Reality Warpers Anonymous
The Residents Unveil the Wonders of Weird
For more than 40 years, the Residents have been the paradigmatic DIY underground band. Remaining anonymous and in complete control of their sprawling, unique catalog, they've created a body of experimental rock/pop that's both grotesquely warped and strangely touching. They're as serious as a fake heart attack and as facetious as Reagan threatening to bomb the Soviet Union. A cinematic genius would have to do a six-hour film on the Residents just to scratch the surface of their enigmatic subversion of (un)popular music. The Residents don't do interviews, so Cryptic Corporation "manager" Homer Flynn answered these questions in advance of their Wonder of Weird tour.
What motivates the Residents to keep making music? What more can they accomplish? Will they ever stop?
The Residents always say they find life more entertaining than watching TV, but specifically, they keep meeting new people, having new ideas, and finding new challenges, so that makes it easy for them to keep moving forward. As for what they can still accomplish, they would love to make a movie. Well, they will eventually die—but then maybe we'll find new Residents waiting in the wings.
The Residents, like Sun Ra, have operated as their own self-sufficient organism. Ergo, they seem totally prepared for the music industry's probable collapse. Have the Residents always been able to focus exclusively on the group or have members had to hold day jobs?
The Residents haven't had any straight jobs since the Cryptic Corporation took over their business in 1976. Before that, they worked as billers at UC Med Center in San Francisco, a concrete truck dispatcher, a pipeline tester, a bank teller, and mail sorters at the post office.
Did James Brown ever inform the Residents of his thoughts on their covers of his songs? How about Mick Jagger and Keith Richards re: "Satisfaction"?
To my knowledge, neither James Brown, Jagger, nor Richards have ever commented on the Residents' versions of their songs. They did meet James Brown at the House of Blues in Las Vegas one time, but he didn't seem to know who they were, which is not surprising.
What can fans expect from the Residents on this tour? A kind of "greatest hits" extravaganza? New tunes?
The Wonder of Weird is a retrospective tour, so the Residents are performing exclusively older music from their catalog, but it's not really a "greatest hits" selection. They have chosen to mostly play more obscure material and then have drastically rearranged it, so it almost sounds new—but there will be a lot that's familiar to longtime fans.
What is the strangest thing that's happened to the Residents while touring and/or onstage?
Probably the strangest thing was when the Residents were performing their Mole Show with Penn Jillette acting as narrator. At one point, near the end of the show, Penn was handcuffed into a wheelchair and brought out onto the stage. As the stage filled with smoke as part of the war between the Moles and the Chubs, a crazed German fan came up onstage and started choking Penn. Luckily, a stage manager dragged him offstage before he could do any damage.
What's the funniest thing that's happened to the Residents while touring and/or onstage?
One of the funniest things just happened on this tour in Carborro, North Carolina. A woman in the audience was returning to her seat when she accidentally knocked loose the cable connecting all the stage audio equipment to the sound system, causing the entire room to instantly go silent. Without missing a beat, Randy, the Residents' singer, got the audience to join in on a sing-along of "Teddy," the piece they were playing when the sound went out. It was both funny and touching.
How do the Residents feel about not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
While the Residents have used rock music, as well as jazz, industrial, lounge, world music, etc., as tools for creating their albums, they have never really considered themselves a "rock band," so from their perspective, it's appropriate that they are not there. Of course, to be enshrined near the immortal Bo Diddley wouldn't be bad.
How is the Ultimate Box Set [the Residents' entire catalog, plus trademark eyeball mask and other paraphernalia, packaged in a large refrigerator and priced at $100,000] selling?
There are no sales so far. There have been a couple of discussions with potential buyers, but no one has come up with the deposit money yet.
What is the most beautiful thing the Residents have ever seen or heard?
Either holding a newborn daughter or spacing out to a three-hour Sun Ra concert. A fresh dry-farmed tomato at the end of the summer is pretty cool, too.