It was a snowy Christmas Eve with harpist (and transgender performance artist) Baby Dee and a huckster named Chicken John, at Coney Island High,” begins Quintron. “And nobody came to the show. But we played, and at the end of the night, Chicken John got drunk and let a dog hump his leg, and two long-haired acid-head guys who were really into Hawkwind who had heard us on WMFU playing our puppet soundtrack came to see us. And that,” declares the singer/organist/inventor, “is my memory of the first show Quintron and Miss Pussycat played in New York back in ’96 or ’97. It was a beautiful night.”
The New Orleans-based duo have enjoyed many wild and wooly adventures since then. Putting out 14 records since the mid-’90s, the pair might be very loosely described as kitschy if quirky-smart party rock — think an organ-based version of the Cramps meets the B-52’s, with puppets — but there’s much more than the festive personas and performances that meet the eye.
Phoning from a tour stop in Chicago, Quintron observes that life in the Big Easy ain’t so easy, but plays an integral part in his creative output. “It’s changing, of course, but it’s such a strange anomaly of an American city. I always say New Orleans giveth and taketh away. In not-always-so-equal proportions. There’s a lot of hardness and difficulty to live here, so in a weird way I think that’s why the music is an opposite reaction; it’s so joyful.”
Quintron (birth name Robert Rolston) is a bit of a joyous mad scientist, with several quite amazing inventions to his credit, including something called the Drum Buddy (a mechanically rotating, five-oscillator, light-activated drum machine), and, more recently, the Weather Warlock — weather sensors with an all-analog synthesizer that creates tones and harmonics based around a consonant E major chord, with special audio events occurring during sunrise and sunset. (It can be heard 24/7 at weatherfortheblind.org.)
He constructs instruments himself (his last “day job” was teaching science in an after-school program), but says, “I’ll build them on request, but I’m interested in keeping it small. I’m not ready for the Walmart Drum Buddy. It’s still such a part of my own musical life.” Quintron continues, “I’m happy to keep it weird and obscure.”
To that end, he and wife/partner Miss Pussycat have also created art and music under odd circumstances, including a residency in front of the public at the New Orleans Museum of Art that yielded 2011’s Sucre du Sauvage album. Then came a stint in 2014 at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva, Florida, an honor received courtesy of an anonymous selector. “We got this email that said, ‘We want you to live on this “island” for a month.’ I instantly deleted it, thinking, ‘This is bullshit, like, “I’m King Mhubuto and my daughter will bring you millions to a bus station.” ‘ But I realized it was a real thing,” he says. “It was an incredibly moving, life-changing experience. That’s where I really finished the Weather Warlock synthesizer and decided to make it public and free.”
Quintron released the mostly instrumental Spellcaster II: Death in Space on October 28 on Pizza Burglar Records, part of which is included on the sci-fi soundtrack for the upcoming short Mirza the Miraculous.
To support their plethora of projects, Q&P enjoy going on the road, always with a third person — “dear, close friends, like family members, but they’re moving equipment and selling merch.” But friends of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, beware: You may end up in a song like “Something’s Wrong With Jim.” “Yeah, I’m staying with him now. I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” Quintron deadpans. “And ‘Steve’ is about our friend Steve,” says the impresario.
“Our whole catalog is a secret coded universe of various shenanigans and tragedies of our cast of friends.” Caveat emptor.
Quintron’s Weather Warlock show goes down at 3 p.m. on November 28 at Secret Project Robot ( 389 Melrose Street, Brooklyn).
On November 29, catch Quintron and Miss Pussycat at 8 p.m. at Baby’s All Right (146 Broadway, Brooklyn), with openers Ice Balloons and Moondudes. (Tickets.)