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The Flaming Lips Biography

Last updated: 07/24/2012 11:00:00 AM

The Flaming Lips-photo
Steven Drozd -- drums, vocals, guitars, other stuff
Michael Ivins -- bass, vocals, guitars
Ronald Jones -- guitars, effects, vocals, postal abuse
Wayne Coyne -- vocals, guitars, philosophy, all the rest

"I figured when I got done with the record, I'd have used up every idea I'd ever have."

-Wayne Coyne

Clouds Taste Metallic, the new album from The Flaming Lips on Warner Bros. Records, sounds like a big party in outer space, with two songs about astronauts, references to exploding brains, placebo headwounds, postal workers on fire, explorations with needles, loopy rhythms, cheesy NASA effects and that slightly off-center Flaming Lips "absolute sound."

Wayne Coyne explains, "We hear so many records these days that are done with click tracks, as opposed to a drummer. Everybody seems to focus in on this perfection sort of thing. It's not that we really try to be off-center purposely; I just think that, compared to a lot that's out there, we're actually playing music by human beings-who are into the music."

The last year has been larger than usual for the fire-eating boys from Oklahoma City-"She Don't Use Jelly" broke out of the MTV BuzzBin and into the Top 40, followed by appearances on Lollapalooza, David Letterman and Beverly Hills 90210.

"When 90210 called up and said, 'We want The Flaming Lips to play The Peach Pit,' we thought it was a joke-but a joke like that you can't afford to pass up, so we said, 'Sure! Great! We'll do it in a second!'" recalls Flaming Lip Wayne Coyne. "We didn't really know who the stars were...Tori Spelling, or any of the people. If it were 1973 and it were the Brady Bunch, we'd know who they were. When it played, we had a big party here and everybody came."

Recorded between February and June 1995, Clouds Taste Metallic contains 12 new songs, plus the "Aurally Excited Version" of "Bad Days," featured in Batman Forever, introducing Jim Carrey's Riddler to the audience-full volume and twisted. "We couldn't believe it, they used almost the entire song! We had remixed it for the film-before it was very low-fi. It's not that I'm a fan of low-fi stuff, but this was sort of...inferior-hi."

"The Abandoned Hospital Ship" starts off the parade of new tunes on the album, the seventh full-length Flaming featurette, with home movie sounds and Wayne's patented "vulnerable but endearing wail" about how difficult it can be to come up with these tunes. It evolves into a full-blown widescreen extravaganza with big drums, big guitars and of course, big church bells. Then somebody turns the projector off. Hallelujah! A great start!

"Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles" continues the fun with the second longest title on Clouds Taste Metallic (the winner being track six-"Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World").

"Sometimes the song title comes with the songs, other times you just sorta make something up afterwards. We've been known to have some very long album titles, like Providing Needles For Your Balloons and Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, or Hit To Death In The Future Head. Somewhere along the way I figured I could get away with long song titles, but I had to stop doing long titles for albums. If you think of Clouds Taste ... that's only two syllables. You can get that out easily."

"Placebo Headwound" asks a lot of questions about outer space, birds' migration patterns and God. Where do you find the answers? "I really love that word, 'placebo.' If you think it works, well then it works. If God can only exist in your mind, doesn't that mean he's really there if you think of him?" asks Professor Coyne, adding, "I'm not sure it's actually to our benefit to let anybody know how we came up with this crap."

Clouds Taste Metallic is full of stories about birds, brains, giraffes, sub-atomic molecules, travels to other worlds and other scientific oddities. But it also offers a sincere look at the theory that "good will triumph over bad" in one of the album's highlights, "Evil Will Prevail." "Anyone with half a brain must know that goodness is sometimes not enough to conquer evil. Anyone who's been alive has seen a lot of shitty, evil things done and it doesn't take a bomb blowing up half of your town to know that."

Besides holding claim to having the world's tallest radio tower for KOMA, Oklahoma City was also a test market for McDonald's McRibs and MTV. Before cable, Wayne and his older brothers had to entertain themselves by holding boxing matches in their front yard. "It was endlessly entertaining, watching people beat each other up. All the little kids in the neighborhood would come and watch...and then we'd beat them up as well. My older brothers would take a lot of drugs and we'd sit around and listen to records-the Beatles' White Album, John and Yoko's experimental stuff. We never knew it was freaky or weird; we thought that was music that everyone listened to."

In spite of absorbing countless blows to the head, Wayne and his brother Mark went on to form The Flaming Lips, though Mark dropped out in the early rounds. "We've been together since '84 [the current line up has been together since 1992], but for the longest time we didn't consider ourselves a band, more like a joke."

After signing with Warner Bros. in 1991 and finding out you could actually get money for making records, the band started believing that The Flaming Lips might be legitimate. This of course hasn't interfered with that quirky, homemade blend of sounds found on all of their records.

"We love it when we make mistakes that are better than something you could think up," says Wayne. False starts, distortion, buzzing amplifiers, whirling tape decks and studio chatter all contribute to the production of Clouds Taste Metallic, which was produced by The Lips and Dave Fridmann.

"I always look at some of these songs as kinda movies or something. I try to give them some sort of drama, but in the end it just comes down to asking...'gee, what the hell are we gonna do?'"

Surprisingly, "They Punctured My Yolk" has nothing to do with needles or eggs. "It's another sad story about a couple of young astronauts in the NASA program. They fall in love and at the last minute something happens to the guy and he doesn't get to go to space, but she goes for a ten-year inter-stellar exploration."

After tours with Candlebox, Stone Temple Pilots, Butthole Surfers, Archers Of Loaf and the Grifters-after ten years of exploring the fringes of the consciousness of American culture, The Flaming Lips have finally moved to the frontal lobe section of the supermarket with the release of Clouds Taste Metallic. As Wayne wisely says looking back at it all-"Nothing was as intentional as we hoped it was."

-Peter Bochan


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