There's a homeless guy who's been wandering around this… I live in this sort of ghetto area in Oklahoma City here. I've lived here all my life‚ so it's not that big of a deal to me‚ but there's a lot of homeless guys‚ and you'll see them on their routes as they go around the city. There's this Vietnamese guy who carries around this cane and he dresses as though he's out of Harry Potter. He's this very strange looking‚ old‚ wizard-looking guy. You used that word "wizard" before‚ and I think that's so cool. But he uses his cane sometimes and I'll see him. He's fighting some invisible demon out there‚ and he always uses this stick kind of a magic wand‚ you know? He thinks he has the power‚ and I think somewhere within the song‚ that's what we're saying. If you don't think you have the power‚ you are powerless because you'll just sit there and say‚ what can I do?
I'm using this homeless guy as some sort of metaphor. He thinks that this cane that he carries around has these magical powers. So even though the magic is just in his mind‚ a lot of his enemies are in his mind as well‚ and so he's created a magic wand that kills enemies that are all in his mind anyway. And I think‚ fuck man‚ he's probably going to be here longer than any of us because he's found the eternal solution to some of these things. Because he doesn't feel powerless to the things that are happening to him. And I think I'm trying to convince even myself that we have the power‚ and yet we always forget because we think that somebody else should be doing the work for us or someone else should be finding the solution for us. I think the main line in there is "You've got the power in there‚ waving your wand in the air." And‚ of course‚ within the context of the music that sounds a lot more grandiose than if I just say it. But somewhere in there I'm trying to remind people and myself that we have the power within ourselves. We don't have to wait for John Kerry. We don't have to wait for George Bush. We don't have to wait for Jesus Christ. We don't have to wait for anything. We're already here. Let's do it.
I think a lot of people just feel helpless or hopeless. As an individual‚ I think we all just feel small and helpless to everything that is out there. I think that's a big part of it. What else can you reveal about War of the Mystics? What can Flaming Lips fans look forward to on this one?
Well‚ I think we have such a grand palette of things that we can work from. I think anybody who is a fan of our early stuff sees that there's still threads of that unpredictability and the noisiness and the haphazard way that we'll connect songs and ideas. But then I think people that have followed us since the late '90s and stuff will see that there can be a bigger epicness and a bigger musicalness that we can play with as well. So‚ I don't know if anything would surprise Flaming Lips fans‚ and I would never think that they would be easily satisfied or easily disappointed‚ but I think some of the things that we've done have gone more weird rock.
For a while there‚ we would play a lot of guitars and things but it wouldn't necessarily sound very rock-like. I think even some of the things on the Yoshimi record‚ there's a lot of guitar stuff‚ but it's very freaky‚ playful little bleeps and blops‚ you know? Whereas on this record‚ I think there are some songs that sound like evil-sounding guitars. And Steven is such a great drummer that we forget sometimes that he can rock as well‚ because we do all kinds of different styles of rhythms and different things. So I think there are some things that people will say‚ there's some rock stuff on here again. Which I don't think we ever abandoned. We just like to play with different things. And I think we're still exploring some things that sound like some element of country and storytelling stuff. I think even that is a little bit in the "Ambulance Driver" song‚ where you feel there's some traditional elements in there but yet some strange elements. I don't know if they really work‚ but it's putting together some sounds that maybe aren't comfortable with each other but maybe do work together. I'm not sure.
I don't really know if there would be any one theme that you could identify yet. But certainly by the time you make a record and you give it a title and it has artwork and there would be a time and everything when it comes out‚ that makes a record more than anything that the Flaming Lips themselves will do. When we made Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots‚ it wasn't until the very final weeks of making it that it felt like the record that it is now. We really didn't know what it was going to be until almost the last second that it came out. We discovered this theme of the painting on the cover with the pink robot and stuff. And all those things play into the identity of what the music is‚ so I suppose when the next six months move along‚ something is going to happen. We're gonna do something‚ so we'll see.
And one of the other projects that fans have really been waiting for and are looking forward to is the film Christmas on Mars. What is the status with that?
I think there's probably like four or five more scenes that I'm shooting in mid-September here‚ and if the weather holds and all that‚ we should be able to get those all done. And as we've been going we've been doing a lot of the computer animation‚ a lot of the music and a lot of the editing. So it isn't as though it's all waiting to be put together. Some of it's put together‚ and some of it is yet to be filmed. We kind of make it the way we do our records. We'll shoot a scene and make the music for it and edit it all. So we have all these little gaps. Ten minutes of it is finished here‚ and 10 minutes of it is missing there. And as I've gone along‚ I've sort of had the gaps left that I have to fill in. I think I'll get those all shot in September and then as the fall and the winter rolls along‚ me and George will be doing some of the editing of the storyline. Me‚ Steven‚ Michael and Bill will be making some of the music‚ and then as it goes‚ putting it together.
I sort of feel like probably around Christmas we'll start to put some of it out there on the internet just so people can start to see 10 minutes at a time and start to get a feel for it. So they can feel like this thing's coming and get familiar with it or struggle with some of the abstract themes or whatever is going on. I think as next year rolls around‚ we'll probably be showing it like a Flaming Lips experience. I don't think that we will just put it out on DVD at first. I think that we will take it around and show it as a crazy movie where we set up a giant sound system and things fall on you from the ceiling‚ and there's bits of it where you sing along with it or you talk along with the movie. Kind of make it not specifically interactive but a little bit more of something that you experience instead of just a passive thing where you go into a dark room and watch a movie and eat some popcorn. Not that I think there's anything wrong with that‚ but just to make it a little bit different. So yeah‚ hopefully as that moves along we'll be putting some of that out there and see what people think.
Definitely looking forward to that. And speaking of films‚ Fearless Freaks was in the theaters and is now out on DVD. What was it like for you guys to be looking back on your career at this point and really open yourself up like you did? It's a really honest look‚ especially in the stuff that Steven reveals and some of the struggles he's had. What has that experience been like for you?
The guy who made it‚ Bradley Beesley‚ we've known him since probably 1991‚ when we started to make videos together. So a lot of times you don't feel like you're really revealing anything because these are all just people that we know and are friends of ours that are around us all the time anyway. When we're in the studio‚ Bradley will be there with his lights and his film crew‚ and you don't feel like‚ oh‚ who are these people‚ because these are people that were around all the time. And maybe that's why I'm able to make a movie like Christmas on Mars‚ because I'm surrounded by a lot of filmmakers and a bunch of people who are making movies anyway.
We are always revisiting the Flaming Lips' past through reissuing old records and all these things that we do. We're here because of the things that we've done. So we're never shocked when we look back 10 years because we're always doing that. And so that part of it never really felt like anything strange to us. But at the same time‚ we really did believe in Bradley and Bradley truly does love us‚ and he would never want to do anything that diminished whatever that special essence of the Flaming Lips is. Which I think he‚ as an outsider‚ sees perfectly‚ which we as the Flaming Lips would never see in ourselves. And I point to the scene where we go back to the Long John Silver's that I worked at in the late '70s and '80s‚ and I reenact a scene with the Vietnamese kids that are there now of us being robbed. And I would've thought of that as being nothing‚ just a silly little gag that me and Bradley did. When I see the film - I've seen the film now probably 10 times with an audience - people love that. People ask me about that every night. So I see how these poignant moments that people really can relate to‚ I wouldn't be aware of them. But luckily‚ Bradley is and he's made this film that I think is just a great story. I think you can watch it without having any idea who the Flaming Lips are and walk away seeing nothing but a resilient group of enthusiastic‚ optimistic people confronting things in their life and saying this won't defeat us. It may change us and it may make us sad and it may derail some of our ideas of what we're about‚ but we're simply a group of people who won't be defeated. When I watch it‚ I'm sometimes amazed and shocked‚ and I cry along with the audience myself.
Finally‚ what do you guys have planned for the boat cruise [Xingolati] coming up in October? I know there's going to be some sort of parking lot experiment and Zaireeka stuff.
I am always championing the people who are willing to take chances out there in any type of art‚ in any kind of new ways of doing things. So when they approached us about doing a cruise ship sort of thing I thought‚ man‚ that sounds crazy. It sounds like the idea of what people would think of as the Magical Mystery Tour‚ where the artists and the audience and the freaks and everybody all together will just go out on this boat together. You couldn't really leave even if you wanted to. I suppose you could call a helicopter in if you get desperate. [laughter] I think we're sort of the perfect band for that. Because even now at the festival I was at over the weekend‚ I go out into the audience and I watch bands and I eat the food and I talk with people and I like the experience of doing that thing. A lot artists don't. A lot of artists sit in their trailer and when they go to play they walk out of their trailer‚ they play‚ and they walk back to their trailer or their bus‚ and they don't really have that much to do with the experience of being at the shows‚ whereas we always go to watch literally every band that's playing if we can. And we're in the audience‚ seeing what the audience is doing‚ and having fun with them and sort of going through whatever the experience is with them.