Electric Wurms an experimental outlet
The project known now as Electric Wurms is a group of musicians from two of the most musically experimental bands active today. Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips have joined forces with Charlee and Chance Cook, Will Hicks, and Dom Marcoaldi of Nashville’s experimental/psych band, Linear Downfall. Both groups are famous for operating miles outside of the proverbial box to create music that is unique, bizarre and often devoid of sonic boundaries. The Flaming Lips’, Steven Drozd, spoke with me about how it all came together and the future possibilities for this eclectic bunch.
Graffiti:?Steve, I want to preface this whole thing by telling you just how grateful we are, and I am personally, that you’re talking with me today. I know that between the Flaming Lips never-ending schedule and this new Electric Wurms project, your time is short and precious so thank you so much for sitting down with me today.
Drozd: Oh, it’s no problem. Please excuse me if I give any answers that seem to be just going through the motions; I’ve had about five calls today [Laughs].
Graffiti: I’ll try not to make it too run-of-the-mill for you.
Drozd: No worries, man. I’m happy to be able to talk with you today.
Graffiti: So getting right into it, where did the concept of the Electric Wurms come from? Tell me a little bit about that.
Drozd: I’ll try to give you some unique perspective on it [Laughs]. Over the years, Wayne and I have had conversations about different things, like ‘What if a band did this?’ ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if a band put out a hundred CDs to be played at once?’ or ‘What if a band did a Christmas record under a different name?’ which we actually did. We had these moments where we were on the same parallel, and in 2012, in the spring, we said ‘It would be cool to do a band under a different name. Not the Flaming Lips, but something completely separate.’ So that’s what we did.
We didn’t really shoot for something that would be prog, but we wanted to do something with Wayne and myself with a few other people from other bands. Not to completely disregard the Flaming Lips, but to find another way to make music together that isn’t locked into the Flaming Lips legacy, though I guess it kind of is. So, that was the conversation. When you start doing things that you’ve talked about, those things have a tendency to change once they’ve begun, and that’s what happened here.
Graffiti: Especially when you get with people from a group like Linear Downfall, I’m sure that ideas change, morph, new ideas develop and evolve. What was that process like?
Drozd: That’s a good question. Well, we spent a few days just jamming with those guys and, simultaneously while that was happening, I had a piece of music that I wanted to bring in and work with just to see what would happen. But we did even more jams, and a cool thing was that realized really quickly what we didn’t like. While we were jamming, we weeded out the things about what was going on early on, which is a really hard thing to do when you’ve got so many different personalities and egos involved.
I wasn’t that close to the people at that time, though I’ve since become really close to them now, but you have to learn how to navigate through their material and the way they do things and things that they want to do. So, there’s that process. Once we came out of that the music became more shaped and more like the way it is now. It wasn’t all fun, you know, like having the best time ever. In the beginning everyone was like, “Um, I don’t really know you” [Laughs]. I definitely knew that they could play, because all of those guys in Linear Downfall are just badass musicians! Some people are intimidated by that, but they are all great. They don’t have any hang-ups about what’s cool – music is just music. There’s no ‘punk rock versus progressive rock’ thing with them.
Graffiti: That’s one of the really cool aspects that have always been great about the Flaming Lips as well. The music is simply music without any restraints of genre categorization.
Drozd: I’m glad that you got that. There’s music that I hate and music I love, and I don’t think that, categorically speaking, one form of music sucks. I think that’s ludicrous. So this is just another way of saying ‘We don’t care about what kind of music it is.’ We embrace it all. For someone to say that one kind of music is great and another kind isn’t is just stupid and doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
Graffiti: You’ve been involved in the music industry for a long time now. Twenty years ago things were still very much dominated by the labels and bands were picked up by these big labels and then completely done away with simply because they couldn’t figure out how to market a band that might’ve been a little outside of the box, and a lot of good bands never saw the light of day as a result of that one-track mind way of thinking. I’m sure that you’ve seen it plenty. Listening to this new to the Electric Wurms record, I began to wonder where and how you think this album would’ve been handled and marketed back then.
Drozd: Wow, that’s a great question! It very well might’ve been thrown under the umbrella with some of the Touch and Go (Records) bands, though I’m not sure. When I think about music 20 years ago and bands that put out the cool, weird stuff, Touch and Go is one of the first labels I think of. Or maybe even Matador, but I don’t know if we’d even be cool enough for that. This record definitely has elements that those bands had.
For me, I would talk about the Butthole Surfers, because that’s a high standard to go for. I mean, maybe they didn’t want to be big rock stars and just decided to do what they wanted to do. Over the years I’ve gotten to know those guys. Gibby Haynes is a smart motherf***er, and when you’re thinking 20 years ago, those guys were just doing whatever the f*ck they wanted to do [Laughs], and they won the game by doing it like that. I still think of them to this day – it’s like ‘What would Gibby Haynes do?’ [Laughs]. But twenty years ago, if you put a Yes album cover on something, it would’ve just roundly denied. It would’ve been like ‘F*ck that!’ But that’s one thing that’s changed, thankfully. You couldn’t listen to prog rock. If you did, then you were just not cool at all. It seems like people are finally letting that go.
Graffiti: That’s what I was getting at – the access to the world via the Internet has changed the way this business works and the points of view of literally millions, or even billions of people. Horizons have been broadened, and now an album such as Musik, Die Shwer Zu Twerk can find a place and an audience.
Drozd: Oh yeah! Without a doubt, man.
Graffiti: The music on the record is quite insane! I mean, you listen to it multiple times and continue to hear new soundscapes and layers that you might’ve missed the first or second time around. Of course, I don’t have to tell you what you guys did, you’re the one who recorded it. But it’s got rhythm, patterns, but then it’s loaded with layers and musical ambience. How did you guys come up with the material that made the record? What is a typical session like now, as opposed to when you were just feeling everything out with the newness of it all? How much music was actually recorded?
Drozd: Man … there’s just so many different ways that it goes. We’ve got the six that ended up on the EP, but there are several pieces that we’ll go back and revisit. We’ll just jump back in there and see what comes of the unfinished material. The Flaming Lips have this Beatles tribute record that we’re putting out, we’re playing shows. There’s just a lot going on right now, but we will go back in and revisit those songs and create more music as the Electric Wurms.
But to answer your question, everything was done at the studio Wayne has at his house. I live like five minutes away from there now. But as for the way we work, there’s not really a way that we have to work in terms of someone saying ‘Well, let’s get together and see what we get.’ We start making sounds and noise until something comes out that we respond or react to. Speaking for Wayne and I, we’re just fumbling around in the dark until there’s something that’s like ‘Oh! What is that? Let’s work on that for a while.’ Even with the jams with the Linear Downfall guys, there was a lot of jamming and having nothing in particular, just creating different sounds until there’s a reaction. So, we just play music until there’s something that really gets us. And when that happens, it gives you energy and you can keep at it and honing in on what that feeling really is.
Graffiti: Plus I’m sure that there’s a synergy between Wayne and yourself.
Drozd: Oh, yeah. That’s been the case since I joined the band [Flaming Lips]. I’ll have a musical idea and he’ll tell me, ‘If you hadn’t shown me that, I would’ve never come up with this progression in the first place.’ We’ll go back and forth with those kinds of things all of the time. That’s something that I’m thankful for – we’ve been together for 20-plus years now and we can still come up with great musical ideas. A lot of people can’t really say that after working with the same people for 20 or 30 years. This [Electric Wurms] is a new way for us to bring our shit together, but not really be in the same mold.
Graffiti: Is the Electric Wurms project something that could potentially be included in something that the Flaming Lips or Linear Downfall might do in the future? May be a tour, or something like that? Maybe one big spectacular show?
Drozd: Oh, for sure, definitely. In fact, we’re hoping to do a tour where the Electric Wurms play and then the Flaming Lips close the show. I mean, that’s something that’s not set in stone by any means yet, but we’ve talked about that. That way you can get the whole package. But I think for now, we’ve got enough Lips stuff to worry about. But as soon as we can take a deep breath and get some time after what the Flaming Lips have going on, we’ll get back to what the Electric Wurms are going to do. I do, however, feel like this is just the beginning of something that’s going to go on for a while.