Weird science 

Quintron and Miss Pussycat mix odd instruments and puppet shows

Quintron and Miss Pussycat

sound like comic book crime fighters. But to get a clearer picture of what they're all about, imagine the Hulk's David Banner or Spiderman villain Dr. Octopus turning their talents to music. Call it "Mad Scientist Rock." The married New Orleans duo are like a latter-day Captain & Tennille, combining an occasionally kitschy, but generally rocking band performance with a sublime, off-beat Punch & Judy-style puppet show. Quintron plays the music, while Miss Pussycat handles background vocals and all the puppetry.

"People think it's a sort of retro burlesque thing, but it's really about doing the thing that we do in a total rock 'n' roll context," says Quintron from the duo's home/underground club, the Spellcaster's Lodge. "It's a full-on show. You go see a band, but there's a puppet show before it. So it's not like back and forth, and nobody dresses up like Joel Gray. We're not pretending to be from Berlin in the 1930s."

Quintron and Miss Pussycat met in the early '90s. But before that, they led oddly similar lives since both ran discrete nightspots. At 18, Quintron oversaw Chicago's Milk of Burgundy, an illegal alternative band venue. Miss Pussycat, on the other hand, operated the Pussycat Caverns in New Orleans. She did her puppet show and also booked bands. One time, she hired Quintron's band Math to play at her club, and that's how they first met.

"[The attraction] was instantaneous," Quintron says. "We both ran these illegal clubs. And she's really hot. ..."

Miss Pussycat soon convinced Quintron to abandon the homemade drum contraption he was playing (he called it the "Disco Light Machine") and take up the organ for his solo shows. He thought it was a good idea.

"I was so bored playing the drums," he says. "I just decided -- literally the night before I left on this huge tour opening for Crash Worship -- that I wasn't going to do my regular drumming thing. I felt I had kind of taken it to the limit of virtuosity. And I was just going to take this one organ and set it up in the corner and be kind of a lounge organ player every night."

But Quintron, who grew up surrounded by gadgets as the son of a high-level government electrical engineer, wasn't satisfied just playing any run-of-the-mill instrument the conventional way. He amplified his Hammond organ through a Leslie cabinet, which is an old tube and rotating speaker cabinet.

"It's a true crazy stereo [sound] that you could never imitate with any type of processor," Quintron says. "The sound is actually being thrown into a washing machine kind of basket, spun around and thrown out so it has this total affect on your ears that's really exciting."

He also began concocting other strange musical contraptions along the lines of the Disco Light Machine. Perhaps his greatest creation is the Drum Buddy, a kind of rhythm machine that involves light sensors and oscillating metal cans. The cans can turn automatically or be manipulated by hand in a way that's similar to a DJ scratching a record. The result is a cascade of sounds reminiscent, according to Quintron, of a "Moog-style noise-making synth."

You can hear both the Hammond and the Drum Buddy on Quintron's latest release, The Frog Tape. It's a kind of Halloween album, full of the eerie, spooky music you might find on an old novelty record. Well, that's one side, anyway. The other side is 20 minutes of frogs. No joke. Twenty solid minutes of Louisiana swamp frogs recorded from the sanctuary behind the couple's house/club.

"It's a real field document of what's going on in the frog community around here," Quintron explains.

Currently, Quintron is working on a new project, recording an album completely live with no multitracking or overdubs. "It's a spiritual thing, like a sound elixir that's created in the room that you make, and all the microphones are getting it, and all the energy is there," he says. "If I can't get it the first time, then I try it again. No fixing it later. It's like tracing over a drawing."


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