The Flaming Lips front man has long rejected any standard mode of operation. Here we celebrate a few of the ways he’s replaced the conventional with the sensational, stretching the band’s creative boundaries in the process.


The Parking Lot Experiments

Most bands play live, onstage, to an audience, perhaps inviting a little “I can’t hear you!” interaction via sing-alongs. During one particularly experimental phase, the Lips turned audiences into orchestras, handing them pre-recorded cassette tapes to be played in car stereos or boomboxes, and conducting the participants, who stopped and started their machines and adjusted volumes accordingly.

The “No Electric Guitars” Mandate

Lead guitarist Ronald Jones quit the Lips after the follow-up to their breakthrough alternative-rock hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” (1993) failed to ignite. Instead of replacing him and restoring the standard rock-band line-up, Wayne took the opportunity to reinvent the band. He instituted a “no electric guitars” policy in the studio and the Lips went on to record their career-salvaging classic, 1999’s keyboard-heavy The Soft Bulletin.

The Multiple-Sound Source Experience

Stereophonic has long been the audio standard. And while some have experimented with quadraphonic and surround sound, only the Lips have released an album—Zaireeka (1997)—pressed on four CDs intended to be played simultaneously from four different sound sources.

The Multiple-Sound Source Experience (Part 2),

Wayne and the Lips revisited the multi-sound-source experiment in 2011, when they released “Two Blobs Fucking,” an audio-visual experiment in twelve separate parts intended to be played simultaneously on twelve different smart phones.

The Gummy Skull Format

While the music industry debated the merits of MP3s vs. streaming audio vs. vinyl records, the Flaming Lips grabbed headlines and delighted fans by releasing the Gummy Song Skull limited-edition EP on USB flash drives sealed inside giant gummy-candy skulls. Wayne even delivered the initial batch directly to fans.

The Space Bubble

Beach-ball-batting and crowd surfing had long been music-fest standards when Wayne had one of his a-ha moments—what if he climbed inside the inflatable object and rolled across the crowd? Wouldn’t that be freaky? And thus was born the space bubble, until recently a highlight of the Flaming Lips’ live act.