People often ask how we got into this Weird Thing in the first place, and after careful consideration of the influence of friends, family, adventurous purchases in the bargain bin, etc, I have to say that the answer for me was PUBLIC RADIO. Now I'm not talking about your everyday Prarie Home Companion/Click&Clack yuppie snoozefest, but mind-bending, earth-shattering, reality-busting freefrorm radio. Kinda like college radio but, instead of the freshmen blathering on about how cool they are, you have adult music junkies with huge insane record collections of their own.
Growing up in the suburban wasteland of Clear Lake, Texas - the Space City - I had to grasp at any cultural straws I could find. An early love and obsession w/ music had brought me outside the mini-pop mainstream to a small collection of new wave, classical, jazz, and rock, both hard (KISS, Van Halen) and classic (Hendrix, Tull, Moody Blues). When I entered High school in 1984, I already hated pop music for some reason, but needed something more - then the cool older kids told me about Punk Rock which, like everyone else who finds the hidden fount, changed my life forever.
In those days, though, you couldn't buy the real "alternative music" (remember when that phrase actually meant something) in the mall record stores, so me and the other punks would religously listen and tape the Funhouse Show, hosted by Chuck Roast, on KPFT 90.1FM out of Houston. Chuck would play the latest hardcore, thrash, industrial, and punk rock, but would always throw in some crazed left-field oddity to make sure you aren't getting too comfy in your angst. If memory serves me right, Funhouse was buffeted by the "Avant-Garde" program, which as the title says played difficult listening, new music, experimental, abstract sound sculpture, etc...which in my teenage brain just became part of the amazing new world of sound coming through the airwaves. It helped that where I lived, the station didn't come in too clearly, always being knocked out by a blast of static - so it sounded like I was tuning into a forbidden wonderland of unheard music broadcast from a mysterious, much-hipper dimension, rather than the hobbled studio on the first floor of an old house in the center of shit-kicker Houston Texas, yee-haw!
Funhouse and Avant-Garde were on Sunday nights, and after a few I started exploring the rest of the week, tuned in on Saturday Night, wading through the horror of the Metal Show, to discover True Weirdness of subgenius Rev. Huey taking bizarre call-ins from retarded Elmo and playing the outest of out rock - Zappa, Beefheart, Pere Ubu, weird new wave, and, finally getting to the subject of this essay, The Residents and Ralph Records.
Who can say enough - or anything really - about The Residents? and I won't even really try. If the Velvet Underground launched a thousand bands and invented Alternative Music/Indie Rock/whatever, then The Residents are the Yin to their Yang (or vice versa), launched hardly no one (directly) and invented the non-genre of Weird Music. The first listen to a Residents album will provoke either of two emotions = "take this off immediately" or "this is what I've always been waiting for". In the Ralph Records 10th Anniversary Radio Special, future uber-freak and magician Penn Jillette (sans Teller) feels them both - walking through the Valley, opening the door to Chapel Perilous, and breaking through to the Other Side. Join him on his voyage, and relive the first time you discovered that strange weird world awaiting you, either back in the day when you stumbled across "The Third Reich'N'Roll" in the bin or when you first found this web site.
Is Guava...A Donut?
- Erik Amlee
Head Honcho, Weirdsville! WebRadio
Greenfield, MA (Penn's hometown)
The Residents / The Cryptic Corporation
Ralph America - Buy or Die!
RZWeb: A Guide to the Works of The Residents
FEATURED ALBUM ARCHIVE:
Freddy K. and the Breeze - Random Enforcement
White Zombie - Soul Crusher
E Pak Sa - Encyclopedia of Pon-Chak
Keith Hemmerling - Fairies and Figurines
Bobb Trimble - Jupiter Transmission
William Hung - Inspiration
Dufus - 1:3:1
Jandek - Live at Instal.04
The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra - Chariots of the Gods?
Ralph Records 10th Anniversary Radio Special