New Fumes' Daniel Huffman Takes Control After Years Circling in Others' Orbits

Daniel Huffman gets back to basics with his New Fumes project.
Daniel Huffman gets back to basics with his New Fumes project.
Heather Key

The last four years have been a wild ride for Daniel Huffman. After getting Wayne Coyne’s attention with hand-poured vinyl records that are works of art back in 2011, Huffman spent interminable hours making thousands of records for the Flaming Lips. The Dallas native also spent much of his time in Oklahoma City at Coyne’s house and The Womb Gallery collaborating on music with the Lips, Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha among others. Now Huffman is focusing on getting back to making his own music as New Fumes in his home, the only monolithic dome in Dallas.

New Fumes is going through changes. In July, Huffman dropped a new song, “Psyche,” on YouTube. Recorded on four-track with a batch of songs, the color-saturated video features roller skaters and the sound is much more structured than the noise fest he is known for. You can even dance to it. Last week, he dropped a gorgeous new mixtape inspired by the experimental production techniques of German Krautrock bands like Neu! and Faust. “I’ve got these spacier songs that don’t have beats but have other things driving the rhythm,” Huffman says. “But then I have songs with beats that are more danceable or more traditional.”

After collaborating with others on countless projects that had him living in two cities for years, Huffman is now determined to finally follow up his 2011 New Fumes album, Bump & Assassination. “People have been asking,” Huffman says. “I just want to finish it.” He toured with Tobacco in the spring and spent the last few months recording new material in the monolithic dome — constructed at the Monolithic Dome Institute in Italy, Texas — he rents in South Dallas. He says the inventor of monolithic domes lived at his place for 12 years. The one-piece structures look like enormous igloos and are sometimes used as containment buildings at nuclear power plants.

Working with Coyne was fun, an incredible experience Huffman says was comparable to Andy Warhol’s Factory mixed with a traveling circus. Recording with the Lips and performing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots live in its entirety with the band were dreams come true. In 2012, he performed as New Fumes in Oklahoma City for a Lips after-party show in front of hundreds of acid eaters at a farmer’s market. “They were tripping their asses off,” says Huffman. “And they all fell in love with each other.” They fell in love with him, too. Many of these fans had traveled from all over the country to see the Lips and they became New Fumes fans.

That same year, he was with the Lips when they broke Jay Z’s Guinness World Record for most shows played in 24 hours in multiple cities. The group took a bus through eight cities and performed with special guests including Jackson Browne, Neon Indian and Gary Clark Jr. New Fumes opened for the first show and Huffman joined the band for a few other shows. “There’s a lot of incredible things that happened,” Huffman says. But there was stress too.

“I thought I was going to die that day,” Huffman says.

He remembers the audience was standing in a swimming pool during a performance in Biloxi. “It was so hot I was blacking out.” He recorded a song with Ke$ha for a Lips project, but didn’t get to meet her even though she was just a few feet away. “She had this cape of people,” Huffman recalls. Ke$ha was surrounded with about 20 “handlers.” He also appeared on a track with Miley Cyrus, although the two didn’t work in the studio together. He did get to meet Cyrus and liked her, but remembers some people freaking out around her at The Womb Gallery. “You could see them in this state of panic,” Huffman says. There was no telling what they would do if they didn’t get to meet her, and bodyguards were waiting to strike.

“I can’t say that I really worked with Miley Cyrus,” Huffman says. “I can say that we hung out and were on a song together.” This sort of technicality was commonplace over the last four years. Huffman worked on projects that he wasn't necessarily "part" of. The glue was always the Flaming Lips and everything was by their design. Huffman may have spent much of the last few years in Oklahoma City, but it was never home. He was always working.

As the Lips got busier with Cyrus several months ago, Huffman decided he had plenty of work of his own to do and returned to Dallas. Indeed, he stays busy working in photography and still occasionally pours vinyl records in addition to making his new music. “There’s so much of my history in the past few years that involves the Flaming Lips,” Huffman says. “I appreciate that and love that. But I’m also trying to do my thing now, focus more on my thing.”


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