Wayne Coyne on Reissues, Lightboxes and His Brother Mark

Wayne Coyne on Reissues, Lightboxes and His Brother Mark

The Flaming Lips never cease to shock and awe: from gummy skulls packed with tunes to real skulls similarly music-laced to a 24-hour whirlwind of a record-breaking tour, Wayne Coyne’s psychedelic band of madmen are never at a loss for ideas. The latest being a series of reissues and rarities, plus a record infused with… beer?

TIDAL spoke with Coyne following Record Store Day, on which the band released a 7″ featuring two songs, “The Story Of Yum Yum and Dragon” and “Beer in Your Ear.” The vinyl itself was infused with the band’s official beer, courtesy of Dogfish Head Alehouse, which is called, appropriately, Dragons & Yum Yums.

Earlier this month, the band released something else odd and rare: Scratching the Door: The First Recordings of the Flaming Lips, a collection of early Lips tracks featuring the Lips’ original vocalist, Wayne’s brother Mark. Following that release is the band’s first-ever greatest hits collection, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (out June 1) and, on June 29, even more music: Seeing the Unseeable: The Complete Studio Recordings of The Flaming Lips: 1986-1990.

Read on for more about reissues, Mark and what other ambitious release formats the band might have planned.

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Looking back, how do you view reissues? Is it like listening to music that another person made? Or do you still kind of see yourself the way you did back then?

You’re right, exactly. It is, I mean, depending on how far away back it was. We’re talking about things that we did in 1983, 1984. Those always feel like, ‘Whoever those young guys were that made that, they’re absolutely insane, and we love it.’

The thought process, or the emotions, or the things that happened while we were making it — all those things just connected us to our songs. The records that we’ve made that are just a couple of years old, those are always slightly untouchable, because you’re still thinking about how you made them and how it turned out. You always have a little bit of anxiousness about it.

But so much of our music, it’s been done so long ago that sometimes I’ll be hearing it and I’ll be really loving it, and I’ll ask, ‘Hey who is this? This is really cool.’ Some of our songs have stayed with us and they’re popular enough that we’ve never gotten away from them.

But, for the most part, it’s absolutely wonderful — to be able to go back. We’re really lucky; I mean we’re one of the only groups to have this many records. We’re lucky that we made this many records and that we’re the producers of them. We own all of them. We have access to them all. We’re the ones that put all this stuff in motion. There’s never really been a record of ours that came out without us being the bringers, you know, the people saying, ‘We want this to get out and let us shape it and let us present it to the world.’

What’s your brother up to now? He’s the vocalist on a good number of the early tracks.

He was only the singer for the very, very beginning of the group. If you would’ve asked any of us, ‘Do you think you’ll still be doing this when you’re almost 60 years old?’ we would’ve both said absolutely, ‘No.’ That would’ve been a horrible future for us. I think the reason that all of us collectively got together back in 1982 and 1983 when all that was stuff mostly happening, it’s because it was mostly just a silly thing that we were doing over the summertime. For my brother especially.

I really started to fall in love with recording music and writing music. Previous to that, I liked it. I didn’t get to really do it that much, so I didn’t look ahead to think I should do this when I’m 60 years old. It wasn’t really something that my brother wanted to do. He liked the idea of being crazy and performing once in a while, but he was not a singer in the same way like I’m not a singer. But I’m more of a singer than he was. He was just a strange confrontational kind of performance artist. It wasn’t about singing to him.

I see Richard — the drummer that was on the very first album — here and there and we’ve always sort of talked. But then, you know, a lot of that is such a long, long time ago. You would never think of it as being part of who we are now. When I see [my former bandmates] out there in the world, we’ve been grown men and they’ve not been in the Flaming Lips for such a long, long time. So when something like this comes out, I think there’s a collective, ‘Yay, there’s a record with my face on the cover!’

I’ve heard that the Record Store Day release had a really interesting packaging with Flaming Lips brand beer pressed into the vinyl. With more reissues/rarities records coming out in June, what do you all have planned?

It’s not coming to my mind right now, but we should come up with something. I mean, we always have a couple of things in the works. We have this strange little lightbox thing that we’ve been working on for a couple of years that we have been looking to use for the big Flaming Lips Greatest Hits Collection. But it would be a high-dollar app thing. It would be something that cost a couple of thousand of dollars to get.

Now you’ve revved me up about that. Now that you’ve sent me on it and I’ll get to work on it for sure.

(Photo credit: George Salisbury)

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