Right—back in the days of LPs, you had a lot of space to play around with and ultimately that was your primary selling point in a record store. You wanted to get someone’s attention. Now in that same way your primary selling point is something on a computer screen that can be one inch square or something. You really have to distill things down—it becomes more about the art of the logo as opposed to the art of the beautiful painting. You have to take all these things into account. And once again, you try to find something that acts a common denominator in terms of touching on various aspects of the project.

You mentioned Third Reich and Roll and that brought up a question in my mind about the Residents and the notions of copyright and using others songs/reappropriating material. I know since the beginning, since Meet the Residents, the Residents have incorporated other pop songs or other sources—how have they managed to avoid litigation, or the kind of legal problems we see today with sampling?

It’s definitely a tricky minefield to navigate out there. When The Third Reich and Roll was done, it was really put in the context of these things not being literal but being interpretations from the Residents memories of top 40 radio from the ’50s and ’60s and nobody every really made an argument with that. Had we sold 50 million copies there probably would have been lawsuits. But as it was, in general, the Residents have stayed beneath the radar enough so that nobody has ever really come after them. Although, when it came to things like The King and Eye or American Composer Series—other things where they were rearranging other people’s material, the royalties were paid for that stuff. It wasn’t a matter of trying to appropriate it when indeed it was very obvious what the original material was.

What benefits have The Residents seen from remaining anonymous over the years? Do you think concealing their identities makes your job harder or easier as a member of the Cryptic Corporation and their manager/representative.

In some ways, a little of both I suppose. It makes sure that there are no artists popping up to contradict you—on the other hand, if you say the wrong thing you certainly hear about it. For the most part, I can’t say that it’s made my job any harder—it’s just a different way of dealing with things.

I’d like to dig into a little bit about the history of the Cryptic Corporation and Ralph Records. Firstly, I’d like to say that WNUR is a student-operated radio station—an independent college station. It’s our mission to promote and champion programming that’s more experimental that wouldn’t find airtime anywhere else. I’m wondering, what are some of the tactics that the Cryptic Corporation used to promote and popularize the Residents?

We used to create a lot of special radio product. One of the things that we heard early on—we would send out Residents albums to small listener-supported stations, and we would keep hearing from people that they would get stolen. So we put out an album—a long time ago—that was a sampler of Residents material with the name “Please Do Not Steal This.” It went out exclusively to radio stations. Once again, you’re kind of playing with the idea and making a joke out of it, but at the same time hopefully making a point too. How are you going to play our stuff if someone steals the record? And there were radio specials that were done a lot back during the ’70s and ’80s. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller did a radio special that we recorded and sent out to all different stations. There was a lot of stuff back then to try to work with stations and promote the Residents. [with The Commercial Album] the idea was to buy forty one-minute commercials on a super Top 40 station in San Francisco that would never play the Residents’ stuff, but played those [songs] as a series of forty commercials.

What were some of the challenges of starting the Cryptic Corporation to release the Residents’ music in the ’70s outside of a major label framework?

It was really more about supporting the Residents. The reality was that we were friends with them and knew them, and while they were great artists, they really weren’t great businessmen. So really this was not the only thing that we did, but we wanted to be able to help them find ways to secure an income so that they could continue to do what it was that they were doing without having to worry so much about the business side of it. That’s really where it came from and how we got involved in it.

I’d be interested to know about the growth of the Residents’ fanbase over time—do you think that when the ’70s albums were coming out, was there a big cult fan base or did it accrue over time?

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