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The Bobuck Way [2017-03-05]

For over 40 years Charles Bobuck was one of the key minds & songwriters behind avant-pop/ art collective The Residents. In late 2015 he decided to depart the band, due to his declining health, and since he has gone onto create a building body of solo work. One such release was last years Bobuck Plays The Residents, which saw Charles doing his own unique (and often wholly different) versionís of Resident songs he penned during his time with the project. I caught-up with Mr Bobuckís official spokesman, Hardy Fox- he used to be a key member of The Residents management team (The Cryptic Corporation), & who left connections with the project shortly after Charles departure. Below is an email interview, discussing both Charles & Hardyís time with the project, why they both left, Bobuck Plays The Residents, and future work.

M[m]:When did you & Charles first meet the people who would go onto become The Residents? And how soon after this did you decided to start working together?
Hardy: I canít speak for Charles. But I remember fairly well. I was 9 years old. His father was a business associate of my fathers. The family lived 70 miles away but they occasionally visited. The kid was a bit younger than me, but we got along fine. I didnít see him again until I was 25 or so. All of us that evolved into Residents, Cryptic, as well as other things, came to California at different times, the more people that came to San Francisco the more attraction the city had. The decision to work together was nebulous, probably discussed while totally high on marijuana. We had all known each other for years, some as I mentioned, since childhood. It was more of an evolution. Like a snowball that gets bigger as it rolls. And some people who originally were in it would also drop out, maybe rejoin, maybe not. Since originally there was not a music band being formed, it was always more of an intellectual band. A philosophical band. But I think around 1971 both The Residents and us were starting to fall into kinds of predictable roles that lead to the eventual creation of The Cryptic Corporation. And the music emerged since it was a popular medium at the time.


M[m]:Do you think that what is known as The Residentís would still had developed if the members & management hadn't moved to San Francisco ?
Hardy: The original plan was to move to LA.  Summer of Love took the core to San Francisco instead and there was no leaving SF once you saw it.  If you are asking that  if no one had moved anywhere at all, then the answer is no.  The people were scattered.  Going to a place is what created a focus.  it could have been New York.  It is unlikely people would have gathered in Slidell, Louisiana.

M[m]:What made you step up as Bobuckís spokesmen?
Hardy: That was not the original plan.  Bobuck left The Residents because he is a studio guy, not a touring guy.  I got bought out of Cryptic Corporation and retired to the country near where Charlie (Bobuck) had moved years ago.  He was still writing music like crazy and I was doing nothing.  We were hanging out as friends, drinking wine, swimming.  It fell together naturally.  Now it seems so obvious, since we are both more interested in amusing ourselves than getting on Top of the Pops.

M[m]:Tell us a little bit about why both you & Charles decided to stop working with the project? Was it a difficult decision to make? And what do you see as both of your legacy from with-in your time with the project?
Hardy: Iím not totally comfortable speaking for Charlie, he can do that for himself. For me though, it had a lot to do with age. I didnít want to have to keep trying to squeeze money out of The Residents. We ran a business model that was largely selling collectibles, so we had to keep marketing to the same fans to sell, often, only minor variations of the same items. People didnít seem to care, which was great. But as the CD market shifted to a download market, we felt more of a need to run a touring band style Residents. Touring had always been something we did ever few years, now it became the main undertaking. Constant shows, constant touring. That wasnít my interest.

Hardy: Sure, it was very difficult to break such an old pattern and I was working with friends. But nothing goes on forever. The possibility was to control my exit rather than go out in some kind of explosion. Legacy is a difficult concept. I think others decide your legacy or if you even have one. Pop is intended to be temporary and we are pop so perhaps legacy is too fancy for us.

M[m]:How do you feel The Residentís output/ sound will change with out Bobuck's input?
Hardy: Iím not going to speculate that they will suddenly become an acoustic folk group or something. 

Hardy: Working with the understanding that The Residents IS what it NEEDS TO BE for a production, be it an album or a show, the fact that albums are no longer a major player in the music world, the live aspect will become dominant.  Touring and festivals.  To make that the most efficient, The Residents will adapt to the established "touring band" persona.  That is, they will become a four-piece, more like a "rock band.Ē  Singers, guitars and drums, no electronics.  They did this for Wormwood tour in the late Ď90s. 

Hardy: This move will make for the most flexible, and cost effective, live situation.  There will be more skilled musicians replacing band members who do not have the chops to play the newer, more progressive rock arrangements of older Residents/Bobuck tunes


M[m]:Do you & Bobuck have a favourite Resident album created during your tenure with the project? And if so why does it stand out to you?
Hardy: Not really, though that is a boring answer, so I feel like I need to say something more interesting.  In general, the exciting part of a project is the creation.  The way it would work is that an album would get completed and six months later it would come out as a CD.  In that six months a new album would be getting conceived and the previous album would be more or less forgotten.  The ďoldĒ album would become the marketing peopleís chance to be creative.  So the music peopleís perspective is always to be moving forward and the physical product becomes more or less irrelevant to them.  The marketing perspective is that the physical product is all that counts.

Hardy: So Bobuck really likes the Mute era.  As a musical creator he was challenged to do four albums rather quickly.  Animal Lover, Tweedles, The River of Crime, and The Voice of Midnight.  That is fun for him.  For me, being on the marketing creative end, I loved the late 70ís Eskimo and The Commercial Album promotions.  I think the marketing team where at a creative peak then.  Which sounds rather sad considering it was forty years ago.  Once we were working with established record companies starting in the 80ís we no longer had the ability to do bold things with promotion.  Record labels could sell more product, of course.  They understood how to market to the buyer.  We only knew to do crazy stunts, and that was not necessarily the best way to sell records.

M[m]: The recently released Bobuck Plays The Residents saw Charles giving his own distinctive( and mostly vastly different) take on Resident tracks he wrote. Could you tell us a little bit about how the idea for this release came about?
Hardy: Walter at Klanggalerie had heard the two Residents pieces that Bobuck had recorded. Never Known Questions and My Brother Paul. They were available on The Residents Bandcamp web site. Walter liked the delicate voice and asked Charlie if he would consider doing an album of Residents songs. Charlie had written new arrangements, some quite radical departures, for the touring Residents shows. He had arranged probably 40 or 50 songs over the last three tours. He loves to write surprising arrangements so he thought the idea sounded like it was worth trying, but he wouldnít commit to it until he had recorded 25 minutes that he thought acceptable.

M[m]:Still on the subject of Bobuck Plays The Residents- did Charles go into the project wanting to vastly different versions of the tracks, or did they just develop that way?                                                                                                                                                     Hardy: As I just mentioned, he likes to write arrangements, and they often end up very different, or sometimes going back to an earlier original style for the song.

M[m]:How easy was it for Charles to pick which tracks to cover?, and is there any chance of a vol 2?
Hardy: It was difficult to pick the songs. Bobuck wanted it to be serious, not taken as a novelty, and he knew his shaky voice would work best on emotional pieces. They also had to be simple melodies, not too technically demanding. Also he wanted to use lyrics that really showed off the excellent lyrics that are often in the Residents tunes.

Hardy: I have never heard any consideration of a volume 2. It seems unlikely.

M[m]:What is Charles song-writing process like? And has it changed/ developed over the years?
Hardy: He develops a process for a while, then it changes. Right now he is writing very short pieces. He doesnít want to get bogged down into the serious world of the music business. He says he is now doing music as a hobby. Entertaining himself is the most important thing now. If Klanggalerie wants to collect the pieces into CDs, he is fine with it. But like I say. He could suddenly change his approach. There is always a learning aspect to creating the music. At the moment he doesnít have a lot of interest in making an album, he likes recording short single pieces.

M[m]:What set-up/ equipment does Bobuck use in his work now? And does he ever use any older equipment?
Hardy: He is still computer based, but loves his iPad Pro.  Older equipment?.  That requires a bit of consideration.  Is a piano old?  Guitars?  He uses them.  To him there is old software he uses, but that might mean only a few years old.

M[m]:Whatís Charles got lined up for the next year or so release wise?
Hardy: Klanggalerie has a CD of 26 of the short songs that Bobuck has recorded over the last six months. It is called Eggs for Breakfast. He explains that an egg has the potential of being a chicken. But just because it isnít a chicken doesnít mean it is not an interesting and useful thing as an egg. The says he now writes things that have the potential to be songs. But in the same way, they are interesting and useful things without being songs.

Thanks to Hardy for his time & effort with the interview. Bobuck Plays The Residents is available on Klanggalerie, as is a whole host of Resident & related releases- their website is here. And info on both Charles & Hardyís future work can be found over at Hacienda Bridge Music website here

Roger Batty
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