After rocking Dark Side of the Moon at Bonnaroo and a set of their own epic space-rock jams at Maine's tiny Nateva festival, the Flaming Lips are in the thick of a massive summer tour that includes one more big U.S. festival date: October's Austin City Limits. Frontman Wayne Coyne chatted with Rolling Stone backstage at Nateva and revealed his fear of acid, love of M.I.A. and reason why his band is selling tickets more than ever.
Is there another album that you would like to cover?
Frankly, I think a lot of records are just too long. I wouldn't say that I love every song on Dark Side of the Moon, but it's pretty good. You can listen to it pretty easy 'cause it's not really very long, it's only, like, 44 minutes long. People think it's some epic prog-rock thing but it really isn't. We always go to those classic albums — I would think maybe Black Sabbath's first record, Echo & the Bunnymen or something like that. I know Beck does one a month on his website.
He's covering a Yanni record now.
See, I don't really want to hear that. That's funny, but I'm not really interested in that. I don't really want to listen to Yanni himself. So to me, that's where it starts going a little bit wrong. I would never do something as a joke. I think jokes are great, but I do it because I love music and I love the idea of being free to sort of reinterpret something that's so simple.
This summer is one of the worst in touring history. Has this season felt different to you? Even the Eagles just canceled a few dates.
Oh, well, fuck them. I mean we don't [feel different], but we're not really that concerned about playing like, the biggest festival in the world. Sometimes you think if you charged maybe $60 for your tickets instead of you know, thousands of dollars … but they should do what they like. We were in Croatia last week, we're gonna go to Poland later this summer. We want to go to interesting places. We don't want to play at the biggest most popular rock star event. I think it's much better to do things at are interesting and hope that they work, rather than trying to do stuff that, if it's not successful, we all fucking lose.
What's your favorite festival drug?
At Bonnaroo, this guy was fucking freaking out during the LCD Soundsystem set. It looked like he was on PCP, bad acid trip or something. But I wouldn't want to do acid because I don't like it. It just freaks me out. I don't know, like Ecstasy or pot. I think that maybe the first night you would wanna do some Ecstasy and stay up, then on the second night you wanna chill out a little bit, then on the third night get drunk. I think it really has a lot to do with how your mind works and how sensitive you are. There are only small moments when I like feeling out of control.
Do you lose self-control?
Yeah, I do. I don't think anybody can tell that I am quietly going insane. I guess I really do. Everybody would say this, but I really do love my senses, I love hearing and seeing and smelling, just having the experience. But when I can't quite navigate it, I'm scared or I'm frustrated. I always think I'm going to kill somebody. You know, I never have, that I can remember.
Futhur are also playing Nateva, and you guys just played Ithaca's Barton Hall, the site of the Grateful Dead's legendary May 8th, 1977 show. Are you a fan?
I'm not a Dead Head, but there's a philosophy in the way that they did things that I really admire. [I saw them] maybe it was '77. I didn't really know much about them, but to me, I always thought they got like the fucking coolest name of any group ever. But I thought that they'd just be freakier. A lot of it just seemed to be basic, traditional, bluegrass music. I like intense shit.
What are you listening to right now?
The new M.I.A. I like the "Born Free" single with the Suicide sample. I didn't like the video that much. But I like her. I think she's a badass. She's a freak. She's cool. She's intense. I think she gets a bit too bitchy sometimes, but I don't care.