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It's hard to know where to start with The Residents. The band's press release claims that they neither exist nor play any instruments, and yet they have released more than 60 albums, a smattering of videos, DVDs, and short films, and produced a handful of theater productions as well. It's a conundrum that confounds both would-be music scribes and music salesmen but has generated a legendary cult following almost from the day the group's car broke down in 1966 in San Mateo, California. It is there that this band of artistic misfits -- barely musicians, any of them -- began their assault on musical sensibilities and convention in a fashion similar to, though uniquely different from, The Fugs, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart.
It wasn't until 1971, however, that the band actually came up with a name, previously content on plying their craft anonymously. After the first demo album was turned down by Warner Brothers, the rejection slip was mailed to "The Residents" since no name was listed on the return address. It stuck.
But a band name does not mean its members will follow suit. Unidentified and frequently performing shadowed or with masks, the musicians guarded their privacy -- while simultaneously building intrigue.
"They felt that if they got any level of fame or notoriety, they wouldn't be able to keep any separation between their private life and public life," says longtime Residents co-manager, artistic director, and media liaison Homer Flynn. Plus, "there was a huge mystery and mystique around people like Sun Ra -- he said he was from outer space -- and I think they were intrigued by the idea of creating mystery and mythology for themselves in the same regard." -- Glenn BurnSilver