Wednesday, 30 December 2009

FLAMING LIPS: Live & Unexpurgated

So, here's the full version of that interview I put up. As I mentioned before, Wayne Coyne says a lot of interesting stuff, so editing it was a bit of a nightmare- he's the kind of guy that comes in longform, y'know? So here's (more or less) the full (edited down to the best bits) interview.

On touring

We’ve been playing since last April. We’ve not played that many shows, but we’re always sorta doing something. So, y’know, it’s a lot. There’s a point I think where you get, like, oh we’re really good at this, and there’s a point where it’s, wow, we’re just playing all the time. But it’s been good.

People seem to really love the new stuff, and we get to do our trip. But today’s the very last day. I mean, I say last day, we’re gonna play a New Year show and then spring… We never really just tour for a year and then take 3 years off. We’re always just kinda playing and recording.

On playing live

For me, I’m not a very good musician so I always feel a bit scared getting up in front of people. ‘Cus I’m just a weirdo doing weirdo things, y’know? I don’t really know if it’s any good. I think people like that junk, and I’m glad they do. But I never feel like it’s really a skill. Anyone could get in that space bubble. And maybe that’s why people like it- anyone could do it, but I’m the one who does it.

The stage vs. the studio

When we’re doing music and stuff- I mean recording- I guess to me that just feels like you’re doing art. I’m more comfortable doing that because people aren’t paying a bunch of money. You know, all these things have to go right when you’re doing a show. There’s a lot of things that have to go right. And when you’re doing your art in your own space and time, that doesn’t all have to go right. There’s no-one paying money, there’s no-one waiting in the cold. I really care about the people that are coming to the show and I want it to be as good as it can be but there’s a lot of things about it you can’t control. So I stress out about those things. Whereas when I’m doing art it’s just me doing shit, I don’t care- it’s just me and the guys and it is what it is.

Keeping interested

When we’re in the studio: the beginning of that, to me, seems like, oh, this is exciting. But if you’re there for months it’s just uhhh. It just beats you down.

So I’m lucky, I think- I get to do a bunch of different things. I get to record. That doesn’t get too boring, or too much the same and then, y’know, touring and I don’t have to do that too much and then I make movies and videos and all kinds of art. I get to do a lot of things so none of it’s too much of a beatdown.

Audience participation

Well, I mean, if you’re a fan of the Flaming Lips, usually… At festivals, obviously, not everyone’s there to see us. But they’re there ‘cause they’re ready to rock. And they’re usually drunk or on acid or something like that. We do a lot of stuff to get them to react. We shoot confetti and we throw balloons and I’m saying ‘c’mon motherfuckers, let’s do this’. I think, if you’ve seen us do a show you kinda know a little bit of what the routine is, or the way our shows go. If you had never seen us play and you’re there with everyone else, I guess it’s kind of like going to someone else’s church or something. At first you don’t know what to do but you just join in with all the stupid shit they do.

The rock concert as artform

We played some stadium shows with Coldplay at the end of the summer. And 80,000 people in this giant stadium- and I think U2 does this as well- but Chris Martin had everybody get out their cellphones and they would do the wave up and down the lengths of the stadium, and they turn off all the lights so all you can see is 80,000 cellphones… And that’s not music and I don’t know if that’s art but it’s some kind of extraordinary experience that you can’t get unless you have 80,000 people there all willing to participate.

The rock concert as mystical force

There’s a lot of groups will simply- y’know they come on stage, they play their music, you listen, that’s the way it goes. But a lot of groups will get the audience involved so the thing just becomes a bigger collaboration of the two energies or whatever. And I think there are probably some groups that don’t feed off of that energy but I know we do. I mean, when the audience gives you that love and enthusiasm it just makes us play better. It has more meaning to it.

The rock concert and the ego

Even though, less than 24 hours ago we played a show where all that happened, when that happens tonight it’ll be fucking amazing again. I never feel really like, ah, fuck this. It’s not a thing that you would get jaded to- ‘cause it really is authentic. To me- I know it’s a dumb analogy- but it would kinda be like having sex. You could have sex last night, have it again tonight, it’d be pretty good. Maybe even better. These things, they rejuvenate themselves and we like it and we want it. I think the audience wants it. We all leave the house ‘cause we want some intense experience that you cant’ just get from being on the internet or watching TV. Being with a bunch of people who all want the same thing to happen at the same time.

Music is magic

Music is some sort of mysterious emotional thing. I’m not a scientist but I know that your experiences enter into your mind or your consciousness through your eyes and your ears and your senses or whatever. And there’s a moment there where you do really get to say, ooh that’s cool I like it and I’m tasting it and I’m feeling it. But then it goes further into your mind and it becomes part of your experiences and mixes with everything else. Y’know, you sing songs and even though the song is the same song, it means different things to everybody in the audience and they bring that with them. They bring their own reason why they love this moment. So, yeah, it’s cool.

What keeps you going?

I sometimes wonder about that– it’s like, do people ever get to a point where they’re just not interested any more? But I don’t think I would be, or I would be, unless I lose my mind or something. I mean, the more I find out about the ways you can make music and the ways you can make art and the people around me helping me do it- I think it just opens up more possibilities of what I can do. And to not be so, I don’t know, self aware- everybody struggles with that, but I think I’m lucky that sometimes I get so obsessed with something, I don’t really care, I just fuckin’ do it and then before I wake up and worry too much it’s already done.

Christmas on Mars

I made this movie Christmas on Mars simply because I was around a bunch of people that were making movies and I started to see- oh, well, I see how you could do this. And it gives you ideas and it inspires you and it makes you think of new possibilities.

And so, y’know, I say things like, anything is possible! Which is kind of a silly idea. But in art, it really is true.

All artforms as one

To me art is… it’s really all the same. I don’t look at music, or painting, or movies… to me it’s all the same trip. I just look at it as, it’s all just dumb art. If you’re an architect or if you’re a fashion designer or if you’re a tattooist, y’know, there’s elements of all that being exactly the same thing. I’m not gonna drop names, but Damien Hirst came to our show the other night. And when I meet people, whether they’re musicians or painters or whatever, everybody’s relating to the same thing. You get some fuckin’ idea in your mind or some idea gets a hold of you and … you just feel like you have to do it. The torture of doing it- which is a lot of torture- is not as bad as the torture of not doing it. So you do it.

Why is art important?

It’s the desire to kind of see the world your way- hear the world your way, to design the world the way you wish it was. It really is a powerful thing to see people not worry about being embarrassed or not worrying about failing. Everybody struggles with that- everything in your life is a struggle, even if you’re not doing art. But when you see artists who just boldly say, fuck it, I’m gonna do this thing, it lets us all think, this thing I wanna be or do with my life, maybe I should just do it. And so there is definitely some value to it. But I know a lot of it is just like masturbation, you’re just doing it cus you like it. Fuck it, I like it. What can you say?

The conception of Embryonic

I guess it’s really all connected- we’d be working on Christmas, these big dense arrangements, we’d spend a lot of time working on them, and at the very end of that, something would trigger something and we’d just throw away all that shit we’d worked on for a year and go with this other thing. And I think that’s really what we’ve learned as we go- that you don’t really know why you like something or how you’re gonna like something. You just know when you do.

The growth of Embryonic

We’d be doing these jams where I’d be paying bass and Kliph [Scurlock] and Steven [Drozd] would be playing drums and we wouldn’t really know what we’re doing.

We would have no preconception of exactly what kind of music we were going to make; we’d jam for ten minutes and collectively think, eh, that kinda ran its course. But, we’d go in the next day, without a lot of awareness of what we’d done and then listen to it. And we’d hear maybe a couple of minutes where we thought, ooh, that’s a cool groove. And none of us would really remember what we intended. We weren’t making music from some other sphere of music in our minds. A lot of times you make music and you’re kinda subconsciously playing music that you’ve already played or that you’ve heard. And we’d hear these things and think, oh that’s cool, and we couldn’t really identify it as being us or somebody else. And that would be enough of a spark.

Working with David Fridmann

He’s intense and he pushes you to do more stuff and he has a lot of ideas and he’s the sonic master in a whole other way. We thought, well, if we like this stuff, we take it up there and he likes it as well, we’ll see if we can really make it something and believe in it. And the best of the stuff that we took up there, he did like it, and he didn’t know what to think of it and he knew it was sloppy and he knew some of it was out of tune. But those are all elements that he likes in music. He knows a lot of musicians will play in time and in tune and there’s times when he doesn’t feel like it matters, he’s just like you should be expressive. So when we took this stuff up there and he thought it’s not played very well but it’s very expressive. And there were things he thought he could do to make it feel more intentional or just more like this is a piece of music rather than this is just a jam And he was right- he made us turn them into songs. So there was just a lot of unknown, I don’t think we had an idea what we were gonna do and as each little piece turned out good we thought fuck it, let’s just do that.

The birth of Embryonic

We write songs all the time cus we think we’re stupid songwriters, you know, but the songs don’t always turn into anything. We had one song we tried to do 5 different times and it always turned into another song- which is great! You have to have confidence that what you’re doing is gonna work and you have to have some fucking reason to do it and a lot of times with us we think we have a great song let’s go and record it.

Even though we don’t really end up with that song it gets us in there and we start doing things. It’s not what you think that happens, it’s what you do that matters. And a lot of times people think it’s just the opposite

Y’know, they’ll say I had this great idea. Too bad it turned out like shit. As if ideas are hard- I mean, ideas are easy. I’m sure everybody has fuckin’ great ideas of how to do things all the time. But doing it is really all that matters.

We don’t like that but it’s the truth. Sometimes you think you’ve got the greatest song ever and you go in to record it and, it’s not very good. But you don’t know that until you get in there, but it turns into something else and using your eyes and your ears and your senses you can do that thing and I think that’s all we are trying to do.

Also, turns out the Lips cover album of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon has been released on iTunes (along with also-interviewed Stardeath & White Dwarfs, as well as mHenry Rollins and Peaches.) My timing almost looks intentional, doesn't it?

Let's call it a celebration of that! I'm actually quite excited to hear the album, strikes me as a typically Flaming-Lips kind of idea; i.e. the kind of stuff they excel at. Unfortunately, it appears to be iTunes only, which I don't (and refuse to) use. So we'll see...

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.