Thursday, September 6, 2012
The perpetual circus that is the Flaming Lips is more than just music. After nearly 30 years, the Oklahoma natives continue to unleash psychedelic electro-pop – including masterpieces like Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin – and innovative stage shows that have included everything from a lip-syncing nun hand puppet to a giant hamster bubble that frontman Wayne Coyne uses to crowd surf.
Armed with their recently completed 15th album and a new stage set, built and conceived by Coyne, the Lips descend upon the Henry Miller Memorial Library on Tuesday for a sold out show that (((folkYEAH!))) Presents’ Britt Govea calls “one for the ages.” The Weekly caught up with the group’s co-songwriting multi-instumentalist Steven Drozd a week before the show.
Weekly: What have you been up to? Steven Drozd: We haven’t been playing a lot of shows. We’ve already finished our new record and we’re working on some movie soundtracks. This year, compared to the previous couple of years, it’s been pretty mellow. This time last year we were in the middle of our summer and fall tour and we did a six-hour song and we were about to start working on a 24-hour song. I think we’re trying to take a deep breath before we start touring behind the next record, which is coming out early next year.
Wayne was quoted as saying the forthcoming album The Terror may be the best Lips’ album yet. What are your thoughts on it? Usually we finish a record and think we should’ve done something different or wish we could make a change. This is the first record in a long time where I can’t think of anything I’d want to change about it. I really feel good about it and I feel like it’s really what we set out to do. I don’t know if it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.
Talk about your and Wayne’s songwriting process for The Terror. We’d go into Wayne’s studio and record sounds on a junky old synthesizer or drum machine or some weird effect, and build songs around these sounds instead of writing songs and trying to find the sound. We’ve never really worked like that before. Embryonic was a group of us jamming and making songs out of that. This is the first record where pretty much the whole record was based on sounds that we thought were cool. There aren’t a lot of pop chord progressions and a lot of it is kind of droney. It may be our most successful record in sustaining one overall mood. We always try to do something different. Some people may think it’s not much of a change for the Flaming Lips, but for us, it feels like a change.
What’s it like for you to go back and watch yourself shoot heroin on camera in the Fearless Freaks Flaming Lips documentary? I feel a lot of regret about it now because I have two young kids and obviously at some point they will be old enough to go on the Internet and I’m just going to have to be honest with them. Maybe it’s a good thing that I was so frank and honest. That was the worst time in my life so it’s weird to see it. It’s a reminder of just how grim things could be in my life.
Are you currently clean and sober? I haven’t had a drink in two years and I haven’t done any of the other stuff since Fearless Freaks. I know Wayne said some stuff to Rolling Stone but it was gravely exaggerated. There’s always some rock-and-roll mythology. I’m doing great and not struggling with anything. Hopefully that lasts for a while.
I heard Wayne is building a new “Emerald Forest” set for your show at Henry Miller Library. Big Sur will be the first step in moving on to a new stage show. It won’t be completely perfected and won’t all be in place but it’s the first step in that direction. I’ve only seen sketches of it but I know they’re using Versa TUBES, which is an extension of an LED video screen. They’re going to be upright on the stage, which will be a whole new weird look. But that’s all I know about it.
What do you have in store for the Big Sur show? We talk about doing stripped-down shows for smaller crowds all the time. This will be the first chance we’ll get to do some of that. I think we’ll play some songs we haven’t played in a while and some brand new things, but not too many because people get bored with stuff they haven’t heard.
How do you feel about the new Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots musical? I’m excited about it. Between you and me, I get bored with musicals. I’m not a big fan but it could only help us. Even if it fails it would be an interesting side note in the Flaming Lips story.
You guys recently broke Jay-Z’s world record for most live shows in 24 hours. Aside from the time limit and all the traveling, what were some other unforeseen challenges? Lack of sleep gets you after a while. And logistically, some of the places were so small and hot. But there was nothing that made us want to give up. Jackson Browne played a gig with us at 6:30am and he had a look on his face like it was the worst gig he ever played. He was reduced to a mere human.
What other world record do you think the Flaming Lips could break? The longest note.
THE FLAMING LIPS perform at 8:30pm (gates at 7:30pm) Tuesday, September 11, at Henry Miller Memorial Library, a quarter mile south of Nepenthe Restaurant on Highway 1, Big Sur. Sold out. 667-2574, www.henrymiller.org