Let's play four

The Flaming Lips release four new CDs--and one new album

"We make up songs all the time. The challenge was to take these songs and give them this bigger dimension with the four CDs," he explains. "With some songs, that worked out fine, and with other songs it didn't work out at all. The idea going into it was that we were going to record this four-CD thing, and at the same time try to make a proper record--I say proper, I mean something that comes out of two speakers.

"In this mountain of recording that we ended up doing, some songs ended up being regular songs, and some ended up being four-CD songs," he continues. "We knew that we were going to do them both at the same time, only because it's really the same process. There's just radically different approaches to both of them."

Zaireeka began as a series of "parking lot experiments" that Coyne conducted in and around Oklahoma City during the fall of 1996. The idea was simple: strategically arrange 40 or so cars, give each car a tape containing a different instrumental part, and have all the participants blast their respective tapes at the same time. The "experiment" was debuted to the music community on a large scale at last year's South by Southwest Music Festival.

"By the time we got to the thing in Austin, it was becoming more of an event than even a concert," Coyne says. "It was crazy that people wanted to come to this parking lot and see what this thing was going to be. I thought that it worked out fine. I was really glad that no one got run over. For the most part, it really becomes so chaotic in some ways that I think that's part of what makes it exciting in a way."

The element of chaos contained on Zaireeka is part of what makes it so interesting, and--if nothing else--Coyne and the band have succeeded on that level. Whether the world at large is ready for an album like this remains to be seen. Coyne doesn't think a clear-cut answer is coming anytime soon.

"It's ended up being almost a couple of years in the making already, and I feel as though it'll still be a couple more years before we really know whether the world can wrap its head around this idea of playing a couple of CDs at the same time, or whether it's just some sort of ludicrous novelty thing that we're doing. It's really hard to tell. I think that every day.

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