There's been an ambient awareness of the Flaming Lips this year, and frontman Wayne Coyne has been the source. He's taken on the role of social media's merry prankster, most recently Tweeting potential nudie photos of Erykah Badu on the set of their recent video shoot. There's also the matter of Heady Fwends, their collaborative double album, which many Dallas folks helped pour, and the subsequent "collector's" version, which contains blood from people like Ke$ha, Nick Cave and Sean Lennon.
Going on close to 30 years as a band, Flaming Lips have entered a new phase of trial and error, of trying new approaches and seeing what crazy ideas actually work. Coyne gets a wild hair and suddenly there's a market for Gummy Fetuses. The Lips also revamped a song for the Oklahoma City Thunder to use and are attempting to break Jay-Z's record for most shows in multiple cities in a 24-hour span. So, ya know, what did you do today?
The Flaming Lips are headlining Friday's KXT Summer Cut with St. Vincent, Fitz & the Tantrums and more, so I asked Coyne what I've been dying to for months now.
When exactly do you sleep? I have the greatest life ever. I am 51 years old, and something happens to you that allows you not to sleep. On a normal night, I don't sleep that much. On a day like today, I might sleep for five minutes, then I'm good to go. I'm not like a drug addict, where I have three good days and two bad days. All those things I do give me energy.
I was one of the people that helped pour vinyl for Heady Fwends, so hopefully there's some of my dead skin or hair or fingernails in there. Hopefully not too much hair or too many fingernails.
No no, it's nothing to worry about. I'm not losing teeth or anything. But I did enjoy the collaborative process. We ended up doing 20,000 records, as you know, and I tell people this is being done by hand; this isn't a futuristic machine doing it, these are people. Like a lot of intense art, there's a middle part where you're doing it and you find the nuance of creativity. When it is the grind, 14 hours a day, that's where artists hone in on their craft. It's hell but it's mind expanding.
How did you track all these Fwends down? There'd be a bit of a panic sometimes. In the beginning, I would just run into people. I ran into Neon Indian at a Prefuse 73 show and started talking. Then Neon Indian just happened to be recording with Dave Fridmann, so it was convenient. From then on, we worked with people via email. Through Twitter we found Justin Vernon, then within a day we're sending each other something. I knew Erykah was in a studio in Dallas, so I mentioned to [the Klearlight Studio engineer] that I wanted to do something with her. And then she texted me: "What you want, motherfucker?" It's like I'm a used car salesman. Hey, you came to the lot.
So how did you then get people to give you their blood? It's like a Steven Spielberg movie: In one scene there's no blood, in the next, there is.
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But legally... Legally, you can't go get blood taken out and then keep it with you. I have a nurse who comes by the house. I go back and forth a lot: Wayne, this is too crazy; Wayne, let's do this. I found a guy who works for a donation center and is a big Flaming Lips fan. So he helped us out.
Have you actually played this blood record? Yeah, you have to keep it in the fridge. It's a bit moist, but it's very playable.
But no one's really going to play it, right? No, I think people will just keep it around.
I feel like you, more than a lot of musicians, have harnessed social media in a way that's sort of voyeuristic, but in a positive way. I'm doing it for our fans. They've given me this life. Our fans are musicians and artists. Seeing people do things is inspiring. Back in 1983, at the Black Flag show, we watched them unload, play, we talked to them, then they loaded up. It wasn't seeing them play. It was: How would they do it? So [Twitter] is just me saying: Here's what I'm doing. It's a relief to artists sometimes, that you can change your mind in the middle of a process. Have ideas, but ideas are thing in your mind. It's what you do with them that matters.