Interviewing the Residents.

October 16, 2007

The ResidentsAfter 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)

9 Responses to “Interviewing the Residents.”

  1. Shah said

    Seems to be a fairly huge revelation for Residents fans.
    And no comments.
    And where’s the interview?
    You learned everything that could be gleaned from a Residents press release.

    • crab said

      …if it was culled from press releases how can it be a “huge revelation” ?

      i do have a vhs video recording of the occasion somewhere…i’ll post it if i find it…

      ta

      crab

  2. peter said

    I hate it when bands split up and remaining members keep on going using the group name while their music style changes dramatically.

    The Residents ceased to exist in 1982.

    Jay Clem and John kennedy left, Snakefinger is dead, valuable collaborators from the the period ( Joshua Brody, Chris Cutler, Don Jackovich, Fred Frith, Don Preston… etc) who helped create the now legendary Residents sounds are all long gone… Along with those wonderfull drawings that used to adorn their vinyl releases.

    Personally, I’m not into Homer’s “solo career”. And apparently I’m not the only one. Listen to all the covered songs or tribute albums/compilations… all pre 82 tracks.

    The Residents used to be quite an extraordinary avant-guarde band before the moleshow tour debacle… Today “The Residents” is just a business. A cold and calculated multimedia spin business run by H & H. Who are growing old and pathetic with their Cryptic corp bs.. speaking in the third person of a band that is no more… selling stuff from their basement on ebay and addressing their fans like they’re 9 year olds!

    It’s saddening, really…

    • crab said

      Got to agree; Same thing with Pere Ubu – their last great album was ‘New Picnic Time’ in 1980(?) before they more-or-less split up. Everything since then sounds vaguely fraudulent…

  3. ab said

    You guys sound like a couple of assholes. Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and in most cases its not appropriate to share with those around you. You don’t like it, go listen to another band. Don’t buy their stuff. BTW, there have been dozens of albums since ’82 that I shudder to think wouldn’t be created. So Jay and John quit. So what. Life goes on. I’m glad H and H didn’t crawl in a hole and die.

  4. Howski said

    Just so we all understand, The Residents never were and never will be a “Band”
    They are an ongoing “Art Project”.
    They Change as they decide or need.
    Really, change is bad?
    They changed constantly before 1982.
    Enjoy the Residents you enjoy and bail out like the other two original members if you want.
    Makes no difference to those of us who still have an open mind.

  5. bx said

    Here’s my asshole opinion:
    I bought all of their limited releases religiously, usually preordering. Now they only sell them on ebay for idiots to fight over, driving prices up over $100. I want no part of that. I griped to them and new merch guy on facebook and they were complete dicks about it. Sure ruined it for me, I can’t even listen to them now. Saddens me to think I helped support assholes all this time. Screw those guys.
    Call me a jerk if you want, I’m just calling it like I see it: severe greed.

    • Good for you bx, guess you don’t understand how the business is changing. They sell through a store on eBay. Not everything is “bid”. Just because you aren’t quick enough to get something before it goes to bid is not the fault of the seller.

    • Howski said

      I have never had a problem dealing with “new merch guy” or “Them”. Maybe it was how you griped.

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