Weirdos, freaks, and even musicians race for the prize at this weekend's X Games
The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips are playing the X Games. If you're at all familiar with the longstanding Oklahoma weirdos, this will come as no surprise. Between full-album covers of Pink Floyd, collaborating with Miley Cyrus, and encasing 24-hour songs in human skulls, the Lips are down for anything, anywhere. Thirty-one years and three Grammys into a scene defined by cynicism and irony, frontman Wayne Coyne has yet to betray a single jaded bone in his body. We caught up with him in London to talk about the inherent psychedelia of extreme sports.
Austin Chronicle: Do you have any history with extreme sports?
Wayne Coyne: You have to remember I was born in 1961, so in the mid-Seventies the guy we all loved was [motorcycle daredevil] Evel Knievel. I don't think he was considered a sportsman as much as a freak, but as we've come along, sports and freaks and drugs and weirdos are all meshed together. Naturally my favorite guy right now is [snowboarder/skateboarder] Shaun White. He's awesome.
AC: Do you plan on watching any of the events this weekend?
WC: Yeah, as much as we can. I'm into sports, I just don't follow them. Like I don't even follow [pro basketball franchise] the [Oklahoma] Thunder. I like it when people are happy, but I'm not always aware of which team is ours. I don't want to sound like I'm stupid, I just don't think about it that much. Like the one game I went to was against the Lakers in the playoffs, and I hadn't seen the Thunder that much, and everyone was mad at me because I was more impressed with Kobe Bryant. I just like it when someone is doing something wicked.
AC: Your band has always played nontraditional spots. I grew up in San Diego and remember you guys playing the Del Mar Racetracks for something like $5 a ticket.
WC: Oh totally, yeah! We still talk to people who are like, "You guys need to do that again!" We're always looking for something new and weird to play.
AC: What's the most extreme sport to you, Wayne?
WC: I don't know. Seems like it's calmed down a bit, but Ultimate Fighting. I don't want to sound mean, but there's a breed of dude out there that just likes to fight, and I always thought, "Let's get the dudes that like to fight and let them beat each other up instead of us." In the beginning it sorta felt like that, but then it quickly got into strategy with those jujitsu guys rather than just two brutes beating each other up. Also that motocross stuff. My brother's into motorcycle racing, and when it doesn't go right it gets brutal. I know Mat Hoffman, the BMX guy. He's such a sweet guy, but he's into something that's so punishing. All that stuff is way out of my league.
AC: Hoffman's reputation is that of the nicest guy despite having broken most of the bones in his body.
WC: Yeah, it shows you that personality isn't a cookie-cutter thing, because he seems like a scared, gentle, insecure, weirdo artist like myself, but then he goes out and does that stuff and it's like, "Dude where'd that come from!?"
AC: What's the perfect Flaming Lips song to skateboard to?
WC: It would depend on if you were going to do that crazy shit or not. There's a lot of them you could put on and feel good about yourself – stuff off Yoshimi – but the one that makes the most sense, and we thought about it as an Olympic song, is "Race for the Prize." You can envision a person running. That one was inspired by the Olympics, in the sense that you'd see people train their whole lives for this moment only to have some of them go down with injuries or something like that.
AC: Is there anything psychedelic about extreme sports?
WC: Yeah. When we were young there were the people who did sports, and they were jocks, and the people who did music and drugs, and they were freaks. But now some of the freakiest, drug-taking people are people who are doing sports. The hippies used to be unhealthy and slept all day, but the hippies are now health nuts. The idea of using yourself as your own vehicle of expression, or as we say using yourself as your own spaceship, that's what people who do sports do.
AC: Some scientists have a semblance of proof that at the center of our galaxy there's a supermassive black hole that might serve as a wormhole to an entirely different universe. How do you feel about that possibility?
WC: Well, I think that's a lot of stuff. It's so fucking abstract and unreal it makes absolutely no sense and perfect sense at the same time. There's not much you can do with it, however, if you can't somehow get through the wormhole. But I like to remind people that we already live in a fantastic, bizarre, freaky, endlessly interesting world that we don't have to travel a billion miles to see. It's fun to think about, though. It's marvelous, but I don't know how it all would work. There's something to the scientific mind that can grasp that sort of thing. I'd definitely love to go and see the black hole.