The Cryptic Corporation (also known as Cryptic, The Cryptics, and Crypticorp) is a public relations, management and production company based in San Francisco, which has represented The Residents (as well as Ralph Records in its various iterations) since July 31st 1976.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Pre-Cryptic (1970-1975)
- 1.2 Formation and the Grove Street studio (1976-1977)
- 1.3 The Ugly Grey Theater and Eskimo feud (1977-1979)
- 1.4 Declining fortunes and split (1980-1984)
- 1.5 The end of Ralph Records and continued activity (1985-2016)
- 1.6 The retirement of Hardy Fox and new co-owners (2016-present)
- 2 Founding members
- 3 As a record label
- 4 Credits
- 5 Quotes
- 6 See also
- 7 External links and references
Founding members of The Cryptic Corporation Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, Jay Clem, and John Kennedy all met whilst living in Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1950s. By the end of the 1960s Hardy Fox, Homer Flynn, and some of their friends had all moved to San Mateo, California, where they began to experiment with music and recording. In June of 1970, Clem was invited to stay with them and found himself helping with their music. The following year Hardy Fox, along with some of his friends, formed Residents Uninc, a loosely defined group of people all working together at the time.
By December of 1972 Residents Uninc relocated to San Francisco, where they began production on their film Vileness Fats. Jay Clem portrayed Lonesome Jack / Steve, Homer Flynn portrayed Death, and Hardy Fox portrayed Uncle Willie, whilst John Kennedy, who had arrived in California by January of 1973, edited the film.
Only one month later, Residents Uninc had divided itself into two offshoots, the original production company Residents Uninc, and the art collective known as The Residents. With this change, Flynn, Clem, and Kennedy became uninvolved in the recording and music creation, and saw to it that they focus more on their personal lives as well as their Vileness Fats duties.
Formation and the Grove Street studio (1976-1977)
Following the cancellation of Vileness Fats, Kennedy, Clem, Flynn, and Fox were all hired by The Residents to act as their management company, dubbed The Cryptic Corporation.
The Corporation was founded on July 31st 1976 by four members, John Kennedy (original President, and administration), Jay Clem (production, business and publicity), Hardy Fox (sound engineer and A&R), and Homer Flynn (graphic design and advertising).
As The Residents came to embrace music theorist N. Senada's Theory of Obscurity over the earliest part of their recording history, they occasionally also found themselves in need of representatives to promote their efforts to the music press and the outside world in general, and so Ralph, Fox's independent production work for The Residents, and Flynn's graphic design company Porno Graphics were both re-purposed as wings of the greater Cryptic Corporation, around the time of the release of The Residents' second album The Third Reich 'n Roll in 1976.
The Cryptic Corporation's first action was to move The Residents and Ralph Records out of their studio at 20 Sycamore St. to a large warehouse at 444 Grove St. in Hays Valley. The building was large, with two fronts, but the Cryptics (largely bankrolled by the independently wealthy Kennedy) managed to buy it for only $100,000. Now that they were being managed, The Residents were finally able to give up the day jobs which restricted them from recording, and went full-time as independent artists and musicians.
The Ugly Grey Theater and Eskimo feud (1977-1979)
After The Residents were settled at the Grove St. studio, The Cryptic Corporation bought an old run-down movie house at 11th & Howard which they planned to operate as a cinema, named The Ugly Grey Theater. The theater would be designed to exclusively show science fiction, horror, fantasy and cult films, and the Cryptics hoped it would help to cushion the costs of the production of The Residents' albums. Unfortunately, the residents of the neighborhood the theater was intended for mistakenly believed that it was to be used to show gay pornography, and petitioned the municipal government to refuse the Cryptics a permit, thus the Ugly Gray Theater never got off the ground.
The first album The Residents produced under the care of the Cryptic Corporation was Fingerprince in 1977. The following year, the group experienced an unprecedented success with their Duck Stab! EP, which finally began to drive sales of their previous albums and singles. The Residents began to enjoy a period of popularity like they'd never seen before. The Cryptics, wanting to cash in on this sudden interest, re-released the group's 1976 single Satisfaction with new cover art, and issued a variety of merchandise. This displeased The Residents, who felt the Cryptics were selling them out.
This conflict, among others, caused The Residents to disappear to England with the master tapes of their current project Eskimo, which had already experienced a troubled production and numerous delays. Desperate for an album to release, the Cryptic Corporation quickly released the group's 1974 album Not Available, which had been recorded with the intention that it remain unreleased, at least until they had forgotten it existed. Not Available sold well, and the Cryptics were ultimately able to retrieve the tapes for Eskimo and coax The Residents back home, where they presented the group with a brand new recording studio by means of apology. Eskimo was finally released in 1979 to wide critical acclaim.
Declining fortunes and split (1980-1984)
The Residents' Commercial Album was released in 1980, and despite its seemingly cynical concept involving one-minute "commercial" songs, did not perform as well as expected. The sudden reversal of their fortunes depressed The Residents, who began work on an ambitious new project, The Mole Trilogy, to work off their frustration. Following the release of Mark of the Mole in 1981 and The Tunes of Two Cities in 1982, the previously reclusive group decided to create a touring performance based on the project, and set about creating The Mole Show, financed by Ralph Records' sales of albums by The Residents, as well as a steadily evolving roster of acts including Snakefinger, Renaldo and the Loaf, Tuxedomoon, Yello, and others.
In July 1982, as The Mole Show tour was beginning, Clem announced that he was leaving the Cryptic Corporation. Clem was dissatisfied with the independent music business and the chaos around Ralph Records, and went off to start his own management company right after the Ralph 10th Anniversary celebrations (though he stuck around to help with The Mole Show until October). The Cryptic Corporation was hit hard by his departure as Clem, who was a business school graduate, had done almost all of their business management as well as most of their interviews. He also took the US rights to Yello and Yello's first two albums with him.
Kennedy left a little while later, just after the Kabuki Theatre performances of The Mole Show. Kennedy was tired of putting his money into The Residents and seeing nothing substantial come back out and the huge expense of the Mole Show tour was the last straw. When Kennedy left the company he set the rent for the Grove Street studio at a rate too high for The Residents and the remaining Cryptics to pay, and they were forced to move to a new, much smaller property on Clementine St. They didn't have enough room to keep all of their archives, so they had to auction off such things as the Vileness Fats sets and costumes. All in all, The Cryptic Corporation lost five of its seven employees in 1982.
After The Residents returned from their disastrous tour having lost so much money that Ralph was in danger of bankruptcy, the Cryptics helped set up a studio in the new building, where the group recorded Title In Limbo and George & James in 1983 and 1984.
The end of Ralph Records and continued activity (1985-2016)
Now reduced to primarily Fox (now President) and Flynn, The Cryptic Corporation continued to represent The Residents as their public relations and management, as well as producing and engineering their albums and art projects.
The 13th Anniversary Show tour followed in 1986, despite The Residents vowing never to tour again after the disastrous Mole Show which had almost caused them to split alongside the Cryptic Corporation. This tour, more frugal than the Mole Show tour, was a great success for the group at a much-needed time and allowed the Cryptics and The Residents to continue producing and releasing work at a highly prolific rate.
The Cryptic Corporation handed care of Ralph Records to Tom Timony in 1986 so that they could concentrate on managing and producing The Residents without being distracted by the wider record business. In 1991, ownership of Ralph reverted from Timony back to the Cryptics, but was re-established as a new company specializing in mail-order Residents merchandise. Since this point, Ralph has existed in various forms (and under various guises) but never as the independent record company it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
The retirement of Hardy Fox and new co-owners (2016-present)
Fox and Flynn continued to run The Cryptic Corporation together until Fox retired in 2016, to focus on his own solo music career. The Cryptic Corporation ceased their role as The Residents' producers upon Fox's retirement, with that credit going instead to The Residents themselves and Eric Drew Feldman. After engaging in a short-lived solo musical career under his birth name, Fox passed away on October 30th 2018 following a short illness.
On retirement, Fox handed the complete archives of The Residents and The Cryptic Corporation to a somewhat reluctant Flynn. He also sold his share of the company, which ultimately ended up shared between Cherry Red Records and MVD Audio, who continue to co-own and operate the company alongside Flynn, the current
President "Captain Doc" of The Cryptic Corporation.
Flynn's inheritance of Fox's archive of musical recordings (dating back beyond the earliest years of The Residents' recording history) resulted in the rediscovery of numerous obscure and forgotten pieces of music by the group, which then led to the 2018 commencement of the ongoing pREServed series of remastered and expanded reissues of The Residents' major musical projects, which are released via Cherry Red, MVD and a new imprint, New Ralph Too.
- Homer Flynn (graphic design and advertising,
President"Captain Doc" of The Cryptic Corporation 2016-present)
- Hardy Fox (sound engineering, A&R, President of The Cryptic Corporation 1982-2016) - retired in 2016
- Jay Clem (business and publicity) - left in 1982
- John Kennedy (production, administration, President of The Cryptic Corporation 1976-1982) - left in 1983
As a record label
Since 1977 The Cryptic Corporation has occasionally acted informally as a record label, releasing promotional and limited-run material for The Residents.
- The Residents Radio Special (1977)
- For Elsie (1987)
- Freak Show (1990)
- Freak Show Video Press Release (1991)
- Blowoff (1992)
- Twenty Twisted Questions (1993)
- Disfigured Night! VHS (1997)
- WB:RMX (2004)
- The Third Reich 'N Roll (2007)
- Randy's Ghost Stories DVD (2010)
- Dolor Generar - Una Noche Lost En Van Horn, Texas (2011)
- The Rivers Of Hades (2011)
- Ozark (2011)
- Live At Bimbo's 365 Club (2011)
- Heaven? / Hell! (2012)
- Charles Bobuck - GOD O: Music For A Gallery Opening (2012)
- Bad Day On The Midway (Music From The Game Reconsidered) (2012)
- Demonic! The Residents Live In Oslo! (2012)
- D*ck S*ab - 35th Anniversary (2012)
- Triple Dub-Ya: The Way We Were Melbourne (2012)
- Postcards From Patmos (2012)
- The Delta Nudes' Greatest Hiss (2013)
- Ten Two Times (2013)
- Coochie Brake (2013)
- Mush-Room (2013)
- The Wonder Of Weird (2014)
- Charles Bobuck - Maxine (2014)
- Charles Bobuck - Maxine / CB Suite (2014)
- The Intruder (2018)
- Music To Eat Bricks By (2019)
Pre-Cryptic Era (1973 - 1976)
- Meet The Residents (1977, Liner Notes & Remix)
- Fingerprince (1977, Liner Notes & Production)
- Penn Jillette - Ralph Records 10th Anniversary Radio Special! (1982, Producers)
All credits are production credits, except where noted
- The Big Bubble (1985)
- Memorial Hits (1985)
- 13th Anniversary Show - Live In Japan Featuring Snakefinger (1986)
- Heaven? (1986)
- Hell! (1986)
- Stars & Hank Forever! (1986)
- Live In The USA! 13th Anniversary Tour Featuring Snakefinger (1986)
- The Third Reich 'N' Roll (1987, Compact Disc Produced by)
- Duck Stab (1987, Re-Issue Produced by, Liner Notes)
- Video Voodoo (1987)
- 13th Anniversary Show - Live In Holland Featuring Snakefinger (1987)
- Hit The Road Jack (Special Almost Dance Mix) (1987)
We here at Ralph Records and The Cryptic Corporation support The Residents and their point of view concerning the sorry state of affairs of this culture. We further feel that it’s necessary to take certain supportive action to ensure that The Residents, as well as other artists like them, are able to exist and to function in this culture which will, in turn, ensure that the culture has a future, rather than having only a past.