The Flaming Lips: Battling Pink Robots
Wednesday 28 August @ 10:15:13
by Holly Day
Nobody has more fun putting records together than The Flaming Lips. Over the past 20 years, the band—composed formally of Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins, and Steven Drozd since 1993, with Coyne and Ivins together since 1983—have managed to release some of the strangest, most experimental, and comedic albums on the Warner Brothers label. They’ve somehow managed to stay on the major recording label despite such bizarre works as 1997’sZaireka, which required the listener to play four CDs simultaneously in order to truly experience the recording.
Their newest album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, is both a collection of brilliant, computer-blip-filled songs that stand alone, as well as an achingl beautiful concept album about the plight of a doomed humanity and one girl’s stand against an invading force of giant pink robots. I talked to multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd about the making of the album, as well as other pressing things.
PULSE: So is there any chance of having a Haim Saban (Power Rangers, Power Puff Girls) cartoon based on this album?
DROZD: Actually, we thought about that—although Saban himself never actually approached us. There was this guy in Japan who kind of made a video for the song “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1,” kind of threw it together and that could easily turn into some sort of Saturday morning cartoon. I know they’re especially into that kind of stuff over in Japan. The cool thing for the record is that we actually did a Japanese-language version of that song where Wayne actually sings the song in Japanese, and so if you buy the record over in Japan, it’s got that bonus track on it. We did the song regular while we were playing in Japan, and we added an extra chorus at the end and all sang it in Japanese, and people loved that.
PULSE: Where did the idea for the record come about?
DROZD: It wasn’t really one thing. We just started recording stuff, and started putting songs together, and after four or five songs, it started to seem like it was turning into a record. Really, it’s only towards the end where you have all those songs that start to actually piece together some big concept, where it makes sense as a record. Wayne was toying with the idea of calling it “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” after we came up with the song itself, but the album itself was only put together after the course of a long time, during which we had no idea what we were going to end up with or even what we were doing, except writing new songs and going to the studio to record them. We didn’t have any real plan in mind when we were putting the album together, either—it just seemed like certain songs we had already recorded really worked well with certain other songs, and those became the record.
PULSE: On the record cover, there’s this line of Japanese characters written above the title. What do those characters mean?
DROZD: I can’t remember. Something like, “Have a nice life,” or “The Flaming Lips hope you enjoy your life and enjoy this record”—something like that. It’s a positive message, whatever it is. It’s definitely nothing sinister.
PULSE: So why pink robots?
DROZD: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I just think it sounds good, anyway. “Pink robots” sounds better than “blue robots” or “red robots.”
PULSE: Is pink a benign or ominous color?
DROZD: Well, you see, that’s the thing. You always think of pink as a benign color, but if you thought about it further, maybe that’s why the robots are pink, so people are tricked into thinking they’re benign robots, when they’re actually evil in nature. It’s a camouflage thing. You think, “Oh, look at these nice, friendly robots,” and then—grrr! they crush you, and kill you.
PULSE: So what are your own feelings towards technology? Are you a great embracer of new gadgets?
DROZD: I’m slowly, slowly coming around to it. I just got a cell phone in January, so I’ve been pretty slow to join the rest of the world. But I bought a notebook computer last week, and I’m planning on getting an actual laptop in the next couple of months. It’s not like I’ve refused to buy these things in the past—I’ve just never gotten around to investigating them enough.
PULSE: But you don’t hang out at the Sharper Image and shop around for vacuum cleaner robots.
DROZD: No, I don’t. Do they have those? I know they have the robot lawnmowers, the bot-mowers. We’d all better look out for those, the evil-natured household appliance robots. Maybe our next record could be about those, kind of a public service message/warning album about household cleaning robots that go haywire.
The Flaming Lips play this Saturday, August 31 at the Xcel Energy Center as part of the Unlimited Sunshine tour. Other bands on the bill include De La Soul, Modest Mouse, and Cake. $35. All ages.6:30 p.m.