The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Wayne Coyne

Musician and singer behind the alternative band, The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne has stood out over the years for being fearlessly unconventional and embracing it to the fullest. What perhaps distinguishes Coyne the most is the fact that he knows he's not like his peers and he's not afraid to show it.

The man who has been a part of iconic songs such as "Do You Realize?," "The Sun," "Christmas at the Zoo," and "Fight Test" has managed to carve a unique brand for himself. Coyne sings, plays the guitar, keyboard, and theremin. While there are several misconceptions around his life, especially his music and personality, not enough is known about his early years, his brush with death, his thoughts on mortality, and more. Here's a glimpse into Wayne Coyne's journey, including the sadder parts from his life that have greatly changed who he is as an individual and a musician.

Wayne Coyne had an interesting childhood

Wayne Coyne had a childhood that was filled with the things you'd expect: family, sweet moments, learning, and growing. According to a piece by the Independent, Coyne was born to Irish Catholic parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1961. His family was a big one, and he was the second youngest kid in the house. His father owned an office installation company and expected his kids to help him. That said, Coyne and his siblings were adventurous. "Dad was a big, alpha male worker guy. He was always the boss. My older brothers brought a lot of drugs, motorbikes, and music into the house. They played The Beatles and Pink Floyd, lying in the dark, getting stoned. Amazing," Coyne reflected.

The young Wayne Coyne couldn't help but be fascinated by music and everything it represented. He paid careful attention to songs from The Wizard of Oz and was drawn to Tom Jones' music as well. "[Jones'] early stuff was so dramatic, over the top. He sounds so intensely broken-hearted –- suicidal. I relate to that. I'm also over the top, always having to ask people I work with: 'Is that too over the top?' I'm lucky they can tell me, 'That over-the-top bit there is great, that over-the-top bit there is not.' I'd rather feel things all the way," Coyne explained. As an imaginative kid, he often found himself sketching and allowing his imagination to run wild, seeking magic in the mundane.

He almost got killed in high school

When Wayne Coyne was in high school and working at Long John Silver's, he experienced a traumatic event that had a significant impact on him. He was held hostage at gunpoint at the restaurant and he didn't know whether he'd make it out alive.  He called the experience significant. It inspired Coyne's song, "Mother, Please Don't Be Sad," a powerful track with hard-hitting undertones. "Well, until then, I could probably say I didn't realize I was really alive," Coyne told Rolling Stone. "I never really thought about it. We were living such an insane, healthy, wonderful, happy life — my brothers and all of our friends just running around doing the craziest shit ever. But then I'm laying on the floor thinking: 'This is how I'm going to die.'"

He added that he had a lot of anxiety back then and the event simply gave him a whole lot of perspective. He was grappling with the idea of exploring music but wanted to also appease his family by joining their business. However, after being so close to death, Coyne knew he had to make a decision. The incident made him feel like he could choose music and follow his passion without letting his family down.

Wayne Coyne started The Flaming Lips with his brother

While Wayne Coyne did feel bad about not being a part of the family business, he received support and love from his folks as he set about exploring his musical ambitions. As explained by the Independent, Wayne had already been wading through the local punk scene as a teenager and felt motivated by the success of artists like Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, and Black Flag, realizing that music was within reach. He decided to start The Flaming Lips in 1983 with one of his brothers, Mark Coyne. The duo could only afford cheap musical instruments at that point in time. It turns out, the instruments they bought were such a bargain because they were stolen from a church — a fact that the brothers didn't know about until later.

Years after The Flaming Lips became successful, Wayne heard strange rumors, such as the claim that the band actually first performed at a cross-dressing place in Oklahoma City. The singer simply laughed and assured his fans that no such thing even existed back then. 

Mark left the band in 1985 and Wayne had to take over and sing without his brother's help.

The band struggled to find its voice

While The Flaming Lips had talented members, they didn't necessarily know where they were heading. The band went through five albums, in fact, before somewhat finding their niche and getting a deal with Warner Bros in 1990, as per the Independent. They achieved recognition and tasted success in 1993 with one of their songs, "She Don't Use Jelly" and also explored their style as a band with their album, The Soft Bulletin in 1999.

Wayne Coyne commented on this and said that as a band, they had their fair share of ups and downs by the time The Soft Bulletin came to them. The band members were thus calm throughout and didn't overreact to commercial success back then. "If you were talking to me and I was like 22-years-old when all that happened, I probably would be a completely different type of person," Wayne Coyne explained. He added that by the time success rolled around, Coyne and his mates were accustomed to knowing what their art meant to them, their production style, and music. The band consistently stayed true to their roots and haven't changed today. He explained that a large part of what the band does relies on them trusting their instincts instead of worrying about pleasing the masses with music that's trendy or in vogue.

Experimental art is one of Wayne Coyne's strengths

As an artist, Wayne Coyne has accepted that it's difficult for him to avoid exploring existential questions through his art and music. For example, one of the most iconic songs by The Flaming Lips is called "Do You Realize?" and it is full of existential angst. There's lyrics such as "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die? And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last."

Coyne shared his thoughts in an interview with Spin and reflected on the song, saying that he'd sing it often and interacted with fans about the deeper meaning behind the lyrics. He said that hearing his fans share their vulnerabilities had a definite impact on him, but he wanted his fans to open up to him. Coyne added that when fans told him he understands and gets where they're coming from, he knows it was never him but the music all along.

Wayne Coyne is also comfortable with the band's reputation as unconventional artists and thinks it's useful to get smaller groups of fans excited when you're trying to discover your voice. "If you're playing for 60,000 people, a lot of them aren't going to know who you are," Coyne said, adding that it does help to make an impression on a smaller group of fans which eventually leads to more people talking about their music.

He also explored cinema

Wayne Coyne didn't just stick to the world of music and branched out into cinema years ago. As explained by Yahoo! Entertainment, Coyne's 2008 film, Christmas on Mars was a tough nut to crack. Coyne spent seven long years trying to finish the film because he kept getting interrupted by his commitment to The Flaming Lips and their albums' successes. The band also spent around $2,000,000 from their own pockets to make the film a reality.

Coyne had to call several of his acquaintances for favors as he tried to give the film some momentum. Later, when he spoke about Christmas on Mars, Coyne said, "I'm not sure if I'm embarrassed about it or if I'm proud of it." The film, Coyne knew, wasn't successful despite being talked about and receiving plenty of attention. However, the group did make an album specifically for the film that received better reviews. Coyne said his movie perhaps wasn't meant for a larger audience. He explained that Christmas on Mars is meant for viewers who get the essence of what he's trying to say in the film, implying that it would not appeal to everyone. Additionally, he did acknowledge that the film is not entertaining as much as it's intense and emotional.

Wayne Coyne lost his father

Wayne Coyne lost his dad to cancer in 1997, an event that was sobering for the musician. He'd also lost his mom to the same illness and was no stranger to its trials and tribulations. Around this time, the band's powerful album, The Soft Bulletin was created. "After my father died, I realized I didn't know if I wanted to keep knowing how brutal the world can be," Coyne told The Guardian. He added that despite what he'd been through, he remained optimistic about life and the world but that it needs conscious effort on an individual level to get through the bad times and see the good in the world.

Music also helped Wayne Coyne get through some of his toughest times. When his father was fighting cancer, Coyne often took respite in the songs he listened to. "I remember when my father was dying, I remember listening to Bjork and listening to John Coltrane, and these things, and I don't know why but music has the power to transcend your physical being and take you up just a little bit," Coyne said. He explained that the fact that music has a metaphysical aspect helps a listener to temporarily forget what they're going through and simply live in the moment.

He has survivor's guilt

Wayne Coyne lost people he knew to drugs which made him think differently about intoxication and also showed up in his music. He mentioned how one of his bandmates, Steven Drozd, and he spoke at length about witnessing the aftermath of addiction in their lives. "Steven [Drozd] and I both talked about having these older brothers that we kind of vicariously lived through. We saw the way we wanted to live; we saw the way not to live," Coyne told Rolling Stone in an interview. He said that both of them did have survivor's guilt because of their experiences. Coyne saw several of his brother's friends get killed from drug overdoses and in road accidents.

Coyne also spoke about his band's take on drugs as artists. He explained that their music didn't view drugs as life-altering or magical but rather as "an unavoidable part of life." Coyne said that Drozd could relate to him and vice-versa because of the common links from their pasts which helped when they made songs about drugs and related topics.

Wayne Coyne had tough relationships

Life hasn't been smooth for Wayne Coyne and he knows it. He prefers to make sense of his emotions through music and turning inward for answers when he felt puzzled or lost. The band's 15th album, King's Mouth from 2013, explored what it's like to be in pain and the experience of living through a heartbreak, according to the Independent. The album did spark rumors that the songs were about Coyne's separation from his first wife, Michelle Martin-Coyne. The couple parted ways in 2012.

Wayne Coyne wasn't too keen on addressing this but said, "This music is really about a part of myself, a period, a time, a build-up to this time, that I don't like to think about that much because it's disturbing to me. The idea that we made this music, not because I needed to encompass that time, but now I know what that time was, now it haunts me."

The Flaming Lips went through rough times

As a band, The Flaming Lips haven't had it easy. The band ended up courting controversy when one of their former drummers, Kliph Scurlock accused Wayne Coyne of verbal abuse and racism. According to a Pitchfork piece, the drummer opened up in 2014 and modified his earlier statement in which he lashed out at Coyne after being fired from the band. "Look, if I thought he was racist, I would say so. But I know that dude really, really well and I can say in no uncertain terms that he is absolutely not a racist," Scurlock wrote. He added that he believed that Coyne was like him and didn't get a lot of things in terms of cultural appropriation or how it could have an impact on people around him.

Wayne Coyne, for his part, shot back at Scurlock through an interview with the Rolling StoneCoyne said that he loved and adored Scurlock but knew that the drummer was immature and would lash out at everything. Coyne said, "Anybody that wants to look at what he does with his Twitter, he usually is hating people. And I never thought about it very much."

He's been controversial in the media

Wayne Coyne has often been called weird and has also been called out for being unconventional, something that he has learned to live with and even celebrate in his own way. However, the musician remains, in some ways, misunderstood in the media. For example, in 2014, Coyne spoke about having to defend his friendship with fellow musician, Miley Cyrus.

"I never get tired of defending her [Miley] because she's awesome. And she understands as much as anyone that someone who perceives her image, or reads the things written about her, might misunderstand her," Coyne told Tidal. He added that she is lovely to be around and most people would adore her if they spent some time with her.

The musician further explained what it's like to constantly be called different as a band and said that The Flaming Lips never did that intentionally. He said that they weren't sure about what the status quo was and simply went with the flow, following their hearts without wondering whether people would think it was weird or odd. "We're just drawn to what we're drawn to," Coyne added.

Wayne Coyne is now embracing life as it comes

Wayne Coyne hasn't remained stagnant through the years and has, in fact, embraced change. He spoke to Rolling Stone recently about growing as an individual after his son, Bloom was born. When asked how he was impacted by fatherhood, Coyne said, "It's allowed me to know what's important and what isn't. I'm almost 60-years-old, so I feel like I've had a good long time." He said that on account of being in the music industry from when he was in his early twenties, he's often felt lucky to have had the chance to do what he wanted to and make a career out of his love for music.

He also mentioned that he thinks the world can be remarkable and isn't out to punish everyone on the planet when he was asked about the kind of world he hoped to see his son, Bloom grow up in. He reiterated what he's said before: It's a matter of perspective and the world can be exactly how you want it to be. Coyne said, "Two people can be standing in front of the sunset, and one of them just sees it as a waste of time: 'What are we standing here for?' And the other one sees it as the greatest experience they've ever had."