At 67, Homer Flynn is a cool, calm and rather coy customer. Over the past four decades, Flynn has consistently denied being a member of one of rock's truly unique outfits: San Francisco's The Residents. Even with many musical sleuths claiming otherwise, Flynn has always stuck to his story that he just manages this collection of experimental musicians and has never appeared on stage with them.
Either way is fine as talking about The Residents is just as much fun as talking to one of them. Speaking from his home in California, Flynn spoke with DC9 about the band's relentless anonymity and how the band just might make it to its 50th anniversary.
Why is the anonymity of the band so important?
Obviously, it goes back a long way. When the band came up with that, there were really several ideas behind it. One idea being that they really wanted to create a separation between their personal lives and their private lives. They were reading a lot of media back then and seeing how people who became celebrities would be hounded by the paparazzi. They didn't mind drawing attention to The Residents, but they didn't want to draw attention to themselves personally. Also, they saw how people fall into situations where they would have disputes and arguments about who got credit for this and who got credit for that. They felt that a blanket identity would solve that. Things would be dispersed kind of organically. All of the credit would go to The Residents and no one would worry what size type his name was in or whose picture was on the cover. That would eliminate a kind of pettiness.
Over the years, several writers have gone to great lengths to find out the identities of the band members. Many of them have stated rather definitively that you are a member of The Residents. Are all of those writers off base?
The Residents are pretty hard to pin down. Anything that could be said certainly has been said. At that point, we just kind of like to let it drop. People are going to believe what they want to believe. That's fine. That's a good thing.
Did the band start as early as 1969?
We actually say the official starting date is 1972. They were doing some more experimental stuff before then, but as an official date, we say it is the release of Santa Dog which was released during the holidays of 1972.
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Either way, the band has been going at it for forty years. How much longer can it continue?
That is a good question. There is one of them now who considers himself semi-retired. How much longer he will want to tour and perform and do it, I don't really know. Honestly, I could see the potential of them making it the 50th anniversary in one form or another, but probably in a diminished capacity.
Would a 50th anniversary be a good time to reveal their true identities?
Well, who knows? It's kind of up to them to tell you the truth. I think they like things the way they are. It's just The Residents playing with social media they way they have played with other forms of media.
The band has made available a massive box set of CDs and vinyl priced at $100,000. Have there been any takers?
Nobody has come forward with a deposit yet. There have been several inquiries, but at this point we are not taking them too seriously. There have been some conversations with people at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There is also a guy who is a huge supporter of the band who is actually quite wealthy and he may step forward at some point. Nobody knows.
There is not a tangible box set sitting in a warehouse somewhere?
Has there been talk of a documentary of the band or maybe a biopic film?
Interesting that you should mention that because there are some serious conversations going on right now about that exact thing. If things work out, that filmmaker that I am referring to will actually be in Dallas and Austin and Houston shooting shows and talking to fans. There is a good possibility of a film happening.
Will you be in Dallas for the upcoming show?
I usually travel with the band.
I don't recall the band playing our area that often.
I know they played there on the Talking Light tour. I am trying to think. They played Dallas in 1986 and it was probably twenty-five years until they came there again. The dealings I've had with the people in Dallas were good. Most of the band's support comes from the coasts. It's always nice to find pockets in the middle where people are into it. I always find more support than the promoters think is going to be there.
What's the biggest seller in the band's catalog?
All Time? I know that Eskimo and Third Reich and Roll and maybe Duck Stab have all sold in various releases and incarnations well over 100,000 copies. They also had a single of "Kaw-Lija," which is a Hank Williams song, that got remixed as a dance song in Holland back in the 80's. That was a really big seller, too. The CD-Roms back in the 90's were also big sellers.
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The albums you mentioned were all released in the mid to late 70's. Was that the band's highpoint?
I would say that was the commercial highpoint of the band. When Eskimo was released, it drop-shipped about 10 or 20 thousand copies. That was day one and that was a huge number for an independent band on an independent label.
The Residents perform Friday and Saturday, February 1 and 2, at the Kessler Theater.