Fifty Years Of Weird & Wacky Wonderfulness [2022-03-23]
In 2022 The Residents, those great American Avant pop act/ dark culture sonic satirists are celebrating their 50th anniversary. There are a few things planned to mark this very impressive milestone, first of these is the release of A Sight For Sore Eyes Vol 1- a three hundred and fifty-six-page coffee table book from Melodic Virtue, which is a visual feast focusing on the projects the first decade or so- that saw them release of classic albums such as The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll, Duck Stab, Eskimo, and The Commercial album. I caught up with Homer Flynn- the project's key graphic designer, spokesman & manager, to chat about 50 years of The Residents, the new book, and much more
M[m]: This year sees The Residents celebrating their 50th anniversary. Looking back over the projects five decades what do you see as some of the key high and low points in their career?
Homer I see high points as The Third Reich 'n’ Roll album, Eskimo, God in 3 Persons, The Cube E Tour, and The Demons Dance Alone Tour. I could certainly come up with more but that's a good start. As far as low points, The Residents almost broke up between The Third Reich 'n’ Roll and Not Available, so that was definitely down there. They also once considered the Mole Show to be the biggest mistake they ever made and had a lot of personal problems that ended with God in 3 Persons. Also, the death of Hardy Fox, as well as Snakefinger, were definitely low points.
M[m]: One of the first things appearing to celebrate The Residents anniversary is the wonderful coffee table book The Residents: A Sight for Sore Eyes Vol 1. Please tell us a little bit about how this came about? And how long did it take to put it together?
Homer A Sight for Sore Eyes is really the work of Arron Tanner, the publisher. Aaron contacted the Cryptic Corp through MVD (Music Video Distributors) with the idea of a Residents coffee table book. He and his son came to San Francisco in Jan of 2021 and spent several days going through our graphics archive, scanning, photographing and copying hundreds of files. Aaron then spent the rest of 2021 creating the book; A Sight for Sore Eyes is Vol 1 of what is projected to be a three-volume set
M[m]: Eye Sore Vol one comes with a single-sided seven inch featuring just one track Nobody’s NOS- which is a left-over track from 1978’s Not Available. Is this something that has recently been discovered, and where there any more modern additions/ production added to the track?
Homer Sorry but this is the kind of thing THEY don't like for me to talk about - they say it takes away the magic
M[m]: The Residents: A Sight for Sore Eyes Vol 1 is largely a visual feast for the eyes looking at the project's first decade or so. As a long-time Residents fan, it’s great to see so much unseen imagery presented. How big is The Residents archive now, where is it based, and do you have someone looking after/ cataloguing it?
Homer The archive is indeed fairly huge. It mostly breaks down into the analog era (1972-mid 90s) and the digital era (mid 90's to current). Needless to say, the analog portion takes up much more room than the digital work which mainly exists on hard drives, Blu Ray discs and the cloud. There is also an extensive art and costume archive. Most of it is under lock and key in a vault at the Cryptic headquarters. The archive has been extensively inventoried and indexed but it could use some updating.
M[m]: One of the most fascinating early additions in the book were the pictures of Sycamore Street studio/ offices- what are some of your memories of this building? And what’s there now?
Homer While I did visit the Sycamore St studios on occasion, that was before the Cryptic Corp got involved, so I never spent significant time there. The Residents lived and worked at Sycamore St so I would categorize it as an artists' collective or even an artists' colony in the truest sense. When Cryptic got involved and moved The Residents into the 444 Grove St studios, the band moved into separate homes and never lived together again.
M[m]: Moving on through the book, we find loads of great pictures and images from the projects never released film project Vileness Fats. I know over the years there has been discussions about releasing everything that was filmed for the project- is this any closer to becoming a reality?
Homer While there is some Vileness Fats material that's unreleased, The Residents feel like the best parts are out there, so there are currently no plans to release anything else.
M[m]: On the subject of films is there any update on the Double Trouble/Triple Trouble project? What we can expect plot-wise, when do you hope to release, and anything else?
Homer Trouble during the Covid lockdown in 2020. I'm pleased to say that the film is finally nearing completion and will be released later this year - coming soon to a theatre or drive-in near you.
M[m]: You mention that Double Trouble/Triple Trouble is near for release- will there be a digital/ Blu Ray release of the film? And are you able to give us any more details, i.e., runtimes and a rough idea of the film's plot?
Homer There will definitely be a Blu Ray. The feature is 83 minutes long and the plot concerns Randy's son, Junior, a former priest who has become a plumber. Randy is dead when the movie starts; when he died, he left a footlocker full of Vileness Fats videotapes for his son.
M[m]: Any hints on when we can expect the next Vol of a Sight for Sore Eyes?
Homer Vol 1 only covers the first ten years of The Residents, which was arguably their most prolific period. I'm not sure what Aaron plans for the next edition but I'm assuming it will probably be something like the following twenty years - approximately 1983-2003.
M[m]: Are there plans for seven inches with the upcoming vols of Eye Sore?, and if so, any tracks lined up already?
Homer One of the things I learned a long time ago is that Residents' fans are much quicker to buy ANYTHING, if it has music attached. Aaron hasn't spoken to me about music for the next two volumes, but I will be surprised if it's not something he asks for.
M[m]: I believe The Residents were working on Double Trouble/Triple Trouble during the whole covid lockdown of 2020- where the project working on any new musical content too, and if so, could you give us any hints on this?
Homer The primary new music is the Triple Trouble soundtrack, which is due to be released in June as I understand. The other thing they have continued to put energy into is God in 3 Persons, which will be performed at the Presidio Theater in SF on May 13 & 14 with other shows under discussion
M[m]: What appealed to the Residents about revisiting God in 3 Persons as a stage show, and do they feel if they now recorded this album would they change/ alter anything?
Homer There's a long list of Residents' albums that they would love to see developed further but God in 3 Persons was always at the top. While they love the album, they thought it had the potential to go much further and they're thrilled to see that finally, after thirty years, happening. The album certainly wouldn't be exactly the same now as it was when it was originally recorded, but it's hard to say what the changes would be. It was really the last analog album, which is to say, no midi and no computer, except for one song, Loss of a Loved One, which was their first midi piece.
M[m]: Are there any other albums the Residents would like to present as a stage show, and were they ever any thoughts on creating a full stage play- be it stand alone, or based on an album?
Homer Eskimo (it was once proposed as "Eskimo on Ice" by a programmer at the South Bank Centre in London); Tweedles, The Stars side of Stars and Hank Forever (The Residents thought it would make a lovely parade), Bad on the Midway (which was optioned by David Lynch as a follow-up to Twin Peaks), Wormwood, River of Crime, The Voice of Midnight (which was written to be developed into a music theatre piece) and The Brickeaters (which The Residents thought would make a great TV miniseries)
M[m]: wow, Eskimo on Ice- I was not aware this could have been a thing. Can you give us any more details on what period this was in talks, and how far down the line did it get?
Homer I'm guessing it was 12-15 years ago. The instigator was Glenn Max who was a programmer at the South Bank Centre and often booked The Residents there. The SBC was closed for renovation several years ago and they were looking to produce outside events during that time. Glenn pitched Eskimo on Ice but, alas, they didn't go for it.
M[m]: The folks at Cherry Red/ MVD have been doing a great job with their Preserved editions of Resident’s album- and the most recent of these has been the nine CD Wormwood boxset. What are some of your personal memories of this period, and please discuss how your cover art changed/ developed for the album's cover?
Homer One of my primary memories of Wormwood was that it represented a return to touring for The Residents. The mid '90s were mostly consumed by their successful CD-ROM releases, Freak Show, Bad Day on the Midway and The Gingerbread Man, as well as the proposed but never fully developed and released, I Murdered Mommy! When the CD-ROM era ended, The Residents were anxious to perform again, and Wormwood offered the perfect opportunity to bring a full and rich album to the touring stage. For me, in terms of the cover, Wormwood was probably the album where I most fully embraced the limitations of the CD cover, as compared to LPs which were generally more fun.
M[m]: You mention that the Wormwood cover was probably the album where you most fully embraced the limitations of the CD cover. If you had designed it as an LP, how might it have differed?
Homer In terms of my own work, one of the things I like best about the Wormwood cover is that I think it works pretty well for CD or LP, but in answer to your question, I doubt that it would have been quite so bold if I had originally designed it as an LP cover.
M[m]: What has stood as some of the favourite cover art you have worked on over the years for The Residents? And have you ever considered releasing a book of your art created for The Residents?
Homer There are quite a few covers that I like but the Third Reich 'n' Roll, Eskimo and Demons Dance Alone are favorites. I'm also pretty happy with the Intruders and Metal, Meat & Bones covers, but they're quite recent - maybe they'll hold up over time, maybe not.
M[m]: Following on from the last question- are there any covers you created for albums that didn’t land up happening, that you're proud of? And if so, could you describe these, or show us artwork?
Homer Only one comes to mind. At one point, the working title for an album was Tales of the Eyeball Buddha which I liked and started work on, but THEY ultimately decided to call it Demons Dance Alone, which didn't work with the art I had already created.
M[m]: What’s lined up next Preserved edition series? And can you give us any hints on what to expect with upcoming releases?
Homer The Preserved series is really being created by Cherry Red, with consultations from The Residents and Cryptic. With that said, it's primarily, although not exclusively, being released in chronological order, so I expect the next release will probably be Demons Dance Alone but I also know there are a lot of live Icky Flix recordings so they could go that way next.
M[m]: I see once again The Residents have sadly had to cancel their touring plans due to covid, with the euro dates put forward to next year. Are there plans to develop/ change the show they were going to play?
Homer At this point, as I mentioned, the next series of shows will be God in 3 Persons beginning in May, 2022. Another Euro tour is scheduled for late Jan/Feb, 2023; and, while it will undoubtedly be marketed as the 50th Anniversary Tour, at this point, the setlist hasn't been agreed to yet; regardless. I expect it will change quite a bit from the truncated Dog Stab 50th Anniversary tour that played three shows in California in Sept of last year
M[m]: Please discuss any other plans The Residents have for their 50th anniversary- be it audio or visual releases? And what about merch, as I’m always a sucker for this type of thing?
Homer The Residents are planning a 50th Anniversary Extravaganza performance as a one-time event in San Francisco. While things are still too early to make any specific announcements, the idea is to make this a major event with many guest stars and will be happening around the holidays of this year. In terms of special products, Cherry Red is planning an audio & video release, a possible Residents' encyclopedia along with a vinyl classic series, each of which will be a two-LP set. There will also be special releases from Klanggalerie, Secret Records and Psychofon; there has also been talk of a special gift box which would include things like Residents trading cards, temporary tattoos, a squeeze brain stress reliever, eyeball & top hat logo night light, etc, but I'm not sure if that's happening or not.
M[m]: Are you able to give us any more details on the 50th Anniversary extravaganza performance in San Francisco, and when do they hope to do this?
Homer Since The Residents have a European tour starting around the end of January, the plan is to do it as soon after Jan 1, 2023, as possible. They will be working with a music school and returning from the holidays will be the best time for the students. That's all I can say at this point
M[m]: Since the 70s San Francisco has remained The Residents base for operations- how do the collective feel the city has changed over the years, for the bad & the good?
Homer The Residents say they've seen San Francisco become a magnetic mecca for young people twice since they've been here. The first time was with the hippies, which was part of what attracted them; the second was the digital/tech revolution which is ongoing. From their perspective, the first migration of young people was very idealistic but the second was much more financially based, They liked the first one better, but they also believe that change is real and inevitable and not a bad thing; the trick is learning how to surf the changes and I think The Residents have done a pretty good job of that.
M[m]: What has personally impacted you in the last year or so- be it music, art, film, or books?
Homer In terms of films I really enjoyed the new Nightmare Alley (the original, as well as the book, are long time favorites) and The Worst Person in the World. I'm a big Spotify listener, although their recent Joe Rogan adventure has made me rethink it; regardless, here are a few groups/artists that I have enjoyed in past year or so: DakhaBrakha, Alamaailman Vasarat, yMusic, Fred Pallem, Tara Fuki, Mario Batkovic, Skalpel, Portico Quartet, Forest Swords, Lyra Pramuk, Matti Bye, Rene Aubry, Analogik, Ibrahim Maalouf, Colleen, Wim Mertens, and Takenobu.
A big thanks to Homer for his time answering my questions. The main website for all things regarding The Residents is here https://www.residents.com/, A Sight for Sore Eyes Vol 1 can be purchased directly here https://www.melodicvirtue.com/products/the-residents-a-sight-for-sore-eyes-vol-1, and the epic nine-CD Wormwood Box is now available from Cherry Red & MVD.
Pic credits: menu pic & first in interview Poor? NO! Graphics, Melodic Virtue, God in 3 Persons at the MoMA Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, other remaining pics Poor? NO! Graphics.