By Noah Hubbell
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A few years back, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne asked fans to don animal costumes and cavort on stage, unaware that the invitation would appeal to self-proclaimed furries, many of whom enjoy having sex while clad as cartoonish mascots.
"We didn't know there was a furry subculture until we started taking our smelly suits out there and realized, 'Some of these people are liking this a lot more than they should be!'" Coyne admits, laughing. "But I would never be one to discourage people from doing extreme things."
Indeed, Coyne has made a career out of rejecting normalcy and finding beauty in the mundane. In February, he delivered an essay on the theme of creating your own happiness as part of National Public Radio's "This I Believe" series — but instead of focusing on the achievements of his band, he talked about how he found great personal satisfaction during the eleven pre-fame years he spent working as a fry cook at a Long John Silver's in his home town of Oklahoma City. "Don't get me wrong — I'm glad that I make the money I do now," he says. "But as an experience, it opened me up to the world. Even being robbed three times while I was there — even that shaped me, helped me to find the urgency in my life."
Such drive is key given Coyne's self-imposed workload. The Lips spent much of 2006 performing in support of At War With the Mystics, a CD that regularly derides the policies of President George W. Bush. Coyne then helped assemble U.F.O.s at the Zoo, a just-released DVD commemorating a spectacular September 2006 tour stop. In addition, he's currently editing more concert footage, shot in HD this time, and trying his damnedest to finish up Christmas on Mars, a feature film that "will be available in time for Christmas in 2003," according to the Lips' website.
"If you kept digging, you probably would have found something that said it would be out by Christmas of 2002, as well," Coyne concedes, laughing. "Some of these things, I'm like, 'Fuck, I've got to finish that before I start on something else.' That's my biggest dilemma. If I sit here long enough, I'll think of another cool thing I want to do."
In the meantime, the Lips continue to burnish their reputation as a great live band whose show constantly evolves. During the past year, for example, the animal costumes were often replaced by Santa Claus garb, and that's probably just as well. After all, Coyne notes, "There have definitely been people who've had some sort of sex within the confines of the animal suits while on stage."
Sounds like they could use a good airing out.
Visit our blogs for more of our interview with Wayne Coyne.