Deep in the Ninth Word of New Orleans lies the workbench and studio of one Mr. Quintron, the inventor-organist who has applied his DIY mad-scientist sonic production to a unique flavor of insistent punk. Mr. Quintron was this week in my home neighborhood in Berlin, accompanied by his wife Miss Pussycat – maraca player (maracaist?), vocalist, and puppeteer behind Flossie and the Unicorns. There was a puppet show. It was about cake – demon cake. There was the debut of a new inflatable puppet. Shirts came off. Sounds were made. It was hot. It was loud.
Just as these puppets are voodoo-infused, more than human, so, too, are his sound machines. Like the band itself, they come from a side show, freak show, burlesque show, children’s show, punk show aesthetic.
And none more than the Drum Buddy – a spinning, optical-mechanical device with five (or maybe four, depending on which description you’ve read) oscillators. If you don’t believe in its powers, or if you don’t want to spend the US$999.99 it costs (if one can actually be bought), there’s an informercial to sway you.
Quintron is the sort of person who transforms his basement into a homemade underground club, which he calls the Spellcaster Lodge.
He’s the sort of person who builds a weather-powered synthesizer so that when it rains on his home, he can make rain music. Watch:
The Drum Buddy, with optical sensors activated by a spinning barrel with slots in it, is a staple of many of their shows. It’s titled a drum machine, but opto-mechanical sequencer with synth is perhaps more apt. It’s a DIY groove machine, anyway. And it’s simply wonderful, in a trippy public access cable informercial variety show:
Here’s a demo of the instrument in action. As of a few years ago, ten had been made. Laurie Anderson has one. So does Nels Cline (of Wilco).
I tried to watch this clip from a TV show that featured the band, but couldn’t stop laughing – something about the earnest young musical talent perhaps… hit too close to home?
Sure enough, the band that created record titles like Satan is Dead sometimes is not the best role model for its puppet cast members, as in this video:
The puppet shows change, but here’s one example:
It’s not always clear what’s true and what isn’t about Quintron and Miss Pussycat, other than they are, truly, puppeteering and musicalizing and sweating in front of you. Was he named “Entertainer of the Year” by a furniture outlet in Michigan? Was he really heckled on The Jenny Jones Show? Was his fondness for Germany because he was born here when his Dad was in the military?
But let’s keep watching. Not every circuit bent instrument has to turn into noise art; not every DIY synthesizer into third-string techno. Sometimes, it becomes… something else.