Discovering all these New Levels of Ridiculousness. Ein Interview mit Wayne Coyne zu führen, ist etwas ganz Besonderes.
Zum Einen, weil Coyne unglaublich freundlich und enthusiastisch ist, zum Anderen, weil es gar nicht so einfach ist, mit seinem Tempo und seinen Gedankensprüngen Schritt zu halten.
Und trotzdem, was könnte es Schöneres geben, als dieser Stimme beim Erzählen einer mittlerweile schon über zwanzig Jahre andauernden Geschichte zuzuhören. Einer Geschichte mit Hochs, Tiefs, jeder Menge Yeahs und einem Happy End in der Zukunft auf einem fernen Planeten.
Let’s talk about the new record straight away. To me it sounds like you’ve attained some kind of goal with “At War With The Mystics”, where everything you’ve done in the last twenty years comes together and makes perfect sense. The desperate touring days, the music of your early days, the loud guitars, the heavy lyrics, the synthesizers… would you agree to that?
Well, I think you give us too much credit…
Yeah, there were times, especially on the last couple of records, where people thought we have abandoned guitars and all the noise we used to do. I’d say no, not really. You just kinda move from one thing to the next and think that you still have all that within you.
It’s just that you have to move on and do different things. I don’t think we ever lost our love for freaky guitar rock. You explore different things but we never by design would think, we have to pile these different elements together. You just get lucky that you freak out and do something that sounds interesting.
Most of the freaky guitar stuff was spured on by us doing a cover of BLACK SABBATH’s War Pigs. We started playing it a couple of years ago before George Bush was re-elected. We’d be playing a festival and we’d remind people what an idiot he is and try to think as individuals when confronted with these big powerful movements that were going on.
But I think what happened… as we started to play that song and we saw like a weird dynamic that we hadn’t really noticed… you know the simplicity of all the space they have in all their music and the weird sort of Prog-Rock riffs. There was just something about it. Once we analysed it and played around with we really got curios about it. I can definitely see that that crept into some of this music.
Then we did a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And again we did it, not thinking that much about it, but as we got into it discovered all these new levels of ridiculousness that they … you know, with someone like Freddy Mercury at the helm, they would just go for it, there would just be no holding back again, it evoked something in us. That’s just the freakiest shit that could ever happen.
People dismiss that song sometimes, they forget, because it’s such a popular song, how freaky it is. After dissecting this thing and reworking it and trying to give it our own little flavour there, I think it really infected us and after that we had a new found sort of confidence of being ridiculous.
You hear that in songs like “The W.A.N.D.” and the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and even the “Free Radical” song. That’s the kind of ridiculousness I’m not sure we’ve had before.“At War With The Mystics” sounds very relieved, at least the music does. The lyrics still are very heavy but it seems to me you must have been very relaxed in the studio with no drug problems and psychosis going on this time…
I think even with making the “Pink Robots” record it wasn’t until the very end that Steven was able to get off heroin.
The last three songs we were recorded for that were sort of done in this like waiting to exhale sense of relief which really helped that record.
I can name you the songs that we recorded after he got off: It was “Fight Test”, “One More Robot” and the title track “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”.
They were all done after he got off in kind of a spurt of energy. But again I don’t know how much of that is just dumb luck and how much has to do with a sense of relief.
A lot of times at the end of making records you certainly stumble upon three or four tracks that you can fit in between. Even on this one. The “Free Radicals” song was one of the last ones we did because we just thought it sounds like PRINCE crossed with BLACK SABBATH with all these sort of ridiculous elements going together.
Early on making a record you try to be more philosophical and try to find things that have more “epicness” about them and sometimes by the end of a record you just think fuck it, let’s just have fun. Regarding the lyrics, is the new record your most realistic point of view and direct record so far? You know, with lines like “I want to punch your face”?
I love this sort of stuff.
Given the overall writing philosophy of the last couple of records, where at the end of the day we’re talking about death and the existential miseries that you confront on life’s path there. We always try to meet them and sort of take away from them whatever it was that the experience taught us. And I think we always end up being very positive and optimistic.
And regardless of what we would run into, we never had a bad thing to say and we are not really like that. I mean we really are optimistic, enthusiastic people but we love insulting people and being mean as much as the next guy, you know.
If we never expose that in our music people are just going to think we are just these retarded hippies after a while, who, regardless of what happens, just sing about it all being groovy all the time.
When George Bush came along and the suicide bombers and all this sorts of things that were erupting in the world as we made this record. I don’t think that we could help but being a little bit appalled by it and obviously it influences what you sing about. You know, what you’re thinking usually is what you end up singing about.
I don’t know, that song in particular is really a lot of fun because everybody knows somebody who is like that.
When I sing “Every time you state your case the more I want to punch your face” it is because they never find a way to be happy!
Everything that happens to them, they bring their misery with them everywhere they go and I hate that shit. I try to remind people that wherever we go, regardless of whether you are a guy in a band like I am or just a regular guy who works in a bank, you always wanna kind of be happy and show the world how good your life is because it’s contagious. I swear, it really is!
I’ve been around people where I didn’t necessarily feel that good and then being around them made me feel good. But I’ve also been around people the other way.
Where I felt reasonably good but being around them drained all you energy and made you feel like shit.
If I have my choice in life I wanna be one of these people when I come into the room everybody says “All right! Wayne’s here it’s gonna be better!”.So it’s a kind of positive aggressiveness?
It’s being realistic to say someone smells bad. Just tell them, hey man, you smell bad, you gotta work on that.So that’s another big misconception of the band, that you are always Mr. Niceguys?
I would say I am very patient, especially in a situation where you are dealing with young people that have a lot of energy and all that sort of stuff so I would say yes.
I mean compared to a lot of guys.
We will be very nice. That’s part of our job, that’s part of what we want, to be the first ones to show kindness and the first ones to be patient with people.
We are older, too. I mean I am 45 and I don’t remember that many people when we are out here talking about Rock n Roll and playing shows that are my age.
I don’t feel no responsibility, it’s easy for me to tolerate some of the stupid insecure things that young people do.Because you did that stuff when you were that age?
I can emphasise with that. I have sympathy for people who are sometimes not aware of their actions. So, yeah.
But I think we should all try to be nice people. Yeah!When you were recording “At War With The Mystics”, did you already have the future live on stage situation in mind? It’s more song orientated…
Yeah. I mean we never do. Even with the Pink Robots Record.
I don’t know how many shows of those you saw but we didn’t know what we were going to do. We just sort of made it up as we went.
All these great little things that are attached to us you know.
The idea of having the people in the animal costumes and the balloons and all that. That just came along as we went.
So I’m sure we’ll have all those things as we are playing and we will stumble upon some new ones. As this year goes and as we play more and more shows I am sure we will find some new stuff.
But no, you can’t really think about what you’re gonna do live when you are making a new record. That’s just two different things.
What works great in the front of an audience in a performance.
A lot of it is visual and meant to add to sort of the intensity of the night. When you record it’s just sound, arranging music and all that, it’s a hole different thing.
Even on our cover of Bohemian Rhapsody we did a hundred overdubs, pedal steel guitar, that sounds like something on the recording.
But in the live context you can’t tell the difference between like five of them or 50 of them.
It all get’s lost in a big cloud anyway. It’s just a totally different dynamic.
But as we play shows I’m sure we’ll find some cool new freaky things to do to the audience. Bring in additional musicians, maybe?
It’s hard to say.
We have backing tapes that play along with us anyway.
These things that we do in the studio, we bring the recordings with us.
In a lot of ways it will just depend. I’ve seen bands that do that.
I can think of mostly one time when I saw Brian Wilson play with a big ensemble, probably a 20 piece band. Different guitar players, string players and stuff.
I have to admit, I didn’t really care. It wasn’t that I wasn’t impressed. I actually thought in my head, these guys could be on a tape.
That’s where me and Steven started to think, maybe we could bring some of our music with us, triggered from samples and things like that. It would allow us not to have to bring a bunch of musicians with us.
I know for sure that when I go to see a band it’s the band I wanna see, that matters to me. I’m in to see those guys and no a sort of group back there.Like R.E.M. bringing three additional guitarists with them?
Maybe in their case it could be an improvement… No, I’m kidding…Did you feel any pressure recording the new album since the previous two have been so successful and received all these rave reviews and the great live show reviews you received in England?
I’ve known guys, that’s kind of happened to them. I imagine if we were younger for sure we probably would think “Oh my god, people think we are so great, what are we gonna do?”.
But most of the people who like us… what they like about us is that we are kind of free to explore the possibilities out there and I don’t think they would… I mean, the idea of us failing is almost as appealing as us succeeding.
It’s sort a like, you just kinda wanna watch us. It’s kind a like Evel Knievel in a way.
It’s like, if we crash, that’s great. If we make it, well… that is also great.
There’s an element of it, sort of winning both ways. We never thought of these things that we did as being all that great.
I’m glad the audience loves them but we never pad ourselves on the back and say “Boom, boy, that’s one of the great records of all time there, Steven.” We make them, because it’s… your expelling these things inside of your mind.
Giving to do that, regardless of what the world thinks of it is already a great opportunity.
If anything, we went in with more confidence, thinking, even if this record sucked, we probably would be able to make, because of the success of the last couple, a couple of more before the world really gave us up.
We made records… The Soft Bulletin was one, when we made it we thought this is probably the last records that we’ll be allowed to make in this way. Where Warner Bros gives us endless amounts of money.
We spent endless amounts of time doing it. But we didn’t think that this time.
Cause we knew we kind of owed enough money and sell enough records, even if we failed, it would probably be alright. How scared is your label of you and your more progressive ideas like “Zaireeka”” When you walk into their office and present your new ideas, are they scared?
If anything, I tell this people all the time, the people at Warner Bros. love music, they are music freaks.
We bring them something and they can’t wait to hear it, they go home and listen to it 50 times, you know.
And somehow I think the freakier it is, the more they like it and the more they don’t know how to sell it.
But they don’t worry about it nearly as much as we do. I mean, they have their marketing teams and all that sort of stuff that tells them if something is gonna sell just by the reactions they get from their retailers and stuff.
I think that’s why we are doing this promotional thing for a couple of weeks here where I talk to people everyday.
But I’m doing it because they think it’s worth doing. And if they think so I’ll do it, it doesn’t matter to me.
They are just the opposite, in a lot of ways, of what people think. They are freaks about music. I can sit there with almost everybody who works at Warner Bros. and endlessly talk about music of all genres all day long.So they didn’t have a problem with the “Fearless Freaks” DVD? Did you get any negative reactions for that at all from people?
I think occasionally people would wonder about Steven shooting up heroin and stuff like that and they might think it is disturbing or whatever. It kind of reminds them that we are the FLAMING LIPS.
I mean, there is an element of what we do. We are not afraid to embrace intense things and we know doing drugs is kind of dangerous.
But, I mean, we are grown men, we kind of done this shit all our lives and so sometimes they are surprised that it doesn’t all retain the sort of cartoon optimistic quality that the last couple of records have had.
But most of the people think it’s the greatest thing ever. Honestly, most people who watch it already love the FLAMING LIPS. No, it’s great.
Bradley’s movie really is a great movie. It shows all these little things that we would not think of being very significant at all.
It’s just a marvellous story of this resilient group of guys and I would have never thought of that at all. I thought people like our music and stuff like that but I would never have seen this subtle story that’s playing out in there.
Of course he did, because he is a great filmmaker and we are lucky that he made the movie.How did feel to see your own history and the history of the band – the last twenty years – displayed?
Me and Michael and Steven have talked about this sort of thing… you know, when you are the one that has been through all these things, there is a billion ways that that movie could have been made. We kind of left it to Bradley tell the story he wanted it to be.
So, even now when I see it… I mean, I watch it with the audience and I get caught up in it as much as the next guy. By the end of it I am crying for myself.
It’s not that it isn’t the truth. It just, he has to pick things that he wants to tell the story with. And I think it’s wonderful.
Little by little that is a great story that has emerged from our lives that we didn’t really know it was in there.
We thought it might be weird, sitting in a theatre watching it with people.
But the first time we saw it with an audience, there were 1500 people there.
And seeing people crying and laughing along with this story, I thought it was great and I love Bradley and have endless belief in him. There was a question in the movie about what would have happened if “She Don’t Use Jelly” wouldn’t have been such a hit and if this was your most important record…
You know, if we hadn’t got signed to Warner it would have been tough for us to stay doing what we do, wanting to expand and spend more time making records.
There was little stones along the way that have helped us get across this vast sea of hazards and “She Don’t Use Jelly” really is just one of them. But with all these successes, they bring with it new hazards as well.
And the idea of a band becoming successful and there is tons of money piling up at your door and people telling you, you are great and offer you a lot more drugs.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Steven got addicted to heroin and part of that is because you are running around in rock star sort of circles and there is more things available to you, so…
You know, with the good comes some bad.
But the opposite is true as well, with the bad comes some good. We have to just embrace the experiences that are inside of us.
We don’t have much choice, this is what we got, let’s see what it is all about.Are there countries or even continents where you feel your music is better, or differently, understood than elsewhere?
I don’t know. Like I said earlier, whenever we go somewhere you are surrounded by a group of enthusiastic music lovers.
Music and art has a way of getting to the core of the human’s experience… the only difference might be that when I am talking to a German journalist I might come across slightly less intelligent because of the language barrier.Are there any ex-band members you wish you could still have in the band and do you think that if the line-up changed again, the LIPS could continue?
I think that if Michael or Steven decided they don’t wanna do it anymore we would just simply say that’s it.Anyone you would like to have back?
Well certainly, Ronald Jones was wonderful. He has kind of lost his mind so I don’t think we could ever have him back.
But playing with him was wonderful.
We always regretted that he didn’t feel like he could play with us anymore. Yeah, even playing with Jonathan Donahue, all that stuff was great.Thank you for the interview!