The fiercely peculiar Residents have been gracing the world with their unique form of music/performance art for 30 years. In celebration, the anonymous Bay Area eyeballs have much in store, including the release this week of one of their most accessible records ever: Demons Dance Alone.
Demons is a (relatively) user-friendly synecdoche of the Residents’ entire career: stop-start time changes; Fripp-like sustained, fuzzed guitar used for orchestral effect; Kurt Weill and marimbas; strange folksy male and clear female vocals; and a sad, oblique story of loss riding the razor’s edge between irony and sincerity. The band’s site makes reference to 9/11 as a starting point for the composition. A very fine, mature addition to the group’s oeuvre.
We are privileged to have the opportunity to speak with Homer Flynn, graphic designer and spokesman for the Residents’ Cryptic Corp.
Very nice to speak with you Homer – please give a brief history of Cryptic Corp.
The Cryptic Corp was formed in 1976 as a business and promotional interface for The Residents. Up to that point they had done everything, some of it brilliantly, some not so good – partly because, up to that time, they had maintained straight jobs on the side. The formation of the Cryptic Corp allowed the Residents to be The Residents full time, while someone else paid the bills and took out the garbage. The original Cryptic members were John Kennedy, Jay Clem, Hardy Fox and myself. Kennedy and Clem left to pursue other interests in 1982; Fox and Flynn still run the business.
How can an anonymous, independent group survive, and indeed thrive for 30 years? What is the core appeal in your opinion?
In terms of “how,” everyone involved with The Residents asks themselves that
question – almost on a daily basis. It only seems to make sense within the context of faith; it works because people believe it works. As to the appeal, I used to think The Residents’ audience was the loners and outcasts of the world – the guy (or occasional girl) nobody would go near in jr high because they might get excited and spit on you when they talked or their breath smelled like the sardine sandwich they ate for lunch, but now I’m not so sure.
I don’t know if it’s The Residents or the audience that’s changing, but their appeal seems to be broadening. At this point I think The Residents have something of value to offer that either wasn’t there or maybe wasn’t needed in the past. It could be attitude, style, intelligence or just the fact that The Residents are different, but in this time when more and more product is homogenized and dumbed down for the mass market, I think The Residents have something unique to offer, and people want that.
I loved the Freak Show CD-ROM … how do you feel about the CD-ROM format now? Do you still like that one? I am aware of, but have not “used” Gingerbread Man or Bad Day On the Midway. Do you/they have any new multimedia projects planned?
At this point the CD-Rom format, at least in terms of The Residents and what they do, is totally dead. It’s interesting that you should mention Freak Show – The Residents are preparing a special release of the CD that will contain a book of images from various versions of the project plus an extra disc of music that was created at diferent points along the Freak Show timline. Organizing the images for the project caused me to look at the CD-ROm for the first time in a few years and my feelings were that, despite it’s obivous technical shortcomings, the disc has held up well. It’s still an intriguing world with interesting characters.
As for other projects, The Residents are moving as far and fast as they can towards DVD as a new mediudm to explore. While it obviously doesn’t offer the interactivity of CD-Rom, DVD offers a much more stable platform and not nearly as many authoring and compatibility problems. I think there will be a lot of really interesting, independently produced DVDs released in the next few years – and I expect The Residents will be releasing their share.
Why so persistent with the anonymity? Others have “come out” over time – why not the Residents?
To me, and I think The Residents too, the question is “why?” Why would they want to do that – what is there to gain by showing the world that The Residents are just ordinary people beneath their masks. If KISS served as an example, obviously nothing more needs to be said (other than maybe “PUT IT BACK ON!”)
Let’s mention the new radio show beginning 9/3.
After 30 years of near radio silence, a new weekly 2 hour program exclusively dedicated to The Residents premiered on Tues, Sept 3. The station is the all digital subscriber based XM Radio. The program is called MEET THE RESIDENTS and airs every Tues nite from 7pm-9pm Pacific/10pm-12mid Eastern on the Special X Channel of XM Radio.
Let’s mention the November Chicago show.
It’s at the House of Blues on Tuesday, Nov 5 – that’s about all I know.
What is philosophical relationship between music and nonmusical aspects of the Residents’ art?
The philosphical relationship is that for them all creativity is the same thing – the product of life passing through humans struggling to deal with it all. While some people obviously have more inclination (I hate the word “talent”) towards one area or another, the only thing that’s really important is following the creative urge.
For The Residents there has been more opportunity to do music than anything else – mainly because they’ve always had their own studio, so this resource was always available to them. But, for anyone who has seen their videos, live performances or CD-Roms, it’s obvious that the visuals are just as important as the music.
Once again this is one of the reasons they are so excited about DVD. For The Residents, many of their projects, Eskimo and God in 3 Persons especially, have visual components that have never been realized. They just completed a surround DVD of Eskimo that does add a strong visual narrative for the first time – it only took them a little over 20 years to complete it.