Q&A: Moby on Miley Cyrus, Flaming Lips, and Getting Weird Before You Die
On that insane video: "Wayne Coyne wanted to build a harness so I hung upside down while they poured water past my face. It ended up being just me getting water-boarded."
A week ago, we were treated to a very unexpected gift: a highly psychedelic, kinda terrifying, weirdly star-studded experimental short film dubbed “Blonde SuperFreak Steals the Magic Brain.” The clip was masterminded — of course — by Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips, and it co-starred Moby and Miley Cyrus as mortal enemies battling over the acid-addled mind of President John F. Kennedy. This naturally left us with a few questions, and the Innocents-making electronic artist born Richard Melville Hall was thankfully around to take our call.
It’s not that Moby isn’t busy — he’s working on finishing his next album, actually — but he’s as fascinated as we are with whatever that was. As it turns out, he and the Bangerz star both pitched in on an especially freaky version of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” for the Lips’ planned Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover LP. Here we ask Moby a bunch of questions about Miley, and one about emoji.
Did you ever imagine you’d act in an experimental short opposite Miley Cyrus?
Certain things exist in the realm of the impossible and others in the realm of not even ever considered. It’s like saying, “Did I ever think I would own a Quiznos in Sacramento?”
Do you own a Quiznos in Sacramento?!
I do not own a Quiznos in Sacramento.
What happens here?
I’m an evil wizard and I desperately want JFK’s brain because encoded therein is the original recipe for LSD. I command my naked minion to go steal the brain from Miley Cyrus, who is livid. She then contacts Melty-Face Bigfoot and Weird Santa Claus, who are in a spaceship orbiting the earth, and commands them to battle my naked minion.
How did you wind up a part of this madness?
It all goes back to the bygone year of 1995. The Flaming Lips and I were the opening acts for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ European tour, and we bonded, you know, sharing dressing rooms and what not. Then, about two years ago, I wrote a song called “The Perfect Life” and it sounded to me like a Lips song. I texted Wayne and said, “Hey will you sing on this?” and he’s such a good-natured guy he said “yes” without even hearing it.
Then I was in Oklahoma City, DJing and visiting his weird psychedelic compound, and he said, “Hey Miley just recorded vocals for a version of ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.’ Do you wanna sing on it?” And I tend to just say yes to things, so I did, and a couple weeks later he emailed to say, “We’re coming to L.A. to make the video.” I don’t know if it was for creative or legal reasons, but Wayne changed the “Lucy” audio to this very experimental, David Lynch-like psychedelic soundbed, ultimately.
Did Coyne offer you much direction?
Originally, he wanted to build a harness so I hung upside down while they poured water past my face. We tried it for a second and it ended up being just me getting water-boarded. Everything about it was the worst idea you can imagine. I would’ve been held two feet up over a concrete floor, so if I’d fallen my head would have cracked open and I would’ve died. But all in the interest of making psychedelic art with Wayne and Miley Cyrus.
Did you take any evil inspiration from cinema?
Emperor Palpatine with, like, better skin and a beard.
Have you ever shouted, “That bitch Cyrus!” in real life?
[Laughs] No. I have to say, I find it really fascinating and courageous that Miley Cyrus — ostensibly the biggest female pop star on the planet — is willing to do all this stuff, present herself in a way that most pop stars would not. I don’t know her that well but I think it speaks volumes to the strangeness and the interestingness of her character.
What do you think her interest is in, erm, Wayne’s world?
If I were to speculate, I would say what Wayne does is really compelling. Flaming Lips make great records, but the way they present themselves, the ethos that they have. A lot of the stuff he does is incredibly strange, but it’s all really incredibly benign. I think also because she’s from that part of the world [the South] as well. When I was in Oklahoma City, the roadies and everyone in the Lips’ world had gone out the night before with Miley and gotten matching emoji tattoos inside their mouths.
I think it was one of those ice creams? [Ed: He probably means the poop one, which someone may have gotten, though Cyrus was tattooed with the crying cat.] It looked to me like it was kinda smushy, like ice cream. [Ed: ew.]
So what attracts you to Wayne Coyne’s Lips-landia?
That he’s up for anything. I’ve worked with lots of people over the years and, generally, it’s sorta disappointing. People tend to worry a lot about how they’re going to be perceived and how this is going to affect their Q rating. What the bloggers might think. It’s really refreshing to work with people who are just fully enamored of the creative process. Especially in the music world, there’s so much caution and at the end of the day we’re just not alive for very long. “He was unnecessarily tame and cautious.” I guess if you are a package-handler at UPS in Cleveland that’s not such a bad epitaph. Or working at the Large Hadron Collider.
Do you anticipate more collaboration with either of these two?
There are certain people in the world I have so much creative love for that I will pretty much say yes to whatever they ask me to do. Like David Lynch, or John Waters. I sorta put Wayne and the Flaming Lips in that category. If he asks me put on a giant monster costume and battle midgets on stage while they perform, of course the answer’s yes.
With him, it seems like once you’re in, you’re perpetually on call for whatever weirdness arises. Is that about right?
Yep. Life is short; why not make it more interesting?