Staring at Sound

The True Story of Oklahomas Fabulous Flaming Lips




As is perhaps inevitable with any project of the depth and length of Staring at Sound, I made a couple of regrettable mistakes, and I am man enough to admit them. The Flaming Lips never read a word of the book until it was in print, so the following errors in chronology, comprehension, or sheer bone-headedness are entirely my own fault. They will be corrected in future printings, but thanks to the Net, I can point them out now. — Jim DeRogatis


Page 30: In the liner notes of Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid, Wayne Coyne describes a college radio DJ who shifted overnight from playing skinhead and oi music to new indie rock such as Hüsker Dü’s cover of the Byrds. While DJ and underground promoter David Fallis did indeed play “Eight Miles High,” he said he never played skinhead rock, and Wayne was probably confusing his show with another.


Page 64: The Butthole Surfers came together at San Antonio’s Trinity University (not Trinity College).


Page 70: Michael Ivins and Wayne argued over the fact that Michael likes sauerkraut, but he does not like cabbage.


Page 79: J. Michelle Martin-Coyne was born Jana Michelle Martin.


Page 116: Steven Drozd’s father played saxophone with Texas rockabilly guitarist Joey Long. Known in the family as Bubba, the correct first name for Steven’s second oldest brother is Vernon, like their father.


Pages 125 & 195: Michael and I talked at length about his fears that if he yielded playing some of his bass parts, there would be nothing for him to do in the recording studio. As Steven pointed out, in trying to focus on how Michael’s role shifted to assistant engineer and co-producer beside Dave Fridmann, I neglected to mention that Michael did in fact play bass on every song but one each on Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (“Be My Head”) and Clouds Taste Metallic (“Kim’s Watermelon Gun”), and that he continued to play bass on many songs recorded from that point on.


Page 150: The 1996 Phoenix Festival was in England.


Page 187: Steven and Becky broke up in 1997, and Becky confronted Wayne in Los Angeles in 1999.


Page 191: Steve Burns’ album is called ‘Songs for Dustmites.’


Page 206: Steven and Becky married in 2004.


And, finally, former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Gold was portrayed in the book as being against keeping the Flaming Lips on the label, a perception common to several interviews with company staffers. He sent me the following letter taking issue with that characterization.


Hi Jim,

My name is Jeff Gold, I’m the former exec vp/gm of Warner Bros, who David Katznelson talks about in your new book.  First let me say I very much enjoyed “Let It Blurt” and am a fan of yours.

That being said, I’d like to give you my version of the incidents David relates in your book, as I see things very differently.  I don’t think anyone will care, but I do find the stories David tells about me inaccurate and would like to set the record straight for my own sake.  I know you didn’t have time to check out everything everyone told you, but would have appreciated the opportunity to give you my version before the book was published.

I haven’t spoken to David in probably 8 years or more and I don’t know what he’s like now, but back then he was a very enthusiastic, very naive young man.  To his credit, he ate, breathed and slept Flaming Lips 24/7, and he deserves a lot of credit for their success.  Unlike most anyone in the music business, he only had one act to worry about.  On the other hand, Steven Baker and I were responsible for the fate of many other artists too--and as I’m sure you realize, there were multitudes.

Artists develop at different speeds, in different ways, and obviously our pot of money was never as big as we “needed.”  So our job was to figure out how to best take each act, wherever they were in their development, ”to the next level.”   Steven (my boss) and I had a standing lunch meeting each week with our senior execs-- the head of promotion, sales, video promotion, A&R, product management, etc. where we collectivelymade decisions on release dates, when to get on or off a project, and how to spend on behalf of each artist. Some needed help with video, some radio promotion, some advertising, some tour support--you get the idea.

For David to say that I “didn’t hear a single” and “vetoed spending any money to promote it on radio or MTV” is disingenuous at best. First off, I didn’t make single decisions--I just threw in my 2 cents (which was often ignored as I was a marketing guy.) I liked “Jelly” but no, I didn’t think it was a top 40 single, and still don’t. Alternative rock hit--yes, but not a top 40 hit.  But that was just my opinion, and I was one of 5 or 6 people.

My recollection was that we decided for the Lips it was best to spend to support their strengths-- alternative radio promotion, tip sheet ads, tour support,  and alternative retail.  At that early stage, spending money at pop radio or MTV was premature.  Again, we sat in senior executive meetings to discuss how to spend intelligently; but David as a junior A&R guy didn’t attend these, nor would he have cared about anything but spending more on the Flaming Lips in all areas.

As to David’s contention that I’d always been a “naysayer” who “just saw the band as a bunch of weirdos,” David is just wrong.  I actually liked the band a lot, saw them many times, and spent a fair amout of time with Scott Booker talking about them (and trading records on occasion.)  While we weren’t “friends” I was friendly with Ronald especially, and I remember sending him tapes of obscure records I had.  My car and I even participated in
the “automotive symphony” in the Warner Bros. parking garage.

More ridiculous is David’s contention that I approached him about tweaking “Bad Days” for the Batman Forever soundtrack, while I hadn’t heard the song. I had absolutely nothing to do with putting together that album, and have not ever seen myself as someone with any kind of A&R talent.   I don’t think I ever in my life asked for a single edit or to alter the structure of a song. Steven Baker was the senior A&R presence at Warners, and I didn’t get involved in it at all -it wasn’t my forte, and I knew that.

Again, Jim, I don’t think more than 7 or 8 people will care about any of this--but this morning I got an email from an old friend I probably hadn’t spoken to in 5-6 years today asking me if I knew that I’d been bad mouthed in your book.  I hadn’t, and went  out today and bought it.  I’m not surprised at what David had to say--at the time he wasn’t someone who cared about anyone’s agenda but his own.  But I certainly would have appreciated the opportunity to give you my 2 cents; and as a journalist who I admire, I’d hope next time you might think about this and make the call.

I’m REALLY glad for the Lips, and wish them all the best. Good luck with the book.  And thanks for reading this.

Jeff Gold/ Los Angeles