Liner notes courtesy of surfingelectrode on Slow-Nerve-Action.
At the end of 2010, our long-running contract with Warner Bros. Records had finally run out. We previously thought that the new contract (the new way of contracts) would’ve been sorted out before this ended. This would prove not to be and we entered into a strange netherworld of trying to define what our new record deal would be. Eager to explore different possibilities ourselves, we set out on what we thought would be a year of experimentation. We had made a plan of releasing music every month… at first thinking that it would be a song a month, but then rethinking it and having it be a series of songs every month… but not just music… having it be released in new ways (maybe not new to the world but new to us) and having it be as much of a do-it-yourself endeavor as we could handle… no record company involved… just us… sounded like fun.
It started on Valentine’s Day of 2011 with a “Zaireeka for iPhones” track called “2 Blobs Fucking.” It consisted of 12 streamable tracks that all played in perfect sync with videos attached. Most people listened to it standing in their bathrooms at their office, which is what we suggested. We quickly realized that so much music every month could seem a little overwhelming, so we thought, “Let’s get some other weirdo musicians involved”… so the very next release ended up being one of our great collaborations.
Is David Bowie Dying?
We had become interested in Neon Indian and I was looking forward to maybe just seeing them. Luckily, they played a show in Portland on a night that we were free and I got to talk to them backstage… but also luckily for me, Prefuse 73 were playing with them. I said casually to both that we should do some music together. They both said, “Sure, sounds cool!!” So, what a wonderful coincidence it was when I went to book some studio time with our great producer, Dave Fridmann, and he mentioned that Neon Indian had been in his studio as well. We met up for, I think, just one day there at Dave’s and then played a show together in Dallas after driving through one of the worst snowstorms in American history. We came out of this adventure with a song and a couple of bits that later, just workin’ by ourselves in our home studio, became 3 other pieces of music that marked our first collaboration in the series.
Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee
There would be times when we did not know with who or when the next collaboration was gonna happen and we would just be recording music kind of willy-nilly. We were once again in Dave Fridmann’s great studio. Dave is very interested in outer space and we were all eagerly anticipating the “supermoon” even that was happening while we were there. We did some strange jams and the moon was giant!! Shortly after recording, we sent the tracks off to Prefuse 73 (who is Guillermo Scott Herron) to fuck with. What came back was OUR songs put through a beautiful cosmic machine … which I suppose is what Guillermo’s head is!! Ha ha!! The title, “Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee” came from reports by our Fwends, in places all around the world, having strange experiences with their… well… their urge to pee… Cool!!
Tasered and Maced
We were at the first Lollapalooza in Chile. We were all hovering around in the catering tent where Ghostland Observatory and Cat Power were sitting together, and I joined them at the table. Aaron (the singer for Ghostland) is a hilarious storyteller and, for whatever the reason (I don’t remember… maybe for no reason), he starts to tell this great Rock ‘n’ Roll story!! I’ve been around him a few times and know it’s gonna be good, so I grab my phone and just start recording him while he tells this crazy story…
You, Man? Human???
I had met Nick Cave way back in 1994 on a Lollapalooza tour. I say “tour” because back in the day, it was a traveling, city-to-city kind of show (unlike the one city even it is now), and there was quite a bit of time in hotels, bars, and backstage areas that allowed folks to get to know each other. We became casual Fwends and would say hello to each other if ever we were in the same circles. I ran into him in Spain. Grinderman was playing just before us at a big festival. I urged him to do a track with us and he said, “YESSS!! But do it quickly!!” So we sent him a freaky distorted riff track and he screamed and yelled and preached some cool shit on top of it. We sent it back and forth to each other… it had a working title, “Vampire Goes Out with Underage Lifeguard Gal That’s Into S&M.”
We had run into Sean Lennon a few times over the years and found him to be a very cool human; kind, generous, smart, crazy, happy and a lover of music!! We were lucky to have his group Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger open up some shows for us and we became like brothers. So, when his mother, Yoko Ono, reformed the Plastic Ono Band later in the fall, we asked them to play our spectacular New Year’s Eve show with us. They said, “Yesssss!” We then decided to release a 4 song collaboration disc which we recorded in late November, having one night and one day at Sean’s great studio in upstate New York. Sean has some of the coolest recording gear ever… all kinds of old analog synths and strange drum machines. But Yoko was away in London and then off to Japan. Lucky for us, she was willing to send her performances through email!!
I’m Working at NASA on Acid
I got word that Lightning Bolt were playing at Opolis, a small punk rock venue in Norman, and decided to meet them when they pulled in for soundcheck. I didn’t know them and had never met them. I had prepared for the studio right next to the venue to record their soundcheck into a Pro Tools session. When they arrived, I explained to them what we would attempt and they did a free-form punishing space jam for about 15 minutes. We took this jam back to our studio and constructed a song around a little section of it. The title, “I’m Working at NASA on Acid,” came from me misunderstanding someone saying, “I’m worried I’ll ask him for aspirin”… my ears had been blown out.
Ashes in the Air
A Fwend of mine is, like a lot of our Fwends, obsessed with music, and had been following Justin on Twitter and one day tweeted to him that Bon Iver should do one of these collaborations with the Lips. Justin replied saying, “I’m in.” Next thing was me texting him to send me a piece of music… ANY piece of music… that he had lying around. He sent this very distorted keyboard track playing a series of related chords. It struck me immediately. Within moments, I had what would end up being the concept of our song. Justin sent me lyrics that magically worked with what I was already writing and singing about, which is the best way to feel your way through your creations… ya just have to say what is absolutely in your mind… you cannot be afraid. Our song was made by sheer will and sending computer files to each other. We still have never met.
Helping the Retarded to Know God
We had been running into the Edward Sharpe clan (there are 13 of them) over the past year at festivals. We would see them at hotels and bars and became Fwends with them. I had gotten a randomly fwendly text from Stewart saying they were in the studio and immediately remembered this sad haunting track that I had written 4 or 5 years ago. I sent it with Alex’s singing in mind… but also their strange group vocal things… a little like a drugged up church choir. It is a story about a Down’s syndrome girl that I would see on the playground when I was in the 4th grade. She would be so bullied by these horrible kids. She was very tall and strange looking and these horrible kids would always make fun of her. I tried to tell her that I was on her side… but I don’t know if she ever knew or cared… it has stayed with me my whole life. SHE is not the retarded person the title refers to… it is me. She helped me to know this unspeakable dimension inside myself… empathy. She was kind when people around her were mean. She would smile when people around her were very ugly. She would not be violent even though people would be violent to her… I still regret not doing more to help her. I wish I could be like her… yes… and part of me wishes I would beat the shit out of those dumbasses.
I Don’t Want You to Die
I have known and been Fwends with Chris Martin since “Yellow” became a big hit… so I don’t know how long that’s been… but I’ve only known Chris as a rock star; I didn’t know him before he was famous. We were coming to the end of our collecting collaborators time and Derek played me this reflective little piano track that he had recorded and mixed. I liked it and immediately began to think of melodies and lyrics. I was driving in the car with Derek’s tune going through my head and I started to sing the beginning of John Lennon’s “Imagine” over the top of Derek’s little song… haha… but then I veered off on some other trip. When we went to record it, I sang the “Imagine” lyrics and, to my surprise, they really worked, so we kept ‘em in. Only after singing for a while did it occur to me that it could be a perfect song to pitch to Chris. I texted him and said, “hey, I’ve got a song that you could sing along to… and let’s see what happens.” I sent the song. The next day, he sends me a little snippet of a song back… just a one take, off-the-cuff recording… I believe just right into the microphones on his laptop. It was similar in tone and tempo and style to what I had sent him. I thought, “how cool… a true song writing collaboration… here’s my bit and here’s your bit!!!!” We time shifted both separate pieces to tempo fit each other. I don’t really know if Chris wrote his part of the song after hearing our part or if it was already a song that he had and thought they went together.
Girl, You’re So Weird
Daniel (New Fumes) and I have been Fwends for more than a decade. He is a weird artist and musician, and has helped and encouraged me in many of my own creations. He (along with Stan Gets at A&R Records in Dallas) is the creator of the mega-nebula-explosion colored vinyl that “Heady Fwends” was originally released on. He had played a show in Tulsa and was crashing at my place on his drive back home. Since he was there (he slept in the studio), we started to check out some of his recent recordings and decided to spend the night recording. He had been telling some strange and funny stories about doing an intense “cleanse” with one of his former girlfwends… how they would, for days and days, be too weak to do anything except sit, one on the toilet and one on the edge of the bathtub, and watch each other shit and pee. It was an interesting vision to hold in your mind… so before too long, I began to write a song about it… and within a couple of hours, we had this weird, cut-up little track. We both decided we would sing like David Bowie, and the very next day shot a video with a giant mirror ball and 2 naked models playing with each others’ toes!!!
2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)
A lot happened on my birthday (January 13) this year. First off, a tired little group from L.A. calling themselves Hour of the Time Majesty 12 (a cryptic conspiracy theory title) showed up at my front door. They were hand sounding idea too. We hazily fumbled into the evening, beginning to make what would turn out to be a radical, fun track!! (But I’m not done with my Birthday yet…) I had also been unsuccessfully trying to get in touch with Erykah Badu. I had missed her by just moments at a cool studio in Dallas and requested for the engineer (at the studio) to text me the next time she was in. Well, he did even better… he gave me her phone number and I shot her a text. She shot right back, saying, “Happy Birthday, freak!!” …and within a couple of exchanges, we were agreeing to do some music!! Great birthday!! We convened at Ke$ha’s house just a couple of days later. She immediately invited us in and proceeded to give us all tattoos. (Yeah, she has her own tattoo gun and, yeah, she’s hard to resist!!)… So, freshly tattooed, we went into this old school (but really great) studio in Nashville!! We worked into the night and laughed our asses off the whole time!! She is a great freak of a human to be around and she is completely fucking fearless… but also very energetic and smart and creative!! It is so effortless to make music when your minds are melding together like this. We made 4 other songs the next day!!!!!!
Biz Markie and some of the “Yo Gabba Gabba!!” crew were set to arrive at Dave Fridmann’s studio to do a makeshift video shoot that had Biz and me doing a little promo together. It was a simple green screen background with us lip-sycning to our own pre-recorded voices… sounds like fun!!! Yesss!! Biz Markie in person is even MORE of a cartoon freak than he is when you see him on TV!!! It is very compelling!!! He is a trip!!! He is a giant and he is gentle… he is scary and he is funny. We were in the middle of mixing the Ke$ha track and thought… maybe he could add another dimension to it. At first I asked him to do a line that we had in the song… I believe it was something ridiculous like, “No!! The world will end now!! So let’s party!!”… I think… he did several takes and then began to do this exaggerated mush-mouth reading of the line, which became more and more just gibberish… which I loved!!! It perfectly fit the outrageousness that Ke$ha had taken the song to!!
That Ain’t My Trip
Of all the tracks on “Heady Fwends,” this one has the most Fwends involved. This track began as perhaps a track for Nick Cave. Then we tried to have it be a track for Bradford Cox. Then we got Ariel Pink, but technical dilemmas and bad scheduling made it not possible for Ariel to do a redo. Then, in a last minute panic, I texted Jim James (who I did not know, nor had ever met) and pleaded with him to try to be part of our song. We had been mutual admirers of each others’ stuff and, I believe, there is a sense that we are like brothers born at different space stations!! He, in the great spirit of Heady Fwends, said, “Fuck Yeah!!!”, but we had to do it quickly!! He was heading off to the Grammys, where he and fellow Fwends Chris Martin and Bon Iver would all get to see Rhianna’s butt in person. He did several inspired versions of the singing bits and added some fucked up guitar shred!!
Children of the Moon
This was yet another song that was intended for Bradford Cox (who had several personal tragedies in this time period that would make him unavailable), and at one point I was trying to persuade Lykke Li to sing on it… but… luckily… in the end… again, just by chance, Kevin (who is Tame Impala) was mixing his new record with Dave Fridmann and would still be at the studio when I arrived for MY mixing session with Dave. While I was driving on the way from Oklahoma to New York, I instructed Michael to set up this track to have Kevin sing and do his amazing guitar playing on. As they finished their mixing session at about 12:30 A.M., they immediately began another recording session, going, I believe, till around 4:00 A.M. in the morning. I arrived at 7:00 A.M. and woke Kevin up to a couple more tracks before his limo picked him up at 9:00 A.M….!!!! Fuck!!!!
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Like I said… on this hectic, wonderful, creative, birthday, I had finally made contact with The Goddess From Another Planet, Erykah Badu!!! She, like Ke$ha, is very fun, freaky and spontaneous. I said, “Let’s get together”, and she was like, “Cool… how ‘bout tomorrow night”, and I said, “Fuck yessss!!”… but then realized that I had to prepare some new music… and, in a scramble, threw together a session with my new, excellent engineer, Mack Hawkins, Steven (of course) and the tired little group from L.A. Steven and I have always loved Roberta Flack’s breathtaking track, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” We saw this opportunity to work with Erkah as a reason to try OUR cosmic, distorted version of the song. We literally finished the tracks and I got in Matt’s car and he drove me to Dallas. We arrived and got set up and waited for Erykah… in the meantime we recorded the great drum track for “Ashes in the Air.” She pulled up, 3 hours late, driving her murder black 1971 Corvette!! Pretty badass!! She explained that her babysitter had flaked, but she found a replacement… but the replacement sitter is gonna be drunk in a couple of hours, so we had to work fast!!!… ha ha!!… which I think usually works better anyway!!! She did several takes of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and we did a spontaneous scat-spoken jam about her drunk babysitter… and she was off in her Corvette. We stood in the control room… pot smoke still hovering… all of us feeling like we just had an extraterrestrial experience.
Love love love and a million thank you’s to all involved!!
All tracks produced by The Flaming Lips / Dave Fridmann / Scott Booker
Additional production, engineering and playing by Mack Hawkins
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