The Flaming Lips: Found Sounds Become Musical Foundation for ‘The Terror’

Apr 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barbara Schultz


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Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd using the Electronic Dream Planet WASP and Yamaha CS-60 synths, respectively.

Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd using the Electronic Dream Planet WASP and Yamaha CS-60 synths, respectively.

“Instead of opening something like [Propellerhead] Reason where you have literally thousands of sound options, we’d turn on the WASP, and no matter what you do with it—all the cool things it does—it’s that instrument,” Drozd says. “These old mono synths have such nice characteristics. We used it on almost every track, and if we didn’t have it on a track, we would add a little bit just to tie the songs together.” The WASP, a gift to the band from Sean Lennon, had actually become a bit of a museum piece. “[Sean] was like, ‘You guys like this thing? Really? You can take it.’ We took it home and just coveted it,” Drozd continues. “We had it sitting in a corner, but Wayne [Coyne, Flaming Lips frontman] was like, ‘Let’s take this f**cking thing out and use it instead of staring at it.’

“I would say there were four keyboards that shaped the whole record, and that’s how we did it instead of being all over the place with acoustic guitar on one song and electric guitar on another,” Drozd adds. “There’s actually very little guitar on the whole record. We decided to keep it all in the same basic area.” Other keys that played big parts on The Terror were a Yamaha organ that Drozd purchased on eBay, and Fridmann’s Yamaha CS-60 and ARP 2600.

“You can plug any one of those things in, and it will sound like a time machine,” Drozd says, “like some future a thousand years from now when we’re all living in space—a super lo-fi, sci-fi movie kind of thing.”

Capturing the Lips’ sessions involves more perversion of the tried-and-true, but Fridmann is in for all of it. This time out, the band tracked mainly in Tarbox’s Studio B, a newer room that gives Fridmann and his clients additional flexibility.

“Tarbox is built in a former home where we changed around the way it was set up,” Fridmann says. “The house’s original master bedroom/bath combination are my control room, and the living room—with a big, open cathedral ceiling—is our main recording space. But acoustically, before we built the B room [in 2010], if somebody was in the house making music, we all knew they were making music. That can be a good thing with the Flaming Lips, because everybody’s always involved in everything that’s going on. But now, with the new building, we have a space where bands can be rehearsing or writing while I’m mixing; they can make all the noise they want and I can’t hear it.”

“In 2011 when we were working on this 24-hour song [“7 Skies H3”], we had three studios going,” Drozd recalls. “There was the main room where Dave would be assembling the whole thing and recording. I would be in Studio B working on other parts, and then Wayne or Michael [Ivins, bassist] or Kliph [Scurlock, drummer] would be in a third room. The studio can see a lot of activity at the same time.”

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