Wayne Coyne Recalls Near-Death Experience That Changed His Life

Flaming Lips singer lends own drawings and meditates on life and death in PBS animated series 'Blank on Blank'

Wayne Coyne has his share of far-out stories that would be perfect for PBS Digital Studios' Blank on Blank series, which takes previously unheard clips from interviews with musicians and artists and animates them. But in the latest installment, the Flaming Lips frontman doesn't recall some long, strange trip, but rather offers a more sobering story and his own meditations on life and death.

Taken from an interview with Jennifer Van Evra in 2002, Coyne opens up about being robbed at gunpoint while working at Long John Silver's in his hometown of Oklahoma City. "We all laid on the ground. I thought, 'Fuck, this is… this is it," said Coyne. "Here I am, I’m 17 and this is how it ends. You’re just working one second and the next second you’re laying on the ground and some guy puts a bullet in your head.' Obviously they robbed us and left and didn’t kill me… We all cried. We couldn’t stop crying and laughing and jumping up and down. We were celebrating like we had just won a million dollars. The idea of we are alive and isn’t it a fucking great thing? I think it changed me."

Coyne mulls how this experience allowed him to confront the reality that everyone ultimately meets the same end, and how that makes life worth celebrating. For Coyne, music provides a space to work through these things — later, he talk about the existential issues at the heart of Flaming Lips tracks like "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" and "She Don't Use Jelly" — and how the music of Björk and John Coltrane helped him get through his own father's death.

While the video was animated and directed by Patrick Smith, the background images were provided by Coyne himself, some of which appeared in his 2013 comic The Sun is Sick. But the frontman is a prolific doodler, telling Blank on Blank that he often scribbles away aimlessly during interviews. "Sometimes I think those are the most original," Coyne said "It gets away from the central reoccurring theme that I don’t seem to be aware of. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe there’s some unquenchable question that I keep asking the universe that I can’t get an answer to."

Check out other Blank on Blank installments, featuring stories from Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Tupac Shakur and Jim Morrison.