After joining forces with Ke$ha for the Flaming Lips’ upcoming collaborative LP, Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends – due out on April 21st for Record Store Day – frontman Wayne Coyne says he may return the favor and work with the pop star on her own material.
“I’m talking with Ke$ha about doing some tracks on her new record,” Coyne tells Rolling Stone. Along with rapper Biz Markie, they cut a track called “2012” for the album during a late February studio session in Nashville. “We knew that she was a fan,” says Coyne. “She’s a lot of fun and crazy and open to ideas and she’s creative. She’s all these things that you don’t know.”
Coyne hopes to make more music with other Heavy Fwends collaborators like Erykah Badu, who teamed up with the band for a cover of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” I talk with Erykah Badu all the time about doing some more music,” says Coyne. And after meeting TV On the Radio and Diplo this past weekend at Costa Rica’s Festival Imperial, he hopes to work with them as well. “I was like, ‘I’ll fucking send you a track,’ and they were like, ‘Let’s do it! That’d be cool,’ ” recalls Coyne, who says that the key to making unlikely collaborations work is in being open to experimentation. “Sometimes just this idea of trying makes all the difference.”
Coyne is equally excited about about a project that the Flaming Lips have been involved with in various forms for nearly a decade: the band’s landmark 2002 album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, is being adapted into a musical helmed by the veteran Broadway director Des McAnuff (Tommy, Jersey Boys). The production will finally debut in November at California’s La Jolla Playhouse. “It’s insane to think a group like the Flaming Lips are now being brought into (musical theater) by one of the most respected and successful people to ever fuck with it,” Coyne says. “It’s pretty amazing!”
Coyne first met McAnuff about a year after Yoshimi was released, and he says the director was visibly impacted by its emotional arc. “You could see him tearing up,” Coyne remembers. “I was like, ‘This motherfucker’s really into this!” The two men would reconvene over the next several years to flesh out the adaptation and meet with several potential writers, including Academy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin. Coyne recalls a meeting five years ago when Sorkin suggested that the musical be a “retelling of the 9/11 story. “I said, ‘I hate George Bush, I don’t want him to have anything to do with Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots,'” Coyne recalls – although he now regrets shooting down the idea so quickly. “One of the greatest living writers of our time, and I’m saying, ‘No, I don’t like your idea?’ Why wasn’t I open to that?” says Coyne. McAnuff ultimately took over writing duties himself.
In its finished version, the musical chronicles a young Japanese artist, Yoshimi, who journeys alone into a robot world and and fights for her life against evil forces. Nearly the entire Lips catalog, including deep cuts and B-sides, has been incorporated into the musical. And while Coyne was central to the project, he doesn’t view it as his own. “It’s (McAnuff’s’) thing. It will probably speak more about his imagination than it will mine,” Coyne says. “I’ve had some influence…but mostly for the bad.”