If we listen to our
very first record, I listen with utter glee because I don’t know what the
fuck those guys were doing, and it’s as if I’m hearing a whole other group. What the fuck are these guys doing?
Normal people can
listen to a song like “Do You Realize?” and not have any idea that we are
supposed to be kind of an avant-garde, weird group; they just see a nice
person, singing and playing.
What we do is go
where we’re interested, and not really worry that we’re drifting into the future
or destroying the past. We simply say, “These are the colors to paint with
today,” and we do it.
We’re getting a funny
way to go back home to the noisy stuff and progressing at the same time. Especially with this latest record, we can relate it back to the more
experimental, noisy stuff.
Embryonic? We knew we were going to make a double record. What
that meant to us was we were going to write like ten or eleven really great,
produced, thought-out songs. And we were going to have maybe nine or ten songs
that we could just be utterly free and self-indulgent and do whatever we
We were putting Embryonic songs into these two piles:
the thought-out, produced stuff, and there was going to be this spontaneous,
freak-out stuff. I think we immediately went to the spontaneous, freak-out
stuff and never went back to the other stuff.
If we hadn’t set out
to do a double record, I don’t think we would have ever arrived at that other
mindset, that we could be free and destroy ourselves and be self-indulgent
and not worry about it.
I suppose the woman
in [“Silver Trembling Hand”] is going inside of herself and enjoying the
idea that she’s not restricted anymore to what she thought love was and what
she thought evil was, and she’s digging in deeper into herself, finding more
joy and more pain and all that. [It
sounds as if Faust decided to back up Luther Vandross. – ADM] Faust meets
Luther Vandross? Totally!
“Ego’s Last Stand” is
just a strange space riff with a little story. You can’t tell it’s a story about
– my mother had a bunch of cats. One of the little kittens was dying on the
porch. I remember me and her watched this little kitten die, and it destroyed
me. She had seen so many of these kittens die; she was kinda more used to it,
and more… not immune to it, but she was sort of more pragmatic it about it.
You sing about things
in a way that really works. So some of the themes on Embryonic are about what is kindness and what is evil and what is
pleasurable and what is cruel – you know, kind of a primitive self-exploration,
trying to get back some eternal embryonic destroying of the ego sort of
You kind of hope that
your subconscious hints at some adjectives that let you sing about this
unknowable thing. I think that’s what I’m always trying to do. I don’t know if
I’m very successful at it, but I’m trying to do that.
I wish I had more
insight, more understanding about what life is. I know it’s all abstract,
but I try to sing about that with this strange, sort of hypnotic groove going,
with that weird break in the middle that’s… freaky.
You go with the ideas
that you’re obsessed with; I know that’s the way I work. I let the ideas
control me more than me control the ideas. It’s kind of easy that way – you
have no guilt.
You don’t really have
any logical, real reason for doing these things. I love that as a reason – you
just feel like this is what we should do. And that’s what everybody says.
That’s what murderers say when they’re killing their parents. It felt like the
thing to do.
I think the way that
we make music now, we can go off on a tangent, and it doesn’t mean that it
dismisses everything else that we have done. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I