Regnsky møder… Wayne Coyne fra The Flaming Lips

Foto: Morten Rygaard
Foto: Morten Rygaard

I weekenden gik en stor drøm i opfyldelse for mig og min bedste og ældste barndomsven, Frederik. Vi var taget på Heartland Festival på Fyn. Og selvom både musikprogrammet og omgivelserne fremstod fantastiske, så var det et eksklusivt møde, som på forhånd stod som festivalens ultimative højdepunkt. Mødet med vores helt store ungdomsidol, som musikalsk er vokset op sammen med os. Forsanger og hovedgeniet Wayne Coyne fra amerikanske The Flaming Lips.

Vi er ikke helt enige om, hvad der er højdepunktet i bandets efterhånden 33 år lange levetid – for Frederik er det det vidunderligt støjende og eksperimenterende tolvte studiealbum Embryonic fra 2009; for mig er det det ti år ældre niende studiealbum The Soft Bulletin, som vel kan betragtes som bandets store folkelige gennembrud – hvis de da nogensinde reelt har fået et sådant gennembrud.

Men én ting er vi dog enige om, og det er kærligheden til Wayne Coyne, som i vores begges øjne må betragtes som en af vor tids største legender. Netop legender er noget af det, som har fyldt meget i 2016, hvor vi blandt andre har mistet Prince og en af Wayne Coynes egne helt store idoler, David Bowie. Det blev omdrejningspunktet for vores snak med den 55-årige verdensstjerne, som vi var så heldige at få godt en halv time i selskab med.
Jeg har undtagelsesvis valgt at skrive interviewet på engelsk, fordi jeg gerne vil have alle nuancerne i Wayne Coynes svar til at stå lysende klart. God læselyst!

When you visited Denmark back in 2013 to play at Northside Festival, you played David Bowies “Heroes”.
Oh, we did, that’s right! We would always play some David Bowie song. I don’t really know what his meaning is, but that’s a cool song. It sounds triumphant. We would sing it, because it’s great.

What is your relationship to David Bowie and his music?
Well, when we were growing up in America, there was a time where we became very aware of this David Bowie-character. You know, my older brothers, they had the “Ziggy Stardust“-record, but we lived in Oklahoma, so it wasn’t as if any of us would have seen him then.

I think he came in at a time where older hippies like my older brothers’ friends would have said, “he’s a faggot!” or something and been like “what is this stuff?” It was radical for people that he was just such a weird, skinny freak. But we were young enough, so we just thought he was cool. It didn’t occur to us, him being gay or not gay. That wasn’t ever part of it for us anyway, you know.

You wouldn’t hear much of his music back then, but in the late 70’s disco was everywhere in America. It was all everybody was listening to. Bowie has this song “Fame” that was a big top-40 American disco hit. That’s one of his favorite songs of mine.

David Bowie – Fame

After that, he became popular and everybody started to know who David Bowie was. Not very many people knew about the weirder records like “Low” and “Station to station”, but then “Scary Monsters” came out. By “Scary Monsters” (1980), all of the old people who thought he was a faggot; they didn’t exist anymore. Everybody just knew he was David Bowie. By the time he does “Let’s Dance” (1983), he’s just a big mega superstar that fills stadiums.

But we always liked almost everything that he did. I don’t think there is much stuff that we would listen to after “Let’s Dance” – there would be a few things, but it wouldn’t be that much. Little by little, we would go back when the records would be re-issued, and I think “Hunky Dory” (1971) became the favorite of ours.

You know, those emotional types of songs that he does. He is just such a bizarre songwriter! I mean, when we did the David Bowie tribute a couple of months back, you’d think you know these songs, because you can drive your car and you can sing along to them, but he is such a weird songwriter, even in the way he’d record. He does these things, and you’re trying to count out how many times this happens and this happens – and you just can’t. You just have to know them and know them and know them. It’s just strange, difficult music to play and try to remember!

Of a lot of people that have died, his death really hit us. I think we had considered that David Bowie was not doing well for a long time. I think we all knew that he was sick, but then again you don’t think about it that much. And we didn’t realize how connected we were to so much of his music. Then when it was announced that he died, I remember we all texted each other: “Oh my God!” Sometimes you don’t know how much someone has affected your life until they’re gone. I think that is a powerful thing.

Now that he is dead, he quickly goes into the realm of the John Lennons and Santa Claus and, you know, Jesus and everybody that’s just so mythological. They are beyond that they were ever human, but we already thought he was like that. Then when he died it’s one of these things where you go: “Oh my God, he was a man!”

The Flaming Lips – Space Oddity (David Bowie tribute)

People would say that David Bowie, “he is like an alien from outer space.” I’d say that does him a disservice; he is a man just like me and you. And yet he was David Bowie. He did this stuff and wrote this music and that’s why we should elevate him. If he came from outer space, it’d be easy; he is just not like us. But to be one of us and still do that…

Do you think there will still be legends like David Bowie in 20 years?
I think so. Do you think there wouldn’t be?

I don’t know. We don’t have a lot of these superstars who make hundreds of hits like David Bowie or Prince…
Right, right. I don’t know. I mean, we are living in America now, where – like it or not – there is this entity Donald Trump. You don’t even have to care about him, yet you still know all this stuff about him, because he is just so controversial or just so stupid or just so whatever. And you can’t deny that popularity has its own thing. Once something becomes so popular, it influences so many other things. I think people want there to be a Jesus, they want there to be someone, where they can say, “oh, they are special” and “they are this and that – and I’m just me.”

It allows you to listen to them and believe in them. I would think it would probably always be there. I think that’s why something like Jesus and Santa Claus exist. I think that’s why it’s part of the way people tell stories, part of the way they believe in stuff. I think it will probably become even more, because if you had some music or a thing that you wanted to do, there would have been ways in the past that you’d have had to have done it to get your shit out there.

Where as now, you can really just start to do it. And if enough people think you’re interesting, you can get 20 million followers on YouTube and no one would even have to know who you are to begin with. You can just do it, and I think that’s like the greatest thing ever. It’s like you don’t even have to wait for anybody to help you; you just start to do it. I think that’s got to be good for art and music and people being individuals and all that.

The Flaming Lips – Silver Trembling Hands

But do you think people will be as devastated about legend losses in the future as they were with David Bowie and Prince?
Yeah, I do. It’s these people that you get to love from a distance. Sure, it’s painful when people that you actually know die, but with these artists… You believe these people – you sing their words.

There is probably some artist now, but since I’m older I probably wouldn’t have this subconscious connection to it. But if you get exposed to it, when you are young and it becomes part of your life, I don’t think you have that much control over it. I think if you believe it and you love it, it goes into an area that is not up to you to decide.

When John Lennon died, it was the first time that my older brothers and older sisters and their friends were truly devastated. Before then, there was a lot of the John F. Kennedys and all these, but because I was born in 1961, I didn’t really care about them, because, you know, they didn’t speak to us.

But you want to get affected by these things! I think it would be a great loss not to have these things in the world that makes you think: “Aw, man, they are cool. I want to be like them!” And probably better that it’s not someone that you get to know. The minute you start to know someone, it’s just not as magical, you know. I would think there is always going to be a good escapist need for that kind of fantasy entity. Otherwise, we would make them up! We’d want there to be. But what do you think? You think maybe not?

I hope so. We talked about someone like Miley Cyrus with whom you’ve been working with. Do you think any of the people you have collaborated with will turn out to be legends or mega superstars?
Well, some of them. We collaborated with Nick Cave and for me Nick Cave is one of those. He is one that you think would already be dead by now. It’s like, “Nick Cave? He is gonna die.” But then he lives forever and Prince is dead…

But yeah, Miley Cyrus could be one of those. When I have been around her and she’s with her fans, which are young; a lot of them are girls and a lot of them are young. She is not speaking to me and you, she’s speaking to them. It’s love. It’s not a pose.

The Flaming Lips & Miley Cyrus – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

I think that’s the thing with Justin Bieber as well. I don’t know him that well, but even being around Justin Bieber; it’s not a pose. It is absolutely the real thing! It’s just not music that you dig, because you’re an older dude, but to those people it’s real.

He came to Oklahoma City – that’s where I’m from. My older sister’s daughter was about 13 years old, when Justin Bieber came into town, and one of the guitar techs invited me to the show. He said, “hey, come to the show and you can meet Justin and whatever.” So I went to the show with my sister and her daughter, and she wanted to get a picture with him.

And there was this line of 500 girls waiting to take a picture with him. And part of you says: “Well, what is this?! How can this be?” But I can tell you, to every girl that was in line this was the greatest experience they had ever had. They came out crying and they just couldn’t believe it.

Some people want to devalue that, because “oh, that’s not real”. It’s real when you are 13, it’s real when you are 14. To say that his music isn’t real; it’s real to them! It may not be real to you, but it’s real to them. Music is like that. It doesn’t really matter what it is.

Your brain is so fucking good at compartmentalizing music. You really can’t help it. And I think that’s why it works. It gets in you, and then your subconscious gets to take over. If you’re young enough that shit gets in you. If you’ve played someone’s music 10.000 times and you believed it. That’s in you, you know. I’ve done that. That’s what music does; you get so addicted to it, and it tells you so much about your identity. So I’d think it’d always be here. We would want it to be here.

What makes someone like Miley Cyrus so special to you?
She is smart; she is so smart, but she was very young when all of her stuff started to happen. She’s 23 now, and like anybody, if someone had you make music when you were 13 and it became popular and you got to make more and more and you got to decide what it was gonna be, you’d probably be quite embarrassed by it now that you’re 23.
Luckily, we didn’t make music when we were 13, so no one knows what it would be. But I swear, if you were around her for five minutes, then you’d just get it. You’d get her this second. She’s so cool; she’s so badass. And when she’s with her fans, she’s so amazing. She’s cool; she’s really cool!

Miley Cyrus – Milky Milky Milk

She’s quite talented too, right?
To me, she sings in a way that I like. I don’t really know talent, but if I like someone that’s good enough for me. I just like her vibe; I liked her before I became friends with her. We just thought she was saying some crazy shit for as young as she was. Just to see the things that she stands up for. When she fucks up, she’ll say, “hey, I’m stupid, I’m sorry, I fucked that up.” I think the world would be a better place if there was more of her out there. She really does stand up for what she believes. It’s cool.

That’s all about legends.
Oh yeah? Fuck ’em!

Ha ha. Let’s talk about you instead. You’ve been doing your thing for more than 30 years now. Don’t you ever get tired?
Well, no, because I really love it. I guess I’m obsessed. I don’t really think about it as being something that I’m doing…

We love to record, so we get to spend a lot of time always fucking around with our recordings and other people’s recordings and all that. We never get tired of that. Then you get to perform. We are not really performers, but we get to make this whole thing, and then we get to sing our songs. As time has gone by, there is more and more things involved, where you get to make videos and movies and things that just compel your visions.

You’d think that it would be like: You make a record – that takes you a little while – then you go on tour for a couple of years, then you do nothing for a couple of years. But I’ve never done that. I’m just always doing something. It doesn’t seem that weird. Most of the people that I’m around are the same way. They get up and they do their thing and it’s never, “oh, I can’t wait for this shit to be over.” I just never considered it like that.

I really do get to do my thing and I go for it all the way. If I get to wake up and spend part of the day recording, part of the day working on videos, do some painting and stuff every day, I’d do that. But I think most people are like that. They like being in their element doing their thing. When it’s all working and people like it, it’s great.

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1

When I was younger I used to think, “will I one day wake up and just not be interested in this?” But I don’t think that happens. I think the more you do it, the less you’re doing something else. It’s the only thing you’re doing. Your world becomes very much just about you doing your thing; everything that works for you, you include, and everything that doesn’t work for you, you just get rid of.

I’ve never really taken a break. I don’t really want a break. If I have to go on a vacation, I’ll always include, “what else do I get to do?” I can’t just sit there; I’d have to do some drugs and just kind of don’t give a shit. Which I think is great! I think there are some drugs that really do help me, because I think I’m just too intense. I’ll just always go, go, go!

Can you be too intense?
Definitely. You can’t do anything just from intensity. It has to be from love. Love will show you that intensity isn’t love. Intensity is just: “My way! My way is better than your way!” That’s not love. People want to do stuff with you, if you love them. And people will love what you do, if you love them. I know that sounds hokey, but just being about you and being intense about it; that doesn’t work.

I don’t think I’d wanna be too intense. I don’t think I’d like our music, I don’t think I’d like what would happen. It’s definitely not part of my personality. I like our music a lot more, when we don’t know what we’re doing, and we’re vulnerable and we’re scared. Whenever we feel like, “yeah motherfuckers, we know what we’re doing”, our music never works very well. It only works when we’re like, “what just happened?”

Yeah, what can I say? The music has probably told us more about who we are than we’ve done to the music. We’ll do something, and it’s just, “oh wow, that’s so cool.” And then we’d think, “oh, but we made it! Oh, oh, cool!”

Speaking of making music, do you have anything coming up in terms of collaborations?
Yeah, there is this comedian/musician-guy in America. His name is Reggie Watts. I met him six years ago. He’s fucking funny!

Oh, he is the one with the big…

…the big afro, yeah yeah.

I sent him this spoken word thing about a week ago, ‘cause I’m trying to insert it into a couple of these new tracks that we’re doing. And he said that he’s going to do it and I kept bugging him. And finally on the way flying here – I don’t have my phone or I’d show you – “Bing!” I finally got it. I think this thing that we did will lead to us doing a few more things, so we can just keep going.

Oh, will that be on a new album?
Yeah yeah, it will hopefully be on the new Flaming Lips album. And there will be one more song with Miley Cyrus on there. So there will be a couple of collaborations. I don’t want to do too many, because when we’ve done the Sgt. Pepper’s record or the Pink Floyd record, there are so many people involved that you can’t really do anything. Everybody is just waiting and getting permission. As much as I love that stuff, it’s just like trying to get all your friends together at the same time. It fucking takes forever. By the time you get there, everything that you were trying to do is already over.

But the Miley Cyrus-thing is great. It’s a song that we’ve been trying to finish and get on her record, but we couldn’t quite get it. And then in the last month or so, we finally got it in a way that is really great.

Do you know when the album will come out?
We talked about it coming out in October, but now people are talking about maybe January. We’re always trying make like videos and things to go with it, because we don’t always like doing all the promo stuff. Sometimes we just wanna make a record and not worry about all this stuff, you know.

Other times you kinda embrace that you get to just talk about your shit with everybody. Sometimes I think the music really needs that, so people can understand and grab a hold of what we’re doing. But I think all that stuff is fun. It’s like talking to you guys; it’s not that bad. I mean, I’ve had better for sure… I’m joking, of course!

Ha ha, we are really looking forward to the album. Will you have time to see anything, while you are here at Heartland?
We are gonna go see what that Brian Eno-thing is all about. I would have loved to have seen him talk tomorrow (lørdag, red.). He is one of the great. He just says it.

The Flaming Lips – The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

Is he a legend too?
He is indeed. I would be very sad, if he died. I think as he gets older, he is just wiser and wiser and wiser. You need people like him. You need people to talk. Otherwise, you’ll be thinking and you won’t know, “is this real? Am I stupid?”. And you’ll hear someone else that you know is not stupid say something similar and you’ll be like, “yeah!”. When I hear Bryan Eno talk, I’m like, “fuck, yeah! He is right.” It just helps you along.

I like the idea of articulating. You’ve got all these things in your mind, but until you have to actually say it, they just sit in your mind. But when you’re doing what I’m doing now – trying to articulate – you have to connect all of these things. And that coming out is a cool thing. Because it’s like you’re saying it before you’re even thinking it. It’s not like I’m sitting here thinking; it’s just this magic in that you can put together things that you wouldn’t do just by contemplating it.

I met Brian Eno about five or six years ago, and we were all partying backstage; getting drunk, taking some drugs and stuff. I don’t know, if he was taking drugs, but he was having fun. He had just done his first Coldplay record. And I said: “What is it like working with Coldplay?” And you could sort of tell; he was like (demonstrating lifting a beer to his mouth): “Oh, let’s not talk about Coldplay. Let’s get wasted. Let’s not talk about that.” I was like, that’s enough. What could you say? I’d say he tried, you know…

Ha ha, that’s a funny story. Thank you so much for your time!
No, thank you!

The Flaming Lips – She Don’t Use Jelly

Det var alt fra vores møde med Wayne Coyne på dette års Heartland Festival. Nu er der ikke andet for end at vente på det kommende album fra The Flaming Lips, der som nævnt nok kan forventes omkring årsskiftet, og som kommer til at indeholde numre med Miley Cyrus og Reggie Watts.

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