Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 25th 2009 5:00PM by Steve Baltin
But then Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma City brethren in the Flaming Lips have always done a masterful job of straddling the line between indie cool and the mainstream. Whether appearing on '90210' or rocking out on the soundtrack to one of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, 'Spider-Man 3,' the Lips have maintained their cred by being the same fun-loving group that became stars on the festival circuit when Coyne started coming out onstage in a giant bubble.
When Spinner spoke with Coyne recently, we found that same mix of passionate music fan and indie celebrity as Coyne shared some of his favorite rock stars, how he handles success and why he's happy not being considered great.
Which bands are fun to be around on tour?
Well, I don't want to throw anybody under the bus. I do that too much, but we've been on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a big, giant organization that you think would be wanting to crush everything in its path, full of giant egos. And those guys are a lot of fun. We did a thing with the Who, Pearl Jam, Tenacious D last summer, this Who tribute at Pauley Pavilion. As much as you think, "Oh, there's a bunch of giant rock stars in the building, this should be awkward," that was wonderful. All the people working with the Who were always wonderful, even a couple of years ago when we played with them in Leeds, England, for the first time. So if you're lucky you gravitate towards people who go about their day the same way you do.
And to run into Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder and go, "Oh, those guys are into this because they love the music and to have a good time. It's not about egos and showing who's more powerful." Even being around Chris Martin of Coldplay, I've really seen them from their very beginning. I was at one of their shows in England when their very first single, 'Yellow,' went No. 1 on that day. I've seen them be very gracious to people that didn't deserve it. I think there are plenty of examples of people, giant rock stars, who are simply being normal people. I wouldn't want to even speculate or talk about the people who are just horrible humans in general. There are plenty of them out there, sure. [But] I don't want to get in any trouble.
You've gotten in some trouble as of late.
[Laughs] I'm not saying I was taken out of context, the things I said about the Arcade Fire I never said them in a sort of statement that everybody should take serious. I probably said it to someone just speaking in general, like, "Oh, whatever." And I really do regret that it got so blown out of proportion. I thought it was a joke, to tell you the truth. I almost thought it was started by us as a joke in a way. I went, "What is this?" I do regret the Arcade Fire took it as serious. It was just a dumb comment.
On a more positive note, could you have ever imagined that one day you'd be saying, "Getting to know Pete Townshend"?
No, especially after seeing the Who here; their performance utterly changed me. When we knew that we were gonna play with the Who -- we had already had some contact with their folks; we knew already that they were fans. But I'll go back to the previous day: We arrived in Ireland to play a little festival where Bob Dylan was headlining and we were playing before Bob Dylan. And the headline on the newspaper when we arrived at the airport was that Michael Jackson was coming to this festival to meet Bob Dylan. And we thought, "Oh, how great is this? Not only is Bob Dylan gonna be there but f---ing Jacko and his kids were gonna be at this festival." So we play the festival, it goes well, we clear the stage of all of our confetti and our animal dancers and all that sort of stuff, and before we know it there's a big lockdown, a SWAT team kind of effect is happening in the backstage and they're like, "You gotta clear out." In our minds we're thinking, "Michael Jackson obviously is here."
And we saw, like, six giant Hummer limousines pull up to the stage there and we watched from the end of the stadium to see if Michael Jackson and his weird entourage gets out. And Bob Dylan and his band have had to clear the whole place just so they can come up and play this festival. You would expect that from Michael Jackson, [but] we assumed Bob Dylan was sitting in his dressing room all day picking a guitar and having fun. But he and his band demanded that the whole place be kind of overly protected so they could pull in their limousines there. It was shocking: Not only do you not get to meet Bob Dylan and his band, you don't even get to be within a quarter-mile radius of them. And everybody at the festival, from what I could tell, was a little bit like, "Oh, boy, this is silliness, but this is what you gotta do if you want Bob Dylan to play." So, a very strange moment, there's no Michael Jackson, you don't get close to Bob Dylan.
So the next day, 18 hours later, we pull into this festival in England. We go to our dressing room, and there's Pete Townshend simply walking around. I go up to him and go, "Hey, Pete, we're doing this radio show with you in a couple of hours." He goes, "I know, Wayne, it's great to meet you." We talk about music ... and he's charming, nice and nice to people around him. I thought, "Gee, if anybody deserves to have the armored limousines, it would be someone like Pete Townshend. If Bob Dylan was worthy of them, certainly he was." And I just saw how you can do this thing any way that you want. You can make yourself this immaculate, untouchable superstar, or you can really just let your music and your art do all that for you.
Is there anything else you've picked up from Townshend on how to handle things?
Well, obviously there are people who are insecure about their looks or their music or their integrity as an artist, all that; that probably is the worst of it. When you're around people like Eddie Vedder and Pete Townshend, you see they're not insecure, they find it very easy to be a normal person. I think it would be impossible to walk around thinking you're the greatest thing in the world and to be around people all the time who are like that. It would just wear you out. So to me I'm always relieved when we're putting on a show. I know the audience comes to see the Flaming Lips and to hear that music. They're not coming because I'm the greatest thing ever. They're coming because Wayne says he's gonna entertain us. "Let's go and be entertained by him." And that to me is a great relief. It's not that we're great; we can offer you a really great show.
Have you had any feedback from Madonna on the Lips' cover of 'Borderline'?
No, and we never really thought we would ... When you cover someone's song, you end up hearing it a million times. I think she's great. She's an unstoppable force for sure, and in a way I think she's a great inspiration. I can tell by the way they produced her records she's not the best singer in the world, but she doesn't give a s---. She's like, "I'm Madonna. I don't have to be the greatest singer in the world." And I think that's great. I draw inspiration from all those people who aren't singers but sing anyway, whether it's Henry Rollins or Ian Curtis or even the guy in Duran Duran [Simon LeBon], John Lydon, all these guys -- they're not really singers, but they do it anyway. Bob Dylan would probably be a great example, even though I think he's a lot more skilled than he lets on.
Are there any new songs you're already excited to play live?
There's one called 'Convinced of the Hex' that is very strange ... the only comparison we have is there's a period of Miles Davis starting about 1969 that goes to about 1974 where he would have sometimes a couple of drummers, maybe even two bass players playing along with this very strange, intense kind of rock rhythms but kind of otherworldly rhythms, as well. And some of that we've kind of stumbled upon in two of the songs. I know for sure, 'Convinced of the Hex' really flies along and to me it feels like if Joy Division was transported from 1980, thrown into a session with the Miles Davis Group, and they had to make music together. As uncanny as it sounds, there's a moment where it kind of feels like, "Man, that's cool." And I don't know if it's really cool or it's just cool 'cause we're in the middle of it right now, but that song I'm really looking forward to seeing. It's got strange lyrics about some kind of woman being involved in S&M and discovering religion through sadomasochism, and it's awesome.
Joy Division and Miles Davis, huh?
I know it sounds horrible. It kind of sounds like Mexican food while you're on a roller coaster, but sometimes we stumble upon these combinations like, "Damn, I don't know why that works, but that does work." And so there are other songs that seem more in the vein of classic Flaming Lips, more piano ballad kind of things. We have one called 'I Don't Understand Karma,' which sounds like a John Lennon-type ballad. So there are different flavors; obviously we're looking for a bigger, sprawling, not-one-theme thing since we're doing a double album. So I think part of it is gonna go in this Miles Davis freakout sort of way and part of is gonna go in a milder John Lennon plays piano, sings about the existential dilemmas of being a human. And then, hopefully, there's some area in between where I don't really know what's gonna happen.