Results for War

interviews

The Flaming Lips

This week's guests are two of the members of Oklahoma's Flaming Lips, co-founder Wayne Coyne and long-time member, multi instrumentalist and co-songwriter Steve Drozd. Wayne chimes in that their two other current band members, Michael Ivins and touring drummer Clifford, couldn‘t make it to the interview. Ivins was too preoccupied erecting the UFO for that night’s live gig in Chicago. Greg points out that Wayne at one time admitted he was part of a band that couldn‘t play, had a singer that couldn’t sing, and heralded from an unknown town. Yet, here they are 25 years later, still going strong. As someone who wrote a book about The Flaming Lips. Jim continues to be astounded by the extensiveness of their career. He feels it parallels the career of Pink Floyd who had at least four different incarnations over 30 or 40 years. The Lips' first era was their '80s psychedelic era with it's key album In a Priest Driven Ambulance from 1990. On this album, former Lips drummer Jonathan Donahue replaced Nathan Roberts and the band collaborated for the first time with producer Dave Fridmann. Fridmann, who would go on produce many other Lips‘ albums, brought a higher level of musicality and production to the Lips’ sound. In a Priest Driven Ambulance was also the album that introduced Steve Drozd to the Flaming Lips (he did not join the band until almost a decade into the band's career). Drozd loved the album's“loud psychedelic rock guitar”with "hokum balladry". Greg also adds that the record contained a non-ironic cover of Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" amidst the cynical and cooler-than-thou indie rock community.

Even though the band started in 1983, it wasn't until 1992 that The Flaming Lips signed to a major label. The first album for Warner Brothers Records was Hit to Death in the Future Head. Wayne and the band saw this as an opportunity to make a record that's worth the“billion dollars”major labels can spend on albums. Greg feels that their new ambition really exceeded the ambition they had with their previous work. He feels it's clearly evident in 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. To Jim this album marks the moment when Wayne's songwriting started to rise from the background and move towards the caliber of the Lips' sonic density. Transmission from the Satellite Heart's, "She Don't Use Jelly" is such an example. Even though the song became their breakthrough“wiggy, novelty hit.”it was a "beautiful bubble gum song with a poignant lyric" wrapped inside an amazing musical production. Wayne and the band knew almost from the beginning that the song could be a hit. The song's hook was created from the lyrics which Wayne got from equating smearing chapstick on your lips to buttering your toast. Wayne's story dispels the rock critic myth that these lyrics were a code for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Greg brings everyone back to the dense sound of Transmissions From the Satellite Heart. He wonders how Steven came upon the idea layering the heavy“Bonham-esque”drums underneath pop songs. Steven admits that the sound was inspired by Larry Mullen's drums on U2's War.

Greg wonders if the band's next transformation happened after guitarist Ronald Jones left the band in 1996. Wayne agrees that Ronald's leaving changed the band. Although, Steve adds that he himself was burnt out and heavily into drugs at the time. At this point the Lips re-tooled into the era of their parking lot experiments, boom box experiments and the 1997 release of the four-CD album Zaireeka — an album designed for the listener play all four CD's simultaneously on four different sound systems in the same room. Each project was an orchestration of random sounds, a symphony of noise. Wayne wanted to try something new and take a chance.

After the band went through their two year sonic experiment they released the album The Soft Bulletin in 1999, which Jim considers a pop masterpiece. Wayne thinks the signature song from that album is "Race For the Prize". The song is in reference to two scientists fighting to cure a disease. Also on the album is "Waitin' for a Superman," inspired by Wayne and his brother jogging around the lake to deal with their father's bout with cancer. These two songs are full of meaningful and heartstung lyrics. Jim pipes in that that Wayne wouldn‘t have been able to write lyrics like this earlier in the Lip’s career. Wayne chalks it up to the experience of life changing you, which changed him and the band for the better.

2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a continuation of the band's lyrical progression, especially with its song "Do You Realize??" Another key song is "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1." (You can hear their live performance here.)

The critical response to these last two albums was, as Jim puts it,“nothing short of ecstatic.”The latest album, 2006's At War With the Mystics hasn‘t seen the same response (including from our own Greg Kot.) Steve and Wayne kind of expected it. They’re just as happy to win a Grammy for a song titled, "The Wizard Turns On…The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins."

Go to episode 94

Best Coast

Jim and Greg are joined by the members of Best Coast. The indie trio, named for lead singer Bethany Cosentino's beloved California region, has a unique combination of shoegaze rock and '60s throwback harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. Their debut Crazy for You was a surprise hit for an indie release-reaching the Billboard Top 40. Cosentino talks to Jim and Greg about her own musical roots (Dad performed with 70's rock band War), rock heroes (Stevie Nicks) and personal writing style. She's joined by band mates Bobb Bruno on guitars and Ali Koehler, formerly of The Vivian Girls, on drums for a live performance in the studio.

Go to episode 258
specials

Psychedelic Soul

Next up Jim and Greg check into the“Psychedelic Shack”for a discussion of Psychedelic Soul music. One of the architects of the genre, Norman Whitfield, passed away recently, so Jim and Greg thought his sound warranted more discussion. As a songwriter and producer, Whitfield helped escort The Temptations from their Motown sound, to one that was much funkier and rock-inspired. As Greg explains Whitfield wanted to“out-Sly Sly.”By Sly he is of course referring to Sly and the Family Stone, who along with Jimi Hendrix, are the pillars of the early Psychedelic Soul movement. For a full taste of the genre, Jim and Greg recommend checking out the following artists:

  • The Temptations
  • Sly and the Family Stone
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • War
  • George Clinton
  • Isley Brothers
  • De La Soul
  • Digital Underground
  • Dr. Octagon
  • Gnarls Barkley
Go to episode 149

Rock & the Environment

Bill McKibben Musicians have effectively protested war, the AIDS crisis, and nuclear energy. Jim and Greg have talked about the central role music played in the Civil Rights Movement. But with global temperatures rising, are artists doing their part in battling climate change? To examine rock's relationship with the environment this Earth Day, we're joined by environmentalist Bill McKibben. Not only is Bill an author, scholar at Middlebury College, and co-founder of the grassroots climate organization 350.org, he's also a noted rock fan. They discuss the carbon footprint of the music industry from festivals to touring to recorded music manufacturing. But Bill argues the deeper problem is that musicians haven't adequately become part of the movement to influence culture through writing songs about the environment. But Bill, Jim, and Greg highlight the handful of successful environmental protest songs that do exist, from Joni Mitchell to Dr. Octagon.

One musician who's taking an active role in fighting climate change from within the industry is Adam Gardner, guitarist/vocalist for Guster. He's also the co-founder of REVERB, a non-profit dedicated to making bands' tours more sustainable, working with Alabama Shakes, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, and more. Adam also discusses REVERB's efforts to raise awareness of how endangered woods illegally make their way into our guitars.

Go to episode 543