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Wayne Coyne on Miley Cyrus, Damien Hirst and Music As Food

The Flaming Lips at Bonnaroo 2014- photo by Maureen Gatta

It’s 2003 and I’m walking alongside moe.’s Al Schnier to The Flaming Lips’ midnight debut at Bonnaroo. He’s rushing to That Tent in the hope of being chosen to put on an animal costume and dance on the side of the stage during the set. He finds out he’s too late, while I head to the photo pit and set up right in front of Wayne Coyne’s centerstage microphone. Due to the massive crowd and ensuing chaos, I end up in that same spot for the entire show.

Following tracks from the critically-acclaimed “The Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” they played “Breathe” and “Us and Them” from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for the very first time. The group would release a studio version of their interpretation of the entire classic rock album in 2010 and then perform it that same year at their third Bonnaroo appearance.

It was on this night that the Oklahoma-based psychedelic alt rock musicians’ creative aesthetic blossomed even further because they discovered that music expands beyond the borders of audience tribalism, while a new group of open-minded listeners discovered the glorious mixtures of adventurous sounds and display of eye-popping DIY production that went beyond the festival’s jamband origins.
In an interview with Wayne Coyne at this year’s Bonnaroo, he elaborated on the Flaming Lips’s first appearance on the Farm and how it changed them.

During its 2014 midnight show, the band, once again, created a mind-bending, transfixing universe with a set that incorporated psychedelic workouts and crowd favorites including “Race for the Prize,” “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “Silver Trembling Hands,” “The W.A.N.D.,” “Do You Realize??” and ending with the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” That last song was a tease of the group’s next venture, a recreation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” due Oct. 28, with song contributions from MGMT, Dr. Dog, Miley Cyrus, Tame Impala and others.

JPG: I saw you in 1992 during the second edition of Lollapalooza. Then, I saw you here at your first Bonnaroo in 2003 right in front in the photo pit because I was stuck. I couldn’t leave…So, I’ve been following you from college rock band to alternative rock band to this. I saw the change in your world because you were playing to a jamband type of crowd that night that completely embraced you.

I think we had misinterpreted what that was as well; that thing in your mind where you think, “Oh, these people like this sort of music then we should be this sort of way.” But, I thought that once we played here I didn’t think that was true at all. I thought, as people, they’re like us, and this idea that people will align their friends with the type of music that they listen to is ridiculous.

Music is like food. If you like it, it’s good to you, and if the next person doesn’t like, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like it. It should be the most free, the most un-opinionated, the most un-judged thing about you.

Everybody has a reason why they like the music that they like, and I thought that we should have already evolved past that as people, as musicians, as artists. Being at Bonnaroo, I felt like an idiot. I felt like, “No shit. Why do we think that there should be these bands…this bands…?” Bonnaroo helped us, seeing that for real; people just accepting it.

Seeing you in 2003 it was like, “Whoa! The Flaming Lips are here!” and when Sonic Youth and Tortoise played Bonaroo, they had this look on their faces before they hit the first note, kind of “What are we doing here in front of this crowd at this festival?” Then, they got major cheers after the first song and were like, “Wow! These people get it.”

Well, they get it because they love music, and that’s exactly who you want to play for. To me I, occasionally, go to the basketball games, the [Oklahoma] Thunder, and I see exactly the thing that I despise in that, “I love my team and I fuckin’ hate your team.” And music, any time that happens in music, it’s just appalling. Music is supposed to make you more open, more accepting, more forgiving, seeing more things in the world.

When I go to a concert and I see that happening, it’s like (groans) But, most of the time when we have another band play with us, if you get to play with the Flaming Lips, you get to play with this audience that is listening and loving and going, “What is this new stuff?” That’s the way it should be.

This will be your fourth time at Bonnaroo. Is there a different approach or attitude now that you’re a veteran of the festival?

We’re lucky that the more we know about Bonnaroo, the more we can schedule having more fun. (laughs) Some years, just the way things work out, you literally pull in and you play and then you back up and you have to leave. And the fun of Bonnaroo is not just in playing, the fun is being here and being around it. So, we were lucky. Yesterday we got to get in and spend the night here, hang around and be with our friends and see bands and talk to groups and get drunk and stuff. That’s one of the luxuries of being successful and having some say over what happens in your life is you get to have fun.

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