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Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne

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Also Known As: Wayne Michael Coyne Died:
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Wayne Coyne helped create some incredibly colorful and intriguing music as frontman with space rock outsiders The Flaming Lips. He became the magnetic focal point of their grandiose live shows, from his thrilling stage entrances in a plastic bubble passed over the heads of the crowd to his signature stage-blood-soaked finale. The sweeping psychedelia of Flaming Lips' many albums proved he was not a man who would willingly tread a conventional path when there was a stranger trail available. Wayne Coyne was born in Pittsburgh, but his family moved to Oklahoma City before his first birthday. He formed The Flaming Lips in 1983, originally as the guitarist with his younger brother Mark Coyne on lead vocals. The band's self-titled 1984 EP has a grinding blues-influenced sound similar to post-punk acts such as The Gun Club and Nick Cave's early band The Birthday Party. After Mark left the band, Wayne took over frontman duties beginning with their first full-length album, Hear It Is (1986). By now, the band were stretching their sound into weirder territory while retaining a raw, punky edge. The Flaming Lips released three more albums on the independent label Restless Records, Oh My Gawd!!! (1987),...

Wayne Coyne helped create some incredibly colorful and intriguing music as frontman with space rock outsiders The Flaming Lips. He became the magnetic focal point of their grandiose live shows, from his thrilling stage entrances in a plastic bubble passed over the heads of the crowd to his signature stage-blood-soaked finale. The sweeping psychedelia of Flaming Lips' many albums proved he was not a man who would willingly tread a conventional path when there was a stranger trail available.

Wayne Coyne was born in Pittsburgh, but his family moved to Oklahoma City before his first birthday. He formed The Flaming Lips in 1983, originally as the guitarist with his younger brother Mark Coyne on lead vocals. The band's self-titled 1984 EP has a grinding blues-influenced sound similar to post-punk acts such as The Gun Club and Nick Cave's early band The Birthday Party. After Mark left the band, Wayne took over frontman duties beginning with their first full-length album, Hear It Is (1986). By now, the band were stretching their sound into weirder territory while retaining a raw, punky edge.

The Flaming Lips released three more albums on the independent label Restless Records, Oh My Gawd!!! (1987), Telepathic Surgery (1989) and In A Priest-Driven Ambulance. Though each album was a marked sonic improvement over the one before (the last being the band's first collaboration with longtime sonic collaborator Dave Fridmann, who would henceforth become a key ingredient of their musical style) and the band's national profile kept expanding, The Flaming Lips remained a niche act in this pre-alternative era. Famously, Coyne kept his high school job, working at an Oklahoma City branch of the fast food chain Long John Silver's, until the band signed to the major label Warner Brothers Records in 1990.

Their major-label debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head (1992), was only mildly more polished than their indie releases, but the following year's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart proved to be the band's entrance into the mainstream, courtesy of the alternative-rock radio and MTV hit "She Don't Use Jelly." Following the departure of guitarist Ronald Jones, The Flaming Lips finally evolved into the core lineup of Coyne as frontman, bassist Michael Ivins (the only other member left from the band's initial 1983 formation) and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, which remained stable (with the eventual addition of full-time drummer Kliph Scurlock) over the next several years. This newfound personnel stability and the enhanced clout the group had with their label from delivering an actual hit single allowed the group to take off in new and wilder directions.

1997 saw the release of Zaireeka, their most experimental album to date. The songs came on separated onto four different CDs, the concept being that listeners could play all four discs simultaneously on four separate stereo systems to create truly quadrophonic sound. It was a bold idea that was probably beyond the average listener's capabilities; who has four CD players at home? The CD was linked to a series of bizarre concerts dubbed "The Parking Lot Experiments," where 40 fans were handed 40 different cassettes which were played concurrently via their car stereos. This idea evolved into the similar "Boom Box Experiments," in which Coyne conducted an orchestra of willing volunteers, all armed with portable stereos and cassettes that had been made especially for the occasion.

For all the experimental concepts, the band's next album proved to be their real breakthrough into mainstream consciousness. The Soft Bulletin (1999) presented a more accessible version of the Flaming Lips aesthetic, with a more melodic, user-friendly pop sensibility but still exhibited their love of off-kilter sci-fi flights of fancy. Lead single "Race For The Prize" was a sweeping, Beach Boys-like pop song seemingly about the creation of the atomic bomb that also included a bizarre, vertigo-inducing musical hook created by stopping and starting a recording machine while the tape was in contact with the playback heads.

Relentlessly touring around the world behind the album, The Flaming Lips quickly developed a reputation as a must-see live band, helped considerably by the fact that Coyne had become a marvelously engaging frontman. Over the years, their live shows evolved into a riot of fake blood, light shows, weird props and animal costumes. Their gigs became events, with audiences as enraptured by the performance and visuals as the music itself. This live reputation meant they soon became festival favorites, playing nearly every major rock festival around the world.

This breakthrough was followed by two more well-received albums, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) and At War With the Mystics (2006). Despite their unusual subject matter and performance style, they started to gain real mainstream commercial momentum, picking up three Grammy Awards between 2003 and 2007. The band stayed loyal to their Oklahoma roots, and the love was reciprocal. The Flaming Lips had an alley named after them in Oklahoma City's entertainment district, Bricktown, in 2006. In 2009, a statewide vote declared the band's lyrical 2002 single "Do You Realize??," perhaps their best-known song, as the official rock song of Oklahoma.

Coyne was never been content with expressing himself through a single art form, with the visual presentation of the EPs, singles and albums being almost as important as their content. In 2008, a long-gestating low budget science fiction film co-directed by and starring Coyne, Christmas on Mars, was finally released. It followed the 2005 documentary The Fearless Freaks, a warts-and-all look behind the scenes at the band's long history that unflinchingly delves into sensitive topics like Drozd's ongoing heroin addiction.

2009 saw another sonic departure as the band covered Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon (1973) in its entirety with the help of some of their friends, released with the incredibly literal title: The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon. The band continued to play with releasing music in new and untried forms. Some of their more bizarre experiments included the song "7 Skies H3" (2011), which was 24 hours long, or the Gummy Song Fetus EP (2011) which was released as a USB stick encased in a chewy candy fetus. In 2012, they repeated the trick of covering a favorite prog rock album with their take on King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King (1969).

The Flaming Lips always enjoyed the collaborative process and 2012's appropriately-titled The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (a rock-nerd joke nodding to the 1970 British blues-rock release by Screaming Lord Sutch, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, sometimes called the worst major-label album ever issued) brought this to the fore for probably their highest profile project in years. It featured an unexpected assortment of special guest collaborators, from pop starlet Ke$ha to performance act godmother Yoko Ono. Unfortunately, the band fell out with collaborator Erykah Badu, who had sung a haunting deconstruction of Ewan MacColl's classic ballad "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," after Coyne leaked a rough cut of the music video that included an extended nude scene that had been released without Badu's approval. A later version of the video featured singer Amanda Palmer in Badu's place.

In 2013, The Flaming Lips released their 15th album, The Terror. With characteristic perversity, Coyne promoted the album, which he acknowledged was the band's darkest album ever, by appearing in two simultaneous television commercial campaigns, for a minivan and a mobile phone service provider.

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 Fearless Freaks, The (2005) Cast (The Flaming Lips)
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