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Faceless Forever at 50: The Residents, “Triple Trouble”, and a Setlist to Die, Die, Die For: A Homer Flynn Interview

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[feature image: Bob Hanham, Nov 23 at The Hollywood, Vancouver BC]

A Facebook friend, hearing that the Residents were coming to town, offered a pointed question: didn’t the singer die?

At first I thought he meant Hardy Fox, who was not the singer, but who did die in October 2018,  after having stepped aside from touring circa 2015 due to illness. Fox, who is now publicly acknowledged to have been the primary musical force behind the Residents up until his death, was (at least in some respects) replaced by esteemed ex-Captain Beefheart, ex-Pere Ubu, Snakefinger alum Eric Drew Feldman, who – word is from Cryptic spokesperson Bubba Hodges – is now “the Residents’ producer and architect of their recorded sound.”

[Randy Rose 2016 photo: Bob Hanham]


Given that very sad passing,  I assured my Facebook friend that he was probably thinking of Hardy, and that if the person known sometimes as the Singing Resident – who has generally presented in recent years as Randy Rose, except for that tour in 2018 where he wore a cow costume – had died, I would probably have heard about it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when watching Triple Trouble – a new feature film directed by the Residents and their manager/ graphic designer/ spokesperson Homer Flynn – it developed that Randy Rose (the stage name of the Singing Resident the last two times I saw them, and a very memorable character indeed) HAD, in fact, died (at least within the story of the film).

Of course, Randy’s ghost appears in Triple Trouble, offering a moving monologue about passion to his estranged son (an ex-priest turned plumber obsessed with the spread of a malign fungus through the pipes of San Francisco, who grows increasingly paranoid and prone to hallucinations as the film progresses). Since this scene was clearly shot for the film, there is a question of just how dead Randy might be, but it got me wondering if it was this alleged news of Rose’s death that my Facebook friend had heard.

Luckily, Homer Flynn was on hand to clear things up, as the band made their way between Salt Lake City and Denver, Colorado, a few days after the Vancouver show, on the Faceless Forever 50th anniversary tour.  “Randy’s death is greatly exaggerated, as they say,” Flynn explained via email. “If you’re referring to his demise as portrayed in Triple Trouble, the film takes place in the near future, so Randy’s passing as portrayed in the film is more supposition than fact. As I understand it, Randy is currently and diligently planning his BIG COMEBACK.”

But as alive as Randy is, he is not currently on tour with the band as they make their way across America… or at least he didn’t manifest in Vancouver. Instead, we have the Residents, whoever they may actually be – including the same singer one hears on Meet the Residents, released in 1974 – in a whole new set of Flynn-designed costumes. (The ones originally designed for the two COVID-scuttled Dog Stab! tours have been mothballed for the time being, as Flynn explains: “They were nice costumes but they were created primarily as promotion for the Metal, Meat & Bone album and were deemed inappropriate for the 50th Anniversary Tour.”)

And while there is still cool set design and atmospheric lighting, in fact, there’s a very minimal amount of theatre and multimedia this time out. This was especially true for the Vancouver show, beset by border woes, which you can read more about here. There is some video that was supposed to have played behind the band here, but with key members of the crew marooned in Seattle, I had to ask Flynn what we missed: “The multimedia portion was video created by the amazing artist, John Sanborn,” he explains (adding that Sanborn most recently did projections for the God in 3 Persons album, viewable here). The images to accompany Faceless Forever, which we saw none of, apparently consisted “of snippets of classic Residents’ videos, John’s own work and new video that he created for this show.”

As for stage patter, fans who have gotten used to the fairly loquacious Rose may be shocked that the Singing Resident said not word one between songs (we gather the cow didn’t say much last time the band came through, either).

Is that to be the norm, now – silence between songs? Did it just get to be too much, trying to fill the space between songs with Randy’s at times cranky, at times funny, and almost always fairly strange observations about life?

“Needless to say, Randy was a hard act to follow,” Flynn responds. “Residents’ performances are constantly changing and at this point it’s impossible to say if the monologues between songs will return or not.”

This may come as a relief for some: Randy is (or was?) a very large presence, and it was quite a pleasant surprise for this fan to see a set that entirely focused on the music of the Residents, without all those other, um, distractions. As creative and outlandishly theatrical as their stage shows get, the draw for the Residents for me has always been their songs, so I am just fine without all the theatre, and doubly-fine as a sometimes music journalist that there is no homework into the band’s meta-narrative required or even recommended, this time out. You don’t have to have followed any of the lore of the Residents to enjoy yourself or feel oriented. Who was Carlos, again? Did Alvin Snow  actually exist? Were the demo versions for the songs on Metal, Meat & Bone – which was the album the current tour, twice delayed by COVID, was originally meant to promote – truly recorded in the early 1970s, as has been claimed, or is someone hoaxing on that front, as well? Sigh in relief with me: it doesn’t really matter. Does the Singing Resident, who is no longer Randy, even have a name, now? Does Eric Drew Feldman have one? Hell, was that even Feldman onstage the other night?

I mean, I dunno – can you see the resemblance?

[Eric Drew Feldman (bottom left) with Snakefinger by bev davies, April 10th, 1982, at “In Concert”]


[Unnamed Resident at the Rio by Bob Hanham, April 14, 2016]


[Eric Drew Feldman (Snakefinger in background) by bev davies, April 10th, 1982, at “In Concert”]


[Unnamed Resident in a hat at the Hollywood in Vancouver, March 18th, 2023 by Bob Hanham]


It can all get exhausting. Instead of trying to find ones way through “a sea of misinformation,” as Hodges has put it, this is a tour where (if the setlist is consistent with what we saw here which it does seem to be), you can dance to “Diskomo,” gesticulate helplessly to the heavens to the tune of “Would We Be Alive?” and cheer your favorite tunes from Duck Stab! or Metal, Meat & Bone (still generously represented in the setlist, COVID be damned).

Are you obsessed with “Moisture,” with its mysterious reference to a snail inside a purse? Did you think, after seeing the Residents on multiple tours, that you would never get to hear “Smelly Tongues” live? If so, you’d best buy a ticket while you can (By the by, Mr. Flynn, speaking of “Moisture,” why a snail? The answer: “As I understand it, one of the Residents was dealing with a severe infestation of snails when The Commercial Album was being recorded. Sometimes these things sneak into one’s art as well as their wife’s purse.”)

Not that there aren’t, between the show-opener, “Jambalaya” and the encore, some lesser-known songs on the set, too. Did Flynn know what songs the Singing Resident was most pleased to bring back from the beyond? Apparently they’re partial to deep dives, based on Flynn’s response: “I’ve been told they especially enjoyed resurrecting ‘The Stampede’ from the Cube E performance and ‘KILL HIM!’ from Wormwood.” (The present writer, meanwhile, was particularly happy that the set ended on a tune from Freak Show – though since the opening and closing tracks on that album are similar, I’m not sure which version we actually heard).

[Bob Hanham, 2023]


But what about all the paranoid delusion that runs through Triple Trouble? The film’s approach to mental illness seems compassionate, but also quite negative at times; Randy’s son, Randall, having gone off his meds, spirals downwards quite dramatically, such that it is unlikely he will ever “function in society,” whatever that might mean. Do the Residents ever have interactions with fans with mental health issues? Do they feel a social responsibility to the mentally ill?

Flynn responds that “the Residents don’t really consider ‘mental illness’ when they create characters. The think more in terms of weirdos, misfits and freaks. As far they’re concerned, these terms encompass all of us, with some people being much more comfortable with their ‘differences’ than others.”

It also struck this viewer that Dustin York, who plays Randall – Randy’s son – in Triple Trouble actually reminds one very much of Homer Flynn. His speech patterns are similar, and there’s even a certain resemblance. Are Flynn and York related, or is the similarity either all in my head or else the result of Flynn coaching York?

Flynn explains that “Dustin and I are not related,” adding that Don Hardy, the filmmaker who directed The Residents’ documentary, Theory of Obscurity, had asked fans to contribute $1000 to the film budget in order to appear in Randyland, an internet series created by Randy. Dustin is an actor who responded and made a Randyland appearance, which impressed the group so much, they cast him as the lead in Triple Trouble.”

[Bob Hanham, 2023]


What about the lights attached to the Residents’ heads during the performance?

Flynn: “The head lights are something the Residents have used on and off since the Cube E tour. They offer both a striking means of further concealing the face and a way seeing one’s setup on what are often very dark stages. The lights, LED Safety Glasses, can easily be obtained from Amazon.”

And what about the drummer’s cymbals, which I realized at some point were not cymbals at all? “The drum set is electronic,” Flynn explains. “All the sounds are pre-recorded and can be anything from normal drum sounds to cow’s mooing. glass breaking or volcanoes erupting.”

Suffice to say that I am very glad I went to see the Residents on this tour – a tour where one can simply lose oneself in the love of their music, in all its strange singularity. I’m also now very keen to pick up Metal, Meat & Bone, since the songs on it fit so seamlessly and beautifully with the very “best” of the Residents that I’ve fallen even more deeply in love with the album. Turns out COVID couldn’t kill all traces of that record; the band played a half-dozen songs from that strange, bluesy, at times strikingly aggro album, none showcased better than “Die! Die! Die!”, which closed the main set, the Singing Resident roaring and dancing passionately throughout (which was pretty impressive to see, given that he’s been doing this for 50 years! He seemed as ageless as he was faceless and nameless).

But speaking of “Die! Die! Die!”, what were the worst controversies generated by the COVID-and-Trump-referencing video for that song (sung, in at least one of the two versions on the album, by Black Francis)?

Flynn: “The Residents are tiny potatoes in the world of The Donald and not suitable for pursuit by his legions of lawyers. If Taylor Swift or Beyoncé had done the song, it would be a different story.”

Anything else I’ve missed? Future plans for the Residents, once the tour is over?

Flynn: “The Residents are currently working on a new album based on Dr Kevorkian which they hope will become a modern opera.”

Sounds perfect.

Tour dates for The Residents here. Catch them while you can. Buy or die!