Actually, to some extent I think both. At the time when things like Eskimo and The Commercial Album came out, I think that represented the peak in terms in raw commercial success. Those things were shipping like twenty or thirty thousand copies when they were first released, which is a lot for an independent label at the time. But everything continues to change and evolve. When the Residents were doing CD-ROMs in the ’90s, they reached a whole brand-new generation of fans that had never even heard of them before. There was a time when they had a lot of fans that didn’t even know the Residents did music until they got into them more. As the internet has grown more and more since then, a lot of other newer younger people have gotten into it.

For sure—the Residents seem to have adapted to the internet: they’re on Facebook and Twitter communicating with fans regularly. How does the Cryptic Corporation approach publicity today with all these new tools?

It’s mainly a matter of trying to find out what’s viable and what’s not. One of the problems of modern culture—both an asset and a detriment—is that there are so much choices and so much information, that you have to be very careful of what choices you make or you wind up just spinning your wheels and spending all your time chasing after things that look like opportunities but that are sucking away your time. It’s a tricky thing. I think that the fact that the gatekeepers—the major labels—are no longer there controlling anything like they were is great. Everybody has direct access to their audience now. But on the other hand, nobody sells fifty-million copies of an album any more. Everything is much more dispersed and widespread. That’s good, but you have to figure out how to work with that and find your audience.

The Residents have managed to stay productive and prolific for forty years now despite shifting trends in the industry. Other than the obvious advice you could give, which would be “make music as good as the Residents,” what advice can you give to musicians struggling today in the clutches of “the industry” or whatever that is at this point?

To be honest with you, I think it would be really tough for me trying to make an impact on the culture today. And ultimately, as old fashioned as it is, to actually put a band together and start playing and trying to gather a following—it’s almost still the surest first step that someone can make. But the other thing is that there are a million other avenues. You can make a wacky video and put it on Youtube and it can be the one that everyone watches. I think it’s great that that opportunity is there. Ultimately, it’s more about being true to your own values—whatever they are—and getting in touch with your own values, which can be the hardest part. If you get in touch with your values and you pursue your own essence in terms of what you have to say, I think doors will open. But… that’s not easy when you’re young.

What are these intrinsic values in the case of the Residents and Cryptic Corporation? Is there any kind of credo or overarching credo or philosophy guiding the Residents work?

It’s an interesting question. The Residents values as odd as it may seem are very much about entertainment. But at the same time, they’re about being challenging and intelligent—and ultimately those are the points that they’re trying to make in anything that they do. They try to use a wide range of emotions to paint those pictures and create those feelings. When they touch all those places with something, well, they’ve created a Residents project. It’s kind of like one of those things that I can’t tell you exactly what it is—but I can tell you what it’s not. You know when you’re in the presence of it, but on the other hand it’s hard to break it down into its components and say exactly what they are.

I’m going to move on into some more fan-oriented questions. I’ve been wondering about the significance of Christmas within the Residents’ history—especially given the Christmas-related visual themes on display in the live sets on this tour.

The significance of Christmas really is more about the origin of the Residents, which dates itself back to the release of Santa Dog in ’72. And then the other thing is that for whatever reason, just for the hell of it, the Residents sent out Christmas cards every year for the first few years of their existence—but they also sent out Valentine’s Day cards too, so it’s not just Christmas. But really, the red and green Christmas themes on the 40th Anniversary Tour are really all dating back to Santa Dog – and riffing off of that.

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