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Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne On Regionalism, Gummy Skulls and Neon Indian (Part 2 of 2)

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Yesterday, we shared with you the first part of our exclusive Q&A with Wayne Coyne, in which the Flaming Lips frontman discussed the future of the music industry, the importance of timely releases and how he came to discover Dallas' A&R Records.

Today, we bring you the second half of our exclusive interview, wherein Coyne discusses the importance (or lack thereof) in music regionalism, how he came up with the idea to put music inside of a skull made of gummy candy, the awkward nature of finding his band's limited releases pop up for high prices on eBay and his collaboration with Neon Indian.

He also discusses, again, his ongoing relationship with A&R Records, the rather nondescript mom-and-pop vinyl record manufacturer located on Riverfront Boulevard in Dallas. Be sure to read up on A&R Records, its history and its recent resurgence here, and, feel free to check out a slideshow of the behind-the-scenes goings-on at the shop, too -- all after finishing the Q&A, of course, which continues after the jump.

That these releases have largely been made available first in the Austin-Dallas-Oklahoma corridor: Is that intentional? Or just because that's where you are?
I think it's both. Obviously, it's convenient for me. It would be harder for me to drive to Chicago than it would be to get to Dallas, to get to Austin. As much as the Internet gets the music out there to the world almost immediately--you press a button and, bam, everywhere in the world, it's available--I still like this idea that, well, if you want one of these, you might have to come here, or you might have to know somebody here.
     I'm not trying to make our region more exclusive or more important. But I would imagine that if you were able to go to the North Pole and Santa Claus was making some toys, you might find some out in his backyard. Being close to cool shit may have its advantages.
I love Frank Zappa. I don't love all of his music, but I love his way of doing things. Frank Zappa would always say, "I do everything on the records--everything except deliver them to the store." And I thought, "Well, I'll deliver them to the store."

How have those appearances been for you? These are some obsessive fans.
     I want that. I'm glad when I show up to Good Records, or Waterloo in Austin, y'know? The people that are there, they love me, they love our music, and they love what it has done with their lives and they love what it means. And I want that. That's exactly why I do it. And I think they want that idea that we get to have this moment together. I like this idea. I'm standing there, and we're exchanging ideas and stories, and they're giving me paintings, and giving me their own music, and giving me their own experiences with our music.

The gummy skulls -- that's a fun idea, but there has to be that thought in your head that says, "Man, this is crazy."
     It's like a lot of ideas. When you initially think of it, you do not think that you're some super genius. You've thought of this thing. You think everybody is probably thinking the same shit at the same time, and so you have this push to say, "This isn't my idea. This is a good idea that I have stumbled upon." And you get the feeling that there must be a hundred people out there doing the exact same thing, and so you're trying to make yours as unique and as good, and frankly as fast, as you can, because of that inertia from these kinds of ideas. It isn't because you think it's the greatest thing ever. You think, "Well, of course it's great," and that pushes you along. And you don't even question it.
     But as it starts getting closer and closer--meaning you start getting these prototypes--and you're actually digging into it, and people can actually touch it, and look at it, and taste it if they want to, that's when you start to settle in and go, "Oh, this is insane. What have we done here?" It's kind of like waking up in the morning with blood on your hands, and you go "Oh my God, who did we kill last night?" I was so involved in what we were doing, that I didn't remember. And that's exhilarating. You do have to get caught up in your ideas before you second guess them, or before someone talks you out of it, or if someone says, "You know what, this isn't making any money. Why are you doing this?"
There are a lot of practical reasons why you should never do something like this. But you can't listen to those. You have to have a very practical part of your mind always working, or you can't get anything done.
     The way that we started on this is I bought some plastic skulls down at Urban Outfitters.

In Dallas, right?
Yeah. We go down there all the time to shop and buy clothes, eat, visit family and stuff. So we bought these plastic skulls, and I brought them home and we filled them full of this expandable rubber shit that we bought and we thought, maybe we'd put our music into expandable rubber, and you'd have to break these skulls to get them open. And my wife has a lot of weird perfumes around here, and one of them is a weird bubble gum-scented perfume. We had made one of these plastic skulls, coated it in this weird rubber, and sprayed it with some of this bubble gum perfume, so people didn't know what the fuck we were doing.
     They walked in and I said, "What do you think of this?" "Oh, it's bubble gum. Can I eat it?" And I said, "Well, no, you can't. But wouldn't that be a great idea? Wouldn't it be great if we could make these out of bubble gum?" Well, we tried to get them made out of bubble gum for a few days--that proved difficult. But, in the process, we discovered this gummy manufacturer out of North Carolina, called him up, and he said he was a big Flaming Lips fan, that he'd love to help us do this thing, and me and my crew around here, we immediately made a gummy skull--we made it in a mold just in my shop--and showed him how we think it could be made. And he took our crew's skull that we made, and used his expertise, and within about two weeks, he sent us back prototypes.
     So you could see the process. I don't think we ever jumped out of bed one day and said, "Gummy skulls!" It's a process. You just keep going, "Oh, can we do this, can we do this?"

What's coming next?
I'm not able to talk about the very next one, because it's a little controversial, so I don't want to get him in trouble before I get my product, you know? It's not controversial to me, but he has a factory that deals with a lot of candy, so they deal with a lot of kids' stuff, and you can kind of imagine the area that that's in.
     But then, down the line, we're making a skull that's going to be available--there's a show that we're going to be doing in a cemetery in Hollywood, and there's going to be a strawberry-flavored skull, and, inside, there's going to be a green brain that's marijuana-flavored. He's sending us--I might even get it in this afternoon--a prototype of this gummy skull that has the marijuana-flavored brain. He assured me that he had some experts on hand that were going to be tasting it.
     So that's going to be available in June, but it's only going to be available at this special show. I don't like to announce it too much, though, because everyone likes to put them on eBay and I don't want people thinking they have to buy them for a thousand dollars. It's, like, they're rare, but they're for that special show. And if you're at that special show, then you can get it.

Some of the releases here wound up on eBay. Is that a concern?
It is, but at some point, if you have money and you want to spend it on this shit, I can't really control that. I try to the best of our ability to say, "Look, we're making these, and if you're really wanting one, I can make one available, and here's how much they cost." You know, some things aren't available to everybody in the world. That's just a reality. So I care about it, yeah. But I don't care about it that much.

All of this kind of started right with your collaboration with Neon Indian, which came out in March. How did you meet [Neon Indian's] Alan Palomo, and how did the whole collaboration come about?
Well, [Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist] Steven [Drozd] had been playing some of this Neon Indian music, and I don't know if it was one of their singles or what, but he played it in the back of the bus. And I said, "Who is that? It's cool." And then we became interested in Neon Indian, but they were a new group, so I don't think we thought about where they were from or any of that junk. Then we were in Portland in October, and they were playing, and we had a night off, so I just called them up and said, "Hey, I wanna come see you guys." I went to see them, and they were great. And I went to talk to them afterward, and in that conversation afterward I was like, "Hey, we should play a show together. This seems cool."

And you played here Super Bowl weekend.
That was right after I met him. All this was kind of serendipitous. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Here we are, six months later, and we've done some shows together and actually done some music together, and, bam, the world is good.

And you guys got to geek out on some synths together, I assume.
[Laughs.] He's more geeky than me.

Are you going to continue working with A&R moving forward?
Yeah, I think every other release we've got is from there. We'll do a vinyl, then a skull, then a vinyl, then we'll do another weird thing. I think, even beyond this time, this year, when we're doing stuff like this, I think we'll always do stuff this way, with Stan down there.

So it's been rewarding?
Yeah, it totally has. I could even see more limited releases, where we go down there with 500 copies. And you see how easily it works. In the past, if you wanted to release something for Christmas, you'd really have to start working on it on the fucking Fourth of July. You'd have to think in advance. Now I could say, "Maybe I could go down there right after Halloween, make something and it could be available simply because I can move at a quicker pace." And it could just be more current, more "right now" in the way that we're thinking.
     And, to me, that's great. That's what we want out of this. If you listen to this music, it's music that we did just three weeks ago. It's awesome.

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