Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne On The Future Of Record Production, Timely Releases (Part 1 of 2)
Coyne, as you may know, has been spending a whole lot of time in Dallas lately. And not just for his fairly standard trips to the Urban Outfitters location at Mockingbird Station, either (although, interestingly enough, those trips too play a role in some of the Lips' more interesting goings-on this year). And he's got his reasons for these regular trips -- ones that extend well beyond his well-know affection for the city.
In short: Coyne's been down here on business. Throughout 2011, as part of his band's stated mission to put out new, limited edition releases each month, he's been making regular trips to Dallas' mom-and-pop vinyl manufacturer, A&R Records, where each vinyl record his band has released this year has been pressed. His reasons for using A&R are plentiful -- the proximity of the shop to his home, the shop's quick turnaround time, its ability to create unique color creations -- and the results, Coyne told us, have been quite fruitful. So, too, have his trips to record stores around the region, including his stops at Dallas' Good Records, where Coyne's stopped a few times this year to personally drop off his band's latest offerings.
Our conversation touches on all these topics and more -- including, in some places, the problems with and the future of the music industry, as well as his earlier-this-year collaboration with the Denton-bred Neon Indian. And it was a fairly lengthy conversation, too, which is why we've cut it up into more digestible sizes. Today, after this here jump, we've posted Part One of our conversation. We've also got another story on the history of A&R Records. Give both a read.
Then, tomorrow, again right here on DC9, come back and check out the second part of our conversation, along with an exclusive slideshow of some of the behind-the-scenes happenings at A&R.
You've been in Dallas a lot lately.
We've been searching for, and unsuccessfully for a long time, a place that's not really local but it's close enough that we could just go and kind of physically supervise this whole process. Not just making music and mastering, but also the plastic and all this junk involved, you know?
And you found that with A&R Records?
Yeah. It's mostly Stan [Getz]. I know he has a lot of great helpers. I don't know how old all of the equipment is; it looks like it's been there since the '40s, which is really a long time. He knows how it all works, and he really does take great care in it. And I would say to anybody who is a vinyl expert, I would say that this isn't the greatest vinyl that's ever been pressed. I think that it's got some little nuances that are specific just to Stan's place.
I like that it has Stan's love and his care, and it has our love and our care, and at the end of the day we could go to some perfect machine that made perfect pieces of plastic, and personally I don't care. There's a million ways to get perfect things these days--slide it into a mega-computer and it comes out the other side--and this is done by old machines, and people who know what they're doing.
I don't want everyone to think that we're these megalomaniac control freaks. You may believe that by the end of this conversation. I think that, with a little bit of extra care, and a little bit of extra knowledge, I think we can find other ways that we can make these--I call them products but they're more like art projects--better and more unique. So that's why I get involved. That's why we're all involved. I have a guy down there, who, probably even as we speak, is making each one of these colored vinyl releases fantastic and unique. It's not just plastic being thrown into a bucket that comes out the other side, you know?
That had to be the draw of A&R--that they had capabilities beyond straight black vinyl. How did you come across them?
Well, a friend of mine [Daniel Huffman] down in Dallas, his band is called New Fumes, and I've known him for a long time and he's having a record made. And I just asked him, "Well, where'd you get it made?" And he said, "Oh, there's this place in Dallas, and I helped them make the colored vinyl." And I was like, "What? I didn't know you could help."
It seemed like a foreign concept?
Well, you get the feeling that it's this big machine room and no humans are allowed. I'd never really considered that you could just stand there and throw these little vinyl pellets into a giant machine. And, until he said that, I thought, "Wow, maybe we should do that."
With Daniel's help and with Stan's help, and us just being a couple of hours away, it seemed like, "Fuck, why don't we see what happens?" All of that was kind of new to me.
I mean, we had done colored vinyl--don't get me wrong, we've done it since our first record. Our first record was pressed on green vinyl back in late 1983. But we never knew that you could just sort of stand there and make each one. Well, I guess I knew. I guess it had just never occurred to me that we could stand there and make each one kind of unique--the shape, the way that the colors actually went on to there.
And you're taking advantage of that, with colored vinyl and, more recently, with the gummy skulls. It's obviously important to you, with this string of releases, that each has its own little bent.
I think that the people who are buying these things almost demand that. The way that music is now, you don't even have to be computer-savvy. You can literally get music any second you want for free. It's just so easily available. We hardly think of it as something that would be illegal. It's just so simple.
We don't understand or know if it will ever go back to where you have to pay for music every time you want to hear it. So we've been talking about, "What do you want to do about that?" And I say, "Well, if we make these cool objects, obviously people who have money, if it appeals to them, will probably buy it." People who don't have any money aren't going to buy it, no matter what you put out there.
I encourage people to go and listen to music for free. I think that's a great thing. In my household, when I was young, I wish I could have heard all the music that was out there.