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Wayne Coyne Knows How Lucky He Is

To celebrate the release of the Flaming Lips’ great new album ‘American Head,’ the 59-year-old frontman talks about late-in-life fatherhood, feeling grateful, and why Beck still makes him mad

On the Flaming Lips’ new album, Wayne Coyne looks back while looking forward. American Head is among the long-running Oklahoma rock group’s most beautiful records — wistful melodies and dreamy soundscapes abound — and the lyrics are often lit up with a nostalgic glow as Coyne recounts stories from his and bandmate Steven Drozd’s childhoods. Those tales aren’t always pleasant, though: Drug dealers, robberies, violence, bad LSD trips and loss suffuse the 13 tracks, which frequently star Coyne’s hellraising brothers and their friends, some of whom died in drug-related crashes or overdoses. Coyne has said the songs aren’t so much memories as “‘feelings’ that have been floating around my mind ever since then,” but the concreteness of the images — especially on a tune like “You n Me Sellin’ Weed,” about his brief life of crime as a teenager — make the past come rushing into the present. Turning 60 in January, he finally has the perspective to make sense of his faraway youth.

But the album’s beauty is also informed by the man’s current life. In 2012, he separated from his wife J. Michelle Martin-Coyne, leading to what sounds like a difficult divorce proceeding. (One bone of contention: exactly when their common-law marriage began, with her claiming 1989 and him arguing it was 2004.) But in early 2019, Coyne married girlfriend Katy Weaver, welcoming a baby boy, Bloom, a few months later. Late in life, he is finally experiencing fatherhood, and while several of American Head’s songs have been in the works for a few years, it’s hard not to hear the album as the sound of a happy man who’s weathered some personal turmoil and come out of it in a new, better place. The contentment of his life today is reflected in the generosity and humanity of the album’s bittersweet reminiscences.  

Fans have a similarly warm and fuzzy relationship with this group, who struggled in obscurity during the Reagan years but started gaining prominence in the early 1990s after signing to Warner Bros. during the alternative-rock gold rush that flourished in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The Flaming Lips didn’t really sound like those bands — or many others of the era — and they’ve spent the last several decades going their own way, plotting unabashedly emotional, sometimes whimsical music that tackled death and sadness, often with bold flourishes, gorgeous hooks and stark candor. One of their most beloved songs, “Do You Realize??,” is about embracing the fact that everyone you love will die.

Ever since 1999’s trippy The Soft Bulletin, written partly in response to Coyne’s dad’s passing from cancer, the Flaming Lips have transformed the core aspects of being alive — love, sorrow, wonder — into emphatic, earnest songs that often possess a childlike awe. People don’t just like the Lips — they love them, seeing in the band a bunch of merry pranksters who offer big hugs to their fans through their rousingly communal concerts and generally feel-good vibe. Not that this band is all sunny uplift: 2013’s The Terror is a resonantly anguished record that makes the listener sit with its barbed anxiety. Few groups capture the intensity of existence as profoundly as the Flaming Lips.

When I spoke to Coyne last week by phone, he was fresh from a family vacation in L.A., which was affected by the recent wildfires that have impacted the surrounding communities and resulted in dangerously unhealthy air quality. (“I was like, ‘It didn’t seem that bad,’” the ever-optimistic Coyne recalls thinking, “but I’m from Oklahoma, where there’s dust storms and tornadoes. But people were very worried.”) As on American Head, he relished the chance to reflect back on his life, as well as ponder the unexpected longevity of a band that’s never known massive commercial success. (Their 2002 record Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is their only one to even go gold.) Not bad for a group that some lazily lump into the same groovy-hippie category as Phish and the Grateful Dead. “We can be any of these groups if that’s satisfying for you,” Coyne tells me. “But I think when people go deeper — and I’m not saying I think that we’re better, I think their music is cool for what they’re doing — but I don’t feel like that’s what we’re doing.”

So precisely what are the Flaming Lips doing with their latest record? Coyne and I talked about American Head, but we also spent some time discussing how fatherhood is affecting him. (Turns out, he always assumed he’d take care of children — just not in the way it happens for most dads.) And along the way, we also got into his complicated feelings about drugs — he knows they’re associated with his band in the public consciousness, although he’s not much of a partaker himself, seeing firsthand the damage they can do — and why he’s “the luckiest motherfucker there’s ever going to be.” Also, in case you’re wondering, nearly 20 years later he still doesn’t regret any of the shit he talked about Beck in that infamous Esquire interview.

I’ve read the press notes and interviews you’ve given talking about the inspirations behind American Head. But because the album is full of stories from your younger years, I couldn’t help but wonder in some way if the record isn’t also a chance to leave something for your son: “This is who your old man was when he was younger. These are the friends that I knew. This is the family I grew up in.”

I like that. I definitely am listening to what you’re saying, but part of me feels like people that really know me in my life, they know all this stuff about me anyway I think it makes our music and our art richer. These stories, we’ve never really said them this specifically before. But there probably is some connection to me becoming a father that lets me know something that I didn’t know before or feel like this element is more important than before. 

With some of these songs, we started on them two or three years ago. Steven and I will always say, “It’s the songs. If you don’t have songs, you don’t know where you’re going to go.” We started to have a few songs that were hinting at … I think “Dinosaurs on the Mountain” [which is about car trips the Coyne family took] was probably the first one where we said, “We’re going to delve into this other layer of our lives that we’ve never been so open about.” 

But I think part of it, too, is Steven and I have been doing this podcast over the past couple of years [that’s a song-by-song history of the band]. We always think the podcast is going to take an afternoon, but it ends up taking us a couple of months to put it all together. We sit there, just the two of us, in a room together plotting what we’re going to say this [particular] song is about. But we inevitably go back and forth with each other: “What did you mean by that?” We wind up telling each other these big, personal stories that even though we’ve known each other for a long, long, long time, you don’t really get to go that far as you do when you’re there day after day after day and connecting [on the podcast].

There’s a lot of Steven’s younger life that he doesn’t like to really say specifically what has happened to him, and I think he’s given me a little bit of a license: “You can sing about it in your songs and sing about it the way that you [want]. We can frame it and sing about it [so] that it doesn’t necessarily have to be so specific.” And I think we were both encouraged by that. It was like, “Yeah, I think that could work.” 

I feel like my little boy, he’s such a bundle of joy. These [American Head] stories even though some of them are brutal and some of them are grim, and they’re about drugs and overdoses and all that it really is quite a happy record for us. A lot of it is just optimistic fun. It’s just beautiful, melodic stuff. So I don’t know if [my son] would really hear it in the way that we are and think that these songs are about something bad. Only once he gets to be a lot older would he say, “Oh, you’re singing about your friend that died of suicide. I thought you were singing about dinosaurs playing on a mountain.” But I don’t think of it like that. I never think of songs as speaking for me. I always think I can speak for me, and the songs can just be there to entertain you. The songs can be interpreted so many millions of ways. I would never leave it up to a song to speak for me. 

But I like that idea [you mentioned]. When I look back at our older stuff, it’s like having a scrapbook. I know so much about my life since I started to make records, because I can remember, “Oh yeah, we were making that record — we did this and that.” Before we started making records, it’s like, “I was born, and then some things happened, then I was in the Flaming Lips.” And then I know everything after that.

You became a father for the first time in your late 50s. Had you always wanted to be a dad?

Well, luckily, my wife Katy, she was more decisive [about wanting kids]. I have a measuring device: I always say, “If you really, really want something, and I really, really hate something, we’re going to have a problem. But if you really, really want something and I’m kind of like, ‘Okay, that’s fine,’ then it’s all going to work.” 

I think, for me, I was always prepared [to have kids]. It sounds ridiculous, but I always thought someone would drop some kids off at my house: “I know Wayne, and they seem to have a good, stable life. They could take care of our kids.” [Laughs] I always thought someone would just bring three or four kids and leave them on the porch with a note that says, “Will you raise these kids? We’re fucked up and we can’t do it.” And I thought, “Well, if they do, what do I do then?” And I would probably do it. Or there would be some situation where someone in the band would be in a car accident or something — my mind just goes to a million different scenarios.

I probably always had this desire to nurture. I see that now — if you would’ve asked me five years ago, I probably would’ve said, “I don’t know what that is.” But now that I do have an actual child that I get to take care of, I think I’ve had this nurturing thing about me. I think that’s why I even started the band. I’m from a big family, and I didn’t create a big family from my own genes. But by forming the Flaming Lips, I formed another type of family in my early 20s. And this family has kind of stayed together through thick and thin and through all this stuff. 

You do have to be a family man to want to be in a band like the Flaming Lips and keep it together, love each other and make it all work. And now that I do have an actual child, I see how much grownup people can be completely childish. But I do see how that’s something that I want. My ability to nurture and my ability to love and my ability to care and want everybody to be happy and healthy, I think that attracted people that wanted that as well. 

There’s so much of your life that’s just an instinctual, invisible thing. You don’t really know what you’re all about you know the things that you can think and all the things that you can remember, but so much of your life is just other invisible stuff that’s from your ancestors and your parents and the people that lived a thousand years ago. I do sort of feel like I’m descended from some viking or something that just had to keep his family together and was trudging across the frozen tundra. I just feel like I’ve got something like that in me. 

You’ve described your own dad as “a big alpha male.” When you became a dad, did you feel like you became your father, or emulated the way he was as a father? 

It’s funny you say it, because I think my dad was a version of me, but different. I think when he was very young, he was probably like the way I’m a father now, where he laughs a lot and it was fun and he wasn’t overly stressed-out and things were going well. But by the time I came into the family I’m the fifth child of six my father [was] still the alpha-male father figure, but I’ve got older brothers and they’ve got lots of friends, and it’s a crazy, crazy Tarzan-being-raised-by-the-apes [situation]. I didn’t just have parents, I have brothers and sisters and friends, and to be like a creative little kid in this mixture, it’s like the greatest life you could ever live. 

But by the time I’m in there, my father, he’s not removed, but he has a lot on his plate, and he’s got a lot of work to do and he has to discipline my older brothers, and that’s a full-time job. I think he was very glad that I was just a peaceful little creative guy and I didn’t cause any trouble I only needed him once in a while to do something for me. 

This is how bizarre the past is: I wore a T-shirt that had a beer can on it, like a Budweiser, to school, and the teacher said, “You can’t wear that to school.” I was like, “Oh, well, sorry, I didn’t know.” And they took me down to the principal’s office, and they called my house, but unfortunately they got my dad as opposed to my mother. And my dad came up there, and he said, “You can’t kick him out of this school because he’s wearing that shirt. This is stupid.” He railed on them, and they agreed that it was stupid: “To deprive him of a day’s education because he wore that shirt…” So, once in a while, I saw the power of “Hey, I’m going to use my energy and my anger to make this work.” But for the most part, I didn’t need him that much to be the alpha male, even though I knew he was. I didn’t really know what an alpha male was for the longest time. I think I know now.

You being a nurturer, it doesn’t seem like you subscribed to that version of stereotypically macho masculinity. 

Well, I feel like now the most manly men are very vulnerable and are very open and are very forgiving. Those to me are the manly traits. The silly manly traits that people used to think were manly being tough and being stoic and being alone or being right and all that — I’m glad that I was in this group with a bunch of degenerates that didn’t have any use for someone nurturing them. [Laughs]

I think I’ve learned a lot by trying to keep all these guys together and helping them, and us helping each other. I learned that if you want anything to happen, you really can only do it with love. You can’t do it because of money and power and all these manly things, and you can’t do it by being demanding or being powerful. You can only do it with love. So I think by the time my baby came along, I see now it’s like, “Well, yeah, love is the only thing you can do, because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t have a way to listen to you and do what you say.” Him being healthy and being happy is the greatest reward that I can ever have. 

I saw the Flaming Lips live for the first time in 1993. It was St. Louis, and you were on the bill with Stone Temple Pilots and Butthole Surfers. That was such a different era when “alternative rock” was becoming a big deal. It now seems strange that such different groups were all playing at the same show. What does that time make you think about?

For me personally, 1993, I’m already in my 30s. We’re not talking about when I was 19 and 20 years old. That has a different effect on you. By the time you get to be 35, you’re already old in some ways — and it doesn’t feel like that far away from even who I am now, even though it’s a long, long, long time ago. It’s funny: We still talk to Gibby [Haynes] from the Butthole Surfers all the time, and we have talked with the guys in the Stone Temple Pilots throughout the years. It never felt to us like, “Oh, that was a time, and that time is over.” 

But when that was happening, that was [when] the Butthole Surfers were really the peak of the “weird American group.” And the Stone Temple Pilots were kind of the epitome of a Pearl Jam and a Nirvana that’s been commercialized, where aggressive football-playing dudes will dig it. And here we were, in the middle: We were just starting to find our way with our quirky little folk songs. [Our mid-1990s alt-rock hit] “Jelly” is such a funny, gentle song if you think about it compared to Stone Temple Pilots’ grunge-y kind of music. But we totally could understand why people thought of us as grunge. Part of us was like, “Yeah, we’ll be grunge. We’ll be whatever. We don’t really care.”

But when we were in the middle of that, we did see, “You know, we’re not really like either of these groups,” because the other groups, to us, they didn’t have an emotional context to their songs. It was all sound and style — they didn’t hint at anything real, or anything that was emotional or in their emotional life. So by the time we started to make The Soft Bulletin which is really in 1997, even though it came out in 1999 even being on tour in 1993, we were already thinking ahead. “We don’t want to be this loud, noisy group. We like bits of that, because it’s great and it’s expressive and it’s dynamic, but we want to get to where we’re singing songs about what we feel,” as dorky as that sounds. Being on a tour like that made us know that even more. I love some of the Butthole Surfers’ music, but they’re not doing anything that’s emotional.

You’ve been on Warner Bros., a major label, for a long time. You’ve never had multi-platinum records. It’s remarkable that you’ve managed to stay with them, even when lots of other rock bands got booted from big labels long ago for failing to be commercial enough.

We were lucky that, when we signed, we’d already been through record labels, and we’d known plenty of groups that had gotten signed to major labels and they thought they got a raw deal and got screwed over. Even at the very beginning of our deal, we weren’t [thinking], “You guys have to make us rock stars or fuck you.”

The woman that signed us, she was an amazing, eccentric, weird A&R person, and her assistant, who was really the big fan that got her to love us, he came at it from underground music being a DJ in San Francisco. So we just went into it like, “If you guys [at Warner Bros.] will give us a little bit of money, we will dedicate our whole lives to making cool records for you. We won’t waste the money. We won’t wreck hotel rooms. We won’t buy swimming pools. We will spend every bit of it making the best records we can.” When they said yes to that, we thought, “That’s the greatest thing that could ever happen.” None of it was ever very much money in the big picture, and we didn’t want them to give us money — we always wanted to earn our money. It just felt like, “This isn’t going to work out good if you just give us a bunch of money and expect us to earn it back by selling [a lot of] records.”

At the time that we signed, we didn’t walk around saying, “We got the greatest record deal in the world.” We got a record deal that we knew was going to work for us, and we knew it was going to let us make records our own way. They wanted us to produce our own records — that’s why they signed us. So we were never set up to be like, “We’re going to put you with the new hit-making producer and see what they could do with you” which they do with plenty of groups, that’s their job. But with us, they didn’t. They were like, “We want to help you make some really fucking cool records,” and we were like, “Yeah, that’d be great.” 

That other type of [big commercial] success, luckily none of that really happened to us. All of the things about success happened to us slow enough that we could keep our grip and not lose our minds and not lose what we’re about, because all that stuff just fucks with people. It’s too much. It’s too much attention. It’s too much money. It’s too much. No one can deal with that very good. And to be really successful one year and to utterly fail the next year, those things are horrible for anybody to deal with. We were very lucky to just be slightly successful just long enough to know what it could all be, and we got to keep making records. 

People forget: It is about making records. It’s easy to think it’s about rock stars and all this sort of stuff, but it really is about making albums. What we really, really love to do is to make albums and write songs. If you don’t like doing that, eventually you’re going to be stuck, because someone’s going to have to make the records for you, or write the songs for you. That’s probably the thing in the end that saved us. It wasn’t that we had a great plan. We were just very lucky that we didn’t need much and we didn’t fail too much.

Speaking of the rock-star thing, I’ve always loved your 2003 Esquire profile, which is basically known as “the Beck interview” because of how you criticized him, in the midst of touring together, for being a prima donna. [Editor’s note: Among the piece’s most memorable moments, Coyne and the band are angrily waiting for Beck to show up for a sound check. “Wayne wonders aloud if Beck is late because Beck is waiting for someone to ‘put on his pants for him,’ and then cries, to the darkened theater, ‘Put on your own pants, Beck!’”] You were honest about the stuff Beck was doing that was driving you crazy, and I really respected that you did that. But how much did that end up hurting you guys in terms of industry backlash?

I think it was the opposite. I wouldn’t hear it outwardly — no one could write about it, no one would talk about it — but I’ve had so many people say, “Dude, you’re the only one that would ever fucking say anything that everybody knew was true.” 

I didn’t say it because I wanted to get back at him. I know [when] you say something like that [in an interview], people are going to write about it. They’re not going to skip over that. But I knew that we all felt it, and I still am the only one that mostly does interviews, and I knew that we all felt that it was just such a… We worked very, very hard, and that was part of it, too. We loved Beck’s music, and we loved that the audience was there to see this thing. And there were times that we were the only ones that cared. There were three or four shows that he was going to just walk away from because he didn’t feel good, and I was like, “People are already here. You can’t just send them home.” We don’t take that light-heartedly. I feel like once we were through it and once we could say it, it just made it more real that we weren’t going to pretend like it didn’t happen.

Being from the Midwest, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something quintessentially Midwestern about that mindset. It’s a work-ethic thing: “Just do the work.” The band’s attitude about celebrity seems in keeping with that ethos.

Back then we were just so open to whatever way people wanted to work — whatever they felt was the best way to do it, we would try to do that and help them. But I think you’re right. The Flaming Lips, we’re like a gang. It’s not like one person can think one thing while the other people are thinking another. It’s a philosophical trip that we’re all taking together — we’re all thinking the same things together. So, we weren’t going to just sit there while these things are happening and act like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter,” when we knew it was fucking torturing us. 

Most bands that survive and succeed, they do work hard and they want to work hard, and the audience deserves that we work hard. I don’t know if it’s because I’m from the Midwest, but I definitely know what you mean. His assistant would tell us we couldn’t park our van where we parked it, because it was embarrassing Beck wanted to park his Maserati there, and the van blocked everybody being able to see his Maserati. I thought it was a joke. I was like, “Oh, you’re joking. This is funny.” He’s like, “No, he doesn’t want your van blocking the view.” We were like, “Dude, we have, like, three hours to work on 20 songs. Are you serious? I’ve got to go out there and move a van because of that?” 

It would drive you crazy. They just didn’t care about the music and about how it sounded as much as they cared about this thing that nobody else cared about. I could’ve told them that nobody cares about that, but they were so bent on, “No, this part of his image is more important than whether this song sounds good or not.” I would say, “You’re wrong. I think you’re wrong. I think people don’t care about that. What they care about is if this music gets presented in a fucking cool way.” That’s where it makes you mad.

I was watching the explainer videos you did for the new album, and l thought, “This is the Wayne Coyne look: the tie, the vest, the dress shirt, the suit, the amazing long grey hair.” You’ve cultivated this style for a while now. How did it start?

There is a practical dilemma once you’re not in your 20s: “What do you look like?” Some of the music that we’re doing is music that we did when we were younger, and now that I’m almost 60, all the music is from when I was younger. So you do run into this dilemma: “Well, how do you present yourself?” 

A lot of groups, they kind of look like they did in their 20s, and if you don’t get too close, they just kind of look that way forever. [Laughs] But we didn’t really have a look that we thought we should have — it just started to be kind of whatever we could think of. Once we did The Soft Bulletin, I wasn’t very comfortable with it at first, but I tried to be more presentable. I would be talking to people whose brothers had died of cancer, whose mothers had died, whose fathers had died, and I would feel like, “That’s really the people that I’m singing for.” I would show up to a function, and I would want them to know that I care about it as much as I can [by dressing up]. 

That’s part of just having a uniform and saying, “This is my uniform that I get to sing these songs in.” Of the 10, 11 songs that we’re going to sing [at a show], three of them need me to be this guy that’s standing here and being honest and being real and being tough and being vulnerable and representing something besides that I’m just a rock ‘n’ roll dude. Sometimes I’d see people in the audience and I could tell that they were just devastated — we were singing a song that represents when their teenage daughter died in a car accident or something and you can tell that this song is representing all that and they’re standing there while we’re doing this. That changes you. In the beginning, I don’t think you can think, “What does that mean?” But when you see people standing there and your song is doing that to them…

I wouldn’t have any idea of what looks good or what doesn’t, but people would help me: “Well, if you’re going to wear a jacket, you should wear this.” So, I think the things that I wear now, there’s a long, long evolution of color and fit and style and all that stuff to feel like, “Oh good, this can work without feeling too self-conscious or feeling too pretentious.”

Any piece I read about the Flaming Lips, you’re often described as a “psychedelic rock band.” But that doesn’t entirely fit. Still, there’s this impression that to really “get” the Flaming Lips, you need to be high — drugs have to be part of it. How do you deal with that description of your band’s sound?

I think, little-by-little, we [learned] not to worry about it too much, because psychedelic music could be a lot of music now. It could encompass a lot of music that we would say, “Yeah, that’s a cool description of it.” [You’d hear] “Phish, Grateful Dead and the Flaming Lips are like that,” and we’d say, “Well, if you like those groups and you think that we’re like them, that’s great. But we don’t think of ourselves like that.” Part of us is very much like the Grateful Dead: We’re these people that travel around, and we’re like a big family, and we’re a bunch of freaks. But part of us isn’t. 

Right, but American Head is very overt in its detailing about the dangers of drugs. Drozd has a history of drug addiction. And you’ve often talked about the fact that you’re not a big drug guy. The album is filled with cautionary tales.

Well, I think the stories that we tell, we picked the ones that go really badly. [Laughs] But not all drug experiences go that bad we just don’t sing about them as much. 

Especially when I was younger, I was very judgmental about [drug users], and some of the things that we sing about on this album, we do regret that we were so against. When I think about some of my older brothers and their friends a friend of ours died in a car accident, and I knew that everybody was on drugs, and I was mad at them for 20 years. I was like, “Why did you let this happen?” His girlfriend was pregnant — he was only 15 years old, and his girlfriend was 15 years old — and then she killed herself with a drug overdose. I was like, “You guys are just doing too many drugs. Why are you doing this?!” But I regret that in a way I wish I tried to be more understanding of the horrible pain that they were going through. Once you dull the pain with some drugs, you don’t want to go back to not dulling it with drugs, and I can totally understand that. I’m creative and I do painting and I do music, but they didn’t have this other avenue by which to say, “This is what’s important to me.”

So, some of the music that we’re doing now, it’s saying, “We wish we hadn’t been that way and we’re sorry about that. I wish I was more like you. I wish I had lived more like you, instead of not wanting to be like you and trying to live another way.”

But Steven and I say it all the time: We wanted to do music, and we didn’t want to just take drugs and go to jail. That’s not a joke: It’s the choices that you make. At the time, it was painful. All the things that my older brothers did, I still love them and see them all the time, and I didn’t want to not be with them. But I didn’t want to do all the drugs I didn’t want to get killed on a motorcycle. They were just crazier. So, in some ways, I think most of this music is about that it’s like, “I love you, but I didn’t stand by you.” Part of me being able to do music now is “I had to betray you and not follow your way.” 

Music helps in that way. It’s such a conflicted thing to arrive at, and music helps you say that without it being a jumbled mess. Music can just be so loving and so caring that you can say this thing that might cut differently if it was just words you’re articulating. Sometimes the music is so gentle and so loving and so encouraging that it lets us say these things. That’s what makes this batch of music really special: “Man, the music helps us say things that we’ve never said before.” And we’ve made a lot of fucking records.

American Head ends with the beautiful love song “My Religion Is You.” You’re at this very happy moment in your life. But before this point, you’d gone through a divorce with someone you’d been with for a very long time. That old cliché “When one door closes, a window opens,” is that what happened to you?

I don’t think you can know that at the time. I don’t think you can even be that simple about it in saying, “Well, this isn’t going the way that I want it to, and I’m going to try to get out of it, and then something good will happen.” I wish you could just know that, but when it’s happening… 

To me, I always sort of divide it up between there’s you that’s your consciousness that you know who you are and then there really is another life that’s inside of you that you really don’t have any answers for. You are who you are, and half of you is just invisible to you. I knew that I was changing, and I was aware that I was changing I wanted to be this other person. I’ve had so much experience being able to go around the world and talk to people and to do so many things. I knew I wasn’t that person anymore — and I knew that I didn’t really want to be in this relationship anymore. To me it was absolutely just all bad — it didn’t look to me like, “I’ll get out of this and something good will happen.” It was regret and it was painful, but you don’t really know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to be suicidal or if it’s going to be devastating. You don’t really know. 

Now I think all that is exactly what I was searching for someone that is more like the way I am now. I always say, “I want to listen to new music, and I want to listen to old music with my new mind. I want to go see this place with my new mind, because I was there 10 years ago, but now I’m a different person, I have a different mind.” [With my old relationship], I knew that if I didn’t go if I didn’t start to make the first step of going that it would seem like, “Well, Wayne’s staying. Wayne knows that he’s going to stay.” So it was just the concept of like, “No, I think I must do this.” You just think, “I’m going to do something that is bad, but to do nothing would be worse.” 

But let’s say at the very end of this that I’m the luckiest motherfucker there’s ever going to be. That I would run into someone like Steven and [longtime Lips producer] Dave Fridmann and be able to make all this music and to keep it going and then for my earlier marriage to not go that well and then to run into someone like Katy I’m just the luckiest motherfucker ever. I would never think anybody’s going to be as lucky as me and have all this stuff happen. So it’s mostly I think that.