Officially, no one knows who is in The Residents. Unofficially, it’s long been established that one of their co-founders and chief sonic architects was a shy, unassuming Texan by the name of Hardy Fox (yes, his real name). And yesterday, the band confirmed that Fox passed away, aged 73. According to Fox’s own website, the cause of death was brain cancer.
Actually, true to The Residents’ flair for dark absurdism, Fox announced his own death weeks ago, posting a “1945-2018” banner on his website and a Facebook statement that read in part, “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is ‘all’ okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now.”
Together with fellow Resident Homer Flynn, Fox would occasionally speak on behalf of the band in the guise of a spokesman for the Cryptic Corporation, The Residents’ management company. He and Flynn were always careful to refer to the band in the third person, as in this interview excerpted from the documentary Theory of Obscurity, in which Fox talks about The Residents’ early failed experiments in filmmaking and subsequent turn to home recording, at a time when making music outside of a professional recording studio was virtually unheard of:
Outside of The Residents, Fox also released music under the names Combo de Mechanico, Sonido de la Noche, TAR, and his favorite alter ego, Charles Bobuck. (Later incarnations of The Residents featured a character named “Chuck,” played by Fox.) One listen to his work under these other aliases and it’s immediately clear he played a major role in The Residents’ creepy, carnivalesque sound:
That song is based on a true story, by the way: Later in life, Fox and his husband, Steven Kloman, left The Residents’ home base of San Francisco and bought a chicken farm. This and other biographical tidbits are revealed in Fox’s book, This, which he released online in 2016 (along with a music compilation of the same name, which is amazing and can be heard on Bandcamp). My other favorite detail from This, which explains a lot about The Residents’ music: Apparently Fox heard music every time he orgasmed, a condition diagnosed as a mild form of epilepsy when he was a child. “I suppose I do not write music so much as have controlled seizures,” he wrote.
Fox did not enjoy touring, so he stopped performing with The Residents in 2016, though he continued composing for them until his death. The band posted a lovely tribute to him yesterday on Twitter and on their website:
It is with with great sorrow and regret that The Cryptic Corporation announces the passing of longtime associate, Hardy Fox. As president of the corporation from 1982-2016, the company benefited from Hardy’s instinct for leadership and direction, but his true value came from his longtime association with The Residents. As the group’s producer, engineer, as well as collaborator on much of their material, Fox’s influence on The Residents was indelible; despite any formal training, his musicality was nevertheless unique, highly refined and prolific. Blessed with a vital sense of aesthetics, a keen ear, and an exquisite love of the absurd, Hardy’s smiling face was a constant source of joy to those around him. He will be missed.
Rest in peace, Hardy Fox. You gave the world so much wonderful music, weird and otherwise. And without you, this blog almost certainly would not exist. So thank you.
It’s impossible to sum up Hardy Fox’s impact in a single video, but The Residents’ “One Minute Movies” comes close. Released in 1980, it features four one-minute songs from The Commercial Album. Improbably, it got a lot of airplay on early MTV, mostly because very few other bands at the time were doing music videos. Every time I watch this, the notion that it was getting piped into people’s cable boxes in Kansas makes me smile.