Wayne Coyne's Lips Are On Fire

Interview

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back in the 1980s, the Flaming Lips were just an alternative rock band from Oklahoma. They toured for a decade before finally hitting it big in 1993 with their song “She Don't Use Jelly.” It was an ironic grunge anthem that landed them a cameo on Beverly Hills 90210.

But the Flaming Lips didn’t go all Hollywood. “It never occurred to us to move to Los Angeles or New York,” says the band’s main songwriter, Wayne Coyne. “This music came from Oklahoma — how bizarre — as if it came from outer space or something.” Soon they ditched their guitars and started experimenting with tape loops and synthesizers. In 1999 the band released The Soft Bulletin, full of big pop hooks and symphonic arrangements — an instant classic, according to critics and fans. Their follow-up album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) became a staple of every cool kid’s record collection.

During the band’s early years, Coyne’s day job was working at a Long John Silver’s fast food restaurant. “I was robbed at gun point,” he remembers. “It occurred to me for the first time that I was actually alive. … I can’t say how profound it was.”

Kurt Andersen talks with Coyne about the group’s evolving sound, the inspiration behind the band’s biggest hit (“Do You Realize??”), and his well-publicized dis of fellow indie rockers The Arcade Fire. Coyne is defiant: “Who cares? This is music, this is art — we’re supposed to have opinions, we’re supposed to be weirdos.”

The Flaming Lips will tour the US and Europe this summer. And this fall, a musical based on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots opens in San Diego.

(Originally aired: July 29, 2011)


Bonus Track: Obsessed with Brittany, Over Oklahoma

In this bit of tape from the cutting room floor, Coyne reveals his infatuation with Britney Spears. He tracked her down at a music festival they were both playing recently. “There’s a force field of people around her and it took me virtually all day to penetrate this thing,” he tells Kurt. “And lo and behold, by the end of the day we met her … and had a very strange unexpected evening.” 

He also talks about the controversy that rose up around the band’s song “Do You Realize” after it was made the official state rock song of Oklahoma. When the band when to the capital to receive the honor, “I had no idea that we were going walk into the Senate Chamber. And Michael, the bass player in the group, was wearing this old t-shirt with the USSR hammer and sickle on it.” It didn’t go over well.

    Music Playlist
  1. She Don't Use Jelly
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Transmissions From the Satellite Heart
    Label: Warner Bros / Wea
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Race for the Prize
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Soft Bulletin
    Label: Warner Bros / Wea
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Do You Realize??
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
    Label: Warner Bros
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
    Label: Warner Bros
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. See the leaves
    Artist: The Flaming Lips
    Album: Embryonic
    Label: WEA/Reprise
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Wayne Coyne

Produced by:

Derek John

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.