For 30 years now, the Flaming Lips have garnered a reputation for being one of the most delightfully eccentric and psychedelic bands in American history. Yet, considering their trippy soundscapes, trippier album artwork and mind-bending forays into film and live performances, it may come as a surprise to many that frontman Wayne Coyne is not much of a cannabis consumer.
We caught up with the charming singer and songwriter on a summer afternoon, as he was busy re-painting his house, to chat about the handful of positive experience he’s enjoyed with cannabis, what he would name his own strain and more.
Cannabis Now: So, I’ve gathered that consuming cannabis isn’t exactly on the top of your regular to-do list…
Wayne Coyne: I know a lot of people who really love it. I’m all for it. But whatever the magic is, it doesn’t do that for me. I’ve had a few experiences that were wonderful, but most of them involved paranoia, anxiety — “Oh shit I forgot that I’m stoned, what am I gonna do now” kind of experiences. It’s my worrisome personality that’s not allowing me to enjoy it.
I hear you. For a long time, I really struggled to find means of consuming that didn’t make me feel like I was about to die. Especially with edibles.
You’ve had a similar experience! I think we’re very much in the same boat then. I’d like to be able to find a strain that I can rely on; something that gets me happy and feeling good every time.
I would wrongly occasionally take a hit of [frequent collaborator] Miley Cyrus’s weed, and virtually every time I did that I regretted it. Except for one time that it really worked. I had a great time, but it was by accident. It was after a long night of drinking and doing cocaine. We smoked this weed and thought we were gonna go to sleep and then it kept us awake and we were very happy and horny and I remember thinking, That’s why people smoke weed. I thought that there could be a strain that I could rely on.
If you had the chance to name that dream strain, what would it be?
There are so many bad strain names out there. Any product that mentions that it makes you horny I would never take. I’d want something useful, like Healthy Happy Cannabis, instead of something that’s trying to be wacko and psychedelic and hippie and whatever. Let’s just call this what it’s gonna do and not give it any exaggerated flavor.
Speaking of flavors, I was curious about the live version of ‘The Soft Bulletin’ that you guys released [on a USB drive, inside of a skull, complete with a marijuana-flavored gummy brain]. What happened there?
(Laughs.) Well, the guy who makes the gummy stuff, he had these flavors that he asked me about, so I said, “Let’s get it and see if it tastes like weed!” I thought that it really did hint at it… Some people thought there was weed sprinkled within the gummy. We allowed that to be part of the fun — because of course the Flaming Lips would do that. We weren’t in our contract with Warner Bros at the time. If we were, they would have said, ‘You can’t do this marijuana-flavored gummy.’ I think it made it more fun and crazy.
I remember listening to ‘Zaireeka’ [a Flaming Lips album that comes on four separate discs that are meant to be played simultaneously] for the first time as a kid — before I had any experience with drugs — and feeling really disoriented in a way that I’ve reconnected with later under the influence of cannabis. As someone who seems a bit averse to psychedelic drug experiences, I’m curious what your reference points were for such disorienting and out-there music?
Certainly a lot of the music that we listen to was created by people who take drugs. Even though I’m seen as the guy doing the most talking in the Flaming Lips, guys in the group are doing drugs as well. We’re not a straight-edge group by any means.
With ‘Zaireeka,’you’re concentrating on what seems like normal music: beats and structure and melody and all that. But then there are times where ‘Zaireeka’ will wobble away and your mind wants to stay on the beat. Part of you thinks it’ll come back together very soon, or get out of wack enough that it’ll be just be in a different time signature. We call that a meditative little trip — for only a couple of seconds. You lose all balance of what’s happening because your concentration is on a deeper level. We’re really glad that it’s a real experience people have had with ‘Zaireeka.’ It’s exactly what we hope to create with music; the ability to take you out of your own world.
It’s not because we’re trying to recreate a drug experience. It’s the kind of drug experience that I wish I could have — you’re absolutely aware and able to concentrate. A lot of times drugs, although they’re wonderful, they rob you of your focus and concentration. It’s a dilemma (laughs).
Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.