Old Dog’s Still Snap ‘n’ Break Bone [2020-07-22]Many bands/projects in their later years ease back on the sonic gas- be it slow down, mellow-out, or water down their sound. But that’s certainly not the case for The Residents- now a few years off their 50th anniversary, the avant-pop/ art collective have just released their 47th album Metal, Meat, and Bone- which stands as one of their more bounding ‘n’ intense record- it sees the collective blending roughed-up & snarling blues, with theatrical sonic oddness ‘n’ unease. Homer Flynn- the projects key designer, manager, and handler kindly agreed to give M[m] an email interview- discussing the new album & more.
M[m]: As an album Metal, Meat and Bone feels like a real reconnection with The Residents origins- both sonically & actually - with it’s take on the blues, and the collective re-meeting with Roland Sheehan- a musician they knew/ worked with back in the 1960s. How has the collective hopes & dreams changed from their time as youngsters in Louisiana all those years ago- and do any still remain the same?
HF In a real sense, I don't know that The Residents' hopes & dreams are that different now than they were almost 50 years ago. Their heroes, artists like Sun Ra, Moondog, Captain Beefheart, Ennio Moriconne, and others were never major acts from a pop culture perspective but they enjoyed very long successful careers. For The Residents to still be still doing what they want to do and finding support it - and having fun in the process is as good as it gets.
M[m]: Talking of Ennio Morricone, it was announced a few days back that the great composer had sadly passed- have the Residents ever considered covering some of his work?
HF While The Residents' have been huge fans of Morricone's work going back to the early 80s, they've never considered covering because it always struck them as a little too challenging. The Residents were always a little intimidated by Morricone's prodigious creativity.
M[m]: On the subject of soundtracks- have The Residents had offers to do any other soundtrack work in the last decade or so?, as according to IMDB the last score they did was 2016 Sculpt, which is listed as a Sci-fi film.
HF Sculpt is really an art film created by the French artiste Loris Greaud. While it uses Residents' music for the soundtrack, all the music in Sculpt was pre-existing; they didn't write anything for the film. While The Residents love scoring films, they, unfortunately, haven't received any soundtrack offers during the past few years.
M[m]: I believe Metal, Meat, and Bone is the first release without any contribution from one of the collective key songwriter/ sound-crafter Hardy Fox. How difficult was the writing process with-out him, and do you feel there are still traces of his way of writing/ working still remain in the new album?
HF Actually the Intruders album was the first one without any participation from Hardy; also his involvement in the Ghost of Hope was fairly minor. Regardless, Hardy's creativity was and will always be missed. In many ways The Residents considered him to be a mentor as much as a colleague. Hardy was a brilliant producer, arranger, and composer and the group felt like they learned a lot from him. It's impossible to believe Hardy's influence won't always be part of The Residents' equation.
M[m]: On the whole Metal, Meat and Bone feels like a fairly even blend of the Residents more rough ‘n’ ready lo-fi qualities, and their more grand-yet-unsettling theatrical tendencies- was this a difficult balance to maintain? And was the album always meant to be this way from the start, or did it just organically develop that way?
HF The album came together quite organically and much of its success was due to Eric Feldman's participation as co-producer. But a key ingredient in The Residents' creative process is allowing a project to become what it wants to be. I know at one point there were discussions about making The Residents' versions of Alvin's songs more arty, including the narrative text of Dyin Dog's history, textures, songs presented more in suite form, etc, but the further they got into it, the more it seemed correct to maintain the songs' simple structures but make the arrangements and interpretations more radical.
M[m]: Please discuss how & why the album's title came about, and where there any alternative titles for the album?
HF The Residents are always looking for the right phrase or combination of words, to sum up their concept as a title. Midnight Man was one the songs written by the group in tribute to Dyin' Dog and when they were writing the lyrics and came up with Metal, Meat & Bone, it just screamed THIS IS THE TITLE!. Also, of course, they liked twisting the phrase so it said, "My hound likes the sound of metal meeting bone.
M[m]: Metal, Meat, and Bone features quite a few guest singers- and with this, and its moments of focused theatricality, it rather reminded me of The Residents 1999 album Wormwood. Could you talk about how each of these singers came to the project, and how did randy/Mr Skull/ the singing Resident feel about his slightly reduced role?
HF While I can see the comparison to Wormwood, I also see certain reflections of Demons Dance Alone and Animal Lover. The singer that was most surprising to me is Sivan Lioncub, who brought inspired interpretations, great backup singing, and wonderful violin playing to the album. Sivan was one of Eric's discoveries; Eric was also excellent at bringing new players that infused the album with unexpected energy. Another new person performing with The Residents is Peter Whitehead, who did a great vocal on Cut to the Quick, another song inspired by Dyin' Dog.
M[m]: The first single from the album was Die! Die! Die!- I first became aware of this via a mention on Rolling Stones Magazines website, where you & The Resident pleased/ surprised by more mainstream music media attention to their work?
HF Of course everyone is always pleased when something gets broader and unexpected exposure. The Residents' explanation for this surprising development was the stunning Star Power brought to the song by the stellar lineup of Black Francis, Donald Trump, and Satan.
M[m]: Who was behind the Resident's new mean ‘n’ moody black dog mask, white tie & black suite look- and will this be used & expanded on the tour?
HF I am the primary visual artist for The Residents and the dog mask look was my creation. When They came to me needing a costume idea, knowing that Dyin' Dog and Duck Stab would be the primary components of the upcoming tour, the dog masks along with cliched black blues suits and a knife seemed fairly obvious.
M[m]: one of the constant & main features of pretty much all modern Residents albums of the last twenty years or so has been the distinctive guitar work of Nolan Cook. How/ when did the Residents first meet Cook?, and at what point was it decided he was to become the band's guitarist?
HF Nolan began working with The Residents on Wormwood. Nolan was a friend of Molly Harvey, who performed with the group for several years. Typical of The Residents, there was never any decision; relationships with them are usually free-flowing and organic. When things work, everyone seems to know - and it's the same when they occasionally don't work.
M[m]: Can you give us any hints/ ideas what to expect from the up-coming Dog Stab tour- and will it be purely material from Metal, Meat, and Bone ?
HF One of the things The Residents have learned over the years is that while they love performing material that is new and alive for them, the fans love hearing things that they are familiar with. With that in mind, Dog Stab is a little of both - Metal, Meat, and Bone for The Residents and an extended Duck Stab encore for the fans.
M[m]: Early on this year the Residents staged their 1988 concept album God In Three Persons for the first time at Museum of Modern Art in New York City- will this be a one-off performance, and are there any plans to release this as visual/ audio release?
HF Ever since its release in 1988, The Residents have put God in 3 Persons at the top of their list in terms of projects that they felt deserved to be developed beyond the initial album. To have G3P finally produced as a more fully realized theatrical version at the HF Museum of Modern Art after all these years was really a dream come true. That having been said, they're certainly not ready to stop. The Covid-19 health crisis has been a setback for G3P as it has for many projects but discussion are underway to bring it to Europe which is where it really belongs. Other than a limited audio release for their Indiegogo supporters, there are no plans to release anything at this point.
M[m]: Recently Barry "Schwump" Schwam- one of the Residents early signings/ supporters sadly passed away- do you or The Residents have any fond memories of Barry?
HF While I was aware that Schwump was sick, I hadn't heard that he had died (and I just checked his website and there's no mention of his passing). Regardless, while I have fond memories of Barry, I only met him a few times and can't say that he was a "friend." Hardy worked as producer with Barry and my ancient memories say they got along quite well. I thought Aphids in the Hall showed a lot of promise and was always a little disappointed that the project never went any further.
M[m]: With the recent COVID enforced downtime much of the world has been under, have The Residents still manage to work on any new material?. And if so any hints on what?
HF The Residents have taken advantage of the unexpected free time produced by the Covid-19 health crisis by working on a film script which they hope to begin shooting in August and September. The film, currently titled Triple Trouble, is a new story which recontextualizes a lot of the elements and video from their unfinished 1970s masterpiece, Vileness Fats.
M[m]: Can you give us any more information about Triple Trouble film project? And will it purely use older footage, or will it be a blend of old & New?
HF Triple Trouble will definitely combine old and new footage. The idea is that Junior Rose, Randy's son, a plumber, is delusional and believes the world is being taken over by white fungus that is plugging up everyone's drains. That's where the movie starts; from that point, It only gets worse.
M[m]: Any news/update on when we can expect the next Preserved edition release? And of all of the series put out thus far- what was the most time consuming/ difficult to put together?
HF I know that Cherry Red is currently working on a 4 or 5 disc boxset based on The Residents' King & Eye album and Cube E tour. Cherry Red's involvement has been one of the fortunate developments in the wake of Hardy Fox's departure (Hardy actually retired from involvement with Cryptic and The Residents two years before he died). Richard Anderson, the product manager for Cherry Red, was the true inspiration for the pREServed Series; while The Residents and myself have been closely involved, most of the concepts and the majority of the work has been done by Richard, who has done a fantastic job.
M[m]: Do The Residents or yourself still actively listen to/ search out new artists/ sounds- and if so what have been some discoveries?
HF There used to be a record store in Berkeley called Rather Ripped Records, who had a motto: "Where Every Record is a New Release." The idea being it's new, if it's new to you. Personally, I have always sought out new music and have found a lot to like on Spotify over the last couple of years and I think most of The Residents are the same. I asked around and here's a list we came up with. I know some of these artists have been around for a while, but they are fairly new to me/us.
Ibriham Maalouf, yMusic, Dahka Brakha, Shida Shahabi, Analogik, Tara Fuki, Portico Quartet, Takenobu. Colleen, Alamaailman Vasarat
Thanks to Homer for his time & effort with the interview questions. Metal, Meat, and Bone are now available on Cherry Red Records/ MVD Audio as either an ltd hardback double CD edition or as double vinyl version too.Roger Batty