September 20th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Mike Thelin Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns, Columns

Passing Through: A Chat With the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne

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The Flaming Lips hadn't played Portland in four years—and according to frontman Wayne Coyne, the Roseland was the smallest venue the band had played in a while. “We know there were a lot of people who couldn't make it, and we're sorry about that,” said Coyne.

Sure, a Portland venue with good sound that's big enough for national acts would be a boon, but to see the Flaming Lips at the (relatively speaking) tiny Roseland show was special. I chatted with Mr Coyne during sound check and learned that his real-life hands aren't quite so large.

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Last night you were in Vancouver?
Yes. The Union was on strike so we couldn't play at the original venue. We played at a park and it was cold and rainy. We were a community…in the cold. We were all in it together.

A long set as usual?
It's hard to sustain it. I've been beat down by it before. We treat our shows like the French treat their meals…you'll never feel like you've had enough. I try to judge the energy.

It seems to be working.
It's not meant to be earth-shattering. It's just that our audience is full of imaginative, artistic, sensitive people. That's good news for us. People find inspiration in us, but they would have found it in a tree, a sunset, a flick or another band. Everyone who loves a band loves them for different reasons. All music has equal power. It's like your favorite food. If you like it, then it doesn't matter. When your team scores a touchdown, it feels great. It's a group thing. We throw confetti and love. If you're susceptible, you'll get caught up. You have to allow yourself to be caught up in it. These songs have an affect on us, and we have faith that this thing does work. If you like what we do, we don't have to be the biggest band in the world. We're not.

And that's intentional?
There's always an idea of what you want to be. The fact that we're from Oklahoma is such a huge part of our mystique…it's part of who I am. Still, it's just a dumb rock show.

They did name a street after you.
There are only so many streets you can name in Oklahoma City. I suppose Paul McCartney would like a whole town after him, but they don't do that in England. It's better to deserve something and not have it than to have something and not deserve it.

Where do you get your energy?
I'm lucky that I have an energy. I'm not willing to let go of that so I work out and take my vitamins.

So you're catalyst?
I like making music. I do it for myself but being able to perform it is incredible.

You paint. Why not just paint?
An artist is a guy in a corner. In rock and roll you get to do everything.

Like life?
You have to make the best of it. We're all so much alike and we're in this together. That's the beauty of perception. You can fight it, or you can find something wonderful every moment. You make your life what it is. Memory is strange. People make shit up in their head and then can't remember what's real and what isn't. But that's the good news. You can make up your own fucking life in your head. It's all sort of malleable up there. My older brother swears he's been to Woodstock…but he wasn't at fucking Woodstock.

Are you happy to be in Portland?
It's wonderful to be embraced by a city…people who are really touched by our music. Weirdoes like you.

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Photos by Mike Thelin

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