The Residents' composer/arranger and founder member Hardy Fox has died, it has been announced by the Cryptic Corporation via Facebook.
“It is with great sorrow and regrets that The Cryptic Corporation announces the passing of longtime friend and associate, Hardy Fox,” reads the statement. “As president of the corporation from 1982-2016, the company benefitted from Hardy’s instinct for leadership and direction, but his true value came from his longtime association with The Residents. As the group’s producer, engineer, as well as a co-creator and collaborator on much of their material, Fox’s influence on The Residents was indelible; despite any formal training, his musicality was nevertheless unique, highly refined and prolific. Blessed with a vital sense of aesthetics, a keen ear, and an exquisite love of the absurd, Hardy’s smiling face was a constant source of joy to those around him. He was loved immeasurably and will be missed dearly.
“After a series of recent health problems, Hardy succumbed to a brief illness. He is survived by his husband, Steven Kloman. An announcement regarding memorial services will be forthcoming.”
The news that he was unwell came by way of an announcement on 23 September, written by Fox himself and shared by way of The Residents. “Our hearts are heavy but let us celebrate our brother, our friend, Hardy Fox,” read The Residents' post which linked to Fox's own statement.
It read: “From the desk of Hardy Fox: Hi from me, Hardy. Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is ‘all’ OK. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down.” He continues, “Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now.
“Thanks for checking in. Love you all,” his statement ends.
Hardy Winfred Fox, or just Hardy Fox, or Charles Bobuck as one pseudonym would have him, grew up in Texas. He later moved to San Francisco and co-founded the cult art collective-cum-rock band The Residents in the early 1970s, serving as their primary composer. As Fox himself described them in Theory Of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, “The Residents are actually film makers; failed film makers.” Then there is their label-cum-group handlers The Cryptic Corporation, with Homer Flynn as spokesperson.
The group founded Ralph Records in 1972, and their first release proper was a double 7" called Santa Dog. In 2010 the label folded and the group adopted individual stage names. “At that point the façade of the faceless four had gotten kind of stale,” Flynn told Sam Lefebvre in The Residents’ cover story in The Wire 398. “The idea of creating personalities behind the façade became intriguing, and it’s more the nature of the culture, at least in terms of how the culture is changing – with everyone acquiring their own mini-website on Facebook.”
“The Residents is not a band,” declared Fox in his digital and somewhat cryptic book The Wax And The Wane Of Charles Bobuck. “But for the sake of touring, a band has proven to be a very handy form to assume. For The Residents, forming a ‘Residents cover band’ was easier, so The Residents, instead of becoming a band, formed a cover band made up of Randy, Chuck and Bob, none of which are real people.”
Fox himself enjoyed being a musician removed from the limelight. Keen on remaining anonymous, he almost completely avoided the public eye – he even kept his artistic pursuits secret from friends and neighbours. “I like participating without the need for attention. For over 40 years The Residents idea was satisfying,” he said about his pre-Chuck times.
In the early 2000s, and with the album Demons Dance Alone, the collective felt they had reached a pinnacle. The alias Charles Bobuck, said Fox, was no less fake than his given birth name. That name aside, around 2008 he began releasing solo albums as The Residents, as well as Sonidos de la Noche, Chuck and the Bobuck character.
Following Demons Dance Alone, The Residents’ Talking Light show demonstrated a new sound. “My set-up was computer based. I had programmed what I imaginatively called my ‘space machine’. I had prerecorded hundreds of two-minute loops and had instantaneous access to them by punching buttons and twiddling knobs. I ran a local area network from an Apple Airport hidden under my table that gave me wireless access to a shitload of noise,” Bobuck explained. He later described his input as “a guy named Chuck who played keyboards in a rock band. I don’t play keyboard, I press plastic slivers rhythmically, often resulting in rude noises.”
“The TL [Talking Light] tour began with my genuine concern on whether the audience would accept this new, more abstract, sound. But as it travelled, night after night, I gradually conquered my possibilities and started presenting a controlled and predicable result from the millions of random possibilities. Bob and I discovered a simpatico in our noises, often surprising ourselves.”
Hardy Fox retired from The Residents in 2016 but continued to compose for the group through to 2018.