The Residents

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The Residents
An eyeball helmet used by The Residents in concert
An eyeball helmet used by The Residents in concert
Background information
OriginShreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
Years active1969–1971 (Unnamed)

1971–1972 (Residents Uninc)

1973–Present (The Residents)
LabelsRalph Records (1972–1987)

East Side Digital (1987–2002)

Mute Records (2004–2008)

MVD Audio (2011–Present)
Associated actsSnakefinger
Renaldo and the Loaf
Fred Frith
Už Jsme Doma
Gary Panter
Blaine L. Reininger
Past membersHardy Fox

The Residents are an American art collective best known for their avant-garde music and multimedia works. Since their first official release, Meet the Residents (1974), the group has released over sixty albums, numerous music videos and short films, three CD-ROM projects, and ten DVDs. They have undertaken seven major world tours and scored multiple films. Pioneers in exploring the potential of CD-ROM and similar technologies, the Residents have won several awards for their multimedia projects. Ralph Records, a record label focusing on avant-garde music, was started by the band in 1972.

Throughout the group's existence, the individual members have ostensibly attempted to operate under anonymity, preferring instead to have attention focused on their art output. Much outside speculation and rumor has focused on this aspect of the group. In public, the group appears silent and costumed, often wearing eyeball helmets, top hats and tails—a long-lasting costume now recognized as its signature iconography. In 2017, Hardy Fox, long known to be associated with the Residents, identified himself as the band's co-founder and primary composer; he died in 2018.

The Residents' albums generally fall into two categories: deconstructions of Western popular music, and complex conceptual pieces composed around a theme, theory, or plot. The group is noted for surrealistic lyrics and sound, with a disregard for conventional music composition.


1965–1972: Origins and Residents Unincorporated[edit]

The earliest known photograph of the group, circa 1969

The artists who became The Residents met in high school in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early 1960s. Around 1965, the group of young artists began making their first amateur home tape recordings and making art together with a number of friends. In 1966, with the intentions of joining the flourishing hippie movement, the members headed west for San Francisco, but after their truck broke down in San Mateo, California they decided to remain there.[1]

While attempting to make a living, the group purchased crude recording equipment and began to build on their home recording and tape editing skills, as well as photography, painting, and anything remotely to do with art that they could afford. The Residents have acknowledged the existence of at least two (of perhaps hundreds) unreleased reel-to-reel items dating from this era, titled The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger and Rusty Coathangers For The Doctor.[2] "Uncle Willie", former Residents fan club president, wrote in his book Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide to the Residents that, while searching through the band's archives, he came across "a suite named The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger," but not a complete album. 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. The Cryptic Corporation has confirmed that there are many tapes in their archives dating back decades, but all were recorded before the group had officially become "The Residents" so the band does not generally consider them to be part of its discography.

Word of the unnamed group's experimentation spread, and in 1969 British guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Phil Lithman, known as Snakefinger, began to participate with them.[3] Around this time the group also made the acquaintance of the mysterious (and perhaps apocryphal) N. Senada, whom Lithman had picked up in Bavaria where the aged avant-gardist was recording birds singing. The two Europeans became great influences and life-long collaborators with the group.

In 1971 the group sent a reel-to-reel demo tape to Hal Halverstadt at Warner Brothers, as he had signed Captain Beefheart (one of the group's musical heroes) to the label. 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 "Residents". The members of the group then decided to use this name, first becoming "Residents Unincorporated", then shortening it to the current name. The Warner Bros. Album remained officially unreleased by the group until 2018, when it was remastered and re-issued in a limited edition as part of their comprehensive "pREServed" campaign.

The first known public performance of the band who became The Residents was at the Boarding House in San Francisco in 1971. This brief, guerrilla-style performance took the audience completely by surprise, and produced a photograph of Lithman playing violin with his pinky "about to strike the violin like a snake" – this photo originated the nickname that he used as his stage name for the rest of his life, Snakefinger. Later in 1971, a second tape was completed called Baby Sex, featuring a long collage partially consisting of recordings from the Boarding House performance. The original cover art for the tape box was a silk-screened copy of an old photo depicting a woman fellating a small child, an example of the extremely confronting and deliberately puerile visual and lyrical style the group had adopted throughout this period.

Early-Influence; or, not[edit]

N. Senada (which may be a play on Ensenada, en se nada meaning "in himself nothing," no sé nada meaning "I don't know anything" or enseñada, a form of the past participle meaning "taught") was said to be a Bavarian composer and music theorist who formulated the "Theory of Obscurity" and the "Theory of Phonetic Organization". His "Theory of Obscurity" states that an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration;[4] while his "Theory of Phonetic Organization" states, "the musician should put the sounds first, building the music up from [them] rather than developing the music, then working down to the sounds that make it up."

There is a debate as to whether or not Senada actually existed, or was simply an invention of The Residents. Supposedly born in 1907 and dying in 1993 at the age of 86, Senada was one of The Residents' earliest collaborators, having arrived in San Mateo, California, with Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman. It is frequently speculated that, if real, N. Senada may have been the famous avant-garde composer and instrument-designer Harry Partch, the influence of whose work may be heard in Residents' compositions such as "Six Things to a Cycle"; his death is also referenced in the song "Death in Barstow". Another rumor speculates that N. Senada may have been Captain Beefheart, because in the late 1960s Beefheart and his "Magic Band" lived in a residence on Ensenada Drive in Woodland Hills, California,[5] while recording Trout Mask Replica and Safe as Milk; Beefheart influence can also be heard in early Residents works. The Residents also sent an early demo tape to the Warner Brothers executive Hal Halverstadt who had signed Beefheart.

According to The Residents, in 1937, N. Senada premiered his masterpiece, "Pollex Christi", which means either Thumb of Christ or Big Toe of Christ. This work mainly consisted of borrowed pieces from other composers, namely Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, among others. He also left large holes in the work so that the performers could insert music of their choosing, thus "becoming composers themselves". Senada justified his work with "house" analogies claiming that he did not make the "bricks" but "cemented them together"; he was not the "architect", just the "builder". N. Senada allegedly collaborated with The Residents on their work prior to "Santa Dog" and "Meet The Residents", and then disappeared. He resurfaced in the mid-1970s, returning from an Arctic expedition and bearing a sealed bottle of pure Arctic air; this served as inspiration for the Eskimo project.

1972–1980: "Classic" era[edit]

"Santa Dog", "Meet The Residents", "Not Available" & "The Third Reich 'n Roll" (1972–1974)[edit]

Still from the Not Available Sessions, 1974

In early 1972, the band left San Mateo and relocated to 20 Sycamore St, San Francisco; a studio they named "El Ralpho", which boasted a completely open ground floor (seemingly ideal for a sound stage), allowing the group to expand their operations and also begin preliminary work on their most ambitious project up to that point, a full-length film entitled Vileness Fats, which consumed most of their attention for the next four years. Intended to be the first-ever long form music video, The Residents saw this project as an opportunity to create the ultimate cult film. After four years of filming (from 1972 to 1976) the project was reluctantly cancelled because of time, space, and monetary constraints. Fifteen hours of footage was shot for the project, yet only approximately 35 minutes of that footage has ever been released.

The group also formed Ralph Records at this time, as a small, independent label to release and promote their own work. To inaugurate the new business, the group recorded and pressed the Santa Dog EP (1972), their first recorded output to be released to the public. Designed to resemble a Christmas card from an insurance company, the EP consisted of two 7" singles, with four songs between them. The four songs were presented as being by four different bands (Ivory And The Brain Eaters, Delta Nudes, The College Walkers, and Arf And Omega featuring The Singing Lawn Chairs), with only a small note on the interior of the gatefold sleeve mentioning the participation of "Residents, Uninc."

They sent copies of Santa Dog to west coast radio stations with no response until Bill Reinhardt, program director of KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon received a copy and played it heavily on his show. Reinhardt met the Residents at their studio at 20 Sycamore St.[6][7] in the summer of 1973 with the news of his broadcasts. The Residents gave Reinhardt exclusive access to all their recordings, including copies of the original masters of Stuffed Trigger, Baby Sex, and The Warner Bros. Album.

Throughout this point, the group had been manipulating old tapes they had collected and regularly recording jam sessions, and these recordings eventually became the group's debut full-length album, Meet The Residents, which was released in 1974 on Ralph. To aid in promoting the group, Reinhardt was given 50 of the first 1,000 copies of Meet the Residents. Some were sent to friends, listeners and critics, and two dozen were left for sale on consignment at the Music Millennium record store, where they sat unsold for months. KBOO DJ Barry Schwam (Schwump, who also recorded with the Residents) promoted them on his program as well. Eventually, KBOO airplay attracted a cult following.

The Residents, 1974 - 1976

Following the release of Meet The Residents, the group began working on a follow up entitled 'Not Available' following N. Senada's theory of obscurity. The LP would be recorded and compiled completely in private. Initially the project was not scheduled for release, but in 1978 Ralph Records released the LP without the groups permission.[8] This, along with its followup 'The Third Reich 'n Roll' are notable for featuring the first synthesizers featured on a Residents project, using a borrowed Moog from Patrick Gleeson.[9] The Third Reich 'n Roll, recorded in two months from October 1974 to October 1975, was the groups first project to feature a music video, created by syncing an old video of the group performing with an edited version of 'Swatikas On Parade'.[10]

After the Third Reich 'n Roll's release, a group of enterprising friends and collaborators from their early days in San Mateo; Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, Jay Clem and John Kennedy, also joined the group in San Francisco, forming what became The Cryptic Corporation to manage and represent the band. Clem became the band's spokesman, Fox edited, produced and compiled the band's increasingly prolific output, Flynn was already handling the group's cover design and promotional art under the banner of Porno-Graphics, and Kennedy took the role of "President" (admittedly a fairly empty title, as overall responsibilities were handled more or less equally by the four). The Cryptic Corporation took over the day-to-day operations of Ralph Records, and provided the band with an improved public relations platform.

Shortly after the introduction of The Cryptic Corporation The Residents recorded their Satisfaction single, the B-Side of which featured The Residents first work with the ARP Odyssey, the first synthesizer owned by the group, purchased by The Cryptics.[11] The Satisfaction single would feature 'Bye Bye Residents Uninc!' handwritten in the sleeve,[12] symbolizing the introduction of The Cryptic Corporation.

'Eskimo', 'Fingerprince', 'Duck Stab, & Rise in popularity (1976–1979)[edit]

Following Satisfaction the group began recording Eskimo in April 1976, a concept album based upon the Theory Of Phonetic Organisation that suggests that music should not be confined to chords and structures, but instead should simply be a collection of fascinating noises. The album would feature acoustic soundscapes inspired by Inuit culture,[13] whilst parodying American ignorance of other cultures. The Eskimo sessions would last many years, and feature many divergences, the first of which, in November 1976, resulting in Fingerprince, a collection of unused recordings from The Third Reich 'n Roll, Not Available, and Eskimo sessions.[14]

Fingerprince received considerable coverage in the British Press, and was the first LP by the group to receive any critical attention when Jon Savage reviewed the album and its two predecessors favorably for the December 31st issue of Sounds Magazine.[15] This review gained the group considerable attention, with many of their previously unsold mail order items being sold seemingly overnight.[16] The sudden success of Fingerprince and its predecessors caused the group to briefly half production on their Avant Garde "Eskimo" album, to create something more appealing to the newer audience.

The Residents followed up Fingerprince with their Duck Stab! EP – their most accessible release up to that point. This EP got the band some attention from the press (namely NME, Sounds and Melody Maker), and was followed in 1978 by the Duck Stab/Buster & Glen album, which paired the EP with a similar, concurrently recorded EP which had not been released separately. The group continued work on their most ambitious recording project yet – Eskimo, containing music composed largely of non-musical sounds, percussion, and wordless voices. Claiming inspiration from tapes of arctic wind sent to them by N. Senada, the band worked on this album between 1976 and 1979, a difficult production noted by many conflicts between management and band, which led to a number of delays in the release date.

Eskimo, 1979

The sudden attention afforded to them by the success of the Duck Stab! EP and "Satisfaction" single required an album release as soon as possible to help fund the band's spiralling recording costs. This forced the release in 1978 of the band's long-shelved "second album" Not Available. The Residents were not bothered by this deviation from the original plan not to release this album as the 1978 release ultimately did not affect the philosophical conditions under which it was originally recorded.

Eskimo was finally released in 1979 to much acclaim, even making it to the final list for nominations for a Grammy award in 1980. Though the album did not end up being nominated, the group were invited to the ceremony and shared a table with Donna Summer.[17] Rather than being songs in the orthodox sense, the compositions on Eskimo sounded like "live-action stories" without dialogue. Fearing that they were now taking themselves too seriously, The Residents remixed the "songs" in disco style, the results of which appeared on the EP Diskomo. The cover art of Eskimo also presents the first instance of the group wearing eyeball masks and tuxedos, which was later considered by many to be the group's signature costume. The Residents had only intended to wear these costumes for the cover of Eskimo, but adopted the costumes in the longer term as it provided them with a unique and recognisable image. Eskimo was reissued in surround sound in 2003 and released on DVD, featuring a slideshow of still images conveying the album's narratives.

The group followed Eskimo with Commercial Album in 1980. Commercial Album featured 40 songs, each one minute in length and consisting of a verse and a chorus.[18] The songs were a pastiche of the composition of advertising jingles; the album's liner notes state that the songs should each be repeated three times in a row to form a complete "pop song". To promote the album, The Residents purchased 40 one-minute advertising slots on San Francisco's most popular Top-40 radio station at the time, KFRC, such that the station played each track of their album over three days. This prompted an editorial in Billboard magazine questioning whether the act was art or advertising.

Commercial Album also led to the creation of One Minute Movies, a short film by the group with collaborator Graeme Whifler consisting of music videos for four tracks from the album. Created at a time when MTV (and what later became known as "music video" in general) was its infancy, the group's videos were in heavy rotation since they were among the few music videos available to broadcasters.

1981–1990: New technology and live performances[edit]

The Mole Trilogy (1981–1985)[edit]

The Mole Show Live, 1983

Commercial Album received a relatively lukewarm reception from the new wave music press. Deciding that "a disaster was in order", The Residents set about composing an album which told the story of a culture driven from their homes by a storm and forced into a confrontation with another people. Mark of the Mole (released in 1981) was the first part of a projected trilogy of concept albums, which later developed into a tetralogy, with another three albums focusing on the music of the Mole and Chub cultures. Only three parts of The Mole Trilogy were released; parts I, II (1982's The Tunes of Two Cities) and IV (1985's The Big Bubble: Part Four of the Mole Trilogy), in addition to releases of related material such as 1983's Intermission EP.

In 1983 The Residents began their first touring performance, The Mole Show, hosted by Penn Jillette. The performance featured The Residents performing behind a burlap screen, occasionally wearing disguises (such as their iconic eyeball masks), while dancers and actors appeared in front of painted backdrops used to help illustrate the story. Jillette came out between songs telling long and intentionally pointless stories. The show was designed to appear to fall apart as it progressed; Jillette pretended to grow angrier with the crowd, and lighting effects and music became increasingly chaotic, all building up to the point where Jillette was dragged off stage and returned, handcuffed to a wheelchair, to deliver his last monologue. During one performance, an audience member assaulted Jillette while he was handcuffed to the wheelchair.

The Mole Show ultimately became the band's biggest financial disaster, almost caused the break-up of the band, and ultimately led to the cancellation of the Mole Trilogy altogether after the release of The Big Bubble in 1985. During this period, The Residents were conspicuously less prolific than they previously had been, with only the Residue of the Residents outtakes compilation, a collaborative album with Ralph labelmates Renaldo and the Loaf, and a brief edited version of Vileness Fats with a newly recorded soundtrack being their only major releases.

The American Composers Series and 13th Anniversary Show (1984–1986)[edit]

After the abandonment of the unfinished Mole Trilogy, the band turned their attention to a new series of albums, each consisting of a side-long suite of covers by American composers the band admired. The group had hoped to record at least ten volumes in this series (which was projected to continue until the year 2000), but only two albums from this period saw completion and release – 1984's George and James (dedicated to George Gershwin and James Brown) and 1986's Stars & Hank Forever: The American Composers Series (featuring tributes to Hank Williams and John Philip Sousa). Some tracks from abandoned volumes in this series dedicated to Sun Ra, Barry White and Ray Charles have also surfaced on various compilation albums in subsequent years.

After this, their Japanese distributor approached them for a two-week run in Japan. Admittedly reluctant at first to return to the stage after the underwhelming response to the Mole Show, The Residents created the 13th Anniversary Tour. While the musical performance was more mainstream, the stage show was another over-the-top spectacle, featuring inflatable giraffes, dancers in eyeball masks illuminating the darkened stage with work lights, and a lead vocalist who changed costumes throughout the show from wearing an eyeball mask to a Richard Nixon mask, and at one point wearing only a wig and fake ears. After the two-week run in Japan, the band took the show to the US. During the US leg of the tour the band encountered a few problems, including having the tour manager having to fan a member's keyboard because of overheating, being booked in a pool hall and having someone run on stage only to be thrown back into the audience.

The Residents also toured Australia and New Zealand in August 1986 – appearing across the two countries as a five piece ensemble including two female dancers, and with Snakefinger on guitar.[19] The European leg also ran into logistics issues, resulting the band's equipment not arriving for a performance in Tromso, Norway. According to Homer Flynn, the band "had to borrow equipment from people there in the town" including instruments and costumes to make the performance.[20]

Backstage at the Hollywood Palace show on December 26, 1985, one member's eyeball mask (Mr. Red Eye) was stolen; so it was replaced with a giant skull mask. It was actually stolen by someone who found a backstage pass on the wall and threw it into a dumpster outside the venue through an open window. A few weeks later an avid fan in Cerritos California who attended the palace show also went to a New Year's Eve party where he overheard someone bragging about having Mr. Red Eye. He called Ralph Records and spoke to representative Sheena Timony and asked if it was true about the eye being stolen. She was inquisitive with him and proceeded to tell him that there was a curse on the eye and that there was a police report out on it. He said he wanted to get it back because he loved the band so much and it was the right thing to do. She told him the Residents were going to Georgia in a few weeks and that it needed to be retrieved as soon as possible. With her help she called the thief to tell him they knew he had it and that reps for Ralph were on their way. The thief was so rattled that he gave it back to some friends of the fan who posed as Ralph employees. The three of them immediately traveled by car to San Francisco, and went to Ralph Records in Folsom Street at that time. The Eye was returned but was in bad condition from being thrown around and the Residents decided that it was a superfluous shell of its former self. This is when they decided to replace the eye with “Mr Skull”. They continued the 13th-anniversary tour and handed out memorial black armbands with the missing eyeball on it. The Residents later were interviewed on MTV where they told the story of it being stolen.[citation needed]

The last show of this 13th anniversary tour was in January 1987 at The Warfield in San Francisco, with Penn & Teller as special guests.[21]

God in Three Persons and Cube E (1987–1990)[edit]

In 1987, The Residents were in the initial stages of preparing their new concept piece God in Three Persons, when they received the news that their friend and long-time collaborator Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman had died of a sudden heart attack. The Residents performed at his wake, and this performance was later re-recorded in the studio and released in a limited edition as The Snakey Wake. Despite this unanticipated tragedy, the band continued to work on God in Three Persons, despite not having been able to record Snakefinger's guitar parts for the album as planned.

God in Three Persons, a lengthy poetic fable in a clear narrative format, tells the story of a colonel who visits a carnival and becomes entranced by a pair of mysterious and androgynous Siamese twins. Musically, it features a recurring motif based on "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" by The Swinging Medallions (earlier included in The Third Reich 'n Roll). The album was finished and released in 1988 as their first album to be designed specifically for compact disc.

In 1989, The Residents premiered their third tour, Cube-E, a three-act performance covering the history of American music. It was a step up from previous shows, featuring more elaborate dance numbers and sets. It was also the first show composed exclusively of music written specifically for the show. The show was almost entirely backlit, with blacklights highlighting the fluorescent costumes and set design. The first part of this show was recorded in the studio and released as the Buckaroo Blues EP, and the third part became 1989's The King & Eye, a surreal biography of Elvis Presley consisting entirely of covers of classic Presley singles. In a first-time departure from the usual procedure, The King & Eye was recorded externally from The Residents' private studio, with the band choosing instead to record at Different Ear Studios as an experiment.

1990–1997: Multimedia projects[edit]

"Freak Show" and "Our Finest Flowers" (1990–1993)[edit]

In 1990, The Residents turned their attention to emerging computer technology, beginning to make the majority of their music with MIDI devices, which defined their sound during this time. With these new instruments, they recorded and released Freak Show; a concept album in which each track offers an insight to the character of a circus freak.

The Freak Show CD-ROM was released in January 1994 by the Voyager Company, in his first of several collaborations with The Residents.

1992 saw The Residents celebrate their 20th anniversary, which they celebrated with the release of Our Finest Flowers, an album which consists of new tracks made from elements of tracks from their entire discography, intended as a novel alternative to a retrospective "greatest hits" style release.

"The Gingerbread Man", "Bad Day on the Midway" and the "missing year" (1994–1997)[edit]

In 1994, The Residents released Gingerbread Man (album), featuring their first foray into computer graphics. The Gingerbread Man CD was "enhanced" with additional CD-ROM content, marking the beginning of a series of experiments by the group with the potential of this new format, which also saw them revisit the Freak Show album for a CD-ROM by Voyager in the same year.

The Residents' CD-ROM works were primarily designed and animated by artist Jim Ludtke. In a review of the Freak Show CD-ROM by Ty Burr for Entertainment Weekly from the time of its release, he commented: "Designer Jim Ludtke (not a member of the band) is the star here: His renderings literally glow with colors you've never considered before. If Xplora 1 chases you off with dutiful enlightenment. Freak Show sucks you in with its hypnotic sympathy for the damned." [22]

In 1995, The Residents released their final complete experiment with the CD-ROM format, the immersive game Bad Day on the Midway. This game was accompanied by a soundtrack album, Have A Bad Day, the following year. At this time, The Residents were also working on an album entitled That Slab Called Night, which was later abandoned and reconstituted into the soundtrack to the Discovery Channel series Hunters: The World of Predators and Prey. In November 1995, Freak Show was also developed into a stage performance by a theater company at the Archa Theater in Prague. This performance differed from the band's previous tours and shows in that they did not actually perform – rather, the "Freak Show Orchestra" consisted primarily of the band Už Jsme Doma.

1997 is considered "the missing year" in Residents history, as the band worked on a number of new projects but saw no new releases. During this time, however, the band created a new live performance piece entitled Disfigured Night, which was performed a handful of times throughout the year, culminating in their performance at the Fillmore. The Residents made one more attempt at a CD-ROM game, I Murdered Mommy!, in 1998, but left this effort unfinished and unreleased, instead moving onto another new concept.

1997 Tribute?[edit]

The Residents performed "Pollex Christi" as a tribute to N. Senada on what would have been his 90th birthday. The holes in the piece were filled with a variety of works, such as the television theme from Star Trek. The recording was distributed in two editions of 400 before being deleted.

1998–2009: The "Storyteller" era[edit]

"Wormwood" (1998–2000)[edit]

Wormwood was released in 1998. Wormwood saw the group telling (often violent or explicit) stories from the Bible through song. Regular collaborators Molly Harvey (vocals) and Nolan Cook (guitar) featured on the album and during its associated tour, Wormwood Live, which saw The Residents departing from pre-programmed music and once again using a live band. The Residents wore ecclesiastical robes and performed in a brightly lit fluorescent cave. Act one consisted of one-off stories about individual Bible characters. Act 2 focused on suites of songs about Bible figures such as Abraham, Moses, and King David. During a performance in Athens, Greece, Cook had to leave the stage after taking a rock to the head from an audience member.

"Demons Dance Alone" and "Animal Lover" (2001–2005)[edit]

In 2002, as a response to the September 11 attacks, The Residents recorded the album Demons Dance Alone and followed this with a tour of the same name. In an unusual move, the album handed almost half of the vocal duties to Harvey, who had begun as a Ralph Records employee but by this point had contributed to virtually all of the group's many projects for most of the preceding decade.

In February 2005, The Residents toured Australia as part of the What is Music? festival for their "33rd Anniversary", performing a two-hour retrospective set entitled 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. Video projections and unusual flexible screens were added to the stage set, creating an unsettling ambiance. The performances on The Way We Were tour were recorded and were released on CD and DVD in 2005, as well as the band's album Animal Lover, which tells a series of stories as seen from the perspective of animals.

"The River of Crime", "Tweedles!" and "The Bunny Boy" (2006–2009)[edit]

In 2006, The Residents released a hardboiled crime fiction podcast series, The River of Crime – their first project with Warner Music Group's Cordless label. Following the success of the podcast, The Residents launched a weekly video series on YouTube featuring Timmy, the lead character from the Bad Day On The Midway CD-ROM. Around this time, the group were invited by a friend to record in Romania – these sessions produced the album Tweedles!, which they released on Halloween 2006. Tweedles! is a concept album, telling the story of an "emotional vampire" from a first-person perspective.

In 2007 they created the soundtrack for the documentary Strange Culture and also released a double instrumental album, Night of the Hunters, derived from the That Slab Called Night recording sessions which eventually became the soundtrack for the 1995 documentary series Hunters. In October 2007, the new album The Voice of Midnight (inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "Der Sandmann"), was released on Mute Records.

In 2008, the group released The Bunny Boy, an album with a detailed meta-fictional concept which the group elaborated upon throughout their first North American tour since Demons Dance Alone, as well as a YouTube video series of the same name, which was later compiled and released on DVD as Is Anybody Out There? in 2009.

2009 saw the release of The UGHS! – a mostly instrumental album made up of music composed earlier in the band's career, which had then again been completely reworked as background music for The Voice of Midnight; and also Ten Little Piggies – a "futurist compilation", featuring ten songs from projects which may or may not be released in the future.

2010–2017: "Randy, Chuck and Bob" and "The Ghost of Hope"[edit]

"Talking Light" and "Sam's Enchanted Evening" (2010–2012)[edit]

The Residents in 2013 on their Wonder of Weird 40th Anniversary Tour

In January 2010, The Residents began a tour entitled Talking Light, with dates in North America and Europe. During the tour, which lasted until April 2011, The Residents appeared as a trio, and adapted new identities and costumes – Randy Rose, Charles "Chuck" Bobuck and Bob, with reference to a fourth member named Carlos, who had decided prior to the tour that "the rock 'n' roll life style wasn't for him after all" and left the band for Mexico to care for his elderly mother. The singer, Randy, wore an old man mask, and the other two Residents, keyboardist Chuck and guitarist Bob, wore dreadlock wigs and illuminated optical gear over their faces. The songs were stories about various characters' obsessions with ghosts, imaginary people, and supernatural phenomena. One of these performances was featured as part of the edition of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival curated by Matt Groening in May 2010 in Minehead, England, UK. The band released several albums related to the Talking Light concept during this time, including the instrumental albums Dollar General and Chuck's Ghost Music, live album Bimbo's Talking Light, and studio album Lonely Teenager.

In October 2010, Randy performed a set of thirteen Residents tracks at the Olomouc Moravian Theatre with the band Už Jsme Doma and musical arrangements by Miroslav Wanek, who had previously been involved with the Freak Show Live performance in 1995. In late 2011, The Residents presented a new performance piece at The Marsh in Berkeley, California, entitled Sam's Enchanted Evening. A new version of Sam's Enchanted Evening was subsequently performed in March 2012 at Henry Street Settlement in at Henry Street Settlement in New York City in a production directed by Travis Chamberlain, co-starring Joshua Raoul Brody and Jibz Cameron (aka Dynasty Handbag).

"The Wonder of Weird" and "Theory of Obscurity" (2012–2015)[edit]

In January 2012, the Residents released the album Coochie Brake; it focused on an ambient, slightly ethnic sound, with lyrics in Spanish performed by, apparently, a new singer. Over the course of the year the band celebrated their 40th anniversary with a new tour (the second in the "Randy, Chuck and Bob" trilogy) entitled The Wonder of Weird. In December, the band began celebrating the upcoming 40th anniversary of their first release, the Santa Dog EP, and released an "infomercial" starring Randy Rose promoting the release of The Residents' Ultimate Box Set – a 28-cubic-foot refrigerator containing the first pressings of every Residents release to date, as well as other ephemera (such as an eyeball mask and top hat). The Cryptic Corporation advised in a press release that the intended audience for this project was the realm of fine art and, accordingly, the price of the set was set at $100,000.[23] Only one of these Ultimate Box Sets was sold to a paying customer; the other was donated by the band to the Museum of Modern Art.

In 2014, the Residents began collaborating with director Don Hardy on a video series starring Randy, entitled In My Room, as well as a feature-length documentary film with producers Barton Bishoff and Josh Keppel covering the history of the group, entitled Theory of Obscurity: A Film About the Residents.[24] The production of this film involved the digital transfer of the group's many years of archived video, film and tape, including the production materials shot for Vileness Fats between 1972 and 1976. Theory of Obscurity was completed in 2015 and premiered at SXSW Film Festival.[25]

"Shadowland", the departure of Charles Bobuck, and "The Ghost of Hope" (2015–2016)[edit]

In May 2016, the end of the "Randy, Bob, and Chuck" trilogy was announced, with the final installment being their Shadowland tour. During the Shadowland tour, the member known as Charles Bobuck announced that he would no longer be performing live with the group due to increasingly poor health, and ultimately, retired from the band altogether to release a series of solo albums. Onstage and in the studio, Bobuck was replaced by a new addition to the band, "Rico". The band signed to Cherry Red Records, and in September announced their next studio album, The Ghost of Hope, and a related single, "Rushing Like A Banshee".[26] In November 2016, the group released a video featuring Randy, announcing a new film project in collaboration with Don Hardy entitled Double Trouble, which would incorporate the footage from the unfinished Vileness Fats into an entirely new story.

2017–present: "The Real Residents" and "pREServed" series[edit]

In March 2017, the group released their first studio album since Coochie Brake, entitled The Ghost of Hope. The album, based around historical train wrecks from the late 19th century and early 20th century, featured collaborators such as Eric Drew Feldman and Nolan Cook, as well as the final songwriting and performance contributions from the recently retired Bobuck.

In October 2017, the group's new tour, entitled In Between Dreams, kicked off in Copenhagen, Denmark (after earlier preview shows in Japan, and cancelled dates at the Safe as Milk festival in Wales earlier in the year). In Between Dreams discarded the "Randy, Rico and Bob" personas which the band had been using since the beginning of the decade, and instead introduced "The Real Residents"; "Tyrone" the singer, "Eekie" the guitarist, "Erkie" the keyboardist, and a new member, percussionist "Cha Cha". The decoration of the show consisted of a blue and white checkered backdrop, dynamic lighting effects, and the same giant ball screen from the Shadowland tour for displaying short animated clips between songs. The videos consisted of various well-known figures recalling dreams; Richard Nixon's dream about being a blues singer, John Wayne's nightmare about a lone ballerina that disappears when he attempts to approach her, and Mother Teresa's dream about a train wreck. In Between Dreams ran through Europe from late October to the end of November 2017, and later in the United States, from April to early May 2018.

At the beginning of 2018, The Residents launched their pREServed remaster series – each original Residents studio album, completely remastered and presented with contemporary bonus tracks as well as a great deal of previously unheard and unknown material from the group's archives. The series was launched in January with the re-issue of Meet The Residents, and The Third Reich 'N Roll, which were followed in March with Fingerprince and Duck Stab!/Buster & Glen, and as a Record Store Day limited vinyl edition in April, the debut official release of the 1970 demo tape The Warner Bros. Album.

Around the same time, the group began taking submissions for a new project, to be entitled I Am A Resident!, which would include fan-made covers of classic Residents tracks. The Residents were ultimately overwhelmed by the volume of submissions (which vastly exceeded their expectations) and rather than whittling the track list down to only their favorites, chose to turn the submissions into a "mashup" in the style of The Third Reich 'N Roll. I Am A Resident! was completed and released in May 2018. In July, The Residents released their first novel, entitled The Brick-Eaters, described as "an absurdist buddy movie story featuring a very tall internet content screener teaming up with an aging career criminal whose primary companions are an oxygen bottle and a .44 Magnum".[27]

As well as continuing to examine their voluminous archives for the ongoing pREServed series, the group have also been working on album releases – Intruders was released in October 2018, and Metal, Meat & Bone, the "blues" album previewed during the In Between Dreams tour, is due for release in July 2020.


The Residents at The Middle East (Cambridge, MA) in 2010
The Residents at The Middle East (Cambridge, MA) in 2010

In the early days of the group, many rumors circulated about the membership of the band. Due to the cover art of Meet the Residents being a parody of The Beatles' 1964 North American release, Meet the Beatles! there were some rumors that The Residents were actually The Beatles, even specifically naming George Harrison. Many other rumors have come and gone over the years, one being that 60s experimental band Cromagnon shared members with the band. Les Claypool, frontman of rock band Primus, and Gerald Casale of new wave band Devo claimed to have been accused of being members of the band; and Mark Mothersbaugh is alleged to have played keyboards during the band's 13th-anniversary tour.

Since the late 1970s, much of the speculation about the members' true identities has involved the group's management team, known as The Cryptic Corporation.[28] Cryptic was formed in 1976 as a corporation in California by Jay Clem, Homer Flynn, Hardy W. Fox, and John Kennedy, all of whom denied having been band members. Clem and Kennedy left the Corporation in 1982, much to the chagrin of some fans.[29] The Residents members do not grant interviews, although Flynn, Fox, and Clem have conducted interviews with the media on behalf of the group.

Nolan Cook, a prominent collaborator with the group in both the band's live and studio work (as well as being a live member of I Am Spoonbender), denied in an interview that Fox and Flynn are the Residents, saying that he has come across such rumors, and they are completely false. However, Cook himself is considered a member of the band by some, as he is known to wear the same head coverings as the rest of the group during live shows, even wearing the trademark eyeball mask during the Wormwood Tour. He also played the part of "Bob" during the "Randy", "Chuck", and "Bob" trilogy of shows.

William Poundstone, author of the Big Secrets books, compared voice prints of a Flynn lecture with those of spoken word segments from the Residents discography in his book "Biggest Secrets". After noting similar patterns in both, he concluded "the similarities in the spectograms second the convincing subjective impression that the voices are identical." He posited that "It is possible that the creative core of the Residents is the duo of Flynn and Fox." A subset of that belief is that Flynn is the lyricist and that Fox writes the music. The online database of the performance rights organization BMI (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-1974, the "Residents Unincorporated" years, the year Cryptic formed.[30]

Simon Reynolds wrote in his book Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984 that "the Residents and their representatives were one and the same,"[31] and elaborated further on one of his blogs, stating that "this was something that anybody who had any direct dealings with Ralph figured out sooner rather than later." Reynolds quotes Helios Creed, who identifies the Residents as a keyboardist named "H," a singer named "Homer," and "this other guy called John." Peter Principle of Tuxedomoon claimed that he and others "eventually figured out that the guy doing the graphics and the engineer in the studio were, in fact, the Residents."[32]

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, Pore-Know Graphics); and that Fox is the sound engineer – meaning that he is the main producer, engineer, master, and editor of all their recordings. (Since 1976, the Residents' recordings have all listed their producer as the Cryptic Corporation, presumably meaning Fox in particular.)

More recently, the group's official Facebook page listed the members of the Residents as "Randy", "Chuck", and "Bob", with further reference to a former member of the band named "Carlos" who left the group permanently following a disagreement with "Randy". There is speculation that "Carlos" is Carlos Cadona.[citation needed] Better known by his stage name, "6025," Cadona was in the original lineup of the Dead Kennedys and appears on a live album by Snakefinger.[33] "Bob" is guitarist and long time collaborator Nolan Cook.

A synopsis for the Residents' 2012-stage production "Sam's Enchanted Evening" provides the name "Randy Rose" as that of the Residents' lead singer. "Chuck", or "Charles Bobuck" was the primary songwriter for the group and released a series of solo albums (or "contraptions") under this name during the "Randy, Chuck and Bob" era. The member known as Chuck later retired from live performance due to ill health in 2015, and ultimately retired from The Residents altogether following the release of the Theory of Obscurity documentary film. A replacement, Eric Drew Feldman, was chosen for Chuck who continues to perform with the band under the name "Rico".

Hardy Fox[edit]

In October 2017, Hardy Fox (born Hardy Winfred Fox Jr., March 29, 1945 – October 30, 2018) identified himself as both the anonymous primary composer and producer for the Residents as well as the pseudonymous Charles Bobuck.[34] Fox was born in Longview, Texas, where his father worked in the oil industry; his mother was a nurse. The family moved several times, and Fox graduated from Rayville High School in Louisiana in 1963. He then studied art and business at Louisiana Tech University, where he met Homer Flynn, and graduated in 1967.[35]

In September 2018 Fox added to his website the dates "1945–2018", although he was known to be alive (but unwell) after the dates were published.[36] Fox died on October 30, 2018, from brain cancer, aged 73. He was identified in obituaries as the co-founder and primary composer of the Residents.[37][38][39] On December 14, 2018, the official the Residents mailing list acknowledged Fox as "engineer, producer and sometime composer of much of the Residents’ best-loved work".[40]



Preserved sets[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Residents Radio Special – 1979
  • Please Do Not Steal It! – 1979
  • Nibbles – 1979
  • Residue of the Residents – 1983
  • Ralph Before '84: Volume 1, The Residents – 1984
  • Assorted Secrets – 1984
  • Memorial Hits – 1985
  • The Pal TV LP – 1985
  • Heaven? – 1986
  • Hell! – 1986
  • Stranger Than Supper – 1990
  • Liver Music – 1990
  • Daydream B-Liver – 1991
  • Poor Kaw-Liga's Pain – 1994
  • Louisiana's Lick – 1995
  • Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses – 1997 ("Washington", "Jefferson", "Lincoln", "Roosevelt")
  • Residue Deux – 1998
  • 25 Years of Eyeball Excellence – 1998
  • Land of Mystery – 1999
  • Refused – 1999
  • Dot.Com – 2000
  • Diskomo 2000 – 2000
  • Roosevelt 2.0 – 2000 (The "Roosevelt" volume from Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses with a condensed version of "Pollex Christi" added)
  • Petting Zoo – 2002
  • Eat Exuding Oinks – 2002
  • Best Left Unspoken... Vol. 1 – 2006
  • Best Left Unspoken... Vol. 2 – 2006
  • Best Left Unspoken... Vol. 3 – 2007
  • Smell My Picture – 2008
  • Ten Little Piggies – 2009
  • Arkansas – 2009
  • Beautiful Eyes – 2010
  • Chicken Scratching with The Residents – 2010
  • Ozan – 2010
  • Strange Culture/Haeckel's Tale – 2010
  • Ozark – 2011
  • ERA B4-74 – 2012
  • The Residents Present The Delta Nudes' Greatest Hiss – 2013
  • 80 Aching Orphans – 2017
  • Loss Of The Lizard Lady – 2018
  • Eyeful – 2020

Live albums[edit]

  • The Mole Show Live at the Roxy – 1983
  • The 13th Anniversary Show Live in the U.S.A. – 1986
  • 13th Anniversary Show: Live in Japan – 1986
  • The Thirteenth Anniversary Show – 1987
  • 13th Anniversary Show – Live In Holland – 1987
  • The Mole Show Live in Holland – 1989
  • Cube E: Live in Holland – 1990
  • Live at the Fillmore – 1998
  • Wormwood Live – 1999
  • Kettles of Fish on the Outskirts of Town – 2002
  • The Way We Were (live CD/DVD) – 2005
  • Cube E Box Set – 2006 (same as "Cube E: Live in Holland" with six bonus tracks)
  • Dollar General – 2010
  • Dolor Generar – 2010 (same as "Dollar General" with two bonus tracks)
  • Talking Light Rehearsal: Santa Cruz – 2010
  • Talking Light – 2010–11 (recordings of most shows from the Talking Light tours, available as downloads)
  • Talking Light Bimbo's – 2011
  • Demonic: Demons Dance Alone Live in Oslo – 2012
  • Triple Dub-ya: The Way We Were Melbourne – 2012
  • The Wonder of Weird – 2014
  • Marching to the See! – 2014 (a selection of songs from The Wonder of Weird)
  • Shadowland – 2015
  • In Between Dreams – 2019

Singles and EPs[edit]

Multimedia projects[edit]


  1. ^ Theory of Obscurity documentary
  2. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (October 21, 2004). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate Books. ISBN 978-1841956152. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  3. ^ Phil Lithman at AllMusic
  4. ^ "The Most Ever Company".
  5. ^ Review of "China Pig" from Allmusic
  6. ^ Reynolds, Simon (January 1, 2005). Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. p. 200. ISBN 9780143036722. Retrieved November 16, 2016 – via Internet Archive. sent back addressed to "Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco
  7. ^ "San Francisco Mural Arts – Mission – Sycamore Street". Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  8. ^ The Residents - Not Available Liner Notes [East Side Digital] (ESD80192) 1988
  9. ^ Bobuck, Charles (November 19, 2020). "Synth City". Hardy Fox.
  10. ^ "The Third Reich 'n' Roll - Historical - The Residents". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  11. ^ "Synth City | CODGERS ON THE MOON". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  12. ^ gio80. "He Was Bitter At The End (Satisfaction) | Grandpa Gio and The Residents". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  13. ^ Eskimo Liner Notes (Ralph Records, ESK7906) [1979]
  14. ^ The Residents - Fingerprince Liner Notes, (Ralph Records RR1276) [1977]
  15. ^ "Residents: Meet the Residents *****; Third Reich 'N' Roll *****; Finger Prince *****. By Jon Savage : Articles, reviews and interviews from Rock's Backpages". Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  16. ^ Shirley, Ian (2018). Duck Stab / Buster & Glenn pREServed Liner Notes. Pale Pachyderm Publishing. p. 1.
  17. ^ "Some facts about The Residents you may not know" (TXT). Retrieved October 31, 2018.[unreliable source?]
  18. ^ Buckley, Peter; Fontenoy, Richard (November 20, 2003). The Rough Guide to Rock (3rd ed.). Rough Guides. pp. 868–870. ISBN 978-1843531050. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  19. ^ "Tour". Archived from the original on May 14, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  20. ^ "INTERVIEW WITH HOMER FLYNN". Archived from the original on December 16, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  21. ^ [1][dead link]
  22. ^ "The Residents: Freak Show |". Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  23. ^ Martins, Chris (December 6, 2012). "The Residents Selling $100,000 'Ultimate Box Set' for 40th Anniversary". Spin. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  24. ^ Weingarten, Christopher. "We're an Anonymous Band: How Do You Make a Film About the Residents?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  25. ^ "Theory of Obscurity", Chicago International Movies and Music Festival Archived May 9, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 7, 2014
  26. ^ "Rushing Like a Banshee". September 16, 2016. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  27. ^ "The Residents publish a novel and announce details of Intruders – a brand album to follow I AM A RESIDENT! later this year". Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  28. ^ Barry, Robert (May 11, 2011). ""The Residents Do Not Live In The Past": A Profile & 'Interview'". The Quietus. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
  29. ^ "1982: The Year the Residents Died August 2007, by Thompson, Philip L". Archived from the original on July 29, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  30. ^ online listing of songs written or co-written by Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox Archived July 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 24, 2005
  31. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006) [2005]. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984 (Paperback). Faber and Faber. p. 250.
  32. ^ Reynolds, Simon (November 22, 2008). "Footnotes No. 14". Rip It Up and Start Again: The Footnotes. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
  33. ^ Radford, Chad (March 11, 2015). "Another side of Snakefinger". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  34. ^ "Home – HARDY FOX". Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  35. ^ "Hardy Fox, of the Avant-Garde Band the Residents (Maybe), Dies at 73". New York Times. November 3, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  36. ^ "Hardy Fox", NewsMachine, Retrieved October 3, 2018
  37. ^ "R.I.P. Hardy Fox, co-founder and chief composer of the Residents has died". Consequence of Sound. October 31, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  38. ^ "Hardy Fox 1945–2018". October 31, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  39. ^ Schell, Michael. "Theory of Mashup: Remembering the Residents' Hardy Fox (1945–2018)". Second Inversion. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  40. ^ "Festive Greetings and Farewell to a dear friend". the Residents official mailing list. December 14, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]