Flaming Lips Drummer Kliph Scurlock Says He Was Fired for Standing Up Against Racism
Published May 02, 2014Back in March, longtime Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock left the group. No big deal, right? After all, bands part ways with members all the time. Now, however, the story is back in the news, since Scurlock has said that he was fired for speaking out against alleged racism.
Gawker reports that controversy was sparked when Christina Fallin, singer of the band Pink Pony (a.k.a. Chrome Pony) and daughter of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, posted an Instagram photo showing her wearing a First Nations headdress.
After she was criticized for the photo, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne reportedly came out in her defence and has since even posted a (now-removed) photo with a few friends and a dog wearing headdresses. Scurlock, on the other hand, criticized her in online comments. By the drummer's account, this caused a rift with Coyne and led to his firing from the band.
Christina Fallin has recently drawn further criticism for allegedly imitating a First Nations war dance during a festival performance, while Scurlock has issued a lengthy statement to Pitchfork detailing his firing.
According to the drummer, he has endured years of "verbal (with threats of physical) abuse from Wayne" but persevered because his love of the music. During the arguments surrounding Fallin, he said that Coyne sent him a text saying, "You're a fucking coward !! Go stick up for your Indian friends if its so important to you !!" and fired him, claiming that he was a "nazi punk coward Internet bully."
UPDATE: Wayne Coyne has responded on Twitter by posting quotes reading, "Fools take a knife and stab people in the back. The wise take a knife, cut the cord, and set themselves free from the fools," and, "Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by Love, this is the eternal rule." The band's Steven Drozd added, "This Lips/Kliph bullshit has gone too far. We parted ways because of the usual band musical differences. The rest has been blown way out."
Read Scurlock's full account below:
I have kept quiet about the circumstances surrounding Wayne Coyne firing me from The Flaming Lips thus far because I figured those who know and love me would know the truth and it probably wouldn't be of much importance to anyone else. But it seems it's quite an interesting topic to some, so for those of you who do care, here's the story.
Some time in early March, the daughter of the Governor of Oklahoma, Christina Fallin, posted a photo of herself on Facebook wearing a full headdress with the caption, "Appropriate Culturation", which I found disgusting. (For those who don't know, a headdress is a symbol of respect which is earned. Each feather in a headdress is representative of a good deed or a fierce battle won. It is, in my opinion, not something to be worn the same way you would wear a t-shirt or a hat or whatever.) A number of people called her out for doing it and several tried explaining to her what the headdress signified, in case she had posted that photo out of ignorance rather than malice. (I'm on the side that thinks she knew exactly what she was doing - hence the caption "Appropriate Culturation".) She responded with a very insincere non-apology, which I also found disgusting. I have several Native American friends who were very hurt by her combination of actions and I am nothing if not protective of my loved ones. I am also a big proponent of Native rights and one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humankind has been the treatment of the Natives by the white settlers, which continues to this day. So I responded by telling her to go fuck herself on a mutual friend's Facebook page she was commenting on and posted something on my own page condemning her actions. In my upset over my friends' upset, I went a little far and included some jabs at her mom. Her mother is someone whose politics I couldn't possibly be on a more opposite side of and I think she has done many detrimental things to the good people of Oklahoma. So I deleted it because her mom, as vile of a human as I think she is, had nothing to do with it. I intended to post a reworded, on topic comment, but got busy with an Electric Würms song we were working on and didn't get to it.
Some weeks go by and Wayne was apparently out when he ran into Christina, who proceeded to complain to Wayne. Wayne got upset and texted me at 12:13 a.m. on March 19 to ask me what was up. I explained to him what had happened and he responded, "You lost your mind dude…. that is some petty, sad, hater bullshit. You love to talk shit…. Like a punk coward… " I stopped responding to him at that point. (By the way, all texts are quoted verbatim, with spelling and punctuation as they were sent to me.)
The following day, I texted him about something personal involving neither of us and we had what I thought was a friendly enough text conversation. I have become used to his lightning quick temper and the horrible things he'll say in the heat of being upset (which is something I see a bit of in myself and am working to get rid of), but he usually cools off as quickly as he gets upset and things move on. For example, at what ended up being my last Flaming Lips practice, I made an error in judgement and and answered a text from George regarding liner notes for the "7 Skies H3" CD while one of the other guys used the restroom. Wayne got upset and yelled and threatened to throw my phone and me along with it the next time I had my phone out during practice. 5 minutes later, we had run through the song and everything was fine and Wayne and I resumed our conversation about said liner notes. So, like I said, after we had the friendly conversation about our friend, I figured everything had blown over and gone back to "normal". Unfortunately, it hadn't.
At 9:54 p.m., he texted me again pressing the headdress photo issue. In my desire to have this done and over with, I apologized and said I wouldn't do it again. He responded, "… Ha ha… You so full of shit … You're a fucking coward !! Go stick up for your Indian friends if its so important to you !!" It devolved from there, with him later texting, "I think….. I am gonna make it so your 'beliefs' no longer have any association with the Flaming Lips .." More name calling followed with him finally sending me a text at 3:49 a.m. on March 20 that said I was fired. Along the way, he called me a "nazi punk coward Internet bully" and tried to claim that he was "sadly unaware" that I have taken a few jabs at Dave Grohl on Twitter, when he actually was very aware and, in fact, set me up to do several of them. (He also once tried to get me to talk shit on the Black Keys on Twitter when he got mad because they supposedly dissed Led Zeppelin in a Rolling Stone article (I didn't read it), but I pretended to do it and never hit send.) He also brought up a tweet I had sent on January 1st saying, "I think Aspen has replaced Las Vegas as my least favorite place on Earth." I tried explaining to him that I was far from the only person in our organization to post a pissy tweet while in the midst of a bad travel day, but I could tell he wasn't looking for an actual debate. Whatever Christina had said to him had made up his mind and he was looking for justification. I do almost find humor in the irony that the guy who is known worldwide for talking shit in the press on Beck, Bob Dylan, Erykah Badu, the Arcade Fire, etc. was suddenly so concerned at what I might be saying to my 3000 "friends" on Facebook and 4000 followers on Twitter, but that's beside the point; like I said, I know he was just looking for some kind of justification because it would make him look bad to kick out someone who had stuck by his side through thick and thin for 12 years (15 if you count the time since I first became a roadie for the band) for calling out a spoiled brat for doing something insensitive and stupid.
So, yeah, I was fired. No longer a Flaming Lip. Seriously?!?! FUCK!
I can't even begin to express what a devastating blow that was to me. I have loved that band since the early 1990s and becoming a member of that band in 2002 is probably the proudest moment I've had in my life thus far. I lived and breathed that band. I put up with endless verbal (with threats of physical) abuse from Wayne because I absolutely loved the music we were making and playing (and also because I love Steven, Michael and Derek.) I turned a blind eye when he pulled several of his (what I consider to be) tasteless publicity stunts. I kept my mouth shut when he threw away the track Deerhoof had sent us to work on because he had suddenly decided that song was going to be done with Kesha. And, even though I was incredibly disappointed to suddenly not be working with one of my all-time favorite bands because he had decided on behalf of the whole band that we were going to instead work with someone whose music I couldn't possibly care less about, I put my head down and gave it my all and my best - because that's what I did in the Flaming Lips. Sure, I have grown apart from Wayne on a personal level over the last several years, but never did I once let it affect my job performance. I just merely didn't speak to him unless we had business to conduct. It bothered me for a while until I thought about other people that have been in bands together for a long time. I mean, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones didn't even attend Robert Plant's infant son's funeral in 1977, but Led Zeppelin still kept going until the death of John Bonham. Paul Stanley didn't invite Gene Simmons to his wedding in 2005, but Kiss is still going. So, I figured it was okay to not be friends with him for the time being. And it was my choice to distance myself from him on a personal level. We were at Tarbox Road Studio and he wanted me to run an errand for him. I was having a high anxiety day and asked him if I could do it in a little bit when my anxiety had subsided. He got upset and used some personal things from my past to jab at me. And I decided right then and there that that is not the kind of behavior a friend exhibits. But we didn't need to be friends to make music, right? It worked for a couple of years, at least. But, throughout all of this, as I said before, I never used it as an excuse to make the music suffer. Even if he laid into me right before we went on stage (as he did a number of times), I put it aside and played the absolute best show I could possibly play. Blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc.
As I stated earlier, I decided to keep publicly silent about the reason behind my firing for a number of reasons. At first, I thought he would likely have a change of heart and I would be back where I felt I belonged and everything would move forward. But then he posted the photo on Instagram of his girlfriend, a roadie, Sarah from Phantogram and (to really drive his point home) A DOG wearing a headdress with a caption giving a shout out to Christina Fallin as a jab at me. That's the moment I knew he wasn't going to change his mind and was, in fact, doubling down on his reason for firing me. Still, I kept quiet publicly because I figured it wouldn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. The Flaming Lips have had drummers before me (in fact, as you probably know, the best drummer they've ever had - and the greatest drummer walking Planet Earth today - is still in the band and plays a multitude of instruments). And the Flaming Lips are greater than the sum of their parts. So, what does it matter if I'm gone? Well, it matters to me, but that doesn't mean it will matter to you. I also kept quiet out of respect for the other members of the band. Steven is one of my best friends and I also love Michael and Derek. Any noise coming from me would surely impact them and I didn't want this whole firing nonsense to affect them negatively any more than it already has. I told my friends and other people I care about the real reason and I've seen it seeping out here and there, but nothing too extreme. Until recently.
Christina Fallin and the rest of her lame band tried to get publicity for a recent live performance by spreading the rumor that they were going to perform in full Native regalia. My good friend (and someone I admire deeply) Samantha Crain organized a peaceful protest. The band mocked Native culture and was very antagonistic towards the protesters by flipping them off and trying to get security to remove them, despite them being out of the sight lines of the audience. Wayne and his girlfriend were apparently there making fun of the protesters (I can't confirm this because none of it is on video and I wasn't there) which enraged a lot of people, which led to someone telling the local press the reason I was fired, which led to the furor over the past several days. I can't lie and say that some part of me isn't happy to see Wayne finally catch heat for some of his actions, but I do feel that some of the reactions I've seen have been extreme. I've seen a couple of things written that wish death upon him and I don't agree with that. I've seen some things calling for bad things to happen to all of the members of the band, which I most certainly don't agree with. I know those guys about as well as it's possible to know a person and I can say in no uncertain terms that Steven Drozd, Michael Ivins and Derek Brown are three of the kindest, most upstanding (and outstanding) people you could ever hope to meet. I was spoiled getting to play alongside them and spend so much time with them for so long. Those three have absolutely NOTHING to do with Wayne's antics (or his decision to fire me). I love them all very deeply and it bums me out to see them lumped in with any of this.
In closing, I've been asked constantly the past month and change since my firing what I plan on doing next. The answer is, "a lot." I'm not one to count chickens before they hatch, so I don't want to mention anything specific at the moment in case one thing or the other doesn't pan out. But I do really, truly from the bottom of my heart love and appreciate every single person who has reached out to me in the last month and a half and offered their love and support. The immediate aftermath of being fired from my favorite band was one of the darkest times in my life and your support kept me from sinking into an abyss of depression and self-loathing. I hope to see you all very soon.
2 May 2014