Hardy Fox, one of the co-founders of the long-running experimental art rock collective The Residents, has died at 73.
A statement posted by the band confirmed the news in The Residents’ signature bemused, arms-length fashion in the guise of a proclamation from their anonymous Cryptic Corporation. “It is with with great sorrow and regret that The Cryptic Corporation announces the passing of longtime associate, Hardy Fox,” it read.
“As president of the corporation from 1982-2016, the company benefited 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 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 will be missed.” The statement did not specify Fox’s cause of death, but mentioned that he had suffered from a “series of recent health problems.”
In 1969, Fox helped found the San Francisco group best known for keeping their identities a secret thanks to creative costumes, including their iconic eyeball heads. According to Hardy’s site, the Texas-bred musician retired from his role as primary composer for The Residents in 2015, but continued to create music for the the group through this year; the site has the words “brain cancer” on its homepage, though no cause of death was announced at press time.
In addition to his work with The Residents, Fox recorded music as a solo artist under a variety of stage names, including Charles Bobuck, Combo de Mechanico, Sonido de la Noche, Chuck and TAR. In keeping with the band’s prank-filled, dada-style impishness, Hardy appeared to jump the gun by announcing his death on Facebook more than a month ago in a farewell message in which he wrote his own (cheeky) obituary.
“Hi from, me, Hardy,” he wrote under the ominous headline, “Our hearts are heavy but let us celebrate our brother, our friend, Hardy Fox,” which was accompanied by an unmasked image of the gray-haired musician. “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is ‘all’ okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now. Anyway. Probably the last of seeing me. Thanks for checking in.”
Over five decades and more than 50-plus albums, The Residents pushed the boundaries of art rock, reveling in confusing and surprising their fans with albums that fused rock, found sounds, noise and elaborate backstories for works such as 1979’s Eskimo, which they claimed was recorded on homemade instruments as accompaniment to a series of fictional “historical” stories and sounds from the Arctic. Focused as much on commenting on popular culture, politics and social mores as in making their sometimes challenging music, the collective also had a deep interest in short and feature-length films and multimedia projects, releasing tons of psychedelic, trippy imagery over the years.
As one of the musical drivers of The Residents, Fox is credited with helping to shape their unique musical aesthetic, which drew on the avant jazz sounds of Sun Ra and Harry Partch, as well as elements of choral and classical music, rock, electronic and a Frank Zappa-esque kitchen sink approach to blurring genre boundaries while playing with challenging arrangements. Their anonymous visual aesthetic was highlighted by their famous giant eyeballs, which kept the members’ faces obscured, while allowing them to have a public voice via the wink-wink missives from the ominous-sounding Cryptic Corporation.
I was very fortunate to see Hardy Fox and The Residents in April. It was unlike anything I’d seen or heard. He was a truly unique and captivating performer. Sad to hear of his passing.
— Jason Narducy (@SplitSingleband) October 31, 2018
— They Might Be Giants (@tmbg) October 31, 2018