It's tough to pick out the single most thrilling aspect of the whole Quintron & Miss Pussycat project.
Is it the fact that this married duo puts on original puppet shows? That Quintron is the kind of musician who concocts his own musical contraptions, like the theremin-esque Drum Buddy? How about that their sets have a rep for being colorful, sweat-soaked orgies?
Then again, you can't ignore the creativity of their mind-bending "Swamp Tech" sound, that Quintron plays like a one-man band, or that he and his wife have fucked around with the press before, once convincing a writer that they were cousins.
We caught up with Quintron on Monday afternoon when he was hastily preparing for the Bruise Cruise and a new tour, running on two hours of sleep. Miss Pussycat had spent all night completing the puppets for her new show, an underwater-themed saga called "Legend of the Sea Monster," which Quintron wouldn't elaborate on. Her hubby had been wrapping up a comp CD of island music.
If you're not able to see them put on a special Sunday brunch show on the cruise, hit up Grand Central tonight for a pre-Bruise bill also featuring the Black Lips, Surfer Blood, Vivian Girls, and a bunch of other bands. Now, we look into the sleep-deprived mind of Quintron, discussing life after Hurricane Katrina, how he's freaked children out, and his idea for a non-musical invention.
Crossfade: In 2008, you did an interview where you said that the musical landscape of New Orleans would be affected by all of the outside influences coming in post-Katrina. Has that prediction materialized?
Quintron: Well, the musical landscape is constantly changing, but Katrina, of course, changed everything. It's not for me to say whether it's for the better or the worse, but it's definitely different and there's a lot of energy here now, that's for sure. After a couple of years of grief and cleaning up the destruction, there's a super-injection of creative energy that happened that's still happening here.
Can you think of any tangible examples of that creativity manifesting that wouldn't have come before Katrina?
There's a certain kind of really fast bounce music that gained popularity after Katrina on a level that it had never seen prior to Katrina. I don't know how [it's] directly related to that, but it certainly seems like a cause and effect. Beats got faster -- way, way faster -- and less melody and more noise, [with] more layers of shit going on all at the same time.
Putting aside the themes of certain puppet shows orchestrated by Miss Pussycat, what's been the biggest impact Katrina has had on your music itself?
I don't know. I'm not writing Katrina songs, if that's what you mean. It's very difficult to explain. It was like the end of the world. It was Armageddon. It informed and changed and affected every single facet of every single person's life here, so there's no way to point to this lyric or that lyric or any one particular thing and say that was an effect of Katrina. Your whole world was shattered.
Moving onto a subject that you discuss a lot, you're well-known for your interest in musical inventions. Have you been building anything lately?
Let me see. I'm kind of rebuilding this set-up. I'm moving into a new phase with my organs. I'm constantly changing my one-man band set-up, adding things [and] taking them away. I call it a one-man band set-up, but Miss Pussycat is an integral part of the music. The way I play music is very much like a one-man-band, one foot doing one thing, another foot doing another thing, singing, one thing with my left hand, a trumpet with my right hand. I'm adding and changing the setup radically, more than I have in the past five years. I'm not taking a car on tour this time because I'm adding a kick drum, a hi-hat and a lot of filters to the Drum Buddy so I can loop it now and play it backwards and sample everything. My whole set-up is really different.
Have you ever invented anything non-musical?
No. Well, I mean, I have. Here's one for you that I don't have time to do, but somebody should. Maybe it already exists. You know those breathalyzer things that you have to blow in to start your car if you have a DWI? You should be able to buy one of those and hook it up to your computer for Facebook--either for general use of the Internet or for hitting Send.
Facebook status updates would be really different in a world where that invention existed.
Somebody should totally make a breathalyzer app.
In one interview, Miss Pussycat mentioned that some parents have taken her puppetry for kids' stuff, bringing their kids along to shows only to be terrorized by a character murdering Santa Claus or another instance of violence. Do you remember any specific instances of kids reacting this way to Quintron & Miss Pussycat shows?
I wish I could give you to Miss Pussycat, but she is still editing that soundtrack as we speak. We did a show at the Goner Records store in Memphis a couple of years ago. They had this brilliant idea that we would do a show in the afternoon for parents and kids. I don't remember us being really excited about it. I remember us warning them, 'Look, it really hasn't gone over that well in the past.' They were like, 'No, no, these are rock and roll parents. They're in bands and now they have kids and that kind of thing.' Sure enough, I did a Drum Buddy demonstration in the beginning and they were holding their ears. One kid--I think it was one of the record store owner's kids--was holding his hands over his ears and he just looked up at him and was like, 'Daddy, I don't like it! Stop!' During the puppet show, a lot of the littler kids started instantly crying and running out of the room. I don't have kids, I don't like kids. I mean, they're alright, but we're not trying to [play to them].
It really would have been something to be at that show and see those kids run in terror.
'Make it stop!'
So much attention gets devoted to the inventions, the puppet show, and your love for the organ. What's a major spiritual influence on the sum aesthetic that people might not think of when it comes to Q&MP?
Well, I have a lot of favorite organ players. I don't know. I just base everything on sound and what I want it to sound like. I'm not thinking about any particular influence or person or record or anything. That's a hard question to answer. I just try to make it happen with me and I'm an organ player. My favorite organ player is this lady named Ethel Smith, who I think lives in Florida. She did live in Florida. She was an amazing organ player. Her hit was "Tico Tico." She had the most precise technique of any organist that I've heard.
That reminds me of a great L.A. Record interview you did that was exclusively about organs.What makes that instrument so important to you?
[There are] certain instruments, where you punch them and you don't want it to stop. You hypnotize yourself with the sound of that instrument--the Vibraphone is my new obsession--and the sound of my organ through an electric cabinet is one of those sounds that's like accessing the spirit. There's something deep inside that sound that I can't explain. I just want to lay on it forever, as opposed to the piano, which I don't play.
I also read somewhere that you've been working on the ideas that you use now since you were 16.
That's true, like the electronic synthesizers that I built. I've been in bands since then and building our own instruments since day one. My very first band had a big giant homemade percussion tree thing, literally in a garage.
What's changed most about your approach to music and making instruments since you started?
There's a lot of things changing lately. Lately, I really don't care anymore about genre or what is current. I guess I've made enough records now and I'm isolated enough in the evil nirvana of New Orleans that I really care less and less about what's going on. This new record is kind of like two records in one. Half of it is pure ambient slur. It's no songs. It's hard to describe. I'm a songwriter. I love writing songs. That's something you're always working on, trying to get better at, or get different at, not better.
At 16, what ideas struck you in the first place to invent an instrument?
Hmm, lack of money, and the cool sound that a trash can lid make when you bash on it after you've hammered in a tone. [It's about] hearing stuff you've never heard and making it happen with whatever's laying around.
Where do you go for inspiration when it comes to reproducing those sounds nowadays? Is there an equivalent of a trash can lid for you now?
Well, a lot of my stuff I'm working on now is with my own circuits I designed, so it's not acoustic percussive. I just sit there and experiment until I get something I like.
-- Reyan Ali
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Bruise Cruise with master of ceremonies Ian Svenonius and the Black Lips, Vivian Girls, Surfer Blood, Strange Boys, Thee Oh Sees, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Ty Segall, Turbo Fruits, DJ Mr. Jonathan Toubin, and Jacuzzi Boys. Friday, February 25, to Monday, February 28. Carnival Imagination, boarding at the Port of Miami, 1015 N. America Way, Miami. SOLD OUT. Visit bruisecruisefestival.com.
Bruise Cruise Kickoff Party with the Black Lips, Vivian Girls, Surfer Blood, Strange Boys, Thee Oh Sees, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Ty Segall, Turbo Fruits, and Jacuzzi Boys. Thursday, February 24. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $20 via wantickets.com. Ages 18 and up. Visit bruisecruisefestival.com.