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Wayne Coyne teams with KCRW, McSweeney's to produce radio play

November 20, 2012|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips performing in New Orleans.
Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips performing in New Orleans. (Rick Diamond / Getty Images )

Radio theater is a medium that, while no longer practiced as it was during the golden age of radio, remains rich with potential. Like books, drama over the airwaves requires an active mind’s eye for both its creators and its audience. But unlike the written word, sound adds another dimension for artists curious about experimentation.

Enter Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, an artist with an oft-glowing mind’s eye whose life has been devoted to sonic experimentation.  Throughout  the Lips’ career, the group has commissioned parking garage symphonies, Walkman concerts, boombox orchestras and multi-disc sonic experiments, all in service of sound. Now Coyne and the group have teamed up with Santa Monica radio station KCRW and Dave Eggers’ publishing house McSweeney’s to present “Wayne Coyne’s Human Head-Shaped Tumor,”  an hour-long radio show to be broadcast on the station and online this weekend.

Described as “a radio adventure,” the piece features all the Lips in collaboration with, among others, Eleanor Friedberger (Fiery Furnaces), Bill Callahan, Nico Muhly, and Will Sheff of Okkervil River, along with comedian Paul F. Tompkins and writer and “This American Life” contributor Jack Hitt. The show was produced by Richard Parks, son of composer and arranger Van Dyke Parks.

What, exactly, will occur is yet unknown. But in KCRW’s press release, the adjectives describing it include “bizarre,” “eccentric,” “unique” and, in the words of the station’s general manager, Jennifer Ferro,  “strange, compelling and wonderful.” The station cites “War of the Worlds” as a touchstone,  “but mixed with contemporary music and unique sound design -- car crashes, helicopters, and even murmuring tumors.” (Hopefully, he and Parks were aware of Dylan Thomas' surreal, trippy radio play "Under Milk Wood," which offers classic evidence of radio drama's potential.)

The performance will run both Saturday and Sunday on KCRW-FM (89.9) and at


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