The Quiet Soul of The Flaming Lips

“Wayne kind of had a band where he was recording bass parts and playing them back through a bass amp live.  So after his brother met me …[Wayne] just sort of showed up the next day on my doorstep and asked if I wanted to join the band.”
-Michael Ivins, “The Flaming Lips Vs. The Pick Robots: RUG Catches Up With the Most Inventive Band in Pop Music” by Erik Hanson, Roland Users Group (magazine), Spring 2003, page 50

“If Coyne is well-known as the de facto leader of the Oklahoma collective, then Michael Ivins may be the quiet soul of the band. Ivins, the band’s bassist, also plays a much broader role as the band’s co-engineer, helping redefine that weird beast that continues to transfix the mind’s eye.”

Michael (in CCCP T-shirt) puts together “Christmas on Mars” packages in 2008 with the rest of The Flaming Lips and Wayne’s little helpers.

The spark that bled The Flaming Lips kindled on Michael Ivins’ doorstep at the end of 1982. Since then it seems there are but two constants in the continual evolution of The Flaming Lips.  The first is obvious – the wild imagination of Wayne Coyne – the second isn’t, but is just as vital.  Michael Ivins’ craft as an engineer/ mixing assistant/ assistant engineer/ remasterer/ producer (not to mention his catch-all credit for “additional production”) isn’t self-apparent.  Likewise, with his mild-mannered personality and hesitance to speak over his talkative partners, it’s inevitable he falls in the shadow of their fun and freaky attention-grabbing ways.  He can’t even be pigeon-holed the “bass player”  – it’s commonly known musician-whiz bandmate Steven Drozd laid down the bass in the studio since the late 1990s, recently Wayne has taken to recording bass lines and even on stage Ivins doesn’t always stick to the four strings (performing unassuming keyboard parts instead).

So it may not be obvious, but The Flaming Lips wouldn’t be “The Flaming Lips” if not for Michael.  From playing to singing and engineering, to touring logistics and gear setup, to the impact of his interests on their identity and his role in their interpersonal dynamic… and even to the length of his hair and what (controversial) T-shirts he wears – Michael’s presence is always felt in The Flaming Lips’ music and work.

Although 48 years-young Michael (as of tomorrow) isn’t the same person as that 19 year-old meeting Wayne at his front door, it’s the presence that connects the two over the past three decades that is one of the rare constants in The Flaming Lips 

See him, hear him, feel his presence…

… and for a tiny taste of his keys and vox…

…or the full deal: John Entwistle-esque bass grounding and eye of the storm persona (skeleton suit included), singing and keyboards…

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