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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne on Playing Noise Pop, Making The Soft Bulletin, and Feeling Free to Do Anything

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 3:00 AM

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So to me it wasn't like a grand, brave leap, it was really out of just sheer interest in other things. It wasn't as though it occurred in one day. It was little things that happened. And I think the success of The Soft Bulletin makes it seem a lot more important. We certainly we thought at the time no one would give a shit and it would fail miserably and no one would ever think about it again, and that would be the end of us.

Really? Even after Steven cried hearing the first mix of [the gorgeous, powerful sad song] "Waitin' for a Superman," you really thought you were going to get dropped from Warner Bros. after making this record and that the band would end?

Well artistically, your mindset can be one way, but realistically, I don't know. We didn't really know why anybody would be interested in seeing us, or be interested in the way that we were making music. And it wasn't really that we were a big popular group, ever. It wasn't as though people would be interested in 'Oh, what are the Flaming Lips doing now?' It's like, 'Oh, I don't know, they sucked before, I'm sure they suck now.' I think that we just got really lucky that we just immersed ourselves in the only thing that enabled us to fight back. Or maybe it was that we felt like we'd already failed. And I say this to artists a lot, that if you already think that nobody cares about you and you already think the whole thing has failed, and you already think it's useless, you can just do whatever the fuck you want. Once we had that in our minds, we just went completely fucking crazy. That changed everything for us. Even now, I try to remember to try to make music like nobody gives a shit still.

How do you feel about The Soft Bulletin now? How do you rank it among the other records you've done?

I really don't listen to The Soft Bulletin on purpose very much, just as a whole record. But occasionally when I hear it, and I'm not prepared to hear it -- I'll be at somebody's house or something, and they'll play it -- at first I'll be like, 'Oh, what the fuck is that, that's cool.' And then I'll go, 'Oh, that's us! Goddamn, that's The Soft Bulletin. No wonder people like it!' And that happens a lot. Those are stupid things to say, but you just get surprised sometimes by these things.

I got a text yesterday from a woman that I'd run into in a record store. Someone in her family had just died, and they listened to 'Waitin' for a Superman,' and talked about how music is sometimes like you're only thing that you have. I know that. I know that there are things about The Soft Bulletin that were like that for us. Steven talks about tearing up on the couch -- I mean, we knew that we had done that thing. Not, 'We had done that thing, so look at us, we're great.' It's just that we love, love, love music. And when it does that thing, you get a sense of, finally, we belong in that era or that thing where groups can go inside themselves and do this expression. Previous to that, I think we had tried, or we thought we were doing it. But we'd never really sat down and endured the embarrassment of standing there with your friends, saying, 'I'm really going to sing about how much you guys impact me, how much my life is impacted by my band, and my friends, and you.' Most of it is kind of embarrassing when you're doing it, but it's a very powerful truth once you do it. And then you never go back. To me now, I'll sing about anything. I'll endure any humiliation. Humiliation is one of the great blessings of life, it's awesome.

But without it being successful, I don't think we could have ever got its reward. It was when we went out and started to play The Soft Bulletin [that] we kind of became that band. We weren't really that band when we made it, but once we made it, and we were able to sing those songs in front of people, we really became those people. I could sing about 'feeling yourself disintegrate.' And it wasn't just a song, it was like, 'This is me.' That's the greatest thing that's happened to us. So now when we go up and sing it, I look like this old pirate that's just come back from this long, crazy journey: 'Let me tell you, back in 1998...'

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Ian S. Port

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