Just as a compilation of early material chronicling their wildly
experimental earlier years is hitting shelves, Oklahoman
psychedelic-rockers the Flaming Lips are about to finish a new album
that could represent their most radical musical shift yet.
In keeping with their unpredictable past, the Lips are making a bold
break from their more abstract leanings and collaborating with a
remixer -- Peter Mokran -- best known for his work with such mainstream
pop acts as Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Prince.
Lips leader Wayne Coyne said he has no idea how Mokran's input will
affect his group's collage-like, fractured acid-rock.
"He's been taking a more 'industry' approach to remixing a couple of our
songs," Coyne said of recent sessions with Mokran in Chicago. "His
position is to do something that we could get on radio in the next six
months. He knows what needs to be done to do that."
Coyne said that while most bands would think of this kind of remixing as
a "heinous procedure," he and his bandmates -- drummer Steven Drozd and
bassist Michael Ivins -- loved the opportunity to rethink their songs in
ways that would never have occurred to them.
"What Peter was doing was not that much different than what we'd do,"
Coyne said. "It's just that sometimes we'll sacrifice hearing lyrics for
outright use of distortion and burying the melodies. [Mokran] just said
to us, 'C'mon fellas, we have to hear what you're saying.'"
While Mokran was brought in to give some of the group's songs a more
pop-oriented feel, Lips manager Scott Booker said the group likes to
think that it's always been a pop band, minus the conventional song
Booker hinted that it is possible the upcoming Lips album, scheduled for
the first quarter of 1999 and tentatively titled The Soft
Bulletin, could feature both Mokran's and Coyne's versions of certain
songs. "Instead of fighting [the Lips' label, Warner Brothers], we'd like
to release a Lips version and a mixed version, so people can hear the
difference," Booker said.
In the meantime, the trio continued its unique series of live shows,
dubbed the "Boombox Experiment," with four recent dates on the East
Coast. The concerts, which feature Coyne and Drozd conducting a symphony
of boombox radios with specially prepared tapes featuring the Lips'
music, have further established the group's reputation as musical
As for the band's studio-produced music, Coyne said it has matured in
The 15-plus songs recorded and re-recorded by the band during the past
year are more emotionally based, Coyne said. "I've been drawn to more
emotional sounds as opposed to the abstract, more hodgepodge sound we've
been known for," he said.
The singer described the new music as commercial and experimental at the
same time. It includes such tentatively titled new tracks as "Superman,"
the multiple-song suite "The Psychiatrist Confronts the Indifference of
the Vast Galaxy" and "What Is the Light (My Unscientific Hypothesis That
the Chemical By Which We Feel Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the
Big Bang Theory)."
For fans in search of the Lips' more old-school approach to
experimentation, a collection of material from the first half of their
14-year career, A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for
Recording ... By Amateurs (Restless Records), was released
Sept. 29. The 14-song collection is culled from such albums as Hear
It Is (1986); Oh My Gawd!!! ... The Flaming Lips (1987);
Telepathic Surgery (1988); In a Priest Driven Ambulance
(1990); and the Unconsciously Screamin' EP (1990).
"I think Restless basically wanted to discontinue a lot of our back
catalog, since none of these records sell anyway, so they were trying to
concise those albums down," Coyne said.
With liner notes penned by Coyne, chronicling the band's early years, the
set also features a number of rare or previously unavailable songs,
including covers of singer/songwriter Nick Lowe ("What's So Funny About
Peace, Love and Understanding"), grunge-godfather Neil Young ("After the
Gold Rush"), noise-pioneers Sonic Youth ("Death Valley '69") and
heavy-metal rockers Led Zeppelin ("Thank You"). The latter two have
never been available on CD before.
Also included on the album are Lips originals "Jesus Shootin' Heroin"; "I Want to Kill My Brother the Cymbalhead" (never
before available on CD); "Hell's Angels Cracker Factory"; "One Million, Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning";
"Bag Full of Thoughts" (previously unreleased); "Chrome Plated Suicide";
"Michael, Time to Wake Up,"; "Unconsciously Screaming" (with an enhanced-CD video included); "God Walks Among Us Now"; and "Ma Didn't Notice."
"This was looked at as a kind of 'greatest hits' album,' " Coyne said.
"But, being that we don't really have any hits, we just picked whichever
songs we liked better than others."