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The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne on Reinventing the Music Industry

For this iconoclastic rocker, there are no limits to how music can be packaged, delivered and consumed.

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By Jason Ankeny

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The fake blood splattered across the lapels of Wayne Coyne's gray flannel suit says it all: This is not business as usual. Although his body still paces the offices of Warner Bros. Records' Burbank, Calif., headquarters on this late February morning, the mind of Flaming Lips frontman Coyne has long since moved beyond the confines of music industry tradition--away from the CDs, vinyl and digital downloads that have historically defined how labels like Warner Bros. push music to consumers. Coyne's Grammy-winning band will instead issue its next record on a USB flash drive embedded deep within the juicy, sticky-sweet brain cavity of a life-sized skull sculpted entirely from gummy bears. "You have to eat your way through this thing to get to the music," Coyne says, his Oklahoma dust-devil twang crackling with the energy of a man possessed.

The gummy skull is just one of the myriad innovations the Flaming Lips are exploring in 2011, a year the group (which formed in 1983 and also includes bassist Michael Ivins, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and drummer Kliph Scurlock) has dedicated to reinventing how it records, markets and distributes its Technicolor psych-rock odes to life, death and everything in between--and to keeping its ever-expanding audience engaged, satisfied and surprised. The band has vowed to release new music as quickly as it is recorded, abandoning conventional formats. Cereal boxes, toys, gadgets--if it's a viable vessel for music, the Flaming Lips will throw it against the wall to see if it sticks.

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