Exploding the Moon a Million Times . . . . . (Re-)Making King Crimson’s “Court”

November 7th Update
New Fumes, Linear Downfall, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Spaceface and The Flaming Lips’ collaborative remake of “In the Court of the Crimson King” is available now on limited edition multi-color vinyl at Dallas’ Good Records and will sell online and at more indie record shops in the near future.   Titled “Playing Hide and Seek with the Ghosts of Dawn,” this new version of King Crimson’s debut LP is also streaming in full at The Lips’ satelliteheartradio.com.  The original October 15th post is below with fuller updates in the tweets added at the bottom of this post. 

Working on King Crimson music is fun for all of us… The Linear Downfall tracks are awesomeness. Their stuff is fantastic!”
That’s how Texas psych explorer Daniel Huffman recently described to The Future Heart working on his latest project: recording a full album remake of the 1969 psych-prog classic In The Court of The Crimson King alongside The Flaming Lips and like-minded artists.
In turn everyone seemed to agree Huffman’s take on “I Talk To The Wind” is equally fantastic. By replacing the airy-fairy flutes of King Crimson’s version with freak-out electronics — yet not straying far from its mellotron rich textures and serene mood — Huffman stays true to the spirit of the original while bringing its somewhat-dated arrangement into the 21st century.

Huffman – who plays under the stage name New Fumes – is no stranger to Lips fans.  He played with them on tour and on their Fight Test EP a decade ago; he’s hand-made all their limited edition multi-color vinyl for the past two years; he’s a guest on their latest album, Heady Fwends; he’s opened numerous of their shows; played their New Year Freak Out; and most recently performed various songs with them during their Guinness World Records setting 24 hour tour.  Other “fwends” of the Lips recorded the album’s remaining tracks: Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Linear Downfall, and Space Face.

At the start of last month Huffman released his version of “Moonchild” featuring Wayne Coyne as a free download album-teaser (streaming above). Officially billed as “New Fumes with The Flaming Lips,” Huffman’s epic re-imagination of the album’s most free-spirited track is a companion to the version by Space Face that will appear on the album (below – fun idea: with two browsers play both versions at the same time)….

The full album – titled Playing Hide and Seek with the Ghosts of Dawn – will be released in conjunction with a late-October-early-November-mini-tour.  The heady brainchild of head Lip Wayne Coyne,its tracklist is below with cover art to the right.

1. Linear Downfall “21st Century Schizoid Man”

2. New Fumes “I Talk to the Wind”

3. Linear Downfall, Spaceface, Stardeathand White Dwarfs, and New Fumes with The Flaming Lips “Epitaph”

4. Spaceface “Moonchild”

5. Stardeath and White Dwarfs ”In the Court of the Crimson King”

Linear Downfall urge all humans to attend their “Exploding the Moon a Million Times” tour “in support of a beautiful collaborative King Crimson tribute record that is being pressed as you read this!! Please come out and have an awesome time with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, New Fumes, Linear Downfall, and Spaceface! It’s gonna be a fun night!”

The tour runs from a secret October 25th show in Oklahoma City through November 3rd in Lexington, Kentucky.  Note the second show is opening for The Flaming Lips’ free show at the OKC Zoo – this Halloween’s “largest costume party in the midwest.”  Buy tickets to all other shows via the tweeted links below these official tour posters by Wayne Coyne and Oliver Hibert (with full tour schedule):

So, you might be wondering, how did this come to be???

At the start of this year The Flaming Lips recorded with Ke$ha in her hometown, Nashville. While there, K money took the band to her favorite local venue, the legendary dive bar Springwater (aka the scene of The Black Keys’ latest video, “Little Black Submarine“).  The band playing the club on that January night happened to be Linear Downfall.  Taking a liking to them, the Lips invited Downfall to record in March at their Oklahoma studio, Pink Floor.  When they arrived Wayne asked them to cover King Crimson heavy-psych-prog classic “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  Linear Downfall guitarist Chance Anthony Cook describes the scenario to The Future Heart: “It was crazy. Wayne told us do it and I didn’t think we could but somehow we did because we were under the gun and were like, ‘well, we better figure it out’…ha’

Unbeknownst to Linear Downfall, In the Court and is among Wayne Coyne’s favorite music dating back to his ’70s childhood, especially “21st Century.”  “From the first time I heard [‘21st Century Schizoid Man’] I just thought that was a fuckin’ wicked druggy, futuristic song,” is how Coyne described it in his list of “10 Psychedelic Albums To Blow Your Mind” in the recent “Acid Test”-themed issue of Clash magazine.

In Coyne’s opinion, “It’s just a menacing, evil, but very fucking tripped-out seven minutes of music. It feels like it’s music from another dimension. When I say ‘psychedelic’ that’s what I mean: something bad is lurking as well – we’re not just free to be ourselves. Once we become ourselves there’s some danger lurking, there’s some fear. Sometimes what’s great about music is you kinda know what’s going to happen before it happens. But sometimes what’s great about music is you can’t know why it’s happening. And it’s pulling you in – not because you’re confused, it’s just you’re intrigued because you can’t quite know why this is happening. We don’t alway want to know when we turn a corner what’s going to happen there.”

For years Wayne has praised the song and the album it opens – he even ripped the LP cover for a 1985 Flaming Lips concert poster (above left) and has been known to rock out to it on long car drives (below):

Downfall were not huge King Crimson fans at the time, nor could they make sense of Coyne’s request.
Cook: “He said he really liked that [King Crimson] album… I guess it’s just one of those random cool Wayne ideas… I heard the album briefly before. I love that album now…. Recording at Pink Floor was awesome. Wayne pretty much gave us full reign to do whatever and we recorded “21st…”, and three originals: “Brain Damage for Breakfast”, “Mama J Saves the Day”, and “Wasp Song” (we wrote “Wasp Song” there… based on the wasp synth Sean Lennon gave them). It was very inspiring being there and the energy was crazy… we could hear the squirrels chewing on the wires in the ceiling.”
In case you’re wondering about that last comment, yes “literal squirrels… It was just us, Mack [Hawkins, engineer] and the Peacocks outside… Wayne was only there for like a few hours.”

That was just the beginning.

In June The Lips live debuted their own version of “21st Century…” with Deerhoof at a special show for the centennial of Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas (Kliph Scurlock’s hometown).  The following week the Lips tapped Linear Downfall to open the Baton Rouge show of their Guiness World Record-setting “24 Hour Tour” and had Downfall join them on “21st Century” in Deerhoof’s place (vocalist Charlee Cook – Chance’s sister – shared lead vocals with Wayne).

Over the summer Coyne pursued an idea he had previously only been thinking about: recording a new version of King Crimson’s entire debut album with friends.  Stardeath and White Dwarfs took on the title-track, and from here things started to take shape.  Coyne explained in the September 2012 issue of Uncut magazine, Linear Downfall “stopped by my studio and we did a phenomenal version of “21st Century Schizoid Man.” And another group [Stardeath] stopped by and we did the title track. So I thought, there’s only five songs on the album, maybe we’ll just fill in the gaps and release it.”

At around the same time, New Fumes, Linear Downfall, Stardeath and Space Face were planning a tour to play the Crimson LP live along with their original music.  According to Chance the intention was “early to mid-October.”  That plan was delayed when Stardeath’s bassist Casey Joseph seriously injured his hand, but by that point it had already fused with the tribute album idea.  According to New Fumes, “that’s when Wayne said ‘let’s just use these bands to do it.'”

In August Wayne explained to mxdwn: “[The Flaming Lips] hinted around that we should just do the whole record kind of like we did with Dark Side of the Moon, with a variety of groups.  This started to happen, I thought, “Why don’t we do it with these groups? [Stardeath and the White Dwarves, Linear Downfall, New Fumes and Space Face]  All these groups are good and they can all add something to it, and they all like that record.” Yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

The King Crimson tribute album became Coyne’s new pet project. Aside from essentially being its curator and executive producer, Wayne sings with Linear Downfall on the LP’s climax piece, “Epitaph” – which also features Steven Drozd (Chance: “All this shit is just crazy. We waited ten hours at Bonnaroo to see them now we are recording with them??!!”). Wayne also documented the entire process on twitter, from the first recordings to creating the tour posters:

An example of how Coyne directed these sessions is the free “Moonchild” download (discussed and streaming above).  Originally it was all New Fumes and just a few minutes long. Then Wayne added a lead vocal and requested Huffman add an extended, trippy ending – ala the 1969 version. New Fumes quadrupled the track’s length and perfected the mix with input from Coyne. When the vocal blend was right, they released it for free.

An obvious comparison to this project is The Lips’ full LP cover of Dark Side of the Moon with Stardeath (and a little help from “fwends” Peaches and Henry Rollins). But unlike that album – originally issued as an iTunes exclusive in 2009, then physically for Record Store Day 2010 – this isn’t a Flaming Lips production. It’s more a way for Wayne to have some fun recording and create a new version of an album he’s long cherished, so he can hear it anew. And Coyne isn’t done: there’s rumors of other classic psych albums done like this as well.

Yes, read that last sentence over again and let it set in.


As with most Flaming Lips-related projects of the last couple years, In The Court of The Crimson King has been created at a rapid pace. New Fumes’ began tackling “I Talk to the Wind” on August 16th in his Texas “Dome” home.  By August 24th he was in Oklahoma finishing the track with Wayne.  All but one song had been completed and mixed by the start of September.  There was no master-plan – each of the bands simply explored where King Crimson’s tunes could go, feeding off Coyne’s unpredictable, spontaneous energy.  As Chance puts it, “Wayne is very much, so in the moment. For instance when we recorded with him and Steven it was literally him walking in the door and saying so what we’re gonna do is go ahead and start on “Epitaph” and we were like sounds good to me. Charlee actually was on a break from work and just didn’t go back and took a write up so we could record.”

Huffman pressed the limited edition vinyl on October 22nd and 23rd for its “secret” record release on the 25th.  Additional updates from the tour that followed and how you can purchase the record have come via the tweets added below.  Follow updates at twitter/LinearDownfall, facebook/lineardownfall, facebook.com/newfumes, twitter/NewFumes, twitter/SpaceyFaces, facebook/StardeathAndWhiteDwarfs and twitter/STARDEATHontour.

Each multi-color vinyl copy of Playing Hide and Seek is a one of kind creation by Huffman:




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