The Residents explore aging, loss, and death
Cryptic Corporation spokesperson Hardy Fox may or may not be a member of the mystery-shrouded weirdo art band the Residents. Fox maintains that he is not, though he also admits, “I’ve played on albums. I’m not really musical, but I don’t know if they are, either.”
Fox is speaking to the Straight by phone from his California home base. He talks with traces of a southern U.S. accent that meshes with the Residents’ “official” myth, which begins in Louisiana. “I have a unique situation, in that I go back, basically, to childhood with these people, and coming out to San Francisco in the 1970s, I just found myself falling in with them, and helping them out in doing things, until eventually, I turned it into a career. As far as what my role is, it’s referred to usually as ”˜manager’, because that’s something that people have a definition for.”
Fox also handles most interviews, since, “officially”, the Residents, who are famous for wearing giant, identity-obscuring eyeballs on their heads, do not give them. He will be present in Vancouver this weekend, when the band performs a theatrical/musical piece known as Talking Light. The production, originally developed to be performed on Halloween, 2009, and much-toured since, is largely inspired by the Residents’ meditations on growing older and dying.
“It’s a universal experience,” Fox says. “Everyone dies, and everyone who lives long enough also experiences old age. And these were interesting concepts for them to think about, because our culture is so youth-obsessed and so youth-promoting. In particular, from a music-show point of view, it’s designed for youth, it’s run by youth, it’s all about youth. So they thought, well, this will be an interesting opportunity to fly in the face of that and perhaps do something a little confrontational about aging and losing your mind, and eventually losing everything by dying. They thought it was a good idea for a show!”
The theme may have some personal relevance to the Residents, as well—surely they’re all in their mid 60s by now? “Well, you would think they would have to be, but they don’t go around telling their age. They don’t go around telling their genders, either,” Fox notes helpfully.
Songs that will likely appear in the set include “The Unseen Sister”, a creepy-as-fuck narrative told by a chain-smoking woman who pins responsibility for her mother’s gruesome and surreal death on her invisible, malign twin; and “Talking Light” itself, which centres around the discovery of a dead baby. Both of these pieces also appear on a DVD derived from the performance series, entitled Randy’s Ghost Stories, and a CD, Lonely Teenager, recorded after the first leg of touring was completed.
Since Lonely Teenager also features reworkings of Residents classics like “Lizard Lady” (off 1978’s Duck Stab/Buster & Glen LP) and a haunting version of their cover of Hank Williams’s “Six More Miles”, is there a chance that fans will be treated to a few older, more familiar songs, as well?
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Fox says easily. “Their motto is, ”˜Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.’ ”
And what does Fox consider, after nearly 40 years, to be the Residents’ greatest accomplishment? “I would say that the greatest accomplishment of the Residents is to exist without existing.”
The Residents play the Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday (March 19).
Mar 22, 2011 at 12:54pm
It was a great show. The Residents are as powerful and weird as ever. And funny — one of the most hilarious musical evenings I've ever enjoyed.