Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips

As witty and fun in person as he is on record, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne is full of big ideas. With his band having just released Embryonic and an updated version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, he reflected on the process of putting out two records in such a short time and how the group decided to take on such a classic recording.

While available as an iTunes download since December, the album will be available on LP this Saturday in honor of Record Store Day, for $24.

TONE: How long was the Dark Side project in the making?

WC: As we were finishing Embryonic, the iTunes management wanted some exclusive bonus tracks for the iTunes store, and quite frankly, we didn’t have any. I posed the question of us doing Dark Side of the Moon because I knew my nephew’s band (the White Dwarfs) was very familiar with it and I knew it could be really fun. Ten minutes later, the Apple guys were happy with the idea and we were off.

TONE: Were there any snags in the production? Did you hit a point where you felt that perhaps you had too much of a mountain to climb?

WC: When we got together in the studio, it all fell together relatively quickly and was pretty painless. It was the same thing with Peaches; she raps a lot but she’s a crazy singer. Her vocal to “Great Gig in the Sky” was fantastic – that’s a tough one for anyone to pull off.

TONE: Who decided to have Henry Rollins do the voiceovers? Are you guys big Rollins fans, or did you just decide at lunch that he was the man?

WC: We already knew Henry and we all agreed he would be perfect if his schedule would permit. When we ran it past him, he responded almost instantly. It was all done remotely. We sent him the music and he sent back the tracks we needed, along with plenty of alternates to choose from. Henry is a great guy to work with.

TONE: It was very cool that you took such a creative perspective on Dark Side by making it such a different piece of music. It’s good to see that you just didn’t go Dream Theater on it.

WC: (laughs) Well, we wanted to make sure it had our stamp on it.

TONE: Having recently finished Embryonic, was it grueling to put out another record two months later? Was it tough to keep two very different streams of creativity straight in your brain?

WC: Actually, Embryonic was released in a relatively short time for us—only about three-to-four months. By the end of the record, we had been going in a certain direction with the things we learned from the Embryonic sessions, so the new direction with Dark Side was a fairly easy transition.

TONE: The current tour shows dates from March to June here in the US. Are you guys taking some time off now?

WC: We have more things to announce, but we can’t chat about that right now. When I talked to someone about the idea of doing Bonaroo this year, it was on the Internet in 30 minutes and pretty much all around the world instantly. So we are definitely on the roster, but I’m hesitant to let anything out right now, as I know it will be on Facebook in about 8 minutes.

TONE: Will the Lips play Dark Side anywhere else besides at Bonaroo? Speaking of that fest, Steve Martin is going to be playing banjo there. Will you guys invite him up onstage to collaborate? That would be trippy!

WC: Now that’s a great idea. Let’s formally announce right here that we will try to get Steve Martin to perform a song with us at Bonaroo. And we will be performing DSOM in its entirety at Bonaroo. If you get a chance, listen to Steve Martin’s autobiography, which he narrates on iTunes. It’s very interesting and lends a lot of depth to his personality. We listened to it on a long road trip recently and it was much more engaging than Obama’s autobiography.

TONE: How has Dark Side been received? Has it added to or distracted from the material on Embryonic, seeing that both records were released so closely together?

WC: Good question. So far, our fans seem to be enjoying both records equally. It’s always our hope that you can enjoy the spectrum of what we do. I’m glad people still love and talk about Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but I always hope they will enjoy the latest work as well.

TONE: Was Steven Colbert a pretty cool cat when you recently played his show? Is he a big Flaming Lips fan?

WC: Playing the “Colbert Report” was great. Steven is an outstanding host and a really hard-working guy. He’s there before you are, making sure everything is in its place, etc. A lot of the guys on his staff are big fans too, so it was a great experience.

TONE: Do you get tired of people referring to you as a psychedelic band? I always like to think of the Flaming Lips as a highly complex band.

WC: I look at the psychedelic label as just the ability to be a little more creative with what we do, not sticking to a particular song structure or music structure. I’m 49 years old, so my interpretation of psych is perhaps a little different than some of our fans in their 20s who don’t have the same perspective on the Grateful Dead or punk rock. But it’s still more of a creative way to look at things.

TONE: You made a comment a while back, saying, “Hovering above complete failure gives you a lot of creative freedom.” I’d hope you guys are doing a bit better than that these days.

WC: In order for us to live our dream of making music, touring, and the like, you have to have a certain level of organization and discipline to make it all work. We have to keep everyone fed, so they can keep making music.

Photo, courtesy J.Michelle Martin-Coyne