REWIND: A letter from Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips, 1997. Posters, Spider Bites and the Birth of Zaireeka

Fabulous freaks The Flaming Lips announced recently that they were planning to re-release their quadrophonic musical experiment Zaireeka (originally to be purchased as four albums, and played – impractically and simultaneously – on four units) for Record Store Day 2013. Which reminded me:  a) Wayne Coyne and t’Flips havealways been wonderfully bonkers, it’s not a new thing and b) all big experiments start with smaller ones. In this case, the concept for Zaireeka seemed to start out in Oklahoma parking lots. Letter from Wayne Coyne

Fast forward backward to 1996 and I’d been corresponding with Messr Wayne Coyne via a thing they called paper. I’d sent him a Robert Crumb “Freak Brothers” postcard, and told him to keep me in the loop of the band’s plans. Ever the hands-on promoter, Coyne wrote me back.

The envelope, with a round creature drawn around my name and Halloween stickers, was a big one.  And inside it came a  letter and a whack of gruesome posters, including directions of “How to get to parking lot” of Bellini’s near the Waterford hotel in Oklahoma. There, would be “an experiment”. He promised: “This time will be better, shorter and funner!!!” He also included a colour-copied press release about Steve Drozd’s crazy spider bite. Naturally.

So if you wanna know what was going on in Wayne Coyne’s mind in the run up to Zaireeka, here’s a snapshot and the letter he sent:

“Hey Mikala – Got yer postcard – R. Crumb – Thanks – and I’m glad that yer interested in the “experiment” thing that I’ve been workin on – anyway things have gone better than I could have ever thought…I’m doin a new kind of “experiment” at CMJ in New York, I believe it’s around Sept 8th or 9th, so let me know what you think. Thanks, Wayne….

….Well anyway this started off as a short letter – but I was sittin here makin copies of tapes for this CMJ thing and it looks like I’ll be sittin here a while…I’ve just begun putting together a “composition” that is made up of 300 tapes – cassette tapes taht will be played out of battery operated “boom boxes”…what I’m doin is asking people to bring there own “boom boxes” (the louder the better) and I’ll give out tapes and give everybody starting cues – and we’ll see what happens. The first composition is called “The Big Ol’ Bug is the New Baby Now!!” and has this strange sort of gospel choir of about twelve different harmonies singing the line “the big ol’ bug is the new baby now” with ten to twelve different section, then make about thirty copies of each – things pretty weird pretty quick when you end up like…well, I have an idea but I don’t know how freaky it could get with that many tape decks.”

Freaky, indeed, Wayne Coyne. And speaking of which, we’re very much looking forward to the “bleak” new album  The Terror, which was announced last week, will be produced by Mercury Rev’s Dave Fridmann, and out in April. (One day maybe I’ll tell you about the time I slept with a band Mercury Rev asked me and a friend to look after. I slept with all of them. On the floor. But that’s a story for another day.) For now, I’m just content that the Flaming Lips are still around, being bonkers. Now where did I leave my “boom box”? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s next to the Beta.\m/

Flaming Lips poster

Flaming Lips poster

Flaming Lips poster

Flaming Lips Spider Bite

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