The Residents

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<tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align: center; background-color: #f9f9f9;">Image:The Residents.jpg
</td></tr><tr><th>Country</th><td>San Francisco, CA, United States</td></tr><tr><th>Years active</th><td>1972–present</td></tr><tr><th>Genres</th><td>Avant Garde
Experimental rock</td></tr><tr><th>Labels</th><td>Ralph Records</td></tr><tr><th>Members</th><td> Unknown</td></tr>

The Residents

The Residents are an avant garde music and visual arts group. They formed in 1972 and released their first record that year, a double-disc 45 RPM recording entitled Santa Dog. They have released nearly sixty albums, created numerous musical films, designed three CD-ROM projects, and undertaken six major world tours. They are still active and have released a new CD-Internet project in June 13 2006, entitled "The River Of Crime" and said to be modeled after the radio dramas of the 1940s. A new full length CD ("Tweedles") was released on October 31, 2006 on Mute Records.

They are known for their secrecy, singular art, and embrace of new technology.


[edit] Who are the Residents?

Much of the speculation about the members' true identities swirls around their management team, known as "The Cryptic Corporation." Cryptic was formed by Jay Clem, Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, and John Kennedy in 1976, all of whom denied having been band members. (Clem and Kennedy left the Corporation in 1982.) The Residents per se don't grant interviews, though Flynn and Fox have occasionally commented to the media.

One might be inclined to speculate that The Residents feel artists do their best work without the influence of an audience, should only be judged by their work, and that a band members' genders, ethnicities, line-up changes, personalities, and daily life outside of the band should be irrelevant to listeners.

William Poundstone, author of the Big Secrets books, claimed Fox and Flynn alone are The Residents; this is probably the most widespread belief among the group's fans. A subset of that belief is that Flynn is the lyricist (a conclusion buttressed by the fact that his voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the Singing Resident) and that Fox writes the music. In addition BMI's online database of the performance rights organization [of which the Residents and their publishing company, Pale Pachyderm Publishing (Warner Chappell), have been members for their entire careers], lists Flynn and Fox as the composers of all original Residents songs. This includes those songs written pre-1976 (the "Residents Unincorporated" years), the year Cryptic formed <ref name="bmi"> online listing of songs written or co-written by Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox, accessed May 24 2005</ref>. Cryptic openly admits the group's artwork is done by Flynn (among others), under various names that, put together, become Pornographics, but the pseudonym is rarely spelled the same way twice (examples: Porno Graphics, Pore No Graphix); and that Fox is the "sound engineer". Many other rumors have come and gone over the years, including the idea that the band members are physically disfigured; are actually "The Residents," a Dutch Indorock band from Den Haag (1966-69) who released their only single in 1968; that 60's psychedelic band Cromagnon shared members with the band; and that the band members are in fact The Beatles in disguise.

[edit] Early history

Due to the obscure nature of the band, it is difficult to get an accurate history of The Residents. What follows is information from unauthorized accounts which may or may not be entirely reliable.

The Residents supposedly hail from Shreveport, Louisiana, where they met in high school in the 1960s. In 1966, members headed west to San Francisco, California. After their truck broke down in San Mateo, they decided to remain there. Like all information, this is provided by The Cryptic Corporation and is likely false. Newer information indicates they are probably from Slidell, Louisiana, and picked Shreveport as the "place to be from" since it is the city in Louisiana that was furthest from Slidell.

Whilst attempting to eke out a living they experimented with tape machines, photography, and anything remotely to do with "art" that they could get their hands on. Word of their experimentation spread and, in 1969, a British guitarist named Philip Lithman and the mysterious N. Senada (who Lithman had picked up in Bavaria where the aged avant-gardist was recording birds singing) paid them a visit, and decided to remain.

The two Europeans would become great influences on the band. Lithman's guitar playing technique earned him the nickname Snakefinger (upon seeing a picture of Lithman playing the guitar, a Resident exclaimed that his little finger resembled a snake).

The group purchased crude recording equipment and instruments and began to make tapes, refusing to let an almost complete lack of musical proficiency stand in the way. One of their first public performances was in 1974 at Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley, California.

Also in 1969 the Residents began to make the first of their unreleased tapes. Rumors have surfaced of two of perhaps hundreds of unreleased reel-to-reel items entitled Rusty Coathangers for the Doctor and The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger. The titles may be in question (as is the idea that these were album-length recordings), but the first title has been confirmed by a former head of the, now defunct, Smelly Tongues fan club. Further evidence of pre-1970 recordings surfaced with the release of the song "I Hear You Got Religion", supposedly recorded in 1969, and released originally as a downloadable track from Ralph America in 1999. Cryptic says there are lots of tapes dating back decades, but they were all done before the people were officially "The Residents" so they don't count. They also say there is plenty of music that is actually by The Residents so it is unnecessary to make-up imaginary old recordings.

In 1971 the group sent a reel-to-reel tape to Hal Halverstadt at Warner Brothers, since he had worked with Captain Beefheart. Halverstadt was not overly impressed with "The Warner Bros. Album" (he describes it as "okay at best" in "Uncle Willie's Cryptic Guide to the Residents"), but awarded the tape an "A for Ariginality". Because the band had not included any name in the return address, the rejection slip was simply addressed to "The Residents". The members of the band unanimously decided to use that name ever since.

The first performance of the band using the "Residents" moniker was at the Boarding House in San Francisco in 1971. That same year another tape was completed called Baby Sex.

In 1972 they moved to San Francisco and formed Ralph Records. At that time The Cryptic Corporation was operating as a partnership and incorporated to take over the running of Ralph Records.

[edit] "Album Era" - 1972-1980

Santa Dog is considered by both The Residents themselves and their fans to be the "official" start of the band's recorded output. This is so because it was the first to be released to the public. Shortly after this release, the band left San Mateo and relocated to San Francisco.

They recorded and released the album Meet the Residents. During the recording, and for the following three or four years, the band laboured on a film project that they hoped would become the "ultimate underground movie". This was Vileness Fats. However, despite fourteen hours of film having been reportedly shot, the film was ultimately and reluctantly abandoned by the band due to time, space and monetary constraints.

The Residents, at this point, were at a rough point in their career. There was in-band turmoil, which they decided to resolve by recording what would later become Not Available - the band's ultimate representation of N. Senada's Theory of Obscurity. It was not intended to be released, but was in 1978 out of contractual obligation.

The Third Reich 'n' Roll came next, a pastiche on 60's rock 'n' roll with an overarching Nazi theme (represented visually on the album cover, which featured Dick Clark in an SS uniform holding a carrot, with a number of Hitlers dancing on clouds behind him). The music video for this album was shot on the sets that were built for Vileness Fats.

The band was beginning to become noticed by the press, and dropped most of their reliance upon the Theory of Obscurity. The Residents were being embraced by New Musical Express, Sounds and Melody Maker magazines.

[edit] Noted projects

One of the first projects The Residents undertook, before even the Santa Dog single, was the ambitious Vileness Fats film project, which was later reluctantly cancelled, after four years of filming (from 1972 to 1976). Fourteen hours of footage was shot for the project, of which only about three-quarters of an hour have ever been released. The Residents saw this project as the opportunity to create the ultimate cult film. It was intended to be the first-ever long form music video.

The album The Third Reich 'n' Roll tackled the theme of the corporate music industry. The sleeve, adorned with swastikas, showed Dick Clark dressed in full Nazi regalia, surrounded by tiny dancing Hitlers. On each side of the record was a single composition, approximately 17 ½ minutes long, using recordings of classic rock & roll songs that were spliced, overdubbed and edited with new vocals, instrumentation and tape noises. The original songs were finally removed leaving entirely new and bizarre performances.

The Residents took the Theory of Obscurity to its logical conclusion when they allegedly recorded Not Available in 1974 with the intention of not releasing it. Placed in storage to be issued when no one remembered it, contractual obligations forced its release in 1978 after the band had almost forgotten about it. The Residents were unbothered by this deviation from their plan since the 1978 decision to release the album couldn't affect the philosophical conditions under which it was recorded in 1974.

Eskimo (1979) contained music consisting of non-musical sounds, percussion, and wordless voices. Rather than being songs in the orthodox sense, the compositions sounded like "live-action stories" without dialogue. The Residents remixed the "songs" in disco style, the results of which appeared on the EP Diskomo. Eskimo was reissued in surround sound on DVD in 2003.

The Commercial Album (1980) consisted of 40 songs that, like Eskimo, rejected traditional song structure. Each consisted of a verse and a chorus and lasted approximately one minute. The songs pastiched the advertising jingle although the songs were not endorsements of known products or services. The liner notes state that songs should be repeated three times in a row to form a pop song. With a leap of promotional imagination, The Residents purchased 40 one-minute advertising slots on San Francisco's most popular Top-40 radio station KFRC forcing the station to play each track of their album over three days. This prompted an editorial in Billboard magazine questioning whether the act was art or advertising.

The Residents are also credited with the creation of the first music video.<ref name="All Music Guide">All Music Guide biography of The Residents</ref> When MTV was in its infancy, The Residents' videos were in heavy rotation since they were among the few music videos available to broadcasters. The Residents' earliest videos are in the New York Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection and were eventually released together in 2001 on the Icky Flix DVD, which includes an optional audio track of remixes.

The 80s saw the release of the Mark of the Mole album (and its sequels) and the band's first official tour, narrated nightly by Penn Jillette. The Mole Trilogy is still missing some of its volumes (only parts I, II and IV have been released) which are, allegedly, lurking somewhere in the periphery of the Residential imagination, not entirely lost.

Backstage at the Hollywood Palace show in December 26 1985 one member's eyeball mask (Mr. RedEye) was stolen, so it was replaced with a giant skull mask. The eye was returned by a devoted fan who discovered where the thief lived and stole it back (although Homer Flynn has stated that the person who returned the mask was most probably the thief himself). It was put into retirement because it was now "unclean" (and in a bad condition) and had become a superfluous shell.

In the 90s they created the epic recording "God in 3 Persons", a story about the exploitation of two siamese twins with healing powers by a male dominant force; "The King & Eye", a surreal biography of Elvis Presley and the birth of rock and roll; and "Freak Show", a title that intended to depict that freaks are still being ostracized by society and laughed at - they just don't get paid to do that any more.

More recently The Residents have recorded the dramatic album "Demons Dance Alone" (also a tour and DVD in 2002) and "Animal Lover" in 2005.

The Residents were also one of the first bands to release multi-media CDs, featuring the work of illustrators such as Jim Ludtke. The first two of which ("The Gingerbread Man" and "Bad Day on the Midway") were both cited as top computer entertainment software by Entertainment Weekly. They have also contributed to a number of soundtracks including Pee-wee's Playhouse. The band continues to release new material (they have over 700 songs in their catalogue), special re-releases and more DVDs. They have toured three times in the last decade, though speculation is that this period of heavy touring is over.

Singer Molly Harvey began as a Ralph employee but by the mid-90's contributed to virtually all of The Residents many projects. The Residents increased reliance on Harvey--essentially handing her half of the vocal duties since at least Demons Dance Alone--seems to uncoincidentally parallel their artistic revitalization. Nolan Cook, Carla Fabrizio, Toby Dammit, Eric Drew Feldman, and many other artists continuously worked with the band over the last five years, recording and performing live. The new artists helped to counter what All Music Guide derided as a "sonic palette [confined to] factory presets from their new Macintosh audio" of the CD-Rom era. <ref name="All Music Guide">All Music Guide review of Freak Show</ref>

In February of 2005 the Residents toured Australia as part of the "What is Music?" festival, performing a two hour retrospective set entitled the 33rd Anniversary Tour: The Way We Were. These shows saw a fairly minimal band; three eyeball-headed Residents (one on guitar and two laptop/sample operators), a "stage hand" performer, and a male and female vocalist in costumes reminiscent of the Wormwood tour. They added video projections and unusual flexible screens to the stage set, creating an unsettling ambience. The performances on the Way We Were tour were recorded and were released on CD and DVD in 2005.

Summer of 2006 brought the internet download project, River of Crime (Episodes 1-5). River of Crime was their first project with Warner Music Group's Cordless label. Following the success of River of Crime, The Residents launched their weekly Timmy video project on YouTube.

[edit] Discography

[edit] Albums

[edit] Singles

[edit] Compilations

[edit] Multimedia

[edit] Touring and One-Off Shows

[edit] Miscellanea

  • Simpsons creator Matt Groening and journalist Jim Knipfel are fans of the band.
  • Les Claypool is a fan of the band, and they are a main influence on Claypool's musical trio, Primus who covered "Sinister Exaggerator" on their Miscellaneous Debris EP, as well as "Hello Skinny" and "Constantinople" on the Re-release of their album Frizzle Fry.
  • The cover of The Residents' LP Eskimo appeared in a Spanish TV commercial of FNAC
  • It is rumored that The Residents were to work on a television series with David Lynch, but said series was too strange for the networks.
  • Eskimo was considered for a Grammy Award, but not nominated. The Residents were still invited to the ceremonies, and shared a table with Donna Summer.
  • Simpsons creator Matt Groening wrote a "History" of The Residents, which itself admits it contains lies and distorted truths.
  • In the afformentioned historical publishing, it is mentioned that they called themselves "The New Beatles" for a brief period of time, before "The Residents".

[edit] References and footnotes

<references />

[edit] External links

The Residents
Album era (1972-1980)
Meet the Residents (1974) | Not Available (1974, released 1978) | The Third Reich 'n' Roll (1976) | Fingerprince (1976) | Duck Stab/Buster & Glen (1978) | Eskimo (1979) | The Commercial Album (1980)
Performance era (1981-1990)
Mark of the Mole (1981) | The Tunes of Two Cities (1982) | Intermission (1983) | George & James (1984) | Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? (1984) | The Big Bubble (1985) | Stars & Hank Forever (1986) | God in Three Persons (1988} | The King & Eye (1989)
Multimedia era (1991-1996)
Freak Show (1991) | Gingerbread Man (1994) | Bad Day on the Midway (1995) | Have A Bad Day (1997)
Band era (1997-2005)
Wormwood (1998) | Icky Flix (2001) | Demons Dance Alone (2002) | Animal Lover (2005)
Storyteller era (2006-present)
The River of Crime (2006) | Timmy (2006) | Tweedles (2006)
Related articles
Snakefinger | N. Senada | Vileness Fats | Ralph Records
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The Residents

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