Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne Talks Brotherly Connection With Jim James, Ke$ha Collaboration, Twitter Hacking + More
Having fronted the Flaming Lips for 30 years, Wayne Coyne has gotten to do many things, and with those many things have come even more stories. From rolling over audiences in his giant bubble to collaborating with the likes of Ke$ha, Yoko Ono and Erykah Badu, Coyne is the epitome of the eccentric rock star, and he has no plans to slow down.
In October, the Flaming Lips released the EP ‘Peace Sword,’ a collection of songs inspired by the film ‘Ender’s Game,’ and on Christmas Eve, they’ll celebrate their 30th anniversary with vinyl reissues of their first EP and second cassette demo. Today (Dec. 19), Coyne hits the road for a five-city Record Store Tour, whereby he’ll meet fans and sign copies of the aforementioned discs. Lips devotees looking for a little something extra can also pick up a special edition of the EP that includes a “hand-crafted, custom-made … anatomically correct and life-sized” chocolate skull.
And that’s not all Coyne has on the horizon. After his meet-and-greet tour, he’ll join the rest of the band for a string of shows that includes a New Year’s Eve gig in Aspen and a run of dates as part of My Morning Jacket‘s One Big Holiday in Mexico.
Luckily for us, Coyne had some time in his schedule to chat with Diffuser.fm about his upcoming projects, what happened with the breakup rumor on Twitter and why that collaboration with Ke$ha never worked out.
You’re playing My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday festival in Mexico at the end of January. How did that come about?
Jim James and I feel like we’re long-lost brothers. I’m playing and recording somewhere, and then he’s playing and recording somewhere, but I think there’s a little bit of a cosmic connection. A couple of years back, we were putting together this record. It came out in 2012, I think, maybe it was 2011. It was called ‘[The Flaming Lips and] Heady Fwends,’ and I was doing a song that was originally intended to be with the artist Ariel Pink. Ariel Pink tried and didn’t like it. Then I talked to I talked to Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, and he was about to record. But something happened to his mother, and he couldn’t do it. So I’m in a panic and only had a day to find someone that will collaborate on this song. It’s a really great little tune.
Out of the blue, I had the number of the drummer from My Morning Jacket when they played in Tulsa a while back, and I asked him if he would have Jim James give me a text. And then later, Jim James texted me and said, “Hey Wayne, what’s going on?” And I texted him. We actually never talked on the phone or anything. So I text him, “I’m in a dilemma here. I wanted to see if you’d want to do this song.” He was at his house on a little bit of a vacation and then would end up at the Grammys, which would happen a few days later. Then he said, “Send it to me.” So I sent it to him, and truly within a couple of hours, he did these great tracks, sent it back to me and said, “I hope that works, and there you go.”
And so since then, we’ve kind of been on the fast track of meeting each other and all that. Then last year, when he got his solo record, we put it on the turntable. I don’t think it ever came off the turntable for a couple of months. We played it and played it and played it and went to some solo shows and ran into him and all that. So I think it’s mostly that we’re mutual fans of each other, and more fans of the way that I like the way he does things and he likes the way I do things.
Looking forward to being in Mexico during the winter?
Well, for me, the places are great, but it really is the people you’re with that make it great. I mean, we’re going into it like it’s something cool to play as a musical thing. But that it’ll be a lot of fun with those people there around and stuff. We always think things are going to be great. We never think they’ll be horrible. [Laughs]
The infamous bubble you appear in onstage: Will that be making a comeback for that show?
I don’t think so. I think we stopped doing the space bubble, and then Diplo started to do it. So now I don’t think we’ll do it for a little bit. It isn’t that we didn’t like it. [But] when were doing the space bubble, it was one of the more complicated things we’d doing at the beginning of the show. It was a little of a relief for us just concentrate more on the music and not worry about this big thing. So I think we’ve gotten kind of used to not having it there. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked the attention that it got in pictures and all that.
You released an EP that went along with the release of the movie ‘Ender’s Game’ and was inspired by the story. Have you written for TV and film before? Is that something you would like to do more of in the future?
Well, I wouldn’t say that in general. I mean, a lot of it comes down to the music directors themselves. When it came to the ‘Ender’s Game,’ I didn’t know much about it. But when I talked to the music directors, I became interested. When I would ask people around me what they thought of ‘Ender’s Game’ and all that, everybody who asked about it and knew of it really liked it. So that had a little to do with it, but mostly, the music directors, you really have to deal with these people. And I could tell they really loved music, and they gave us a lot of help to make it in knowing what they wanted to do while giving us the freedom. And then I think the thing we ended up doing, I mean, we really liked it. That’s why it turned into more songs because we were working on a couple of different things not knowing exactly what would work for their end credits. And I think we felt lucky that it turned into a series of songs that they allowed us to put out and stuff.
Let’s talk about the band’s Twitter account being hacked in October. Rumors were circulating that the Flaming Lips broke up. First, how did you guys react to it? And how did you feel about the fans’ reactions and focus on all of that?
Right, it was! The hacker posted something like, “I have sad news. We’ve broken up.” It was something like that, like a one-sentence thing, you know? And it’s great when people are like, “No! What do you mean?” and obviously, it wasn’t true. But yes, part of you is like, “I see how much of an impact you have on some people’s lives.”
As to how he did it, in our defense, we had a very simple password. We just didn’t give that much thought to [it]. It would not have been very hard to crack the password, and now we have a very complicated 70-letter password that I don’t think anybody could stumble upon. I think that’s what is kind of beautiful about this kinds [of social networks] like Instagram and Twitter. It’s still kind of f—ed up, and it’s not mega serious all the time. I’m glad they didn’t say something horrible. And I have my own Twitter account where I can say, “Don’t listen to that. Someone hacked us, and we will.” We took it down for just a couple of days and reorganized it and stuff. In a sense, it was a great little way to get attention in a way we would’ve never thought. Now we have almost a million followers now.
Speaking of other Twitter-related things, I wanted to ask you about the collaboration with Ke$ha. You mentioned on Twitter that it was no longer happening, but is there anything else you can tell us about that situation? Many fans were looking forward to it.
Yeah, I know. I know there’s a couple of people who will lose their jobs if I say anything, and I think we’re giving everybody some time to sort it out. If read too much about it, they could get into too much trouble. And that’s where it kind of is. Everybody wants to point to Dr. Luke, and it’s not just that. It’s a few other things. Ke$ha and I are always, always, always trying, in that we’ve done some — in my view, anyway — really great music together, and we’re always going to keep trying. So I would say Ke$ha is not happening, but that doesn’t mean the Flaming Lips and Ke$ha aren’t doing music together. Let’s say that.
What is next for the Flaming Lips?
We have this ever-expanding live show that we’re getting more and more comfortable with, and it’s gotten big this year. And our audience has grown a bit. We’re lucky that we have a show — not that bigger is better, but it’s something more organized and fantastic and dynamic. Then we’re making good on the celebrating the 30 years of the Flaming Lips. Now the 30th year is this year. We started in 1983, so that makes this year the 30th. We have many things coming up for the end of the year, a lot of arty limited-edition things will be coming out with the 30th anniversary. We’ve been working on those for a long time, and people have hearing about it a lot. But now they’re coming out, so it’s a lot of good stuff.