So, How Was Your Decade is a series in which the decade’s most innovative musicians answer our questionnaire about the music, culture and memorable moments that shaped their decade. We’ll be rolling these pieces out throughout December.
Wayne Coyne is parked outside his home in Oklahoma City, sitting inside his Prius. It’s better to talk inside the vehicle than in his house, he says, where there’s cats, dogs, his wife and infant son. “It’s just the easiest spot to do an intimate talk in,” the Flaming Lips frontman says. “I can’t imagine sitting in my living room and having people listen to me all day. So I come out in my own little spot and then it’s just me and you.”
In the last 10 years, the Flaming Lips have released three studio albums — The Terror (2013), Oczy Mlody (2017) and King’s Mouth (2019). They’ve also collaborated with a variety of artists on two records, 2012’s The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends and 2014’s With a Little Help from My Fwends, the latter a tribute to the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band. In 2012, they broke Jay-Z’s Guinness World Record for most concerts played in 24 hours (eight). And of course, they befriended Miley Cyrus and released the wonderfully weird Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz in 2015.
Coyne reflects on all of these accomplishments, plus getting married and having a baby with his wife, Katy Weaver. “He’s this great little piece of happiness in the world,” he says of his son, Bloom. “Let’s hope he stays that way!”
My favorite album of the 2010s was: Beach House’s album that we got Bloom’s name from [2012’s Bloom]. It doesn’t seem like that long ago to me, but I’m gonna be 59 years old, so nothing seems that long ago to me. [It’s the] album when [my wife and I] we were getting together. If I had to name an album that I still listen to all the time and still think of all the time, it would be their record.
My favorite song of the 2010s was: I think everybody would agree with me that that song that Rihanna did that’s just the piano song [Sings “Stay”]. People don’t realize how great it is because it’s Rihanna and she’s great and it’s popular, but it’s such a great song. I often would say to people I wish I wrote that song. Damn, you know? Fuck.
The craziest thing that happened to me in the 2010s was: For me personally, I got divorced from my wife that I had since I was in my 20s. And then I was lucky enough to get remarried to the wife that now we have a baby together. I know it sounds cliché to ridiculous but it’s sort of like, I’m just living a whole new life. I don’t know if you know that song “You Only Live Twice,” I kind of feel like I’ve lived…this is my third life that I’m living, because I always say, you live your first life. You live it before you know that you’re alive or what death is. And that’s one type of life and then the second life that you live, because you know you’re going to die, you know that death is there. It becomes part of what shapes you. And I think I’m lucky now that I’ve lived long enough, where I don’t necessarily fear myself dying.
I want to live to like 120 now because I’ve got this little boy and we’re gonna hopefully have a couple of other little kids and I want to be alive until they’re old, you know? And so I kind of feel like I just have a new life now. Probably meeting my wife and luckily having some kind of magic chemical that gives me more energy now than I had like when I was 30. I don’t know what it is. It’s not just a drug – I don’t really take drugs – but if it was a drug, I would tell everybody to take it [laughs].
The TV show I couldn’t stop streaming in the 2010s was: We came into it late, [but] we sat down for about two weeks straight and watched all of Breaking Bad. So we didn’t even start to watch until it had been over for a long time. That was probably the greatest binge watch that you could ever have. I still think we could do it again, because you just forget all the stuff that happened.
The best book I read this decade was: There was a book written about Oklahoma City that I’m in and I’m part of. It’s called Boomtown and it’s by Sam Anderson.
The best live show I saw in the 2010s was: I’m trying to remember all of them. If you have to struggle too hard to remember it, how great could have been? But I’m going to say Coldplay [in 2016]. I’m friends with them and I’ve known them since their first single came out. I remember when we went to see them — we live in Oklahoma City and they played in Tulsa, which is about 120 miles away — and we left late, and I knew that I was gonna meet with them and talk with them. And so we hurried very much to get there, because we wanted to say hello to them before they went on. And they were nice enough to wait. We met them in the dressing room as they’re walking out. Chris Martin is such a sweet, thoughtful guy, and he gave me a cool book and all this stuff.
But part of it was that we thought, “Well, we’ll meet them, and then we’ll stay for a couple songs, and then we’ll go get something to eat, and it’ll be a great night, who cares?” And we stayed the whole show. The show was phenomenal. And when it ended, we stood there like, “It can’t be over!” It was like two hours of just sheer joy. And then when it stopped, we didn’t want it to stop. How many times are you at a concert where that happens? By the end of most concerts, you’re ready to go, and this was a concert that we were not even thinking we were going to stay for half of, and we stayed the whole time. I think about it all the time. Because I go to concerts all the time and I think, “I kind of want to leave.”
The most surprising encounter I had with a fellow artist this decade was: My running into Miley Cyrus and becoming friends with her and making music with her and with us putting out albums together and playing shows together. If you would have told me at the beginning of 2010, “You know, Wayne, this thing is gonna happen,” I’d be like, “No fucking way.” That would have been something I wouldn’t have believed you, if you would have been a fortune teller and said, “In five years, you will make an album with with Miley Cyrus.” I’d be like, “Who’s Miley Cyrus?” “You’ll know her!” It doesn’t surprise me now, but it still seems very strange, like, “Why the fuck do you people like each other? You’re weird and you’re old and she’s like a celebrity, what’s the deal?” There’s just certain things about people and you get lucky and you get to know each other.
The best outfit I wore this decade was: I’m very lucky that I have a friend who works for Paul Smith in London, and he’s the head guy there. And he is a Flaming Lips fan and I’m a Paul Smith fan. And I have been bugging him to help me get some cool-looking clothes little by little, and he would suggest things and I would be like, “I don’t know,” I’m always thinking it should be more ridiculous and more flamboyant.
He, along with my wife, Katy, put together a very unique wedding suit for me … that I didn’t really agree with at first. I thought, “Ugh, this thing’s kind of normal.” Then the minute I put it on and saw how everybody reacted to it, I thought, “Well, I’ve been a fool my whole life. I don’t know what works.” So I’m very lucky. He made this suit for me – he made the vest, he made the jacket, he made the pants and even made me a pair of shoes. Just for me. And I’ve had two of them made now because I wear them almost every day and it’s the suit that I got married in. If I’m smart, I’ll just wear that because anywhere that I walk into, it’s almost as though people think I’m like, like the president or something. Not President Trump.
I know it’s not me; they’re just getting the impression of the way the suit looks. I see the difference that makes. When you’re with people, it’s hard to convey how important it is that you are with them, to say, “I’m really glad to be here. I’m so glad that I’m spending this time with you.” And when you put on something like these suits that this guy made for me, it says, “This is how important it is that I’m with you.” It’s just magic.
Something cool I did this decade that nobody noticed was: I painted a picture of my wife. I painted her like this queen riding this horse through this sea of blood. A really dramatic — as if you were the queen of Argentina and some fantasy painter came in and you gave them a million dollars to paint the queen. We put it in our house and it has lights and stuff. It’s like, “Who’s that?” And then people look at it like, “Oh my, that’s Katy!” No one really knows I did it; I did it mostly because I love to paint. Not for her; she’s kind of embarrassed about it.
The strangest thing someone said about me in the media this decade was: I did accidentally take a grenade in my luggage through the security stop at the airport. It was given to me as a gift. I was leaving a party in Arkansas, and at the very end of this party, this guy had these grenades that was his art project. He was painting guns and grenades and all that. It wasn’t a live grenade, but it was a real grenade and he put it in my bag as I was leaving the party at four o’clock in the morning. It was something that happened [in] like, 10 seconds.
I didn’t look in my bag the next time I went to the airport, and I’m going through security and all the alarms go off and they say, “Hey, you’ve got a grenade in your in your luggage. Do you know that?” And I said, “Oh, fuck! Yeah, I do know.” Which wasn’t a good answer either. So luckily I know the security and police and I told him what happened. But they had to shut down the entire airport. And it took a couple of hours and people missed flights. So I think the thing that people say about me is that I took a grenade into the Oklahoma City Airport and got caught with it. I’m just reminded of it because I go there all the time and people joke about it now; they’re quite nice about it.
The best new slang term of the decade was: The thing where people say “Fear of missing out” [FOMO]. I just think that is so true. That’s such a great…and it would be hard to articulate that if you had to do it over and over and over and little by little and people know exactly what that FOMO is. And that’s like, “Yeah, I know what that is.” I don’t know if it was that clear to people, that state of mind where you’re doing this thing, but your mind’s really halfway there because you think, “Wow, there’s something better happening and I’m standing out here doing this thing.” And I don’t really use it, but I like that it’s available to communicate about this funny scenario and everybody understands it.
My least favorite trend in music this decade was: I don’t like to name any groups because I’m friends with so many. Even though I don’t always like their music, I love them as people and I don’t want anybody to think I’m putting them down. But … what’s the band that is probably the worst offender of this? It’s like trying so hard to be American and obvious. Some of it’s kind of EDM and some of it is like Blue Man Group. Dudes are playing drums so dramatically. Like, they’re crying as they’re hitting the drum. They’ll put drums at the front of the stage and some guy with a big mustache is hitting the drum with so much emotion. Like “I care so much! And I put all of my passion and all my love into my music motherfucker!” It’s like, I didn’t ask you to suffer for me, dude. But you want me to know you’ve suffered and so here we go. And so we suffer. ODESZA, is that the name of a band? It doesn’t mean that there’s a bunch of bands that are as offensive as them. But if I had to pick one, I would say that category for me could go away and I wouldn’t care.
The most “2010s” moment of the 2010s was: Well, I think what’s going to define the difference between 2010 and 2020 is that in 2016 Trump was elected. There’s never going to be a time in history where this isn’t a significant event. I don’t even like to talk about him; no one needs to ever mention his name. But the idea that America in a sense, we all thought we were over this way of thinking and this way of being so offensively power-hungry and all that. And here we are.
And school shootings becoming normal. If you would have told me in 2010 that school shootings aren’t gonna end; they’re going to become worse and they’re going to become more normal, and nobody is gonna figure out any way to do anything about it, I’d have said, “No way, there’s no way it can’t get any worse than it is now.” And a lot of these things have been erupting since 1985. The plastic that’s floating in all the oceans, none of that is 10 years old. Unfortunately, school shootings and plastic is fucking 30 years old. So to me, Trump has taken away all of our energy to do anything else good for the world, because we all want to get rid of him. We should get our minds off of Trump and get it back on things that we can do something about. Because he’s not worth all of our time and all of our care and all of our fight. We can fight these other things and win. He won’t win the next election anyway.
My biggest hope for the 2020s is: I think it’s probably already happening now, that the world does become a place where we do all care what’s happening to everybody, and we all feel like we have some say in what the world can become by supporting these corporations that are going to help us do this and by not supporting these corporations that are doing these things. I see people caring about the food they eat, where it comes from and the money they give to charities and where that money goes. And it’s becoming like a more humanistic, optimistic place. I really do see that already.
Everybody has access now to what used to be just the domain of wealthy people. You have access to all this information, and you have to decide what’s the truth. The truth isn’t out there — you have to decide what’s true for you and what you are going to do about it — and virtually everybody has access to the same internet as the wealthiest motherfuckers in the world; it’s just an even playing field. We can all get smarter [and] find out how shit happened [and] why shit happens. It’s not just [that] you have to be friends with someone in the CIA. It’s up to us and it always has been. I’d rather say, “Let me see it all. I’ll figure it out.” As opposed to saying, “Well, I don’t want to know, let someone else figure it out.” I’ll figure it out. I’ll be glad to figure it out.