By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The band has been prolific, with two dozen-plus albums released since 1974, wide-screen works loaded with dissonant electronic elegies to normalness, arcane spoken-word patches and a cast of sympathetic (sometimes) weirdos, gimps and losers. The recent two-CD retrospective Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses is a good intro.
THE RESIDENTS HAVE LONG RESIDED IN THE VANGUARD of new technologies -- as well as being among the first to use the Emulator, they've produced a number of award-winning videos and CD-ROMs (Gingerbread Man, Freak Show and their most recent, the bracingly grim Bad Day on the Midway,featuring such endearing characters as Benny the Bump, Herman the Human Mole, the Old Woman and the Sold-Out Artist) -- yet their music remains the product of a highly refined ignorance. The core members enjoy limited instrumental chops, though recent projects have incorporated skilled players and singers to better transmit the sickness.
"From the craftsman concept of musician," says Homer, "the Residents couldn't hardly be worse. From the idea standpoint of musician, with the emotion and energy for music, I'd say they can hardly be beat. With Wormwood, they would write things using the computer, and then print scores out, and then people would come in to play them. They feel like Wormwood, being about the Bible, it was really important to have that human spirit behind it."
Wormwood is, in part, the Residents' reaction to the severely literal-minded Christian atmosphere that has plagued the American consciousness in recent times. Gleaning insight from Jonathan Kirsch's book The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible, the group retells several of the hairier Bible stories without all the mayhem, humiliation and abnormal sex sanded off.
"The Residents watch television a lot," says Homer, "and they've always been fascinated by TV evangelists. Several years ago, they said, 'We have to find out. These people are waving this book in the air and telling other people how horrible they are because this book says they are, and it's time to sit down and read this book and see if it really does say that.' It didn't -- these evangelists were holding the Bible hostage."
The Residents' reading of the Good Book proposes other options. "The Bible," offers Homer, "is saying that it's okay to be failures as humans and as gods, because that's all there is. And it's really not about denouncing this group or that group. In fact, when you read it, everybody gets denounced at some point or another."
KNOWING THAT THE RESIDENTS LIKE TO KEEP UP with all the latest nifty trends, I ask Homer if there're any new bands they like.
"The Residents are very fond of the Spice Girls, and Hanson particularly," says Homer. "They like them a lot, because they really love pop music, and they think pop music should never last, that two weeks later you should forget entirely about the music and who performed it. So they like whoever does that."
Well, I guess these veteran Residents aren't a pop band then, going by their own definition. I wonder what they'll be doing 20 years from now.
"I've heard the Residents talking about what they'll be doing 100 years from now," Homer says, cryptically.
But . . . that's impossible!
"I'm not allowed to say, but they have some interesting schemes on how the Residents will live forever . . . They're thinking replacements. They're thinking apprenticeships and training."
The Residents, eminent purveyors of a grotesquely beautiful, sometimes anti-, sometimes pro-American art, are an American success story, having achieved a preferred way of life by precisely locating their audience. And who might that audience be?
Homer says, "You know, in high school you've got the majority of people that sort of rigidly listen to the same music, and they like the same things and dress the same way. And then you have this smaller group of people that stand apart from that -- they can't really relate to that larger group of people at all, and don't like anything they like. That's the Residents' audience. They're everywhere."
The Residents appear at House of Blues Friday through Sunday, April 2325.