Homer Flynn, the official representative and spokesman of the most bizarre art collective of our time, The Residents, talks about latest album “Eskimo Deconstructed”, their plans for new releases, current tours and new videos, inspirations, as well as much more
The Residents could be marked as the most mysterious art project from the 20th and 21st century. Their approach is known for the total anonymity of the group members that hide their personalities under surrealistic images that are changed from time to time, depending on The Residents current album’s moods and concepts. These bizarre outfits include their most famous stage image of an elegant gentleman in a top hat and eye-mask – that already became a pop-cultural mem, Ku Klux Klan, aliens, Dark Times plague doctors, and much more products of their fantasy that became the part of The Residents mythology.
Having around 60 albums under their belt, The Residents have been puzzling the world for 40 years now. Starting from their early years, they released a bunch of albums with their own strange and infernal interpretations of other people’s music. Lately, they have created conceptual works with backbones plots and their own lyrics.
The Residents are also famous for their multimedia approach when making art. They were one of the first groups who explored the ways of incorporating cutting edge technologies into their shows – like early forms of computer graphics and using MIDI devices. Breaking the borders of being just a musical group, they have done a few musical movies based on their albums, which are a perfect and exclusive example of one of the first music videos that was done long before the MTV era.
In line with their principles of staying anonymous, The Residents never give interviews. They have an associated company, The Cryptic Corporation, that manages the band. One of The Cryptic Corporation founders, Homer Flynn, is also a current spokesman for The Residents and he gives the interviews for the band as their official representative. Many rumors and evidence say that The Cryptic Corporation members are The Residents themselves and Homer personally is the band’s frontman. We can’t be totally sure or unsure of that, and even if it were to be true we don’t think it’s a good idea at all to disclose the band members’ personalities, as this mystery is the part of The Residents concept that creates the magical vibe around this bizarre art collective and forming their fantasy world.
Homer Flynn was kind enough to talk to All Andorra about the new and interesting stuff that is going on in The Residents world, their plans for new albums, videos, touring and many other interesting things.
Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov
Hi Homer! Thank you for finding time to talk with us. We are really interested to know what The Residents are up to at the moment – are there any new releases, tours, videos planned?
Actually, a lot of things are going on with The Residents at the moment. The band is preparing for a big show in the Modern Art Museum in New York at the end of January next year, it is a really exciting project.
Also, they are working on a new album that will be based on some lost recordings of an old blues singer that they have found. His name is Alvin Snow and his moniker was Dying Dog. The Residents have found some of his demos that have never been released and they liked them so much that they decided to make a whole new album based on this material. It will come out at the beginning of next year. A lot of touring with this new album is planned. A US tour is going to happen in spring next year – in April-May, and a European one in October-November.
The Residents also have a film project on which they were working already for a few years now.
Will this new album, based on the Dying Dog missed demos, be done in a typical The Residents way – as a strange and experimental deconstruction of other people’s music?
The band was very charmed by these demos. So, the first thing they want to do is to release a boxset of vinyl with the lost Dying Dog original recordings in respect to the artists. It will come out first, this year in September. And when they will release their album, it will be like The Residents versions of this music. This is how this project is shaping up.
As we know, The Residents had different periods – in the 70s and 80s they were mostly known for performing other people’s music in a strange, infernal way, lately they made a bunch of conceptual albums that had backbone stories, plots and their own lyrics. Is it correct that their latest album “Eskimo Deconstructed” released just a month ago is a kind of going back to the old method of deconstructing the music that already exists , and this tendency is going to be followed in the new shaping project?
Well, yes, in some ways. What actually happened was– I had a partner, Hardy Fox, and together we were running the Cryptic Corporation, which is the company that manages The Residents. Unfortunately, Hardy passed away around 6 months ago, but the thing that many people are aware of is that Hardy actually retired from the Cryptic Corporation 3 years ago. Hardy was also The Residents sound engineer, producer and the keeper of all their tape archives. When he retired, he gave all these archives to me. There was really a lot of material there that I was not even aware of.
After Hardy left Cryptic Corporation two companies bought his ownership share – a US distribution company MVD, and a London record label Cherry Red.
I got into a conversation with Cherry Red about releasing this old forgotten material. Cherry Red came up with the idea about doing this “Eskimo Deconstructed” album, mostly because there was so much interesting material on the multitrack masters that The Residents have created for the original “Eskimo” in Hardy’s archives. Once it was discovered that there were so many great forgotten pieces, the question came about as to what to do with all of it.
There was so much interesting material on the multitrack masters for the original “Eskimo”
Recently we have put out a release “I am The Resident” that was done with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. The whole idea of that work was to get fans involved in doing their own versions of The Residents songs. And it was a very successful project. In the light of this success came the idea of the new version of the “Eskimo”. ”Eskimo Deconstructed” is like the further development of the ideas that were in “I am The Resident” album, it is encouraging people to do their versions of the band’s music.
“Eskimo Deconstructed” is like the further development of the ideas that were in “I am The Resident”
One of the basic things in The Residents concept is that it is an anonymous project – nobody knows the names of the artists that perform on stage, they hide their faces behind masks, and wear surrealistic costumes. It would be interesting to know –did the lineup of the band change much over its 40 years history or is it mostly the same people now on the stage, the ones that have been there since the band’s beginning?
That is definitely a secret. That’s a kind of thing they really don’t want me to talk about. From The Residents point of view, their spirit was created in the early 70s and is still the same and that’s the most important thing for them. And who carries and follows this spirit now is not important at all.
Do you think they will continue this anonymous approach right till the end?
Many fans believe in rumors that you are an actual band member. Can you comment on that?
I am certainly closely involved with The Residents, there is no question about it. I am not a band member, but on the other hand, the lines between who is The Resident and who is not The Resident have been really blurred over the years. If people want to consider me as The Resident that’s fine, but I consider myself as the band’s manager, the one who helps them.
You are known as the one who made most of the covers for the albums for the band. It would be great to know what was your inspiration when you were doing them?
I certainly have people that inspired me in a lot of ways. I have been inspired by many great photographers. Picasso was a big inspiration too. How can you not take inspiration from Picasso?!
But I also took a lot of inspiration from The Residents themselves. A lot of what got created in terms of visual imagery came from my meeting and talks with them. It was always a really powerful collaboration for me.
The Residents are known for their surrealistic stage images, which are changing from time to time. What is the current image of the band?
During their last tour in January, which was called In Between Dreams, their costumes were based on the Dark Times plague doctor image. Plague doctors of that era wore special masks that made them look like gigantic birds.
The thing is that people then didn’t have any knowledge about how bacteria was carrying the disease. Doctors thought that the main reason for the plague was the bad air and they put special aromatic herbs inside the beak of these bird-looking masks, hoping that it would save them from getting the virus.
The Residents have a feeling that we are living in Dark Times now and humanity is going through a kind of emotional plague. So the meaning of the plague doctor costumes is that The Residents are protecting themselves from the emotional plague that is definitely still in the air.
Besides the outstanding artistic imagery, The Residents are known for their interest in using technology too. They were one of the first bands in the 70s that started to use a multimedia approach and incorporated visuals into their shows and made the first ever music videos. Do they still have this interest? And will they use some cutting edge technologies like 3D mapping or black trax in their current shows?
Yes, what they are involved in at the moment in terms of cutting edge technology is making a 360 virtual reality video that will come out in 2020.
This idea came this October when they were doing a show at a book fair in San Francisco and were approached by a guy who had a 360° camera with an extremely high resolution and filmed the whole show. The Residents were very impressed by the result when they watched the show using a virtual reality headset. It really gives you a feeling as if you are on stage with the band, it is really powerful. But the thing is that when you turn your head you see the venue and the audience, and this could be interesting for a couple of minutes but not more because nothing really changes in this picture.
So, the idea that came was to hire actors, replace the venue and the audience with a complete fantasy world and to shoot three 360° virtual reality videos in this kind of way. Needless to say that great directors will be working on them.
And what’s going on at the moment with the Ralph Records label which is run by The Residents? Besides their own work, they used to release some interesting music by artists who were close to them. Are there any plans to release this type of music in the near future?
They don’t have this plan at the moment. If I’m honest, I am the one who is mostly running Ralph Records and I just don’t have the energy and time nowadays to look after the releases of some other artists. Taking care of The Residents is more than enough for me.
The Residents has already been touring really intensively for 40 years. It would be interesting to know – does the band have some favorite places or countries where they like to perform most of all?
As The Residents have been doing it for such a long time, their favorite places changed over the years. For example, in the late 80s/early 90s it used to be that they loved performing in Greece and they used to go there often, it was fantastic. They always tried to plan a European tour ending in Greece and then they took a two-week holiday on the islands.
There was a period when The Residents had a lot of very good shows in Norway for a while too.
And on the last tour this year they had a series of fantastic sold-out shows in the UK. They always play in London when they are on the European tour, but they hadn’t had shows outside London in other cities maybe for 30 years. And it seems that many fans outside London were very hungry to see The Residents and it led to a successful tour with 5 dates in different cities.
There was a period when The Residents had a lot of very good shows in Norway
So things really change over the years…
Have The Residents ever been to Andorra?
They have never been there, but they would definitely be really interested to do a show in Andorra. But the thing is that the reality of The Residents performing somewhere that is not connected with their will always becomes work for their agents and promoters to be sure that they will have a good audience.
We really hope that the right promoter will be brave enough to bring The Residents to Andorra someday and thank you, Homer, for this interesting interview.