Interviewed at the AS220 film studio in Providence RI by author John F. Kelly. Directed by Chris Anderson for a new documentary about my work.
STU MEAD, master of the wiley prepubescent, slaps away at his slick, throbbing canvases deep in the Midwest – St. Paul, Minnesota, to be exact. Mead, luckily working in a community that prefers to turn a blind eye to what he does, has managed to build and sharpen one of them –there artistic visions ya read about in those fancy books. And he does it with a painting style so thick and creamy it takes a few minutes for the local grocery to dig through the sickly sweet camouflage to the tangy puerile center.
Mead dangerously acknowledges underage sexuality, and occasionally deflowers it – a forbidden act even in the wide-open world of art. But remember, the urge to depict is not an urge to act. There’s a definitive wall between the two, so just relax – it’s not newsreel footage, it’s not in your living room or your basement. It’s just in your head.
SECONDS: Is your work pornographic or erotic?
MEAD: When it’s sexual, I think it’s pornographic. “Erotic” is just a softer, more acceptable word. It symbolizes non-threatening pornography. With “pornography,” you picture something gross and matter-of-fact with no romance, no mood – just clinical pictures. Really, pornography is just a word covering explicit art and stories. I think the term was originally defined as “stories of, or by, harlots.” That’s all it originally was. “Pornography” is used to negatively attack people, but it’s a more benign word. I just like “erotica” because it’s so-
SECONDS: So Penthouse?
MEAD: Yeah, it’s generalized.
SECONDS: People tend to use the word “pornography” when they see women in degrading positions. You tend to glorify your women. It’s usually girls in power over the humbled man sneaking a quick glance.
MEAD: I think it reflects the sense of being inadequate next to this intense human being that’s making my body respond in these weird ways. When I depict a male, I’m depicting myself feeling like a schmuck next to this perfection. One enhances the other, just like strippers in old burlesque shows appeared beautiful because of the comics that performed along with them.
SECONDS: Is that a microcosm of male-female relationships?
MEAD: Maybe it’s a way of countering it. Obviously, with the patriarchal structure of society, men were the bosses. I’m sure there were very few households where the father wasn’t king, but for the entertainment he’d see himself as a helpless buffoon, the victim of feminine wiles.
SECONDS: Do your paintings display how you react to girls on the street?
MEAD: Oh yeah, I think so. The pictures are pretty much done without anyone in mind as an audience. When I do them, I strive towards forgetting who else would see them, so that I can pour myself into the picture. It’s always about me. Either I’m the male figure in the picture or it’s me voyeuring into a scene with females in it.
SECONDS: With Japanese Manga, five-year-old girls have the same body as thirty-year-old girls. What age group are you depicting?
MEAD: Women of all ages are beautiful and I merge them together when in what I depict. I think that’s typical of men who use imaginary females in their art as a fantasy vehicle. I hate to admit it, but that’s what I do. Girls can be power figures but a woman is darker. A women in my work is – I don’t know, what’s the world – “menacing.” I’m attracted to these pictures of girls because they’re shorter than me. I’m a short person so they’re somebody I could control. I’m thinking of a picture I did of a guy in a hospital room where there’s two nurses fondling each other and drinking gin. It’s the quintessential thing of being tormented by women, but pleasant tormenting. A lot of it is me reflecting the images I grew up with and have maintained throughout all my life, not having relationships with women –
SECONDS: Do any of your paintings start as masturbatory fantasies?
MEAD: I’d say a lot of them do. If you look at the work I did up to four years ago, you’d see a lot of sexuality in the work – but it wasn’t predominant. In the last four years, I’ve taken more work directly from my sketchbooks and that tends to be masturbatory images.
SECONDS: Are you a collector of pornography?
MEAD: Yes, I do have some. I’d hate to say “collection.” In my library, I have a bunch of pornographic artwork.
SECONDS: So you’re more into the artwork than the mass-produced magazines?
MEAD: Well, over the years I’ve bought a lot of magazines, that’s for sure. I have a love-hate relationship with them. I accumulate them but feel a disgust about having them.
SECONDS: But the art books don’t give you that feeling-
MEAD: No, they don’t, because art has a way of – it just doesn’t have a stigma. If Leg Show didn’t have this immediate stigma, I probably wouldn’t feel that way. The thing about handmade images is that they have so much to say about the artist.
SECONDS: How do women react to your work?
MEAD: Over the years, some of the strongest response I’ve gotten have been from women. Yet, my more recent work has alienated women – not that I’m trying to connect with them. (laughs) There’s plenty of grants here in Minnesota- it’s a good place for artists in that respect – and I’ve gotten a few grants over the years. I feel that because my recent work has been more pornographic, it’s been really hard for me to get through that grant process. On at least two occasions I knew of, women on these panels were completely disgusted.
SECONDS: How does the Mike Diana case apply to you? Do you feel any reverberations from that?
MEAD: No. That was a case where he was prosecuted in the courts. Minnesota hasn’t done anything to attack artists in that way. This state has a long Left Labor tradition that goes way back.
SECONDS: But don’t you think the attitudes that put him in jail exists in all cities?
MEAD: Sure. But here it’s a case of wanting to politely ignore offensive work and not dignify it with any kind of attack.
SECONDS: Has anyone had you do work to their own specs? For example, “I’d like three young girls undressed, standing on the hood of a Volkswagon.”
MEAD: I’ve never been any good at fulfilling other people’s visions. I don’t put my heart into it when it’s not my vision.
SECONDS: There tends to be a lot of defecation going on in you pieces. Is it fetishistic or representational for you?
MEAD: Both. For years, when I’d draw some orgy scene in a sketchbook, there’d always be someone shitting while getting screwed. Like I said, in recent years I’ve been culling more from these private drawings. I’ve painted pictures with this scatological subject matter and come to see that it’s connected self-degradation. I’ve done pool scenes where there’s all sorts of things going on – people swimming, people drying themselves off after getting out of the pool – and there’ll be some girl crapping into a bowl while some attendant is holding it in place for her. I’m just imagining these girls crapping on this paradigm of mine.
SECONDS: What about “Creative Children”? That to me, is a flagstone of your career. (Editor’s note: We cannot show this piece. Sorry.)
MEAD: There, I wasn’t trying to make a social comment, but I was trying to show these girls are the gods of their world and are producing men out of their own poop. It’s creating a myth.
SECONDS: Do you get feelings of guilt from doing this work?
MEAD: Oh yeah.
SECONDS: But you’ve said acting out any of those images is impossible for you.
MEAD: Yeah, it’s impossible for me for many reasons. Growing up disabled, I know what it’s like to have a rough time of it as a kid. For me to impose adult sexuality on a kid would be impossible to do. But I do think I am a pervert.
From the sweat stained pits of Left Coast comes Robert Williams, a lone hot rod runnin’ on the swamp gas of popular culture. You’ve sucked up his drippings from the pages of Zap Comix. His paintings read like the diary of a teen speed freak raised on Wonder Bread and model airplane glue whose life is spent giving or oral favors to death in the backseat of a Hot Wheels car, with one hand full of titty and the other scraping the last speck of meth from the foil. Williams sends you barrling through a never ending hell of Freudian slips where nickel and dime whores writhe before you on marzipan hot dog buns while their bad tit jobs and chop-shop features shine like the prettiest Playboy dreams but reek like the towel hamper in a men’s gym.
Our cum-drunk savior of Rock& Roll iconography stirred up dick-envious feminists with his Appetite for Destruction, a painting leased by Guns N’ Roses for their debut release. After almost half century of sodomizing the art Establishment, ol’ Hieronymous Bob can still send seekers of arcane knowledge and their benny fueled woodies back to their holes – but, more impressively, he can always have them out.
SECONDS: Now that you’ve become an established entity, how do you feel about your fans and the crowds that come to your shows?
WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t know how established I really am. Blackballed in a lot of shows for one reason or another, a lot of people just don’t care for my work. You see me from a while different side. If you were in my shoes, you’d see me continually trying to get ahead and not getting anywhere. Go over to the Museum of Modern Art and try ot get in there and see how you feel. You feel like nobody’s at the door.
SECONDS: A lot of people see you as an icon of underground culture – you don’t fee like that?
WILLIAMS: I do. I feel hundreds of young artists behind me trying to figure out where I’m going so they can go there too – and there’s no place to go. There’s just no academic acceptance of us, it’s just in very small quarters. We had a show out her in ’93 called Custom Culture at the Laguna Beach Art Museum. It was very successful and it was made up primarily of underground artists. That was the first real big underground art show. That went to Baltimore and Seattle and was very well received. I think that was a real breakthrough. Then again, everyone involved with it was totally categorized as some kind of car nostalgia situation with Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. WE have to take the good with the bad.
SECONDS: Who are the Art Establishment and what do they want?
WILLIAMS: It’s made up of different factions and you have to examine each faction. Let me try to describe them: First you’ve got a giant amount of art students that aren’t very talented and they have to go with what they’re capable of doing. They’ll find heroes that aren’t very good, heroes that are abstract and minimalist, stuff that doesn’t require years of technical training. You’ve got that large amount of students that go to schools, and schools will teach these people what to know because these kids have money. So they’ll teach them this retarded formal art generation and the teachers in there are students who’ve been taught the same crap. You’ve got a recycling of students who have no other way to make up a living but to become teachers. On top of that, you’ve got a museum system that’s got to kowtow to this giant amount of art students and art schools. They have to mediate between what the public wants and what these students are capable of doing. What they do is promote material that goes along with an already established storyline of what art is. This is based on the social trends, what’s hot in New York right now AIDS, gay rights – you have to consider all these elements as what’s gong to make your art. The more the thing goes down the line of success in museums, the further it gets away from actually being able to draw, think and have an imagination. You’ve got a lot of performance artists that are throwing together stuff that deals with social issues and it’s heralded as great art. The third element that dominates the art world is the foundations that fund all this stuff. Foundations in reality are nothing more than tax write -off factors that think they’re doing a charitable thing with this excess money that the have to get a tax write-off on. So they start stabbing it into art and what the further do is underwrite blue chip artists because it’s the safest thing to do. They’ve ventured into younger experimental artists and invested really highly in the 80’s, millions of dollars, and this whole house of cards, the art schools, the art students, the museums, the foundations, the galleries, collapsed in 1987 with that collapse of the stock market. Prior to that you could just have a room with a two railroad ties chained together and paint it day-glo and call it “Composition #14” and get $25,000. The average art in the 80s was making millions of dollars. Everyone feared there was really no value for this crap, and when the collapse came, all these foundations and museums were left with warehouses full of shit they paid fortunes for. It wasn’t worth the fucking materials they were made of. Japan took it in the ass to the tune of a couple billion dollars on these wild investments. You’re in a period right now where there’s kind of an open window if you’re a good artist. If you’re capable of producing good oil painting you can always ell that somewhere even in the face of these hard times. It’s awful hard for academic artists everywhere.
SECONDS: Do you consider cartoons as Americana?
WILLIAMS: Because of the movie industry in the 20s and because of Thomas Nast after the Civil War, it is probably more dominant in the United States. Of course Europe’s always had a lot of good cartoonists. It’s just a thing that’s happening now and it’s happening all over. There’s a couple of bad effects of it. One bad effect is becoming a thing in itself on its own. It’s not trying to force its way into the art world, it’s trying to keep itself separate and be an art form itself. I think artists make a very critical mistake when they do that.
SECONDS: A lot of your work is a parody of White culture.
WILLIAMS: Coming from a middle-class family in the 40s and 50s, that’s my take on the world. There’s a certain sarcasm in what I do, so I’m very careful not to elaborate on other people’s cultures because it’s sure to be misinterpreted. I just stick to with the observations from my White Mans’ world.
SECONDS: What do your naked cuties represent?
WILLIAMS: The naked cuties is my appreciation of women. I’m fascinated and preoccupied with women and I know a lot of other people are too. One of the first things you do when you learn to draw is draw a naked lady. I know the very first thing that was done with a camera was to get some girl to take her clothes off. Pornography is one of the early uses of the camera. Of course I get into a lot of trouble with feminists and progressive liberals about my use of women. In my mind’s eye, I’m not hurting anybody.
SECONDS: Unlike your older work, the women in the newer paintings look like mannequins.
WILLIAMS: One natural thing is, when you draw women, you tend to draw stylized imagery. It’s been worked out by a large consensus of other artists. You tend to stick to those stereotypes unless you get a model.
SECONDS: Do you use reference?
WILLIAMS: I use references and sometimes I use models.
SECONDS: How did the Appetite for Destruction scandal affect you?
WILLIAMS: That blossomed off of Guns N’ Roses. They’ve sold fifteen million records that either had that on the cover or had it on the sleeve inside. There was a tremendous reaction to that by a number of feminist groups and church groups. The PMRC bitched and moaned about it but the loudest cry was from feminists in Northern California and they picketed those Tower Record stores. About six or seven women’s groups Northern California jumped on that and first they hit Santa Cruz and said they were going to picket all the record stores that had it. So all the stores pulled it off the shelves except for Tower Records and they stood up against them for three or four weeks. Then the same thing happened in Berkeley. Some woman came to my defense in Santa Cruz. These feminists found some private business about her and pulled some ugly fucking techniques. Tower Records never gave up and the feminist groups ended up switching from Guns N’ Roses to pornographic video games.
SECONDS: It must have been fun watching that happen.
WILLIAMS: It wasn’t fun for me because I had to defend this thing in the newspapers because Guns N’ Roses weren’t very articulate. I had to have some pretty sharp answers because I was on the firing line with these broads. It’s kind of nerve-wracking; there’s nothing fun about it. You don’t know if these women are going to file a class action suit against me. You don’t know what the fuck’s going to happen. It’s not a thing where you say, “Oh boy, I’m getting publicity.” You start thinking, “Am I not going to be able to draw women anymore? Are the bitches going to work on me to the point I can’t even represent their breasts?”
SECONDS: Could you imagine a type of music to go with your work?
WILLIAMS: I could see a lot of Punk Rock music. I could see a lot more polished music like the Chili Peppers, Butthole Surfers- music that’s got movement. Your ear listens because there’s going to be a change but at the same time there’s a driving beat that keeps your blood flowing.
SECONDS: Would your work change if you weren’t worried about sales and public sentiment?
WILLIAMS: The reason I haven’t gotten very far is because I do what I want. I never get big write-ups in big magazines because my stuff’s offensive to the vast majority of people.
SECONDS: Do you find it healthy to witness violence and depravity?
WILLIAMS: I don’t know how healthy it is and I don’t know how bad it is for you but I do know it’s a starving demand that everyone has. You take the most clean cut conservative self-righteous woman who goes to church and she’d just be happy to death to see a rapist beat to death. It’s in all of us. One thing we all have to distinguish between is our thoughts and the reality around us. We have to be able to think things that are wildly imaginative but not carry them out in reality.
SECONDS: What do you consider a weak point in your work?
WILLIAMS: I’ve got an awful lot of shortcomings in what I do. I look at my body of work and in reality, compared to a lot of artists in history. I’m kind of mediocre. But compared to artists today, I come off like Titian or somebody. I do have a lot of shortcomings but on the other hand, I got tenacity and I keep working. Unhappy as I am with it sometimes, I look at other people’s work and I get back home and I’m just tickled pink.
SECONDS: What’s a working day for you?
WILLIAMS: Between 1985 and 1992, I used to put in about ninety hours a week. I’d get up at 4:20 every morning. I produced a tremendous body or work. I worked seven days a week but that pooped out after a show in New York. I had thirty paintings in there and that just burnt me out. I’m still working pretty good now but I work eight to ten hours a day now instead of fifteen hours a day.
SECONDS: How fast do these things come out of you?
WILLIAMS: I produce a painting a month now. But I’m doing a lot more detail in the paintings. I reached a situation where there’s a large waiting list of buyers and I’m just trying to level out to a nice work place to keep going for a long time.
SECONDS: In Freudian terms, your work could be viewed as product of deep-rooted sexual problems. What’s your viewpoint?
WILLIAMS: One of the big influences on me, and especially on comic book artists, even if they don’t want to admit it, is the Surrealist movement of the 20’s and early 30’s. That had a tremendous effect on modern society, especially graphics. You don’t see that much in buildings, but it had a tremendous effect on cartoons, animation, abstract thought. Surrealism had an effect on everybody. One thing that was key to Surrealism was the use of the imagination and the deep search of the subconscious. A lot of experts now believe there isn’t really that much to the subconscious. I’m kind of inclined to agree with that. I have a goal to pursue a system, or attitude, or philosophy to figure out what makes up imagination and what are the powers of imagination and how to develop an abstract thought and synthesize pure imagination. I don’t think anyone has really sat down and tried to figure out what is imagination. What are the facets of imagination that have to deal with the manic notions of something being desirable? I just think there’s a new for imagination to go in. I’ve always been fascinated with looking into some kind of new mental stepping-stones into a depth that hasn’t been plundered yet. We’re all endowed with this gigantic amount of imagination. It’s so bothersome to people because it’s so Freudian, anal and sexual and they put it in the Bible. The Bible’s a good place if you have a lot of imagination. You could just go through the Bible and drain your imagination off into these four-thousand-year old stories. That’s primarily what the Bible is for, a place to put your hungry imagination. A lot of people aren’t that hungry for The Bible because they’ve got other places to put their imagination, like in the movies, in comic books, video games, all the other entertainments that weren’t available two hundred years ago. Right now we’re supposed to be in the most enlightened time in history, yet you’ve got more fucking idiots involved in astrology and occult and witchcraft and crap like that and they’re drawn in because of the romantic imagination involved.
SECONDS: Do you read a lot?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I read a lot. I’m very interested in history and taking situations that happened and trying to reinterpret them in another view that is not a popular view. It’s seeing things through my own eyes. Like taking someone out of history, reading everything about him and imagining if you knew this idiot. Napoleon would be a good example. He occupied a power vacuum when there was a need for a strong man. Things would just of his way because he was a lucky man. He wasn’t a brilliant son of a bitch, just strong like Hitler. If Hitler wasn’t born, Hermann Goering would have filled his spot. If Hermann Goering wasn’t there than another idiot would have filled his spot. You look Hitler and you see this poor retarded idiot who tried to be a house painter, tried to be an artist and had a real constipated imagination. He was a fairly good renderer – good dexterity and hand eye control – but he would not allow himself any luxury in imagination and he hated anyone who did have imagination. He did everything he could to persecute any of the modern artists. I guess I said enough about al that.
SECONDS: What’s your view of the New York art scene?
WILLIAMS: All these young artists try to live the romance of disparity. It’s kind of a pathetic scenario. You’ve got a large amount of artists that end up being role models for people that can’t do things. You have to give artists as much longitude as possible, you can’t stifle the arts. On the other hand you have this giant amount of people that cant’ do anything that are filling the art schools. There was a hundred and fifty thousand people on the island on Manhattan representing themselves as fine arts artists. Can you imagine that number of people? Have you got the scope of that? It’s unbelievably brutal. There’s nothing really wrong with it but you’ve got this giant work force that’s not working.
SECONDS: It’s to the point that they accept that their lives and their art are masturbation.
WILLIAMS: When I was young, they didn’t come to that reality, they still had all this fucking hope and it was even worse then. When I was an art student in ’63 and you’re in a class of forty people, two of those people had a chance of making a living in the arts and they’d probably be teachers. Now when you’re in an art class of forty people, you’ve got maybe eight people that can make it. So things have quadrupled. You have this giant amount of success in thirty years but you’re still looking at thirty-two people that are sucking wind. They’re sure as fuck not going to like what I do because what I do requires at least a decade of training and artists are not going to take on a decade of training in this modern age because everyone wants to hand loose because some opportunity might come their way. They don’t want to bog down and learn how to draw, how to do landscapes or nothing like that, they want to be ready for that computer job that comes up, they want to be free to become a performance artist. They have to be loose and ready to go so they never learn a fucking thing.
SECONDS: How will computer animation affect the art world?
WILLIAMS: Yes I do. I think there’s more opportunities in art now than there’s ever been before. But you have to be capable and dedicated. You have to develop a rich imagination. Because museums are starting to have these collectors try to dump art on them so they can get a tax write-off. This stuff isn’t worth the fucking stuff it’s made out of. These big artists that were big in the 80s, if they’re lucky, they’ll get a third of what they were asking in the 80s. So the art world has come down to reality. People are looking for something solid and interesting to put their money in. People have not given up on the arts. I hear people say all the time in the galleries, “ People aren’t buying anymore.” Well, what the fuck is there to buy? If I gave you a half million dollars, what the fuck would you buy? I sure as fuck wouldn’t invest money in that crap. I’d buy German helmets or hot rods or I’d buy fine old artwork. The market on good old Renaissance artwork hasn’t dropped at all.
SECONDS: Your work moves faster than MTV.
WILLIAMS: When I put a painting together – remember, a painting is a static two-dimensional thing. People already know that when you represent three dimensions it isn’t really three dimensions it isn’t’ really three dimensions. They were on to that trick five hundred years ago. So when you have a painting, that Renaissance style of entertainment has got to compete with video games, good modern pornography, sports, television, radio, so you’ve got to have energetic visual devices in the painting to lock people in there. Part of locking people in is coming up with imagery they don’t necessarily like but will hold them. Of course this requires gratuitous sex and violence, use of children in unpopular ways, things like that hold to people. If you can hold a person on one of your paintings for forty-five seconds, there’s a good chance he’ll look at another one of your paintings. If you can get him to look at three or four paintings, you’ve got the guy by the nuts. He’ll remember you, he’ll hunt up more of your work, he’ll talk about you to people that will buy your books, buy your prints and encourage people with money to buy the paintings. So you’ve got to come up with interesting devices – the use of color, graphics, contrast – you’ve got to use every fucking thing in your arsenal to get attention and hold people.
JOE COLEMAN is one of the most recognized cult figures in American Art. He covers paintings with microscopic detail in order to lovingly skewer the mind and eye – but his paintings aren’t about paint: they’re graphic expressions of memory and intelligence. Coleman records his own inner knowledge like a Speed-crazed librarian in a mindset where “absorb!” is the command of the moment. He is part of a tradition which traces back to Bosch, Breughel, Durer and Albright.
SECONDS: What’s more visually powerful, sex or death?
COLEMAN: Death as an image is somehow more powerful. We get to experience sex – and even before you actually experience sex it might be even more compelling – but at the point of actually experiencing death, it’s too late to have it as a memory. So it’s like looking at something that you’ll have to eventually experience, which makes it even more of a mystery. Sex may have mysterious elements around it but it’s something adults engage in all the time. So even though they might be aroused by certain images, it’s still familiar.
SECONDS: Are the things that thrill people as adults the same as what thrilled them as children?
COLEMAN: For me that’s true. It hasn’t changed that much, although it’s become refined. You need a stronger thrill, but it’s in a similar direction. The same way with drugs, where you need a stronger hit to get off. You just keep upping the ante, to have a more intense thrill.
SECONDS: I know what you’re saying. I don’t feel I’ve changed at all since I was a kid. I still have the image of what art should be –
COLEMAN: Oh yeah, the drawings I did in childhood are not really that much different. The subject matter is very similar. I still have these drawings of somebody set on fire, another person beings stabbed, and Jesus being nailed to the cross. All these images are still a major part of my work – even though the work itself had become more refined, the inspirations are still almost exactly the same as they were when I was a child, even though I know more about how to get more in touch in those images and how to find out how they relate to history, how they relate to me, and how they can be conquered in the sense of conquering fears or overwhelming forces. In the same way, to capture an image of death and to project it in some way like a shaman’s sacred object – like if you own a photo of death, even though people don’t usually think about it literally, it kind of makes you feel like you have some power over it.
SECONDS: Why do people equate violence, death and pestilence with maturity, while perceiving happiness and bliss as immature qualities?
COLEMAN: There’s something about childhood that’s looked at as being innocent. But if you really look at children, they’re full of all kinds of cruelties – and they have sexual desires as well. But adults tend to look at children in the manner of Adam and Eve in the Garden Of Eden. Maturity, which is usually linked to sexual maturity, is like the expulsion from The Garden of Eden. And from then on, you’re living this kind of corrupted adulthood full of evil, which you don’t see in childhood. A child could do something really cruel to another child, and it’s not really considered evil because they’re still in paradise. But once they get old enough and do the same exact thing, all of a sudden they’re evil. It may have something to do with sexual maturity – somehow that corrupts the flesh. Remember, the tree Adam and Eve ate that contained the fruit of knowledge.
SECONDS: The whole concept of good and evil is sort of odd.
COLEMAN: Yeah, the concept of good and evil was formulated in order for civilization to work because you have to buy into this idea in order to live in a man-made environment. This was manmade rules; not nature’s rules because nature doesn’t really care, nature has no sense of good and evil.
SECONDS: You die and you go back into the ground and break down so nature can grow more plants.
COLEMAN: Yeah, and we do kind of the same thing with animals as we do with kids. We look at kids and animals, and they may do really horrible stuff but we look at them as being innocent. But we look at ourselves as being imperfect and having fallen from grace. I think we fell from grace when we created civilization – that’s when primordial sex became a big sin. We’ve reached this point in civilization where we can’t be the innocent animal that can slay another animal without it being evil. It’s pure, but we’ve lost that by becoming civilized.
SECONDS: I’m guessing from your work that you prefer to witness anguish over bliss.
COLEMAN: I don’t’ know if that holds true personally, but the work deals with more anguish than bliss, certainly. But I’m not sure that it’s more important for me to try and paint that stuff. What’s the point of painting a beautiful sunset? It works; there’s no need to transform it into anything. But when I paint really disturbing things, there’s some need to control it or define it or isolate it – to put charms around it to protect me from it. You don’t need to do those things to something beautiful necessarily, except the way I paint me and my girlfriend – which is trying to protect love and trying to prevent it from escaping. But that painting of bliss is connected to fear as well because then you can hold it when you’re afraid of losing it.
SECONDS: So you’re trying not to keep anything, you’re trying to exorcise it. Do you consider yourself enlightening by frightening or frightening by enlightening?
COLEMAN: It may be enlightening, but the only one I’m trying to enlighten is me. I can’t pretend to enlighten the world. It’s nice if that happens, but what’s really exciting for me is the engagement with my own enlightenment, for me to learn things through painting.
SECONDS: Most artists don’t like to admit that sort of thing. That’s where the real outsider art comes from, doesn’t it?
COLEMAN: Well, I think so. When it’s real – not when people are calling it that, but when it’s truly that. The whole term “outsider” I think is very condescending and it’s used to create a commodity, which really takes away from the purity of it. You’re giving it this term to sell it with, which is very contradictory and it corrupts it. The funny thing about outsider art is that twenty years ago you had artists who’d gone to the best universities in the country and when they opened their mouths everyone thought they were great artists because no one knew what the hell they were saying. Now you’ve got these people who’ve gone to the worst prisons and madhouses and when they open their mouths no one knew what the hell they’re saying either – and they think that makes a great artist. But really, neither are great artists. In the end, it’s the work that’ s really important. There’s nothing wrong with having mystery, but there’s also a lot to be said for something you could truly understand and feel compelled by when you see it.
SECONDS: Does the artist’s identity at some point become more important than the art?
COLEMAN: Yeah, certainly, that’s happening all the time with most modern art and it seems to be happening a lot in outsider art. These persons are judged by their life and not the art itself. It’s kind of like the huckster selling some real horrible life experiences – selling work that’s merited only by the person who’s paying. That should all be part of it but it should be intrinsically linked. The work has to stand up by itself, no matter what.
SECONDS: Do you have any problem with artists taking themselves very seriously?
COLEMAN: No. An artist taking themselves seriously is not a bad thing; that’s a good thing about the outsiders – they’re very earnest. That’s a good thing because there’s too many people being ironic.
SECONDS: Irony seems to be a staple of modern art.
COLEMAN: It’s very superficial. It’s just playing on the surface, acting very above it all; it’s not really getting in there. Once you jump down into the snakepit and you get your hands dirty, that’s when you really have something to offer.
SECONDS: Has the subculture been good to you?
COLEMAN: Sometimes it’s hard for me to thin there even is a subculture these days, it’s so subjective and so co-opted by the mainstream. I mean, Ed Wood was a major Hollywood movie – no one would’ve imagined that would’ve happened twenty years ago. That’s not to put down the movie because I thought it was great, but it’s just a strange time that we live in.
SECONDS: Yeah – it all got sucked up, starting with the music. Underground heroes became the mainstream successes. There used to be this quaintness – you do not want to share your underground heroes.
COLEMAN: Yeah, and it’s becoming harder all the time for that because the underground is disappearing – it’s constantly being sold to a big market. I don’t think there was a big market for so-called counterculture – but now there is, and it happened really fast.
SECONDS: What are your perceptions on mainstream Pop Culture?
COLEMAN: I don’t think I ever really got it, but I have personal interests. But I’m never gonna run out of things I enjoy – I collect old books and old movies and objects. None of that has changed over the years, and there’s never enough out there. As far as Pop Culture, I’m not really even sure what it is. Unless something’s put right to my face, I don’t see it. It’s just not something that’s important to me.
SECONDS: Your work has this insane librarian aspect with a sense of education about it.
COLEMAN: You’re probably right. I always collected history books and old religious art, too. My work is storytelling. Even though there’s a single image, there’s a whole novel with each painting, and every little image has a significance to it – nothing’s arbitrary. It does educate, I’m sure, but I was thinking more of being a storyteller rather than an educator. My grandfather was an ex-prizefighter that ran speakeasies in the Catskill Mountains during Prohibition, and I used to love hearing him tell stories. I’m not an educator in that I’m not trying to tell what people what to think. This is what interests me, and this is what I need to find out for myself – and I can’t tell you what you need to find out about.
SECONDS: The obsessive quality of your work reminds me of Adolf Wolfli –
COLEMAN: There’s a certain personality like that, and people who are not like that don’t understand it all. Some people have a problem looking at my work because there’s too much going on, while other people are the opposite – they need all the simulation. White rooms scar me – my place is crammed with tons and tons of stuff, and that’s how I feel comfortable. I have one room that’s a shrine, it looks halfway between a dime museum and a church, and my work room has every corner of the walls pasted with newspaper clippings, photos, posters, decals, nailed to or taped to every square inch of the walls.
SECONDS: Are your portraits done with empathy or envy – or both?
COLEMAN: It’s more like method acting, where you become that person and you find those things in the character which are like you. In that way, they’re self-portraits. It also comes out of dreams of my home, especially where I grew up, across the street from a cemetery, which very much became a part of my work, stylistically as well. I spent a lot of time playing in the graveyard and studying the headstones – the lettering in my work dates back to that period of my life.
SECONDS: Type styles seem to really interest you.
COLEMAN: Yeah, because that’s something I’m really engaged with – I’m engaged with color, texture, lighting; and words have a similar level of visual engagement. For me, words are another part of creating this dense surface I’m after. I see words as very electric and vibrating – they have a sonic quality. To me, that’s part of the way of creating a sense of experience. In my experience right now, I’m talking to you and I have all these visuals going on. There’s visuals forming form the words I’m talking, and for the words that are also going on in my head. All these things put together are part of a total experience.
SECONDS: Aldous Huxley said people take words at face value; when you describe sensations like vertigo or angst or anger or tiredness, you can’t fully explain them.
COLEMAN: Yeah, sometimes it takes art to describe it.
SECONDS: If you had mainstream America’s attention for one minute and you could expose them to anything, what would it be?
COLEMAN: In terms of mainstream or not, it wouldn’t be one of my concerns. I share the things that I have an interest in. It’s more about sharing these experiences with people in general that share things that are of interest to me. I don’t think of what to say to people because they’re mainstream or counterculture; it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is what I’m feeling at a specific time – what I’m excited about. Where it comes from, I’m not interested. If they’re willing to listen, that’s a start. But if I find out that I’m talking to someone who really can’t understand, then I give up and go to somebody else.
SECONDS: One has to serve one’s self – some people would see that as selfishness.
COLEMAN: But the self is all you’ve got. It’s foolish to try and to claim you’re not selfish – it’s impossible to survive if you’re not selfish. The idea of trading is selfish but both parties get something out of it. It’s mutually beneficial. The point is, “What’s in it for me?” – which is honest and direct. I’m more mistrustful of the person who says he’s doing something for me than the person who says he’s doing something for himself.
Mike Diana is not only an artist, he is also an honorary enemy of the state. In 1994 Mike was indicted on three counts of obscenity for publishing, advertising, and distributing Boiled Angel, a comics compendium that disturbed the pious inhabitants of his small Floridian town Largo. Awakened from their splendorous slumber by word of a young, long haired trailer park child led astray by the wiley temptations of Satan, those inhabitants set out to protect themselves and future generations from Diana’s morally questionable narrative. So frightened were they of his sordid tales of child and drug use that Mike was convicted and ordered by the courts of Pinellas County not to approach within ten feet of any child under eighteen of age. He was sentenced to perform 3,000 hours of community service and was ordered to keep within the County confines for three years. In the frenzy to assign fault to Mr. Diana, he was even questioned for the Gainesville student murders while in custody. His home became open territory for the police to rummage through for anything they deemed obscene. Sheriff’s could’ve even run Mike in for cohabitating with stripper Suzi Morbid. The par met in the hall of the Pinellas County courthouse, each of them on their way to their own obscenity hearings.
“The judge gave the probation office and police permission to conduct warrantless searches of my apartment for any signs of me creating artwork that might be considered obscene.”
SECONDS: Did you set out to be the world’s most violent cartoonist?
SECONDS: Florida hasn’t been the best place for a blossoming artist like yourself. Would any of that’ve happened if you lived anywhere else?
DIANA: Probably not. They’ve been after me for awhile and I think they saw this as a way to get to me.
SECONDS: Couldn’t they come into your home at any time they wanted to look for anything they deemed obscene?
DIANA: Yeah. They judge gave the probation office and police permission to conduct warantless searches of my apartment for any signs of me creating artwork that might be considered obscene.
SECONDS: Would that include pornography if you had an issue of Penthouse lying around?
DIANA: I asked my lawyer and he said just to be safe I should get everything out of the house that might be questionable. I had those probation requirements hanging over me for about three months until the Comic Book Defense Fund paid the bond to get me off probation. They never did check the house but I was worried the police were gonna raid it.
SECONDS: In the news reports of your case, the funniest thing was that they had a logo for you, like they do for a tornado. What did it say, “Case Of The Boiled Angel”?
SECONDS: At the time it was stressful, but were you also laughing?
DIANA: Yeah, I was. I’d get up at eight o’clock in the morning to court and I’d be in court for four hours. They had protesters out there and religious people that’d show up and tell me I had to find the Lord. I usually didn’t get much sleep the night before. After I’d been in court all day, the news was the thing to top everything off for the night.
SECONDS: Did your parents follow the case?
DIANA: They watched it but they didn’t like the way the news reports brought up the fact that I was a suspect in the Gainesville student murders.
SECONDS: Is your case over now?
DIANA: The jury trial and all that is over. Since the appeal, it’s in the hands of the court and they lawyers. I don’t think I have to appear in court again except maybe on violation of my probation charges because I didn’t pay my fines. I was ordered to pay a $3000 fine at $100 a month and I owe them $200.
SECONDS: You had community service, right?
DIANA: Yeah, and the psychiatrist bill was $1200, so I owe that psychiatrist money.
SECONDS: What good has come from all this?
DIANA: Sometimes people don’t wanna print the stuff but all the publicity helped to get my stuff published, like my drawings about the case itself.
SECONDS: Have you had any trouble with publishers over content?
DIANA: Not really. Brutarian magazine didn’t wanna print the “Pisshole” comic. They’d been printing everything I sent and this one time they said they didn’t want it.
SECONDS: Did you have some trouble with Fantagraphics when some artists refused to be published with you?
DIANA: Yeah, that was Zero Zero magazine. I heard some of the artists and readers of the magazine thought my work didn’t deserve to be in the magazine with other artists.
SECONDS: When people talk about your work, they can’t decide whether or not you’re going for shock value. Do you have any intentions when you sit down to write?
DIANA: I want people to think about what is really going on in the story. A rape in real life is violent and I draw that out that way if I have a rape scene. Some people are just scared because they’re not used to seeing that stuff in regular comic form. It’s shocking that these things happen but I wanna make people more aware these things were going on around them, like priests molesting children. With Boiled Angel, the jury didn’t like the anti-religious things. The whole idea behind those anti-religious things is to be political. That should have helped me in my trial because if something has political value, it’s not supposed to be ruled as being obscene. The jury didn’t understand that, though.
SECONDS: I always sensed a deep sadness in your comics.
DIANA: Yeah. In Florida, they assume I’m trying to turn people into deviants, like these are comics that child molesters and pedophiles are gonna read, but I think it’s just the opposite. Those type of people aren’t gonna get into what I’m drawing.
SECONDS: How was school for you? It seems you’re always writing about traumatized middle school children.
DIANA: I didn’t like my middle school days. I was born in New York and moved to Florida when I was in the fourth grade. I never made a good adjustment in school. I was doing real good in school when I was in New York but I cane to Florida and we had a new living situation and I didn’t do as well in school as I used to. I know how much work I had to do to barely get by and pass to the next grade and that’s what I’d do. I was glad to finally graduate and get out.
SECONDS: Didn’t your mother treat you when she was training to be a nurse?
DIANA: When I as little, every time I was a little sick, I’d take medicine and get an enema.
SECONDS: She’d practice on you?
SECONDS: Another things that’s prevalent in what you do is drug abuse. Where do you stand on drugs?
DIANA: I don’t use drugs myself.
SECONDS: Not even the light stuff?
DIANA: Every now and then – I quit drinking because of my stomach. It’s slowly getting better but it takes a while to heal.
SECONDS: You’ve messed around with light psychedelics, right? I see that in your work.
DIANA: I was never high at any time when I did my art. I’m usually sober when I draw, but it was an influence on my older drawings. A lot of the characters I was drawing fit in with the drug abuse.
SECONDS: Where do you pull your imagery from?
DIANA: Some of them are from nightmares I’ve had. Especially when I was young, I’d have nightmares every night. I always had this nightmare I was falling out of an airplane. But a lot of ideas come from dreams, and others from news reports. Like the “Baby Fuck Dog Food” story – the thing that gave me that idea was a true case in New York City. This stepfather killed his infant son and to get rid of the baby’s body, he fed it to the family dog, so they had to dissect the dog to get the baby out. Another idea I got from the alligators that are in the ponds here. There’s so many of them around in Florida now. There was one of these old persons’ mobile home communities and a lot of them have their own retention ponds with fountains. This little girl was visiting her grandma and playing by the lake and an alligator came up and ate her. As soon as something like that happens, they get rid of all the gators in the area. They kill them or catch them and put them in gator farms – there’s a lot of gator farms in Florida.
SECONDS: I’ve seen them sell gator skulls, too.
DIANA: Yeah, souvenir heads and skulls. They used to make ashtrays out of baby alligators. I saw an alligator lamp once where the alligator was standing up and the cord was going through it with a bulb and lampshade on it. I got this stuffed baby alligator with a prison uniform on. They used to have alligators dressed up like cheerleaders.
SECONDS: How much did they go for?
DIANA: Oh, like thirty dollars. In the Seventies, they’d sell baby alligators as pets. It wasn’t a serious pet; it was a fad.
SECONDS: Is it true about them resurfacing in sewers?
DIANA: Yeah, it is. It’s probably exaggerated, but I’ve heard of real cases.
SECONDS: Aside from being jailed, what’s the most negative reaction anyone’s had to your stuff?
DIANA: I’ve heard Dennis Warden, the cartoonist, hates my stuff.
SECONDS: What’s the worst?
DIANA: Well, when I was in Screw in New York somebody wrote me a postcard that said something like, “You’re a little no-talented punk and you should get a real life.” A lot of religious people come up to me and tell me I’m serving Satan.
SECONDS: Are people scared of you?
DIANA: My art is a lot different from who I really am and the way I act.
SECONDS: Isn’t that usually the way?
SECONDS: Are you still using Flair pens?
DIANA: No, I’m using these technical pens and brushes. I’ve been doing a lot of acrylic paintings lately.
SECONDS: What’s the bare necessity for you besides supplies?
DIANA: Just any kind of an idea.
SECONDS: Do you derive inspiration from living in Florida, working in your father’s pizza shop or when you worked in his liquor store?
DIANA: Yeah, I always got plenty of good ideas working in the liquor store and pizza shop here. I used to draw wherever I was. When I was working for the school board, I’d get done with my work on the night shift and sit at a desk and draw a comic.
SECONDS: So, you work full time for your father at his pizza shop?
DIANA: Yup, making pizzas and lots of dough, but not a lot of money. That’s a joke I tell drunks when they come in. Church groups come to buy giant pizzas and I put a giant pepperoni cross on the pizzas.
SECONDS: Isn’t your Dad a slumlord?
DIANA: He used to be when he owned some of the trashiest apartments in Largo. They’d always write articles in the paper about him, like when he wouldn’t mow the grass. He got in an argument one time because the city said, “You’ve got to mow that property. The grass is too high.” They’ll come out with special rulers to see how hight the grass is and they’ll fine you. He just ignored all the letters and calls. When I started to be on the news, I said, “Remember when you were in the paper, Dad?” He used to have his won real estate business and it was called Buy Me Real Estate. On the signs he had a picture of his face with a big curly mustache. That was his trademark, a big mustache with wax. When he started turning into a slumlord, he got out of his own real estate and just started getting properties. The worst White Trash in Largo stayed at his properties. I always lived in his places.
SECONDS: Your dad must like your comics.
DIANA: No, he says they make him depressed.
SECONDS: Tell me some of the animal stories.
DIANA: In one of our houses, we had little tree frogs living in the shower. Little possums would walk through the house. My dad had a pile of garbage next to his bed and mice and rats were living in the pile. Before he went to bed at night, he’d set a mouse trap and catch a mouse right next to his bed every other night. He made the trap out of a piece of an aluminum lounge chair, a big board, and copper wire built into a spring. He also built a life size guillotine once that you could stick your head in. It had this big piece of sheet metal as a blade.
SECONDS: Did he use that to catch rodents?
DIANA: No, it was just to have in the backyard. It was an interesting place we were living – that’s the place we ended up getting kicked out of by the police. It was right after I got charged and the police were harassing us really bad. They sent a fire chief to look at our house and he declared it a fire hazard. Most of the houses in that are could’ve been declared fire hazards if they wanted to fuck with people, but they wanted to get rid of me so they condemned the house and gave us a week to move. We moved out and they bulldozed the whole house over. So we moved out of Largo. I’m living in Seminole now; that’s where the pizza shop is.
“Burundo Drumbi! – John French’s Series of Q&A’s, 00-01
In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic…
Questions by Steven Cerio
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2000 12:48 PM
Cerio; Hi John love your work, here are a few possible questions for your book. With Don being an untrained musician, I would imagine his piano parts would suffice for melodic guidelines but how did he impart his rhythmic ideas to you?
John French: By singing, or actually playing the drums. Sometimes he would stomp on the floor or pat his legs. His rhythmic parts on piano were written as played. I just wrote down the rhythms he played.
Cerio; Do you believe that the instinct of an untrained musician like Don can surpass the instinct of a studied musician?
John French: Absolutely, and Don is living proof. The problem is in the communication. Don had amazing musical ideas, but limited ways in which to communicate them. There are perceptions that had he been trained, he would have never been able to “break the rules.” I seriously doubt that he could have been trained, because he would have refused the training.
Cerio; I have witnessed Magic Band performances and as a percussionist and rabid fan I have noticed that each Magic Band drummer has exactly duplicated the
performances of each respective recording, is this something demanded by the
Captain? And if so how much improv and / or mistakes could you get away with,
John French: Don would insist upon players playing it exactly as recorded. However, I don’t believe he would have noticed any minor permutations as long as the structure on the whole did not collapse. I understand that later band members used to “tattle” on any one who did something different or self-expressive on stage. They policed themselves. I can never recall Don once coming up to me and saying, “You played that wrong tonight, it goes like this…” I didn’t improvise much, because the nature of the music made it more difficult for the other players. The arrangements were “houses of cards,” one part dependent on the other.
Cerio; In your work with the Magic Band you were subject to the entwining of multiple time signatures, were the difficulties of these parts (assuming they were of
difficulty to you!) a large object to overcome combined with the distractions of
performance night after night?
John French: By the time anything was performed on stage, it was ingrained within our memories so completely that it was very difficult to get lost. Initially it took a great deal of concentration to actually play a song from beginning to end. You couldn’t really listen to the other players in certain sections, or you would lose your place. Don’s unpredictable stage performances, as I mentioned in other answers, occasionally caused some train wrecks.
Seconds #45, 1997
by Steven Cerio
You’d have to list Stanley Mouse among the most memorable aestheticians to come down the pike since Normal Rockwell. But I’d hesitate to label Mouse a master of Psychedelic Art. To dub Stanley a master is to say he worked within the confines of a set form and fully acknowledged and exercised the laws of past technicians of said form. But Mouse helped create the form from rubble. He cast the frozen standard. Mouse is a maker! He laid down the track that any book-worming retro punk of psychedelic masterdom must follow. Stanley Mouse didn’t rise from the art books. He came from up inside the music.
A child of Fifties Detroit, little Stanley spent lifetimes huddling under the sheets sneaking listens to the devil’s very own R&B, absorbing the tunes and developing a good prepubescent crush on the culture. He channeled those energies into art, mastering the airbrush at a very early age. With his parents and family behind him he went on to set up a mail order t-shirt business. He panhandled his wares at Midwestern Hot Rod shows and drag strips where he rubbed elbows with chubby characters like Big Daddy Roth, all while attending art school.
Mouse uprooted to the West Coast where he came face to face with the Coppertone-stained surf culture and its resident visionary Rick Griffin, with whom Stanley built a friendship that lasted until Rick’s untimely death in 1992.
In 1965, the San Francisco psychedelic scene really came together and happened. At that time the Haight-Ashbury was a sleepy neighborhood populated by only a small percentage of long hairs. Mouse haunted the print shops, snatching up posters wet off the press.
The Stanley Mouse-Alton Kelley connection was made in ’65 as well. The pair went on to create album covers, posters and other ephemera for The Grateful Dead, Starship, Rolling Stones, Wings, Journey and Steve Miller, to mention a few. They crated dozens of classic psychedelic posters for shows held at the now legendary Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms. Mouse coagulated his talents amidst Joplin, Eric Clapton and Robert Crumb. Stanley sent home posters and shirts to his family back in Detroit and they opened The Mouse House, a classic head shop to this day. Mouse became known as the “Grateful Dead artist” through his tight affiliation with the band, completing a fortune in graphics throughout their history. Mouse remains a Deadhead fave to this day. But his crown grew heavy and restricting at times. He hid from the Dead in Santa Fe, his crown secreted under a very big hat. In Santa Fe he went on to further investigate painting, something with which he is experimenting with to this day.
In 1993, Mouse’s 52nd year, his liver pooped out. Close to a half million dollars was needed for the surgery and organ replacement. The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Dinosaurs and New Riders of the Purple Sage amongst the many others pledged benefit shows and money. Stanley got a fresh liver – one that’s not regularly dipped in turpentine and toxic oil painting pigment like his ’52 model.
He continues to scribble and plat away with the same intensity he harnessed in the Sixties, each piece the expression of solidity with an obvious tinge of Zen as the basis of the sauce. But where there were many nervous notes in his earlier work, his new work abounds with confident open spaces packed full of reverberation and visions of a center. A wet freedom slides loose and glues the ideas in place.
Stanley Mouse resides in Somona, California with his wife and daughters. He amuses himself with sketching from models and writing ugly little death marches on his toy synthesizer. His book Freehand: The Art of Stanley Mouse is available from Snow Lion Graphics – PO Box 9465, Berkley, CA 94709.
SECONDS: So Stanley, I have some questions laid out –
MOUSE: All the regular questions? “How did you meet the Grateful Dead?” It’s a burning question.
SECONDS: No, I am not going to ask that. Let’s start with this: When did you realize you wanted to dedicate your life to art?
MOUSE: That’s a toughie. There’s so many moments that made me aim this way. Like the day I bought an airbrush and painted something weird on a t-shirt in my backyard and the neighborhood kids saw me doing it and in two seconds they had all their t-shirts out for me to paint. At that point, there was no other thing I could do. I was forced into it. (laughs)
SECONDS: What does an artist need – clarity or delusion?
MOUSE: A balance of both.
SECONDS: Your stuff seems to go both ways. Your airbrush work is very technical and labor intensive and other work looks like you’re just having fun.
MOUSE: I just finished a painting that looks like a Degas painting. I was thinking, “What do I do now? Do I draw hot rod monsters over it or Grateful Dead album covers?” I guess it’s a fantasy connected with the real skill.
SECONDS: What do you see as the difference between older Rock posters and what’s being produced now?
MOUSE: Before it was an explosion; now it’s a traffic jam.
SECONDS: It seems like the monster dragsters are coming back in vogue now.
MOUSE: I like painting hot rod monsters but I think hot rods look dumb now. Hot rods in the old days used to be bad. Now they’re just nostalgic looking. In the old days, when you drove down the street in a hot rod it was really a statement. There’s no sense of humor in cars now.
SECONDS: Rumor has it that Ed Roth stole the Rat Fink from the work you were doing –
MOUSE: Well, he stole my mouse image and took my character Freddy Flypogger and turned him into a rodent. You take the tail, ears and nose off and you have Freddy Flypogger. I was painting on the East Coast car show circuit and Roth came from the West Coast to a show in Pittsburgh. He was showing his car off and said, “Hey kid, can I paint at the show with you? You’ll learn how to make three hundred dollars instead of a hundred.” I said, “Let’s do it.” He set up next to me and he had a pair of Levis, a giant stomach and no shirt on and he sat on his little stool that was about a foot high and started painting. He was painting snakes and skulls, groovy stuff, but he was real slow and he only painted in black and white. I went fast and colored everything in and wound up making a thousand dollars. He made three hundred. He took a bunch of my catalogs back to L.A. and had his artists copy all my stuff and they created Rat Fink out of my characters.
I called my shirts Monster shirts and he called his Weirdo shirts. Then he started calling his stuff Monster shirts and even stole the pointed hat idea from me and called them Rat Fink hats.
SECONDS: You were close friends with Rick Griffin, too.
MOUSE: I stopped doing t-shirts and moved to California. I was painting shirts while my girlfriend was piercing eyes. We were all chewing peyote buttons. These three little surfer kids came and said, “Paint Murph on a shirt?” I said, “Who?” They ripped me apart and laughed at me. They went and got Surfer magazine and in it was the cartoon strip “Murph the Surf.” So I painted them a shirt with Murph the Surf on it.
About a year later I moved to San Francisco and the lady living next to me was Rick Griffin’s wife. She saw some of the posters I was doing and sent one to Rick in Southern California. Rick made a beeline up to San Francisco and joined in on the posters.
SECONDS: What is the project you’re doing with Peter Max?
MOUSE: I saw him at a show and we talked about doing Summer Of Love posters, where I’d do the West Coast and he’d do the East Coast Summer Of Love.
SECONDS: He’d probably get a sponser behind it…
MOUSE: Right; we could have Honda –
SECONDS: You could design a monster hot rod and they could build it for you.
MOUSE: That would be nice. I am working on my West Coast poster right now and it’s really neat.
SECONDS: What kind of imagery are you using?
MOUSE: The victory statue of Samothrace, the Greek statue with heads or arms that has wings. I had a model pose in that same pose and I put arms on her. One arm is carrying a guitar and the other is carrying a palette.
SECONDS: Robert Crumb was from the same period as you as well. What do you think about his success?
MOUSE: I don’t know, what is his success?
SECONDS: With the film, it seems like a household name now –
MOUSE: But I don’t see any new work coming from him.
SECONDS: That’s the strange thing.
MOUSE: He must have something brewing.
SECONDS: Do you think he’s put energy into being a good businessman like Peter Max has?
MOUSE: I don’t think Crumb is like Peter Max. (laughs) I have a picture of Crumb on my drawing board. I visited him in the South of France on the first day he had the key to his new house. I was there and took a picture of him pulling the insides of his pockets out like he didn’t have any more money. It’s a beautiful town, built by the Romans out of stone.
SECONDS: Back in the Sixties, lettering again became a real art form. Why did that happen?
MOUSE: Lettering was sterile in the Fifties. You weren’t supposed to break the laws of lettering. Doing hot rod t-shirts, I did all kinds of experimenting with lettering. That was my training. Everybody would put something different in front of my face and say, “Draw this on a shirt” so I got to draw in many styles.
SECONDS: That’s your art school right there.
MOUSE: I went to art school during the week and painting t-shirts on the weekends.
SECONDS: What is it about the printed graphic that appeals to you? Francis Bacon said he’d rather see his work printed than see his own originals –
MOUSE: That’s because they were so hideous. (laughs) It seems like the era we live in is mass marketing and nobody’s going to buy a painting. I do a lot of paintings. Nobody buys them, but they’ll buy prints of them because they’re cheap.
SECONDS: Do you like the idea of your work being printed in a magazine or on an album cover so more people can see it?
MOUSE: Yeah, I probably have more printed things out there than any living artist. All the album covers, posters, t-shirts…
SECONDS: Any poignant thoughts about the Sixties?
MOUSE: When I was growing up, my parents always used to talk about the roaring Twenties. When people talk about the Sixties, I’d rather think about the future. I despise the Sixties for that reason.
SECONDS: Because there’s so much nostalgia built around it?
MOUSE: Yeah. The reality of the Sixties was pretty grungy. There was a few great things that happened and it was nice – we were in our twenties and there were all these beautiful people around but Haight Street was weird and what was going on was strange. I always get sucked into talking about it. First I’ll say, “ I hate it” and then all of a sudden I’ll go on about the Sixties. I say, “I’m doing it again.”
SECONDS: Well, it’s your childhood, right?
MOUSE: It started with the Psychedelics and was a search. It got twisted along the way into some kind…
MOUSE: A sick, druggy lifestyle and that’s not what it started out as at all. When the masses got a hold of it, it turned into something other than the initial spark.
SECOND: Did it lose the sense of ritual?
MOUSE: Yeah. I remember around ’63, we’d gather people together – and they had to be the right people – and we’d get in a room and smoke Pot. We used to call it a set. Like, “Let’s have a set.” It was Communion, you know? Everybody would know what everybody else was thinking. If some stranger walked in who wasn’t in tune, it would jar everything apart. We lost that along the way. I grew up in the Fifties in Detroit. I was all Motown and ’56 Chevys. It was a great way to be a teenager but there wasn’t any Psychedelics. It was real uptight. You had to go to church on Sunday’s and if you didn’t you were bad. When the Psychedelic thing hit, it blew everything apart. It’s taken this long for the whole country to become Hippies, but now everybody’s a Hippie. They might deny it but they’re living with the lifestyle. I hate the word “Hippie.” (laughs) All the movies, all the TV – everything is done with that consciousness that first happened in the Sixties.
SECONDS: Speaking of the Sixties, how was your record collection changed since then?
MOUSE: The only place that you could get records in Detroit was at Hudson’s department store. I bought a Bob Dylan record and the lady said, “You like this stuff?” I had a portable record player and I went to New York to a hot rod show and I played it seven thousand times on the way to New York. While doing the posters, the record I remember the most was Rolling Stones’s Between the Buttons. That’s their greatest record. We played that a lot.
SECONDS: What’s the last record you bought?
MOUSE: Fionna Apple. Oh, I bought Blur.
SECONDS: Did you like it?
MOUSE: I like their strange stuff but I don’t like their retro-Beatles stuff. I like my music better than anything I buy.
SECONDS: What do you do?
MOUSE: I play keyboards and play funeral dirges with a beat. My band is called The Macabre Industrial Waste Band. One of the tunes is “Hitler’s Death March.” I’m the only member of the band. I turn on the drum machine real slow and play to it. I like playing music back to myself when I’m painting it. I get totally wrapped up in myself.
SECONDS: What’s the most Psychedelic medium?
MOUSE: Well, what is Psychedelic?
SECONDS: Why don’t you answer that?
MOUSE: Psychedelic was super normal to me – just everything intense. The reality took on a super reality. It was never paisley patterns. Nature is more psychedelic than anything created by man.
SECONDS: Did you get a Grammy award for the Book of Dreams cover?
MOUSE: Alton Kelley and I did it and sent it to L.A. and the record company produced it on the cover. We were watching TV one night and we saw the Grammys and they said, “For Book of Dreams, Roy Kahara, art director.” It won a Grammy but we didn’t win it. They didn’t even tell us about it. We had to see it for ourselves on TV.
SECONDS: When did you first hook up with Alton?
MOUSE: The burning questions. That’s what they all ask. He was just hanging around The Dog House in San Francisco. A lot of people from Detroit hung around there. It was a scene and Kelley was a regular on the scene. I think Kelley lived there too. They were throwing parties which turned into The Family Dog. They finally made some money throwing some dance=concert party and they split to Mexico to score some weed. I ran across Kelley a bunch of times and he’d rap the rap and enjoyed it. He became art director for The Family Dog. We teamed up to do a couple of posters and…away we went.
SECONDS: Did it take you a while to develop a system for working?
MOUSE: At first I did all the handwork and Kelley helped me with all the concepts and art directing.
SECONDS: So he isn’t an airbrusher?
MOUSE: He is now. Over the years he got pretty good. It got to a point where he was left handed and I was right handed and we could sit at the same drawing board and we were like a four-handed monster painting away. We’d paint with our outside hands and our inside hands would manipulate pencils and erasers. We worked together for a long time like that. Then we didn’t work together for about fifteen years. About a month ago, we struck a deal with the Grateful Dead using our designs and stuff. They gave us a record cover job. It’s called Terrapin Limited. It’s a live tape featuring the song “Terrapin Station.” We did a different take on the turtles driving trains and getting off the train and walking up to this fantastic station in the sky. He came over and sat down and it was like no time passed. We don’t talk, we just start doing it. We had a secretary over and she said, “Don’t you guys ever disagree?” We really did have a cool way of working.
SECONDS: Almost psychic?
MOUSE: Yeah, it was definitely psychic.
SECONDS: It’s like that myth that you hear about the Hildebrandt Brothers where one starts on the left and one starts on the right and they meet in the middle and the composition’s done.
MOUSE: That’s pretty amazing.
SECONDS: When you were doing all these covers for the Dead, did they give you any direction on those?
MOUSE: They early ones, no. They would just say, “Do us a record cover,” and we would do it. They were always a hit. Over the years, they were working with other artists. They would have their way with other artists; “Design us this and show us what it’s like and show us the sketches…” The band was almost the artist and the art director. That’s probably why they had such horrible artwork after Kelley and me. They tried doing it with us. They wanted to see it every step of the ay and they actually changed it once. Some of he changes they made were pretty good, but they did finally come and say there weren’t art directors so we could go ahead with what we wanted.
SECONDS: But they did try their hand at it –
MOUSE: Yeah, they had been doing this over the years with other artists and getting what they want. But it’s hard; it’s like “Okay, Picasso, none of those girls with two eyeballs on one side of their face.” It’s silly. How can you tell someone what to do?
SECONDS: Well, that’s what makes an illustrator. You have to be able to take direction.
MOUSE: I did a Journey cover where I took direction.
SECONDS: I was going to say, those look like the art director beat you to death on them.
MOUSE: At first we were cool. The good Journey covers, the first three or four, were all our stuff.
SECONDS: They let you have your way? I thought they’d be staring over your shoulder?
MOUSE: They had it all planned out. It was like being a machine and it came out real stilted.
SECONDS: It must have paid nice, though…
MOUSE: Yeah, that’s why I did it.
SECONDS: Those things are distinctive. I thought you and Alton together and alone are great colorists. Is it something you spent a lot of time thinking about?
MOUSE: You couldn’t tell they were airbrushed. They have that smooth look, but you couldn’t tell. Some of the stuff you see is so obvious – the same with computers nowadays. God, I hate computer artwork!
SECONDS: I used to supplement my income by doing lettering. Now they feel like they don’t need you anymore because they have ten or twenty thousand computer typefaces –
MOUSE: They even have scribbly stuff so you can’t scribble and try to fool them.
SECONDS: I saw Ed Roth come out with a disk of Ratfink typefaces. Everyone’s trying to get in on it. But you can’t get things like that without being too stiff.
MOUSE: You can always see it. There’s some computer artwork that doesn’t look like computer artwork. That’s the stuff that excels. Jim Philips has been doing some great stuff with a computer. He took the Mouse and Kelly flying eyeball and did a rendition of it that looks really cool.
SECONDS: How do you feel about that fact that a lot of people associate you with the bands for which you developed images?
MOUSE: I hate it because I feel like I’m branded. I may not like that kind of work anymore.
SECONDS: Do you feel it helped your career along, though? Do you think it had a positive effect on your wallet at least?
MOUSE: I never did make any money off of it. I mean, I made a living off of it, but never did make money. Actually, I’ve been licensing things lately and things are starting to happen. I got some Zippo lighters out there with my stuff on it, and some t-shirts…
SECONDS: What kind of images are you doing on those – back to the monsters, like you said before?
MOUSE: They did eight really classic things, like the Steve Miller Book of Dreams, a flaming wolf head – some of the classic old stuff. Then the European distributor saw them and ordered fifteen more and just started taking things out of my book.
SECONDS: The flaming wolf head – you mean the Steppenwolf cover?
MOUSE: Yeah, I like the flaming wolf on a lighter. And they’ve been selling big time – they sell all over the world. I got a royalty statement the other day from Czechoslovakia. Can you imagine my stuff in Czechoslovakia?
SECONDS: Journey is totally entwined in your designs. That’s all I remember about them – your covers.
MOUSE: Look at The Residents. All I remember about The Residents is that eyeball.
SECONDS: Is there something you’d rather do than make art?
MOUSE: Not really.
SECONDS: You feel like that’s a good way to spend your time?
MOUSE: I feel like it’s a great gift. It’s my duty to produce beauty as best I can. It’s like a responsibility now.
SECONDS: You use that word “beauty” – do you feel you’re coming across with some positivity then?
MOUSE: Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of negative energy in the world and I’m not adding to it, that’s for sure.
SECONDS: I should mention your liver transplant – is there anything you want to say about it? That seems like a pretty intense thing – I don’t know if you feel comfortable talking about it…
MOUSE: I love talking about it. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
SECONDS: That muse have been a touching thing, having all those people stand up for you and get all that money together.
MOUSE: It was touching. But other than that I was so sick I was a goner. I had twenty-four hours to live. I didn’t want a liver transplant. It sounded like the worst thing possible. I’d rather die than have that. I almost did. At the last minute I guess my wife said, “Give him a liver, “ after I went into a coma. I was really very sick. I was a hundred and thirty-five pounds and there were a million things wrong with me. They stuck a nineteen year old liver in me and I woke up and said, “Let’s go and get a beer.”
SECONDS: Let’s get to work on this new liver.
MOUSE: I never drank beer, that’s the funny thing. I’m sure that’s how the guy lost his liver, he must have been out drinking or something. It was amazing; almost immediately I was healed. I got really healthy after that. I felt nineteen.
SECONDS: Still feeling good?
MOUSE: I still feel good. My liver’s twenty-three now. The only problem is I feel like a broken down Volkswagen with a supercharged Chrysler engine. There’s a little imbalance there, but it’s cool.
SECONDS: I saw some later photos of you and didn’t recognize you. Have you still kept all that weight off?
MOUSE: God, no.
SECONDS: So you’re back in the classic Mouse look?
MOUSE: Yeah, I’m as healthy as could be.
SECONDS: You had to raise something like $150,000?
MOUSE: What happened was I didn’t have health insurance and the liver cost $250,000. They didn’t know who I was in the hospital. Here comes a guy in a coma from liver failure. All of a sudden all these people arrive and are calling saying “save the guy.” There was this intense outpouring of love. The hospital goes, “who do we have here?” My book was just published by Roger Williams, my publisher, was really verbal about it and told them who I was and they went to work finding me a liver. Then the Grateful Dead came in and said they would back it and eased the hospital’s worries about the whole thing. I went to the top of the list because I only had a few hours to live. Miraculously I got a liver. I applied for county health and the county paid for it. Then the Dead backed out. No, they didn’t back out, but they didn’t have to pay for it. But it because of all the support that it even happened. Otherwise, I’d be six feet under.
SECONDS: That’s pretty heavy.
MOUSE: Yeah, it’s heavy, but it’s also wonderful. It’s a miracle of the wonders of modern medicine which I didn’t believe in before. I learned to love modern medicine. I go to the hospital now for flashbacks. I had a such a good trip in there that I missed the whole transplant thing because they had me so….I wasn’t there.
SECONDS: Knocked out in your bed on painkillers?
MOUSE: After I got it I went through a lot of hallucinations. Because of the bad state I was in it caused hallucinations. But they were really intense and I still remember them to this day. There were forty of them and they have sub-groups to them. They were really far-out. One of them was that my wife had five different husbands, but I was her favorite because I gave her the offspring that she liked the best. It was a fish with a jewel in its nose.
SECONDS: It sounds like a Native American tale.
MOUSE: You know how dreams go away? Well, these didn’t. I still remember them all.
SECONDS: Were they like hallucinations:
MOUSE: Not really. They were somewhere else. I was there. But I thought that Kelley had this car that when it hit 200 mph, it made a sonic boom. I had another car I thought was parked in back of the hospital and every time someone would come to visit me I’d say, “Hey, let’s go for a ride.” It was fun. I’d be conscious and the next think I know I was in Vancouver, Canada with Steve Miller riding in my car.
SECONDS: And your wife’s breast-feeding fish?
MOUSE: This was real. They’d say, “You can’t walk.” And I’d say, “What do you mean? I went swimming yesterday.” It was really fun. It was one of my best trips ever.
SECONDS: When most artists reach a certain sort of fame they become absorbed by the mainstream. Do you think you’ve become absorbed, even partially?
MOUSE: It’s happening. My stuff, just a few years ago, was cult. It’s just become mainstream on its own. The Sixties is reality now – mainstream. What we did in the Sixties, everybody is doing now, even thought they fought it for years and years. It just happened. It was prophec.
But now in the Nineties everything came back. It’s almost like a big summarization of everything. A “summer” –ization of love. I’m doing a summer of love poster and also a bummer of love poster.
SECONDS: Bummer of love? What are you going to do for that?
MOUSE: It’s a realistic scene of a Haight Street pad. A couple doing it and the guy’s looking over his shoulder and he’s got a big, fat doobie. The girl’s shooting up in her butt. They’ve got Jimi Hendrix on the record player and they’ve got a nitrous oxide tank and black light poster on the wall and a plain old mattress. Outside the window is a psychedelic shop and Hippies walking along. Like it really was.
Continuing to archive items from the old Happy Homeland site.
The unblinking eyes of THE RESIDENTS stand as a constant reminder of the infinite possibilities of invention and transcendence in the face of numbing boom boom crash crash dance beat aggression. They stand in tuxedos and bow ties against obligatory fuzz boxes, planned apathy, and cooler-than-thou affectations. They are faceless, genderless and devoid of individual personalities: a brick pitched into the face of mass marketing. They are a collective of unknown human quantities shuttling along the cutting edge for a quarter of a century – and they are sharing that twenty-fifth anniversary this year with Disney World.
These winkless wonders have created their own aesthetic with any and all of the newest technological advances in sound and recording. Even with the slew of synthesized voices and oddly registered sounds, which have become The Residents’ trademark, they have somehow managed to create an organic, analog feel to their painfully futuristic instrumentation. Their compositions have overtones of exactness counteracted by a sense of disintegration. This is a phenomenon felt in the music’s of Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band, Pere Ubu, Sun Ra and John Coltrane – in short, the innovators who helped create a new psychedelic, technical savantism, and an inborn need to reinvent the wheel.
HOMER FLYNN is the official spokesperson for the Cryptic Corporation, a management company that handles The Residents’ business affairs. Flynn also founded Porno Graphix to oversee graphic needs of The Residents and their Ralph Records label mates. With the consent of the group, Flynn and a fleet of artists went on to create the seemingly largest and oddest series of packaging concepts and knickknacks in the history of musical propaganda. Aside from the expected t-shirts and buttons (of which they produced countless varieties), these kings of collectibles produced a plethora of LP covers that change with each new pressing, scarves, UWEB (Uncle Willie’s Eyeball Buddies) newsletters and white singles with iris-inscribed labels set inside clear plastic dust sleeves silk-screened with swollen red veins. When not hard at work redesigning the ever-fluctuating Ralph logo, the team set out to find the newest art technologies. They utilized the clumsy computer graphic programs available to them in the Seventies, creating the covers for the Composer Series albums with wonderfully clumsy bit maps, using the “Pong”-like technologies to full effect. Mockingly futuristic patterning prevails in most of their designs, creating deceitful stability for the over-layered images. Covers like those of Mark Of The Mole, The Tunes Of Two Cities, Not Available and Residue Of The Residents testify to the scribbling prowess of the Porno Graphix founders – images vary from the slickly airbrushed to the possibly Flair-penned. Each newly concocted image and design presents a fresh variation marked with playfulness and the bold refusal of repetition and other symptoms of stagnation. Even the name “Porno Graphix” undergoes a constant metamorphosis, alternating between Pour No Graphics, Pore-No Graphics, Pore-know Graphics, and Poorknow Graphics. Additionally, Flynn and Fox have utilized other graphic technicians including photo wizard Henrik Kam, Gary Panter, the forlorn Mark Beyer, Savage Pencil, Richard Sala, Jonathan Rosen and yours truly.
There are very few facts known about The Residents. By choice they have remained warm and snuggled in anonymity since the dawn of their existence, using their ego-less freedom rampantly and flauntingly. The one proven fact is that The Residents have worked obsessively for the last twenty-five years creating records, CDs, films and CD-ROMs. Somewhere in the dawn of the Seventies The Residents had the unmitigated audacity to write and record music with almost no licks, chops, or even practice to speak of. There are rumored to be early tapes with titles like “The Warner Brothers album,” “Baby Sex,” and “The Ballad Of Stuffed Trigger” but The Residents do not acknowledge their existence. They remain unreleased and, according to Residents Fan Club president, biographer and touring pal Uncle Willie, unheard as well. The multitudes of purported bootlegs of this session are fakes.
The recording of Santa Dog is more a matter of record than of superstition. It was released in 1972 as a free gift to possible fans and cronies, a move Uncle Willie termed “a Christmas card to the music world of their coming invasion.” They would later follow it up with updated versions in 1978, 1988 and 1992. They spent the next four years filming Vileness Fats, a video shot on reel-to-reel long before the first VHS recorder was made available to the public. (The film was not released till1984.) Vileness Fats is a convoluted narrative about the citizens of the town of Vileness Fats, a community united in the fear of the atomic-powered shopping carts. All of this fine publication could be easily filled with a discussion of the video’s tainted intentions and buckled symbolisms.
Their next release was the famed Meet The Residents. It hit the stands in 1974, enshrouded in a morbidly silly defacement of the cover image found on the Fab Four’s debut release. Meet The Residents also marked the birth of Ralph Records and its offshoot Cryptic Corporation. Ralph would eventually be home to such seminal acts as Yello, Renaldo And The Loaf, MX.80 Sound, Fred Frith and the immortal genius of Snakefinger. Ralph exists today primarily as a clearing house for Residents collectibles new and old.
The sophomore album Not Available was recorded amidst the Vileness Fats shooting schedule of 1975 but wasn’t released until 1978. 1976 gave birth to the aural irritations of The Residents Present The Third Reich ‘n Roll, its cover bestowed with Nazi imagery and a Hitleresque Dick Clark. It included retardations of songs from the dawn of the electric guitar.
The same tour, another loss was suffered by The Residents – their very close friend and fifth Resident, Snakefinger, had passed away while on tour with his own band in Austria. Snakefinger, a.k.a. Philip Lithman, was an overtly adventurous guitarist who was able to sway back and forth between personas. He easily tackled Frank Zappa’s “King Kong” with The Residents, yet could dissolve into atonal dissonance when called for. His influence can still be heard in the work of any guitarist worth his weight in used toilet tissue.
As the Eighties rocked and rolled to a close The King and Eye was set upon the public. Its stage show: a former Elvis impersonator Granddad holds “Shorty” and “Shirley,” his wooden grandchildren, on his knees while speaking lovingly of the birth and demise of The King. These actions are set against a backdrop of Elvis covers done in purely Residential style. They do steer away from the obligatory Elvis gags, preferring to treat their subject with eloquence – which made it all the spookier. 1990 brought us Cube-E: Live In Holland, “The History Of American Music In 3 E-Z Pieces.” included music of the Plains, subtitled “Buckaroo Blues,” the birth of Gospel as “Black Barry”, and the dawn of the Elvis era as “The Baby King.” They ended the retrospective in 1950, the point where The Residents as well as many historians believe marks the end of genuinely American music. The stage show demanded attention – at times, there was a dark stage lit only with the false Christmas bulb-eyes of dancers; at other times a cube creature rises from the stage growing to mammoth proportions, its arms outstretched like a savior to the ticket-holding worshippers.
Freak Show was released the following year by OP. Its counterparts included the now classic Freak Show CD-ROM, as well as a graphic novel released by Dark Horse that included the wayward talents of Savage Pencil, Charles Burns, Richard Sala and the ever-present Pore.
Thereafter the giant media cyclops carried them away in its hairy arms and labeled them the darlings of New Wave. During that era they released Fingerprince and Baby Fingers and bestowed the cult classic “Walter Westinghouse.” These albums demonstrated The Residents’ love of minimalism, an affair that has continued to the present day. For example, Side B is a 17:48 song, “Six Things To A Cycle,” expounding upon a morse code-like ditty that haunts each minute in a terminal state of transformation. It provided yet another theme that surfaced continually throughout their history.
1978’s Duck Stab / Buster And Glen was a crowning surrealist achievement blending the psychedelic and the childish (odd couplets scrambling majestically above disorienting keyboard passages, narratives revealed with sinister-yet-Dr. Seuss-like intent). For the first time catchy riffs emerged amongst seemingly sarcastic arrangements. “Constantinople” and “Hello Skinny,” two late night radio faves, appear here in their unfailing glory.
The Eskimo LP emerged in 1979, paving the way for ambient musics to come. At first listen it seemed to contain no understandable languages. After repeated listening, catch phrases like “please don’t squeeze the Charmin” emerge, adding extra flakiness to the blizzard of sounds. Many of the lyrics were improvisations on Innuit themes such as walrus hunting, birth rituals and avenging spirits. This album’s disco counterpart was released in 1988 as Diskomo, a must for Eskimo addicts.
The release of The Residents Commercial Album in 1980 ended The Residents’ stint as New Wave darlings. It was a collection of TV-commercial-length songs strewn one after another that the press didn’t groove on (but the fans sure did). Its forty songs included imported performance s by Snakefinger (by now an honorary member), Fred Frith and percussion great Chris Cutler (Pere Ubu, Henry Cow). Uncredited performances include Lene Lovich and gun-shy XTC frontman Andy Partridge. This project also inspired the ocular ones to pursue optical accompaniment to their sounds. Those videos as well as other works completed for Third Reich ‘n Roll and Duck Stab were added to the permanent collection of the Museum Of Modern Art.
Mark Of The Mole marks the waterline where the turbulent New Wave sea retreated back into a muddy hole. It was the first installment in a series that also included Tunes Of Two Cities, Intermission and The Big Bubble. This series invoked their darkest era. Begrudgingly slow tempos, drawn-out, depressive vocals creeping between long keyboard strains embodied a period complex in its economy and surprising maturity. The series also spotlighted the Residentially-invented Mohelmot language of Zinkenites, the forlorn prisoners of their dark world. The Mark Of The Mole tour, with its extreme set design worthy of a major Broadway production, sparked a film by the same name, which was a staple of the USA Network’s Night Flight throughout the early Eighties. The American Composers series began in 1984, with odd pairs teamed for each of the two releases. The first, George And James, saw the odd marriage of George Gershwin and James Brown. The second saw the unholy partnership of Hank Williams and John Philip Sousa, entitled Stars & Hank Forever.
Residents live albums like The Residents Mole Show (1983), 13th Anniversary Show Live In Japan! (1986), PAL TV (1985), Assorted Secrets (1984), The Mole Show Live In Holland (1987) and The 13th Anniversary Show Live In The USA (1986) displayed the eyeballians and Snakefinger out of the comfort of the studio, on the proving grounds where only previously ticket-buying fans had tread. At a 1986 show in Los Angeles they lost one of their heads, or one of their eyeballs, as it were. It was eventually returned after the elaborate theft but not before The Residents decided to replace it with a skull head. “Dead Eye Dick” was the moniker given to this sightless Resident who was assisted on and off stage by his sighted brethren. During permanent waves with a pale tattooed arm, the glint of a sterling silver skull ring shining like a lighthouse beacon through the fake fog. Yet they remained unseduced and yes, a bit queasy, and they decided to mutate, in the process exacting a new science. Now their immense pupils soak up the ambient light, fiendishly large retinas opening only to slide shut like barn doors trapping the woozy hallucinations that have become synonymous with The Residents.
SECONDS: First of all, what is your relationship to The Residents?
FLVNN: Well, I’ve done a lot of The Residents’ album covers and graphics. As things have continued, my biggest responsibility is more in terms of management. I do a lot of public relations stuff and a lot of contracts – yucky business things.
SECONDS: The Residents have always seemed genre-less. Do they consider themselves part of any movement?
FLVNN: Not really. They were swept along with the Punk/New Wave of the late Seventies/early Eighties but they never considered themselves to be Punk or New Wave. That was a point in time when people were more open to new ideas and from that standpoint, The Residents did fit in. We’ve always felt The Residents were more marketable when seen as the fringe of the Rock audience.
SECONDS: I’ve always thought of them as being the truest Psychedelic band. Did they set out to be Psychedelic?
FLVNN: In a way, yeah. All of those bands – San Francisco Psychedelic-era bands – eventually found their formula. They were experimental and then about 1970, 1971 most of them found a formula that sold and they stuck to it. Even Jefferson Airplane going into Jefferson Starship didn’t change that much, it just got more bland. I don’t think The Grateful Dead were that different three years ago from how they were twenty years ago. The Residents felt the ideas of the Psychedelic era could stand to be No Graphics.
The CD-ROM is masterful, the first of the Rock, personality cult varieties. Freak Show utilizes the expertise of animator/illustrator Jim Ludtke, who animated and designed the release along with the watchful eyes and the Porno boys. Its macabre theme probed the private lives of imagined performers like Wanda The Worm Woman and Herman The Human Mole. It was purely sinister 3-D animation supported by an equally creepy yet mournful soundtrack whose lyrics were a straight narrative with undertones of the cryptic (instead of the inverse mixture we’ve come to expect from the unblinking ones).
Gingerbread Man was the CD-ROM follow-up to Freak Show. Released in 1994, Gingerbread Man had that trademarked forlorn quality, investigating the woes and beaten-down dreams of sold-out artists, transsexuals, old soldiers and aging musicians. That CD-ROM was a form of what The Residents call “Album Length Interactive Music Video.”
Bad Day At The Midway, the next CD-ROM release, returned to the classic interactive format loved by game users and film aficionados alike. It had a Fifties retro midway theme, complete with dark alleys and fiendish ticket ladies. You wandered through the dank park in search of fun and mischief. Your visual perspective is matched to that of a young boy, “Timmy,” whose body you’ve inhabited quite innocently. Animated and designed once again by Jim Ludtke, the CD-ROM included guest animations by Peter Kuper, Jonathan Rosen and yours truly. Word has it that a big production company run by a famed surrealist film director is speaking to the optical spheroids about further possibilities for the piece.
I Murdered Mommy, a new CD-ROM, was in development for 1998 but has since been canceled. It surely would have included yet another obsessively engineered soundtrack, a task The Residents have always lept into top hat first. Their first soundtrack (for their own film), Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? had first seen light in 1984, their score to The Census Taker in 1985. Hunters: The World Of Predators And Prey (Milan) was created for the Discovery Channel in 1995. They also scored the Pee-wee Herman show Pee-wee’s Playhouse five times (the “dentist” show is still a cult fave amongst Residents fans in the know). Until its demise in 1993, fans of the aqueous humorists had a friend in UWEB, their official fan club. Uncle Willie dealt out news and answered mail as well as dispensing myths and citing new ones. Dedicated to their very dedicated fanbase, The Residents released UWEB CDs, available for years only through the club. Some of these releases included a recording of an informal musical wake for Snakefinger entitled Snakeywake. There was also Our Finest Flowers, probably the most satiating hard-core fan classic ever created. With fans in mind, The Residents re-created Our Finest Flowers from stripped-down skeletons of various recorded points of their past. Other UWEB classics such as Stranger Than Supper, Liver Music, and Buckaroo Blues are no longer available.
Since their birth, The Residents have always been the kings of the collectible single. Some of their classic B-sides like “Safety Is A Cootie Wootie,” “Loser Is = To Weed,” and “Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers” stand as monoliths to The Residents’ success not only because of the novelty factors but because they didn’t treat any B-side like an expendable track. You can’t find a throwaway in their twenty-five-year history. When the quality control is that genuine, so is the music.
The work of The Residents is an untapped world of something new where open-faced inspiration replaces rehearsed apathy and the wheel gets a chance to be reinvented. Playtime sounds are mixed with coagulations of Acid and sugar highs. New sounds abound, masking cryptic clues to the deciphering of a psychedelic legacy that reveals itself layer after layer with appealing absurdity and unfettered intelligence.
Their anonymity and disguise appears as shtick upon first glance yet reveals itself to be a fully functional shield against the death rays of ego-laden complacency and stagnation. They have fenced in the cash cow of Pop only to leech its milk and flesh for sustenance for themselves and their fans. The Residents saw the specter of Rock & Roll standing under the garish lights, hairspraying its long
SECONDS: The Residents have always done a lot of cover tunes.
FLYNN: One of the things they always enjoyed doing was reinterpreting other works. That’s the side of their creativity that has… not so much fallen by the wayside, because I expect it to come back at a certain point, but they haven’t done as much of that in recent years – the last thing being the Elvis album. They really like music to reinterpret other people’s stuff is a thrill for them.
SECONDS: There’s a heavy sarcastic edge to those interpretations. ls that intentional?
FLYNN: From their point of view, most of the stuff they interpreted they liked or they wouldn’t have bothered to do it. While there’s always a sense of dark humor, there’s an underlying sense of respect and tribute.
SECONDS: The way they play is in some ways very minimalist but at the same time very detailed and thick sounding. Someone said to me that Duck Stab was the smallest-sounding record they ever heard. It wasn’t powerful; there were no power chords – it was small-sounding.
FLYNN: A lot of that comes from the fact that they didn’t play. They wouldn’t know what a power chord was. Generally, they play one or two notes at a time and build things through overdubs. That’s how they would get that thickness, by adding more and more parts, but the parts were never very hard, which is the source of the minimalism. They wouldn’t spend tons of time trying to work a melody out in twenty different variations. They’d have an idea, get it down, and move on.
SECONDS: Early on, what equipment were they using?
FLYNN: They started out mostly acoustic with some kind of electric keyboard and maybe an electric bass, but not much more. They had drums, saxophones, a trumpet, clarinets – none of which they played very well. They had instruments from thrift stores and pawnshops. Initially, they could get a huge variety of sounds by banging on pots and pans to go along with the instruments they had. Over the years, they started getting into synthesizers, which offered a huge variety of sounds in one instrument. Then they got more sophisticated and sampling comes along. They absolutely love sampling because they can take highly-processed sounds and play them. That’s what made it possible for them to feel like they could do a live performance and be faithful to their sound, because they could never play it otherwise. After that, they got involved in MIDI, which was liberating again, because it took the real-time aspect out of it. Now, they could not only manipulate sounds, they could manipulate time. They had done that by speeding up and slowing down tape, and here was a way to almost magically manipulate the time. Ultimately, things have gotten to where they now have a fully digital studio. The amount of flexibility they have at their fingertips is stunning. It allows them to manipulate sound more fully than they ever have before.
SECONDS: Do they prefer digital over analog for any reason other than that it makes manipulation easier?
FLYNN: It’s purely convenience. They could never afford progressed further, rather than left where they were.
SECONDS: What advantages did they have by owning their own label?
FLYNN: The advantage was they could do whatever they wanted to without having any pressure to compromise or conform to whatever the trend of the day might be. The trade-off was the distribution was always terrible. If you’re with a big company, they give you more money and expect you to kow-tow towards what they want, unless you’re at a high level. You get the distribution and promotion and pay the price with control of your products.
SECONDS: What is the state of Ralph Records right now?
FLYNN: Ralph right now is exclusively for Residents merchandise. It’s a service for the fans. It makes a little money, but not a huge amount. It exists as a way to get purist level Residents stuff to people without having to be filtered through anything else. Ralph doesn’t manufacture much stuff anymore; it’s more a clearinghouse for all the different things that are manufactured at other points all over the world. Anywhere they can find Residents merchandise, they buy it and sell it to the fans.
SECONDS: Has it been hard for The Residents to find appropriate touring partners?
FLYNN: First off, The Residents aren’t really a band and they never have been. They’re a group of people who create work. People think of a band and think of several people who get together and work on a song, and then go into a recording studio and lay down the basic tracks and build from that. The Residents approach couldn’t have been more opposite. Traditionally, they’re non-musicians. Before they started doing The Residents, they had never played. By teaching themselves, they felt it was a good path towards originality. You asked before if The Residents were part of any genre. If anything, they like to create their own reality. They build a world and then inhabit that world to see what to create a live concert with another band opening for them works against that idea. If you look at the Third Reich ‘n Roll video, there’s a little world that they created and it’s very complete in and of itself. The fullest expression of this idea musically was Eskimo. It had some links to the real world but it was a fantasy created by The Residents. When you get in there and give yourself up to it, it becomes very whole. This same idea they’re bringing into CD-ROMs. It’s The Residents world you become fully immersed in, with complex stories visually fleshed out.
SECONDS: Did they have an easier time, when they started than they would if t~ the Nineties?
FLYNN: If they were starting now, it might be difficult. They’ve never been trendy relative to the music business but they are established enough so that its easier now to connect with the people. The people The Residents appeal to are always going to be there. It’s mainly a matter of finding them.
SECONDS: What is your average Residents fan like? Are they different from a Rock & Rol! fan?
FLYNN: The average Residents fan is generally more alienated. For the most part, all the stuff that comes out of the big media machine doesn’t work for them that well. The Residents are the voice of alienation and they say, “It’s okay.” They connect with the nerds and alienated people in every community.
SECONDS: What do they think about the present state of Pop music?
FLYNN: They have a difficult time finding current stuff to get interested in. They’re musically curious and looking for new things but they’re less and less finding it in the Pop world. It’s hard to tell how much of that is just a product of getting older. Pop Music is generally made for younger people. On the other hand, so much of it they feel like they’ve already heard before. It just gets regurgitated and reworked. One of my favorite expressions is “There’s no new jokes, only new audiences.” I have a sixteen-year-old daughter and she was into Nirvana and more recently Nine Inch Nails. I don’t want to invalidate that, but it’s more valid for the audience it’s created for. Musically, it’s exactly what was happening twenty years ago. The differences are in the subtleties.
SECONDS: Is there anything new The Residents are interested in?
FLYNN: The things I think they listen to the most are World Music. One of them’s gotten into Indonesian Music. They listen to European soundtracks, Forties and Fifties Big Band and Country Swing – stuff they find still has a lot of energy.
SECONDS: What do they think of the new Residents tribute album?
FLYNN: They’re quite flattered by it. In a lot al ways, The Residents isolate themselves from their audience. It’s always been part of their aesthetic. When they’re creating they enjoying feeling like they’re doing what they want strictly for them. To then have someone put out a tribute album like that is kind of shocking to them. Like, “People pay that much attention to us? Why would anyone do this?” The Residents don’t take themselves that seriously so they have a hard time understanding why anyone else would.
SECONDS: If I’m right, they’re also the first to record an album solely with musical children’s toys.
FLYNN: As far as I know, yeah.
SECONDS: Then you move on to the first group to do a home video, Vileness Fats.
FLYNN: Vileness was designed to be the first video feature and unfortunately it wasn’t completed.
SECONDS: Did they take a cue to do that from 200 Motels?
FLYNN: They saw video was a big thing coming. They were no more filmmakers than they were musicians and what they really liked about video was it gave them instant feedback.
SECONDS: The way they blend music with images achieves an equilibrium
FLYNN: There’s a whole phase of their career doing soundtracks that’s yet to unfold. I think they really know how to compliment images.
SECONDS: Is Video Voodoo on permanent exhibition somewhere?
FLYNN: There are a couple of pieces of Video Voodoo in the collection of The Museum Of Modern Art, I think Third Reich ‘n Roll and the one-minute movies.
SECONDS: Have all the one-minute movies been released?
FLYNN: There hasn’t been a new compilation put together in awhile. There’s a lot of music videos in the CD-ROMs but a lot of them are too low-res to be viewed on TV. Something like the “Jelly Jack” song from Freak Show was done as a full music video and that will eventually make it onto a compilation. The best collection is the laser disc that Voyager has out now.
SECONDS: They always seemed ready to cross the line from musical performance into theater. Who designed the whole Mole show set?
FLYNN: That was me, really.
SECONDS: So you are Pornographix. Were you always an in-house entity for The Residents?
FLYNN: Yes. I’ve done a few things here and there outside but I work pretty much exclusively with The Residents.
SECONDS: There’s so many t-shirts, picture disks, books, toys and what not …
FLYNN: There’s always been an interest in creating cool things. The first Residents release was Santa Dog, a two record set of 45s with silk-screened covers. It’s part of The Residents’ ongoing war with Pop Culture in that they like things to be more individualized and have a sense of being done by a human being, whereas the culture likes everything to be uniform and homogenized.
SECONDS: Didn’t you tell me you dreamt up the white single?
FLYNN: One of The Residents had a dream that this was going to be their hit single and they saw it in the dream as a white single with this silk-screen on the clear package.
SECONDS: When you started designing for them, Hipgnosis was doing some interesting covers. How did you feel about them?
FLYNN: I think they’ve done some nice stuff. At the time they certainly were the ones creating the more eye catching covers. As far as what I do, I’m pretty much selftaught and operate more based on my limitations than anything else. It can be difficult to copy somebody if you don’t have lots of chops and skills. My design work has operated more based on what I felt good about than on what I was influenced by. There’s people I like – Picasso, Escher – but I could never do it.
SECONDS: Do you have to run ideas past them, or do they come up with ideas?
FLYNN: It goes both ways. For the most part it’s their stuff but we work on things until everybody’s in agreement with an idea.
SECONDS: They seem very willing to do the photo shoots
FLYNN: More or less. I couldn’t say there aren’t , occasionally a few stand-ins inside some of those eyeballs.
SECONDS: Have they ever sampled anyone’s work or been sampled themselves? .
FLYNN: They’ve sampled everybody. [Laughs] If you listen to Meet The Residents, they sample the song “Nobody But Me” by The Human Beinz. Halfway through the first side, you actually hear a needle being set down on a record. They rigged up this thing with a coathanger so that the record would stop at a certain groove and skip back, like “Nobody does – nobody does – nobody does,” and they used it as a rhythm track.
SECONDS: A primitive loop.
FLYNN: Exactly. If you listen to their version of “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” on Third Reich ‘n Roll, that’s actually James Brown’s horn section. What they did on that was lay down his original song as a template and played along with it. They did that a lot on Third Reich ‘n Roll. I could list examples for the next hour, but yeah, they’ve sampled.
SECONDS: Was the composers series created differently than that?
FLYNN: The James Brown side of George And James was done that same way. What they did is take James Brown Live At The Apollo, edit it down to twenty minutes, play along with it, and then take the James Brown part out. I think that’s the only side of American Composers done that way.
SECONDS: Have they always engineered and produced their own work?
FLYNN: They’ve had some engineers at times. The Elvis album, The King & I, was recorded at a local studio here, Different Fur, because it came out on Enigma and they had a little extra money to spend. Then, Freak Show and Finest Flowers were both recorded by Tony Janssen, who was The Residents soundman when they toured last time.
SECONDS: The Residents used to work with Snakefinger. Now that he’s passed away, has their work process changed at all?
FLYNN: Not that much. Snakefinger wouldn’t really be a part of their process. They would have semi-completed things and ask him if he’d want to lay down some tracks on them. The structure was already sketched out at that point. The interesting thing with Snakefinger was that at the point he died they were at the high point of their collaboration. They had just recently done their 13th Anniversary Tour and that was the thing he was the most heavily involved in. They got a call from these people in Japan, Wave, wanting to know if The Residents would come and perform. Originally, they wanted the Mole show but it was dead and buried, but they said they could put another show together and they did so in two weeks and took it to Japan. It was successful enough that they toured with it. Snakefinger was with them as they created music for that tour.
SECONDS: He came from a completely different background. How did they hook up with him?.
FLYNN: The Crosby, Stills & Nash / Eagles Folk Rock sound was such a dominant trend that that’s what Snakefinger was doing with the people he was recording with in England. That’s just what he was doing to have a career, but his interests were much broader than that. He was way into Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.
SECONDS: There’s that beautiful version of “King Kong” The Residents did with him.
FLYNN: That was his influence. When he would get with The Residents, he would break away from the stuff he was doing as a commercial musician.
SECONDS: Why do you think the history books overlooked him?
FLYNN: Because he never stuck with one thing long enough to develop a hard-core style and on top of that, he never got major distribution. He wasn’t exposed that much. The people who build careers are the ones who do one thing over and over again. Why is Jerry Garcia so loved? He’s fine, but there’s nothing distinctive about him to me. How many people do you know that are able to maintain vital careers over a long period of time? Bob Dylan’s line is “There’s no success like failure” and The Residents are the ultimate failures from the point of view of what makes Western Pop work. In other words, you have to find your formula and do it over and over again until you burn it into people’s minds, but The Residents have always been moving on to something new. That’s the wrong way to build a successful career in the Pop market. But if you look at their career, you’ll see it as vital and lively. Anytime artists find their formula that sells, they’re on the path to creative bankruptcy. If The Residents had ever had an album that sold a million, they’d have the temptation to do another one of those, but it’s never been the case.
SECONDS: There was never any sense that they were concerned about sales.
FLYNN: I agree. That’s the appeal for people that aren’t even into the music, They’re into what The Residents stand for. For along time, people considered them a joke band. People don’t understand how you can use humor in music and not be Spike Jones. People think if you’re using humor then it must be a joke and that couldn’t be further from the truth with The Residents, as it obviously wasn’t true with Frank Zappa. You can set up your seriousness with humor and vice versa. They’ve never had the view that things should be one-dimensional from an emotional standpoint.
SECONDS: Were they ever trying to create sincere beauty?
FLYNN: We’re talking eye-of-the-beholder here. Some things other people find ugly they may find beautiful. There’s definitely things where they have harmonies clashing that they find beautiful. For them, it’s more the process of expression rather than trying to create beauty, ugliness, sarcasm or anything else.
SECONDS: They’ve always been the first to exploit new technologies. They probably did the first record recorded on a home four-track, right?
FLYNN: All these technologies existed, they just existed on a high level. The Residents were the first ones to adapt these things when they hit a consumer level. They’ve always liked having new toys. New technology stimulates them in new directions and makes them think in ways they haven’t necessarily thought in before.
SECONDS: It’s impossible to discuss The Residents without hitting on their perpetual anonymity. What are the latest rumors about their identities? I’ve heard Mark Mothersbaugh and Les Claypool
FLYNN: It was published in a big Australian paper years ago that they were The Beatles.
SECONDS: I heard a rumor that Captain Beefheart was upset that The Residents lifted his ideas.
FLYNN: I don’t really know how true that is. There was a Captain Beefheart interview where he said about how his stuff was totally original to which The Residents reply was “Oh, he must have not have ever listened to Howlin’ Wolf then.”
SECONDS: Does the eyeball have special meaning for them?
FLYNN: They feel what they do is take the world in and regurgitate it back out again. It’s their symbol of looking back at the world.
SECONDS: Let’s deal with some more rumors. One rumor is Mr. Skull exists because Speed freaks stole one of the eyeballs years ago.
FLYNN: Whether or not he was a Speed freak I have no idea, but one of the eyeballs was indeed stolen on Christmas of 1986 at The Palace in L.A. Somehow somebody got backstage and got into the dressing room, got the eyeball, went up a spiral staircase, found an open window and dropped it into a debris box, and then casually strolled out and got it. Ultimately what happened was a few weeks later there was a call from somebody in L.A. that a friend of theirs had stolen it and this person was going to steal it back for us and return it, which did happen, although everybody was suspicious that this was the person who had stolen it. This person said a friend of his just happened to have been given two plane tickets from L.A. to San Francisco as a Christmas present and that’s how he was able to come and return the eyeball.
SECONDS: So Mr. Skull appeared after that?
FLYNN: Yes, they were kind of halfway through their 13th Anniversary Tour when that happened. They could get another eyeball made but they felt the whole thing was defiled and it became a better story to have the stolen eyeball go into mourning and be a black skull.
SECONDS: Is their anonymity a snide statement about stardom?
FLYNN: I think so. It’s not just that; they’re very private and the decision they made years ago was to protect their personal lives. The anonymity has served to do that. It’s also an anti-star message. It says a lot about ego and not having to be in competition for how many times you can get your name on the album covers. It just eliminated all those issue. While at times I think it’s been confining to them, it has generally worked out.
SECONDS: Have you had any weird reactions from people because they don’t have a Jimmy Page or Robert Plant to cling on to?
FLYNN: Not really, because The Residents don’t appeal to people looking for that. If anything, the people into it respect the privacy of it and are willing to accept the fact that it’s all about the work. SECONDS: What’s Uncle Willie doing now that UWEB has disbanded?
FLYNN: Uncle Willie has been writing some columns for the catalog. He’s also trying to make a CD-ROM out of his book. The problem with all the Residents stuff is that there’s so much stuff out and there’s hardly any demand for it when it’s available. As soon as it’s all gone, everybody wants it. The classic examples were the Santa Dog doggie t-shirts. They were cool and they sat around forever. As soon as they were gone, everyone wanted a Santa Dog doggie t-shirt. The UWEB stuff is another good example. There was not tons of it being sold when it was being made but it’s going to gain value over time and it might be worth collecting.
SECONDS: Any tours coming up?
FLYNN: No. The Residents have mixed feelings about touring. Some of them are still into it, some of them are not. The first question would be how to come up with a structure that suited everybody. At least for now, there are enough interesting projects that touring is not relevant. I expect it to happen again but it’s hard to know in what form. The most interesting thing is a couple of producers and a writer from the Tales From The Crypt series are interested in doing Bad Day At The Midway as a TV series. It’s a longshot but it’s exciting. [Editor’s note: Those people have since been taken off the project.]
SECONDS: Van Halen always had a thing for brown M&Ms. Is there anything on The Residents rider?
FLYNN: The only thing I can remember off hand is a bottle of Old Crow. They were never big druggies on tour – it was hard enough as it was.