Of all the bands on our Weird List, The Residents probably offer the richest vein of subject matter for a documentary. You don’t last 40 years performing in outlandish costumes and releasing tons of music, video and multimedia work without racking up some serious film fodder.
And yet, apart from a short, satirical 1990 film called The Eyes Scream: A History of The Residents, no one has ever really captured the story of one of the weirdest and most mysterious bands of all time in cinematic form. A group of filmmakers from a company called Well Dang! Productions tried just a few years ago, but that project was apparently abandoned, probably due to some combination of lack of funds, the band’s unwillingness to participate, and being called Well Dang! Productions. But now, it looks like The Residents documentary void is finally about to be filled.
The film, called Theory of Obscurity, is being made with The Residents’ full participation, which is a big plus. They just completed shooting the band’s 40th anniversary tour, and claim to have been granted “unprecedented access” to the Residents archives. They’re aiming for a 2014 release, but they’ve already released a preliminary trailer, which you can watch below. You can also watch their ongoing 143-part Vimeo series called “In My Room,” featuring interviews with Randy, the band’s old-man-masked lead singer. In the latest installment, he talks about his wishbone collection.
No self-respecting independent film project doesn’t invite some form of crowdfunding these days, and Theory of Obscurity is no different. So if you want to help the first official Residents documentary see the light of day, follow this link and give generously. Hey, it’s way cheaper than a box set in a refrigerator.
Even in the world of weird bands, The Residents have pretty much always hummed their own tune. So it figures that at a time when seemingly ever band on the planet is launching a Kickstarter to fund their next record, The Residents have basically decided to force fans to start their own Kickstarters just to buy their next record.
Did I say record? I meant box set. Wait, did I say box set? I meant MOST GARGANTUAN SET OF MUSIC EVER RELEASED BY ONE BAND IN THE HISTORY OF RECORDED MUSIC.
Seriously, this thing is ridiculous. It comes in a fucking working refrigerator, for starters. It includes everything The Residents have ever released in their entire 40-year history, including 40 LPs, 50 CDs, and approximately one metric butt-ton of singles, EPs, DVDs and God knows what else. It even includes an authentic Residents eyeball mask and top hat. Who knows, maybe even one worn by the actual Residents, since they’ve ditched the eyeballs lately in favor of an old man mask and what I’m gonna call Tusken Raider lounge singer costumes.
And oh by the way, here’s the most ridiculous part: Each Ultimate Box Set (UBS) will set you back a mere $100,000. No, that’s not a typo. You could literally buy a house in Pittsburgh right now for less than the price of this box set. I’m not even misusing the word “literally.”
There are only 10 of these things in existence and they go on sale Christmas Day. Wonder if anyone will give them as gifts? Wonder if anyone will have the balls to put this on their wish list? “Never mind the Xbox, Mom. Or college. Just give me a fridge full of Residents!”
After they’ve raked in a cool million from these box sets, The Residents will kick off 2013 with a bunch of tour dates celebrating their 40th anniversary as a band. After the dates below, stick around for an Ultimate Box Set infomercial starring The Residents’ lead singer, Randy Rose. Oh yeah, hadn’t you heard? The Residents “revealed” their identities in 2010. Apparently their names are Randy, Chuck and Bob. So now you know.
The Residents “Wonder of Weird” Tour Dates:
January 29, 2013 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
January 31, 2013 – Austin, TX – Scottish Rite Theater
February 1, 2013 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
February 2, 2013 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
February 3, 2013 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
February 5, 2013 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
February 6, 2013 – Carrboro, NC – Carrboro Arts Center
February 8, 2013 – Northampton, MA – Iron Horse
February 9, 2013 – New York, NY – Stage 48
February 10, 2013 – Washington, DC – Sixth & I Synagogue
February 11, 2013 – Philadelphia, PA – World Café
February 12, 2013 – Boston, MA – Institute of Contemporary Art
February 15, 2013 – Chicago, IL – Schubas
February 16, 2013 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
February 17, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
February 18, 2013 – Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
February 21, 2013 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre
February 22, 2013 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
February 24, 2013 – San Francisco, CA – Bimbo’s 365 Club
February 25, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
February 26, 2013 – San Diego, CA – Belly Up
February 28, 2013 – Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre
Now here’s that infomercial. I could be wrong, but after watching all seven minutes of this thing, I’d swear The Residents must be Insane Clown Posse fans.
Jake and I debated for hours over which band should be the subject of our First Ever Post, but in the end, there was only one band we could agree on: The Residents. Weird bands don’t come any weirder than this mysterious foursome, who have been cranking out bizarre, experimental music (some of which most folks probably wouldn’t even call “music”) for about four decades.
Right from the get-go, The Residents were unlike anything that come before them. They kept their identities secret and rarely gave live performances until the early ’80s, when they finally began doing concerts dressed in matching tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball masks. Their albums were pastiches of tape loop samples from other recordings, atonal skronk, carnivalesque psych-rock and avant-garde noise. They are perhaps best-known for 1980’s Commercial Album, a collection of 40 one-minute songs that the band explained could be rendered into conventional pop songs just by playing them three times in a row. To get the songs on San Francisco Top 40 radio, the band bought advertising time and broadcast them as commercials.
We know you’re probably asking yourself: Why the one skull mask? In 1985, the lead singer’s eyeball mask was stolen, so he replaced it with a giant skull mask and changed his stage name to “Mr. Skull.” When a fan returned the old eyeball mask, the band announced that the mask was now “unclean” and therefore would be retired. See? It all makes perfect sense.
We could go on about how unbelievably weird The Residents are, but honestly, our writing skills are probably not up to the task. Instead, we leave you with this video from one of their live shows. This song, “Constantinople” (not to be confused with the catchy ditty popularized by They Might Be Giants), comes from the 1978 album Duck Stab/Buster & Glen, which is widely considered to be one of the band’s more “accessible” efforts. Accessible to who, exactly, we’re not sure.