Wayne Coyne: “Once you’ve had a gun to your head, little things don’t bother you anymore” | The flaming lips


I have a seagull nesting outside my kitchen window. It seems quite chilly so I played some music to help him cope with upcoming motherhood. Which Flaming Lips album fits best?mentions the birth cycle of the seagull? Cleggatemyhamster

Gosh, that’s hard to say because not many of our albums are consistently smooth. If I were a seagull, I might find The Terror comforting. It has a warm buzz, a bit like a fridge. My wife is pretty quiet, so we didn’t listen to anything specific when she gave birth. I’d place the Alexa speaker on her pregnant belly and sing to the baby, although I have no idea if they care when they’re in there.

What is the biggest animal you could be liableMovie to a lamppost without help and without brute force? I’m guessing a giraffe. JAMIEOH

A little elephant? I would not recommend tying live animals to a post. When we first played in Los Angeles in 1985, we used a dead pig’s head. We put a wire through his ears and my younger brother Mark – the singer at the time – wore it like a necklace. We did it again a week later in Dallas and had to carry it in a portable freezer so it wouldn’t get too smelly.

What goes through your mind as you roll around in your giant hamster ball? Do you roll around in it every day? What if you need the toilet? hhhhsss, DeJongandtherestless and LeaderOfTheFree

Coyne in his clear plastic bubble, held up by the audience's hands
Coyne in his bubble at Glastonbury Festival 2010. Photo: Jim Ross/AP

I don’t use it indoors because it’s too big to fit through the door, but I’ll try it in the yard. On stage, I’m still unsure of everyone looking at me, so I feel more relaxed when I’m in my space bubble, even though it’s sweaty. You can last about three hours before you run out of breath – we tested it.

I don’t know if it’s adrenaline, but you rarely pee on stage. It’s the same with a sneeze: your fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in. There’s only been a couple of times I’ve had to perform with diarrhea, but I still have to sing half a set and then pee my pants. I remember Lollapalooza, 1994, where Nick Cave – with his great baritone roar – struggled. We joked that he should better contain the loud sounds. I noticed his performance was a bit more restrained; not his insanely manic self. I asked him afterwards, “Did something slip out?” but he said no.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen at one of your gigs? JallenDM

We used to carry 25 furry costumes with us; We had 12 or 13 people dancing on each side of the stage. A couple asked if they could pee in the costumes. I thought, “Of all the weird things you could ask of the world, that’s pretty benign.”

What other album would you like to cover? Pacifico

Since I’ve had my own studio in my house, we’ve done Sgt Pepper by the Beatles, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, the Stone Roses debut… We’ve talked about making Portishead’s first album, and a record of the silver apples. Who would I most like to cover for a Flaming Lips album? Well, who wouldn’t love to hear the Beatles cover Soft Bulletin, Radiohead American Head, or Billie Eilish Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots?

What did your record company’s faces look like when you proposed Gummy Song Skull: four songs on a USB stick buried in a rubber skull? thecristeainstitut

We also embedded a USB stick into a real human skull; 14 were made available. You can’t buy human skulls unless you’re a doctor or something, but this dealer here in Oklahoma City owed me a favor. We were between deals with Warner Bros., so we did the craziest things we could do just because we didn’t have to get permission.

Coyne wears absolutely huge hands over his real ones
A big hand for Flaming Lips at the Wireless Festival in London, 2006. Photo: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns

They took in my mathematician husband, Thorsten Woermannthan the voice from beyond upon yours 2009 album Embryonic. As you know, he passed away in 2019. I just wanted to say that working with you was one of the highlights of his life. Thank you for giving him and me this great memory. AmiAbroad

He was so lovely and vocal about how much he enjoyed it at the time, which was a huge relief because you never know what people are thinking. It’s such a beautiful, bizarre record, so his voice really adds to those six or seven tracks. I knew he was ill, so it’s good to hear from you, Ms. Woermann. Thank you for submitting your question.

We were also robbed Hemi’s Pizza — around the corner from Long John Silver’s seafood restaurant in Oklahoma — where three guys held you at gunpoint as a teenager. Has your near-death experience contributed to your desire to move forward? guard? Steve1us and favrion23

I think it made me less scared to do things in the name of art. I’m thinking now, “What’s the harm if I make a bad record?” Once you’ve stood there with a gun to your head and thought, “Well, I’m going to die,” don’t mind the little things. It definitely shaped my wildness – if that’s the right word.

At that time there were many robberies. You thought that if you were robbed, you would also be shot, your body would be thrown in the walk-in cooler, and your mother would find out on the news. The pizzeria was around the corner. I had a feeling these guys had robbed a few places before, but we only saw a brief police report. At the age of 16 or 17, I assumed: “Everyone has to almost die two or three times when they grow up.” Only later in life did I realize that this is not normal.

The texts for it 1993: She doesn’t use jelly go: “I know a girl who thinks about ghosts / She makes you breakfast, she makes you toast / But she doesn’t use butter, and she doesn’t use cheese / She doesn’t use jelly, or any of those / She uses Vaseline.” Who around the world eats petroleum jelly on toast? The good thief

We’d have conversations—even when we were stoned—like, “People put petroleum jelly on their chapped lips, but you wouldn’t eat them. But you wouldn’t put butter on your lips even if you ate it.” Presenting ideas that no one else would think of always feels like a Flaming Lips song. I am not speaking in metaphors. I’m literally talking about eating Vaseline on toast.

Did you know the Google Street View car was coming when it photographed you in the bathtub in your front yard? MarkReed

no I’m definitely more aware of the car you see driving around town with the crazy rotating camera. But at the time I just happened to be out there. I had six of these giant metal bathtubs for our Christmas movie on Mars. They are still there, full of soil and flowers. My house is full of useless things; too bad to throw away. I don’t know what the traditions are in England but when we put up our Christmas tree we don’t take it down until summer because we don’t want to waste it.

How has parenthood changed your outlook on life? first name Last Name

Our oldest is three; the other four months. I hope they see that life is about doing things you love. I’m lucky not to have been in this work cycle: go to work, come home, watch TV, and drink all night because I hate my horrible job. Even though I’m an old man, I hope my kids will see that everything I do – make music, paint – is about playing, laughing and having fun.

Do you believe in cosmic love or is it all some glorious biochemical delusion? DandysRuleOK

I have a saying: There is no God, but somehow there is. The moment you dismiss that we live in chaos and everything is pretty damn random, you realize there’s something in your DNA that your mind can’t quite see. When you see these images from the Hubble Telescope of just how vast and endless the universe is, a part of you wants to live your life with the total freedom you choose. But part of you still wants to be like a spider destined to build a web. It’s one of the wonderful swamps of being human: you have to think about how much of it you are and how much is pre-programmed. Music is such a relief because it frees your mind. When music flies through your emotions, you become a frozen, thoughtless, listening vessel.

A giant, spiky balloon with a happy face joins Coyne on stage
At the End of the Road Festival, Salisbury, 2014. Photo: Andy Sheppard/Redferns/Getty Images

What exactly do you ask at the hairdresser? malaparte

I don’t like people messing with my hair, so I don’t go to anyone. Sometimes I forget to wash my hair for a month or two so it’s pretty dry and then my wife juices it up properly. Luckily my wife always watches. The word she used today was “hobo,” as in, “You look like a hobo.” So I better do something about it.

Do you have anything else on your bucket list? GayerforMayer

I’ve lived in Oklahoma since 1961 – all my life – but I’ve never seen a tornado. I stood on the roof of my house and looked. They pass by here all the time, so you’d think I’d seen about 20.

There is an optimism in your writing that is both unworldly and at odds with our times. How do you maintain such an optimistic, positive nature? Miffy4boys and FeelingDisintegrated

When the flaming lips are at their most expressive, we’re speaking an emotional truth that you can’t really speak in real life. We swore to the gods of music that we’ll follow our hearts, whether it’s embarrassing, stupid or wrong. Sometimes I worry we sound like those miserable old guys. So I hope we still sound like we’re full of hope and love.

How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Potential octopus

Disguise yourself as another zombie? That’s what we do when we live in Oklahoma as Democrats. We’re hidden among the Republicans, so in case they want to kill us, we’ll just pretend we’re one of them.

The Flaming Lips will headline the Womad festival on July 30th

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