Interviewing the Residents.
October 16, 2007
After reading Bill Drummonds book ’45’* I was inspired to write about the Residents: In his book Drummond speaks about how, since the ’70s, the Residents maintained a unique position in ‘new music’; an anonymous surreal almost completely mythical group who’s output was so idiosyncratic it became a genre of its own (fact: the mark of a true innovator is to be so unique as to influence no-one), and how his view of the band was destroyed when, literally, the mask slipped.
As far as i know – and i haven’t really checked – I am the only person to have interviewed the Residents as ‘the Residents’. Normally cloaked in secrecy about their true identities I interviewed them in 1994 for James Stevens’s video magazine – and for some reason they were uncharacteristically open about who they really were. The interview was set up, i think, by the folks at Mondo 2000 ( a kind of new age cyber magazine precursor to ‘wired’ that everyone read back then) and took place just after the 1994 earthquake at the Residents HQ in San Francisco; an old warehouse (with a huge vertical crack down the front) surrounded by empty lots.
We were courteously greeted by a long haired ‘old hippy’ bloke (mid fifties?) who made us tea (tea!) and cleared a space amongst all the junk lying around the warehouse. He introduced himself as one member of the Residents, Hardy Fox – the other member Homer Flynn had gone out shopping for groceries. We sat and chatted for an hour or so and from memory, here are the facts:
1. The Residents are two people, Homer and Hardy (which my American friend thought were wonderful country bumpkin names – Hardy has a distinctive, slow, southern accent)
2. They formed around the group Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band in the early seventies.
3. They currently were getting cheap rent due to earthquake damage but had to move out soon – which they couldn’t afford.
4. Hardy had a place on Big Sur where he goes camping and hiking with his kids
5. They are not KKK members despite their pre-eyeball costumes
Excerpt from conversation:
crab “would you like to come with us to see the Mark Pauline show at SRL tonight?”
Fox “mmm, i don’t think so, i’d probably get killed or injured”
crab: “It would be quite a coup to kill one of the Residents!”
Fox: “My mom wouldn’t like it…”
(* incidentally, ’45’ is an impressive, warm and human piece of writing – quite surprising considering Drummond’s previous work ‘Bad Wisdom’! highly recommended)