An "interview" with Charles Bobick who might be Hardy Fox, who might be a member or former member of the Residents.
No other musical ensemble has ever come close to making stranger, more unsettling, funnier, scarier or more disturbingly rewarding music than The Residents. Over the years I've done many stories on them, have, on several occasions (all on the phone) interviewed Hardy Fox, who always steadfastly maintained that he was not one of the members of the ensemble (which I never believed, but never said so to him).
A couple of months ago, in a monthly newsletter, he introduced us to a Charles Bobuck person who may or may not be Hardy Fox and now talks freely about making music with/in/as The Residents. The mythology of him/them/it has always been charming and has provided us with decades of mystery wrapped in an tortilla enigma. Get the newsletter and find out how you can buy more music and learn more shit about all this here.
You can buy Bobuck's new album "Eggs for Breakfast" here. Also, Bobuck will donate 100% of his earnings from the sale of this CD for the month of February to Planed Parenthood. "Because we need to be part of the solution."
At the end of this interview, it says, "Will Rothers is the promotions guy at Hacienda Bridge. For years he worked as Big Brother, founder and operator of the official Residents web site, the BOG." Should we believe that? Does it matter? He kindly gave us permission to reuse what follows. It's long, but not if you're a Residents fan. You'll inhale it like perfume, like the pages of a dusty encyclopedia, or like cocaine. Like I said, does it matter?
WR. You wrote music for Ghost of Hope three years ago?
I was writing for Ghost of Hope at the same time as I was writing What Was Left of Grandpa. My original idea was that we would complete the recordings in the Spring of 2015, and release the album in September of that year. Then launch the Ghost of Hope Show tour in the fall of 2015. I was going to participate in conceiving the touring show and I wanted to develop the arrangements with my buddy, Eric Feldman, since he would be replacing me on the road.
That did not happen, the Shadowland show kept touring on and on, which meant I had nothing to do. Shadowland already existed and the GOHalbum was dropped, at least at that time. I suppose that greased my exit out of The Residents since I was facing total boredom (laughs.)
WR. Why didn't you start something independently? There was nothing to prevent you from working within The Residents concept.
That is true. I could have declared What Was Left of Grandpa to be a Residents album, but I had tried that with Coochie Brake. It did not get the reception I hoped for and I ended up being frustrated. I thought it was a great project but Randy wanted to focus on live stuff. I had to adjust rather than trying to force something to conform to my expectations.
WR. It sounds like maybe you are blaming Randy?
I know you need to ask that question, people want to know. I don't blame Randy, this is not a "blame" situation. Randy and I are long time friends. He loves performing more than anything and I love the studio more than anything. When the financial shift came, touring made money and recording albums didn't, he was in the position to spend energy on real-time projects and not albums. I wasn't happy about it, but it worked good for Randy. It was a force larger than us.
WR. Why didn't you work on the touring projects?
I did. I was the person who proposed the smaller shows, the Randy, Chuck and Bob shows. To decreased the expense of touring, we needed to become a lean and mean organization. I wrote the arrangements for all the shows. I mixed and put together the live albums. I was 100% on board. I made obtuse Bobuck albums on the side. That worked for a while, then I started having old age issues that made touring unpleasant, even painful and I knew I had to stop. But it isn't like I am a kid, I am a senior citizen. I got my time in. I am supposed to slow down.
WR. I think some old-time, hard-core fans blame your leaving for ruining The Residents. You broke the illusion.
The idea was to break it with Randy, Chuck and Bob. We intentionally demanded fans take a fresh look at The Residents. That is hardly "ruining." The illusion of The Residents did not end with the invention of RCB, it changed, it made a twist. The hard-core fans should know that The Residents are going to challenge their concepts. That is part of the idea. I am staunchly against fans determining what The Residents should be. That will be the true "ruining."
I don't want to be flippant. I think it is worth saying that choosing to leave The Residents was no easy decision. It look months of intense introspection. It was my decision and I still believe it was the wise thing to do for myself and The Residents.
WR: Do you remember the moment when you first realized that you would be leaving The Residents?
There was no actual moment. A year earlier I realized I was unhappy, but I figured things would get better. When I didn't feel any change I started thinking about my options as well as what was important in life, the broader perspective. It all became very clear to me. It seemed simple and positive. The Residents seemed like it needed a drastic change. I realized that the drastic change would be me leaving. I still see things in a Residents way. Making a point of intentionally not doing something is a form of doing it. Like making a point by going on a hunger strike is still a form of eating. Just negative eating.
WR. Were you dealing with depression?
Not clinical depression, but the kind of depression of knowing you have to resolve a problem in your life when you wish you didn't have to. I have high expectations for living. A lot of the depression was associated with aging. Everyone has to deal with physical degradation due to aging, but it is frustrating. I have always tried to make things better for myself. Change was being forced on me. What was important was protecting my friendship with Randy while rediscovering life pleasures. I realized a need to be part of nature, to have a guided transition from living to dying and rejoining the greater force. That sounds more mystical than it should. I am like a reverse child. I grow reverse younger until I disappear into where life comes from. Hmmm. That sounds even more mystical. Wine tends to have that effect on me.
Speaking of mystical, do you follow a religious belief system? It sounds like you do.
I do not follow philosophies made up by other people since I am as capable of making them up as the next guy. I do like the "we are all star matter" idea, and I see humans as part of the greater natural world. We are born and we die, and there is a beauty in that fragility that we share with all creatures.
WR. How are you and Randy getting along now?
We are good. Ever since he moved to LA and I moved to the country we had not seen much of each other, unless we were touring. Our individual new living environments are a clear indication of how we are envisioning our futures. He wants to be closer to Hollywood and I want to be closer to nature.
He is benefiting from the change. When we worked together I had no encouragement to try singing and he had none to write music. He has a good music sense and a style that is different from mine. It is going to be fun to hear what he does.
WR. What has changed now that you have support from Hacienda Bridge and Klanggalerie instead of The Cryptic Corporation?
Cryptic needs a bigger cash flow to operate. The Residents are the source of that income. Since I am just me, I don't have to make money anymore with music. I live on my pension and my royalties from forty years with The Residents. That is very freeing. I can now try things I didn't do before.
WR. Like singing?
(laughs) Yeah. I am not a singer. I have gotten more comfortable using my voice as an element of the music. Randy's attitude toward singing has always been a great inspiration to me.
WR. Do you think you will do a project with Randy again?
Neither of us has an objection to it, but at the moment it is not logistically realistic. He has to think in terms of making albums that can be toured. It makes the most sense that he would do recordings using musicians from the touring version of The Residents.
WR. So you see the current Residents as a "version?"
There have been many Residents concepts. The eyeballs, the CDROM designers, the big performance shows. The reluctant rock band, Randy, Chuck and Bob. I expect a new Residents version in 2017 as the RCB one is a bit played out. Some people don't accept anything after 1980 as Residents. Residents is a word, the people behind the word are what counts.
WR. You were a primary person behind it. Are you implying that you are also a "version of The Residents?"
I cant work using the word, "Residents." I can easily put that word in my past, but there is no way to leave who I actually am back there with that word. Who I am and what I do came with me. I can't use the word, but the word cannot use me either.
WR. What happened to "Chuck" and who is "Rico?"
"Chuck" is part of The Residents touring band. He had to stay with Randy and Bob. Chuck was also Carlos, and I suppose, partly me. But I am not "Chuck." That was a character I played for the show. That is a stage name and I am no longer on the stage. Chuck and Carlos kind of folded together and was able to fit into one small touring case that never has to be unpacked. Rico is the spirit of the case. Hmm. I think that is the wine talking.
I'll start over. Despite how difficult it is for people to accept, The Residents is a concept, not a band. Concepts are free to take various forms, even ones that superficially seem like a band. Touring requires the illusion of a band. Basically the organizing team assembles the resources required to make a concept work. As dry as that sounds, it is what producers do, and The Residents is a production. There is no Randy, Chuck, Bob, Carlos, or Rico. Just assembled resources.
WR. Who is the "organizing team?"
Well, now that Hardy is gone it is primarily Homer Flynn, the only remaining original Cryptic guy. But Cryptic has two newer corporate owners too. So there are three inputs with Homer being the primary one. The Residents concept is completely malleable. It doesn't have to be associated with music. It could become an iPhone app design company. That is the remarkable aspect that sets the Residents apart from "bands."
WR. If The Residents are "assembled resources," what is "Charles Bobuck?"
(Laughs loudly, then a long silence) I have to confess that I am somewhere in between a resource and a person. There is only one me so I cannot be replaced. But in the same way that I participated in The Residents illusion, I now have a "Charles Bobuck" that is partly illusion. There are differences. I can do interviews, I never have to wear a mask. I can have opinions about the world. It is a comfortable change for me.
WR. Then you are okay with me publishing an actual photo of you? (Charlie starred at me and then very slowly shook his head "no.")
I'm not certain what I look like.
WR. Am I talking to a person or am I talking to an illusion?
I try to be honest with you, Will. You know me. I also like to tell stories and sometimes the stories are more interesting than the reality. I don't think this is a good line of questioning, the nature of reality. Reality is a vortex and we can only end up lost and confused.
(Charlie said he was getting chilly and went inside to get a jacket.)
WR. Since we all know there is not as much interest in music and CDs anymore by the general public, what is your perspective on getting your music out to people?
The line from that Bobby McGee song comes to mind. Freedom being a word for nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. I don't have to get it out to the public. Most people in the world who make music do it for the pleasure it brings, not for money or fame. It is not an ego thing.
I am really enjoying making Tiny Tunes and if someone doesn't like one, it is of no consequence. I have a short attention span and they are a pleasure to record. I can use them for the newsletter, for downloads, like the Black Tar thing on Halloween. Klanggalerie has collected a bunch for a CD. EGGS FOR BREAKFAST.
WR. Eggs for Breakfast? Why Eggs for Breakfast?
(Smiles) When Roman and I first moved to the country, we raised chickens. They are sort of horrible animals, but they do lay eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Every morning there would be a cry through our house, "Eggs for Breakfast!" Roman was very inventive about finding new egg dishes to eat, but it was always eggs for breakfast. Until we got rid of the chickens.
An egg is also the beginning of life just as breakfast is the beginning of the day. Symbolically it represents a fresh start. While eggs have the potential to become a chicken, they are also a magically thing all by themselves, an egg. These tiny tunes could become full fledged songs, but I'm not into potential, I'm embracing the moment. I accept that a tiny tune is a thing to be appreciated. My Tiny Tunes are me laying eggs.
WR. Looking beyond the new CD, what does your future look like in your mind?
Hardy talked me into doing the Hacienda Bridge project by saying that it would only run through 2020. That meant I wouldn't get stuck in another open ended concept. We are all older and a sense of closure to what we do feels good. That still gives us plenty of time to turn ideas into results. To me it means doing as much as I can as quickly as possible.
WR. Your album, Bobuck Plays The Residents had a sad quality about it, not the manic Residents quality we all love.
Sad? Really? I am naturally fragile, I am told. There is a very thin layer of skin separating me from the world. I wanted to take the songs away from seeming manic. I didn't always write them to be performed that way.
(Charlie paused for a long time, his head down in thought.)
I am not sad, Will, really I'm not. I can miss the old days, but I already did the old days, every single moment of those forty years. I do miss the people I worked with. I felt like I lost a family when I stopped touring. I can't go back to who I was, though. Life is lived in only one direction.
WR. (Charlie gazed out into the rain, a bit of a distant look in his eyes. I could tell I had lost his attention.) Do you want to stop?
So many memories, Will.
(Charlie managed a smile at me, and I could see a lifetime playing in his eyes.)