Why the Flaming Lips’ ‘Christmas on Mars’ is still the weirdest holiday movie ever

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne in 'Christmas on Mars.' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne in Christmas on Mars. (Image: Warner Bros.)

Quite a few psychedelic seasons in the past, the weirdest getaway film you’ve very likely hardly ever read of, Xmas on Mars, by Oklahoma indie-rock eccentrics the Flaming Lips, was unveiled to both equally bafflement and acclaim (Okay, largely bafflement). And it turned a Christmas cult typical.

The wacky production was delayed various times owing to the unanticipated success and ensuing advertising of the band’s albums The Delicate Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots  the latter of which was just reissued as a 20th anniversary, six-disc boxed set on Black Friday 2022, and will make a best present for the Lips fan on your holiday procuring list. The film ultimately took about $200,000 of the Lips’ possess dollars and seven many years to finish.

“I’m not confident if I’m humiliated about it or if I’m very pleased of it,” the band’s mastermind/frontman, Wayne Coyne, suggests of that lengthy wait around.

So, by the time Xmas on Mars at last built its official premiere at the 2008 Sasquatch! music festival, the film experienced previously come to be the things of legend. Even so, even with all the mythology and speculation surrounding the motion picture, the concluded merchandise is actually way more bonkers than even the most diehard Lips devotees could have ever imagined.

Starring Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd as Significant Syrtis, an astronaut on the verge of a anxious breakdown Coyne as an antenna-headed, Santa-suited inexperienced alien Fred Armisen, Adam Goldberg, and, in a lengthier and even-lesser-noticed DVD director’s reduce, Elijah Wood and Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock and a fleet of big marching vulvas, the lo-fi sci-fi flick focuses on a Christmas pageant celebrating the start of the initial infant born on the newly colonized world Mars.

Received all that? Alright, so none of it helps make very significantly feeling. Perhaps which is due to the fact it all commenced as an excuse for the band to file an album of “bizarre classical-tunes-satisfies-place-age-tunes-meets-tunes-from-the-future” with the Xmas on Mars title.

“This notion of building a motion picture was type of a way for us to make a soundtrack to a movie — but the motion picture did not exist,” Coyne tells Yahoo Entertainment. Even so, like a lot of of the Lips’ fantastical tips — Zaireeka, an experimental release necessitating four CDs to be performed simultaneously on 4 different stereo systems people confined-version tracks the Lips issued on a USB travel buried inside of a lifetime-sized, edible gummy cranium the Lifeless Petz aspect-challenge with Miley Cyrus the Lips’ COVID-safe and sound bubble live shows — Christmas on Mars is a intriguing instance of Coyne’s rampant, unchecked creativity at get the job done.

“I imagine [making Christmas on Mars] confirmed me a whole lot about the way that I could start out to do any of my ideas, any of my art, and all that, from then on,” suggests Coyne. “No a person was demanding that we complete it. It was only my personal want to sort of say, ‘No, we must do this.’”

Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd in 'Christmas on Mars.' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd in ‘Christmas on Mars.’ (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Speaking of “movies that really do not exist,” when Coyne made a decision to make Xmas on Mars, he was impressed by some quite un-sugarplum-like visions that danced in his mother’s head quite a few Christmases back. When Coyne and his older brother came home late from a evening out, his mother attempted to explain to them about a strange place movie she’d just witnessed on television, and her wildly disjointed recap remained in his brain throughout the several years.

“It goes again to a ‘movie’ my mom experienced seen, which now I know was not a motion picture. It was a mixture of some motion pictures that she observed, simply because she would fall asleep on the sofa viewing motion pictures late at night,” Coyne laughs. “I recall one evening she assumed she observed this motion picture, but it wasn’t right until significantly later on, after she died, that we figured out she didn’t seriously see one particular film — she noticed three films, and she was falling asleep off and on and connecting them in involving. We searched permanently to uncover this movie that she assumed she saw.”

Involving 2001 and 2007, the Lips labored to provide Mama Coyne’s phony aspiration-state film(s) to the monitor, sporadically capturing Christmas on Mars (at 1st on 16mm film, and then later, as dwelling moviemaking technology rapidly superior, on electronic formats) at numerous locales all over their indigenous OKC — which includes dilapidated industrial facilities and do-it-yourself sets in Coyne’s compound of related properties and backyard.

“Some of it we would shoot basically just in my house. I have a huge, mad property in Oklahoma City,” Coyne claims. “At the time, the back section of the property was continue to becoming renovated, so there would be rooms that were being sort of just tore up, and I created them glimpse like they have been rooms inside of a space station or whatsoever on Mars. … At the time, there was a crack dwelling that was an abandoned little shack that was in the again of a person of these properties that I experienced lately acquired, and in its place of tearing it down, I just turned it into yet another scene. So I’m literally taking pictures in my home, and virtually taking pictures in my individual yard, and the scene which is bought Fred Armisen in it is shot in that crack property.”

Fred Armisen in <em>Christmas on Mars</em>. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Fred Armisen in Xmas on Mars. (Image: Warner Bros.)

Coyne also shot in Austin throughout the 2004 South by Southwest competition to accommodate Goldberg’s plan, and it turned out to be effectively value it. “I stated, ‘Well, if you are gonna be there for 4 days, I’ll build a set in Austin. All you gotta do is occur over there.’ He stated, ‘If you can do that, dude, I’ll be yours for a full working day and a full night. Whatever it normally takes, from the commencing of the morning to the conclusion of the evening.’ He experienced, like, 4 internet pages of dialogue, and I observed him pretty much go off to a home 20 minutes right before we shot, read through by means of it, and then he came in and did probably 50 will take. Every single a single of the takes was stunning. I bear in mind we would overlook that we have been even shooting a film. We’d be like, ‘Oh, f***. Sorry. Minimize!’ He was so wonderful.”

Coyne admits with a self-deprecating chuckle and shrug that he and his bandmates and cast of assembled neighborhood buddies weren’t as qualified at acting as Goldberg, but he believes that is portion of the film’s Diy allure. “There’s bits of it where by the acting is strange, or it’s uncomfortable, or terrible, or ridiculous, but that was our way of stating, ‘I know, but this is us making a motion picture. We’re not really hoping to earn the Cannes Movie Festival this yr. We’re just generating this with our close friends and our family. It truly is a car by which we can put our audio and other abstract concepts into.’

“And you know, I’m not making an attempt to be a film director,” Coyne provides with a laugh. “I was not waiting around on a person to simply call me and say, ‘Hey, we noticed Xmas on Mars. Would you wanna make our film?’ I’m just creating my own movie, my very own way. This isn’t me auditioning for other director’s jobs!”

The result was not precisely a come to feel-great family members film: A ten years and a half later, Xmas on Mars is nonetheless ideal remembered for the previously mentioned-mentioned vulva-military scene, set to an experimental instrumental titled “The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia.” (Side take note/enjoyment reality: A 12 months soon after Xmas on Mars’s temporary theatrical launch, the Flaming Lips expounded upon their weird variation of this “nativity scene” of kinds, by releasing a constrained-edition Xmas tree ornament formed like a fetus.)

Coyne breathlessly tries to explain this vaginal symbolism to Yahoo Entertainment. “It went along the concept that this little one was remaining born exterior of its authentic mother [in a manmade plastic space-womb], and that this is the way infants will be born 100 years from now. They’ll be in an incubated matter appeared more than by the parents, but it won’t essentially be inside of the female or guy. That was the idea there,” he commences. “So, the a single primary character [Drozd’s Major Syrtis], he’s haunted. He sees this little one in there, and he’s residing on Mars, and the oxygen’s bizarre, and the oxygen generator breaks. All these matters sort of result in him to have this breakdown, which qualified prospects to hallucinations. And so this aspiration that he thinks he’s getting is seriously a hallucination the total room station is getting. Somehow on some deep humanistic stage, this way of a child being born, without having being inside of of its mom, is creating some humanistic break. And that is what they were being trying to come to grips with. That’s what that parade is. He’s telling folks about this awful desire of the infant getting crushed by a marching band whose heads are … yeah, they’re huge, flopping women’s vaginas.

Yeah. I indicate, it is a scene that only we would make.”

Definitely the dystopian Christmas on Mars has a lot more in common with Eraserhead than with well-known holiday break fare like, say, It’s a Great Everyday living or Like, In fact. But Coyne insists that, irrespective of all of its disturbing imagery and soundtrack music titles like “The Horrors of Isolation: The Celestial Dissolve, Triumphant Hallucination, Mild Getting Absorbed,” “The Magic formula of Immortality: This Odd Sensation, This Impossible Earth,” “Space Bible with Volume Lumps,” and “In Excelsior Vaginalistic,” the motion picture does give a Christmas-suitable, if imprecise, message of hope.

“To me, Xmas on Mars is like a situation,” Coyne explains. “Mars is the situation that this is absolutely brutal, and this is absolutely unidentified. And we do not know what to do. And you know, we invented Xmas on the darkest day in the northern component of the world. On the darkest times of the yr, we put lights in our trees. And that is what I would explain to all people: On the darkest days of your lifetime, you have to put lights in your trees, whatever your ‘trees’ may be. It is like you stating, ‘I know I’m participating in along with this ridiculous fantasy, but it really works.’ Which is what we signify when we say ‘Christmas on Mars.’ Xmas is the designed-up fantasy scenario that will provide you happiness in the deal with of this utter unfamiliar, bleak void.”

Many years soon after they introduced Christmas on Mars into the void, the Lips, whose other holiday getaway cult carols include things like “Xmas at the Zoo” and “A Improve at Christmas,” are nonetheless celebrating Christmas as only they can — in recent decades, they have released their own psychedelic version of the beloved Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet, “Peace on Earth”/“Little Drummer Boy.” And Coyne looking forward to forming new holiday break traditions as he and his wife Katy rejoice with their youthful sons, 3-yr-aged Bloom and 9-month-old Rex.

“For me, each and every working day when you’re a small boy is like Xmas currently. … I signify, for me, I get to are living like a whole ’nother everyday living now. This is the beginning of my 2nd life. I’m like, ‘Let’s go, motherf***er!’” states Coyne, age 61. “Our residence is presently created for small children, and we do not always get that much rest currently, so it is not… that a great deal different for us.”

As for no matter whether Xmas on Mars will ever turn out to be a much more broadly seen or beloved loved ones holiday vintage in decades to arrive, Coyne appreciates that, like fruitcake, the movie is an acquired style. “We do make unusual f***ing songs. Not all people in the world’s gonna realize it,” he admits. “But I sense like the persons that do recognize it are folks that understand it the way I do. It’s emotional. We’re not just having a party. It’s hitting something pretty down to the core. I feel Xmas on Mars has that arrive at, way too. It’s not hoping to actually entertain you on your mindful stage.”

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