Miley Cyrus is a freak, says Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne

The Flaming Lips with their bizarre props and trippy colours (clockwise from top left) Nicholas Ley, Wayne Coyne, Matt Duckworth, Derek Brown, Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd and Jake Ingalls. -- PHOTO: GEORGE SALISBURY
The Flaming Lips with their bizarre props and trippy colours (clockwise from top left) Nicholas Ley, Wayne Coyne, Matt Duckworth, Derek Brown, Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd and Jake Ingalls. -- PHOTO: GEORGE SALISBURY

The Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne sings praises about his creative good friend

When it comes to pop starlets, Miley Cyrus is the biggest freak of all. So says Wayne Coyne, frontman of Grammy- winning alt-rock elders The Flaming Lips.

He means it in a good way, of course, as he and Cyrus are really good friends and frequent collaborators.

"She's just such a freak," the 53-year-old says in a telephone interview from his home state of Oklahoma, ahead of the band's gig in Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa on Monday.

He adds that pop acts Kesha, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake "seem normal and safe around her".

"She's insane, she's a crazy, funny and creative freak. She doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about being famous and all that stuff, she's just too busy having fun and doing her art and music and all that."

Cyrus, 22, sings on the band's latest album released last month, With A Little Help From My Fwends, which comprises covers of songs from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

She and Coyne are so tight that they even have matching tattoos. He is something of an authority when it comes to presenting music in the freakiest and weirdest manner possible.

His 31-year-old band are synonymous with using bizarre images and props in their live shows and music videos that pair well with their psychedelic brand of rock.

At their debut show in Singapore in 2010, for example, Coyne made his entrance by walking all over the audience while encased in his trademark giant, see-through ball.

The rest of the 90-minute show was a riot of trippy colours, surreal props and euphoric music.

He remembers that time in Singapore well.

"We were pretty blown away when we were in Singapore the last time. We stayed at that great big casino or something with a giant swimming pool at the top of the building," he says, referring to the Marina Bay Sands, which was the venue of their show then.

"I remember it was really great. Any time we play to an Asian audience, there is an intense emotional connection, which is just wonderful. A lot of times, people are just partying and it's just a party. But with the Asian audience, it's moving and people are touched."

To him, that connection is paramount, even more so than the fancy distractions that go on during their show.

He says: "We're doing everything we can to make the show and the time that we have together powerful and meaningful and special.

"If we try to do that, anything you try to do will probably work. But if you're not trying to do that, I think all those little gimmicks can be pretty ineffective after a while because they are there to enhance the expression and emotions."

Coyne, who sings, plays the guitar and writes the songs, started the group in 1983 with his brother Mark, who left the group two years later, and current bass player Michael Ivins.

The band released three albums on independent labels, including 1986 debut Hear It Is, before signing up with major label Warner Bros. They released their mainstream debut, Hit To Death In The Future Head in 1992.

The band's profile rose significantly when the single, She Don't Use Jelly, from their next album, Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (1993), became a hit on radio and music television channel MTV.

The band's experimental streak continued in their successive releases - 1997 album Zaireeka, in particular, was broken into four albums which were meant to be played simultaneously.

Between 1999 and 2002, the band released what were hailed as their masterpieces - the universally acclaimed The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. These were praised by critics and fans for their complex and layered sounds.

The band have won three Grammys - Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2003 for Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia) from Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and Best Rock Instrumental Performance and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical in 2007 for songs off their 11th album, At War With The Mystics.

Coyne says that his next project could well be the collaboration with Cyrus on what could possibly end up as her next album.

He adds: "We're helping each other make music, art and ideas, and I have a feeling she's going to help me more than I can help her. I just love being around someone who is just so full of energy and ideas, it's just a lot of fun.

"I think she feels the same way. You want to be around people who are always opening doors to walk through and you're opening doors that they get to walk through.

"I don't know if we'll make the greatest music - that's a difficult and impossible thing for anybody to do - but I think we're going to try."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

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