Wayne Coyne: In His Own Words

Wayne Coyne: In His Own Words

Artist, rocker reflects on intersections of his work



When Wayne Coyne’s art installation “King’s Mouth” opened in downtown Springdale in July, the rock star/artist/singer-songwriter says there wasn’t time to put together a proper opening reception. So, Coyne returned to Springdale on Aug. 10 for an intimate, sold-out engagement where he could interact with fans and fellow artists.

Since the immersive installation had already been on display for over a month — and is coming to the end of its time in Springdale — Coyne says the conversation centered more around audience questions and less around the specific piece. Bringing his spin art machine along also didn’t hurt.

“You never know if people are going to be willing to come to an art gallery and not know what to do,” he shares. “It can be kind of awkward standing there with everybody wanting to talk to you, but nobody knows what to say, including myself. So taking the spin art machine and doing spin art [pieces] for people and talking about ideas and art and all that, that seems to suit the atmosphere for myself. I mean, I don’t know what artists do; I suppose they stand there and say, ‘Oh, hello,’ and ‘Thank you’ and just get drunk or something.”

The lead singer of psychedelic space rock band The Flaming Lips is at once jaunty and introspective as he thinks back on chatting with fellow creators in the intimate space, the importance of art, and his own creative journey. The relaxed event allowed for an exchange of ideas, and for those in attendance to be more open with the real questions they wanted to ask.

“‘How do you do art? How do you get to where you can be someone like you, and they mean me, where it’s you get to do art, you get to do music and you get to be you?’” Coyne recalls. “And I think it’s a great, great question. I mean, most of the times, I’m talking to younger artists or younger musicians or younger weirdos that want to say, ‘How do you go from a person that wants to do this and is trying to do this, to a person that is doing it?’

“And I always say I still feel like I’m one of them,” he goes on. “You’re trying to make things work, you want people to like it, you want it to succeed, you want it to make money, you want to be able to live off what you’re creating. So it’s a great environment for all that. And I think once one person speaks up, it allows other people to feel like, ‘Oh, I can speak, too.’”

On finding his medium:

When I was growing up — you have to remember I was born in 1961 — and I have a lot of older brothers, older sisters, and they were crazy. You know, they loved the Beatles, they loved painting, they loved motorcycles, they loved drugs. And we all grew up through the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. And so having these older brothers, especially in my family where I love my brothers and especially when I was young, I wanted to be like them.

By the time I was, like, 3 or 4 years old, I was already drawing. I could draw quite well. I think it was probably just the competitive, alpha male environment I was in. It wasn’t so much I thought my drawings were good, it was like, ‘Look, my drawings are better than your drawings!’ But quickly, it got to where I could see that people loved that I was capable of drawing. And everybody in my family and all their friends would always marvel at my paintings and my drawings and stuff.

And it was always a house full of music. So by the time I got to be, I don’t know, 12 or 13, I didn’t really think too much about it, but I was putting together music and art and painting and songwriting. All that was the same thing to me.

So I started to play guitar and since I couldn’t figure out anybody else’s music — I mean, I could figure out the very simple, simple music, but I couldn’t figure out how to play music, really — I just made up my own songs in the beginning.

On music:

It wasn’t until I was probably about 20 years old that I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m making music and I really don’t know how any of it works. I don’t really know what I’m doing.’ And I did despair about it for a little bit. Because I was comfortable being a painter and stuff like that. I don’t think I would ever have been a famous painter or something, but I was very much in my element painting and feeling confident about being good at that.

But I was never — I still don’t think I really am — that confident about my own [musical] ability. But in the situation that The Flaming Lips have now, some of the guys that are in the group with me are strangely, by coincidence, some of the best musicians ever. And they want me to do something that I don’t know how to do. That’s the spark that I feel. It’s very special.

And this is one of the things I talk about around the spin art thing with other artists: I think that any artist, no matter what your [medium], you eventually want music to go with it.

It’s just such a curious emotional, impactful, powerful thing we do. What is music? And why does it affect us so much? It’s just a series of notes, why does it go so deep and tell you something internal about yourself that you don’t know until you hear music?

So I feel I’m like any other artist — you play with a thing long enough, before you know it, you want music to go with your art. For me, I just started to make the music.

On art’s impact:

I see the world the same way as everybody else. I see the same wonderful, beautiful world that we’re all involved in. I just use my imagination and my creativity and follow that and I think that’s why art works — I’m not, like, some weirdo from another planet. I think I’m seeing the world that you’re seeing, the way everybody does.

I think that’s why art is important, because we all feel the same emotions, really. It’s part of the experience. And I think the ones that we relate to the most are the bad ones. Happiness is this fun, elusive thing. Being happy and being excited and healthy and all that, that’s great, but when people are sad or bad things happen to them, we go inside of ourselves and wonder, “What is life? What about life is worth living? What is the meaning of life? Will I give too much of myself if I love too much?” Those are questions that all people have to grapple with.

So something like music is where we’ve found ourselves grappling with that or wanting to understand that, or being in that. I think that’s why art works, because you start wondering about those questions when you’re faced with it. And there are no answers; there is no one answer. Sometimes the answer is like an abstract answer. And art is like that.

And when you’re inside the “King’s Mouth” and all that [sensory] stuff is happening, I think you understand what it is saying. And then when it’s over, you go back to being you and you have some other view, another experience that lets you say, “I know something that I didn’t know,” even though you maybe can’t put it into words. I think that’s why art is art.



Wayne Coyne’s ‘King’s Mouth’

WHEN — Through Aug. 23

WHERE — 115 W. Emma Ave in Springdale

COST — Free

INFO — acozarks.org

BONUS — The exhibition also includes work by Kat Wilson, Dillon Dooms, and Sasha Rayevskiy

Categories: Galleries