ZOGRAF MEETS THE RESIDENTS
ALEKSANDAR ZOGRAF - THE RESIDENTS I JA
*Strip uskoro izlazi u najnovijem broju Zareza
Originalno objavljeno na aleksandarzograf.com.
MYSTERY THAT LASTS
The Residents Interviewed by Sasa Rakezic AKA Aleksandar Zograf
The Residents began their toying with sound-rendering ideas during early experiments in the late 60s and early 70s – their journey towards collective creation has extended to this day. The activities of the San Francisco combo do not end with the production of inspired music and video material, but also through live appearances combining music with elements of theater and other media as well.
By their constant effort to reinvent themselves, The Residents definitely present one of the most interesting projects within the popular culture as we know it. After all these years, they are still hidden behind the masks, with their identities kept secret. There were rumors that members of a band really stand behind some of the rare interviews, made through the various middle men, which only extended the curiosity about the ideas behind this unusual group. Anyway, shortly before their Belgrade appearances of November 18th 2008, I was allowed by the organizers of the show to pass my questions to the Spokesperson of The Residents, whatever that means.
The very first appearance of The Residents in Serbia, in the year 2003, turned out into a national affair. The reason was a public announcement put out by the (conservative) Serbian Democratic Party, referring to The Residents "Demons Dance Alone" appearance in Belgrade. The announcement protested against the "demonic" elements of the group's masks and iconography, and the fact that concert was partly funded by the Serbian Ministry of Culture. The audience largely ignored this announcement, which was obvious from the fact that the concert was sold out weeks before, and that it ended with ovations and 20 minutes of applause. But one of the most interesting responses to the aforementioned announcement came out in a national independent weekly Vreme, which published a reaction by an Orthodox Christian Priest-Monk, named Jovan, raging against the accusations against The Residents. He pointed that "It is a common knowledge that The Residents are one of the most significant phenomena in the culture as a whole during the last quarter of the 20th Century, and the very symbol of the intellectual approach in cultural production". Only few days later, Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Serbian Democratic Party, and then President of the State, while talking to the press, confessed that he listened to 3 CD releases of The Residents (without naming them), and said that he actually "had sympathies for their anti-globalist approach". Recently, in 2008, while press has scheduled a new Residents show in Belgrade for November, Vojislav Kostunica ( in the meantime outvoted at the Presidential elections, and with his party in opposition) stated that he found The Residents' reappearance in Serbia "intriguing". Can you comment? Was Kostunica the only president of a state who listened to (at least) 3 CDs by The Residents, and do you know some other examples? And how spread is their following among the monkhood, or is it happening only in Serbia?
- That is an interesting story. I had heard rumors of something like this, but the tour was only in Serbia for 10 or so hours before moving on to Greece. I doubt if many (or any other) county leaders listen to Residents. If so they certainly don't report it back to anyone here.
The new CD and a new show by The Residents is titled The Bunny Boy. Some people could find it interesting because it is a kind of a story made into music, and the story refers to the upcoming doom or apocalypse, while the release coincides with the crisis in the stock market. But for people from the Balkans, it's significant that one of the characters in a "story", a guy called Harvey ( who is introduced as narrator's brother), has disappeared while he was on the Greek island of Patmos. So, the missing person is last seen in the Balkans. Is there something symbolic behind this?
- The Residents have a fascination with the Bible and with the evolution of ancient Balkan culture, especially as far as Greek drama is concerned. Patmos as the home of one of the great horror stories, Revelations, is going to attract their attention for sure. The Bunny Boy has many references to Greek tragedies.
Speaking of the Balkans, it's an area where people actually enjoy going out. Have The Residents ever visited a bar called The Residents, downtown Thessaloniki, in Greece?
- I am not familiar with the bar, but I don't travel with the Residents all the time.
The Residents started from deep underground. What made them come to the surface? Or are they on the surface yet? At the time when everybody seemed to try to defend and glorify pop culture, in the mid 70s, The Residents put out their Third Reich 'N' Roll album, a clever satire on the pop music routine. Now we have The Residents appearing in the media next to all these popsters and fashion followers, are they bitter about it? Do they laugh about it?
- Not sure what you mean by "deep underground" or "surface", LOL. The Residents don't exist as a reaction to other people. They just do what they want to do... what seems like a good idea to them. There is no underground or above ground. They have always only had a small following and that is still what they have.
One of the great things about The Residents is the humor that radiates from whatever they have done. With all the silliness around, modern world seem to lack humor... Even TV comedies are not funny any more. What happened, are we really approaching end times?
- I think we just get subjected to a lot of media and data all the time and we become hardened to some of the simple ironies of living. The fact that it is almost impossible to escape hearing music has almost made music uninteresting.
Touring must be physically exhausting. What are The Residents listening to in the bus?
- The Residents do not listen to music on the bus. They get all they music they want to hear when the perform. They prefer to watch movies... and to sleep.
As the identity of a band is still secret, is it difficult to travel around while hiding the names and faces? What will ever make The Residents want to reveal their identity?
- That is up to the group to decide what they want to do. I can't imagine them working as a collection of individuals though. It never gets discussed so I can't tell you any thing else about it.
Actually, while The Residents were considered the pioneers of the avant-garde pop, they also were catching up with the new media faster then the rest - they were among the first ones to do artistically rendered music video clips, and now they use internet a lot... What has changed in the way that The Residents are functioning, since the appearence of the internet?
- They love shopping on Amazon. Since computers showed up pretty much everything has changed for The Residents, and since they like change I can't imagine that it will stop any time soon. As you know The Bunny Boy was conceived as an internet project and the album and tours are just spin-offs of that original idea.
Recently The Bunny Boy CD was licensed for the release in Russia, with the Cyrillic redesign of the cover. Is the band better known in or outside US?
- Probably they are better known outside of the USA. Does that Russian CD really exist. I have never seen it.
I still remember the first time I ever read an article about The Residents, in the British music press around 1978. Just by reading about the concept of the band, I knew that I was going to like it. Many times I was attracted by the design of The Residents record sleeves, which seemed to be just as important as the music. Sometimes I was wondering are The Residents people who are experimenting with music, or do they work with concepts and ideas? They certainly play music, but are they musicians?
- Not traditional musicians, they are not craft people so they lack certain skills that others have. They are idea people. They tend to think on a broader level than just music.
Finally, if The Residents were God, what would they reveal to the people?
- The Residents ARE God just like everyone else.