‘Don’t croak without Jesus!’ reads the blood red lettering on mustard coloured board in Wayne Coyne’s friendly home town of Oklahoma; a silhouetted image of Jesus accompanies this scene with famed two-by-fours. For a town known mainly for its oil, college football and country music, it seemed like the unlikely place for the rebirth of psychedelic art rock. But it was where the journey began for singer-songwriter Wayne Coyne.
To give some context to the draw that Wayne Coyne has: a surrealist art installation may as well be a beige tower block in his presence. Or rather, Wayne wouldn’t diminish the wonder of any art installation but would unintentionally become the most interesting part of it. His outlook on life, approach to music and his art are enough to give you cause to follow him without question. It was these seeds of character, which were nurtured into the enigmatic showman that he is today as lead singer and songwriter of The Flaming Lips.
In this band, Wayne’s pied-piper levels of persuasion still brings generations of listeners to drown in the sensory Molotov cocktail that is their live shows. It’s a joyous assault on all your senses and to be there is to be in the presence of a fantastical entity doing something intense, real and above all, fun! While the lyrical content resonates with audiences the world over, Wayne wouldn’t want you to convey the stage shows as any form of high art. Quite the contrary, Wayne has frequently conveyed that the more intense the emotional connection is to the music, the more theatrical madness he can get away with. And get away with some theatrical madness he has! From the march of a thousand skeletons in Oklahoma, to troll-sized technicoloured laser hands, his manhood flying freely in music videos and a poster made of Coyne’s own blood. It’s safe to say that the days of a mic’ing up a 500cc Kawasaki/Yamaha racing bike are well behind them and today you’ll see Coyne descending from his mothership to the gleeful ovation of the masses or maybe atop a unicorn. Above all, the live performance is a celebration of their art.
‘You have to do the art you love; otherwise it’s just marketing or something’
It is no surprise then that art has been a way of Wayne to express his enthusiasm about life and theatrics. Many great musicians have side projects: Mynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer) is famously a winemaker, actor, producer and martial artist; the Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Steve Vai (David Lee Roth and Frank Zappa fame) are beekeepers; Cherie Currie (Runaways) is a chainsaw carving artist and Terminator X (Public Enemy)…well, he raises ostriches! Wayne too is a man with side-projects, albeit less exotic than raising ostriches. He has dabbled in the director’s chair in Christmas on Mars and aired the story in a circus tent. This naturally became part of The Flaming Lips tour – circus tent and all! He has also branched into art installations and collaborations with other musicians.
King’s Mouth was debuted in Baltimore in The Big Hope exhibition in 2015. This exhibition incorporated a multitude of artistic mediums, which explored hope, transcendence and survival. Wayne transferred his belief in an all-consuming sensory experience and manifested it in the form of a chrome tree-like King being. A crawl space provided entrance into the King’s mind, an altogether different realm from our own. Within it you lie-back and absorb the King’s vision and interpret it in your own way. It was a kaleidoscope of audio-visual sensations not unlike The Flaming Lips shows. But like Wayne’s music, his art welcomes you in with the overtly warm chrome entrance, which provided enough realism and intrigue for child and adult alike. Both are allowed to interact with and be curious about the piece. It is clear that Wayne’s personality: his warmth, humanity and creativity, are a constant in his artistic expressions. I look forward to more from the ‘hillbilly gone punk version of The Who and so should you!
In 2014 Wayne took an interesting turn and ended collaborated with Miley Cyrus on her full length album, ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’. This collaboration arose from an innocent enough tweet and blossomed into a collaborations between creatives, friendship and some fascinating live performances! ‘since then, we’ve texted each other every day. I’ll say: ‘What are you doing? And she’ll send me pictures of herself peeing. Sometimes it’s 1,000 times a day, sometimes it’s a couple of times a day, but we’re in each other’s lives’. Their compatibility and work ethic surprised critics, fans and it surprised me too! But they inspired each other and from that inspiration came new art. As Frank Zappa helpfully put it, a mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.