Excerpts from Skyscraper's Interview with Hardy W. Fox
By Nick Demarino
In the final print issue of Skyscraper, we spoke with Hardy W. Fox, a core member of The Residents' managerial team, The Cryptic Corporation ("The Residents: Rabbit Season," Issue 30, Spring 2009). Although The Residents have never granted interviews themselves, Fox and his associate Homer Flynn have, on occasion, spoken with the media on the band's behalf.
The following are excerpts from our interview that were cut from the printed transcript for space reasons. These exchanges are nonetheless insightful, and we are happy to share them here now.
Watching the Bunny Boy character [in the Bunny Boy series of online video shorts], it seems like the kind of project that one could get carried away with – method acting and whatnot. How are The Residents directing that actor?
I don't think that it's necessary. I think the way The Residents work is to give space to people and run with it. They've done that a lot of times with different people that they work with. They discover people with some talent and they figure the best thing they can do is get out of their way and just let them go. A lot of the time it changes the story [because] they come up with ideas and ways of saying things that are good and relevant to the overall picture, so it starts gaining more depth. It doesn't necessarily require the person to be as a good as an actor, because we'll let them not really be acting.
I imagine there are all sorts of public funds for the arts that The Residents might qualify for. Have they looked into that? They straddle quite a few realms.
It's very difficult. Many places, like the serious art world, won't take The Residents seriously. They think of them as wacky musicians. A lot of people still associate The Residents with punk music, because they started in that time in the 1970s. It's a thing that's satirizing a lot of what other people take seriously, whether it be music or art, that The Residents don't respect it sufficiently. There's a growing movement away from that. They've done things with theatres, with MoMA [Museum of Modern Art] in New York, and several exhibits in museums in Europe. They're starting to get accepted, whether what they do is making fun of the art form or not, as art.
After nearly 40 years! I find it interesting they'd be that far ahead of the curve.
They're definitely outsiders. They set themselves up that way. They told me that what they do is not random; it's a very philosophical stance they started from. They didn't stumble into something; it was a decision about how they wanted to do it. That included that they wanted to run parallel to culture, they wanted to be distant and observe and react to what was going on. Their position, philosophically, was not to be a part of culture, and of music and of art in general. They were successful in the fact that, over the years, people haven't accepted them, because they really weren't. They intentionally set themselves apart from that.
What kind of experience do concertgoers get from a Residents show, as opposed to a regular live band or art show? Their performances strike me as more of a play or an opera.
It is like that. Each show is really different; some are similar, but even playing the same material every night it's still different. You don't know if it's going to create art or not. You can go out there and do exactly the same thing and give it everything you've got, but that doesn't mean you made art. What they really live for are those shows that become art. They don't happen very often. The audience probably can't tell because the audience doesn't see all of the shows. Very few people have actually seen a show that plays the way they think it should. Every time you like going out to try to create art. It's sort of like sex or something. You can just have sex and it can be good, but sometimes it becomes something that's completely otherworldly and that's what you'd like it to be every time, but you can't. You can try, but you can't. It's very much having those moments and being able to get there and that's why you keep doing that and sometimes it clicks in your head and you don't know why.
I've heard of some chaotic crowds at Residents shows. What kind of a crowd would they prefer to play to?
From what I understand, there's not really an answer to that because they like the crowds to be different. They like playing to higher brow art crowds and also a rowdy club crowd. They're just really different and the crowds can be part of what stimulates the quality that that particular show has. It's not that they really like one over the other. They don't really like the idea of people coming up on stage that shouldn't be on stage. They don't really like that very much at all. They've had several situations like that over the years, particularly people who have taken some type of drug and decide any number of things. Anything from being threatened by The Residents, feeling that they're in danger and wanting to protect themselves to the most common one, people wanting to run away with The Residents, like joining the circus. They see themselves as part of that and are lured into thinking all they have to say is, "Here I am." Like I said, it depends on the drug. As with any group there have been situations where there's the guy who wants to get on stage without his shirt on and dance along with the music, but those people have gotten off of stage rather quickly and returned to the audience.