[Introductory note: Electric Picnic 2005. I had only a couple of minutes notice I’d be talking to Wayne Coyne. No time to prepare questions. So I got to thinking, you know, the guy is always so insanely happy. Wouldn’t it be funny if I just tried to depress the shit out of him. So I tried. Did it work? Well…
I did everything I could think of to irritate, annoy, anger and/or depress him. In the end, I hung out with him for a couple of hours. And, sadly, he couldn’t have been nicer. Sufficed to say, he’s just a decent, happy guy… Bastard!]
Is it difficult, after touring this album for three years, to get onstage yet again and sing the same songs for the umpteenth time?
Naa, it’s an honour to be up there. It truly is. The Flaming Lips have given me the best life anyone could ever have. My mother died last summer. She had cancer. And, you know, when people get sick it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. And the Flaming Lips audience has given me such a great life that, when these tragic things happen, I have money and I have time and I have a lotta other stuff to take care of these things. It’s not a hassle. I owe you guys my whole life. Why would I ever turn my back on you?
Have you gotten any really bad reviews lately?
We do, all the time. Luckily a lot of cool writers like us. I mean, if people don’t like us and they have an opinion that’s cool. But sometimes I think that only makes the people who do like us stand up for us even more. You know what I mean? Someone says ‘I don’t like them’, the ones who like us go ‘Whaddiya mean ya don’t like ‘em?’ That’s good because I’d rather it’d mean something for people to like us, instead of just ‘I like ‘em, they’re alright’. I’d prefer to be liked, don’t get me wrong. But I’m good either way.
It’s been a while now since you released Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Any sign of the follow-up?
Yeah, it’s called At War With the Mystics. I don’t know why we have a title already but someone asked me about a year ago if we had any names and that was a song we were working on. We have about 14 songs. I think we’re going to do one more session with Dave [Fridmann, producer] and try and do a couple more if we’re lucky.
Yoshimi was your biggest selling album to date. Do you feel now like you have to tick this box and this box and not that box if you want to sell as many of the next one?
No, no. We’ve done this for so long that – eeeeuuuuaaa – it’s is just dumb luck. If we thought we’d finally figured out the right formula it’d be boring for us it’d be boring for the audience. I think people who know the Flaming Lips know those people are going to follow their muse or their heart no matter what. If the audience ever thought that were calculating ‘Oh we’ll sing this song and we’ll be weird here…’ Y’know, we’d be washed up the second that happened.
Cheerfulness is pretty much the central plank of your persona. How do you manage to keep up the pretense?
It’s not a pretense. Even doing this thing here with you today – if I didn’t want to do it I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t sit here with you and then suddenly go “Fuck you, Eoin!” That’d be kinda like inviting everybody to a party at my house and then start complaining when you all got there. Even if I had a headache or I was tired or whatever, I wouldn’t make it seem like “Aw yeah, who the fuck are you?” People tolerate that from rock stars, but I think it’s bullshit.
Do you ever wish you could just have a day off?
I have one tomorrow. I’ll probably sleep until noon. Then we’ll probably get some of the best coffee you can get in Dublin and walk around some shops, meet up with friends, get drunk, go back to the hotel, have sex with my wife a couple times, wake up at noon the next day and fly home. (laughs) That’s the good life, yeah?
Do you download music legally or illegally?
Er, just like everyone else. You know… fuck it!
So what – Limewire? Kazaa?
[flustered] Um, I don’t even know. I’m not a very computer… good… guy. Mostly because I’m afraid I’ll screw something up and my wife’ll get pissed off. But fuck it, downloading rocks. The only people who complain about it are these idiots like Metallica who think that they’re missing out on someone giving them more money. I’m like ‘Dude I make plenty of money’. I’m not worried about it. Don’t spend your money on a record – download it and come to our show and buy a T-shirt. I don’t care.
You’ve started covering Black Sabbath’s War Pigs live. Why that song?
I’m 45 years old so there’s not much chance they’re going to call me to go to this stupid war. But these kids are dying every day. That’s fucking ridiculous, you know? We play this song because it doesn’t offer any easy solutions either. It’s like screaming at a freight train that’s coming at you. You can either sit there and take it or you can scream against it. And maybe if we all scream against it they’ll stop it.
Is there ever a danger your positive outlook on life could be challenged by stuff like the war in Iraq or what’s happening in New Orleans?*
Maybe, if I was younger. But you become resilient. When my Dad got sick I thought “Life sucks. Why do these bad things have to happen?” And as I sat there and talked to him about it he said “Don’t worry about it. Bad things happen to everyone. We’ve been lucky for a long time.” And then when he died it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually quite beautiful in a way. It made me see all the things in life that were worth living for.
Hypothetically though, if someone in your family got sick again, and you lost that really positive outlook but you had to keep the show on the road to pay their medical bills. Could you do it?
I think the trouble with anyone who has imagination, as you guys do, is that you internalize these things and you just make them worse. I’ve come across some horrible car accidents where I sit in my car and say “Oh no, I don’t want to go up there because we might see kids with their heads cut off”. But I go up there, and just by going up there it’s already better than what I imagined. I always imagine, no shit, every call I get I think it’s someone gonna tell me that my brothers have all burned up in a fire or my wife is dead. Even flying over on a plane I just think, you know, planes crash all the time so…
Ross (photographer): You could get run over by a bus tomorrow.
Yeah, so it makes you say “Man, we’re here right now, so fuck it. Let’s have fun.”
* Interview took place a couple of days after hurricane Katrina.