Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne talks 24-hour song, buying human skulls
Didn’t Bob Dylan once sing, “There’s no success like excess, and excess is no failure at all”? OK, so maybe that’s not quite it. But more than ever that variation on the theme seems to be the guiding principle for the Flaming Lips.
On the heels of the Oklahoma City-based collective’s announcement last week that it will be releasing a single song that runs six hours, Pop & Hiss caught up with front man Wayne Coyne just as the band was heading into the studio to outdo itself with a new track he promises will run a full 24 hours.
“I hope it has a lot of hooks,” I said when he came on the phone from Freedonia, N.Y., where the Lips were about to embark on their chops-busting recording session this week.
“Or one really ... good one,” Coyne responded with a semi-maniacal laugh.
It sounds like great fun on paper, but what’s the point in the grand scheme of things?
“We’re kind of going by the idea that some music is not meant for intense listening,” Coyne said. “Some music is just there with you.”
The other issue a recorded day with the Flaming Lips brings up is how to package it. For the six-hour track, “Found A Star On the Ground,” the band is embedding the music in a device called "The Strobo Trip," a multi-sensory device also being tagged as "A Light and Phase Illusions Toy."
The Lips have been anything but repetitive through their mercurial career, and rather than simply creating the media technology equivalent of a CD box set by super-gluing four Strobo Trips together, Coyne said the 24-hour track will be stored on a memory stick that will be placed inside a human skull.
“It’s a giant, actual human skull,” Coyne said with great pleasure, no doubt to distinguish the other recent project from the skull-shaped gummy candy into which the band recently packed a USB drive with four new songs. “Not everyone can have them, but the guy I’m buying them from is allowed to sell them.
“This guy has had his shop since 1983; he’s in Oklahoma City,” he said. “So I thought it was just a normal thing, 'Hey, we’ll buy a human skull.' He has a big place where he gets skulls from all over the world. And not just human skulls: He also has elephant skulls and hippo skulls. You can get almost anything.”
The cost? Didn't some other wise wag once say, "If you have to ask how much a 24-hour track inside a human skull costs, you can't afford it."
After the whole angle of human skull idea came up, I neglected to delve into mundane things like release schedules. Certainly the band's website will post the info as soon as they figure it out.
— Randy Lewis
Photo of Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne in his bubble at a concert in Chicago in July. Credit: Timothy Hiatt / WireImage.